Our barn can be a safe haven from more than just the wind and rain. Corey is a delightful friend and a person of transgender experience, which means that he has had to face considerable prejudice in society. But here at Forward Stride, he has never had to worry about whether he would be accepted for who he is.

I first got involved with Forward Stride in the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) Program. I was looking for something to help me that a traditional mental health therapy setting didn’t offer. I was fortunate to be around horses since I was 4 years old. Interacting with them has always given me a sense of calm and confidence I don’t always have in other settings. In addition, horses don’t care about who you are, they care about how you treat them.

When a spot opened up in our highly popular Riding Program, Corey began taking lessons. He felt like it was a great addition to his sessions in the EFP Program. He progressed to a group class and he has enjoyed making friends with his fellow riders.

As I wrapped up my EFP, I started Horse Handling for Rehab Services this Fall. I am a medical student and I wanted to understand how horses can be used as part of a treatment modality. I get so much out of those sessions. The horse, the client, the therapist… it’s a great big team effort.

Corey sees the impact of our programs first-hand, and hopes that Forward Stride continues to grow and reach people who don’t have other opportunities to be with horses.

As a person of transgender experience, I deal with a lot of bias and negative messages from society. Nothing is more dehumanizing than having your basic human need to use the restroom be a source of national political debate. There have been friends and family members who are no longer a part of my life because of their belief systems. It really helped me understand who truly practices unconditional love.

Forward Stride gives me a place that I can be myself. It has helped me evolve my viewpoints personally and professionally. Because the equestrian community can be more conservative, it can be a bit of a “hold your breath and see how people are going to react” if I come out. But I have never felt that way at Forward Stride. It has also given me confidence, support, and a safe haven when things are not always going according to plan in other domains of my life.

Like most of us, Corey often wonders what the horses at Forward Stride are thinking. Check out this audio clip of an original story he wrote for the Oregon Children’s Theatre Intergenerational Queer Audio Project for PRIDE, where Corey and his favorite horse Rune chat about finding comfort in their bodies and the company they keep.

Corey’s experiences of acceptance and support are not unusual at Forward Stride. We have a philosophy of inclusion, which means that all are welcome. Support our mission with a gift today.