The World of Living with Horses

The Event at Santa Fe Showcases Therapeutic Riding Competitors Jones and Maestas

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.