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Happy Tools of Healing

Several months ago, I wanted to create a project that represented some of the happy tools of healing that have helped me since my mom passed away. I knew it had to include horses, art, and inspiring words. A shadow box seemed like a good way to bring them together.


I’ve always been an animal lover and have had pets all my life—mostly dogs and cats. Animals give us unconditional love, and they’ve helped me through some rough times over the years. In college I even wrote a research paper about pet therapy. Today I’m the proud mother of two canine children. 

However, I hadn’t interacted with horses much so I had no idea how amazing they are until I started working with them as a form of therapy. Now I can’t live without them! I had tried horse therapy a couple of times before, but after I lost my mom, I started doing more.

Horses read our body language and pick up on the subtlest of clues—at times it’s like they’re reading our minds! They also mirror our energy and emotions. And they can even simulate challenges we are dealing with in life. Sometimes the therapist sets up simulations based on what she knows is going on. But sometimes the horses set up their own simulations . . . they have incredible intuition! These simulations have a much greater impact than words ever could (and yes, you did just hear that from a writer). Interacting with horses has taught me a lot about myself, and it’s helped me develop skills and confidence to deal with life’s bigger challenges. 


I was touched by something Sterling said in one of his early updates about Shelli after her accident. He said, “Shelli and I both feel pretty strongly that when [Kadie] stumbled, she instinctively did everything she could to protect Shelli, taking as much weight as possible on the left side of her head and shoulder to diminish the impact on Shelli. If Kadie hadn’t rolled the way she rolled, Shelli wouldn’t be with us . . .” Sterling’s words fall right in line with what I know of horses. I have no doubt Kadie’s intuition helped her protect Shelli—and we are all so glad it did!


Art is another activity I’ve found to be extremely therapeutic (I’m sure all of you crafters can relate). This shadow box has turned out to be one of my favorite art projects. I painted the box purple (my favorite color), and I printed a picture from the horse arena for the background. Tip: I used a photo program to soften it a little so it wouldn’t compete too much with the other elements. Then I found a little Lego horse and a little Lego me. I made a barrel out of a lid from one of my hair products. It was light blue, but I rolled up some Tempting Turquoise Cardstock and put it inside so it would match the barrels in the photo. I put a Lego apple on the barrel as a little treat for my Lego horse. I even added a ball for the horse to play with. (Have you ever seen a horse play with a ball? It’s a sight to behold!) I used Glue Dots to stick everything down—except the ball. Glue Dots didn’t work on that. But it’s kinda fun to let the ball roll around anyway. 

Inspiring Words

About the time I created the shadow box, I was reading an inspiring book by Brené Brown called Daring Greatly. She named the book after Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about the man in the arena. I shortened the quote to: “It is not the critic who counts . . . the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena . . . daring greatly . . .” We all have challenges, and the past couple of years have brought a whole herd of challenges for me. But I have been daring greatly in facing them so I knew that quote was perfect for the front of my shadow box. I designed it in MDS. Some printers will print on Window Sheets, but mine would not. So I printed the quote on paper and took it to a copy store to have it transferred to a Window Sheet, which I adhered to the front of the shadow box using Glue Dots. Tip: I hid the Glue Dots behind part of the design.

The project brought my happy tools of healing together nicely, and I’m pleased with the result. Isn’t it wonderful how inspiration for our art projects can come from anywhere? 

Have you had any experiences with pet or art therapy? We would love to hear about them!

Heidi C.
Collateral communications manager


  • Jane

    Nov 25

    Reading about what you have shared makes me experience horse therapy as well! The shadow box is very sweet, too :)