Horse News

Restoring the Female Spirit

Horse sessions help women heal from life trauma, emotional scars

As the temperature sank to 15 degrees Wednesday at Long Shadows Farm in Washington County, NY Valerie Buck warmed up with Whiskey and Budder inside a massive indoor arena.

Horsewoman Valerie Buck with Whiskey, left, and Budder on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, at Long Shadows Farm in Cambridge, N.Y. Buck, formerly with Saratoga War Horse, has started a new equine therapy program for women who have experienced trauma called ACTT Naturally. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

Horsewoman Valerie Buck with Whiskey, left, and Budder on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, at Long Shadows Farm in Cambridge, N.Y. Buck, formerly with Saratoga War Horse, has started a new equine therapy program for women who have experienced trauma called ACTT Naturally. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

Buck, 49, has loved horses since she received a pony for Christmas when she was 12. She became an exercise rider and worked for some of horse racing’s biggest trainers. She met Whiskey and Budder at racetracks while on the job.

Buck stopped riding in 2009 due to serious injuries from falls. She became convinced of the emotional healing power of horses while volunteering as equine manager at Saratoga WarHorse. The acclaimed program in Wilton is dedicated to helping wounded veterans and military service members through interactions with horses. Buck left the organization in September to concentrate on trying to help traumatized women. The organization she founded, Aftercare Continued Thoroughbred Training, or ACTT Naturally, connects retired thoroughbreds with women who are struggling with loss or pain. Buck recently leased stalls for six horses she cares for at her friends’ 165-acre farm, located just outside the village of Cambridge, and started holding day-long healing sessions.

“People kept asking if there was a program for women,” said Buck, rubbing Whiskey on the neck. “We ended up here.”

The confidential sessions mix sometimes intense discussions with horse whispering. They are limited to a handful of pre-approved women. The first sessions were supervised by Buck and certified equine coach Cindy Aldrich of Springfield, Vt. A woman whose son died of a heroin overdose, domestic abuse victims and others attended. There are two sessions scheduled for January. One has filled up.

While Buck manages the horses, Aldrich leads discussions around the cavernous arena, which has an all-dirt floor. Horses demand honesty and can feel when their human handlers aren’t sincere, Aldrich said.

“Horses are like a giant feedback machine,” she said. “They are non-judgmental. They just want your honesty. It’s an amazing gift for healing.”

Buck cares for 12 retired horses, including six at her home. As a professional, she rode Budder, who was once a belligerent and competitive colt named Three Lions, for trainer Todd Pletcher. Budder is now a friendly 11-year-old.

Buck met Whiskey on the backstretch of Saratoga Race Course several years ago. She’s not certain of the horse’s age. The horsewoman makes money through pet-sitting and other personal projects, but hopes to one day be able to offer weekly women’s workshops.

“My heart has always been with the horses that nobody remembers, that need a voice,” she said…(CONTINUED)

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13 replies »

  1. I have always loved Horses, from a very young age , when first introduced to them by my mom,up close and very personal, i have told this story many times on here,no need to repeat………Upon first meeting I was caputed by them, not knowing that later on in life they would save my very soul and sanity !!!! Their healing powers are phenominal, you think you are healing them , but in fact they are healing you !!!!

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  2. We sure do need our “Feel Good Sunday” stories and this is another good one – thanks R.T.

    Love this line: “Horses Demand Honesty”.
    That line brings on a long thought process regarding who I know and which ones like horses – although I think animals in general all demand honesty. On the flip side, anyone who is not at least respectful toward animals cannot be trusted – that’s my opinion, and it is an opinion I have had my whole life.

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  3. Dealing with PTSD, mental illness disorders or addiction, animals have always been there for me. In many ways, the only reason I have not committed suicide is because of them.

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  4. i’m so happy that she is living her dream . i just wish it was so simple to fix all the other injustices going on . they are so important to this life and i’m so happy some people are able to be enrolled in them . i really wish i could.

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    • Dear geri , just wanted to Thank You for your videos , l absolutely love them……I especially loved I am , because it touches we are so much like them….. most assuredly they belong with us !!!!!! Thank You geri !!!!!!

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  5. Amen to all the comments. Life doesn’t always seem fair and can drop some real bombs on you. I always lived horses since I was a small child. While other children to say mommy and daddy, mine was horsey. I was always finding books with horses in them. I have been horseless for almost year since my horse died of colic. I can attest to the fact that my horse’s energy always kept me balanced. Have a bad day go out and ride or just go out to the barn and share some time. Finally people are seeing the value of animal therapy especially with the horses. Their energies are remarkable! I don’t think I can be without one!

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