Connie Collis, founder of the Tamaya Horse Rehab program, continues to care for rescue horses like Paisley, seen here. Collis said the Stables at Tamaya currently has 101 horses, which is past full capacity.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

SANTA ANA PUEBLO — Connie Collis has an unwavering drive to make sure the horses at the Stables at Tamaya will always be taken care of, even as the pandemic upended everything and pushed operations to the brink.

“This is my whole life. I’m able to give my money to the horses,” Collis, founder of the Tamaya Horse Rehab program, said. “They’re healthy and taken care of, and that’s way better than the alternative… (like to) be put down or sold for meat. If they’re not here, then they have an uncertain future. If they are here, they know they’re going to be loved forever.”

“We’re beginning to recover”

Collis said the facility resumed trail riding as an outdoor activity back in June, right after Season 17 of “The Bachelorette” was filmed nearby at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort. The latter proved to be that extra financial boost, she said.

“We’re beginning to recover,” she said. “Last fall, we could only do half the rides. Then (the state) shut us down for two weeks in November.”

Since September, Collis said anywhere from 20 to 30 patrons per day have been coming to the the Stables at Tamaya for horseback trail rides.

“It’s just beautiful. People want to get out in October,” she said.

The influx

Entering the winter of 2020, Collis said the Stables at Tamaya had roughly 40 horses for trail riding and 40 rescue horses. She said the facility took in an additional 15-20 horses between winter 2020 and spring 2021, going past capacity with 101 horses.

She said some people presumably couldn’t keep their horses during that time frame. For example, she said a young couple that struggled to find jobs couldn’t keep the horse they’d rescued.

Collis said the current number remains at 101, about half of which are now used for trail riding, so the Stables at Tamaya is unable to take in any more horses because it has to manage capacity limits.

Right now, she said the facility is using monetary donations to help people pay for things like hay bales. That way, those individuals would be better able to keep their horses rather than surrender them, she said.

A horse named “Daisy,” seen here on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, is among the 101 horses currently at the Stables at Tamaya, located on the Santa Ana Pueblo.

The subsequent dilemmas

Collis also said there are a couple dilemmas: hay bale prices increasing from $8 to $12 this year, which was brought on by the pandemic and the recent drought, plus the limited inventory of hay bales.

“We just have to raise more money,” she said.

Collis said it wasn’t until COVID-19 entered the picture that the Stables of Tamaya found itself in a position where it needed donations, going to different lengths to keep operations afloat.

“We learned to write grants. We learned to have fundraisers We learned to beg people to give us money for hay. We’ve had raffles, we’ve had all kinds of stuff, because we no longer had the business income to cover the horses,” she said.

Uncertainty still looms

Collis said there’s still concern more people won’t be able to keep their horses, especially those who are now going to back to work in an office setting.

She also said the coming weeks will depend on whether the virus case outlook remains low enough where trail riding is allowed to continue.

“If it comes to the point where we’re shut down again, then that’s when we’re going to get in trouble. We don’t know that’s not going to happen,” she said.

Collis also said the trail riding will be especially helpful in keeping operations alive. For more information on that, call (505) 554-5938 or email [email protected].

She has one goal — and only one goal — in mind: to ensure the horses never become orphaned.

“That’s our mission, to make them usable horses so they never are unwanted again,” she said. “These horses have purpose.”

A spotted donkey named “Tuesday” comes over to say hello at the Stables at Tamaya, located on the Santa Ana Pueblo, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

Several horses mill around on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at the Stables at Tamaya, located on the Santa Ana Pueblo. Connie Collis, founder of the Tamaya Horse Rehab program, said the facility currently has 101 horses, which is past full capacity.