Connie Collis, left, founder of the Horse Rescue and Rehab stable at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, pets a rescue horse along with former Ace Hardware store owner Ray Johnson.
(Gary Herron/ Rio Rancho Observer)

Back when he owned a hardware store in the city, “Ace was the place” … and now, on Sunday, Oct. 6, Ray’s place is the place to be.

“Just Horse’n Around” begins at 5 p.m. at Ray Johnson’s home, 2516 Sandia Loop in River’s Edge III. It’s a fundraiser for Connie Collis’s work with the Horse Rescue and Rehab stable at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, and horses will be the featured guests.

Collis is happy for what she hopes will be financially rewarding for the stable of about 100 once-unwanted horses, some of which “star” in the summer rodeos for guests at Tamaya, or on the horse rides through the bosque.

“For us, anything that helps these horses is amazing,” Collis said. “Food and veterinary care, and we move up from there.”

Dogs and cats aren’t the only animals that uncaring people think they can dispose of when they become too much trouble or turn out to not be the pets they envisioned.

“I need to train these horses so they never get back in that situation,” Collis said. “My goal is to make them good working partners.”

At the Tamaya rodeos, she said, “We’re trying to make people’s horse dreams come true.”

Collis said an 82-year-old woman had the time of her life riding a horse there recently.

Plus, she has more than two-dozen locals who volunteer at the stable, including one woman who was there until she passed at the age of 103.

“We need volunteers who want to work,” Collis said. “We don’t take just kids.”

Tamaya Horse Rehabilitation rehabilitates and retrains neglected, abused, unwanted and abandoned horses from throughout the U.S. The horses of Tamaya are provided with food, hoof care, shelter and medical support.

As for Collis, who grew up near Albuquerque, she fell in love with horses as a girl. Unlike many girls, she never lost that love.

She met Johnson at a twinklelight parade in Rio Rancho a few years ago. Collis recalled, “I told him he needs to get involved with my fundraiser.”

So he did.

Growing up in Chicago, Johnson fondly remembers his father’s ownership of show horses, so he’s always had an affinity for the animal. His affinity for Rio Rancho began, and then grew, after he moved here in 1998.

He’d lived in Denver for 15 years, but it got too big for him, plus he was tired of being a “suit guy” for a trucking firm. Hence, his move south to the City of Vision, where he convinced Ace Hardware executives to have a franchise and opened his doors in 2001.

Johnson sold his store, which relocated to Sabana Grande Boulevard in 2011.

During his days as a business owner, Johnson served on the planning and zoning board for eight years and spent as many years with the chamber of commerce board.

“I volunteered for the Mayor’s Ball,” Johnson added. “I just loved the people in Rio Rancho … and the weather. (The people) didn’t know me and they accepted me.”

Thus, helping Collis became a no-brainer, and he’s being helped by his partner, Joan Perusek, whom he’s convinced to do the cooking for the Oct. 6 event at their home.

There, guests will find food and drink, entertainment, a raffle to win horse-painted pictures (Yes, Collis has a horse named Willy that paints!) and be able to ride near the bosque in a horse-driven carriage.

Donations will be accepted. Johnson said attendees will be able to purchase a hot dog and soft drink for a dollar in front of his home.

For more information, call Johnson at 991-2516 or Collis at 269-5410.