November’s Outstanding Non-profit: Horses That Heal



By Katie Stankiewicz, Owner
Willow Equine





“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joys and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—Arthur Ward


Dedicate. Transform. Change.

Words for redirection, resilience and finding a grateful heart. Veterans possess an uncompromising spirit. They are dedicated to our country and their ideals. This spirit often comes with great sacrifice. Families live in shadows of uncertainty that is replaced with civilian life. Some live with the ultimate sacrifice. Others live with the acceptance of a “new normal”.


Despite the lingering effects of military life, veterans forge ahead. They carry a tremendous burden society doesn’t understand nor recognize. The plight of veterans is real. The magnitude of defending our country doesn’t translate into rewards. Health care benefits are not equitable. There are long wait times for services and inadequate standards. Mental health has focused more on traditional rather than alternative methods.


Advances in psychotherapy—the introduction of equine-assisted psychotherapy.


Horses That Heal, is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated to offering equine-assisted psychotherapy to active-duty military, retired, reserves, and their families. This experiential program provides the opportunity to achieve lasting change. Horses are a safe means to learn and grow emotionally. There is a special relationship between human and horse.


Opening a pathway to change and grow

This relationship helps people place human traits onto horses.  The opportunities to rediscover their resources and strengths. Service members and their families can overcome perceived obstacles. They change and grow in their unit, communities, and homes. Clients challenge themselves in activities with horses. This removes the perceived stigma associated with traditional talk therapy. Horses open a pathway for introspection, acknowledging vulnerability without judgment. It has proven to impact veterans’ and their families lives. Horses That Heal is committed to helping our wounded warriors and their families.


Hope, love, and respect

Reconnection and gratitude is an arduous process. Daunting at times. The visible physical wounds or tangible civilian problems are apparent. The invisible scars are more difficult because they are intangible. Left unchecked the stress of discharge can take its toll. Therapy, for the veteran and family, is a cornerstone. Equine-assisted psychotherapy fosters and encourages gratitude. Gratitude to be found in common days and ordinary opportunities. This mirrored by the horses diminishes adversities and overwhelming emotions. The horses eyes hold a reflection – hope, love, respect. Struggles are replaced with confidence; worries with solutions; hurt with healing. The emergence of a grateful heart.


“The Eagala Model uses the horse to gain insight into behaviors and perceptions. The reactions provide unbiased and real time feedback, breaking through the barriers that many military members experience in conversations with others who cannot begin to understand what we feel because we made it back.”
                         —Jimmy L. Walters, COL, USA (Ret)



For more information

Due to the nature of our work, we do not accept volunteers. A beneficial way to help is to spread the word to reduce the stigma around mental health especially within our military. To make a donation, please visit



Katie Stankiewicz has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She founded Willow Equine, in 2012, which offers equine-assisted personal development in Mooresville, NC. Her mission is to enlighten clients to their innate abilities. Whether it’s taking the lead in their own health or focusing on work at their company, they re-energize themselves through self-discovery and horses. They are able to transform their struggles into authentic successes, and it becomes a part of their overall wellness plan and life-coping strategies.



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