Our September Hudson Valley Hero Uses Equine Therapy to Heal

Deanna Mancuso helps people help horses heal people in Dover Plains.


Deanna Mancuso just celebrated her tenth anniversary. Well, not her anniversary, per se. In June, her nonprofit, Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue (LOHR), rang in its first decade in the Hudson Valley. The organization, which began as a for-profit company in 2003 before transitioning to nonprofit status in 2008, aims to give a second life and home to rescue horses while simultaneously using the animals to provide therapy for individuals with a wide range of emotional and physical struggles.

“Horses have always been a big part of my life,” Mancuso, a longtime Millbrook resident, explains. She first became interested in the animals when her grandfather, a veteran of the Korean War who suffered from PTSD, alcoholism, and substance abuse, sobered up and bought her a horse when she was 11. When the two went horseback riding together, he explained to her that horses bring peace.

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Mancuso with her horses / Left photo by Robert Hughes, right photo courtesy of Deanna Mancuso


Fast forward to 2008, when the Dutchess County SPCA placed four horses with Mancuso’s organization during an investigation. The sudden adoption led her to think about the role the animals play as commodities.

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“Dutchess County is the largest horse population county in New York State,” she reveals, adding that the state generates about $10 million worth of revenue from horses per year. 

“I realized there had to be a rescue,” she says. She changed Lucky Orphans to not-for-profit status, then went to work accumulating certifications and memberships with a medley of equine and therapy organizations. Currently, Lucky Orphans offers EagALA, Natural Lifemanship, E3A model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), Trauma Focused EAP and Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Programs through EquiNorth, Inc.

“The best part is the satisfaction of knowing that I’m changing lives,” says Mancuso. It’s a notion that connects back to the Lucky Orphans mission statement, that it is a group of “people helping horses heal people.” Currently, she and her group of volunteers care for 51 horses and cater to an ever-expanding clientele of therapy patients and workshop attendees. As a nonprofit, the organization assists individuals suffering from everything from addiction and depression to grief and trauma. At the same time, it provides a home for horses who have been injured, abandoned, or neglected.


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Horses roam free at Mancuso’s farm / Photo courtesy of Deanna Mancuso


Now, with ten years of success under her belt, Mancuso has hope for the future. Next up on her to-do list? Create a place for visitors to stay at or near the barn.

“In Dover, there’s no place to stay,” she explains. “We’d love to create an onsite place where people can learn.”

Click here to learn more about Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue and see how you can donate or lend a hand.

Related: Our August Hudson Valley Hero Opens Up a Dialogue on Mental Illness


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