Horse Therapy
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Alek, 12, front, and Ericka Dombrowsky, 11, ride their horses over rails at the Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center in Elbert Tuesday afternoon, June 28, 2005. Each year the Pikes Peak or Bust Special Rodeo is held before the regular rodeo...by Kevin Kreck

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StableStrides (formerly Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center) is a unique nonprofit organization. “Our staff connect with people and animals; most nonprofits work with one or the other,” said StableStrides executive director Shannon Mitchell. “The staff here get the opportunity to go spend time with horses during the work week, whether it is for their own mental health therapy, helping out with riding lessons or grooming the animals,” she explained.

StableStrides provides alternative, horse-centered therapy to individuals with physical, emotional, psychological and behavioral needs at a reduced cost. “We partner with both Children’s and Memorial hospitals, so we have a lot of kids come in — kids with mobility issues and amputees,” said Office Manager Jenna Miller. “We, the staff, get the opportunity to see what they go through on a daily basis, to watch them on the horses, see them gain strength, courage and confidence — it’s really a beautiful energy partnership,” she added.

StableStrides works with many veterans in the Colorado Springs community. “We offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to any individual in need. We found that our enlisted and retired soldiers greatly benefit from these services because they can bond with and find trust in the horse,” said Miller. “StableStrides is working close with Wounded Warrior Project, Mount Carmel, River Deep Alliance, Peterson Air Force Base as well as Fort Carson to provide our soldiers with the care they need to move forward in this world. Our horses give them the stability and trust they look for in making a journey into health and healing,” she continued.

Miller believes StableStrides is run in a highly organized and efficient manner. “I have been working since I was 14. I have worked in everything from entry-level jobs to Fortune 500 companies. StableStrides is incredibly well run for a small business. That gives me a lot of peace of mind as an employee,” she said.

Mitchell strives to create a supportive workplace for her employees. “I want us to work as a team. I want to give the staff a place where they can voice their concerns, their needs and wants; a place where they can share the things that might be affecting their work. I feel that really helps employees to thrive,” she said.

Mitchell encourages her employees to continue to learn and grow in their careers. “I try to create a continual learning atmosphere (at StableStrides),” she said. “I want my employees to continue to grow professionally, even if that means they grow outside our organization. If one of my employees wants to open her own horse therapy practice someday, I want to give her the tools to do that,” she explained.

The employees at StableStrides feel inspired by the difference they make in the lives of those they serve. “We have an amazing team of staff and volunteers here; day in and day out, it’s just the best thing. The work we and the volunteers do and the impact we have on clients is just amazing,” said Operations and Volunteer Program Director Michael Mersman.

“The clients and volunteers are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I wake up in the morning and want to go to work. It is inspiring and invigorating. I feel passionate and engaged on a daily basis. Not everyone gets to feel that. It is truly a joy to work here,” said Miller.

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