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The Power of Horses: Advocating for First Responders

First responders face daily challenges and overwhelming stress, resulting in higher rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Despite this, they courageously serve as our first line of defense against emergencies, fires, and life-threatening situations. Watch how a program in Minnesota, Abijah’s, is impacting the well-being of first responders through mental health services incorporating horses, and garnering support from state legislators to expand access. 

Tanya Tucker

2 x Grammy Award Winner | Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductee 2023

Current Tanya Tucker image side by side with a photo of a younger Tanya and horse
photo credit: Derrek Kupish

There’s nothing more calming and rewarding than climbing onto a saddle and taking a ride. I can’t imagine my life without horses – they’ve done more for me than I could ever do for them. I know for a fact that going on a ride or just being around them relieves anxiety and depression, so I’m honored to support my buddies at Horses for Mental Health and their Seen Through Horses Campaign.

Randy Travis

Legendary Country Music Artist And Lifelong Horseman

Randy Travis photos

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.

The Power of Horses: Breaking Barriers

Watch the story of the incredible impact that a small nonprofit organization is having on the community of Oakland, California. “We Ride Too” is committed to serving a wide range of young people in the Oakland area who face various challenges and traumas with limited access to resources. Through programs for youth to connect with nature and horses, each child has a place where they are told they “can,” instead of “can’t,” breaking barriers and making a difference in their mental health and future.

Jill Rappaport

Award Winning Animal Advocate | Author "People We Know, Horses They Love"

Jill Rappaport photos
Photo credit: Jim Lennon for Behind The Hedges

When I was 3, I was told I became obsessed with horses after watching Elizabeth Taylor in the movie “National Velvet.” When I was old enough to dial a phone, I tried to call Elizabeth and rang up a $300 phone bill calling every Elizabeth Taylor in Los Angeles, much to my parents’ horror. Riding in the car, I’d see a horse and be screaming “helloooo” out the window! A neighbor had a split rail fence, just like the one Elizabeth sat on in the movie. I’d walk over every day, sit on that fence, and pet an imaginary horse. People would drive by, and see me petting air. Just imagine how crazy they thought I was?!

When I was 7, my father finally took me for riding lessons and I was in heaven! Soon after, I sat next to a man on a flight and chatted his ear off saying—-all i wanted in life —was a horse! The man asked my parents for our address and sent my dad a check for fifty dollars and said, “your daughter really wants a horse, please put this toward it.” My father couldn’t believe this man’s generosity, but refused to cash the check.


However, that was a turning point in my life, because from that day on, my parents got, and understood my passion and obsession for all animals.


“Missy was my first horse, a beloved mare and the most amazing animal. I rode her bareback and treasure an old photo with her! I am now blessed to have 5 horses of my own. And, I can now sit on my own split rail fence, petting real horses, the same type of fence that Elizabeth Taylor sat on decades ago in National Velvet.


When you bond with a horse, the relationship is indescribable. You can sense the horse understanding the bond. They get it. They feel it. Just being in their presence can make your woes and worries go away. When I go up to my horses side and cradle their heads, I am in heaven, it’s immediate therapy. I get the most joy on the ground with them, petting, grooming and kissing them. In fact just nuzzling their noses and scratching their withers is when you really bond with these amazing creatures. I could never be without horses in my life! They fill a void people can’t. Once you have a horse in your life, it makes you feel complete. I’m so utterly blessed and incredibly fortunate to have them in my life. My horses now are super seniors, one is 27 years old! I don’t show, I never did. I’m not a competitor. I never jumped. I just love them and wish they could live in the house with me and my rescue doggies.


One of the proudest moments of my career, but yet one of the saddest stories I’ve ever done was when I exposed over 60 retired racehorses living on rainwater and wood for survival. After my 2 part special aired on NBC’s today show, the response was overwhelming and we were able to rescue and save the majority of those horses, who went on to be rehomed, and get the love and attention they so deserved.


So I feel it’s our responsibility to protect our beloved horses. And if you can adopt one, I promise it will be the best gift for you, as well as for them. Just remember if you can’t own a horse, you can help save one. We need to help them, so they can continue to leave such an indelible mark on our lives.


Jill Rappaport

Gabriela Reutter

Chilean Pro Show Jumper | Bronze Medalist South American Games 2022.

Gabriela Reutter photos
Photo credit: Equinium and Mariela Contreras

Horses have shaped me into the person I am today. Working with them has taught me patience and perseverance, resilience and resolve, diligence and dedication. Every day, every stride, and every fence has taught me that with total commitment and tireless work, I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Horses have taught me to be present, to feel and not to think, and that communication is so much more than words. To understand another being in the deepest of ways has been the greatest of gifts, one that has given me countless hours of happiness in and out of the saddle and yielded the most audacious dreams and loftiest aspirations.

Horses saved me from myself. Like so many other young girls, at 12 years old, I felt the societal pressure to have the “perfect body,” leading to an eating disorder and constant anxiety that I fought for over a decade. With it, I lost myself. The only time I was able to feel calm, to feel safe, to be my truest self was around my horses. Nevertheless, as the years passed by, I became thinner, frailer, weaker, and with the literal sapping of my strength, I felt my show-jumping career slipping further and further away from me.


And then came Monty. My first real grand prix horse was a mountainous creature whose proportions can barely convey the size of his heart. And yet, I wasn’t strong enough, neither physically nor mentally, to give Monty the rides and results he deserved—and were right at my fingertips. Realizing this, I was finally able to redress my priorities. It was Monty who began to silence the voices in my head that kept telling me that I would never be good enough. It was Monty who centered my focus from “how to have the perfect body” to becoming the best possible rider for the best possible horse. I could only realize that the first step towards my recovery, to once again finding myself, through and with him—Monty, I am eternally grateful that you gave me my life back.


I will never be able to thank these incredible animals for all that they have done and continue to do for me. But with every day, every ride, and every round, I will keep trying to better myself as a person and as a horsewoman… for them.

 

Finding Her Voice

Watch the empowering story of Noelle, a victim of domestic violence, and her journey towards emotional healing through a mental health program incorporating horses. Initially fearful and withdrawn, Noelle builds relationships with the horses in a way that makes her feel safe and helps her process her emotions. With the help of the horses and facilitators, Noelle discovers her empowered voice, sets healthy boundaries, and supports others who have survived domestic violence to do the same.

Shawn Hinz

Special Olympics Athlete, 62 time Gold Medalist

Shawn Hinz photos
Photo credit Chance Olufson

Just like the deep love that I have for music, horses hold a special place in my heart. Being a person with intellectual disabilities, making connections with people and life can be very difficult. Whenever I’m with horses though, I feel a special connection, and a bond like no other.

I have two horses: Duke, a Tennessee walking horse, and Pirate, a retired polo horse who is blind in one eye. It’s like they can hear and know what I’m going through without even saying anything. With a connection like that, horses have truly helped me be more confident and motivated to do more while having a great sense of responsibility.

In addition to competing for over a decade in Special Olympics (swimming, golf, and basketball), I had the honor of a solo performance at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando and even got to share the stage and sing with others during Grammy winner Sara Bareilles’ inspiring performance of “Brave.”

I love to sing to my horses; I think it’s another incredible way to connect with them. I believe that horses have the same power to help others as they have done for me, having a special bond and friendship that can last for a lifetime.

Diane Warren

Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Golden Globe & Billboard Music Award Winning Songwriter

Photo Credit: Emily Shur

I’ve always loved horses. They are mysterious and free. Like music. Ethereal magical wonderful creatures. They need to be free. We are lucky to have them. It’s their world, we just live in it.

Finding Fulfillment

While successful in her corporate career, Adina was struggling with feeling burned out, losing her spark and increasingly unmotivated. Deciding to get help, she attends a personal growth workshop incorporating horses to address her burnout. Watch how the horses play a pivotal role in her self-discovery and transformation. Through a series of experiences with horses, Adina learns to focus on the present and develops a new sense of joy, connection, and meaningful purpose.

Mikayla Lane

Recording Artist | Songwriter | Special Ambassador to Seen Through Horses Campaign

Mikayla Lane Photos
Photo credit: Hope Toliver and Jason Old

“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!”

Sophie Grace

Emmy Award Winning Actor

People are always very shocked when I tell them I grew up riding horses. They look at me like I’m growing another leg out of my head when I explain how my lovely mother would drive all the way to a barn after school so I could take care of a horse that I never even owned because of what a city rat I’ve always been. Not in the sense that I’m a rodent in the sewers, more in the way that I adore when people wear absolutely crazy outfits just to strut a few blocks to the convenience store. However, there is something so healing and profound about the relationship between an equestrian and their horse. 

There is no city that could compare to being surrounded by the beautiful gift that is nature and having a horse as your sidekick to experience it with you. Horses are incredibly emotionally intelligent and trustworthy animals. They have a strong sense of loyalty, much like humans, and it is naive to deny their ability to love and care for people.

I have never had as great of a mutual love as I experienced with my first horse, Rocky. He was gray-speckled, ginormous, and he was my best friend.

I started horseback riding when I was six years old, and after my first lesson, I couldn’t get enough. There is such a loving environment between horse people, like how people go out of their way to help you mount or comb your horse’s mane, but I also had an instant connection to the horses themselves. Horses remember people and how they were treated by them, and out of instinct, they will reciprocate the love they are given, but it was more than that with Rocky. We instantly bonded, and it was undeniable by everyone who saw us.

As 1 of 6 kids, I had a lot to cope with for such a small girl, but when I had my special “me time” at the barn, I had this massive animal beside me that saw me and gave me something to nurture and care for. Having this sense of responsibility gave me something to look forward to, AND without ever having to ask for it, he took care of me too. Braiding his tail and giving him sponge baths were never a chore because I loved him, and he loved me. He would thank me with head bumps, and we would stick our tongue out at each other, and I was never afraid to let him eat right out of my hand.

Being around horses gave me a distraction from things that weighed on my heart while also was a huge factor in healing me from it. As I pondered how my young self was going to forge my path, make my parents proud, AND make a positive impact on others, I never had to talk about how I felt, but Rocky heard me and felt it too. He made sure I never felt lonely and showed me that things do blossom when you put effort into it, and he proved to me the kindness in this world. I was so young and felt so minuscule in this universe, but when I was riding horses, I felt confident and strong and understood.

Horses are such magical animals, and the experience and bond I had with that horse helped me through so much and made it so I never had to do a second of it alone. The unspoken love between a girl and her horse is one of the loudest things in the world.

Randy Travis "More Life" Clip 2023

Warner Music Nashville’s Randy Travis is a country and gospel music icon whose legendary catalog includes 18 #1 hits, 7 Grammy Awards, and 10 Academy of Country Music Awards statuettes. In this clip from Randy Travis: “More Life” Documentary, Randy shares stories of his lifelong deep connection to horses, and how they’ve positively impacted his music, his soul, and his future following his 2013 stroke and then miraculous recovery.

Forrie J Smith

True Cowboy, Musician, Actor, “Lloyd” on “Yellowstone”

Forrie J Smith
Photo Credit: Chris Douglas

“My life was influenced by the horse before I was even born. Everything I have and everywhere I’ve been is because of the horse. I was raised with the idea that horses are smarter than we are, who’s feeding and taking care of who? That 9 out of 10 times when a horse does something wrong it’s the rider’s error and that the best thing for the inside of a human is the outside of a horse. I have been blessed with cool horses all my life.

My dad Smitty bought me two ponies, Apples and Trixie, and I trained and sold them by the time he died when I was seven. Training and trading horses I have a lifetime of stories and lessons involving the horse. Being a horseman is a lifelong endeavor and as a trainer you should always learn from every horse. Right after God, the horse is my ROCK.”

– Forrie J Smith

J Michael Harter

Singer/Songwriter

J Michael Harter
Trista Faith Photography

I am beyond honored and excited to be part of the Seen Through Horses Campaign by Horses for Mental Health! I truly believe horses have a special way of speaking directly to your soul. It’s as if they can read your mind.

I grew up out west in Arizona and horses were part of my life from a young age. We had many throughout the years and each has a special place in my heart and memory. I must say, however, my best years with horses have just begun.

My eight year old daughter, Aspen, has fallen in love with horses and we are having the time of our lives learning barrel racing and even some English riding! We have been doing Jr. Rodeo’s and it’s an absolute blast!

It’s such a huge stress release for me and such a special time for us. I’m always a bit nervous but our pony, Beach Ball, leans into me and I hug his neck. It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t worry Dad, I got her”. It’s pretty awesome. That connection is something I believe everyone should experience. Horses really do heal and lift the human spirit.

– J Michael Harter

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.

Filipe Masetti Leite

Youngest Long Rider to Cross the Americas

The horse has been a part of my life since I was in my mother’s womb.

My name Filipe was chosen by my parents due to its meaning; “a friend of horses.” And before I could walk, I was atop a chestnut quarter horse with my old man.

Growing up I continued to live closely with these majestic animals and to learn from them rodeoing in eastern Canada. My work ethic, patience, inability to quit, communication, problem-solving and empathy, all came from my four-legged friends. They taught me the most important lessons in my life and even helped me improve my mental health.

Horses live in herds and their survival depends primarily on how quickly they can sense fear coming from the other animals in that herd. It’s so important that they synchronize their heartbeats and if one horse’s heartbeat goes up, they know that danger is near. This is why horses can sense our fears. They are able to hear our heartbeats from 4 feet away. They know when we are sad, excited, depressed, stressed… They can feel everything we’re feeling.

This is what makes horses extraordinary therapists! They have a calming presence that can help us feel more centered and present in the moment.

When I finished the first leg of my cross-continental ride, trekking for over 2 years from Canada to Brazil, I went into a terrible depression. Recurring nightmares, anxiety and a complete lack of motivation gripped me. I was in bad shape.

I had achieved a near-impossible dream and that caused me to momentarily lose purpose in my life.

Embarrassed by what people would think if I told them what I was feeling, I went to my horses for help. Spending time with them, I realized that I wasn’t finished. I needed to continue my journey to the southernmost point in the Americas – Ushuaia, Argentina. It was during that 5 000 mile ride that I found myself again.

Thanks to my beautiful horses I managed to pull myself out of that depression.

It was also thanks to my steeds that I found my soul mate, Clara Victoria Davel. In a windswept village in Patagonia I asked for help at her family’s home and fell in love at first sight.

Together, Clara and I finished the ride to Ushuaia and 1 year later tackled the third and final leg from Alaska back to Calgary, Alberta – where everything began.

I am living proof of the positive impact horses can have in our lives. Thanks to my 11 beautiful horses, I have a stunning fiancée, three best-selling books, an award winning documentary and thousands of stories to share.

I’m blessed to be a friend of horses!

Dalia MacPhee

Fashion Designer To Humans And Horses

Photo credit: Dimitry Loiseau

I have been riding since the age of seven; however, my love affair with equines has transpired for lifetimes. The first horse I ever rode was a Shetland pony named Bramble Bush (named for all the bramble bushes he bucked unsuspecting children into). As I plucked brambles out of my hair for the umpteenth time, I remembered my trainer saying, “This will teach you resilience.

Then I moved on to Charm, an Arabian who liked to stop short before jumps, allowing only one of us to successfully clear the fence. As I limped back to the stable, I remembered my trainer saying, “This will teach you courage.” Then there was Matt, a beautiful gentle giant who courageously charged at everything. As I screamed “Whoa” (and several other expletives), I remembered my trainer saying, “This will teach you trust.”

On and on, I went from horse to horse learning valuable life lessons, until I finally met my soulmate horse, Wolfie. And as my heart burst open, I remembered my trainer saying, “This… will teach you love.” Wolfie was the catalyst for my creation of the Equisafe blanket, a fully fire-retardant horse evacuation blanket with GPS. He also inspired many other innovations, including an equine life jacket, a cut and stain-resistant thermal horse blanket, and a horse boot that changes color indicating impact and potential injuries.

This is a very interesting time. We are living in the greatest age of technology and advancement, and yet we don’t do nearly enough for our finest “teachers.” It is my life mission to take the skills I’ve learned over the past two decades as an apparel and wearable tech designer and manufacturer and apply them to products and solutions that will greatly improve the safety, comfort, and well-being of all animals, especially equines.

There is a great proverb which says, “The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.”

I don’t know what I did to deserve such heaven on earth, but I am extremely grateful for every moment.

 

-Dalia MacPhee

Animated Short: A Broken Down Man

Follow Scott on his journey of growth and reformation from a ‘broken man’ from substance abuse to one who has finally found his peace. Watch this animated video about the beautiful story of a man’s healing journey through a horse named Chief. 

Tayla Lynn

Country Music Artist, “Twitty & Lynn”

Tayla Lynn
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Mine is a story of therapy through equines along the road to sobriety.…..Of carrying the scars of an abusive childhood while horses have been both a savior, and a source of love and light for my boys and my family today.

As a little girl, I had a donkey named Donkey Hodie. My parents had divorced, and at that point in my life I was living in an abusive home in the middle of nowhere, in a dad gum junk yard. But my donkey was there for me –
a four-legged friend that I could count on for safety and comfort. I learned then and there that donkeys and horses— were something special – something I could rely on to keep me safe and help me escape danger.

Years later, when I went to rehab for drugs and alcohol in Tucson, Arizona, one of the first things they did was take us to therapy sessions incorporating horses. There was something about being near horses that made me feel a connection to God – a sense of serenity that I had never experienced before. I loved looking into their eyes, brushing their coats, and cleaning their hooves.

I also knew my memaw treasured her horses. We’re part Cherokee and the love, respect and pride we have for horses runs deep in our veins. There have long been many many horse events at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch! It’s a dude ranch and we are surrounded by horses. And what’s a close second to horses? Horse people!

In addition to the annual trail ride where folks come from all around the world to take part, my grandmother even started a rodeo event with my grandfather (Doolittle). She would sing from sitting tall on top of a horse!

Although I’ve ridden horses for years, I’ve never been a professional rider. But I need horses in my life – to be near them, to look at them, to touch them, to smell them. They take me back to my childhood and that sense of comfort and safety that I felt around Donkey Hodie. That feeling is why we moved to our farm in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. It’s why I wanted my boys to have horses.

My big hearted dad has gifted me horses, and my boys horses over the years, and there is no better love than that! My husband shares my passion for them too, and for adding them to our growing farm family. He and my ten year old son just brought home a new baby horse for Mother’s Day!

When I look out my window, the first thing I see are those beautiful animals that have brought me so much comfort and joy throughout my life. I will always cherish the memories of my childhood with Donkey Hodie and the peace that comes from being near these majestic creatures.

They are more than just animals – they are companions, teachers, and friends. And for that, I will always be grateful. With my boys riding and living out loud, together we heal with our horses.

Bourke Floyd

Actor & Lifelong Horseman

Photo credit: Lee Wade-Floyd

Before they passed, my birth parents would regularly say that I “sat on a horse before I learned to walk,” and there isn’t a time in my life when I don’t fondly remember spending time with horses as I grew up in Virginia. One of the first primetime network roles I booked was on a series set on a family horse farm in the late 1800s, “Legacy,” and I was fortunate to be able to do all of my own riding during that production, as well as riding for several stars of the series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

One of my fondest memories of riding on a production was while filming “Gods & Generals” with Robert Duvall. After spending an afternoon riding with my on-camera equine co-star, Topper, I saw Mr. Duvall and said, “Hello, Mr. Duvall.” Having just seen me ride, Mr. Duvall replied, “You’re a horseman, son. Horsemen call me Bobby.” Mr. Duvall will always be a hero of mine but has been my hero “Bobby” ever since.

The relationship between a rider and their horse is one of trust, empathy, and a herd mentality, and I count myself incredibly privileged to have had the honor of having that relationship with several horses throughout my life. I wish all those suffering from pain, betrayal, or physical and emotional trauma could experience the healing joy of that kind of relationship.

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 American Quarter Horse Youth World Champion

Riley Smith
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.

Lonnie Twisselman & Callie Twisselman

7th Generation Cattle Rancher & Country Music Artist Daughter

Photo credit: Shelby Caitlin

Horses are the greatest animals. They will always do anything for you and will give 100 percent when you ask. They helped raise my family by teaching them love and respect. My children learned to put them first. They would get up early and feed the horses before they were fed and blanket them on cold nights.

Horses have taught us to trust and that goes into everyday life. You learn to understand what the horse is thinking and other animals too and it gives you an insight to what other people think. They are great athletes and have also become great actors in my daughter’s music videos. I couldn’t imagine life without horses.


Read Callie Twisselman’s story further below

Shelby Van Weelden

Paramedic / Firefighter | Riding 621 Miles In The Mongol Derby 2024

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Horses have been a staple in my life through many of the tough times. I started riding when I was in middle school and never stopped. I started riding because the barn became a sanctuary when my parents divorced. My mom worked so hard and I worked off lessons to keep horses in my life. I don’t think I can convey to her how much horses have impacted my life, but I know she sees how beneficial they were (mentally and physically) and now recommends to anyone entertaining the idea of bringing horses into their life to JUST DO IT! She and I are both so thankful for the goodness horses have provided me.

Horses have been in my life in different capacities. It started as riding lessons, to working at the barn, to showing, to leasing, to purchasing, and then purchasing land to have horses. Through it all, the barn has been a sanctuary still. I work full time as a paramedic/firefighter. It can be a stressful job and result in long times away from home. But the barn always balances my mental space back to a better place.

My relationship with horses has evolved as I’ve grown in life. The wild kid running free in a field with her friends is different than the maturing and caring horsekeeper I am today. But both did wonders for my mental health. Horses mirror you and your energy. This brings a heightened level of self-awareness. No matter the chaos and stress in your life, horses still need to be cared for. Chores still need done. After a long shift or during a stressful time in life, these constants are still there. The barn is such a sanctuary. It’s probably a mix of the horse’s energy, being outside, moving my body, and participating in something routine. All things that bring me peace, things that could bring anyone peace.

Like I said, my relationship with horses has changed as the years have gone on. I enjoy what horses bring to me everyday caring for them. But I also miss that wild horse-crazy girl, a representation of a simpler time in my life. A very stressful time in my life is healing and I am pining more for that simpler time. I have also realized life is short and “someday” may never come. I have dreamed about participating in The Mongol Derby for years, ever since I found out about it. It’s a 1,000 km horse race across the Mongolian wilderness. In December, I took action and applied to the 2024 Mongol Derby and I made it! In August 2024, I will be one of around 40 riders to race on wild Mongolian horses across the steppe. I am hoping that preparing and participating in this endeavor will help reacquaint me with that wild horse-crazy girl who was running across the hay field with her friends and push all of my mental limits.

Clayton Smalley

Country Music Artist

Photo credit: Chelsea Evans with Apple Blossom Way

When I was asked to share a story about my love of horses, the first thing that came to mind was Flower, the dun filly my mom got me at age four. Flower was the horse on which I learned to ride, and one of the gentlest and most trustworthy animals I’ve ever known. As a family, we would trail ride in the mountains of Southern California. That’s where I developed my love for the outdoors and formed a bond with Flower that lasted until the day she passed away. My mom tells a story of one trip when we were riding back in the dark, and I fell asleep and fell off Flower. When I got back on, my mom made me sing the rest of the way back to the trailhead so she’d know I was still awake. I guess you could say Flower was my first captive audience.

When I was in high school, I gave Flower to my grandmother who was retiring to Nevada because Flower was the only horse she felt comfortable riding. Years later, Flower came back into my life, and my new wife and our daughter were able to enjoy riding her in her remaining years. She was a cherished member of our family that brought a lot of peaceful, therapeutic rides that I will never forget.

​​Lucas Hoge

Country Music Artist, Host Of Hoge Wild TV Show

Lucas Hoge and a horse in a stable

I grew up in a town of 44 people, Hubbell, Nebraska. I had seven people in my high school graduating class. My family had a farm with milo and soybeans. Some of my most cherished moments are with my horse, Coco. Coco didn’t like to be ridden; he was more like a dog and would follow me around the farm. He loved watermelon rinds, and he would meet me every day when I came home from school. Living out in the middle of nowhere meant spending a lot of time with Coco. My wife also had a special bond with her horses. She showed English, Hunter Jumper, and 3-day eventing. She also rescued Mustangs. We have just purchased new property in Tennessee and look forward to having horses again, hopefully rescuing a few in need of love and care.

Callie Twisselman

Country Music Artist

Photo Credit: Shelby Caitlin Photography

I’m so thrilled to be a part of the Seen Through Horses Campaign. Horses have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. I grew up in a seven generation ranching family so I was riding horses since before I could walk, mind you I had a little help of course. My dad taught me many life lessons growing up with horses .“Trust them and they’ll trust you”, as well as “If you fall off, get right back in the saddle”, which taught me to never give up and to face my fears.

As I got older I competed in high school rodeos and attended roping events as often as I could. Riding horses and competing was just as much a passion of mine as my music. There is this deep connection I’ve always felt with horses, it’s a bond like no other. It’s so amazing to me how this animal can be so smart, loving and kind.

I’ve been blessed to have many horses throughout my life. I won’t name them all but there was one named Paint, who was our childhood horse we learned to ride on. She was a paint color of course. We were real clever with names back then as kids. Then there was a “Doughboy” who was the sweetest boy there ever was. And currently I have a beautiful bay horse named Cash, after Johnny Cash.

Horses have their own personalities. Some can be sassy and some can be sweet, kind of like humans haha. Ultimately they are such magical creatures and I feel so blessed to have them as a part of my life. From listening to me sing in the barn and write songs on my guitar, to being my therapist through high school heartaches. I owe so much of who I am to the horses that helped shape me.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Dr. Temple Grandin

Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, AUTISM ADVOCATE

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Horses were really important for my mental health when I was a teenager getting bullied. Growing up as an autistic kid, all the bullies came after me and the only places I was not bullied, was friends through the shared interest of riding horses… I would definitely encourage people… to get out and do things with horses.

Justin Adams

country music singer/songwriter

Justin Adams next to a horse

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.

Kristy Goodall

world champion equestrian

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

Amberley Snyder

Barrel Racer, Breakaway Roper and Motivational Speaker

Amberley Snyder

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.