MIAMI, Fla. (WFLA) – Nestled in southeast Clearwater you’ll find 12 acres of serenity; green pastures that are home to healing and hope.
“It’s good for him. It’s good for me,” said Melissa Yarbrough, as she scratched a horse’s ear.
It’s a gentle give-and-take for Yarbrough who sees each day as a precious gift.
“I can be here 20 years from now or I can be gone in three years,” she told us.
Just five months ago Yarbrough was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. Her only symptom was shortness of breath. She was shocked by what her doctor had told her.
“I have a 13-year-old daughter at home. I said, ‘Oh, my goodness. Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women,'” she said. “There’s no screening available to diagnose it. It sort of just shows up and it catches you off guard.”
Equine therapy, she says, soothes her fears as she fights to become a survivor.
“I’m actually in the middle of treatment and we’ve been going the whole time through treatment. I’ve been here,” said Yarbrough smiling proudly.
Here at Inspire Equine Assisted Center. Because Yarbrough not only benefits from the calm energy of these horses, she is the driving force of this center as its Founder and Executive Director.
“You can see someone smiling, talking for the first time, assisting someone to help with their walking, there are so many miracles that happen,” said Yarbrough.
As she waits for her miracle, she continues to steer others toward theirs. While undergoing chemotherapy, Yarbrough decided to launch a new program for local veterans at no cost to them.
“I just wanted to do my part in saying thank you and trying to help them. I mean, the veteran suicide rate is so high, We just need to help.”
That’s what matters to Yarbrough, giving back.
“Because there are so many people than just me that need help,” Yarbrough said, “Believe it or not it’s helped me be here with my horses than staying at home in a bed crying and saying ‘Oh my God, my life is over, which it’s not.”
A loving gesture that lets veterans like Robin Piper know they are not alone. Piper served 12 years in the U.S. Army and now lives with PTSD.
“I don’t sleep sometimes for days at a time and I have night terrors, badly,” said Piper as she held her therapy horse, Beau.
A counselor recommended equine therapy to a hesitant Piper. She now says her life is forever changed thanks to this program and thanks to Beau.
“He’s saved me at least once,” Piper told us, “I go home and have more peace than I have had in a really long time.”
That right there is Yarbrough’s life purpose on this plot of land she calls her second home.
“We’re making a difference here so I need to be here to keep making that difference. That pushes the fight big time. Big time,” said Yarbrough who already has her eyes set on launching yet another equine therapy program to help those who need it most.
“Maybe I’ll add a cancer program in the near future. That’s something I could be adding next year after I get through my battle. I want to help other people with their battle,” Yarbrough said with a smile.
If you would like to help Inspire Equine Assistance and its programs, mark your calendar. The center is hosting its 6th Annual Boot Scootin’ Barn Dance Benefit on November 18th.