Magic abounds at Forward Stride for Ozzy and his family. In one short year, they have all benefited from essentially every facet of our programming. Their story is an inspiring example of obstacles identified and obstacles overcome, the gift of gentle perseverance, and the meaningful impact of finding the right therapy in a caring community.

Ozzy came to Forward Stride in 2020 after doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommended Equine Assisted Therapy for him. He struggles with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD, among other disorders, and is currently unable to attend school. After finding the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy program overwhelming, Ozzy was placed in the Rehabilitation Services Program.

Ozzy Sitting Backwards on Pippin

“I was skeptical to try Rehabilitation Services,” Ozzy’s mom says, “because we had tried many different therapies in the past and it was always two steps forward and four steps back or would end in disaster. Ozzy was cooperative in many of his other therapies and had excellent therapists, however, nothing would transfer over into real life. There always came a point where the therapist would sit us down and say they no longer knew how to treat him because he was technically doing fine in quiet, one-on-one clinic settings, but there was little to no progress at home.”


Ozzy on Pippin

“When I saw him sitting calm and focused on Pippin during his first session with his head held up, his back straight, and his hands holding the cloth, I was blown away — I didn’t know he could do that! Valery told me that she thought he was a natural at horseback riding and those words still bring tears to my eyes because I thought he was too disconnected from the world around him to be around horses. And now, this therapy keeps him moving forward.”

Ozzy’s sister, Celestine, also takes part in programs at Forward Stride. She started in the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy program and is now transitioning into the Riding Program. “Her growth and progress also bloomed beyond our expectations. Celestine developed better verbal and non-verbal communication skills … she has a higher sense of self-esteem and self-awareness as well as improved self-advocacy.”

Celestine Picking Pepper's Hoof

“I know everyone at Forward Stride says that the horses are magic, and they are. But we have found the therapists at Forward Stride to be magical, too. The wisdom and support we have received has been like no other… and trust us when we say we have been through many therapies with many therapists and doctors.”

This summer after 6-months at the program, Ozzy began riding his bike again after a 2-year span of mysteriously not being able to, without training wheels and began coordinated running and jumping, his mom says. And now he has started bouncing and shooting a basketball and playing catch with his dad. “We did not think these skills were even possible prior to coming to Forward Stride. It’s not just his motor skills improving, it’s his ability to focus on a task, his brain and body working together, as well as having the endurance to follow through with a challenging activity. Not to mention his self-esteem has greatly improved.”

Ozzy Riding Pepper with mom and sister watching.

Ozzy has started riding lessons in addition to his occupational therapy and is loving every second. He looks forward to lesson day and has made a strong connection with Emily, his instructor.

“If I had any energy or money, I would give it all to Forward Stride. We would love to see more children, who also have not seen success in other therapies … have access to Forward Stride. Words can’t really express how magical this experience has been for us and we would love for Forward Stride to grow larger and help more families like us.”

We agree. At Forward Stride, we want everyone to benefit from Equine Assisted Therapies and Activities. We never charge the true cost of these programs. The true cost of a 45-minute Rehabilitation Service session is $274, and we charge $126 for the service. A donation of $148 allows Forward Stride to continue offering this necessary service at an affordable rate. Give what you can today.