EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Saratoga WarHorse helps our veterans every day, using retired thoroughbred racehorses to work with service members who have post-traumatic stress. Now, amidst the pandemic, they’re looking to help out even more.
For many veterans, finding a program to help with post traumatic stress disorder can be difficult, but once marine corps veteran Josh Kaplan found Saratoga WarHorse, it was lifechanging.
“Each veteran and horse work together to accept each other. The only way you can do that is basically go against I was trained to do, and everything I was taught in order to survive,” Kaplan said. “Each veteran will get out of it what they need—I truly believe that—but it makes it very personable.”
Spending three days with a retired thoroughbred racehorse, Kaplan had his doubts on whether or not it was going to work.
“For me, I would say normal triggers for PTSD. You know, being out in crowds, over-aggression I guess you could call it, apprehensionness of just my surroundings,” Kaplan said. “Working with a horse that is four times the size of me and being locked in a pen as the horses running around you, you get the adrenaline rush that most military service members are used to and that’s what we thrive off of.”
One of the biggest challenges for him was using non-verbal communication, but he says it was a connection process like no other.
“I have to work on sliding my shoulders and just letting go of everything that I was feeling at the time. It felt natural to bring the energy down and allow that horse to connect with me through my body language,” The veteran said.
Now amid the pandemic, over 50,000 troops are on the front lines. Saratoga WarHorse Chief Exeuctive Officer Allison Cherkosly says they’re launching the “Military Armed Forces and Racehorses” program, looking to prevent symptoms of PTSD.
“We have an opportunity here to really revolutionize the field of trauma aftercare by intervening at this critical point and preventing the symptoms from worsening that will eventually have a ripple effect into their families, their jobs in their communities and their military units.” Cherkosly said. “So, we want to intervene right away and prevent those things from happening.”
The Military FAR program is set to launch before the end of the year and currently accepting participants.