“The more butts in saddles, the more horses we can save,” is the motto of Enchantment Equitreks, a mother/daughter-run riding adventure business nestled in the mountains of Edgewood, N.M., 40 minutes east of Albuquerque and an hour south of Santa Fe.
According to Enchantment Equitreks co-owners Mel Graham and her daughter, Justyn Vogel, most rescue horses are simply misunderstood. They may have been through physical or mental trauma, but with patience, time and training based on pressure and release methods, these horses can find their purpose again.
Horse rescue facilities all over the world rely on volunteers and fundraising to keep them going financially, but many struggle to keep the horses fed and sheltered. They often lack access to good trainers who can take the time to work with the horses to transition them into rideable mounts safe enough for the average rider.
“Horses need a job,” says Graham. “They don’t really want to be just hanging out in the shelter.”
This is where Enchantment Equitreks’ mission comes in.
Since the business began in 2012, the mother-daughter duo—both airline hostesses and equestrians from a Quarter Horse background—have put countless rescue horses through their training program and now nearly all of their clients’ mounts are adopted.
What surprised me when joining them on one of their rides this past August was the patience, willingness and calmness of their entire string. Every horse stood quietly and calmly as guests groomed, tacked and mounted up.
On days that required trailering, they all loaded with ease, eager to do their job. Riding in primarily bitless bridles, not one of them put a foot wrong. Whether crossing mountainous terrain or galloping through a sandy arroyo, every client had a smile on their face.
The Horses of Enchanted Equitreks
Enchanted Equitreks receives new members of their equine family from two local New Mexico facilities, Walkin N Circles and The Horse Shelter. Depending on the horse, some can be ready for guests after as little as three months of training.
“Some horses take longer to settle and feel at ease with people,” explains Vogel. “It all depends on what they have experienced in the past.”
Once a horse becomes a part the working string, Enchantment Equitreks’ mission doesn’t stop there. Their ultimate goal is to find these horses a home where they will be loved and cared for. This makes room for more horses at Enchantment Equitreks that need the TLC and training to reintegrate into the working world.
To further the improvement of horses’ lives, Vogel helps to promote EquiYoga, a form of breathing, balance and neutrality that increases your connection with the horse through certain pressure points, improving communication. On their Yoga Retreat rides, you can transfer what you learn on the yoga mat to the saddle.
I had the privilege of joining in a few yoga classes, concentrating on seat bone pressure for speed control, equal foot pressure in the stirrups for optimum balance, and a calm neutral space through breathing. Yoga sessions are held in a screened tent at the back of the property. Morning sessions wake up your body with the warmth of the sun, and evening classes before bed are often done by the light of the moon.
Vogel learned about EquiYoga from a friend and fellow rescue volunteer who studied with Marty Whittle, the founder of the process. From there, she developed her own curriculum.
“We have to remember that ultimately horses are our partners, and we have to show up to this partnership as our best selves,” she says. “EquiYoga gives you the tools and techniques needed to effectively communicate with your horse and mentally prepare to sit in the saddle.”
If you’re not into yoga, you can try a Cowboy Fun Week, taking in rodeos and the state fair. If the indigenous culture is more up your alley, the Native Traditions Ride incorporates a pow wow or the Indian market.
Something for Everyone at Enchantment Equitreks
Enchantment Equitreks uses the diverse ecology of New Mexico to bring you to different scenery every day. On their multi-day rides, you might find yourself climbing up the steep rocky terrain of the Sandia region to peer over a cliff at spectacular rock formations one day, cantering through meadows and sandy arroyos another, and finish up by watching the balloon festival from the saddle across the river.
Adventurous excursions for intermediate and advanced riders take place from late April to late October, and Enchantment Equitreks pride themselves in only taking small groups. This allows for more attention from the wranglers, long gallops, and a more intimate vacation.
The guest house on the property is fully equipped, but home-cooked, healthy meals are provided in the main house. Many of the fruits and vegetables come from their garden, fresh eggs are collected from their chicken pen daily, and the entire property is geared toward sustainability. On hot days, you can take a dip in the pool or relax at night under the stars with a glass of wine in the hot tub.
If you are on a budget, the ranch offers a 50 percent discount for those willing to turn your vacation into a working one. You’ll learn the ropes by helping to groom, tack up and load horses in the trailer, clean girths and pads upon return, and help around the ranch. There is only one slot per ride, however, and they do book up quickly.
These ladies pour their heart and soul into an operation that focuses on improving the lives of forgotten equines and brings positive energy and joy to every client that ventures onto their property. It was a wonderful feeling to go on a riding adventure and be on the back of a horse that might otherwise be wandering the paddocks of a horse shelter. Every client in a saddle is a stepping stone to the horse’s future.
Happy trails wherever you find yourself in the saddle!