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The Power of a Horse

Jaycee Dugard is truly an embodiment of strength and resilience. At just 11 years old, Jaycee was abducted while walking to the school bus and held captive for 18 years. After her rescue, Jaycee and her family found healing and connection through incorporating horses into mental health and trauma services.

Randy Travis

Country music legend

Photo credit: @risatphotography

The love of a horse is pure and unaltered between man and horse. Since before I was able to walk, I have been on horseback—initially at my father’s insistence, and forever after due to my affection for them. I don’t remember a time, in my 63 years of life, when I didn’t have horses, nor would I change that luxury. I cleared my head and escaped the world more times than I can count when I was one with the horse and the wind…they were my friend.

My dad trained horses and I suppose I somewhat followed in his footsteps, as I spent many hours, both teaching and learning, from my equine companions. I’m not sure who learned the most—often, I got the feeling I was on the winning end of it. When I needed a lesson in patience, I got it. When I needed a lesson in understanding, I got it. When I needed a dose of kindness, I got it. And, when I needed the quietness of a friend, I got it, too! My horses have come in all shapes, sizes, breeds, colors, and temperaments—I learned and loved them each.

Trigger, Jr., son of Roy Roger’s Trigger, was plain ornery. Scout was one of the smartest horses I had ever been around. And, Preacher, is the kindest horse I’ve ever owned. With a wide range of personalities in between, I’ve been blessed with the well-rounded friendships I have found in my horses. After spending almost 6 months in the hospital following my bout with viral cardiomyopathy and massive stroke, I was finally allowed to take an afternoon test-run visit, with Mary, to our ranch. The hour-long drive, now the same man but in a different shell, left me anxious for what I would find, recognize, know, and feel when I arrived. Following the stroke, there was much confusion and lack of recognition regarding much of the life I had once known. When we first pulled up the drive to our ranch, our first greeting came from our pasture of ponies—we drove right up to the fence and one by one, they each came over to the window, nuzzled my neck, and stood around as if they each were sharing their stories of the last 6 months. Preacher laid his head on my shoulder and remained through storytime. So many forgotten memories and familiar feelings came flooding back to me—they were the therapists I would understand the best.

I guess when it comes to horses and mankind, a leap of understanding is needed on both sides…they recognize our shortcomings, and we applaud their sensitivity. My life, my music, my soul would be so different if I had not known the love of a horse…forever and ever, Amen.

Eric Roberts

ACTOR

Photo credit @tonyduranphotos

Having had a long history with horses and after co-starring in several films with these magnificent creatures I’m excited to be a part of the Seen Through Horses Campaign. Being in the presence of horses is great for the soul, the positive energy you can soak up from horses is unparalleled and it’s really incredible how horses can read –and mirror human emotion.

I especially loved my majestic horse Silk, and her baby Sagan. Silk was present to me and my wife Eliza from Wayne Newton for casting Wayne in The Best of The Best II.

Silk was instantly a member of our family. Especially because she came to us, carrying the best surprise of all. Her foal, Sagan. On our long walks, Silk learned all my thoughts, worries, joys, questions. And she sure knew I loved her. I knew that horse better than I’d known any person in my life. And making her happy was my favorite thing to do…Usually by way of hours running free of saddle, bit, bridle and reins, grazing to her heart’s content.

We never separated Silk and Sagan…We made sure their relationship took the course of nature. When Silk’s time came, I never left her side for the whole of her transition.
She was truly at peace. Not to say I didn’t feel the full load of sadness at her loss.
We made sure that Sagan was immediately joined by his two best girlfriend horses, with whom he remained for the rest of his life.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Silk and Sagan. Doing all I can for horses gives me that big hit of joy at having shared decades with those two remarkable animal friends of ours.

Animated Short: Breathe

Horses can teach us ways to heal and grow in countless ways. Their non-judgemental disposition can teach us valuable lessons and new ways of healing. Horses can bring a transformational element to people living with PTSD, anxiety and depression. Follow the story of Jared, a veteran searching for peace within himself, through the help of one special horse.

Mikayla Lane

RECORDING ARTIST, SONGWRITER

Photo credit John Conrad

“I’ve grown up around horses, been around them my whole life. My family was in the cattle business for years; so, all of our horses have always been ‘cow horses’…working horses with a strong cow sense, lots of cutting horse breeding in the line. Over the last few years my focus on my music has become more dedicated resulting in less and less time at home in Oklahoma. 

I learned to ride at an early age but I never really appreciated being able to ride my own horses anytime I wanted or realize the true pleasure and relaxation they offered me until being away from them so much over the last couple years. Firebug is my favorite! He’s such a sweetie and he’s who you’ll see 99% of the time when I post a photo with a horse.

Firebug is 26, but you would never know it. Of course, there are a couple tell-tale signs that he’s a mature horse; horses show signs of aging just like we do. (A little fun Firebug history…. Firebug actually belongs to my Dad; he was a surprise from my Mom on Dad’s 30th birthday.) Not only is Firebug in a lot of my social media posts but he also costarred in my music video for my most recent single release, ‘Ambush.’ He’s the gorgeous sorrel I’m riding during the scenes shot in the beautiful red canyon area of Gloss Mountain State Park in Oklahoma.

When I’ve been away from home for a while, Firebug is always the first friend I want to hang out with! I can’t wait to see him and ride. Enjoying the beautiful Oklahoma landscape from Firebug’s saddle is so relaxing. It helps me forget about any stressors or bad days I might have had or anything that just didn’t go as I had hoped. Not only has Firebug been a huge source of comfort and companionship for me, but he has also been a great teacher. I’ve learned so many great lessons in responsibility and hard work from horses…feeding, watering, cleaning stalls, making sure they’re in good health.

Depending upon the purpose of your horse…pleasure, work, show, breeding programs…there can be so much more to learn and so much more to be responsible for…training, shoeing, special diets, working the horse daily, etc. I’m very thankful that I have been lucky to have Firebug and so many other great horses in my life.

I think back on all the wonderful experiences I’ve had with our horses and I recognize just how much they have contributed to my happiness, my attitude, my outlook and especially my growth as it relates to becoming more responsible. If you have the opportunity to get involved with any equine program I would strongly encourage you to do so because I promise it will bring so many good feelings and good times your way!”

Jaycee Dugard

Resilient Survivor, activist, founder of the
JAYC Foundation.

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The reason I got involved in the Seen Through Horses Campaign is my love of horses and the connection they bring to the world.” – Jaycee Dugard, Resilient Survivor, activist, founder of the JAYC Foundation.

Horses have been such an important part of my recovery and new life of freedom. They have taught me so many things by their gentle presence and have made me feel safe and loved.

My silly horse Cowboy has been a constant source of laughter and tears, both of which I needed. When I am sad, fearful or just plain angry I know I can go to him and feel my body become connected and back in the present moment. I have watched horses work their special kind of magic, that is not really magic at all. Just by being themselves they have transformed so many lives. So please join me in helping to bring these incredible beings to other people through workshops, trainings and equine assisted interventions.”

– Jaycee Dugard, Resilient Survivor, activist, founder of the JAYC Foundation.

Riley Smith: Transformation Through A Horse

In his youth, Riley was diagnosed with a rare medical condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome that affects the body’s nerves, and caused temporary loss of his motor skills. His mother, Roxanne, understood the power of horses and how they could help Riley overcome his emotional and physical challenges. Riley went on to win the American Quarter Horse World Youth Championship. Watch his incredible story here.

Riley Smith

actor, musician, former Youth World Champion Equestrian.

photo credit: @bkheadshots

I grew up on a quarter horse ranch in Iowa. Horses have been my life, they’ve saved my life, they will always be a party of my life. I would 100% suggest that people with any sort of anxiety, physical, mental, emotional disorder or ailment – anything you’re going through, try turning to horses. It’s such a cool, unique, progressive way to try to heal.

Kristy Goodall

world champion equestrian

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I was born with one hand.

I did not realize that I was truly that different until I got older, and was the brunt of stares, private conversations, overhearing children tell their mother that I scared them because I only had one hand, and being told I was physically “messed up” to my face. 

I learned to grow up with a “thicker skin” than most, and many have told me that I carry a perpetual indifference about me… which I feel I firmly developed because of being labeled very obviously “different” from other people. The one place I found refuge and solace, was in horses.

I grew up and was that lucky girl that had family with a farm not too far from where my father and I and my brother lived. My mother left when I was 2, so it was just the three of us. When I was in 2nd grade, my father purchased for me my first pony, Darby, and the rest they say, is history.

That pony ingrained deeply in me, pure acceptance, love, and freedom. We galloped all over the countryside for many years. I had dreams of entering horse shows. We would pretend we won hundreds of blue ribbons as we jumped logs and creeks in eastern Iowa. After Darby, there were many other that came along, Hawkeye, Sunny (my first true show horse), Tuffy, Apollo (my first AQHA experience), Jackson, and finally the love of my lifetime, a bay roan AQHA stallion named Harley “VS Goodall In Blue”. Harley and I went on a show career I could have never imagined could have happened in a lifetime, cumulating in 5 World Championships, Reserve World titles, and several top 10 titles. Now my little Buckskin roan mare “Sassy” is taking me onto the next phase of my life…

All of my life, with all of my horses, there were stories of where we went, what we did, what we learned, and what they meant to me… from experiences in the show pen, to trail riding, to being an outrider on a wagon train for youth during summer camps in South Dakota. No matter what we were doing, or where we were, it was the horses that always gave me that feeling of pure acceptance, identity, and purpose. Horses gave me an escape from the world that labeled me as different, to a world where no matter who I was, or what I looked like, I found love and belonging, and filled a void that no human being could.

They say “A great horse will change your life. The truly special ones define it…” – Author Unknown. My life without question, has been changed and defined because of seeing it through the eyes of my equine partners.

“Horses lend us the wings we lack.” – Pam Brown

Reggie Selma

legendary photojournalist & Host of "An Inspired Life" podcast

“I’d love to share a story about my father, Reverend Joseph S. Selma, Sr. and how a horse saved his life.

In 1950, my hometown of Birmingham Alabama was a city divided by segregation of Jim Crow. During this time there was an incident between my dad and a white trolley driver in downtown Birmingham…

The trolley driver refused to give my dad his correct change. And, with my mom and my brother Joe looking on, tempers flared between my dad and the trolley driver. What started out as a fun Sunday afternoon ride for ice cream, could have turned deadly as the trolley driver pulled back his jacket to reveal a gun.

My mom persuaded my dad to exit the trolley and just go home. But my dad wanted to lash out at the driver and get his change. So he started walking back towards the now parked trolley. But as my dad was getting closer and closer to the trolley driver, he suddenly stopped in his tracks!

He saw a horse tied to a hitching post. He walked over and rubbed the horse’s forehead. And the horse started to nudge my dad with his nose.

This horse calmed my dad so much that he started to laugh.
The anger and hurt in my dad, now gone!

And then my brother Joe, pulled out his old camera and took this treasured family picture of my dad and the horse. To me, the look on my father’s face says, “You are not going to break my spirit!”

Photo of Reverend Joseph S. Selma, Sr. taken by Joseph S. Selma, Junior

Amberley Snyder

Barrel Racer, Breakaway Roper and Motivational Speaker

Being in a position where I didn’t know if I would ride again I was devastated. Horses not only provide me with freedom, but they truly are my legs. I am so thankful for everything they have done for me and have allowed me to be myself again.

Justin Adams

country music singer/songwriter

There’s something about a horse. It’s so incredibly hard to explain yet at the same time it’s quite simple. I’ve been around horses longer than I’ve been alive.

The Cherokee and Chickasaw blood that runs red in my veins gives me an ancestral connection to these beautiful creatures. I’ve often said that I’m at my closest to God on the back of a horse. There’s a spiritual connection. A healing. A sense of belonging and purpose. There’s a deep rooted understanding of each other. It’s no question that these incredible animals are used to give comfort and peace in a world today that seems to rob that from our daily lives.

These animals inspire me in my music in a different way. The rodeo. Ah the wonderful world of rodeo. My great Uncle Jack was a world champion steer roper so my family has the other side of a connection with horses. The cowboy side. Growing up in Bixby, OK we were always riding with Uncle Jack and learning about the cowboy way. Those lessons I learned around the horses and that lifestyle are incredibly influential in the music I write and record today. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can sit down and write a cowboy song just as effortlessly as the air that leaves my lungs with each breath I breathe. It’s who I am and what I know. I’m so thankful that my long line of family has given me the love for horses so deep in my heart and soul.

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