Mike Raupp, co-founder of Loving Thunder Therapeutic Riding Inc., spends time with Chata, left, and Lucky on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, at the ranch in Rio Rancho. Matt Hollinshead photo.

Loving Thunder Therapeutic Riding’s goal of incorporating a second horse riding facility is two-fold: one, quell anxieties about going back out in public amid the COVID-19 pandemic; two, safely provide that extra open space for horseback riding lessons.

That’s why co-founders Mike and Twuana Raupp decided to take ownership of a facility on Corrales’s north end. It’s seven acres, which Twuana said is more than adequate to expand operations and to make it a permanent spot.

“This property was built to be a horse facility,” she said, adding Loving Thunder’s looking to open the new facility in March. “It’s brand new to us, and we’re anxious and excited for that to happen… It has a much larger capacity for horses and also has a covered arena. Most of our lessons are going to transition over to the new facility.”

And fewer people at Loving Thunder’s main facility in Rio Rancho means those with disabilities or post-traumatic stress disorder can resume therapy interacting with the horses with more privacy.

“It’s difficult for veterans to be comfortable whenever there’s a lot of people around,” Twuana said.

Mike said Loving Thunder will be able to have more riding lessons for more people at the Corrales site, especially in the current times.

Twuana said the new facility, which will feature extra shade for summer, will also serve as solace for teenagers experiencing suicidal thoughts and those struggling with mental health in general.

Rides have decreased

Loving Thunder, which began in 2008, averaged well over 60 rides a week pre-pandemic. Over the past nine-plus months, it’s averaging roughly 25 rides a week due to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

Although she can’t pinpoint the direct source of that decrease, Twuana said she suspects it may stem from a combination of fear of being in public amid COVID-19 and financial troubles.

“We’ve been just scraping by for a while now,” she said.

She also said having fewer riders led Loving Thunder to be more proactive in ensuring the horses get more exercise.

The immediate outlook

Twuana said she and Mike will be able to take possession of the Corrales property after the previous owner moves out. She said that transition will take about two weeks.

With the Corrales site, she said Loving Thunder will be able to hold dual lessons at both locations and accommodate extra time slots for riding.

To get back on track, Mike said the nonprofit must get that weekly number of rides closer to 60 entering the spring.
He said the COVID-19 vaccine has “helped a small number of people feel safe and secure” in resuming riding, but unease lingers.

“I think the horses do miss our riders. The people will love on the horses and they miss that,” he said.

Because the Raupps are aiming to open the Corrales location in March, they need 50 additional volunteers for each of the two sites by that time frame.

For more information, visit lovingthunder.com.

These three horses gather on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, at Loving Thunder Therapeutic Riding Inc. in Rio Rancho.
Matt Hollinshead photo.