“Good boy,” Sheri Biller cooed, brushing the tawny coat of her horse, Prancer. As he bobbed his head and neighed, she felt a sense of calm wash over her. Growing up in an abusive household, horseback riding had always been Biller’s solace; her pain dissipated when she rode. Unfortunately, as often happens with victims of abuse, for whom pain becomes ingrained and familiar, Biller later married an abusive man.
Going riding at a stable near her North Carolina home became her lifeline. It’s why, when a friend told her about Prancer, a spirited four-year-old horse whose owners couldn’t handle him anymore, she jumped at the chance to take him in.
Biller knew she had to get herself and her two children on a path toward healing, and it had all seemed too overwhelming — until Prancer came into her life. Talking to him made it easier to think clearly, to be in touch with her feelings, to plan, and, finally, to leave her abuser. When she, in fact, did just that, Prancer became central to her healing and growing confidence.
Discovering a New Path
To make ends meet, Biller got a job as a substitute teacher, and after being assigned to a special education class, she went on to get a degree in special education. When one of her colleagues asked if her son could come to meet Prancer, Biller agreed. They young boy’s face lit up when he saw him. “My son suffers from terrible anxiety,” the boy’s mother told Biller, “but spending time with Prancer has made him feel so calm!”
It was an aha moment. Biller knew Prancer had helped her work out the issues she was going though. Watching the boy, she now saw the impact Prancer had on others, as well.
A Legacy of Healing
Biller rented space in a local barn and began welcoming kids who suffered from anxiety, had autism, and were affected by a variety of other emotional or physical issues to ride, groom, feed and just talk to Prancer. And just like her colleague, parents came to her with grateful tears in their eyes as they shared the remarkable progress their children were making.
Biller’s program was so successful that after two years, in 2018, she founded Loving Reins, a riding program that offers equine therapy to children and adults, including veterans with PTSD. Although Prancer has sadly passed, Biller now had a stable of 65 other horses to carry on his legacy of healing.
“Loving Reins is absolutely amazing,” says a client. “I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing my daughter conquer fears, control her emotions, and gain confidence.”
“I was going through a tough time,” adds another client, who is also a veteran. “But working with [Biller] and her horses helped me understand what I was feeling. They had a big impact on my emotional growth.”
These kinds of reactions and interactions always make Biller smile. “As herd animals, horses are good at reading others in the herd,” she explains. “As humans, we tend to bury our emotions, but horses have a way of drawing them to the surface, allowing us to deal with them. To be completely healthy and happy, we must be at peace with ourselves. Horses help so many achieve this!”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.