GRAND HAVEN, Mich., -- There's a Winston Churchill quote which says, "There's something about the outside of a horse, that's good for the inside of a man." That saying is the foundation of Out Side In Stables , a non-profit offering equine-assisted therapy.
"We treat a wide range, from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, anything that one would go to a traditional therapist for," explained Jennifer McVoy, the founder and executive director of Out Side In Stables. "The horses are just a wonderful tool to actually help teach people."
McVoy, a former school social worker, began the non-profit in 2011 with three horses of her own, using a friend's barn. The property is now expansive, with 20 horses; many are thoroughbreds, retired from the racetrack.
McVoy, along with a team of licensed therapists, works with roughly 70 clients each week.
As clients work to heal, they are also helping to rehabilitate the animals. Whether it's assisting with grooming, leading the horses through obstacle courses, or riding, the time spent together is beneficial to both, McVoy said.
"Horses, they don’t know where you come from. They don’t know how much money you have, they don’t care what your clothes look like. They see you for what you actually are,” she said. "It's really about people finding their strength, finding what's good about them, rather than just focusing on the negatives and their struggles."
"It's really about people finding their strength, finding what's good about them, rather than just focusing on the negatives and their struggles."
Joan Peterson, 82, came to Out Side In Stables after losing her husband to treat her depression. She said she has found a new beginning there.
"I love this place, it has changed me," she told FOX 17 News. "It has healed me. I get up every morning thinking that I'm not lucky, I'm blessed."
Transformations like Peterson's are what makes all the hard work worth it, said McVoy.
"I see the change and the happiness it brings them," she said. "Everyday, I come to work and see things that just amaze me.”
Outside In also offers a program to help veterans treat PTSD, called Heroes for Horses.
To learn more about Out Side In Stables, click here.
As the FOX 17 Pay it Forward Person of the Month, McVoy is receiving a $300 prize.
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