Vail Valley books: Healing with horses |

Vail Valley books: Healing with horses

Stephen Bedford
Vail, CO Colorado
Sarah Kariko/Special to the Vail DailyStanford Addison with a horse named Pinta.

VAIL, Colorado “-Legend has it that there’s a man in northern Wyoming named Stanford Addison whose mere presence can heal what ails you.

Journalist Lisa Jones, who will be in the Vail Valley Tuesday, was dispatched to investigate this modern-day shaman, uncovering a man whose mystical power and sense of purpose has drawn crowds from every habitable continent, all with a variety of maladies.

Jones was only to spend four days at Addison’s ranch, but stayed for seven years chronicling her time with Addison in her book “Broken: A Love Story,” which she will discuss and sign tonight at 6 p.m. at the Avon Public Library as part of The Bookworm’s Live at the Library series. What began as a freelance assignment morphed into a metaphysical journey and an enduring friendship.

Each person arrives at Addison’s Wind River Reservation ranch wary yet desperate, and all ultimately leave with a renewed sense of vitality. He’s a miracle-worker working in mysterious ways, mixing ancient Arapaho traditions with an unexplainable, otherworldly mysticism.

Addison has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 20 years after a night of carousing ended with a car crash that left him a quadriplegic. Despondent and depressed, Addison tired to commit suicide several times before realizing his work on Earth was unfinished.

Not just an account of Addison’s gifts of human and horse connections, “Broken” also examines the sad history of the Arapaho people, many of whom live at or below the poverty line while coping with substance abuse problems and gang-like violence that have led the demographic to be four times more susceptible to suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“After some fairly obvious signs that I was entering a spiritual training, I just kept thinking I was going to Wyoming for a great story,” Jones said. “It took a while for my thick head to actually understand that the story was about the healing field generated by this man, and that I, too, was entering that healing field.”

The initial visit was not without a sizable dose of skepticism, Jones said, as a childhood accident left her scared of horses and the rationality that this man could “cure” people was borderline lunacy. But Jones said she watched, often in awe, as Addison’s chantings in a traditional Native American sweat lodge seem to give people something they could not get at a hospital or pharmacy.

“The first time I met Stanford, the first time we were in physical proximity and he said ‘Hi’ to me, I felt something like a body blow,” Jones said. “It was the unmistakable feeling that I would not be able to lie to this man or to myself in his presence.”

In addition to visiting with folks seeking his counsel, he also trains the 150 or so horses on his ranch, refusing to let his wheelchair restrict him from the corral. Addison “gentles” the horses to gain their trust instead of the more aggressive, traditional approach of “breaking” the horses.

“It was incredibly inspiring to watch Stanford work the horses from his wheelchair,” Jones said. “Despite his physical handicap, he has more abilities that anyone I’ve ever met. It was impossible to not come away from his corral without a heightened sense of possibility.”

Stephen Bedford works at The Bookworm of Edwards.

Who: Lisa Jones, author of “Broken: A Love Story”

What: The Bookworm’s Live at the Library series

When: 6 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Avon Public Library

Cost: Free

More information: Call 970-926-READ or visit for a video interview with Lisa Jones

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