In the heart of Saratoga Springs, New York, there’s a special place where horses and humans come together, creating a holistic and restorative environment. The brainchild of Dr. Erin Christopher-Sisk, Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga (THS) rescues retired racehorses and gives them a second career.
Dr. Christopher-Sisk had always incorporated dogs and cats into her therapy practice. After becoming a racehorse owner and learning that these majestic animals had few options once their racing days were over, she envisioned a new path forward – for the horses and her approach to therapy. Soon, she purchased a farm and began to offer a unique healing modality, using horses as the centerpiece.
“Equine therapy takes traditional talk therapy to an outdoor, therapeutic environment, unrestricted by office walls,” explains Megan Koloskie, development manager at THS. She says the approach can be used to help a variety of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to autism and ADHD, and has shown particular promise with veterans and service members struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
In 2022, THS offered more than 400 equine therapy sessions, including its first eight-week program geared specifically to the military community. Koloskie says the veterans who participated in this inaugural effort offered plenty of positive feedback. Among the comments, participants said it helped them “look inward and reflect on themselves,” was “calming and surprisingly effective,” and noted that friends and family noticed “a drastic improvement in my self-awareness and attention.”
Bolstered by the initial program’s success, THS launched the Freedom Rein Project, supported by an adaptive sports grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This funding enables THS to provide free equine therapy to service members and veterans.
“This type of care isn’t covered by insurance, and cost has been a barrier in the past,” Koloskie says. “Many service members struggle with PTSD, a lack of connection in civilian life, communication issues and more.” She says the unique brand of equine-assisted therapy offered at THS was developed to help address these challenges.
“I’m grateful to our founders, who poured their hearts and souls into establishing this farm and turning it into a true sanctuary for humans and horses,” Koloskie adds. “I feel privileged to be part of THS and working here makes me feel like I am contributing in some small way to making a difference in the world.”