I loved horses as a teen but did not ride until I was much older. Following my divorce in 2006, I trained at a therapeutic riding program as a horse handler. I had found my passion!
Then, in 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Because of an adverse drug reaction, I had to avoid risk of infections, which meant no hanging out with horses, barn friends, or our riders.
After treatment, I visited the barn of one of my favorite trainers, Becky. Everyone hugged me, and I immediately thought, “Please don’t touch me!” Becky handed me a lead rope for the horse, Archer. I was terrified! We now smile about my fear, but only because we understand that my reaction was a common side effect as a breast cancer survivor.
We decided to start a breast cancer survivors’ program, with me as the first participant, focusing on grooming, breathing, and stretching, a meditative practice to music (Namaste!). I immediately felt the positive benefits—I began to enjoy being hugged. I became braver. One day, as I was leading Archer, Becky said ”Tory’s back!!” And, I was.
As someone who has seen the positive meditative and physical benefits of being around horses, I would love the opportunity to be with other breast cancer survivors, where we can encourage each other to embrace our inner cowgirls and live my favorite John Wayne quote: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”
Nomination from her trainer, Becky
I’ve known Tory for over 10 years and in those years we have taught and volunteered with numerous programs involving Equine Assisted Therapy. I have watched Tory give countless hours to help veterans recovering from brain injuries and PTSD, children and adults with special needs, cancer survivors and at-risk youth. Her dedication to the programs was and is unwavering, even though she’s been through so much herself. She always arrives with a smile and energy which is contagious to us all.