Challenge New Mexico prepares to continue work providing horseback riding to those with special needs

New Mexico News

WATCH: Full interview with Elissa Ulibarri, program director at Challenge New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Challenge New Mexico is a nonprofit out of Santa Fe that provides therapeutic horseback riding for people with special needs and disabilities. All of their riders are working through some sort of diagnosis and every person has their own range of abilities.

Challenge New Mexico Program Director Elissa Ulibarri discusses the program and all the benefits horseback riding has for people with special needs and disabilities. According to the nonprofit, some of its riders use wheelchairs, some are non-verbal, some are legally blind, some are working through PTSD or anxiety, and some are recovering from serious strokes.

No matter the obstacles that the riders face, Challenge New Mexico strives to provide a safe environment for each rider to interact with horses as independently as possible. The organization explains that horseback riding has benefits for all people, however staff at Challenge New Mexico regularly see their clients improve in physical, mental, and emotional health through the work including their volunteers.

With only a few paid staff positions volunteers are able to make the program possible. Due to COVID-19, the organization wasn’t able to work with clients during 2020 but is now working on plans to safely reopen for the 2021 riding season which is expected to begin in May.

Challenge New Mexico had to cancel its largest fundraiser, an arts and crafts festival on the Santa Fe Plaza, however, they do have some horse sponsorship opportunities available on their website. Donations can also be made to their Helmet Fund which provides helmets to the nonprofit’s clients.

Typically, Challenge New Mexico provides helmets, but continually sanitizing them is not recommended, and they are asking each client to provide their own. The fund allows the community to get involved by donating a helmet to the riders, particularly those that are from low-income households. For more information on how you can support Challenge New Mexico, visit or visit their Facebook page.

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