How Horses are Helping Children with Cancer

How Horses are Helping Children with Cancer
photo credit: Violeta Pencheva

I would like to introduce my readers to Jenny Holt! Jenny is a freelance health and nature writer. She came across a former post of mine, Pony Riding and Curb Walking when I was participating in orange and blue photo memes. Jenny was reminded of an article when she read my blog post.

Jenny has teamed up with a small pet health site to develop a simple guide for parents explaining how horses are just one animal involved in helping children with cancer. You can view the article at,

You will feel Jenny's heartfelt passion for horses helping children with cancer through her word crafting. I am thrilled we found one another!

Horses Helping Humans: Equine Therapy for Cancer Patients

Facing a life-changing diagnosis or surviving a life-threatening illness is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges in life. Traditional medical treatment is prescribed to fight the condition physically, but even if successful the psychological impact can be enormous. Supporting the mind and soul is equally as important as curing the body, but it requires a different approach.

Inclusive and Supportive

Engaging in equine-assisted therapy can be an excellent method of support during a period of illness, or as part of a rehabilitation process once given the all-clear. Equine therapy programs address both physical and emotional issues. Through participating in tasks such as grooming, taking the horse to the paddock, and moving equipment, people can rebuild physical strength and stamina which may have been lost during extended stays in hospital with reduced activity. Riding develops balance, muscle tone, and flexibility, but there are also options for non-riders to work with horses from the ground. Crucially though, a study undertaken with breast cancer survivors showed that equine-assisted therapy improved the overall quality of life for the women, not just their physical condition. Learning new skills promoted a sense of self-worth and pride, improved confidence, and gave the women feelings of accomplishment. 

Learning to Cope

People who have taken part in therapy programs have spoken about how undertaking tasks in an unusual environment helps them to cope with the unfamiliarity of their condition. The horse represents the obstacle of their illness, and they learn how to work towards a solution rather than focussing on the problem. Becoming a participant, rather than a victim, helps them to be in control rather than feeling helpless.

Being Mindful

Horses are non-judgemental, and live in the present. Interacting with horses and engaging in tasks with them requires you to think about what is going on immediately around you, rather than worrying about your condition. This approach to thinking is commonly seen in mindfulness techniques used to treat other psychological conditions. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder engaging in equine-assisted therapy reported reduced anxiety, reduced symptoms of depression, and less severe emotional responses to stressful situations. Similarly, a study of young women diagnosed with social anxiety found that the equine therapy program helped them to feel less anxious and more empowered; these emotions are also experienced by cancer survivors. Equine therapy can offer people a chance to focus on something else, and to be something more than their diagnosis.

Thank you, Jenny! Best wishes and continued success!

Just a quick note from yours truly... Awhile back I shared a few photos with my readers of my grandson riding on a horse. This experience was in Maine when he was young. Have a look, here. Ben's therapist recommends horse riding because he has special needs. If you're not familiar with CdLS, there's more information here.

The above photo is where Ben currently rides in the hills of Santa Barbara!

I'm so pleased that our guest blogger shared such excellent writing on a subject dear to our hearts!

Thanks again, Jenny!


-- LadyD

 “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” -- C. S. Lewis
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