Horse Therapy: Hope, Healing and Inspiration

Julie (small pic)

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One reader will receive a set of Julie’s books Big City Cowboy, Bet On a Cowboy, The Rancher and the Vet, and Roping the Rancher. Another reader will win Roping the Rancher. That’s two giveaways for the price of one!

Years ago I read a study that said petting a cat or dog lowers a person’s blood pressure. After that we had a running joke in my house when someone got upset. We’d say take a break. Go pet a dog and lower your blood pressure. Okay, I admit it. Usually it was my husband saying that to me, because I’m a type A person who takes on too much and then stresses over how to manage it all.

One thing that’s always drawn me to cowboy heroes is their connection to animals, particularly horses. Now science is Equest 5proving what cowboys have known forever—being on a horse clears a person’s head, gives a sense of peace and heals in a way nothing else can.

Colt Montgomery, the hero in Roping the Rancher wanted to make a difference in the world after he left the military, so he started a therapeutic horsemanship program at his ranch. I was struggling with the story. It refused to fall into place despite the fact that I had all the right elements—a hero I loved, a determined heroine and solid conflict. I’d read information on the Internet about therapy horsemanship programs, but I couldn’t see the scenes I needed to bring the book to life.

Equest 7

I was talking to a dear friend Sue Casteel about my frustrations and honestly, my fear that I’d never finish the book. Then Sue told me she volunteered at a program like Colt’s, Equest, in Wylie, Texas. Looking back now I’m surprised I didn’t fall on my knees and kiss her feet. Yup, that’s how happy I was. The Internet is great, but I prefer talking to a person to get my research. Sue invited me to Equest’s open house, played tour guide and answered my endless questions. After that visit the story made sense. I could see Colt and Stacy interacting and struggling for control as her brother went through the therapy program. I also saw how horsemanship therapy could change all my characters’ lives.

Equest 11


I had two strong willed people, used to being in control, who didn’t like having their decisions questioned. So what did I have Stacy do? You got it, she questioned Colt’s every decision from the horse he selected for her brother to how many sidewalkers—volunteers who keep an eye on the rider and assist him/her with balance issues—he needed. The solution these two come up with was for Colt to train Stacy as a volunteer so she could participate in her brother’s therapy sessions. The scenes revolving around the horsemanship therapy sessions turned out to be some of my favorites in the book.


Equest 19

Visiting Equest and talking with Sue showed me how staff, volunteers, the client and the horse all work together to form a team. That was the real revelation for me. I realized that’s what this program would do for my hero, his daughter, the heroine and her brother. I finally had the theme for this book—how people who’ve been knocked around by life can come together, form a family and heal each other.


Roping the Rancher Front Cover

Programs like Equest improve the lives of so many people from veterans suffering from PTSD to individuals with traumatic brain injuries. Lives that are made better for the time these people spend riding a horse. Yup, cowboys had the right idea. When life gets rough or you’ve got a problem, spend a little time with your best four legged friend. Things always look better on top of a horse. If you’re interested in reading some of these inspirational stories, check out Equest’s website

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47 thoughts on “Horse Therapy: Hope, Healing and Inspiration”

  1. What an interesting post. I would love to be able to learn to ride a horse. I’ve only been on one once in my life and it was a tour up to some old mine in New Mexico. They hoisted me up on it and pretty much, the horses were trained to follow each other, so I really didn’t do much. But, to ride free would be so much fun.

  2. I agree that internet research is fine, but live experience is the best. Too bad we can’t have the same experiences as the historical characters some of us write, at least to get a taste of their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love my modern day conveniences.
    Glad you found the key to what you needed to make that story all it could be.

  3. Julie,

    I enjoy reading about the behind the scenes research that authors do to make a story work. It makes the book more real.

    I’m not familiar with your work, but after reading this blog, I’m definitely interested. Thanks for posting the link to What a great organization.

  4. I’ve always found horse therapy interesting. Thank you for sharing more information about it.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  5. I have loved horses for a long time and had owned a horse when I was a kid. Riding horses is very exciting and relaxing at the same time. We live near the Kentucky Horse Park and they have a program like in your story. Someday I hope to be involved with horses again. Thank you for a great post!

  6. This sounds like a fantastic story. I am putting it on my want list. I love horse therapy ranches. We have a few around here.
    That is neat that walking around Equest helped spur on your story! What a great research opportunity!
    Thanks for sharing with us today.

  7. It is amazing how animals help us. They give love unconditionally so it is so easy and feels so good to give love back. Your book sounds fantastic so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    melback at cebridge dot net

  8. Jennifer and Susan,
    How wonderful that you both have similar programs in your area. And Jennifer, you had a horse growing up? That’s every kid’s dream!

  9. Melanie,
    I’m amazed at the healing power and forgiveness of animals. Some of them have had the roughest lives and yet they are open and giving. I have three shelter mutts and they brighten my life every day.

  10. Down here in McGregor we have Reach Therapy and some of my son’s friends participate. They love it. We went to visit once, but my son isn’t a great animal lover so we decided to not do this type of therapy for him. Bought Roping the Rancher at B&N the other day and I LOVE my autographed copy!

  11. Jeanne,
    I didn’t know there was Reach Therapy in McGregor. Ben’s not an animals lover? How did I not know that? I guess I thought he was since you’ve always had cats.

  12. Well, I’m petting my cat right now because he’s laying by my computer. Pets are good therapy and sitting a horse does give one a great high- both in height and feeling!
    I’d love to win your books! linda at lindahubalek dot com

  13. I’m glad to hear you’re keeping your blood pressure lowered by petting your cat, Linda. Why is it cats always want to sit on a computer when someone’s working? One of my dogs always wants to cuddle when I’m trying to work on my laptop.

  14. When I was very young (around 4 or 5 yrs old), I had a pony named Cocoa. He looked just like hot chocolate with those tiny marshmallows in it. He was old, and ornery, and I loved him more than anything else in the world. My favorite times were riding him bareback across the fields chasing down butterflies! We were quite a pair 🙂
    Can’t wait to read this story! Great post!

  15. What an informative, rewarding program, EQUEST. Thank you for sharing this information and writing a book featuring your discovery in practice!

    I’d love to read how Stacy and Colt learn to work together to help her brother and fall in love during the process. Neat idea!

  16. Hey Jules,

    You really tapped in to the emotional connection between humans and animals in this book. The healing that comes from caring for another and even from simple touch. I loved this book.

    Read on FB yesterday about an elderly golden retriever in LA “Manny” who was surrendered by his owners who wanted younger dogs. The old dog was terrified. broke my heart. Bittersweet conclusion to his story is that he was indeed released to a foster parent in a warm loving home where he died the next day. He had a little bit of love there…

    The healing and love go both ways. One of my favorite quotes is “We are all just walking each other home”

    Stacy and Colt “walk each other home” as did the horses and her little brother.

    Manny and his foster too are an inspiration.

    Thanks for taking the time and energy and love to put such deep, positive energy into your love stories. Readers come away with so much more than just a happy ending.

    Anyway. Have fun blogging and sipping coffee today.


  17. Stephanie, I bet you an Cocoa were a special team! I’m so glad everyone’s enjoyed hearing about Equest.

    JJ, my heart broke when I read about Manny’s story on FB yesterday. How someone could have a relationship with a dog for all those years and then dump him. Well, I have to say I hope what goes around doesn’t come around. If it does that person is going to be terribly lonely in his old age.

  18. I’m sure the research is a lot easier to do with the contemporary stories. Plus, it would be fun if you actually get to experience it.

  19. I love animals and have always felt calmer around them… whether petting a cat or dog… or just sitting around looking at the fish in my tank or out the window at the birds outside… thanks for sharing your post with us today… enjoyed reading it!

  20. I love animals, Julie! Our cat is almost 18 years old and she’s like one of our children! She started out being our son’s cat but all our kids are adults now and long gone so she’s my cat now and I don’t know what I will do when she’s gone! I have multiple health issues and she’s such a comfort to me. She always knows when I need her…just snuggles right down by me and calms me. Animals are amazing!

  21. What a great idea for a storyline. My friends back in Oklahoma started a theuraputic(?) horse clinic for the disabled and you could see them radiating with JOY just from petting the horse. Raising funds to keep it going was such a chore but they said it was worth it!

    I would absolutely LOVE to read your books!

  22. Valri,
    You’re right. Animals have unbelievable ability to our needs. I have a friend whose daughter is diabetic. They are working with programs training dogs to sense when a diabetic is having blood sugar issues! Then there’s the animals that can sense when people are about to have a seizure. It sounds like your cat’s pretty perceptive, too. After almost 18 years, of course she’s part of the family!

  23. Julie,
    I love that you have celebrated Equest in Roping the Rancher. The program has helped so many of our local children that it deserves the recognition. I thoroughly loved the book and was sad after reading the last page.

  24. My husband used to get bad headaches, mostly stress related. His cure was to saddle up and ride across the fields and range for a couple of hours. He would come back feeling so much better. Unfortunately we haven’t made the time to do that in recent years.

    When I was a kid, I used to go to the barn and play with the calves. They are great listeners and they didn’t talk back or boss me like my older sisters did.

  25. Hilltop Farm Wife,
    Your comments about playing with the calves takes me back to when I was a child. My grandparents owned a dairy farm. My grandmother and I would feed the baby calves. You’re right, calves are good listeners and aren’t the pain that siblings are!

  26. Really enjoyed reading the article.
    I grew up on a ranch and as a young child, you had two best friends-your dog and your horse. My horse’s name was Buck-he was a palomino. Of course, i had to share with my other siblings but hey, he was mine when I rode him and had to feed him.

  27. Hi Julie…….Sorry to be so late welcoming you but I’m happy to see our faithful readers have done that. We’re so glad to have you visit P&P and share how your story came together. Equest seems like an exceptional organization that heals both animals and people as well. There is something very unique in animals that they’re able to read another’s emotions and pain. They know exactly what to do to help heal. A very interesting blog.

    Your story sounds amazing. Wishing you much success.

  28. Linda,
    Thanks for the warm welcome and for having me here at Petticoats and Pisols. It’s been fun hearing the stories everyone has shared about the animals who’ve had an impact on their lives.

  29. I got to ride one of my cousin’s horses last summer and it was a blast! i had a hard time with trotting though 🙂

    Love cowboy themed books! Thanks for the giveaway!

  30. Welcome to the P&P Julie! This was a great post and I have heard of these type of things before. I could see how it would be great therapy. So glad you shared this with us today. Thanks for the great giveaway.

  31. We have a similar program here in NE TN not far from our house. There focus is primarily on those with brain injuries. The program was started by a family whose son had suffered a serious brain injury. It is a well respected and supported program.

    When you think of it, the rocking ride on a horse is a little bit like being rocked by your mother in a rocking chair. That would certainly be comforting and reassuring. It would allow the clients to relax and connect with their life to a degree.

    These programs a valuable asset to the community and rehabilitation efforts. It would be nice to see more of them established.

    ROPING THE RANCHER sounds like a good story. I look forward to reading it.

  32. What a great post! Animals are so special and can certainly offer hope and healing in so many ways! Your books sound fantastic, Julie, and I can’t wait to start reading! Thank you for offering the generous giveaway!

  33. I can see where this type of therapy would be beneficial to people. I used to ride when I was at my grandparents as a child and youth. I miss riding, it probably would have been a good thing as a young adult as I was very stressed. Balance on the horse and balance in your life are related as is balance for one who is having physical problems. These programs are being used around the country with great success. Being a Texan where, “every Texan rides”, LOL I’ve seen these programs work well. Also I love cowboy stories. Looking forward to reading your book.

  34. Julie,
    Thank you for the interesting post. A very good reminder of how much we are Blessed by the gifts of horses and pets, it is often overlooked how calming and loving they are. And the amazing ability they have to bring healing to our damaged emotions.
    Thank you, Your book looks terrific.

  35. Julie,
    Thank you for the interesting post. A very good reminder of how much we are Blessed by the gifts of horses and pets, it is often overlooked how calming and loving they are.
    Thank you, Your book looks terrific.

  36. Therapy using animals is an very amazing thing. I myself love working with animals. It is my dream to be able to have a place of our own where we can have animals to help foster kids.

  37. These books seem very interesting! I would definetly love to read them! Horses and the therapy idea make this a very interesting looking read! I have a friend who can’t walk very well, but she does horse therapy and she talks about how she feels it gives her the power she can’t have!

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