High & Mighty Extends Services to Children in Foster Care

Grantee Spotlight: High & Mighty Extends Services to Children in Foster Care

On a late afternoon in May, a peaceful silence pervades the grounds of High & Mighty Therapeutic Riding and Driving Center in Ghent, NY. A breeze whispers through blades of grass and chickens tiptoe around the driveway with no apparent destination in mind. One by one, three horses are led out of their stables for a final ride. They – like the volunteers beside them – seem content with the work they accomplished earlier in the day.

High & Mighty is not an average riding ranch. With over 100 expert instructors, volunteers and specialists, it offers equine-assisted activities for children, teens and adults with special needs. Situated on 50 acres with miles of trails, the farm is dedicated to providing a safe environment and helping enhance the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of visitors. 

“Horses are extremely sensitive to our moods, which makes equine therapy so successful,” says Dianne Ortmann, development coordinator of High & Mighty. “Physically, participants improve balance, motor coordination and core strength. Psychologically, their self-esteem improves and their anxiety decreases.” 

Inspired by the results of equine therapy around the country, Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth, which is one of New York State’s leading child welfare agencies, decided to partner with High & Mighty to create a program for children in foster care in Columbia County. The eight-week program, supported in part by Berkshire Taconic’s Fund for Columbia County, incorporates therapeutic horseback riding into the clinical treatment plans of children in care who are working towards reunification with siblings or parents. 

“We believe that equine-assisted therapies for children in foster care can have long-term positive outcomes for their quality of life and their ability to be productive members of society,” says Dianne. “By providing a safe and proven therapeutic environment, we set our children and families up for success here.”

The idea to create a formal program emerged in August 2015 after Berkshire brought 15 children in the foster care system to High & Mighty for a field trip. The kids learned about horse behavior, grooming and riding. As Dianne noted in her grant application, the experience allowed the children to work on social skills, empathy, teamwork, problem-solving and stress reduction. Overall, the trip earned enormously positive feedback from children, employees and volunteers alike. 

“I am lucky to be at a place where we do so much to help people,” says Dianne. “For a small program, we cast a wide net. Receiving funds ensures that we can maintain our high-level programs.”

Click here to learn more about High & Mighty Therapeutic Riding and Driving Center.


A volunteer grooms her horse before an end-of-day ride. Photo by John Dolan