Featured Story: Shriners

Forward Stride has partnered with Shriners Hospitals for Children – Portland since Forward Stride’s inception. Each fall and winter, we offer riding lessons on Saturday afternoons to children in treatment at the Portland Shriners Hospital. These riding lessons not only teach riding and horsemanship skills – they also help riders gain self-confidence and strength. While these sessions are not clinical therapy sessions, they provide an opportunity for riders to practice skills and processes they may be working on in treatment. For example, children can practice using fine motor skills to hold a brush and groom their pony.

Mary Ann, one of our Saturday instructors, loves teaching the lessons for children from the Portland Shriners Hospital. “The parents and kids are always so excited to be there. A lot of the time it is their first experience riding a horse and they are thrilled to have the experience. I appreciate the help of the dedicated volunteers that come every Saturday which allows these kids to ride. We could not do it without them. The class with these clients is a joy to teach and I am blessed to be part of it.”

Juliet is one such child, and her mother, Karen, was kind enough to share her story with us.

“I love Thistle. He taught me tricks.” – Juliet, age 10.

The recreation therapy program through Shriners Hospitals for Children – Portland and Forward Stride gave our daughter, Juliet, an opportunity to ride a horse. The staff, volunteers and a very gentle horse named Thistle allowed Juliet to overcome her fears of getting on a big animal and being able to balance on top. She was excited to learn “tricks” or cues to let her horse know what to do. While on the horse, Juliet learned how to: ride a few steps while holding a ball overhead, maneuver using the reins, and practice using her core muscles when giving high-fives to the volunteers. This gave Juliet a boost of confidence and a sense of accomplishment. One volunteer captured Juliet’s time on the horse by taking pictures and video clips with Juliet’s iPad. Juliet loves looking at the pictures and sharing them with her friends and teachers at school.

At the age of four, Juliet attended Forward Stride, but was too fearful and not ready to ride a horse. Instead she enjoyed feeding apples, brushing and walking the horse. We took pictures of Juliet interacting with the horse and included them in her application to get a service dog.

Thank you to the staff and volunteers at Forward Stride for giving a little girl the chance to be successful in overcoming her fears and help her ride a horse. It is a pretty amazing program.

– Karen, mother of Juliet

We are proud to maintain this meaningful partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children – Portland, allowing for many kids with special needs to participate in our programs. To help keep our horses and ponies in tip top condition, we have a farrier come out and see each horse every six weeks. A donation of $50 could cover the cost of one trim with the farrier for one horse, helping to keep them fit and comfortable!