by | Dec 17, 2020 | 0 comments

Hopeful, Joyful, Alert, and Alive

Jenny always has a warm smile when she’s at the barn, and is always willing to jump in and help wherever she is needed. We love having her in our community both as a volunteer and, more recently, in the Riding Program.

I’ve been involved with Forward Stride for about two years.  I started with PM Horse Care and then my husband gave me riding lessons for Christmas, which launched me into weekly sessions with Mackenzie and Dee, which I have loved!

Riding has been a thrill and a challenge!  I find I am learning so much more than how to stay on a horse.  ?  I have learned about connecting with Dee through my voice, but also through movement.  I’ve learned that my weaknesses in life show up in riding and this poses a unique opportunity to work on and improve upon my entire being, while communicating and working with a horse.  I have also learned that it is important to take a break from work and the responsibilities in life that demand energy from me and do those things that give me pure joy and replenish my energy.  Riding and being around the horses does that for me.

a wildfire burns in the distance at night

When the barn closed on March 13th, it was extremely challenging for many. Around the same time Forward Stride closed, Jenny faced her own adversity as she began the long journey of battling the effects of COVID-19 herself. She explains the impact it has had on her and the role that Forward Stride has taken on her road to recovery.

I was sad to see the barn close, but it made a lot of sense and seemed wise.  Personally, I came down with COVID-19 on March 8.  I was acutely sick for two weeks, but have struggled with persisting symptoms for seven months.  A certain percentage of people contracting COVID-19 are being labeled as the “long-haulers,” because various long-term symptoms develop and continue.  As the virus is so new, medical professionals are learning right alongside their patients how best to treat these symptoms.  Many of us are having to figure out what works on our own and put together recovery plans that we hope will lead us to full health in the not so distant future.   

When programming began to resume, it was great to return to the barn.  I was able to schedule a few riding lessons in the first weeks of the reopening.  It felt like an adventure to be coming back to Forward Stride with the new steps of protocol to follow.  It was energizing to be around familiar friends and staff and a thrill to be close to the horses again. I was a little nervous that I might not be able to remember the new necessary flow chart for sanitizing equipment and my hands, but Carly met me at the gate and walked me through it!  It was exciting to reconnect with Mackenzie and Dee and to be riding again.  Riding quickly became a part of my COVID recovery plan.  The unique movements of riding encouraged movement in my body that was helpful for healing.  As well, the positive atmosphere of the barn and the chance to be close to the horses was an important part of staying hopeful, joyful, alert, and alive.

As Jenny also works in the non-profit community, she loves being a part of a team, problem solving and actively helping those around her. Volunteering at Forward Stride provides her the opportunity to step away from her busy day to day job and continue serving the community in a way that energizes and refreshes her.  

My career is centered in the nonprofit world and specifically, I’m part of a team that focuses on providing long-term stable housing for unaccompanied youth, so that they can focus on school, graduate from high school, and pursue their goals and dreams for the future. I love my work and invest large amounts of time and energy into the people with whom I’m privileged to work. The work is never done and there are no easy solutions to the challenge of youth homelessness in our communities. So, when I come to the barn and help with PM horse care, I feel renewed in the tangible and straightforward tasks of the hour: sweep, feed, fill water, enjoy the beauty of the land, appreciate the uniqueness of each horse. That rejuvenates me, because while there are many people at Forward Stride dealing with the unending needs and challenges of running a nonprofit, my role there is a simpler task and the simplicity and outdoor nature of the work is a refreshing break from my job. And yet, I still feel like I’m contributing to the success of the barn, in a very small way.

Forward Stride is a place of learning, growth, and healing. We are proud to be part of Jenny’s journey back to health. As we look to the future and what lies ahead for our community Jenny shares her hopes for Forward Stride:

My hope is that everyone who is interested would have the opportunity to access the gifts of Forward Stride.  Through the presence of horses, Forward Stride serves the community in such a unique way, and in so doing, offers hope, healing, fun, friendship and renewed life, purpose, and growth for many individuals.  In our world today, we need health, wellness, and connectedness.  Forward Stride offers all of these things to the people they serve.