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4 Hudson Valley Nonprofits With a Focus on Equine Therapy

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Throughout the region, these nonprofits work with horses as a means of helping individuals heal, grow, and connect with their surroundings.

ALBANY THERAPEUTIC RIDING CENTER, INC.

This program, which was originally run by a volunteer in her backyard, folded after she passed away in 2017. Just a year later, though, it was resurrected. Now governed by a board of advisors, the nonprofit moved to its current location last June. “We were the first therapeutic riding center in the Capital District,” says Executive Director Taylor Huntley. “We teach adaptive horsemanship and riding skills to children and adults living with a variety of disabilities and chronic illnesses, or who are processing mental health struggles,” she explains. Among the services are mounted riding lessons and equine assisted mental-health-based programs. Depending on the tolerance and attention span of participants, lessons can last an hour ($45) or half that ($30). All lessons, which are billed in 6-week blocks, take place in one of the three arenas on the 20-acre property.

6640 Fuller Station Road, Altamont

DESTINY’S RIDE THERAPEUTIC PROGRAM

Owner and founder Jodie O’Connell-Ponkos began Destiny’s Ride in 2009, after becoming certified as a therapeutic riding instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Although the facility is small compared to others in the region—the 10-acre property has two horses— instruction here can be transformational. “I primarily do private lessons to maximize the rider’s experience and allow them the best opportunity for success,” O’Connell-Ponkos says. Most sessions (call for pricing) occur in an indoor arena. The clientele seems to fall into several categories: “I like to say I specialize in therapeutic, beginners, and lately middle-aged women who want to get back into it, or are looking to do something for themselves,” she observes.

165 Angel Hill Road, Chatham

LUCKY ORPHANS HORSE RESCUE

“Our mission is people helping horses heal people,” says Dianna Mancuso, executive director of this nonprofit. The animals here are rescued, and in turn help rescue humans from their mental and emotional struggles. “Some of our horses have been in cruelty situations, such as neglect, starvation, and abandonment,” she shares. A veritable herd lives on the 42-acre property. “We have fifty horses, everything from mini horses to 2,500-pound horses,” Mancuso says. And visitors are welcome—they can walk around the property, see the horses, and learn a little about how the farm works. In addition to being open to the public, the facility runs a variety of programs, including twice-weekly horse yoga in a paddock. There’s even a therapy treatment in which clients lie on a massage table while a horse touches them. “If you’re holding pain or energy somewhere in your body, the horse can sense it,” Mancuso explains.

2699 Route 22, Dover Plains

Petting a horse. equine therapy

Photo courtesy of Corey Demala

THE AMITY FOUNDATION FOR HEALING WITH HORSES

Maybe they don’t have white coats and stethoscopes, but horses can have a profound effect on people’s wellbeing. That’s the idea behind this nonprofit foundation, which sits on roughly 46 acres and uses carefully selected horses to help those who’ve suffered the psychological and emotional fallout from traumatic experiences. “Horses are herd animals, so when it comes to relationships, they are masters at it,” says Corey DeMala, cofounder, executive director, and psychotherapist. “They’re also nonjudgmental, and they have to be experts at mindfulness because they are a prey animal.” For these reasons, the Foundation makes equines an integral part of their therapeutic services. Corporations, families, and other groups head here for the health-boosting benefits.

44 Amity Road, Warwick

Related: An Equestrian’s Guide to Horseback Riding in the Hudson Valley

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