The World of Living with Horses



I Iove a horse named Superman. He lives at the barn where I ride. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to do a hunter pace on him. My instructor looked and finally found a hunt pace at the Farmington Hunt Club. We signed up and started getting Superman and my trainer’s horse George, fit and ready.

When the day of the pace came, I was so excited. I had barely slept the night before. I arrived at the barn an hour before we had to leave to help wash the mud from the horse’s legs and brush them until their coats sparkled. When we had finished, we loaded them into a two-horse trailer and set off.

I knew we were there when we pulled into a long driveway with trailers lining the sides. My heart pounded. After unloading the horses, we tacked them up and headed to the warm-up area.

I was shaking as my Mom gave me a leg up. I adjusted my stirrups and gave Superman a pat. “We can do this boy,” I whispered softly into one of his Piebald ears. As we warmed up, first trotting then working our way to the canter, I started feeling less scared and more comfortable. Suddenly, my heart dropped to my toes. Someone had told my instructor it was our turn. I sat frozen as she repeated what I had already heard “Remember, its not about speed, its about who can make the best choices of how to ride it.” She said this again and again as we approached the starting line.

There was a lady in a truck holding a timer, ready to click the starting button. “And, GO!” I gave Superman a squeeze and started at a canter. Ahead we saw a very wide stream. “George doesn’t like streams,” my instructor said, “you go first.” I nudged Superman forward. He hesitated at first but then walked carefully through it. My instructor followed me. In front of us was a huge hill. I looked for the pink flags that marked our trail and sure enough they lead up the hill.

“Can we?” I started & my instructor finished for me “Yes we can gallop.” My heart gave a happy leap as I urged Superman on. We took off. The wind blew strands of hair out of my face as Superman charged forward. We crested the hill and it was over too soon. We slowed to a walk and looked around. The view was gorgeous.

We followed the pink flags for another hour, winding through trees leading up a mountain. We jumped coops and logs. At one point we were caught behind another group going through a gate at a slow walk. We could see the finish and were eager to pass them. Finally, we spotted a large log at the top of the next hill and headed toward it at a controlled canter. We cleared it and we were done.

Afterwards, I walked over to my Dad who took my jacket and gave me a piggyback ride to the trailer where Superman was inside drinking thirstily. My bottom was very sore but it was worth it.

Surprisingly the judges thought we were an adult group but I was only nine. After the misunderstanding was cleared up, I was happy to learn we got second place for the children’s division. I have a lot of people to thank for this wonderful experience, Eleyne Fitzgereld for helping me advance in my riding and for finding the Hunt Pace, my Mom and Dad for being supportive and most of all to my wonderful, faithful horse, Superman.

By Lola Clare Manning

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A few years ago, my husband wanted to buy a mule. I thought he was crazy. We live in Washington but he found one in Idaho and we borrowed my brother’s horse trailer to go get it. My brother had a couple of saddles in the trailer that he no longer wanted, so he asked me to try to sell them while we were there.

We got to Idaho and I asked the mule sellers if they were interested in buying the saddles.  They said that they would trade a lightly ridden pack mule for them. Since my brother has a lot of horse experience, I called and asked what he thought. He said sure, bring it home.

My brother put the mule in with his horses who were not thrilled with their new friend. He spent hours trying to catch this mule.  The animal ate all the leaves off my sister-in-law’s fruit trees. His favorite roll spot was turning into a mud hole, and he just wasn’t very friendly.

Eventually, my brother asked if I wanted to put his mule, which he named Buster, in with my husband’s mule so we did. Buster was not a real fan of people. He wouldn’t allow his ears to be touched and didn’t want to be brushed anywhere beyond his neck. People were there to feed him, other than that he really didn’t care much for them.

I spent time with him and, little by little, he ended up coming around. I began riding him in the area around our house and then on the trail. He started to show me some trust and I started to really bond with him.

Buster had a personality like no other. Kind of like a little brother, he would “tease” me and then let me pet, brush and even rub his ears. Over the next year, we became the best of buds. I ended up trading my four wheeler to my brother so that I could keep him forever and never have to worry about giving him back.

I re-named him Gunner, because of the hole in his left ear. It looks as if he was shot; probably why he was so scared of having his ears touched. Gunner and I have ridden many many miles and he takes excellent care of me and I of him.

Last summer we entered in a few events at “Mule Mania” in Dayton, Washington, and my brother came to watch. It was after our first event and I was sitting on Gunner talking with him when suddenly my brother saw the hole in his ear and said, “Hey, that’s my mule” “No Sir” I said “This is MY mule.”

I have another mule now, one that is a little younger and does a few more fancy things. But I still have Gunner. I will never sell or trade him. He means too much to me. I’ve had a couple of people offer several thousand dollars for him now, but he’s not going anywhere. He has a home with me forever.

By Donna Lobdell

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I sat waiting, sitting on my open tail gate watching the sun begin to peak over the horizon.  The slight breeze began to soften with a hint of morning warmth. My paint gelding stood beside me peacefully grazing on the remaining thick dead weeds left on the ground.  Fall had come to this arid stretch of Washington State creating a desolate landscape that seemed to seep into the Columbia River Gorge below.

Taking another sip of my luke-warm coffee I saw headlights peak over the top of the ridge. “Let the fun begin.” I thought to myself somewhat excitedly.  I hopped off the truck, closed the tailgate and took hold of Ringo’s reins. “Time to go boy.” His ears pricked knowing freedom was just a short trot away.

The rest of my posse had already begun to unload horses and fit them with tack. You could see the steam flow from restless nostrils as the horses pranced and reintroduced themselves. It was an orchestra of nickering and stomping. Old friends gathered sharing hugs and stories while trading tack and beverages. Good times as always and the ride had not even yet begun.

By Jennifer Walters


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Nine  years ago when I was 13  my family moved to Oregon where we could finally have horses. We lived down the street from a girl who would later become my best friend. She was a year younger than me and had a sister who was 19. They both had their own horses and loved to ride them all over. We lived next to a mountain that was an amazing place to ride. As we became friends, they invited me to ride with them frequently since I didn’t have my own horse.


We named ourselves the CWI on horses,the “Crazy Wild Indians”. Even though I wasn’t very experienced, I was brave and could hang on well enough to enjoy it. One of the first times I rode with them, we went to the mountain. I was riding the oldest sister’s horse Ty who was the most well trained of the three even though he was the most high-spirited. . When we arrived at a deserted section of the trail, the older sister rode up to me  and told me that we were going to run this part of the trail. I had never  galloped a horse before and I was really nervous. She told me that I had to go first because the horse I was riding was the fastest and had to be in front. I said, “Okay.” then she told me, “Lean forward hold on to the reins and squeeze your legs.”

The next thing I knew I was riding what sounded like a thunder storm on an uphill trail through a forest with trees so close together I had to look ahead, pull up my knees and lean to the side so they wouldn’t get hit. When we finally got to the open field, I hauled on the reins. Ty wouldn’t stop. Panic shot through me. I was never going to stop this huge horse. Then, he heard the other horses behind him. He stopped and walked back to join them.

You know that expression, “Going so fast tears stream down your face”? The whole ride, I could feel my eyes watering and the tears running down my cheeks. It was one of the scariest, dumbest, and most fun things I’ve done in my life. I’m sure if my mom had known about it she would never have never let me do it. But I was so young and clueless. I didn’t know how dangerous it actually was. I didn’t realize it would remain one of the best memories I have.

By Liesel Langstraat

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In 1997, while my father was stationed in Woomera, South Australia, we were always attending the base activities events, if for no other reason than to escape the desert and experience more of the wonderful foreign country we were living in.  The latest adventure: trail riding in the Pichi Richi hills of South Australia!  Being a horse lover, this was completely up my alley.  I was 16, and adored my dad, so this was another great way to spend time with him.  We signed up, along with about 20 other base residents, to go on the ride.  It was presented as a gentle ride, for any skill level.

The morning of the ride came in dark and dreary.  Some folks dropped out, on account of the threatening skies, but the rest of us boarded the bus and made the 3 hour trip into the hills.  Mother Nature did not make an empty promise.  We pulled into the dirt parking lot in a deluge of rain.  Expecting the ride to be canceled, we were all surprised to hear it was still scheduled.  We could see a couple of young men hustling around, saddling and bridling the horses in the rain, their feet stamping impatiently, their heads tossing against the reins.  A few nervous questions were tossed at them from the anxious tourists waiting outside the corral.  The men said the “Trail Boss” would be out in a minute to go over safety procedures and get us mounted and on the trail.

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This might not be what you are looking for but as a lifetime rider at age 64, this has stayed with me as my favorite ride.

As a child, my parents use to take my sister and me to the Homestead, in Hot Springs, Va. I was the horse nut, my sister was a swimmer. As years passed and my riding improved they finally let me take horses out on the trails alone without a guide. Quite a priviledge back then. I had learned all of the trails and they would wind up and down the mountians, pretty much the same scenery woods, streams and the golf course.

Soon I was able to choose my mount from their stable, I was at that time 16, and a total nut and still am for a good looking gray mare! Well, there she was pretty as a painting and sweet and quick, so off we went. Well, I got to a fork on the trail and decided to go left, never having taken that route.We rode up and up the mountain thru the woods, still on the trail but deep and dark. At the top it suddenly opened up and I was looking down thru my beautiful pair of grey ears in front of me, at this plush green, rolling pastured farm, with sheep, large boulders, purple flowers, a bold creek, gold finches everywhere, and a beautiful old country cottage. No one was there, but the horse trail lead down thru this fairytale scene, past the sheep, flowers, over the creek, past the cottage, up the hill, until we were swallowed up by the woods again and descended down the mountain back the long trail to the hotel.

To this day, I often wonder about that place, who lived there, how did it get up there. But mostly I enjoy the magical ride I shared only with a beautiful grey mare as fleeting as that ride. Thanks for letting me share this.

By Maureen Brown

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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.

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It was a cold November day in Taos. The mountains had received a couple inches of snow. We thought it might be our last chance to ride the high country outside Red River, as the snows would soon be heavy. My daughter, then 13, and I headed out from the top of Bobcat Pass in wind and driving snow. Once we got into the trees, all was silent. The termination dust barely covered the downed aspen leaves.

We had her horse Buddy, who had won the trail event at Arabian youth nationals that year at the age of 21, and my half Arabian. (Buddy is part angel, if you define angels as creatures who change lives. He took her places she could only dream of—she is now in veterinary school at Colorado State University because of him.) We got to a lookout where you can see the entire upper valley, and the east and middle forks of the Red River converge in the distance. We wanted to have lunch but the wind was howling.

We headed down the trail a ways to a quiet aspen grove. The trees were bare but the ground was carpeted a foot thick with the leaves. We stopped, found a good log to sit on, and let the horses graze in the grasses remaining from summer.

We heard an elk call.  We looked up to see one about 50 yards away. Then there were three more, bugling to their mates to come see us.  Buddy the angel horse has a way of attracting eagles and elk to wherever we ride.  This day, we ended up being surrounded by at least 50 elk that made a circle around us, bugling back and forth.

What a moment that was, encapsulating all the splendor of the high country. By the time we finished our lunch, the herd moved on down the mountain, no doubt to seek more shelter from the impending storm. We mounted up and rode back to our trailer, barely making it before nightfall.  We shivered and got in the truck to have some hot chocolate. The memory still brings a tear of joy, because I know few people ever get to see such a wonder.

By Susan, Taos, NM

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