Healing Through Equine Therapy

August 14, 2023

The first time Cassidy Kuhlmann ’23 rode a horse was in eighth grade after a difficult move to North Carolina. After discovering that riding helped with her struggle with mental health, she never wanted to stop.

“Throughout those hard years, I can look back and see God’s provision in my life,” Cassidy reflected. “I think He brought me horses to give me a peace that, at the time, I couldn’t feel anywhere else.”

Now, as a double major in equestrian studies and psychology, Cassidy wants to bring the same sense of peace God gave her to others. After graduation, Cassidy will pursue a career in equine-assisted therapy; she fell in love with the practice after interning at a facility in Colorado last summer. During the internship, she helped people heal from difficult situations while also rehabilitating abused horses. This was the first time Cassidy realized that horses and people can work through trauma together.

“It was something God put on my heart. When I added a second major in psychology to help with my therapy focus of equestrian studies, I fell in love with everything about it. I’ve always been passionate about helping people, so adding horses to that is a huge bonus.”

Cassidy credits her barn instructors for her success during her internship and at Houghton. “I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from these wonderful women in the past four years,” said Cassidy, referring to Jo-Anne Young ’69, Laura (Alexeichik ’01) Thayer, Larissa (Strapello ’08) Ries and Andrea (Potteiger ’00) Boon. “I will strive to emulate pieces of each of them as I step into my career.”

As the teaching assistant for Horsemanship II, Cassidy has already started to do this, helping underclass students overcome the frustrations and challenges of learning a new skill or correcting an old habit. Her favorite moment is seeing the “lightbulb” go off when a student accomplishes something difficult.

“I have loved teaching more than I ever thought I would. When a rider learns a new skill, it’s so rewarding to see them understand that they changed what they were doing, to help them feel proud of their accomplishments. It’s great to know that I was a part of that in a small way. On top of that, I love the fact that my students then become my peers.”

Cassidy’s love for people and horses will continue to drive her toward success. Her internship and TA position have opened the door for Cassidy to continue her passion for equine-assisted therapy after Houghton.

Houghton University English and Writing major student, Jennifer Page.

Jen Page ’24 worked as a Spring ’23 student intern with Houghton University’s Marketing & Communication department, pursuing a major in English and Writing.