Three acres of the former Beagle Club in Baiting Hollow is now home to the Warrior Ranch Foundation.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed a 10-year agreement with Warrior Ranch Foundation Friday that allows the group to establish their new headquarters at the site.
The Warrior Ranch Foundation was established in 2016 and provides a number of free clinics and workshops to help veterans and first responders cope with post-traumatic stress disorder through horse-training exercises.
The program works with veterans and first-responders to rehabilitate troubled horses in order to make them fit for adoption.
“This is an amazing story of how we got here,” Mr. Bellone said.
He said he was in a meeting with Steve Castleton, the civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, and Eileen Shanahan, the president of Warrior Ranch, when they explained the program to him.
“I have to be honest, it sounded totally unbelievable to me,” Mr. Bellone said. “A foundation that was dedicated to rescuing horses who were going to be put down because they needed rehabilitation, or they needed something to prevent that from happening. The foundation was going to put together these horses and then work with our veterans, the men and women who have served and sacrificed for all of us, to help train them as they transition back to civilian life. As we know, they’ve faced challenges and difficulties that most of us never have to face, as they transition back to civilian life.”
The three acres is part of the former Beagle Club, which was located on a former farm on 170 acres off Edwards Avenue.
The Club’s owners sold the property to the county, but it has sat fallow for 15 years.
The agreement with the county gives the land to the Ranch for no lease, but the Foundation will be responsible for maintenance costs and $100,000 worth of capital improvements to the site.
The barns on that the property that used to be dog kennels will now be restored to house up to 15 horses, according to officials.
“We provide a safe haven of health and well being for veterans, first responders, their families and horses in need,” Ms. Shanahan said Friday.
“We have a special focus on those who have PTSD,” she said. “Our veterans and first responders are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Equine-assisted therapy has been proven to reduce the systems of PTSD. And whether its due to neglect or retiring from a show performance career, there are over 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States.”
Mr. Castleton, a philanthropist and film maker who is on Warrior Ranch Foundation’s board of directors, said the estimate that 22 veterans a day commit suicide is misleading, because for every suicide, there are 25 attempted suicides. He implored the media to get the word out.
“If you see a veteran at Starbucks, buy him an overpriced cup of coffee. If you see a veteran of pizza shop, buy him a slice of pizza. Just say thank you. Sometimes you know what? That’s all the veteran needs that day.”
“I can’t even began to express to you how important today is,” said StaceyAnn Castro-Tapler, a retired Marine who is involved with Warrior Ranch Foundation. She said there are 75,000 veterans on Long Island.
“We don’t know them all, but we owe them,” she said.
Suffolk County acquired the property from the Beagle Club in 2012 for $8.9 million.
While Warrior Ranch Foundation will occupy the three acres fronting Edwards Avenue, the rest of the property is used for hunting and horseback riding, although a permit is required to use any county parks, according to Phil Berdolt, the county parks commissioner.