South Conejos Saddle Club forms in Antonito

ANTONITO — Richard de Herrera, Alice Trujillo, and Marty Guerrero met at the Antonito Senior Center a year ago, discovered a mutual interest in horses, and this sparked an idea — the South Conejos Saddle Club.

Guerrero, a horse trainer, noticed an empty, overgrown rodeo arena next to Antonito School, that hadn't been used in years. Herrera is a horse owner. Trujillo and her husband raced horses in New Mexico for 40 years. They thought about creating a club where students could learn everything about horse care, grooming, anatomy, and even careers with horses. They wanted to create another positive opportunity for children.

Herrera, Trujillo and Guerrero approached school superintendent Emma Martinez. She was receptive to using the arena.

Guerrero said, “There used to be a rodeo in Antonito in the 1970s. There were parades, and dances. Horseback riding is therapeutic and a good family time with grandparents, parents, and children."

The South Conejos Saddle Club was formed this fall. The response on sign-up day was tremendous. The community enthusiastically embraced the new club. Grandparents encourage their grandchildren to join and are happy to see horseback riding coming back to the community.

Guerrero stressed the importance of "learning the dos and don'ts of horses. Safety is the key. It's important to learn proper techniques."

Trujillo also stresses the importance of "having background checks for the lecturers, and formal lesson plans."

Classes began this fall. Antonito School sponsors the club, which meets twice a week after school for one hour and on Saturdays. Students are mainly from junior high and come from La Jara, Manassa, and Sanford. Winter is a good time to get a solid education about horses and hands-on learning about grooming and care of horses and be ready for riding in the spring, organizers stated.

Herrera, Trujillo, Guerrero, and others in the Antonito community, like Sharleen and Steve Farmer, and James Garcia have formed a board to raise funds for the club.

Herrera, utilizing his leadership skills, talks about the future of the club. He "wants to make the club into a non-profit, changing the name to Southern Colorado Saddle Club, to include other schools, and adults in communities in the San Luis Valley."

By being a non-profit, grant money would be available to start saddle clubs in other communities. His vision is to have more recreational horseback riding.

"There are so many good trails,” Herrera said. “Families could have picnics at Green Lake, Duck Lake, Red Lake."