Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga an asset to its community
May 30, 2024
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Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga an asset to its community

by Mary Eddy

Residents of New York’s Capital Region have access to a unique resource in emotional and behavioral medicine thanks to the important work being done at Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga, a not-for-profit located in Saratoga Springs.

Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga (THS), founded in 2018, is home to a mix of thoroughbreds and standardbreds who have found their second calling beyond the racetrack as therapy aids and ambassadors for racehorse retirement. Through the use of equine husbandry and handling, patients who attend the organization’s sessions learn how to process and cope with trauma and mental illness in a unique and meaningful way.

Megan Koloskie, Development Manager for THS, joined the organization in 2021 and said the past few years have been positive in their growth and outreach.

“We started with three horses and now we have grown significant relationships in the community on both the racing side and with the mental health side,” said Koloskie. “We have been able to continue to get the word out and we now have 28 horses, many of which are responsibly retired racehorses.”

Through trust and mindfulness, Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga seeks to provide healing and wellness to adults and children with mental illness and social difficulties, veterans, families and couples, victims of domestic violence, and others in need of care, while also supporting thoroughbred aftercare and providing a home for racehorses.

ECS Psychological Services, which also operates an office on Church Street in Saratoga Springs, has an additional office on the same site as THS – a quaint farm just east of Downtown Saratoga Springs. Through a partnership with THS, ECS refers patients to the non-profit to work in tandem with traditional talk therapy.

“We help horses and heal humans,” said Kim Weir, Director of Strategic Growth for THS. “We make sure the horses are happy and healthy and use the horse-to-human connection to help the humans. Everyone can benefit from a horse.”

THS was founded by psychologist Erin Christopher-Sisk, who has long strived to bring the latest and most effective therapies in mental health to her community. When Christopher-Sisk and her husband were ready to retire their own standardbred racehorses several years ago, they became aware of the need for responsible retirement for thoroughbred and standardbred racehorses.

After extensive research on the connection between humans and animals, Christopher-Sisk decided that retired racehorses would be a good fit for her to start her own Equine-Assisted Therapy program, allowing her to fulfill both of her missions to help people in her community and racehorses once their racing careers conclude.

“It is fascinating to watch the dynamics,” said Weir. “These horses are working in a second career and are doing work, and it affects us all. It’s a very organic thing, and it’s not a static situation.”

The holistic programming at THS ranges from their signature Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program, to Military and Veteran Services, with each program centered around hands-on activities with the horses that are supported by ECS’s clinicians. Sessions typically take place inside one of the farm’s designated paddocks and include a psychologist and equine specialist alongside the client.

“The primary focus of the psychologist is the well-being of their client and the primary focus of our equine specialists is the physical safety of everyone involved and the emotional safety of the horses,” said Koloskie. “Doing it in a paddock in a big space gives the horses the choice to opt out if needed. Most of our horses enjoy participating.”

Koloskie said spending time with the horses provides clients with a unique way to project and explain their feelings in a manner that is difficult to create in traditional talk therapy.

“The biggest thing equine therapy provides is practical trust and a lot of great metaphors for our therapists to use with their clients,” Koloskie said. “For example, one thing we hear a lot is, ‘Oh the horses don’t like me.’ A therapist can say, ‘Well, why do you feel that way?’ They may respond by saying, ‘When I walked in, the horse walked away from me.’ From there, they can ask if they feel that way in life.”

In addition to helping clients to voice their emotions, Koloskie added horses are also skilled teachers of coping skills and problem solving.

“There’s a lot of ways to work through frustration, too. You can hand a halter to a person who has never worked with horses before and say, ‘put this halter on the horse.’ No one helps them do that, and it helps them develop their own problem-solving skills and to work through their frustrations,” said Koloskie. “If they get really frustrated and give up, then that creates a conversation with the therapist. It’s not always an activity, but it can be. Each therapist works with the equine specialists to find the right horse for their client.”

For their exemplary care of their equine residents, THS is one of 86 organizations accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), as well as the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. The racing community in New York State contributes more than $1.2 million annually to various aftercare programs and initiatives.

Koloskie said THS is unique in that it is a shining example of thoroughbred aftercare, as well as a strong commitment to the surrounding community.

“We are a model for responsible retirement and it’s important to us. We want to work with owners who share that sentiment,” said Koloskie. “I truly believe in the healing power of horses, so it’s really fun to watch that translate and get to share that with people in our community."

Koloskie added one of the hopes of the organization is that their community is made aware of the services they provide both to patients of ECS and to the general public through self-care programs like HorsePlay. This program allows people of all backgrounds to spend time getting hands on with horses in a quiet and fulfilling session Koloskie likened to yoga or meditation.

“Horses are prey animals, so they are super keen observers and always in tune with their surroundings, which helps them kind of pick up on the energy around them,” said Koloskie.

Weir added that THS is a welcoming place for all members of the community to learn from and spend time with horses.

“We want to remove barriers to all who would benefit from interaction with our horses. We have programs that are not therapy, but are access to the horses,” said Weir. “HorsePlay is a supervised, safe horse interaction session with no therapist involved. We also have team building sessions where groups can come in and get a break and open up about communication issues or trust issues. We also have school groups that come in and get experience. Our goal is to take what we have here and make it accessible and find ways that everyone in Saratoga can be involved.”

In addition to the programming available at the farm, THS will also host two upcoming fundraisers for their efforts. “Embrace the Belmont,” a handicapping event and Belmont Stakes preview with Donna Brothers, Acacia Clement, Maggie Wolfendale and Seth Merrow, will be held on June 4 at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, while the Saratoga County Horsemen’s Social is slated for June 13 at THS. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Now in their seventh year of servicing their community, THS has helped hundreds of clients to work through their challenges, and countless other members of the community to connect with horses and support the important work of providing racehorses with a peaceful retirement. Koloskie summarized the meaning of the human-horse connection, and said it is one that cannot be replicated.

“Whatever the participant is bringing with them into the paddock, the energy is felt by the horses and either mirrored or repaired,” said Koloskie. “Our farm, as a whole, is meant to be a therapeutic space. Being outdoors, getting outside – the horses give you a reason to get outside and get some fresh air. I think all of those elements make our program unique and are what make the horses healing, too.”


For more information on Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga and their provided services, visit

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