Envision Volunteer and Staff Stories

Stories of Inspiration  Dedication, and the Joy of Changing Lives with Equine Assisted Activities

Group Black BannerWe all have stories of important moments when we felt or saw lives change through the power of the horses’ ability to connect people—to themselves, their futures, their friends or families.  These moments are pivotal because they changed our lives too.  It is often said that you “get more out of giving than the recipient”.  In our own words, it is an honor to share with you some of our stories and testimonials.

A Volunteer at Camp Kangaroo 2016

Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of your event today. It is evident you have a well run organization with staff and volunteers who are obviously passionate about what they do. It was a long day, with a lot of work, but working with your group of volunteers and staff made it seems almost effortless!

The healing energy provided to the kiddos today by those little horses, and one big one (!) was amazing to watch! No wonder you love what you do!

Thanks again,


Being involved as a volunteer in Equine Therapy over the years has been one of the most powerful & rewarding experiences in my life. I’ve always felt and known that animals are masterful teachers, but what I didn’t know until being a witness to equine therapy, is that they are masterful healers as well. To bear witness to the magic that occurs between a horse and a human is a very special thing to be a part of . It has allowed me to see not only the power and resiliency of the human spirit but also the incredible gifts that these noble equine creatures have to offer. And they seem to “just know” what their job is. It’s truly amazing. The team spirit of working closely with all involved is very uplifting as well.”

Jodie W.

As a volunteer with therapeutic riding, I’ve realized what a powerful team the horses and humans make. It’s extremely rewarding to see the riders grow and progress. I’ve made many great friendships and have met some very special kids along the way!”

Kristen B.

I worked with Leslie for many wonderful years. If I ever return to Phoenix, I’ll again volunteer as a “horse leader”!”

Shirlie E.

Why I am an Envision Volunteer

by Melody S. Cohen

I first got involved with equine therapeutic riding when times got hard and I had to let go of my mare. Looking for a way to ease that loss and fill the void, I had heard of programs with horses for those with special needs that were really making a difference. So I went in search of one where I might be of help. I was fortunate to hook up with Leslie Paradise, Lisa Péwé, Barbara Beard and their wonderful core of volunteers.

I was really impressed with their professionalism, but mostly their level of horsemanship, equine knowledge and respect for the horse as a partner in this work. Their ability to work with special need populations and the dedication to improving their lives was evident in all they did.

Since then, I have received the best in-depth training in this field. In the three plus years I have been volunteering with them, my level of understanding and working with horses has been transformed. They encouraged and supported me to take my volunteering to a new level, getting certified with PATH International as an Equine Specialist. I am grateful to all at Envision for giving me this opportunity to be part of this great organization, and making this certification possible.

The work that we do is making a difference in our clients’ and their families’ lives. I never cease to be amazed at the effect of the partnership between a horse and someone in need. When that connection is made, there is always healing and growth.

This is our vision at Envision, to make a difference.

Why I Support Envision

by Nina Turley, CTRI

Hi Barb,

I just wanted to endorse the Envision Therapeutic Horsemanship organization. Leslie Paradise, a dear friend, has been keeping me up with the growth of the program you all are offering the Phoenix community. It is truly unique. I am especially happy for Leslie as she was my mentor as I accomplished my PATH Int’l certification in 2004. I then had the pleasure of working with her for three years until I moved to Texas. Her expertise and support were amazing as she continued to guide and challenge me to develop driving skills. We then co-taught riding and driving classes for the students. Her devotion to our precious , eager equestrians and dedication to professional therapeutic riding instruction was always consistent and inspiring. With the combined talent of yourself, Lisa Péwé and Leslie,  I know the future is bright for you all and I wish you happy trails.

Nina Turley, PATH Certified Instructor and Program Manager

Happy Trails Horsemanship and Literacy Program

Spring, Texas

Why I am an Envision Instructor

by Leslie W. Paradise

My life changed forever the morning my husband suddenly died in 1992.  I tried to revive him but it was too late.   Up to this time in my life, I had only lost my beloved dogs, a real tragedy for me at that time, but, of course, a life partner was a whole different story, totally foreign to me. It brought me to my knees I was so caught by surprise.  After all, we were supposed to go out to dinner with my family that night.  What?  John died?!

What do you mean John died?

A few weeks later, I figured that I had two choices, wallow in my own misery and bring my family and friends down with me, or take the bull by the horns and go on, just as my husband would have wanted me to do. I chose the latter.  Off to grief therapy I went and I gladly became their ‘puppet’ and did everything they said.  “Teach me”, I said, on how to do this, as I am so broken and don’t know how to make it through this pain.

I was lucky enough to be connected with the perfect family therapist, very familiar with grief and recovery.  She asked one day, and I will never forget it, “Do you like children and horses?”   I said that I never had children and didn’t know anything about horses, but I was willing to try whatever she suggested.   She said, “give this therapeutic riding center a chance” and, “if you don’t like it, we will find another place for you to give back.  You need to give back”.  Remember, I am a puppet now, doing anything to take away this aching pain of grief and loss, so off I went to this riding enter—scared and nervous and feeling very alone, but off I went.

It was the perfect place and, frankly, I never looked back.  Sure the grief process took its time, but therapeutic riding made me feel right at home immediately and this is why.  In the ring on this first day were three adult riders.  A professor, a young woman, and a bookstore owner.  All three had traumatic brain injury, totally taken from their healthy lives, one to blindness, one to a wheelchair, the last unable to practice his profession.

But there they were, on horseback, smiling and laughing and having a wonderful time as their caring volunteers guided and protected them!  How in the world could I feel sorry for myself?  My husband basically went to ‘sleep’ watching golf on TV, a shortened life for sure, but nothing compared to these three brave individuals with these amazing attitudes and courage!

My gosh, and these horses!  I didn’t know much about them but even as a novice, I saw how they took care of their riders.  I saw it in their eyes as they would not take a wrong step and they would even ‘catch’ their riders if they became unbalanced on their backs.  It was incredible.  After class was over, I was then moved to tears as I groomed my first horse, making these slow, simple circles with a curry on this kind old, warm, therapy horse.  I paused.  You know what, I said to myself? I said, “I am going to be okay”.

And okay I was. As I studied horsemanship, I learned about the different disabilities and how to coach a rider and lead a horse.  I learned how to ride, I eventually became the owner of two wonderful horses.  I was then PATH certified in therapeutic riding and driving and the rest, as they say, is history. I didn’t look back.  The feeling I have to help others on their challenging paths in life is indescribable. And to see their progress physically, emotionally, physically is inspirational.   I think I get more out of it than they do!  And my volunteers, what an amazing group of people, past and present, who not only supported me in ways I cannot describe in words, but are a special breed themselves, who want to give back, and from whom came our own, my own, new family.

And we are family, comprised of instructors, volunteers, staff members, clients and their loved ones.  It doesn’t get any better than that, and the saying is so true,” When one door closes, another opens.”   And I am so grateful for the one that opened for me.

Share Your Story

Do you have a story about a special moment or feeling or success with Envision?  To share your story, please contact Barbara@envisiontherapy.org .

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