Hope and healing at Forward Stride. For the young participants from the Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA), horses provide this while also giving them a chance to connect with their culture and find spiritual meaning in their relationships with the horse.

The Native American Rehabilitation Association, or NARA, provides culturally appropriate services and treatments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and anyone in need. NARA does this while achieving the highest level of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. At Forward Stride, NARA participants are primarily referred from residential treatment for presentations of drug and alcohol abuse to attend Equine Facilitated Learning sessions and riding lessons once a week. Throughout the summer, NARA also facilitates 3-day horse camps for other tribal kids in the Portland area.

John Spence, MSW,  Ph.D., a Tribal Consultant at NARA shares, “The excellent Equine Assisted Activities available at Forward Stride provides our kids with a positive way to enjoy life without alcohol or drugs.” Dr. Spence closes the weekly NARA lessons with a Talking Circle, a Native tradition which begins and ends with a prayer and allows each of the kids and NARA counselors to share one thing they learned and one thing they liked from their lesson. During this time, Dr. Spence often shares The 7 Sacred Directions of the Horse in Native culture:

East, South, West, & North

The 4 feet of a horse represent the 4 cardinal directions.

The Above

The ears of a horse point upward to the Heavens, the Great Mystery.

The Below

The tail of a horse points downward to Mother Earth.

The Center of All Things

The 7th Sacred Direction is the Center, when a human and horse join.

Dr. Spence explains the cultural, spiritual, and emotional significance of the horse for each NARA participant’s healing journey here:

To view the full interview with Dr. Spence check out this video on our Youtube channel for a more complete look at the impact Forward Stride and NARA have on the community.

At Forward Stride, we believe horses are sacred and the wisdom we can receive from them is invaluable. We are honored to be partnered with NARA and trusted to provide a safe place for healing among Native people. Show your support with a donation today.

All donations are being matched until the end of the year. Donate $10 today, Forward Stride will receive $20!