I'm a small town Wisconsin girl with six-decades of loving horses. In fact, my sisters and I blackmailed our father into getting our first horse. Yup, you read that right. It was sort of by accident, but worked all the same.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a storyteller and a kid with a big dream—owning a horse ranch with my sister Jan. That wish nearly took a sharp left turn after I accidentally startled our father in an innocent late night encounter.
At nine-years-old, my dad was larger than life to me, but he was chased by the demons of survivor’s guilty and PTSD after serving 20 years in WWII.
One evening, I tip-toed up behind him to give a good-night hug, scarring him to death. Dad spun off his stool, slammed me to the floor, putting me in a choke hold. That turned out to be my first of hundreds of encounters with post-traumatic stress disorder. Little did I know, that one explosive night, along with my love and respect for horses paved my purpose in life some thirty years later.
I first heard that Jesus loved me and wanted a life-long relationship when I was 13-years-old sitting on a hay bale in my best friend’s barn. A decade later I married my best friend Bill, and three years after, gave birth to Alexi Rae, our first child. Six months after, we lost her.
It was a really tough time in our life, but in the midst of it all, I realized God set me on a journey of transforming my grief into gratitude. And in 2002, Bill (an Air Force veteran) along with our two sons, Ian and Taylor, and my sis, Jan, bought the horse ranch of our childhood dreams.
We named the ranch - Trinity Equestrian Center to represent our three founders and our faith. Trinity is our home, the heart of our ministry, and where I spent thousands of hours learning the value of a connection, relationship, and trust by one of God’s greatest teachers - the horse.
I knew horses were more than just a “good ride” and set out to discover how to partner with them to help people. Traveling the country to be certified and advanced trained to serve veterans with PTSD, I launched Trinity’s Veteran Wellness Program in 2009—one of our region’s first.
Since then, our team has provided thousands of free therapy hours and encounters to hundreds of veterans and their families, and has been recognized as the Midwest leader in Equine Assisted Therapy. And in 2020, I broke all norms by taking my team and horses behind prison walls to work with incarcerated male veterans.
As I travel the country and beyond, speaking and telling our story, I’m asked countless times why horses, why veterans, and why God?
I share our devotion to veterans is to honor our father and how he struggled with PTSD. Why horses—because of our deep love and respect for them, and because of the remarkable teammates they are. And why God—because only He can truly transform hearts and minds. Only He can forgive and redeem souls that are often so lost and broken. And only God… can reshape and remake a person into what He needs them to be…what He created them for.
Today, I’m blessed to begin to step back from my normally very full Trinity schedule into the evolution of my life’s purpose while Ian, and his wife Rachael, have begun stepping into my boots—leading, developing, and continuing our legacy of changing lives.
So if you’re looking for me, most days you’ll find me in my favorite worn-out Levis and flip flops, working on either my next podcast episode, a message for an upcoming speaking gig, another chapter in my book, or connecting with you, my precious herd. No matter which, I’m basking in the blessings and love of God as I encourage and empower women to live the life God created them for while forever sharing the remarkable things that happen when we connect people, horses and God.
Toni Mattson is led by her faith and inspired by events in her life. She speaks and writes to audiences that are captivated and encouraged by her stories and messages of hope and the transformation that happens when a human, a horse, and God bond.
For nearly two decades, she traveled the US and Canada, speaking for God’s Great Outdoors International Ministry. She’s been a guest on radio and TV programs, spoken at colleges and seminaries, at international conferences, business development workshops, many other events, and testified four times before the WI State Senate and Committee on Veteran Affairs on behalf of Veterans with PTSD.
Now semi-retired, Toni focuses on coaching her beloved Trinity team, speaking and connecting with her precious herd, and forever encouraging women who want more purpose and meaning out of life how to Live the Life God created them for. She’ll continue writing stories of how He has, and always will, move in miraculous ways.
Her passion and hunger to trust God, is contagious and motivates all to claim His favor, and live the promises of Matthew 9:29; “According to your faith, it shall be done unto you.”
I framed this scripture and put it on my desk after one particularly tough day in 2003. You know the ones where all the wheels are wobbling, and you’re just praying for a break. It still sits there today. Matthew 9:29 is my grounding rod. It reminds me that I have one single job…to have faith. When I do that, HE does the rest.