A group that retrains and finds new homes for former racehorses will be leasing part of the former Saratoga Standardbred horse farm just off the Northway in Malta.
Heading for Home Racehorse Retraining/Adoption Center will be leasing 30 acres from Saratoga Hospital, which now has its Malta Medical Park at the former breeding farm for harness horses northwest of Exit 12.
The lease appears to achieve one of the town’s major long-term goals for the property — to return some sort of working equine operation to a picturesque spot where horses were once prominent.
“I think it’s great news,” said town Supervisor Paul J. Sausville.
The Saratoga Springs nonprofit will be leasing land at the northwest corner of the property, near Raymond Road, as a permanent location to train former racehorses and solicit new homes for them.
“It’s got a lot of connection to the equine history of the area, and a lot of opportunity to expand,” said Joseph D. Battaglia, president of Heading for Home.
The group was founded in 2011. This will be its first permanent location. On the property, there’s an existing 29-stall barn. The group plans to build a new 12-stall barn with an education and resource center.
Heading for Home’s mission is to provide a temporary home for retraining thoroughbred and standardbred racehorses for non-racing activities, with the goal of placing those horses in appropriate homes with responsible owners.
Retired racehorses can become police horses, the group says, or trained for competition as hunters, jumpers, dressage, western pleasure, trail-riding, polo and event horses.
“There’s a nearly unlimited number who need places to retrain and to transition,” said Battaglia, a certified public accountant and standardbred horse owner.
He said the group plans to house about eight horses at a time, with frequent turnover as suitable homes are found for horses that have been retrained for non-racing life.
Saratoga Standardbred, originally 250 acres, operated as a trotting-horse breeding farm from 1981 until the late 1990s. Its pastures and paddocks were a prominent landmark along the west side of the Northway.
After the active farm use ceased, the town received proposals for intensive commercial or residential development there, but rejected them, seeking to preserve some of the open space. In 2011, town officials approved Saratoga Hospital’s plans for a medical complex, but set goals to preserve much of the site as open space with an equine component included in the plans.
The hospital last year opened a $20 million urgent care center there and plans to add other medical facilities.
“There’s always been a big expanse of green space, and wanting some sort of equine component,” said Kevin P. Ronayne, Saratoga Hospital’s vice-president for operations and facilities. “We’ve been talking to Heading for Home for a while.”
Headed for Home signed a 50-year lease for the land.
Some of the horses at the site could be used for human therapy, which is one of the ideas town and hospital officials have discussed. Heading for Home’s board of directors includes Dr. Erin Christopher-Sisk of Saratoga Springs, a counseling psychologist who has used horses in therapy sessions for emotionally troubled patients.
Also on the group’s board are Jennifer Stevens, agricultural economic development specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County and former director of its equine program, and Halfmoon builder Bruce Tanski, a former thoroughbred owner.