Ashleigh and Freckles spending wonderful time together.

“There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.” ~ Winston Churchill

When a diagnosis of cancer hits a family, it hits on so many levels—physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. To anyone who has been smitten by the calm I’ve-seen-it-all gaze of a horse, or who has stood beside a horse and believed the horse was literally seeing into her soul,  the concept of horse-as-healer is not a great stretch. To clients and families that come to participate in the Horses As Healers program at Equest Center, it’s a stretch that can help enable them to reach for the future with renewed optimism.

The program leads students through all aspects of horse care, from basic grooming, safety, to leading horses, to riding—if the students choose to ride. It is customized for all students, based on their comfort level around horses, and their physical situations.

Cancer not only assaults the body but also lays siege to the heart and mind. Fear, anxiety, hopelessness, lack of focus, anger, victimization, are issues we all deal with in life that are brought to heightened awareness when one is battling cancer. Working with the horses helps students gain insight as it relates to emotions, communication, relationships, personal healing and inner strength. In many cases, groups that participate also engage in related artwork, group discussions and activities during weekend sessions.

Participants in the Horses as Healers program will:

  • Build a bond with the horses
  • Develop friendships with others
  • Feel a sense of responsibility and feel needed
  • Learn new skills and feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Improve their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being
  • Have fun and time away from the hospital setting
  • Have the ability to participate in a horsemanship program


  • Learning to live in the moment
  • Increased Motivation
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Goal setting
  • Self awareness
  • Empowerment
  • Sense of control


  • Create new friendships
  • Experience challenges as a team
  • The opportunity to be a caregiver


  • Balance and coordination
  • Rhythm and timing
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Endurance and fitness
  • Respiratory control


  • Connection with animals, nature, and people
  • Awareness of the world around us

Equest Center has partnered with Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids, who serves families whose lives have been affected by Cancer for multi-weekend events as well as welcoming individuals and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis from local medical facilities. Individualized programs are created to fit each clients needs.