Favorite Day of the Week
I started volunteering at Forward Stride in 2014 as a turnout volunteer on Tuesday mornings. As someone who had always wanted to own her own horse, but whose family of 5 children couldn’t afford it, volunteering at a place like Forward Stride was a dream come true. Now, Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week!
I know that Forward Stride is a special place that provides clients the opportunity to participate in the benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy, but what I didn’t know was how much I would personally benefit from that same therapy as a volunteer. I felt fortunate to be one of the volunteers who got to help care for the horses, and get some great exercise through old fashioned manual labor. Although I knew that therapy and serving clients was an important part of what Forward Stride did, it wasn’t until March of this year, when Forward Stride had to temporarily closed its doors due to the pandemic, that I realized I had actually become one of the people benefiting from this horse-centered therapy. Over the last 6 years my weekly volunteer job had gradually become therapeutic.
During the 3 months that I was unable to volunteer due to the closure, I became so aware of how much I’d looked forward to seeing other volunteers and staff each week, as well as all the horses. The smell of the barn, the horses and even manure! I particularly missed my “Herd Health” sessions with Mr.P, one of the most affectionate horses I’ve ever worked with. I missed seeing Melissa, my friend and “turnout teammate”. The time spent at Forward Stride has become therapeutic for me in everything from dealing with the stress of life’s busy pace, to the sadness I felt in seeing my twins go off to college. There’s nothing like a good stall mucking to work out some emotions ☺
Outside of Forward Stride I teach exercise classes and provide physical therapy sessions at an assisted living facility. It’s a very rewarding job, but can require a lot of mental and physical energy. When I’m at Forward Stride, the pace of life slows down. The horses remind me to breathe deep, and enjoy just being in the moment, after all that’s how they live everyday. They’re never in a hurry (except at feeding time!), and that’s so refreshing in our busy world! I can honestly say, firsthand, that I’ve experienced the benefits of equine assisted therapy.
It was almost surreal when I recently returned to volunteering. I got a bit emotional when I walked into the barn and saw all the horses poking their heads out of their stalls. It was as if they were saying, “Yep, we’re still here for you and welcome back!” I’m so grateful for their unconditional love and acceptance!
It’s been an amazing experience to see the progress at Forward Stride from the old location on Horse Tale Drive, to the beautiful facility we now call home. I’m continually amazed at the passionate and generous support from so many people in our community. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Forward Stride and I feel lucky to be part of such a worthwhile place. I’ll never again take for granted the gift of Forward Stride!