BEND, Ore. - In Part 3 of our series on some of Central Oregon's most inspiring women, we meet a Bend woman who has used the unlikely combination of cancer and horses to help others.
Patti Devencenzi has been a self-proclaimed "horse girl" her whole life, but it was later in life that she became passionate about natural horsemanship. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
Devencenzi was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2014.
"When someone hands you the 'C card,' you suddenly feel like you have an expiration date stamped on your forehead," Devencenzi said recently.
But she refused to let the cancer win.
"It definitely slowed me down, but I was determined," Devencenzi said. "And I think the horses helped me through treatment, because they teach me to stay in the moment and not worry about the future."
In that moment, it was cancer. But in her future was Parelli Natural Horsemanship training.
"Because I really loved the program so much and knew what it did for me and what it did for others, as far as empowering. So I decided I wanted to teach," Devencenzi said.
Originally, her goal was to help at-risk kids. But now her group includes women just like her.
"These women are amazing. They empower me, actually," Devencenzi said.
That sentiment was echoed by all of the women who are part of the Central Oregon Savvy Players. It's a group of about 20 women who use Parelli horsemanship.
They train their horses, while also training themselves.
"An ego can't be part of it when you're working with a horse, and that's where it makes us better people," Devencenzi said.
One woman said, "It works with kids, I've found. It worked with my teenagers."
These are women with common ground, but very different backgrounds. And they inspire each other.
"We watch each other and coach each other. How awesome is that?" one woman said.
Devencenzi has been in remission for two years now, and she says horses were vital in her recovery.
Pat Parelli will be in Central Oregon in June. For more info: