Adult with disabilities lands dream job at CSU Temple Grandin Equine Center

Michael McGrady, 24, lives with a rare and often painful neurological disorder and never thought his dream of working with horses would come true.

But earlier this month, that all changed, when Colorado State University’s Temple Grandin Equine Center in north Denver hired McGrady.

Now, McGrady assists with the facility’s upkeep each Monday: dusting surfaces, vacuuming floors, sweeping the barn, cleaning stalls, and tidying up.

Cleaning the stalls is McGrady’s favorite task, as it allows him to spend more time with the horses.

“[Working with horses] helps my anxiety,” said McGrady, who experiences a disorder called cervical dystonia, causing his neck muscles to contract involuntarily, which also heightens his social anxiety.

McGrady’s employment resulted from early-stage partnership conversations between Laradon and the CSU System. The CSU System will develop three buildings to comprise the future CSU Campus at the National Western Center, one of which will house a permanent second location of the Temple Grandin Equine Center in Denver. Laradon has headquartered in the nearby neighborhood of Globeville for more than 70 years.

“Laradon is proud to partner with CSU as we seek to collaborate with organizations in the Globeville community to better serve those with and without disabilities across our surrounding neighborhoods,” said Laradon’s CEO Douglas McNeill.

Numerous adults with varying intellectual and developmental disabilities have volunteered at the Temple Grandin Equine Center with support from Laradon since 2017, but McGrady is the first of his peers to transition into a paid position.

Debbie Mogor, the Temple Grandin Equine Center’s Denver program coordinator, intends to provide additional employment opportunities for individuals from Laradon as the partnership evolves.

“We are very excited to have Michael on board with us through our new partnership with Laradon,” Mogor said. “This employment opportunity will help him move towards living more independently; he will learn how to use public transportation, manage time efficiently, manage finances, and work with a team as well as individually.”

Using public transit and apps like Uber to get from his Lakewood home to his new job in Denver has already improved McGrady’s self-confidence and personal autonomy.

In addition to his Monday shifts at the Center, McGrady works at a TJ Maxx in Littleton two days each week, and at an Arc Thrift Store in Lakewood on Thursdays. He hopes, however, to expand his hours at the Temple Grandin Equine Center where he can continue working with horses.

“Michael has done a great job so far. He is always on time, eager to learn and help others,” Mogor said. “I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for him!”

About the CSU Temple Grandin Equine Center at the National Western Center

The Temple Grandin Equine Center is currently being built on the CSU Fort Collins campus, and will establish a second location at the future National Western Center in Denver. CSU faculty members and graduate students at both Temple Grandin Equine Centers will conduct research in equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT), which provide physical and cognitive benefits to individuals with a broad range of disabilities.

Programming is underway at a temporary location at the existing National Western Complex, delivering EAAT to local youth and Denver area residents. For more information, contact templegrandinequinecenter@colostate.edu.

About Laradon

Founded in 1948 by the parents of two developmentally disabled sons, Laradon was the very first charitable organization in the Rocky Mountain region to offer support, education, and training to children with developmental disabilities. It is now the largest and most diverse service provider of its kind in Colorado, serving nearly 700 children and adults with developmental disabilities each year. Learn more at www.laradon.org.