Geoff Redick reports on the "Saratoga War Horse" cast who visit veterans who live there. The group assists veterans who suffer from psychological wounds.
WILTON, N.Y. -- "Even if they don't know you, there's no reason for a boundary. There's no wall. There's trust," said Troy Huggard, "Saratoga War Horse" Graduate.
There is a bond that goes beyond the bridle.
A harmony with horses, that not all are so gifted to understand.
Huggard said, "They speak to you. They talk to you."
At the Saratoga War Horse program, the old thoroughbreds have been through war, of sorts. They are retired race horses.
And the men and women, who spend time with them, have been through hell-and-back themselves.
"I was in the Navy, a Desert Storm vet," Huggard added.
Bob Nevins, "Saratoga War Horse" Founder said, "I did my year in Vietnam."
Judith Maloney-Baxter, "Saratoga War Horse" Graduate said, "I kind of stopped doing things I love, and I kept people and things at a distance."
Veterans of man's war, torn by years of regret and trauma, come here. To talk to animals who only listen.
And to slowly heal what's broken.
Huggard went on to say, "When I was in my dark place, as I call it. I had quit working, wasn't going to school, just, you know, life really stunk."
"Very frustrating to watch it repeat itself, over and over again," said Nevins.
Bob Nevins first had the idea for Saratoga War Horse three years ago, "We're teaching veterans the secrets of how to communicate with another species. They're bonding on a level that the human has never experienced, and that just shatters the walls that veterans have had to build, to protect themselves emotionally."
Communication, bonding and breaking down walls are all concepts shared by actors.
The puppeteers of "War Horse," the latest show at Schenectady's Proctors Theatre, also know a thing or two about intimacy with a horse.
They've operated one, or a puppet, at least, hundreds of times on-stage.
Dayna Tietzen, a "War Horse" Puppeteer said, "If you choose to look at us, you can see us. But pretty quickly, most people say that we just disappear and all they see is a horse."
"It's an emotional journey that will take you on a real rollercoaster, you're so connected by what's going on in this horse's life, that you're swept away by it," said Danny Yoerges, "War Horse" Puppeteer.
On Friday, these two emotional journeys crossed paths.
Nevins went on to say, "What we do is actually work with the veterans, who've gotten to the point that post-traumatic stress is too much."
And one "War Horse" helped to prop up the other.
Tietzen added, "I think it's really meaningful to see it in practice, and to see how it can be used to do such good work, for people who really need it and really deserve it."
"What a horse can offer to a person, in terms of not just an animal companion, but an emotional sounding board, is uncanny. I mean horses have an incredible capacity to communicate with people. And seeing things like this, it's so rewarding," followed Yoerges.
Nevins said, "They're so in touch in this play with the horse, and they bring that horse to life in such a way that you can see, almost, what we do here. We create that connection, that bond."
Already earning national accolades, the gift will now help Saratoga War Horse to stay around for years to come, helping the workhorses of man's wars, to come home.
"I still can't explain what Saratoga War Horse did for me, except to say that I can breathe and feel and start to connect again, with a lot of things that I always kept at a distance," said Judith Maloney-Baxter, "Saratoga War Horse" Graduate.
Huggard added, "You know, I'm standing here giving you this interview, only because this program exists."