A vaulting instructor helps her student balance in Forward Stride's vaultin program.

Building Confidence – EAL Confidence Course

An instructor assists a girl balancing on a horse and lifting one leg in Forward Stride's vaulting program

In the new Confidence Course at Forward Stride, clients work to reframe their perspectives and challenge themselves to find new ways of being in the moment

Six weeks ago, two groups of clients were the inaugural participants in the Confidence Course, an Equine Assisted Learning class, led by Equine Assisted Coach Amanda Ryan Fear along with Equine Specialist Liz Johnson and Volunteer Kristin Cooper. When asked what kind of person this course is for, Amanda said it is, “for anyone who wants to connect with themselves through connecting with horses.” Throughout the six weeks, participants utilized the horse’s innate ability to live in the present moment. One participant shared, “For the hour we were in class, it was easy to let go of everything else and just be present, breathe, and feel joy and gratitude”.

One of the volunteers for the course shared that, “The horses brought out a sense of calm, safety, and support that allowed the group to get out of their heads and into the experience. Through exercises like leading a horse through an obstacle course, participants were able to notice old self-limiting patterns, share them with the group, and consider ways to release them.”


This course uniquely touches on many daily challenges – communication, empathy, trust, and confidence, both in oneself and with others – through the medium of horses. One participant noted, “There are things that you don’t see because you’re distracted or not paying attention. This is looking through a different lens.” Coach Amanda added that, “I have facilitated a lot of groups in the past but the horses allowed us to go much deeper.  We could experience the concepts we were talking about through the immediate responses of the horses…at one point we were talking about perfectionism and “failing” and a participant was sharing about a time she thought she failed. One of the horses walked over to her and nudged her hand, as if to say “it’s time to let that story go.”’

A young girl and instructor practice balancing on a horse in Forward Stride's vaulting program

I experienced  several “ah-ha” moments, good stuff that I can apply to my everyday experiences.  I felt the class structure was the “best of both worlds.” Participants benefit from expertise in personal coaching geared for women and the opportunity to expand knowledge about horses with an equine specialist. I learned a lot, challenged myself, and had a great time.

- Course participant

One of the participants shared, “My biggest takeaway was the importance of a growth mindset. Amanda said, “Failure is optional.” And that really resonated for me. The all-or-nothing approach to how we define success is very limiting. And as a perfectionist, I can get stuck in this trap of thinking that if I don’t do things perfectly then I am a failure. The Confidence Course taught me that “failure” is a made-up term, and we can let it go entirely. This is freeing for me, allowing me to be kinder to myself. It also helps me to notice and celebrate the little steps toward growth that are happening all the time. The result? More self-confidence!

Through the course of the six weeks together, participants practiced balancing trust and leadership, vulnerability and confidence. Amanda shared that, “Participants developed confidence as they successfully completed a variety of challenges with the horses (like leading them through an obstacle course blindfolded!) but also learned how to be less critical of themselves, stop putting everyone else’s needs first, and not only to tolerate but to embrace failure, all of which are cornerstones of confidence.” One participant noted simply, “I’m just trying to be a little kinder to myself. Not be so hard. And I think this class has helped bring that confidence of, ‘Hey, you’re okay’.”

Two students practice vaulting movements with their instructor at Forward Stride's vautling program.

Forward Stride is a 501(c)3 non-profit and we would not exist without our donors. Donations support every single one of our programs, help us care for our herd, and ensure we can continue to develop programs for our clients for years to come.