The directors and staff of Healing Strides would like to express our appreciation to all of you who have supported us through our 12 years of operation. Hundreds of men, women, and children have experienced the benefits of equine assisted learning and psychotherapy.

On September 6th, 2016, the board of directors voted to begin the process of shutting down Healing Strides Inc.

The logistics of operating an equine-based therapy model have become increasingly complex and costly in the last few years. In addition, we lost support organizations that we depended on, and financial sources have been dwindling. As a result, the board determined that Healing Strides is no longer financially sustainable.

These are difficult times for equine-based programs. Another well-known and well-funded Colorado therapeutic riding facility (Saddle Up Foundation) is also shutting down this year, attesting to the fact that equestrian type therapies are very expensive.

The process to shut down Healing Strides, Inc. was completed in December of 2016. Again, thank you for your support over the years.

With gratitude,
Jo Ellen Christian
Executive Director
Healing Strides, Inc.

Lee, Jodi, Jo Ellen, Alissa, Chris from Wells Fargo care about the community and helped make this grant possible

Jo Ellen (center) presents a certificate of appreciation to Lee, Jodi, Alissa, and  Chris from Wells Fargo (left to right) who care about the community and helped make this grant possible. This grant will give children who cannot afford it the opportunity to attend Healing Strides’ Confident Kids camps.

After his third visit to the barn I asked “what do you think Smoke the horse is trying to tell you?” Jeff replied, “she likes me.” Smoke reached down and nuzzled Jeff with her soft nose. Jeff scratched behind her ears and talked to her. This was quite a contrast to the 8-year-old boy who reportedly had trouble paying attention in class and at home. When Jeff didn’t get his way, we would often hit others.

The horse arena is a great mirror of life, and during the first session, Jeff looked at everything except the horse. That was, until he led Smoke over a rut in the arena and she stumbled, pulling hard at the lead rope.  Startled, Jeff decided to watch where he was going after that.

In a follow-up session Jeff was asked to construct a course to lead Smoke through.  Cones were spaced close together in a jagged line. Jeff walked the course to show us the way to navigate. Next, he walked through leading Smoke, but paid little attention to her. She knocked over a few cones and avoided the rest as best she could.   Successive courses were more intricate, but cones were still placed very close together.  I asked Jeff what Smoke might be thinking about the obstacle courses.  He didn’t think she did very well. We talked about helping others do well and I asked if he wanted Smoke to succeed. He said he did, and I asked what he might do to help? Jeff stopped to take a good look at Smoke’s legs.  He spaced the cones farther apart, slowed the pace when she got too close to a cone, and often looked back to observe her progress.

Studies show that brains work best when people are moving, and our sessions include a lot of activity. Children are attracted to animals and our activities don’t seem like therapy. Trying to understand life through the animal’s perspective increases empathy.  In Jeff’s case, parents and teachers have reported that he has been doing much better in class and is kinder to his siblings.

At Healing Strides Inc., we strive to look at the specific struggles for each child and design activities to help him/her find new solutions and strategies to handle those struggles. These challenges include study skills, peer relationships, emotion regulation, and paying attention.

*Names and details changed


July 13group

3 participants and 3 interns from the Denver Rescue Mission discovered new ways to communicate and improve relationships.

“I learned that I have the ability to have patience with animals. So if I can have patience with animals then I can apply the same patience with humans.”    – Max, participant

Working with the horse took an understanding of the horse and a little relationship building.”   -Will, participant

Variety and Creativity – Playing Equine Billiards and Saddle Up

Interns blocking

Our activities are innovative and fun. Novelty attracts evan a reluctant therapy client. Don’t be fooled though. These activities are challenging and require problem solving, communication, and working together.

This program (Healing Strides) is great for team-building and pushing personal comforts and limits. – Ron, intern

Addictions and hard times have damaged relationships for clients at the Denver Rescue Mission. Staff at Healing Strides set up activities to encourage teamwork, and spark insight as to how to rebuild past relationships and create new ones.

Horses are great models for social behavior. The best way to gain their co-operation is to earn their trust. Since humans can’t communicate with them verbally, people need to try to understand the animal’s worldview. It’s like meeting someone from a foreign country, with different customs, opinions, and language. As one client said, ” you need to find their needs and align yourself to them.”diffferent view small


Looking at things from a different perspective

” I liked grasping the concept of needing to take time to step away from problems to clear our heads and re-evaluate the situation. Sometimes we get so consumed with an issue that we can’t think or see anything else.”  Janet, intern



Share the Rewards

At Healing Strides, we are fortunate to be able to do work that is very rewarding. Most of our clients cannot afford therapy, and are very thankful for the opportunity to find healing on the ranch at very low cost or free.

You too can reap the rewards of helping people less fortunate receive the help they need by volunteering your time or resources. At the ranch, you would likely hear a client like Leo say,

It’s sometimes the little things in life that bring so much joy. THANK YOU.”iStock Horse resting nose on man10457317Medium




For more information or to volunteer, please fill out form below.



Young People Prepare for Challenging Mission Trip

On May 4th 2013, fun Horse activities provided opportunities for students and leaders to practice and learn new skills for their summer mission trip. Students told us that they discovered:

“Every person is important. you may not reach the goal, but together everyone can.” Kim, 15

Sometimes I need to take the lead and step out, and sometimes I need to step back and assist.” Ann, 17

I had to find a different perspective when what I wanted to do had no success.” Gary, 15

Both sides hitch smFollow leaderAppendages JustinTarot groom best

Relationship is Everything!

You need to demonstrate and take the lead ..and make the other person comfortable in order to help them ‘take the leap.’- Ann, 17

” You need to get to know and study the person.” Rob, 17

” These are very good activities to help me in my job as well. I feel I need to build a relationship first in every situation.” Blair, 16

Eye to eye sm

Communicate Clearly

“Think ahead, have patience, figure out what we’re trying to do, then go for it.” Mary, 16

“Words, body language, and actions are important.” Robin, 15

“Listen more than talk. Know what I’m talking about” Blair, 16

“Even though I am a quiet person, I need to appear and act confident in order to make an impact.” Lynn, 17

Jack's Story

Jack’s Story

About a year ago I lost my job and couldn’t find another. My wife was working, but not bringing in enough to cover the bills. I was angry at everyone and yelled at my wife and kids a lot. When my wife took the kids and left, I just gave up and tried to forget about the bad things by drinking. I lost my house and was out on the streets. I almost drank myself to death and ended up at the hospital. Relatives and a chaplain recommended that I try the Denver Rescue Mission. I was too angry and didn’t want to listen. After the second time in the hospital, I got scared about dying, and now I live at the Denver Rescue Mission.

One of the counselors at the mission told us about a field trip for horse therapy. It sounded interesting, so I signed up. On March 12, 2010, I walked into the horse arena with 8 other residents, and 9 interns/staff. I did not know what to expect. I have never been around horses. That morning turned out to be pretty amazing.

For our first activity we were divided into groups of 3. Each team was asked to brush and saddle a horse. I volunteered to be the “boss” and tell the other two what to do. We had to link arms, and I was in the middle. I was the only one who could talk. I thought it would be easy, but I had to explain everything that had to be done. The other guys couldn’t do anything unless I told them to. Whenever I asked one of the therapy people how to do something, like attach the leather pieces, they would say, “what works best for you?” I was used to rules and being told what to do, but as the “boss,” I had to try to figure it out. We switched so each person had the chance to be the boss. I realized that it takes people helping each other to handle a challenge and overcome problems.

Then we took turns in groups of 5 trying to get a horse over a hurdle without being able to touch the horse or using food or bribes. We all got the saddles on in the other exercise, so how hard could this be, right? I watched others getting the horse close to that obstacle, but then it would turn around and head back to the barn door. That horse was big and had a mind of its own. I knew just how that horse felt as they were trying to get him over that hurdle, the closer I get to having to find a job, the more scary it is.

Now it was my team’s turn. The horse was eating some hay by the door. We tried talking to it, showing it the way to go by all walking in front toward the hurdle, circling behind and clapping, and finally the horse moved toward the obstacle. The therapy lady told us our time was up and asked if we had been successful? Ed on our team said,” no, since the horse didn’t go over the hurdle.” I disagreed and said,” I remember what it was like for me when my family was trying to get me to go to the Rescue Mission. I kept walking by, but then turning away. The day I finally walked in was success. I think just by getting the horse moving in the right direction, we were successful.”

Next up was a team with some interns. This group had circled the horse, but the horse was not moving. After a few minutes, the horse lady asked the group, “Where can the horse go?” Two people standing in front moved to the side, and the horse walked forward. Later, when we all sat down for lunch and talked about our experiences, a couple of interns remarked, they hadn’t realized no matter how hard they try to help people change, sometimes they are just standing in the way.

I was surprised how much those horses reminded me of myself and others at the Mission. My friend Al said,” that hurdle was like graduation from the Denver Rescue Mission.” Henry told us that when the horse kept going back to the hay pile, he remembered how he kept going to the bar for “just one drink” after his wife divorced him.

Maybe there is something to therapy, and I will talk to one of the counselors at the Mission. I also want to come back to the ranch again.

(Note: To protect the identities of the residents, names have been changed and the story above is a composite of experiences, and actual testimonies of the residents and interns.)

You are required to login to view this page.