Health Advice



Horses offer emotional healing to recovering addicts, others facing mental health challenges

Holly Zachariah, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio on

Published in Health & Fitness

"You're already doing something you inherently wouldn't do because you're afraid," he said. "That's worth something."

The work that happens at Stockhands helps not only those who visit but also Funk.

Years ago, after a string of drunken-driving arrests and some personal and legal trouble, he hoped to piece his life back together by trying to woo an ex-wife back with a palomino named Sunny he had bought.

"Sunny didn't save the marriage, but Sunny saved me," he said.

As Funk's personal herd grew, a friend visited once and asked if her son, who is autistic, could ride. The changes in the boy's demeanor were almost immediate, Funk said.

That was about five years ago, and that's when a business was born.

Stockhands, which Funk co-founded with his fiancee, Lisa Benton, has rapidly grown. They two have more than 100 active volunteers to help run it now, and they raise about $150,000 a year to operate it. Funk said they will soon embark on a $3 million capital campaign to buy the land they rent, with plans to build a large, indoor arena with many upgrades to improve access for those with handicaps.

For those who visit, the experience can be life-changing, said Vincent, the 25-year-old who had entertained the group with his explanation of toxic relationships among the horses.


The Dayton man says he had used drugs every day for at least the past seven years. In mid-December, he had reached 45 days of sobriety. He credited the work and therapy at Stockhands as a part of that.

"Everyone finds their place ... and it gives you a chance to be a part of a group," Vincent said. Then, he talked about that day's meditation session, where he and his horse, Junkyard Jake, stood so silently and still that they could have been mistaken as asleep.

"I knew when he wanted to be hugged," Vincent said of the horse. "It definitely was a magical experience."

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