“Animals were once, for all of us, teachers. They instructed us in ways of being and perceiving that extended our imaginations, that were models for additional possibilities.” – Joan McIntyre


Jonathan has Down Syndrome. Along with an amazing personality, full of love and life, he also has challenges. Understanding and following instructions to complete some tasks have been difficult throughout Jonathan’s life. Daily chores like doing laundry, dishes, or participating in hobbies are things we all take for granted, but some of these things Jonathan struggles to master.

Jonathan experienced a terrifying encounter with a dog at a young age. After the incident, Jonathan became timid and scared around animals rather than the usual joy he had previously experienced.

At first, when Jonathan came to Forward Stride he was also very hesitant around the horses. Today, Jonathan has overcome his timidity. After 6 years at Forward Stride, with the horses, volunteers, and staff, Jonathan has learned to be strong, brave, and patient.  He now feels confident and safe around the horses and other animals at Forward Stride and in his everyday life. Currently, Jonathan has a riding lesson every other week as well as a weekly volunteer responsibility doing horse care.  His volunteer work allows Jonathan to give back to the program that returned animals to his life.

Riding has helped Jonathan build confidence and learn to follow the multiple steps needed to prepare his horse for the lesson, and the steps to take when his lesson is over.

Now, Jonathan can do most of the tacking and untacking independently and is learning how to control his mount without having a leader attached. Volunteering has also helped Jonathan learn to communicate more effectively with others as he works in a team to care for Forward Stride’s 35 horses and 3 miniature donkeys.

Every day Jonathan comes to Forward Stride, he leaves feeling proud and satisfied that he successfully cared for the equines he holds dear. Jonathan’s favorite part of coming to Forward Stride is visiting with his favorite horses like Olin and Jake.

For Jonathan, Forward Stride is not just a hobby. It’s preparing him for a future job and teaching him skills he will use throughout this life… all while having fun!

It is the support of our community members like you that allows us to help young adults like Jonathan. Everyday at Forward Stride the amazing equines and humans here are fostering more smiles, building confidence, and improving lives.


Please consider making a donation today to help individuals like Jonathan learn to soar in spite of life’s challenges.

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