AHEAD With Horses
Los Angeles Center for Developmental Therapeutic Vaulting
Philanthropy and horses have always been a very meaningful parts of Lisa’s life, for as long as she can remember. She was born loving horses, according to her parents, and was allowed to start riding lessons at age seven. She was a member of the Pony Club for many years and went on to be named captain of her school’s equestrian team and competed successfully throughout Southern California in the hunter jumper division.
In grade school, she began her journey with Las Amigas, a mother – daughter charity foundation dedicated to building awareness, raising funds, and supporting The Luskin Orthopaedic Institute for Children. It was during that time, Lisa discovered a program providing therapeutic riding for children with special needs. She was thrilled to be able to blend her love for horses with her passion for helping children. By the time Lisa graduated high school and the charity league ended, she had contributed close to 1,000 volunteer hours. Lisa continued volunteering for equine therapy organizations throughout the years. She was even able to find an organization to work with during the years she lived abroad in London.
Soon after returning stateside, Lisa began riding at Sullivan Canyon and was introduced to Michelle and the Ahead With Horses team. From that point on, Lisa would leave her office in Brentwood every Thursday afternoon to spend her lunch hour volunteering. This began in May of 2017, and in May of 2022, she completed her Instructor for Riders with Disabilities (IRD) certification.
Lisa is delighted to be a member of the board and is committed to continued service and support for this very special organization which is extremely dear to her heart.
Joining the Board in September 2023, Stephanie’s journey with AHEAD With Horses began in October 2022 when she joined as a volunteer at the Sullivan Canyon location. From the very start, she has shown unwavering dedication to learning how to effectively engage with the students. One of her aspirations is to complete her Instructor for Riders with Disabilities (IRD) certification within the coming year.
Beyond her role at AWH, Stephanie is an acupuncturist based in Santa Monica. As a practitioner, she has wholeheartedly committed to aiding those in need of healing. Additionally, as a lifelong equestrian, she spends a significant portion of her free time at the barn, where she enjoys riding and caring for horses.
AWH has provided Stephanie with a unique opportunity to blend her passion for horses with her unwavering desire to help children and adolescents reach new heights in their lives. She is thrilled to be an integral part of the AWH organization and remains determined in her commitment to making a positive impact in the lives of the students.
Wendy identifies as an “Equal Opportunity Animal Lover.” She is currently volunteering at AHEAD with Horses, Boxer Rescue LA and other animal shelters. Wendy has 15 years+ of experience (most recently at Disney) with digital marketing, video strategy and brand and account management. Her passion, however, is improving the lives and well-being of animals. She was raised in Frogtown and is now residing in Sunland-Tujunga. She is first-generation Chinese-American and first-generation college graduate. Wendy has a B.A in Chinese Language and Culture and is a fur mommy of two boxers, Bailey and Benny. Wendy started volunteering at AHEAD With Horses in the summer of 2021 and joined the Board in March 2022.
Nancy Kenyon, Psy.D is a trained mental health professional with 15 years in private practice, a lifelong equestrian, and mother. She has worked in an intensive, adolescent out-patient treatment center, Insight in Los Angeles, has run multi-family groups, and worked with Jewish Family Services as a school therapist in elementary and middle schools in Santa Monica. Nancy is also trained in hypnotherapy and works with anxiety and trauma. Nancy lives near Sullivan Canyon where AHEAD With Horses has their mobile program. Since Nancy rides there herself she discovered the program and started volunteering at the Sullivan Canyon site in 2019. Volunteering with AHEAD With Horses inspired Nancy to get her EAGALA Certification in 2020 and in May 2022 will complete her IRD (Instructors for Riders with Disabilities) Certification. Nancy has enjoyed working with Michelle and is excited to become a full instructor with AHEAD With Horses.After volunteering for three years, Nancy decided to take the next step and joined the Board of Directors in February 2022. She is grateful to be a part of the AHEAD With Horses family and we are glad to have her extensive professional experience to contribute to the program.
Denise has a daughter, Caroline (age 21), who has been attending Ahead With Horses for just over a decade. Caroline has multiple genetic disorders and when she first came to Ahead With Horses, she was still in a wheelchair. Denise loves to see the excitement, happiness, and overall physical and emotional benefit this therapeutic riding program has provided for her daughter. They both regularly promote the program in the community and have even had a board member come to present at on of their support group national conferences.Denise has a background in Administration, which includes positions relating to helping people find employment. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration coupled with Hispanic Studies. After her daughter was born though, she took time out to care for her, but was able to pursue a career in Real Estate, which she did for 10 years. Denise has always encouraged her daughter and her daughter’s brother to be involved in extra curricular activities and enjoys sharing resources with other families. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the 4p- Support Group, the primary syndrome which her daughter has.In her spare time she enjoys traveling and attending events with her family.
Julie is mom to a son, Ryan, who has Prader-Willi syndrome. Her son started coming to Ahead With Horses in 2009 to help develop core strength and balance. Ryan still enjoys riding and Julie appreciates the much-needed physical activity and associated benefits it provides.
Though Julie has been a stay at home mom since Ryan was born she holds a Masters degree in Organizational Management and has been active in other non-profit committees and boards. She joined the Ahead With Horses Board in June 2021 and looks forward to bringing her experience to our organization.
Julie lives in Burbank with her husband, son, and two cats. When not busy homeschooling Ryan or volunteering she just might be found at Disneyland.
In 1982, Joyce was the philanthropy chair for the La Canada Flintridge Women’s Club, who were raising funds for AHEAD With Horses. She knew nothing of the organization, but after her first visit seeing the disabled children being helped by the wonderful staff using beautiful, gentle horses she was hooked and wanted to do all that she could to help.
Joyce has been contributing ever since by volunteering her time in the office, around the grounds and giving speeches to volunteer and donor organizations. She has served on the Board of Directors since 2000, and was President from 2004-2020. Joyce has seen many miracles such as children walking for the first time and hearing them speak their first words. She knows these children will continue to develop, improve, grow and become contributing members of society.
While Michelle had not been around with AWH since its inception in 1968 (she wasn’t born yet), she learned about the program when she was just 5 years old. Michelle would come and watch her sister Stacy, who had Trisomy 9M and was severely disabled, ride in the program, starting right before she turned 3.
Michelle can still remember and can appreciate what Stacy learned while at AWH. She started to make more noise and communicate with others, as well as learn how to safely get off a bed by sliding off the horse’s tail. Michelle loved coming to watch her sister and the horses. Michelle even got to take some hoof clippings for a report she did in elementary school on horses and ponies. She also remembers coming and participating in Costume Day, an event she was always enthusiastic about.
Michelle started volunteering for AWH the summer before her junior year in High School, and would always come back to work over the summers while attending college. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Redlands, she started working there full-time in 2005, both teaching lessons and working in the office. Michelle worked closely with Liz Helms, the Founder of AWH, who taught her how to run the wonderful non-profit.
While Michelle has gone through many different titles and job descriptions at AWH, her current, all-encompassing title is Executive Director and Head Instructor which she assumed in 2012 after Liz Helms passed away.
Each day Michelle looks forward to witnessing little miracles in each session. As one child is able to hold their head up a little longer on their own; another shy child is breaking out of their shell to tell Michelle how much they love the horses. It’s a little boy finally able to complete a “quad” on his hands and knees while the horse walks for a whole circle, and a little girl who was afraid to let go of the handles now stand up on her horse…there are just so many amazing moments to cherish.
Before joining AWH, Judy ran a boarding stable of 50 horses, had horses of her own, taught kids to ride, and was Board President in my 10 years in California Rangers. On top of all of this, she was also an RN. The fit couldn’t have been more perfect.
Judy had recently changed her hours as a registered nurse, and was looking for something meaningful to do with her extra time. While driving with her family in the area, Judy passed an AHEAD With Horses sign on La Tuna Canyon Rd. and had her grandson write down the telephone number. She left a message that she was interested in volunteering and began at AWH shortly thereafter.
In 2017, Judy retired as an RN. Having more time to donate, she offered to help with the paperwork for the new property. With it came the upkeep of the 2 1/2 acres: weeding, planting, watering, obtaining city permits, and guiding the many wonderful volunteer groups that came out to help us get ready for the big move. Judy refers to the acreage as her Field of Dreams and can’t wait for everyone to experience the magic of our new Forever Home! Judy stepped into the role of Board President in 2020.
In 2008, Floyd retired as a Bank field Auditor for over 30 years. He had a daughter Stacy, born with Trisomy 9 Mosaic: a chromosome disorder. She was very small, unable to walk and talk. Stacy began riding at AHEAD with Horses at the age of 3. She became vocal and although could not speak she could let you know what she wanted and what she was thinking. Through Stacy learning how to get on and off the horse, she was ultimately able to get both in and out of bed by herself. Later in life she learned how to feed herself and how to walk with assistance.
Stacy had an older sister that volunteered at AWH and after college worked with Founder Liz Helms, later becoming the Executive director for AWH. It only seemed right for Floyd to volunteer and support AHEAD With Horses helping the disabled youths be all that they can be.
Arline first heard of AHEAD With Horses (AWH) in the Glendale News Volunteer Opportunity column. She had been retired for a couple of years and was looking for a place to volunteer that helped children. She felt AWH would be the perfect fit because not only do they serve children, but she could also spend time with horses.
After attending the orientation, Arline learned that the students in the program had various disabilities. Her great nephew had Cerebral Palsy and passed away at the age of 9 and she felt that working at AWH was the perfect way to honor him. Whether it’s grooming the horses, assisting in the lessons, talking to the parents, weeding, paperwork–Arline feels most at peace when she’s working at AWH. And, what a joy it is for her to see our students grow and progress each day!
Ride. Smile. Grow.
AHEAD With Horses™ is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.Tax ID Number: 95-3165603