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Equine Arena and Learning Center Offers Programs for Veterans and Others

Baltimore County officials celebrated the grand opening of an equestrian and learning center at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park in Cockeysville, announcing that it is named in honor of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who passed away suddenly on May 10. Baltimore County Council Chair Julian E. Jones, Jr. led the ceremony, which featured the unveiling of a banner depicting the name, Kevin Kamenetz Arena.

The Kevin Kamenetz Arena is a multi-use facility that primarily serves as an equine arena and learning center hosting ground-based equine experiences for veterans and others, including programs operated by the New York based non-profit, Saratoga WarHorse. The overall equine operation occupies 12.7 acres including two barns, pasture and paddock space and a 9,600 square-foot arena with classrooms. The arena features a sandy surface, and it is available for equine programs as well as other events.

“Opening the Kevin Kamenetz Arena is a natural expansion of the educational mission of our agriculture center and it will provide powerful therapeutic and mental health resources to help veterans and others overcome obstacles in their lives,” said County Council Chair Jones. “Naming it the Kevin Kamenetz Arena is a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to serving the public and making sure that government fulfills its role of helping those most in need,” he said.

The grand opening event, held in May, which is Military Appreciation Month, comes one day after the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore.

Saratoga WarHorse Foundation Program at Kevin Kamenetz Arena

Baltimore County executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Saratoga WarHorse Foundation for them to assist veterans who are suffering from psychological wounds by providing a confidential, personalized equine-assisted experience that has proven to be effective for those struggling to adjust to life after military service.

The equine-assisted experience is an immersive program where a handful of veterans participate as a cohort group for a three-day program of classroom and one-on-one ground-based sessions with a horse. The equine programs do not involve horse-riding.

This life-changing program is available free of charge to participants. Saratoga WarHorse Foundation is privately funded through donations and assumes the cost of operating the equine programs, including off-site room and board for participants. Per the terms of the MOU, Baltimore County pays no operating costs for the equine programs, but the County funded the $2.96 million construction of the equine facility and pays for maintenance and the care and feeding of the rotating herd of horses.

“Saratoga WarHorse is so thrilled and honored to have this collaboration with Baltimore County,” said Bob Nevins, founder of Saratoga WarHorse Foundation. “This will ensure that the program will be open to assist more veterans in need.

The Kevin Kamenetz Arena adds a third location for Saratoga Warhorse to operate, in addition to their current locations in Saratoga Springs, New York and Aiken, South Carolina. Saratoga WarHorse plans to begin with two sessions per month at Kevin Kamenetz Arena, with the first session beginning on Monday, May 21.

Some Enthusiastic Program Testimonials

Former Saratoga Warhorse program participant, Gail Watts, spoke during this afternoon’s event. Watts is Baltimore County’s Director of Corrections and a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant who served overseas in multiple deployments. “When you come home from deployment, it’s a very hard transition and soldiers who have experienced trauma often feel that they can’t really talk about it with civilian family and friends, and there can be a stigma about talking to doctors,” Watts said. “I was skeptical when I went through the program, especially having had no previous experience with horses, but I can’t even put into words the unexplainable connection I had with my horse and the amazing breakthrough I experienced. It was almost like the horse could relate to what I had been through.”

Baltimore County Fire Lieutenant Steve Mooney, who serves as a Chief Master Sergeant with the Air National Guard, and has been deployed five times, also participated in the Saratoga WarHorse equine experience. He said, “When you get in that ring with a 1,300 pound animal, it’s intimidating, but the next thing you know your horse is following you around like a puppy and it’s an amazing feeling. I never thought it would be such a game-changer, but I recommend it to any veteran. I think that anyone who has been deployed experiences some level of anxiety and this type of program offers a different perspective on how you look at things and it’s a great tool for dealing with stress.”

About the County’s Herd of Horses

The County’s rotating herd of thoroughbred horses at the Kevin Kamenetz Arena will range from 10 to 18 retired racehorses. The horses are provided by:

- The Foxie G Foundation, a local non-profit that provides rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of thoroughbreds through a permanent retirement and adoption program, and

- Sagamore Racing, a thoroughbred horse breeding farm on Belmont Avenue in Reisterstown owned by Kevin Plank.

Other Equine Programs Planned for Kevin Kamenetz Arena

In addition to the MOU with Saratoga Warhorse, the County is talking with representatives of EquiTeam Support Services, a southern Pennsylvania program that practices programs of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.  Discussions are underway about the possibility of their providing equine-assisted therapy for veterans that incorporates professional psychotherapy and offers a continuum of care for participants.

The County is also in discussions with the Connected Horse Project about the option of their expanding their operations to add programming at the Kamenetz Arena, where they would work with individuals with early stage dementia and their caregivers.


By Michael Schneider, Baltimore County Department of Recreation & Parks

Spooky Story Campfire. Pokemon Late Night Madness. Wicked in the Woods. Yes, there are lots of Halloween events scheduled throughout Baltimore County’s parks and nature centers. But don’t let that stop you from discovering other ways to have fun, adventure, exercise and maybe learn a thing or two. Get your fill of the Halloween spirit(s) and more. 

Come October, the colors of  Baltimore County's 200 parks are absolutely spectacular. Take the time to take in the colors. Pictured, the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park in Cockeysville.   

Sunday, October 1

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Programs are run by Baltimore County Recreation and Parks and Nature Council volunteers. Many programs are free, but some ask for a donation or have a small fee. Be sure to check the websites to confirm times and locations. 

This is no trick, but indeed, a real treat. Happy Halloween and happy October!


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017