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Taking care of the horses: an Equine Therapy 502 employee at work.

Photo: Martin Benjamin

No Horsing Around

Equine therapy, which supplements veterinary care, helps the thoroughbreds at Saratoga stay healthy

By Shawn Stone

Thoroughbred horses are magnificent animals—and athletes. Even the most casual fan visiting Saratoga Race Course, which attracts among the finest race horses in the country, can’t help but be impressed by their beauty, speed and power. But like any high-level athlete, thoroughbreds are prone to injury, from slight to serious. So there’s a sophisticated and extensive veterinary support system to keep the horses healthy.

Equine therapy, a relatively new development in the care of horses (racing or not), is based on the knowledge acquired in the treatment of human athletes. It is another way to keep the four-legged athletes at the Saratoga Race Course in top form—and happy.

G. Dianne Volz, whose Kentucky-based company Equine Therapy 502 is in Saratoga Springs for the season, laughs when asked if she rents office space at the track or in town.

“My office is my car,” she says. “I just go to the horses, to the their stalls, which is their comfort zone, their home place, where they’re the most happy and relaxed.”

Asked how many clients she has, she laughs again: “Horses or people?”

Equine therapy is a kind of umbrella term for a variety of treatments that range from simple massage and stretching to the use of diode lights and electronic pulses. If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist, you may recognize some of them: therapeutic ultrasound; low- voltage electronic stimulation; acupressure; cryotherapy (therapeutic use of cold); and other treatments.

Asked what most of her work at the race course focuses on, Volz starts to speak, stops, thinks, and continues: “We do some work as far as treating injuries, but the best work that we do is preventing injuries.”

Volz explains, when asked if the basic goal of stress reduction has physical and emotional benefits for horses, she replies, “Absolutely.”

“We’re like a cross between a physical therapist and an athletic trainer,” Volz says. “So we work out the tight spots before they get the compensatory problem.”

“If you’re hurting, you’re not happy,” she says. “So we go in their stalls . . . [and] we use machines and stretching exercises, and give them 45 minutes to an hour of peace in their day. They go to sleep, and take a deep breath, and wake up and stretch—so it’s a very relaxing, peaceful time for them.”

Volz speaks in a tone of voice that’s familiar to any animal lover. And especially people who love horses.

“I’ve been around horses my whole life,” she says, “and have been practicing therapy for the last 20 years.”

That is essentially how long equine therapy has been around.

“When I started,” Volz says, “there wasn’t an education program available, so I learned through mentoring with different people. Now we have an education program at Midway College in Midway, Kentucky. [It’s the] first education program in the United States for equine therapists.”

A women’s school, Midway College offers a B.S. in Equine Studies (health and rehabilitation), and B.A. and Associates degrees in Equine Studies (equine management).

Volz began her journey into equine therapy through a friend.

“A friend of mine in Lexington, Kentucky—Mimi Porter—is kind of the pioneer in the field,” Volz says. “She was an athletic trainer for the University of Kentucky for the men’s basketball team and traveled with them for 10 years. And decided to apply it to horses. She had been practicing for several years when we met up, and so I worked with her.”

On her Web site, Mimi Porter explains the nature of equine therapy as she defines it: “It is important to understand that we, as Equine Therapists, provide secondary care to horses. That means we follow a complete veterinary diagnosis and maintain open lines of communication with the veterinarian in charge of the case. The [therapist] and the veterinarian confer on the rehabilitation plan for the horse to achieve the best outcome.”

This year’s thoroughbred season, with its mix of spectacular and lousy weather, is flying by. Asked how much time she spends here, Dianne Volz explains, “I come up a week before the meet starts, because I have clients that are already up here. So I come up and get started before the meet gets started, and I’m here to the end. . . . and I have a girl that works for me up here from April to November.”

“Home base for me is Louisville,” Volz adds. “I’m there in the spring and the fall. And in the winter I’m in South Florida for four months, and in the summer, I’m here.”

When asked how long she’s been coming to Saratoga Springs, Volz says, “It’s been 11 years.” And this year? “This season is absolutely wonderful. This is always my busiest meet of the year.”

Saratoga Shots

By Martin Benjamin

Jim Dandy!

The horses leave the starting gate for the running of the Jim Dandy at the Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 1. Kensei won the race.



Special Section: Inside Saratoga



Aug. 13-19

SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs, 587-3330). Sun: Phish.

SARATOGA RACECOURSE (Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, 584-6200). Music at locations throughout the racecourse beginning at 11 AM daily. Thu: Ray Alexander Jazz Quartet, Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers. Fri: Colleen Pratt Band, Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers. Sat: Garland Nelson and Soul Session, Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers, Upstate Bluegrass. Sun: John Kribs and Delia, Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers. Mon: Winchester and Young. Wed: Colleen Pratt Band, Doc Scanlon Trio.

UPBEAT ON THE ROOF (Rooftop patio, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080). Fri: Matthew Loiacono.



Aug. 13-19

9 MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB). Fri: Dave Fisk Quartet. Sat: Pete Sweeney Quartet.

THE ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga Springs, 587-9766). Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.

BACKSTRETCH TAP ROOM AND TERRACE (38 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 584-0130). Thu: Mikki Bakken. Fri: Franklin Micare Duo (5 PM); Cryin’ Out Loud (9 PM). Sat: Sean Rowe, Acoustic Circus. Sun: Sirsy. Wed: Franklin Micare Duo.

BIG APPLE RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE (3246 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 580-0000). Thu: karaoke with Cary Okie.

BRINDISI’S RESTAURANT (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262). Thu, Sun: Al Bruno. Sat: Skidmore Jazz Quartet.

CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu: open mic. Fri: Bill Staines. Sat: Laura Vecchione Trio. Sun: Chris Smither.

CHEZ SOPHIE (Saratoga Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-3538). Fri, Tue: Cole Broderick. Sun: Cole Broderick (10:30 AM).

CIRCUS CAFÉ (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Thu: open mic with Nate Solomon. Sat: karaoke.

THE CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.

GAFFNEY’S (16 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-7359). Tue: open mic.

THE ICEHOUSE (70 Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 261-1766). Thu: the Ginger Brothers. Fri: the Remainders. Sat: Gravity. Wed: Robanic.

THE LOCAL PUB AND TEAHOUSE (142 Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs, 587-7256). Sat: Railbird (1 PM). Sun: Traditional Irish Players (1 PM).

MARE RISTORANTE (17 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-6955). Thu: Latin night.

MOUZON HOUSE (1 York St., Saratoga Springs, 226-0014). Sat: Brian Patneaude Trio.

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Thu: Nat Phipps. Fri: Mo Rancourt Trio. Sat: Joe Finn Duo. Sun: Sam Farkas. Mon: Chris Carey. Tue: Fit Club. Wed: Masters of Nostalgia.

THE PARTING GLASS (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916). Thu: Irish Celtic session. Mon: Solid Smoke.

SARATOGA CITY TAVERN (19 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-3230). Fri: Lucky Ticket.

SIRO’S (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). Thu-Wed: piano bar with Roger Morris.

THIRTEEN (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1316). Fri-Sat: DJ Kamikaze.

TJ’S FLIGHTLINE PUB (20 Saratoga Road, Glenville, 399-8401). Fri, Wed: karaoke with Lenny Thomas. Tue: open mic.

VAPOR NIGHTCLUB (Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, 342 Jefferson St., Saratoga Springs, 584-2110). Thu: country dance and karaoke with Kevin Richards. Fri: Jill Hughes & Body and Soul. Sat: Downtown Fever.

VENUE NIGHT CLUB (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.

VIRGIL’S HOUSE (86 Henry St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2949). Sat: Skidmore Jazz (11:30 AM); Forrest Jenkins (3 PM). Sun: Almost Uncommon Jazz (11:30 AM).

THE WINE BAR (417 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 584-8777). Fri: Patrick Doyle. Sat: Carl Landa.



Comedy Works Saratoga, Club 388, 388 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/14-15, 7:30 PM. Al Ducharme and Bernadette Pauley. $20. 275-6897.




Diamond Dance, Saratoga Music Hall, 474 Broadway at Lake, Saratoga Springs. 8/15, 7:30: beginning swing dance lesson; 8-11:30 PM: largest monthly swing dance. Music by Sonny and Perley’s Jive Five. $15. 587-5132.



Saratoga County Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/17-8/21; 10 AM: Camp Creativity, a weeklong camp for ages 8 to 14; 1 PM: Imagination Rules, a weeklong camp for ages 5 to 7. Both camps include a range of visual arts and performance activities. Visit or call 584-4132.


Museums & Galleries


70 Beekman Street Art Gallery, 70 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 542-6688. Nina Hikari & Regis Brodie: Under His Wing. Through 9/4.

Feast Gallery, 142 Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs. (718) 344-6310. Off Track. Through 8/31.

National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. On Broadway: The Evolution of Dance on the Broadway Stage. Also, Kenn Duncan. Also, Ballet Russes Centennial Exhibit. Also, The C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame. Through Sept. 2009.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Views From the Battlefield . . . Conserving Historic Landscapes. Through 9/26.

Schick Art Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-5049. Nathalie Miebach. Through 10/4. Gallery talk 9/28, 6 PM, Davis Auditorium.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Lives of the Hudson. Through 3/14/2010. Also, Amazement Park. Through 4/25. Also, Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History. Through 8/30.


Farmers Markets

Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.

Saratoga Race Course

Open daily through Sept. 7, except Tuesdays

Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.

Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under 12 free; reserved seating sold separately. Travers Day $5 grandstand, $10 clubhouse.

Parking $10 per car at the trackside and $5 across the street at the Oklahoma Training Track. General parking is free.

Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering on every race.

First Race Post Time is at 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug. 29, when it’s noon.)

Major Stakes Races The Alabama Stakes (Aug. 22); The Travers (Aug. 29); The Woodward (Sept. 5).

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