Healing Hearts with Horses

Trail Rides for children




Our Goal is to provide riding opportunities  for disadvantaged and underserved children of our community. We strive to provide the joy of a horse to kids who have so little, and children who have lost so much.

While some of us have had the chance to experience the joy and serenity that comes from riding a horse, many will never have that opportunity, unless we provide it for them. For the past five years, the CHAPS and MPF have been creating programs and raising money to provide rides and equestrian experiences for veterans and disadvantaged children.

Just outside the Stanford campus in Palo Alto California are the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Wunderlich County Park, which is graced with the last public horse facility in San Mateo County. With the County's blessing and the support of private donations, CHAPS and the MPF strives to make this Park and the 104 year old Folger Stable an inclusive and welcoming environment for the general public and in particular, those less fortunate. .

Over the years, CHAPS and the MPF have raised funds for rides from very generous grants provided by WHOA! (Woodside Horse Owners Association).  Other supporters include members of the community, the Woodside Community Foundation, Nordstrom's and Google. More than 200 rides and equestrian experiences for veterans and children have been provided. Veterans and children have the opportunity to interact with horses in ways that feel most comfortable. For most this involves riding, sometimes in an arena, and sometimes on a trail. For others, this involves interaction that involves grooming, learning how to lead, saddle, care and relate to horses. The joy and happiness on faces of these veterans and kids brings tears to our eyes.

The best thing for the inside of a person is the outside of a horse. CHAPS invites the community to partner with them in programs that facilitate the healing that comes through interacting with horses. Together we can make children's dreams come true and recognize our veterans for their sacrifice.

Excel Equestrian, owned by Mandy Alamillo, has been providing good horses, great lessons and understanding trail guides at Wunderlich County Park. For a short time, the kids and vets will enjoy a gentle horse, moving under the redwoods, feeling the beauty of the forest.

Healing Hearts With Horses  - CASA kids

Healing Hearts With Horses provides free trail rides and lessons for children in the County CASA program (Court Appointed Special Advocate program). These are foster children that have lost so much, and truly enjoy the opportunity for a lesson or a trail ride at Wunderlich County Park.  The program began in 2012 and in the years since, 242 rides have been provided, with 84 being provided in 2016.  Here are a few notes from their sponsors/advocates


Watching my CASA child with his pony was truly a heart-warming experience. My little guy was just one month out of a home where he suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father. To see this little boy put aside his fear upon meeting "Nutter", and then gently groom him and talk with him, gave me hope that he is going to be OK.

Our trainer, Mandy, was so patient and positive, and she was able to encourage him to ride. The look of pure joy on my CASA child's face as he circled the ring with his pony is something I will always remember, as will he.

I am so grateful to Excel Equestrian and the CHAPS program for what they bring to the CASA children of San Mateo County- it is such an important program. Thank you very much for what you do, and for the difference you make in children's lives. Please feel free to use any part of this letter, with my name, to further enrich your program.


Nancy Bue



As a CASA, I look for activities that will help to build confidence and impart a sense of accomplishment to the kids I volunteer with. Excel Equestrian's horseback riding program is exactly that. The ten year old boy I advocate for loved the time he got to spend with the horses, and he was a natural as a rider. He gained so much confidence through working with the horses and the staff at Excel, and looked forward to his next opportunity to ride.




My foster child and I had a wonderful experience, and we can't thank you and your staff enough.

Excel Equestrian offers a wonderful opportunity for foster youth to experience an intimate bond between the horse and themselves. They are taught step by step care and preparation before and after the ride, they learn how the horse can sense movement and emotions, and ultimately they experience the reward of riding. In the end, the child walks away with a sense of accomplishment and pride. They feel trust and know they are safe, and have connected emotionally with something much bigger than they are.


Thank you guys so much for a wonderful time! I have been with my CASA buddy for over six months and I have never seen him so calm and focused before. Now I understand why they use horses for therapy. We had a really great time. Justin and Mandy were highly professional and very kind at the same time, a feat hard to accomplish. They warned us that the lesson would depend on how comfortable my CASA buddy felt with the horse because he is very young, and Mandy definitely progressed the lesson catering to his comfort level and the speed with which he picked up what she taught him. By the end of our session, my CASA buddy was riding the horse on a trail, holding the reigns himself! He is so excited to come back and I am thrilled that this was made possible. Thank you so very much for today.

Thank you,




The foster children's riding program at Folgers Stables is providing an uplifting experience for children at risk in our community and who love horses.

The child that I sponsor thru CASA of San Mateo County is living in a home situation that is cramped, without sufficient funds and whose family has been pulled apart with siblings living in 3 different locations.

Unfortunately, this girl suffers from depression and helplessness and is at risk of harming herself. One visit to CHAPs has given her hope and something to look forward to. She went from being quiet and withdrawn to wanting to learn more about horses and planning to volunteer at the stables after her 5 lessons are completed.

Watching her interact with these gentle creatures, I can see that she needs to focus on someone or something outside of herself and this program provides that. Most of the programs thru CASA focus on younger children but this one suits a 14 year old better. I hope that CHAPs is able to continue this program for years to come.





Healing Hearts With Horses  - SAL - Sheriff's Activity League


This program is just getting started with 7 rides in 2016.   The Sheriff's Activity League provides recreational opportunities for disadvantaged children in the County. The CHAPS and MPF are raising funds to provide free trail rides for these children.


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