The World of Living with Horses

Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding is located in Santa Fe and serves northern and central New Mexico. They are a member center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). We offer recreational therapy with horses for people facing physical & emotional challenges. To learn more go to

How did you learn about Listening Horse?

I read a flyer posted in the window where I had been getting treatment. The brochure lay around for a few months in a pile of papers before I called.

Is there one particular horse you’ve bonded with?

Promise, but only because I spent the most time with her. I think I was just lucky with her.

Alex & Promise helping on a trail ride

Did you have concerns or worries about joining a program incorporating large animals?

I was a little concerned because I had some injuries that were still healing. When I was in the old guard I had been thrown off a horse at a gallop. I knew there were risks involved with working with horses but the program turned out to be about more than just riding a horse.

Name one lesson you took away from the program that benefited you the most.

Animals and nature can help manage my condition, and life is worth living. Before I got in touch with Listening Horse, I had already been spending a lot of time in the wilderness by myself. I was indifferent to life and aggravated by people and the wilderness was the only place I knew that made sense to me. But even though the wilderness was where I was going, I felt that I was just on the outside looking in, that the sacredness of the outdoors was just something for me to look at but not experience. Gus and Promise helped change that for me. I spent a lot of time with Promise. I learned that I could reestablish my connection to nature with her. When I was with her, I felt like I was a part of nature, that I still had a place in the world and that I was reconnecting myself to life instead of just fleeing. I felt like I was restoring myself and finding meaning. I wanted to get a horse that I could be with all the time, but it wasn’t practical living in the city. Awareness of the power of animals and nature as calming agents also led me to Abigail. I would tell you she is a dog but that doesn’t feel right, just like I don’t think of Promise as a “horse.” Promise is Promise. Abigail is Abigail. They are beings.

How would you like to see this program made available to more veterans in need of its benefits?

I think that the doctors and therapists involved with our troops should be educated in the power of animals and nature to salvage us. I think we have a tendency to try to solve our problems with new drugs and new machines. When we are injured, when we have been shattered by the “human” world, it makes sense that we treat ourselves not with more human technology, but with our most ancient connections, animals. Sometimes our ability to even perceive this connection is severed or severely impaired. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this connection has been challenged until something catastrophic happens. Sometimes it is too late to come back. Listening Horse helps veterans connect to this latent care for life that exists in all of us, even those that have been irreversibly brutalized or shocked. I spend 3 or 4 days a week in the WDS with Abigail. That immersion helps me to manage the functions of life: shopping, driving, cooking, cleaning, etc. I don’t think I would have fully learned and then implemented these coping mechanisms without this program and the people and animals in it. I think many more veterans could benefit from Listening Horse, but I don’t think veterans are aware of the program and how it can help them because the information isn’t getting distributed outside of the VA. I hope this changes.

Alex & Sugar riding by Rio Grande

Alex & Sugar riding by the Rio Grande

Share your comments on Interview with Alex Limkin of Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding

Share your comments on Photos of Jones & Maestas in the 2012 NMCTR Team Challenge Trophy

Julie Jones, Thomas Maestas from New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding to Compete in Team Challenge Trophy Saturday August 18 at 12 Noon in the Santa Fe Equestrian Center.

JULIE JONES, 52 years old, began riding in 2000 when her family moved to horse country — Portales,  NM. She’s been involved with the Special Olympics for many years. When her family came to New Mexico,  Julie’s mom, Keytha, found a Special Olympics program in Clovis that had an equestrian component.  In 2011, Julie won the Gold bowling medal in the state and regional competition.

Julie was initially afraid of getting on a horse. Mastering that fear allowed her to discover her love of riding and its value in reducing stress and managing her anxieties. Keytha Jones said riding has been a wonderful way for her daughter to build self-confidence. Julie, she said, sits naturally on a horse and has attained a sense of mastery.

Julie decided to compete in The Event in Santa Fe this year because she was impressed by the performance of a friend who rode in it last year.  She was thrilled when the New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding (NMCTR) asked her to participate. She rides once a week for an hour at the center.

Julie will be riding Diego at The Event.


Thomas Maestas rides Jackpot in the 2011 Team Challenge Trophy


THOMAS MAESTAS, 22 years old, has cerebral palsy and is legally blind and deaf. That hasn’t quelled his passion for horses and riding.

Thomas started riding when he was 10 years old. He wasn’t able to pursue it seriously until his mom, Jan, found the first of what would be a series of programs for “challenged” riders. At one point, Thomas was riding in three programs. When Jan discovered NMCTR she said she realized it was the perfect regimen for her son. Thomas now rides for 35 minutes each week.

Because of his disability, Thomas experiences a 3 second processing delay when interacting with the outside world. When working with a horse for the first time, he wouldn’t immediately understand that he was facing a horse and would be frightened by what he perceived as a new and novel situation.

That changed when he went to NMCTR, his mother said. Jeannie Sharp, the director and a PATH  (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) therapist, introduced him to Tosca. The connection was immediate; Thomas wasn’t thrown off by the 3-second delay.

Thomas now has no fear of horses. He rides all the horses at the Center. They in turn love him. He started riding with a lead rope and two people on each side.  Today, he rides independently with an instructor walking along side him. The first time he rode alone, his instructors and aides realized that he instantly remembered everything he was taught. Since he cannot see the letters posted around the ring for dressage exercises, he memorizes the pattern for each exercise.  When he started riding he was hunched over.  Now, he stands tall and his legs are relaxed.  On Saturday, for the first time, he will ride with stirrups.

Jan Maestas said Thomas loves to ride alone because this is the only time in his life when he is truly independent and free. He smiles the entire time he is riding, she said. His relationship with Tosca, a 30-year-old, is special, she said.  Everyone is always telling him what to do; with Tosca, he is in charge.  Thomas rode in last year’s Team Challenge. He had trained on Tosca but at the last minute he had to ride  Jackpot. Jan said Jackpot thinks he is the stud of NMCTR. The minute Thomas got on him, Jackpot settled and  was perfect after one day of practice. This year Thomas will ride Tosca.

“It takes someone very special to do what Jeannie and Amanda do, it’s been hard to find people who really appreciate my son,” Jan said in a recent interview.


The NMCTR is a nonprofit therapeutic horseback riding program that serves children and adults. The center is a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) member center.  PATH-certified instructors design each lesson with the following goals: physical development, emotional growth and intellectual simulation. They conduct 10-week sessions for individuals and 8-week sessions for school groups. Participants come once a week. NMCTR operates with 9 horses, 2 certified PATH instructors and more than 50 volunteers.

Donations can be made at  90 percent of donations goes to helping riders and horses.

Share your comments on The Event at Santa Fe Showcases Therapeutic Riding Competitors Jones and Maestas

The New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding stages its own competition for The Team Challenge Trophy.  Events start August 17 and continue for three days at Goose Down Farm and the Santa Fe Equestrian Center.


The Event at Santa Fe will host Intermediate through Pre-Competition Classes August 17-19, 2012, featuring Area X Intermediate Championships, Young Event Horse Classes, the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award for an amateur and a junior rider  as well as the NMCTR Team Challenge Trophy.  Approximately 50 riders are expected to compete this weekend.

Performance Schedule:

Goose Downs Farm is located on 350 acres south of Santa Fe in the Galisteo Basin. The cross-country course is set in a stunning high-desert landscape. Jeffray Riding and Tom Angle started Goose Down in the early 1980’s. The site is now the premiere 3-day eventing center in the Southwest offering a training program along with clinics with well known eventers such as Mike Huber.

Mike Elmore & Atticus riding the GD course


Santa Fe Equestrian Center is managed by Terry Berg, an experienced professional trainer and barn manager, and Anne Wilson, the general manager. They feature boarding facilities, an indoor arena, five outdoor arenas and world-class polo fields in a dramatic setting.

An arena has a view of the polo fields.

The Horse Shelter, founded in 1999, is currently at full capacity with 69 horses. It is expanding to accommodate up to 75 horses.  Of the 69 horses,  30 are 10 years old or younger.  Many are wonderful candidates for adoption. Recently, the Santa Fe County Fair Queen adopted a horse and is training it for barrel racing.  The center takes only horses from the NM Livestock Board and other government organizations. A recent article in the Santa Fe New Mexican provides additional information  Donations can be made at Some 92 percent of donations help the horses.


NMCRT & The Team Challenge Trophy:

The NMCTR and Goose Downs Farms organize an original parallel event — the Team Challenge Trophy. The teams consist of NMCTR riders competing in dressage, international-level riders competing in the show jumping and New Mexico Pony Club riders competing in the cross country. The NMCTR riders this year are Julie Jones and Thomas Maestas. We will be posting on Thomas’s and Julie’s stories on Thursday August 15


The NMCTR is a nonprofit therapeutic horseback riding program that serves children and adults. The center is a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) member center.  PATH-certified instructors design each lesson with the following goals: physical development, emotional growth and intellectual simulation. They conduct 10-week sessions for individuals and 8-week sessions for school groups. Participants come once a week. NMCTR operates with 9 horses, 2 certified PATH instructors and more than 50 volunteers.

Donations can be made at  90 percent of donations goes to helping riders and horses.

The Event at Santa Fe:

In the upcoming posts we will be reporting on each of the events scheduled over three days starting Saturday, August 18.

NEXT: Profiles of NMCTR’s Competitors Julie Jones and Thomas Maestas See



Share your comments on The Event at Santa Fe

My passion for photography started at an early age. I have traveled the world photographing wildlife for the past 28 years and in 2000 I started my photography business, Living Images by Carol Walker, focusing specifically on photographing horses. I teach workshops for amateur photographers on equine photography.  My commercial work can be found in leading horse magazines and catalogues covers. I have written several books, one of which, “Wild Hoofbeats and Horse Photography”, focuses on photographing wild horses.  It can be found at One of my passions is saving our vanishing wild horses, if you would like to learn more please visit my website .

Share your comments on Carol Walker

As a professional photographer, what is it about horses that made them your area of focus? 

I have always loved horses as a little girl and I’ve owned horses since I was 12. I’ve done a lot of things in my life from being a psychologist to an owner of a boarding facility.  Twelve years ago I started photographing horses professionally. I chose to focus on horses because I am familiar with them & I have been around them my whole life.

Wild horses are my main area of focus. I have adopted three wild horses which I have been photographing since they were very young.  As a professional photographer I believe it is important to have an area of expertise. I feel that a person that spends six months in Kenya is going to have better photos of Kenya than I would.

Of the places you’ve traveled, what was your favorite shooting experience and why?

Antarctica. It was the trip of a lifetime. I loved the penguins! The land is very dramatic and beautiful. This past year I traveled through CO, WY and MT photographing wild horses.

What is your favorite environment to shoot in? You’ve done portraits, wildlife, followed herds, etc.:

I love shooting in the snow. I love horses running in the snow. One of my favorite things to capture in a shot is a domestic horse running free, with no tack, no rider…I just love that.

How do you spend your time between shooting, editing & related activities?

I spend a lot of time working on the Internet and getting prints sent out. About 15% of my time is spent shooting which is not a lot and it’s my favorite part, spending time with the horses and photography. As a photographer, you have to be flexible &  be able to do many things. I create fine art prints, sell stock photographs, a yearly horse calendar, portraits of people and their horses as well as publish books. I love creating books which you can find on my site

You take a lot of photos – how do you manage the editing process? What do you look for in the “perfect” photo that ends up on a book or on your site?

After I download and look at everything I ask myself: Is that what I want to be in focus? How does the light look? Does the horse look beautiful or does it look awkward? Sometimes you luck out and you get an outstanding image. I probably only ever market 1-2% of my work as fine art prints. If it’s a “good” image I’ll use it in a book or as stock photography.

Share your comments on Interview with Carol Walker (Part 1) by Mikey Dehner

My daughter Ginger started riding when she was 3.5 years old and still rides to this day!  At the time, her physical therapist suggested it to help with her muscle control which we eventually found out was due to cerebral palsy.
It was a summer riding program on the beautiful grounds of The Winery At Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, CO. There were 3-4 children in each class & several adults & volunteers walking next to each child. I remember my tiny little girl next to this huge white horse. Ginger walked straight up to her horse with no fear & leaned in close to “hug” her horse placing her little tiny head on his great big chest and wrapping her arms around him as far as she could reach. Then she got on that huge white horse & rode like she was born to ride. From that moment on, she was the happiest kid in the world on the back of a horse! It was our first experience with total freedom for her!At the time Ginger was 3 1/2  years old and just learning to walk. For Ginger, the horses gait while riding helped re-pattern and actually taught her body how to walk and move. It was a turning point in getting her to connect with her body and send the right signals to her brain about how to move her body and control her muscles. She recognized the rhythm of walking on a horse which she was able to translate into walking herself. After that her walking improved as well as her physical strength & ability to move.
This summer riding program was life changing for Ginger and memorable!  At one point during this month long program, we witnessed a life another changing miracle!  A little boy, 5 or 6 years old, who had autism, was placed on the same horse with Ginger and as he wrapped his arms around her waist, they started to walk and move with the horse around the arena, then it was as if a light bulb went off and we watched in awe as this little boy who rarely spoke opened up and started to talk to her in full sentences as if telling her a story!  He continued to talk the whole time they were riding much to the joy of his mother & grandmother who were watching in tears as they witness this little miracle. It was one of the most powerful & beautiful moments I have ever experienced with horseback riding. The horse, Ginger & the little boy had this uncanny connection and a few moments of PURE FREEDOM!
By Maryann Baker
Share your comments on The Power of Horseback Riding- Ginger’s Summer Ride

GarboI managed a horse ranch for a woman who lived in Santa Fe. We adopted two premarin mares. Premarin is a female hormone replacement drug for women. The primary ingredient comes from pregnant mare’s urine. It was a horrible process keeping horses locked in stalls collecting their urine. A lot of operations shut down in Canada & 2-3000 horses needed homes.

The shot of Garbo was taken when she was released for the 1st time in her life in a pasture after 15 years in a stall.

Share your comments on Garbo – By Tony Stromberg

Spanish mustang stallion War DancerThis is photograph of a Spanish mustang stallion named War Dancer. This shot was taken at Cayuse Ranch near Devils Tower, WY. Cayuse Ranch was started by Bob Brislawn.

He realized that the wild mustang were close to Spanish mustangs & started the Spanish mustang registry. His ranch is devoted to bringing back those pure blood lines. Even though these horses are bred, they are virtually wild & are never kept in paddocks.

Share your comments on War Dancer