NewsLocal News


'I got my life back': How this cancer survivor used horse therapy to come out of darkness

Screen Shot 2021-09-22 at 4.34.58 PM.png
Posted at 6:05 AM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 19:39:25-04

MUKWONAGO — When you think of a therapy session to treat anxiety or depression, horses may not come to mind.

Outside the hustle and bustle of a Milwaukee metropolis are greener pastures at Willow Creek Ranch in Mukwonago.

57-year-old Tami Mrochinski says these horses healed her soul after a long bout with breast cancer.

“I don’t even know how to really express it, I got my life back,” said Mrochinski. “They’re spiritual to me. They pick up on things that other people can’t."

Psychotherapist Maleah Calderon watches Mrochinski during each session.

“Horses regulate our patience, they help be present in the moment. Horses are very in the moment - they don’t live in the past, they don’t live in the future," said Calderon.

Along with an equine specialist keeping an eye on the horse's behavior.

“They’re a mirror to what we’re going through,” said Rebecca John with Willow Creek Ranch.

What may come as a surprise is that Mrochinski does not ride the horses. The therapists also do not talk to her during the session. At the end, Calderon said that they ask what it felt like.

Screen Shot 2021-09-22 at 4.38.45 PM.png

“After the mastectomy is when the PTSD comes in. You just start thinking every pain or ache, is that the cancer is it back? And am I going through this again," said Mrochinski.

Mrochinski says she did not leave her bed for nine months. But now, she says, “I’ve got a purpose. I’m back in hiking, I’m back in social activities, and holidays are coming up. I’m looking forward to it.”

Screen Shot 2021-09-22 at 4.34.04 PM.png

Showing that even big and strong animal can be sensitive just like us.

Willow Creek Ranch in Mukwonago not only offers therapy sessions. They also have a therapeutic riding center for children with special needs, to help them gain strength, balance and independence. This includes:

  • ADHD and sensory processing
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Developmental Delay
  • Visual, hearing impairments
  • Mental Health
  • Physical, emotional, spiritual growth

To reach out to the ranch, email

Mrochinski's therapy is a program through Equine-Assisted Growth and Learning Association. According to Willow Creek Ranch: "There are a variety of models using horses to facilitate learning and healing. One of them, EAGALA, is designed to allow clients to discover, learn and grow from the horse-human relationship. WCR, in partnership with a mental health professional, can provide healing opportunities for trauma, depression, substance abuse and relationship problems along with team building, coping skills and self-awareness."

If you are looking for resources, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. You can also view the resources below:

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip