Horses & Healing

We are thrilled to be attending Saratoga WarHorse Foundation's Winner Circle Affaire on Monday & will be bringing you all the party details coming up, but first we wanted to share one of our first posts on The Saratoga Social, an interview with Bob Nevins. We were so moved by his passion and the Saratoga WarHorse program and think you will be too, so give it a read and go snatch up a ticket to Monday's event. We will see you there! 

Earlier this week we had the opportunity to meet Bob Nevins, founder of the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation, and chat with him about the remarkable success he has had with a unique approach to treating veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about Saratoga WarHorse we think you’ll be pretty amazed about what has been going on in our backyard for the last few years. The Saratoga Warhorse Foundation is a remarkable marriage between two things our community holds in the highest esteem; the heroes who have served our country and our thoroughbred racehorses. Mr. Nevins was a medevac pilot for the 101st Airborne during the Vietnam war, after which he spent 24 years as an airline captain. He now devotes his efforts full time to the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation which has received national acclaim for their groundbreaking approach and success in treating PTSD.

The WarHorse program is built around a three day experience, provided to veterans at no cost.. Each participant’s experience is personalized to best address their unique experience and centers around interactions with retired thoroughbred racehorses.  

What inspired you to start Saratoga WarHorse?

 As a country we were experiencing record high levels of suicides in our veteran population. We’ve been in the midst of a crisis that has been getting worse, not better. I found as average citizens we were asking what we could do to help our veterans, but ultimately no one seemed to have an effective solution for dealing with the problem.


 How is WarHorse different in its approach to treating PTSD?

 We find that overwhelmingly, veterans with PTSD or victims of sexual assault are so emotionally numb and disconnected, traditional talk therapies can’t reach them. When we put our thoroughbreds in a ring with these men and women, there is a procedure through which the horse and human come together. Guided by our team, the veteran’s stress slowly begins to be relieved as they form a bond with the horse through nonverbal communication. The connection that is established in those moments seems to trigger a chemical or neurological shift that marks the beginning of a recovery.

The process begins at Willow Run Stables

The process begins at Willow Run Stables

In essence what we are seeing is that our participants are able to start feeling again. When one of our horses walks around a participant and then comes over to just nuzzle them for the first time, the emotion that moment produces is something talk therapy just can’t access.


Can you tell us about some of the people who have been through the WarHorse program?

The people who are coming to Saratoga WarHorse are truly in a desperate way due to their PTSD. Talk therapy hasn’t helped them, they have suicidal thoughts and are looking for an out. We have seen everyone from younger vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam veterans who have been suffering for over 40 years. What we are trying to do is keep the younger generation from having to suffer the way they did, by helping them reconnect with their families, children and society.


What can Saratogians do to help support your efforts?

Part of what I am so proud of is how the Saratoga community has reached out to the Veterans who come to Saratoga WarHorse. When our participants graduate the program and leave, all they keep saying is how well everyone in our community treated them, and wow, we didn’t know people really cared like that. After I started the program people came to us exclusively from word of mouth. Now, as news about the success of our program spreads, we are getting calls from all over the country from therapists to family members. The best way Saratogians could help our program would be to share the information about what we are doing. We all have a friend, relative or someone in our life that is a veteran and is dealing with issues that we aren’t necessarily talking about.

Where would you like to see Saratoga WarHorse 5 years from now?

I want to establish Saratoga Springs as a national center for this type of healing as well as continue to grow our Aiken, South Carolina location. I would like us to be able to support seeing a minimum of 500 veterans a year and have a strong foundation in place for the future. We have heard from the Pentagon that we will be dealing with these issues for generations to come, so sustainability is crucial.

 For more information about Saratoga WarHorse Foundation and their incredible work with veterans, check out their website right here. 


Posted on August 19, 2015 .