No other animals have been as influential on human evolution as horses. Horses are highly intuitive to nonverbal messages and intention, and as such can reflect aspects of ourselves that can lead to deep healing and connection.

That’s why the Horses for Mental Health has garnered support from celebrities, musical artists, mental health advocates, esteemed equestrians and more, all sharing stories of horses that have positively impacted their lives, mental health and/or personal journeys.

“There’s nothing more calming and rewarding than climbing onto a saddle and taking a ride,” said two-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee Tanya Tucker. “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.

Tucker is the 2023 special ambassador for the Seen Through Horses annual campaign that raises awareness and funds for 55+ nonprofits offering mental health programs incorporating horses, with the goal of these programs being accessible to all who need them.

Another beloved country music star attested to the fact that the bond between horses and humans can provide emotional and psychological benefits.

“The love of a horse is pure and unaltered between man and horse,” said Randy Travis. “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 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.”

Travis said that following what could have been his career and life ending stroke there was much confusion and lack of recognition regarding much of the life he had once known. However, when he returned to his ranch after six months in the hospital, his horses provided the connection he needed.

“When we [he and wife Mary] first pulled up the drive to our ranch, our first greeting came from our pasture of ponies,” Travis recalled. “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. So many forgotten memories and familiar feelings came flooding back to me. They were the therapists I would understand the best.”

Mental health programs involving horses have gained recognition as an effective form of therapy. These programs can help individuals struggling with various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

“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,” said Mikayla Lane, a country recording artist who grew up on a cattle farm. “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!”

Clayton Smalley’s horse, Flower, became a lifelong companion to the country music artist.

“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,” Smalley said. “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.”

Smally said that Flower served as a companion to his grandmother during her retirement and returned to his life as a husband and father.

“She was a cherished member of our family that brought a lot of peaceful, therapeutic rides that I will never forget,” he said.

Country singer-songwriter Justin Adams said he has a timeless connection to horses.

There’s something about a horse. It’s so incredibly hard to explain yet at the same time it’s quite simple,” he observed. “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.”

For information about participating in this initiative, visit


This copyrighted story by Claudia Johnson was originally published in Country Reunion Magazine and Country Reunion News.