Square Peg Foundation

Square Peg Foundation
Kemma Peters with Extra Fifty, by Afleet Alex, left, and Irresponsible King, by Kingmambo. Credit: Robyn Peters
  • Services

    Sanctuary, Rehabilitation, Retraining/Adoption, Equine-Assisted

  • Location

    Half Moon Bay, California

  • Founded


  • Average Number of Thoroughbreds


Square Peg Foundation was established in 2004 as an adaptive riding program for people with learning and/or developmental disabilities such as autism, ADHD, and Tourette’s Syndrome.

The innovative organization, with two California facilities, in Montara and Sonoma, offers a creative, healing approach to learning and training horses based on mutual need, turning the therapeutic riding paradigm on its head – people don’t come to Square Peg because they need therapy – people come to Square Peg because the horses need them.

Square Peg’s simple but powerful mission statement is: “We turn ‘I wish’ into ‘I can.’” People learn to ride and care for animals much larger than themselves and in the process become advocates for those who have no voice, thus gaining a sense of confidence and empowerment. The job training program at Square Peg gives dignified employment to those with significant barriers to finding and keeping a paying job.

Executive director and co-founder Joell Dunlap described Square Peg as providing a “yes” environment, “an intense experience that shows students they are capable of more than they imagined. The horse is a gentle judge of character, a unique example of gentleness and power who responds to all people according to their intentions – not to their age, size, race, or social status. We focus on building self-image, one person at a time.”

The 25 Square Peg horses, ranging in age from 5 to their 30s, found their way to the program in need of second – or third–chances. Most are Thoroughbreds. Among them are stakes-placed runners Momotombo and Southern Anthem; stakes winner Bruce’s Dream; Irresponsible King (aka “Stanley”), a royally bred son of Kingmambo and grandson of champion Eliza who knows tricks in addition to jumping, trail riding, and performing dressage; and Mythical Storm, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus who raced in Southern California and won at Santa Anita in his debut.

Square Peg partners with San Mateo County Mental Health, the Kaiser Health Initiative the Polyvagal Equine Institute, and more to deliver world-class programs for learning and healing.

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