Toni is a lifelong, horse crazy, outdoors woman who grew up in a small city in north central
Wisconsin. At 13-years-old, sitting on a hay bale, she first heard that Jesus loved her, and wanted a life-long relationship.
A decade later, she married her best friend Bill, and three years later gave birth to their first child, Alexi Rae. Six months after, they buried her. After months of wrestling with the sorrow, Toni discovered that God was starting her on a journey of methodically transforming her grief into gratitude.
“God is so loving. He steps into our darkness, takes us by the hand, and if we let Him, graciously remakes us from the inside out. Something only He can do.”
In 2002, Bill, their two young sons, and Toni’s sister Jan, founded Trinity Equestrian Center. The name represented their three-part-ownership, and the foundation of their faith. Trinity is their home, the heart of their ministry, and where Toni spent thousands of hours learning the value of a connection, relationship, and trust by one of God’s greatest teachers - the horse.
Toni knew horses were more than just a “good ride”, and set out to discover how to partner with them to help people. She traveled the country to be certified, with advanced training to serve veterans with PTSD, and launched Trinity’s Equine Assisted Therapy program in 2009. It was one of the region’s first. Since then, her team has provided hundreds of veterans with thousands of free hours of therapy and support. Most recently, Toni took her team and horses behind prison walls to work with incarcerated veterans.
“I admit, a prison is a very unnerving environment and the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt," Toni says. "Yet, in many ways, it feels like some of the best work we’ve ever done. Helping those who feel unforgivable, consumed by their guilt and shame is a great honor. But better than that, is our privilege to share the life-changing message that there is nothing we can do that God doesn’t want to, or have the power to redeem.”
Toni loves being Bill’s wife of more than forty years, the proud mother of their son’s, Ian and Taylor, Nana to seven glorious grands, a Chaplain, speaker, writer, and influencer. Her goal is to stay cozy with God, never taking His blessings for granted, always lead with love, and live fearlessly with an eye on eternity.
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, other events, and testified four times before the WI State Senate on behalf of veterans.
Now semi-retired, she focuses on program development and grant writing for “her baby”, Trinity Equestrian Center. She drinks up God’s great outdoors, photographing beauty in the moment, and writes 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.”
I’m frequently asked, why horses, and why veterans? I believe that decision was made when I was nine-years-old, but wasn’t revealed for more than three decades.
My life-long love affair with horses began with a fuzzy, cute pony named Heidi. But my devotion to veterans came from a frightening, late night encounter that triggered the raging PTSD of my WWII veteran father.
I had no idea when I whispered, “Hi Dad”, it would change my life, and forge my future.
Instantly he spun off his stool, grabbed my throat, threw me to the floor, and put me in a choke hold. “Don’t ever do that again!” He hollered. “I could have killed you.”
Looking back, that was my first experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was that very moment when my heart broke for those struggling with it, and how it affected their family.
In 2002, my husband Bill, my sister Jan, and I founded Trinity Equestrian Center with a mission to connect people, horses, and God. Since then, I’ve been blessed with invitations from around the US, and Canada to share who we are, what we do, and how partnering with horses helps change lives.
God created horses to be remarkable creatures, devoted companions, transparent storytellers, and exquisite teammates.
But let’s be honest, even horses can’t cure PTSD. There is no “cure.” However, horses can help veterans manage and cope with their triggers, and teach them how to anticipate and respond to them. The horse-human connection often resembles the bond between military unit members. This connection gives a veteran hope. Hope that things can, and will get better. Hope they can really come back home. It’s their deepest desire.