A letter from Martin

My OCD, anxiety, and depression began when my dad went to Vietnam. Over the years, and throughout my time in the army, it got worse, and went undiagnosed. I was honorably discharged in 1976. Soon after, I began to experience PTSD. I was in denial, continued to not seek help, and was going through many jobs, some of which, could have lead to careers.

Finally, I reached out for help at the Portland VA Hospital. Since then, I have been receiving mental health care for about 18 years. I’ve tried many of the programs and therapies offered there, the main one being DBT(Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) which, before my riding therapy, was the most effective. Today, I’d say the riding therapy at Forward Stride has been the most effective in creating real, lasting, positive, change in my life.

My journey at Forward Stride has changed my life in many ways. Months after I started riding Lad, a large kidney stone moved while trotting on Lad. Because of the size of the kidney stone, it should have never moved.
I was then hospitalized to have surgery to remove the large stone that was now blocking my bladder. It was during this surgery they discovered the bladder cancer. Luckily it was caught in the early stages and today I am cancer free. I always tell people that Lad saved my life and he will always be special to me.

As the years have passed, I’ve made close friends that are now my Forward Stride Family. I have developed a close friendship with Dusty, the horse I ride. We seem to understand each other. I always look forward to seeing him and spending quality time with him. When I’m with Dusty, I don’t think about anything else but him and it relieves my anxiety. Dusty comforts me. I sleep and function much better since coming to Forward Stride. I have learned so much from Kris, my riding instructor, and I appreciate our friendship. She has listened to me on several occasions when I was stressed and I’ve always felt better. She’s a good listener. I can’t thank Amanda enough for letting me be a part of Dusty’s life. She always stops and encourages me. She also has taught me a lot about connecting with Dusty.

I continue my riding at Forward Stride because I feel a deep connection to the friends I’ve made and to Dusty. I’m a happier person since starting the Veterans Riding Program. I’m always excited to come out for my riding lesson on Saturday mornings. I always come early and stay late.

Forward Stride and the amazing staff have made it possible for me to reach my goals. The year before I came to Forward Stride was my low point. Thanks to Forward Stride, I see it as not so much a low point, but as a starting point. It’s been an amazing journey. The biggest gift is… I now look forward to the future and am no longer dwelling on the past.


We Need Your Help!

Help us provide more services free of charge to other veterans and foster kids. Your tax-deductible contribution really makes a difference. It allows for personal achievements and greater independence through hard work and determination. It provides opportunities to share, grow, and heal through our unique programs like our Scholarship Program.

Help us serve more veterans and foster kids by making a donation today!