Back on Track 4th Annual ‘Horse Therapy’ Essay Contest: And the Winner Is…

… Alyssa and Bacon! Read the winning essay here. Alyssa and Bacon will receive a therapeutic saddle pad of their choice from our generous sponsor Back on Track!


Photo by Lindsey Burns

A few weeks ago, we sent out a call for stories from readers about how horses have helped them through tough times. You responded with essay after heartfelt essay about the horses that have carried you through so much.

Each essay painted a beautiful portrait of the horses that are so important to our readers with each horse equally deserving of a new therapeutic saddle pad. In the end, we randomly drew one of the essays at random, with our winner being Alyssa Kelley and her horse Bacon. The rest of the essays will be shared here on Horse Nation in coming weeks to spotlight the horses all so deserving of a little recognition.


Photo by Blake Kelley

After climbing aboard my leggy bay mare, I gain this familiar sense of security. Actually, I feel a lot of things. I feel encouraged, proud, excited, happy. But most of all, I can feel “normal” again. You see, I have late stage Lyme Disease, among a handful of other illnesses. Life is no longer black and white or easy or clear.

I suffer from weakness, tremors, passing out episodes, asthma attacks, sicca syndrome, pericarditis, and terrible joint pain. Some days it is difficult to do daily tasks and a large variety of people will stare when I awkwardly walk by. But when I crawl onto Bacon, my 2008 OTTB mare, that all goes away. All of those things are still there, but she reminds me that I am still a person.

I met her as a three year old on the track. I enjoyed showering her with hugs and kisses, braiding her forelock, rinsing her off after a work and stealing some carrots to share with her. She was quirky and kind, weaving the day away in her stall but pausing for any snuggle offered. The beginning of the following year found her looking for a new home. I was first to get the offer, gave my husband the saddest eyes I could muster, and the following weekend I led her off the trailer. I was scared that we would not be a good match, but our first ride quickly erased that thought. We took a little stroll around the arena, with only a halter and lead rope, and immediately our bond grew. Soon after, I fell ill and she struggled with lameness issues. Though that put a kink into our plans, we have made it through and I can have some good days in the tack.


Photo by Blake Kelley

I can still enjoy feeling her bouncy trot, collected canter, her sway in her walk and her deep sighs after a “good girl” pat on the neck. She deals with my dizziness by holding utterly still while I rest my head on her neck. Cross country jumps are never a big deal if I tell her it is ok and safe. Though dressage is not our forte, she does her best to determine what exactly I am asking her to do. She isn’t the most careful jumper over brightly colored sticks, but she does her best to get me through the course with our limited skills. She makes everything whole.

Bacon has been with me through all of the years of sickness. And she is the only thing that has felt healing in this whole journey. Together we can be eventers, jumpers, adventurers and conquerors. We can be invincible!

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Photo by Sunny Daze Photography

Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!

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