Survivors in Saddles

Suffolk program uses horses to help women cope with breast cancer.



Horse Riding Helps Those Coping With Cancer

My work blesses me with the chance to learn about amazing people—people who aren’t satisfied to just do their job. They must do more, because of who they are. In their minds, I’m pretty sure it’s not even “more.” It’s about being there for others and being willing to help, whenever and however. Who cares if it’s not in their job description; it’s in their heart.

One such person is Pat Thornton, a breast cancer navigator at Sentara Obici Hospital in Suffolk.

It’s her job to help patients who are newly diagnosed with the disease. She gives them information and emotional support as they seek and receive treatment. Once they’re on the road to recovery, patients may think they’re “OK.” That’s when Pat really worries.

“They found so much strength to get through their surgeries and treatments, and then they’re hit with all they’ve been through,” Pat told me. “They think ‘What happened? What do I do now?!’”

To help patients face this shock, Pat created Survivors in Saddles, a six-week program that teaches women how to ride horses. She started riding three years ago in part to cope with a chronic condition, and she found the stress relief valuable in working through both physical and mental pressures.