At Horses for a Change, everyone is welcome. The non-profit provides equine-assisted therapy for those who need it, and riding opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. We spoke with founder and executive director, Nancy Rosen, to find out why she started this unique organization.
Why did you found Horses for a Change?
I’m a social worker by education, training, and experience. I founded a riding school called Frog Hollow Farm around 40 years ago, and I started a small program that I called Horses for a Change under Frog Hollow Farm. At first, I took a couple of kids a year. What became really clear to me was what a stunning environment I had for connecting with troubled kids. Having done therapy in offices, it’s really hard to see adolescents in that context. People are sending them to you to be “fixed” in some way. They are being “fixed” for the school or “fixed” for the parents. There are very few kids who choose to come into therapy.
I always emphasize that horses are not bicycles. They’re living beings that require care, and sometimes, they require that you care for them before you care for yourself. If you get off your horse and you’re hot and thirsty, the horse probably is too. So, get his tack off and get him into water, and then go get yourself water. Horses need to be clean not just to be pretty but to be healthy. When we groom them, we’re searching for skin problems, wounds, and other things. They enjoy being touched. Are you touching them effectively? Are you reading their communication? Caring for horses is about relationships.
You also rescue horses, correct?
We have 17 horses, a mule, a donkey, and a zonkey; which is part zebra, part donkey. We now have a couple of pigmy goats also. The zonkey, mule, and donkey are rescues and so are a number of our school horses. People often send horses to auction when they can’t sell them privately, and they often get bought for meat. The meat trade is huge. We are not a large-scale rescue. It’s really hard to say no to some of these terrible stories and lovely animals, but we have a limit.
Horses for a Change has become a non-profit. Why did you decide to move in that direction?
My wife Andrea Lurie—who is also the President of Horses for a Change—and I are getting older. As it got bigger, we really wanted to make this program self-sustaining. We became a not-for-profit about four years ago. We try to make riding accessible to everybody regardless of abilities and financial means. Obviously, we’re not large enough to truthfully do that, but many of our diagnosed special-needs people can get funding from a variety of social service agencies. Kids with autism get funding from the Autism Society. A variety of places fund both recreationally and therapeutically. We also try to raise scholarship money for people who don’t have the money to ride but know that they need it. I also get a lot of kids who come from domestic violence situations. And not just children, adults as well.
What is the age range of your clients?
We have children who are four years old, and we have people in their 60s. We have quite a number of adults in their 30s and 40s. Some have disabilities, and some are just coming back to something they love, or they want to experience riding.
How does your business fit into the larger movement to revitalize the Hudson Valley?
We are a service organization, and we are providing a surprisingly needed service. Animals and nature are a real human need. We have a path to bring people into contact with both.
What measures to you and your business take to support the local economy?
We employ local people and our volunteer base is local. We try to build community. We are neighbors to Scenic Hudson which is a wonderful community organization. Horses and farm life also requires a lot of stuff, which we buy locally. We support a lot of local businesses.
Why did you decide to become a Current member?
I’m thrilled about Currents. I’m thrilled about the idea of keeping money in the Hudson Valley. Right now, most of our Currents are going to Pivot Ground, which is a wonderful organization that helps with marketing for non-profits.
Interested in riding or know someone who is? Visit horsesforachange.org for more information.