Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding

Zorro and Ian ©Jack Hicks

The old man gently, quietly grooms his horse. As a young man in World War II, he faced the unspeakable horror of entering Dresden to save US prisoners of war after the bombing, so many soldiers were so severely burned. The sights, sounds, and smells are still with him, but once a week his focus shifts to the bond he shares with his horse.

A sweet twelve year old girl rides tall on her horse. She is diagnosed with selective mutism. She is withdrawn, does not speak and rarely makes eye contact with others. Her mother says this once a week riding session carries her daughter’s spirits all the week long.  After just a few sessions of riding, the girl is more confident.

This is the magical, transformative bond of horse and human fostered by Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding and its PATH International Equine Services for Veterans and Military Program. Gus Jolley, the founder of Listening Horse and a veteran himself, explains it this way: “I wanted to give back to military veterans and people who are looking to improve their way of life. What the horse has given me to help create a positive outlook, I wanted to give to others. I didn’t start this program alone. Friends and program volunteers have made Listening Horse the success it is today.”

Each participant is assigned a horse, an instructor and a volunteer. The participant begins with grooming and groundwork, which establishes the human as the leader and creates a bond of trust between the two. These exercises foster living in the moment rather than remaining rooted in the past or in fear or pain. And of course, the horseback therapy gets people out in the fresh air, working their muscles as they calm their minds.

“Winter Grass” by James Roybal

Since it started in 2008,  Listening Horse has served over 145 people, ages 5 to 88, facing the challenges of PTSD, autism, traumatic brain and physical injury, cancer treatment and recovery, issues of at risk youth, and an array of emotional and physical challenges. Listening Horse has over 50 volunteers and 10 instructors trained to work with people with disabilities; all give their time freely and for free. Operated from March through November, the program is free to participants who may participate in the program for as long as they wish. Listening Horse provides therapeutic riding to the big brother and sister matches of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New Mexico and works with many veterans organizations in Santa Fe.

The nonprofit organization relies on generous donations from individuals, fundraisers and grants to continue and expand the program. There is a waiting list. This is where you can help.

by McCreery Jordan

Listening Horse is holding a raffle of the art shown here, generously donated by McCreery Jordan and James Roybal  of Santa Fe. Tickets are priced at 1 for $10 and 3 for $25. The drawing will be held at 7 p.m. on December 19 at the Santa Fe Brewing Company in Eldorado. You need not be present to win. For further information, to purchase a raffle ticket or just write them a big fat check, call 505.670.3577.  Mailing address: Listening Horse, Box 8960, Santa Fe, NM 87504. The participants thank you, Listening Horse thanks you, and horses Sugar, Zorro, Doc, Promise and Jack thank you, too.

“New Mexico Treasures” by James Roybal



  1. Betsy says:

    Hi Susan- Thank you for posting this tribute to Listening Horse. As a volunteer in that program, I can testify that it is a wonderful, magical way to work with folks who are challenged in many different ways. Horses just know. They bring so much into our lives and our hearts. – Betsy

  2. dena says:

    dear susan, this blog and site is wonderful. thank you for bringing attention to listening horse. this past summer and fall, i was a participant for assistance with residual issues related to two traumatic brain injuries. i am in awe at the volunteers’ compassion, patience, understanding, and gentle guiding hands. i am also in awe of the strength and love i received from my horse, jack. i have had numerous types of therapies over the years, but equine therapy and learning to be present through jack has taught me more about myself and has given me confidence that all is possible. i love the dedicated people involved in this program, and the horses know…as said someone else has said…their purpose, and they honor it well. we are all blessed to have all of them…people and equine partners…in our lives. thank you for sharing this with the world!

    • Susan Tungate says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I hope people will support Listening Horse by buying a raffle ticket or just making a donation. Susan

      • dena says:

        hi, again, susan. i hope people will donate…is there any way you can provide their mailing address? i will be sending your site to friends out of state….if they go to listeninghorse.org to make a donation, pay pal takes a cut (which is fine…they need to make a living, too!) but the mailing address for donations is ‘listening horse therapeutic riding’…239 A Camino Los Abuelos, Santa Fe, NM 87508. i hope people will consider listening horse during their holiday giving. thank you.

        • Laurie says:

          Hi Susan, Hi Dena,
          The words you both use to describe Listening Horse, experiences & blessings are so wonderful. I only wish we could read to the horses & have them understand! Listening Horse now has a “real” mailing address:
          PO Box 8960
          Santa Fe, NM 87504
          Thank you both,

  3. Karen says:

    Santa Fe Skies is a wonderful addition to the resources of Listening Horse. Thank you, thank you.

    It is interesting to see where our volunteers and clients find out about LH. Every walk of life, every race and multiple struggles in life bring them to ask, “What is Listening Horse?” and how can I join? If you have a volunteer heart you are needed. If you have a struggle in any part of your life “Come on In” and join us as a participant.
    LH attempts to meet the needs of every person who comes.
    Again thank you to Under Santa Fe Skies.

  4. Bravo! It lifts my spirit to see the good work horses do. Such powerful creatures. Mankind needs more programs like this.

  5. jeanine wolf says:

    Thank you so much for caring and giving such a wonderful gift to those in need! We need you!

  6. Lori Daggett says:

    LOVE what this group is doing!! Awesome people with BIG HEARTS, thanks for supporting them.

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