SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Nadine Essel didn’t think she could handle one more thing when one of the most important people in her life pushed her to volunteer.  He was battling cancer and was never able to join the horse therapy program at From the Ground Up.  But she never left.

“And I think my connection that he gave me here is what got me through,” she says.  “That being a volunteer, being with the horses, it helped me get through a really tough time in my life, and I’ve been here ever since.”

For 15 years now, Nadine has been one of the volunteers helping people with all abilities and challenges find peace and healing with these magnificent animals.  Today, she’s president of the board of directors of the non-profit organization, and she coordinates the volunteers who work with the horses.

“Just look into their eyes and there’s like a real connection that it’s difficult to find with any other animal and even people.  I mean, they accept me for what I am,” says Nadine.  “They don’t question what my background is or who I am or how old I am.  Or anything else.”

From the Ground Up has been helping people with therapeutic horsemanship since 2002.  Now, thanks to fundraising and grants from the Hoehl Foundation in Vermont and Central New York’s Reisman Foundation, they are able to offer a scholarship program to bring in people who might not have had access before.

There are 30 scholarships available in all.  Each one of them is good for six weeks, one session a week.  All they need is somebody to apply to use them.  The scholarships are intended for underserved young people and especially for veterans, who could use the acceptance and healing powers of horses.

Andrea Colella is co-founder and director of From the Ground Up.  The therapeutic horsemanship program is located in Tully.  They currently have twelve horses.  Most are a little older and have grown calmer with age.  “They are very good at reading us,” says Colella.  “They know our emotions.  They have that sixth sense that lets them know if we’re anxious or afraid or angry.”

Andrea says the horses have a lot to offer veterans who’ve been through traumatic experiences.  “They share several things.  Hypervigilance.  Safety in numbers.  And that communications and that sense of calm can really make a difference.”

The Mental Health Services Scholarships are available now.  They’ve put the word out to local school districts, doctors, therapists, advocacy groups, and hospitals, but applications have been slow in coming in.  If you know of underserved youth or veterans who would benefit from therapeutic work with horses, you can find more information about From the Ground Up, their programs and the scholarships at ftguhorses.org or call 315-238-7014