By Alexander Rivero
When Elizabeth Doskotz was a little girl in Rockland County, she attended a nursery school that had loose horses on the property. It did not take long before she wanted a horse for herself very badly. Her mother, who worked with the Girl Scouts, had witnessed another girl suffer a terrible accident while riding a horse and refused to yield to her daughter’s request. It took Doskotz a few years—over twenty to be precise—before she finally got her first horse at the age of 30 and began riding regularly.
“My mother accompanied me the whole way,” laughs Doskotz, remembering those early days of finally fulfilling her dream.
Today, Doskotz owns and operates the Freedom Horse Farm in Long Valley, where she has been living for the past 17 years. At Freedom Horse Farm, the only thing a person needs in order to interact with one of their fine horses is an open heart and a willingness to learn.
“We are absolutely a welcoming facility,” says Doskotz. “We welcome everybody, whether they’re traditional riders or not. We do not separate or distinguish. It’s nice for kids to learn together, and it doesn’t make any difference what their particular abilities or disabilities are. We ride together here. We are all different, but when we’re on a horse, we’re all equal.”
Before getting into what clients can expect to find at Freedom Horse Farm, Doskotz is very happy to talk horses.
“They’re mythical creatures,” she says. “Very intuitive. They can read your feelings and emotions even when you yourself can’t read your own feelings. When we do therapy on the ground, you notice how the horses react, and that’ll give you a clearer picture of how that person’s feeling. They can sense the anger, or frustration, or worry coming out of you, even if you approach them with a smile.”
The trainers’ job is, then, to read the horses for clues as to how to proceed, and not so much to read the client.
“It absolutely works. I don’t know how, but it does. And it’s beautiful, every time. Horses don’t lie.”
The dedicated staff at Freedom Horse Farm start their days bright and early, feeding and turning out each horse at about six in the morning. The horses do not work every day, and work for three-hour sessions before taking a rest.
A rough breakdown of a typical week’s schedule at the farm includes welcoming guests to interact with the horses—whether riding or not—on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, as well as every other Sunday. Certain days are reserved for certain clients, some of which include the VA Medical Center in Lyons, who bring their veterans suffering from PTSD over to the farm for therapy sessions with the horses.
“When the vets are in on Mondays, we won’t allow anyone else to reserve time that day,” says Doskotz. “The same applies for Wednesdays, which is the allotted day for a woman’s trauma unit we serve as well.”
Every third Thursday of the month, the farm offers free riding lessons to the veterans.
“We try to do as much as we can,” says Doskotz.
Freedom Horse Farm offers several services, including Adaptive Riding, which come in 30, 45, and 60-minute spans, with the chance for the person riding to learn how to also groom and tack their horse.
Needless to say, the farm also offers grooming lessons, which usually take about a half an hour.
There is also Equine Assisted Learning, which Doskotz describes as a two-person approach in which the clients will come in, learn about their horse, and learn about themselves through the horse. Riding is optional in this method.
In the fifteen years since Doskotz has been running her farm, she is often amazed at how easily many of the things she has ever wanted or needed has come her way.
“I’ve never had to advertise,” she says. “When we wanted veterans to come, the VA Lyons came to us. When we don’t have enough volunteers, somebody cancels and everything evens out. When there are rainy, cloudy days, it always seems to avoid us and we end up having a wonderful day. There are no accidents, and we’ve been extraordinarily blessed.”
For more information on Freedom Horse Farm, please visit the farm’s website at www.freedomhorseinc.com, or follow them on Instagram @freedomhorsefarm. Elizabeth Doskotz is happy to personally assist anyone interested in more information as well, and she is available at 908-797-4547 (please include your name if texting this number).