Square Peg is like an oasis where horses, humans, and magic work together to perform miracles on a daily basis.
Everyone is welcome, and uniqueness is not just tolerated, but embraced. On a given day, neurotypical students take lessons side-by-side and work with kids who experience the world in a completely different way. No one is less than anyone else; everyone is accepted as they are, where they are.
The staff and volunteers at Square Peg are doing a wonderful job at creating the change that the world needs to see and be, rescuing animals, valuing differences, and respecting everyone involved.
Just returned from another wonderful afternoon at Square Peg Foundation. My formerly isolated and unhappy daughter is learning and working cooperatively and happily with other youth and with the horses, and together they grow to accept and trust each other. It's music to my ears to hear her animated account of her lesson, what the kids did, what the staff did, and what the horses did. Joell and her staff are remarkably caring and patient and accepting; they willingly meet each young person in whatever emotional space they happen to be in on a given day. Parents can sit back and relax for a few minutes, pet one of the ranch dogs, or jump in and help with a project around the office or stalls...whatever they need to do at the time. I was referred to Square Peg Foundation from another satisfied family, and will happily pass along my recommendation.
In my entire riding career, I have never come across an establishment as respectable and effective as the Square Peg Foundation. The facility is nestled in Half Moon Bay, and can best be described for its aesthetic value by the term "breathtaking". Each rescue horse at the ranch has a unique and wonderful disposition. I would accredit their friendliness to the fact that these horses are simply happy; happy to work, to serve, and to be in the care of the Square Peg staff. What is most phenomenal about these horses having such fantastic dispositions is that many of them have faced tremendous adversity prior to their arrival at Square Peg. I suppose the dark histories of many of these rescue horses are an inspiration to the students; many of whom have faced adverse life circumstances of their own. These children come from all walks of life, and despite the variation between the circumstances, personal characteristics, and physical characteristics of each child, they all fit in at the Square Peg Foundation. I fear that my review will not do the foundation nearly enough justice. One would have to experience a day at the ranch and see for themselves how palpable the love and positive energy is here.
My 13 year old son takes riding here & we love it! The Square Peg folks are friendly, caring and careful. The most wonderfully unique thing about Square Peg is that it is all inclusive - so regardless of the needs of a child, all are welcome and included and feel important here. Both of my kids (one with disabilities & one without) adore Square Peg, are challenged, comfortable, and learn new things every time. A true gem!
Friendly welcome, freedom: to be who you are as an individual and as a family, lgbtg?-no problem, a place that heals horses and people, integrity, generous, loving, challenging...and like most non-profits they do it all with not enough time or money but with love and grit. (If I took the time to write out complete thoughts this review would be way too long. Try it, if you "get it" you will love it.) My SF city boys have benefitted from Joell and the horses more than I can say.
I’m Max, i am 17 years old and I’ve been hanging out with the people and animals at Square Peg since I was five. I learned to ride during the very first Square Peg summer camps. But Joell, Greg and Sigourney didn’t just teach me to ride.
They made sure I also learned responsibility, That if we don’t care for the animals they won’t care for us. Over the years I’ve learned to get the horse out of the barn, to groom the horse, saddle the horse, bridle the horse, tie up the horse, untack the horse, groom the horse again. I’ve also learned how to do many necessary if not elegant chores such as cleaning stalls, feeding the horses, filling water buckets, and countless other important tasks. I have learned more life lessons at Square Peg then everywhere else i have ever been combined times 10 I will always as long as i live be doing everything i can to help this amazingly wonderful organization/place/second home for me and many others.
Square peg is the most unique and wonderful organization I have either professionally or personally ever been involved in. My son has been involved since he was 5 years old. He started riding and learning invaluable life lessons like caring, sharing and acceptance of others. My son has several challenges that left him feeling very different than other kids and not accepted. He found at Square Peg he was accepted, and cared about by not only the remarkable staff but other students at Square Peg. He now is in high school, volunteers all summer with helping other kids in the summer camps and continues volunteers throughout the school year. Square Peg is the place were everyone really does fit. This organization has changed my sons life. He now has groups of high school kids from his school who help out a couple of times a year as community service projects and they also enjoy it. He continues to now ride in their new polo program and has found he loves it. I volunteer whenever I can and love working with the Staff, Board members and clients.
An avid rider as a child, I started riding with Square Peg after a lapse of over twenty years. Joell's unique approach (always supportive, constantly adaptive) and her amazing horses (former dressage champs, jumpers, racehorses and polo ponies-all donated) provided me with different ways to learn and grow as a rider. I ended up adopting one of Square Peg's horses. A former dressage champ, he enjoyed a second life as a lesson horse for Square Peg and now, lords it over every coyote and creature he meets on the trails around my house. My daughter, a neurotypical child, has found a place in Square Peg that both challenges her intellect and accepts her eccentricities.
I am a 14 year old volunteer and I have been with Joell since I was 7 or 8. This place is like my second home. I take a lesson once a week, and I LOVE it. During the summer I usually help with the summer camps and that's super fun too. The kids are sweet and I really love the learning aspect and how excited they get to ride. Joell, Greg, and Sigourney are amazing people who are great teachers and riders too. The horses are definitely amazing, the barn pets are sweet, and the kids obviously love to be there. What I love the most is the on-hands learning. At other stables barn chores are dismissed and let for others to deal with. Here, every aspect of being at a barn are learned (barn chores, feeding, medical, tack, cleaning, safety etc.) I love this place and its amazing!!!! It makes a huge difference in my life and I know it makes an even bigger impact in the kids lives :)
Your time and money show immediate results. Joell Dunlop provides a sanctuary for kids with special needs and unwanted horses. At first glance, Square Pegs is a small coastside riding facility, but dig a bit deeper and you'll see so much more. Some of the kids shoveling stalls or sweeping up are 'at-risk' kids getting their first chance to enjoy the outdoors and bond with large animals. Some of them are 'special needs' kids who would never get the chance to ride in any other environment. Some are kids just out for a riding lesson. You can't always tell by looking or talking to them, and they all get the same patient and caring attention. It's truly a unique environment and I learn to be a better person every single time I'm out there.
Through the wonderful support and enthusiasm of Joell,Chris and their entire crew at Square Pegs, we were able to place a few of our students at this marvelous establishmet we called a "job site." Our program provides students with disabilities an opportunity to learn about different career options during their youthful high school years. A few of our students expressed their interests in working with horses as well as wanting to work in the outdoors. What a better place to train them but at Square Pegs!! Joell,Chris and their "patient" staff, had welcomed us with open arms and gave everyone the opportunity to learn about ranch life as well as the ability to bond with such a beautiful animal. Their entire family has made everyone feel like they are at home. What a lovely setting it is to call "home!" A few of our graduates still talk about their experience at the ranch and always ask how everyone is doing. They truly have the right motto,"Everyone Fits!" Thank you Square Pegs for your graciousness and ongoing support!
My daughters have been volunteering at Square Peg Ranch for about six months and it has been a delightful experience as well as an invaluable learning opportunity. Joell's horses are always treated with loving kindness and it shows. After a few ground rules and common sense pointers were learned I have always felt that my girls were safe around these large animals. Because they are so well cared for, they respond in kind. In addition, learning what it takes to maintain a farm has been a privilege, hard work ( good for body and soul ) and a ton of fun. With horses, dogs, cats, and goats, Joell's place is the worlds best petting zoo, where you will also meet the nicest and smartest people around.
Joelle, SquarePeg people and horses are magic. Every time I think of Bert my horse I donated to SquarePeg, I have tears in my eyes. I feel so lucky that Bert is in such wonderful hands and he loves the children at SquarePeg. Bert was and still is the love of my life. He is so well taken care off at SquarePeg and he contributes to the well being of all the riders in the program. Thanks Joelle
I leave this place with a huge smile on my face. The environment is relaxed and low stress. The facility is well run. The horses are bright, healthy and love to interact--they are not shut down as is the case with some equestrian facilities. Joell Dunlap is amazing. Everyone is welcome. She works equally well with horses and people in just about any capacity (an unusual gift). I hope I can find time to volunteer there on a regular basis. I feel like I will take more than I can probably give.
I was attracted to Square Pegs because of their slogan "Everyone Fits". Even me? A horse crazy middle-aged woman? Yes, even me! I found wonderful ways to volunteer with the organization that brought me into close contact with the animals I so love. Joell Dunlap is a force of nature... and it is a beautiful thing to watch the compassionate way she works with kids and animals. Square Pegs is an oasis of kindness in our sometimes indifferent world.
Joell, Greg and the volunteers at Square Peg have created a beautiful, magical place, where my 6 year old son with autism thrives. He loves Joell, Greg, the horses, and other animals. The kids who volunteer are great role models for him. Greg and Joell focus his tremendous energy on jobs at the ranch, which he loves and is very proud of. They know how to work with active boys! He is so happy there because he can be himself. He can be loud and socially awkward at times and he is not judged. At Square Peg, I have found a very special place where I can learn and grow as a parent. I have learned that my son can successfully be very independent and that I can let go there and trust that he will be O.K. I have learned that rather than trying so hard to turn my son from a square peg into a round one, I want to find more places like Square Peg, where he can happily be himself.
We just recently started riding at Square Peg. My son is five and has autism. We'd participated in horseback riding for children with special needs before we moved here from TX and my son absolutely loved it, so I knew we needed to find a nurturing environment to continue that love here in CA. Joell and her volunteers are amazing! Joell is so calm, kind and patient with my son; and a great new friend for this Mom who is definitely in need of some adult conversation! I am so happy to have met someone who accepts my child and his difficulties without judgment, but instead with compassion and the desire to help him connect with these amazing animals she has rehabilitated. We're thrilled to have found Square Peg!
Few times in life are you honored to meet truly special people that work tirelessly to change the lives of others. I have met those people recently. I have been looking for a chance to work with animals and special needs children for a while now.I have found that in a small ranch in Half Moon Bay where injured horses and challenged children come together to create a second chance for everyone. Under the supervision of the deciated and loving hand of Joell Dunlap.I have learned new lessons on compassion.Joell and her team have saved the lives of so many horses that were written off to injury, age, or thought not to be of any use anymore. I have fell in love with the horses spirit, their stories and learned the healing qualities of the giant gentle creatures. As they run through the open pastures with renewed joy or kick up their heals in mischievous bliss. I am forever grateful for being present on the ranch and being able to be a part of the moments that inspire the spirit in all of us. I am honored for my time as a volunteer at Square Pegs
What Square Peg has done for my daughter Sarah and her sister Rachel is beyond words! Sarah's face lights up at the thought of working with the horses and alongside Greg, Sigourney and Joell! Their encouragement and guidance is helping her to feel more confident in ALL she does, at the ranch and beyond! The time with the horses is magical. She asks to ride frequently but is just as happy to work and play with the horses and goats and "Sissy" and all the cats! We can't thank you enough!
My daughter has been riding at Square Peg Foundation for about 3 years. While we love the horses, the real reason we continue is because of the positive attitudes and nurturing environment offered at Square Peg. Director Joell Dunlap is calm, friendly, positive, unflappable, careful, responsible, fun, and extremely knowledgeable. She teaches much more than just the riding, including horse care and nutrition. The students tack the horses before and after the lesson (including brushing and hoof care), help with feeding, etc. The lesson is designed to be 1.5 hours long (but frequently goes longer -- the kids don't want to leave). At the ranch they have beautiful, well-cared for horses. Many are race-horse rescues with some amazing stories! There are also cats, dogs, goats, ponies -- it's just a fun, relaxing place to be. Square Peg has room for everyone -- kids with special needs, homeschooled kids, parents, whoever needs a chance to realize their own strengths and build confidence. The same applies to the horses. Square Peg finds a home and purpose for horses that have been considered useless by former owners.