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Meet Michelle Newman of AHEAD With Horses in North East San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Newman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michelle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
AHEAD With Horses is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year and we were one of the first therapeutic riding programs. Our Founder, Liz Helms started the developmental therapeutic vaulting program back in 1968. We are different from many other horse therapy programs because we use vaulting, which is like gymnastics on a horse, and we are willing to take children who are severely and multiply disabled, which many other programs are unable to take. Since the program began we have served hundreds of children with all types of disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, chromosome disorders, developmental delays, hearing and visually impaired, and many more. Some of the milestones that have occurred for the children in our program are: children taking their first steps, speaking their first words, being able to lift their head, use their arms and legs, follow directions, focus attention, and much more.

Since it is our 50th Anniversary, we will be having a 50th Celebration Luncheon on November 11 at Nickelodeon in Burbank. If you are interested in attending or donating for the event, please contact the office at (818) 767 – 6373. You can also find more information on our website:

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a non-profit is never an easy road. It is always difficult to find and keep funding. We have had issues with State Budget cuts that reduced Regional Center Services and cut back funding for grants that we had for decades. The Recession reduced the number of donors that were available, and for some reduced the amount of funds they were able to give.

In the past, we have had issues with fires and floods and having to move locations.

We are currently in the middle of a “Forever Home” Campaign to help us raise money to move to a new permanent location. In December 2017, we purchased our own property, but there are many costs involved with preparing the land (adding water and power for example, and building a barn) and extra costs to move everything there. In the meantime, we have rent to pay for our current location and an additional mortgage on the new property. If anyone is interested in donating to the Forever Home Campaign, they can do so here:

We’d love to hear more about your business.
AHEAD With Horses is a non-profit, developmental therapeutic vaulting program that specializes in working with children with multiple and severe disabilities. AHEAD (Accelerated Habilitation Education And Development) WITH HORSES INC. has a 50-year history of providing unique, highly motivating and effective therapy, education and recreation through horses and related experiences to disabled/disadvantaged/special-needs children and has earned recognition educationally, medically and scientifically. Through vaulting (gymnastics on a moving horse), even severely disabled children learn and achieve with the goal of enabling them to lead more independent and productive lives.

AWH’s mission is to:
Maximize the potential of disabled/disadvantaged/special-needs children providing developmental therapy, education and recreation through horses and the environment, with measurable improvement physically, mentally, socially and/or emotionally resulting in increased self-sufficiency and the ability to lead better and more independent and productive lives capable of contributing to society.

Two unique aspects of this therapy are the immediacy of response and visibility of its effectiveness across multiple domains (motor, communication, social, emotional, cognitive, self-help, vocational). Predicated on the philosophy that everyone can learn and achieve, the emphasis is on working with those others feel lack the ability to respond. Most have not responded to traditional forms of therapy and/or education, or are not eligible for other services.

We receive much more than we give. Those we are privileged to work with teach us so much! We depend on the validation and support of the public. We have a very small staff and rely heavily on volunteers to make our program run smoothly. If anyone is interested in volunteering, you can contact the office at (818) 767 – 6373.

What were you like growing up?
I personally grew up knowing the program. My sister started as a client just before turning three years old. This was back in 1988. I saw how the program helped her- she started making more noise after riding the horse and learned how to slide off a bed by sliding off a horse’s tail. I always had a love for horses and when I was in High School, I started as a volunteer with the program. I continued on to become a part-time worker, and then when finishing college in 2005, I became a full-time employee. When our founder passed away in 2012, I became the Executive Director and now run the program. Who would have thought over 19 years ago that I would still be here, but seeing how we can make such an impact in so many lives keeps me here.


  • We will be having our 37th Annual Children’s Demonstration and Fun Day on Saturday, June 9th and you can purchase tickets for $14 adults, $7 children.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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