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Large Animal Rescue training pays off!

In 2014 the New Mexico Horse Council along with Corrales Horse and Mule People (C.H.A.M. P.) helped sponsor a community Large Animal Rescue pilot program.  The training was presented to first responders by
Code 3 of Denver.  That training paid off July 7, 2016 when a horse was rescued from an irrigation ditch near Corrales Road and Alameda.  The rescue harness used on the horse was obtained by the Corrales Fire Department with the help of NMHC and C.H.A.M.P.  A story on the July 7 rescue appeared in the July 9 Rio West section of the Albuquerque Journal.

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Recipients of NMHC Annual Awards
(more information below - click on the year)

2016 Horseperson of the Year - Nancy Freshour
2015 Lifetime Achievement Award - Max Evans
2014 Horseperson of the Year - Steve Komadina
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award - Ruth Dismuke Blakely
2012 Horseperson of the Year - Rusty Cook
2011 Lifetime Achievement Awards - Dr. Leonard Blach and Sallie Pennybacker
2010 Horseperson of the Year - John Collins
2009 Lifetime Achievement Awards - Dick Hensleigh and Eldon Reyer

2008 Horsewoman of the Year -  Carolyn Bader
2007 Horsewoman of the Year - Val Cole
2006 Lifetime Achievement Award - Blair Darnell
2005 Horsewoman of the Year - Suzanne Norton Jones
2004 Horsewoman of the Year - Elsie Shollenbarger
2003 Horsewoman of the Year - Melanie Scholer
2002 Horsewoman of the Year - Karen Reyer

2016 Horseperson of the Year
Nancy Freshour

Nancy with her mare Aspen
and dog Ace
Nancy was raised on a family farm, and was very active in 4-H with her chicken, steer, and horse interests.  She got her first horse as an 8 year old, a Saddlebred named Ginger.  Ginger was dearly loved and ridden until Nancy had to leave for college.   Ginger was given to a neighbor family with kids to dote on her as Nancy had done.
At almost 75 years young, Nancy has had 67 years working with, riding, and supporting horses.  Upon retiring after three full careers - school teacher, Alaskan commercial fisherman, and Information System Department Manager at Sandia Labs - Nancy immediately sought to reconnect with horses.
The past 15 years have been spent deeply immersed in the horse community. Nancy and her horse Aspen have:

  • Been a member of CHAMP (Corrales Horse and Mule People) since 2008
  • Been a member of ACTHA (the American Competitive Trail Horse Association whose mission is to create an enjoyable venue showcasing the wonderful attributes of the great American trail horse, and granting them the recognition they so richly deserve: "It's not just a trail horse anymore."
  • Been a member of the 4CBCH (Four Corners Back Country Horsemen, motto:  "perpetuating enjoyable common sense use of horses in the back country and wilderness") since 2003
  • Served on NMHC (New Mexico Horse Council: a group founded to act on behalf of the New Mexico equine community through education and promoting activities benefiting all equine interests) as member, Board of Directors ( 2 years), Treasurer, Chair of State Fair Committee (2 years)
  • Been a Member of the Hotflashes Drill team since 2006
  • Been the Grand Marshall of the Harvest Festival Pet Parade (2012) & has participated in numerous Corrales parades such as Toys for Tot
  • Done extensive community service such as:
    •  taking Aspen to senior centers, rehab centers to provide"horse therapy"; she solicits donations in return for her services to go to Loving Thunder to support the Wounded Warriors Therapy program
    • o having Aspen work with children, give private riding lessons, and solicits donations for equine charity
    • o Supported the Southwest Conservation Corps by hauling trail maintenance and repair supplies and hauling food to the crew out in the wilderness (in conjunction with the Forest Service
  • Done extensive volunteer work including:
    •  helped teach the 4CBCH packing clinic for 5 years and provides Aspen as a demo pack horse to assist in hands on training
    •  co-sponsored and taught CHAMP de-spooking clinic this year
    • provided Aspen to work with children at the Ditch Pony Promenade 2 years
    • provided Aspen to children for the RGMDA family day kids' "competitions" (2 years)
    • for many years has cleared trail in the San Juan mountains on behalf of 4CBCH (this past year cleared 102 trees!)
    • guided the Colorado state Back Country Horsemen Board of Directors on a ride in the San Juan Mountains
    • manned the NMHC booth at the State Fair for 2 years and solicited volunteer help, animals, and program presenters
    • participated in the Wild Horse Count in Disappointment Valley (SW Colorado) collecting data on the wild herds for the BLM
    • conceived of and has run the "Cowboy Boutique" at the annual 4CBCH Tack Sale for many years. Proceeds from the sale support trail maintenance and projects such as building corrals at trail heads in conjunction with the FS and BLM
  • Provided Aspen to be a demo animal for the Large Animal Rescue training for first responders
  • Teaches young children
    • horse safety
    • riding
    • respect and care for horses
  • Aspen is a public ambassador for the equine community attending many functions such as parades, Starry Night Gala, Harvest Festival, Rio Grande Trail Commission meeting, and State Fair where she meets and greets the public and promotes responsible horse ownership and care (2008 to present)
  • Provides free public demos on balanced riding especially focusing on how to get the horse and rider to act as one unit through body language and de-emphasizing the use of bridles and bits
  • Has provided free ACTHA obstacle training at her ranch
  • Represents CHAMP, NMHC and the horse community as needed (campaigned outside the Village Offices to support Wagner's Farms as an example)
  • And who will ever forget that Aspen was the very FIRST Corrales Pet Mayor in 2012? In that role, Aspen and Nancy
    • did extensive civic functions like initiate a Corrales Clean-Up day and numerous other interactive horse/community events
    • raised over $3300 for the Kiwanis Club to be used for local charity and community work (library, animal, rescue, etc.)
  • Nancy and Aspen are 2 time state ACTHA champions, winning in 2012 in the Pleasure Division and 2013 in the Open Division
  • Nancy's affection and concern for the horse community is well known, and she has often been called out (at all times day and night) to assist with horses (and owners) in distress.

On any given day, you will most likely find Nancy riding Aspen (with their best friend Ace, the canine) in the Bosque, befriending anyone she meets along the way, educating people on equines, demonstrating the ability to communicate and connect with a horse, talking up horses and the bond between horse and human.  Or you may find her (and Aspen!) inside Wild Bill's Barber Shop, or hitched up to the post at Village Pizza enjoying all that Corrales has to offer!

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2015 Lifetime Achievement Award
Max Evans

Max with his friend and biographer Slim Randles

Max Evans: horseman, cowboy, writer, historian and artist, raconteur, and mentor is the recipient of the NMHC 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Ol’ Max” has lived the full life of a horseman, cowboy and much more.  He leaves a huge legacy in the ways of horses, their jobs and the West to New Mexico, the United States, and the entire world. Perhaps New Mexico’s greatest writer, as a horseman Max has forgotten more about those critters than most of us will ever know.

Born in 1924 in west Texas, by the age of three he had learned to ride and, portending his future, to read. By age four his family had moved to Lea County, N.M. and he started working the family cows on his own first horse, Cricket. By age seven, during the Depression and the epic drought, he was driving cattle up and down the highway between Lovington and Hobbs looking for grass. As soon as he was able he high-tailed it off to work as a cowhand in the country he had longed for since he heard cowpokes talk about the high plains and mountains. To this day Max’s favorite part of New Mexico remains the Hi-Lo Country, that northeast corner of the state. In 1948 Max moved his family to Taos, trading horses, roping, painting and expressing himself in writing. The wonderful succession of horses in his life became characters in the stories he wrote.

Max was wounded on Omaha Beach during World War II,  but returned to New Mexico, ready to write of his life experiences. His “true West tales” took him from New Mexico to Hollywood, and thence to an audience around the world.  Horses, horsemen and their lives and work together have formed the basis of most of Max’s voluminous writings and art. There are true stories, real animals and real lives that can be traced in his non-fiction books and anthologies such as “For the Love of a Horse,” (2007).   Ornery broncs and the men who worked them  came to life in two of his most famous novels, “The Hi-Lo Country” and “The Rounders.”  These were made into movies, and the Rounders was even a television show, bringing the lives and loves of cowhands to the general public. Max’s love of the Western even extended to a role in a Sam Peckinpah film, “The Ballad of Cable Hogue.” His works include histories of Taos and other rowdy places in N.M.; a compendium edited with Candy  Moulton called, “Hot Biscuits: Eighteen Stories by Men and Women of the Ranching West;” “My Pardner,” a story based on true adventures of a boy running his father’s horse herd to Oklahoma during the Depression; and “Animal Stories: a Lifetime Collection;” plus more than twenty other volumes of history and fiction. Many of his extemporaneous tales have been published in interviews in “American Cowboy” and “Western Horseman.” Fellow horseman Slim Randles wrote a biography of him: “Ol’ Max Evans: the First Thousand Years” (2004). Max lives in Albuquerque. 

Max Evans has garnered most all of the accolades that a cowhand who tells great stories can be awarded. He has been featured in "American Cowboy," "Western Horseman," honored by the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Western Writers' Guild, the prestigious award given by the Governor known as “The Rounder Award,” (named, of course, after his novel), and an honorary degree from New Mexico State University. Max Evans is a real cowboy, a real horseman, a real man. The Real Deal.

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2014 Horseperson of the Year
Steve Komadina

Many think of Steve Komadina in connection with hot air balloons – his famous “After the Stork” balloon sailed over Albuquerque in numerous balloon events, showing a stork delivering a bundle of joy.  Others know him as a “baby doctor” – he believes he has delivered over six thousand, although without the stork.  Still practicing (but not delivering babies) and still involved with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (but no longer as a pilot) he now spends energy on his passion, introducing children safely to the joy of horse/human relationships. 

The New Mexico Horse Council first became acquainted with Steve Komadina when we wrote a letter protesting legislation he introduced while serving as a New Mexico State Senator between 2000 and 2008.  As so many did then, and still do, he wondered just what the heck the New Mexico Horse Council was – but he followed up on it, attending an annual meeting. 

He told us that we needed help with lobbying (a main activity of both the New Mexico Horse Council and the American Horse Council), became a member, was elected a Director, and is now a lifetime member.  Steve organized an annual “lobbying day” with the result that many legislators are more than names and pictures on the government website.  He has also encouraged having closer ties with other livestock groups, by encouraging continued participation with booths at AgFest and the Joint Stockmen’s Convention.  He promoted our 2014 fundraiser, a raffle of a western sculpture by Curtis Fort.  The tall new NMHC banner is his work.  He and others spent hours and days on Bylaws revision.  And he, Jason Turner and others are setting up a two day tour for legislators in the summer of 2015.  The goal is to acquaint New Mexico’s lawmakers with all the economic, social and recreational impacts of the equine industry and culture in New Mexico, from rodeo to ranching, racing to trail riding, and all things equine in between.

Steve wasn’t born to a horse family, although he does apparently carry that mutant gene.  He grew up in an 800 square foot house in the northeast heights, and heard that there was no way at all to afford a horse – ever.  When he was a young boy, he and his mother discovered “Clark’s Riding Stables” in the river bottom at Central and the Rio Grande, and his mom drove him down on Saturdays so he could watch people coming to take lessons.  His dad, exasperated, told him to talk to Mister Clark to see if he could brush or clean up horses just to get experience.  “You bet!”  At 11, Steve got his first paying job, delivering handbills door to door, and whenever he accumulated enough money he bought a riding lesson.  In 1961, Santa brought a horse (a mixed breed Tennessee Walker named Flake) and a saddle, and Steve and his father found a place where they could build a corral to keep him.  Flake stayed with the family until Steve graduated from med school, then went to a good friend’s home.  After a stint in the Navy, Steve has had horses ever since, along with wife Penny (who accepts, he says, that a horse is his best friend), six children, and a slew of grandchildren.  They bought Vista Hermosa Farm in Corrales and trail ride from there.  He pays forward by hosting meetings, facilitating events, and has provided the Gorham Boy Scout Ranch with its horses and tack.

Steve likes to participate in organized rides when he has the time; he’s gone on the Pony Express Ride, the NM Centennial Cattle Drive and (several times) the Red Rock Ride.  He is looking forward to riding with Preston Bates at the N Bar Ranch on the hundred mile Pathfinder Ride, and the rides on his bucket list include the Chief Joseph, John Wayne and Florida Cracker Rides.

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2013 Lifetime Achievement Award
Ruth Dismuke Blakely

It gives me great pleasure to present to you Ruth Dismuke Blakely as my nomination for the Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented in 2013 by the New Mexico Horse Council.  As you read further you will understand her outstanding contribution to New Mexico first, America, youth and the all-around horse industry.

Not only has Ruth been in on the grassroots floor of AQHA and NMQHA through her parents and grandparents, she has carried forward all of their hard work, dedication and perseverance for those generations gone before her.  She has the enthusiasm of a small child on Christmas morning when it comes to the American Quarter horse.

Ruth is a third generation of the American Quarter Horse Industry.  Her father, Bill Dismuke, bred and raised palomino quarter horses and served on the NMQHA board for many years and was an AQHA National Director.

She was born in Albuquerque in 1957 to Joan and Bill Dismuke; she was the oldest of 4 with 3 younger brothers with which to compete constantly as they grew up.  All of Ruth’s brothers are team ropers so you know she had to be tough to keep up with them.  She grew up in Peralta and then moved to Sandia Park where she first started her business, Skyline Therapy Services, which is now located in Edgewood. 

Her grandfather, Leon Harms, oversaw the development and construction of the New Mexico State Fairgrounds and the youth hall, which was named after him – Leon Harms Youth Hall.  The Harms Youth Hall has seen millions of youth travel it’s halls as they are housed there for youth events not only the NMSF but livestock schools and other events. 

As you can see she was destined to become successful in the horse world with her background, ancestry and love of horses and life!  Her enthusiasm is contagious and she gives her heart and soul to horses and horse communities.  She is fortunate to have an awesome support team in her family as they are avid horse people.  Her two daughters, Neita and Eva, are following in their mom’s footsteps as Therapists and her husband, Stuart, loves to rope.

I first became acquainted with Ruth and her family through the NM Quarter Horse Association when my children began to show. She encouraged every young person to become involved and when she became Youth Advisor she was even more visible and led the youth through many years of growth, competition, love and respect for their horses and the organizations that support them. 

Ruth not only served as youth advisor but has held the capacity of NMQHA Board President for many years.  In the past few years Ruth campaigned for a saddle donor program to increase participation for New Mexico Quarter Horse shows.  It was accepted with overwhelming response, increasing participation numbers.

She is currently working with the AQHA Foundation Council on the new Equine Assisted Activities and Treatment Program (EAAT).  Her knowledge and wide range of activities make her the best source for any type of horse related information. Not only serving as President of NMQHA in previous years and a board member for 2013, she serves as a Director of AQHA, member and past board director of the American Hippotherapy Association plus many other organizations.  Her every day living is surrounded by horses helping others. She puts her horses at the top of the list and works with children with special needs through Skyline to insure they receive beneficial therapy for their future.  Skyline provides Speech-Language, Occupational and Physical Therapy to children with special needs, specializing in the use of equine movement as a treatment strategy.

Skyline Therapy Services, Ruth, and her team of educated staff, strive to improve the child’s life by providing individualized therapy.  The horse’s movement is a vital part of the therapy as movement itself helps to facilitate function in the human body.  Ruth’s team consists of speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and many other key personnel to make the child’s progress into their daily lives a better quality for them and their families.  Her daughter, Neita, is one of these therapists and her younger daughter, Eva, is studying to assist with the family business as a therapist also.

As cited in the AQHA America’s Horse Magazine, December 2012 issue:  Ruth states, “The American Quarter Horse Association started the ball rolling with using the horse in treatment in this country.  That fact has gotten forgotten, even by people in AQHA.  We, AQHA, were at the forefront.” 

“Using therapy horses in the therapy settings is likened to a performance event – just like in the show pen or rodeo arena.  We are very diligent in terms of conditioning, schooling, training and maintenance.” 

I haven’t even touched the tip of the wealth Ruth brings to any table but as you can see her roots run deep.  Ruth is a very humble but instrumental advocate for horses and their destiny. It is with great enthusiasm I recommend Ruth for this nomination of Horse Person of the Year. Not only does she deserve this award but she is what many dream to become one day, a horse natural. She's a true icon long before her time.

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2012 Horsewoman of the Year
Rusty Cook

Presented Novmber 10, 2012

Rusty Cook has always loved horses and has owned, bred, raised and showed them since 1973.  She has ridden in many local and regional shows, and her horses have winning records in many disciplines.  Horses she raised have won honors at local, regional and national levels.  After retiring from her first career (as a high school biology teacher), she embarked on a second career as a US Equestrian Federation Licensed Official.  She is a Steward for many breeds and disciplines, a Dressage Technical Delegate and an FEI Dressage Steward.  She has officiated at horse shows from coast to coast.

Rusty has been show manager for the Zia Classic and Spring Fever Arabian horse shows in Albuquerque and has served as a volunteer in many capacities at local, regional and national shows.  Affiliations include the US Equestrian Federation, the US Dressage Association, the US Hunter Jumper Association, the American Horse Council, the Spanish Arabian Horse Society, the Rocky Mountain Dressage Association and the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association.  She also has been an officer and committee chair for the Arabian Horse Association of New Mexico, the Santa Fe Arabian Horse Alliance, the New Mexico Dressage Association and is an officer of Region 8 of the Arabian Horse Association.

Rusty has worked on Horse Council projects for many years, beginning with her creation of the NMHC web site when the Board needed to move into the modern era.  NMHC no longer leased physical “office space” when we relinquished La Boca Negra Park, and the website and telephone were necessary to communicate with our members and others.  Rusty has been a member of NMHC for ten years (she and her husband Martin are now both individual lifetime members), was appointed to a vacant Board position in 2005, and elected by the membership to the Board in 2006.  Directors elected her President in 2007, a position she holds through this day.

As President, Rusty has participated fully in Board projects and guided events beginning with a “Horses in Action” day in 2008, the annual state fair booth, lobbying during the NM legislative session, and doing outreach with other groups, all of which increase the stature of the Council and help horses in general.  She has also shaped fundraisers (since the Council’s sources of income are fundraisers, member dues, and donations) to help the treasury.  As President, in addition to running the monthly Board meetings she represents the Council to various City, State and even national groups.  And when energy fades, as it does in volunteer groups, she can be counted on to step up.  Her perspective is always geared towards the horse, its owners, and a successful horse industry.

For years, horse owners nationally have grappled with a declining economy and increasing numbers of “unwanted” horses and what to do about them.  The NMHC Board, again facilitated by Rusty Cook, moved ahead with a survey of membership and has successfully weathered the results.  The results reached the national press, including several interviews with reporters in the print and television media.  It is a measure of her success that the Council’s views were accurately quoted.

The members are extremely reluctantly, but overwhelmingly, in favor of horse slaughter as a means to reduce the numbers and make the remaining population “wanted”.  They are also facing the necessity to help with other means, including education, gelding assistance, and perhaps eventually euthanasia assistance.  Rusty Cook wrote an excellent article for the New Mexico Stockman magazine's September 2012 issue explaining the subject.  And this also brings the Horse Council and horse owners closer to other stock owners, helping to support our view that horses in New Mexico are, and should remain, livestock.

Rusty Cook has worked behind the scenes and in subtle ways on many issues that are important to horse owners – even if they don’t know it!  She has forged relationships with facilities such as Expo New Mexico, governmental agencies such as the City of Albuquerque, state agencies, and other horse breeds and disciplines.  She has given the Council much more visibility through the website. 

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2011 Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Leonard Blach

Dr. Leonard Blach - “In recognition of a lifetime of dedication to horses and to the New Mexico horse industry. An original founder of the New Mexico Horse Council, he advocates uniting horse owners for the benefit of all equine interests. He has greatly advanced equine surgery and reproduction as a veterinarian and horse breeder. His induction into the Race Horse Hall of Fame, and his Triple Crown campaign with Mine That Bird in 2009, brought New Mexico horse racing to national attention. His involvement with 4-H groups and fairs shows his dedication to youth and their horses. He is a true asset to New Mexico.”

2011 Special Lifetime Achievement Award (Posthumus)
Sallie Pennybacker

Sallie Pennybacker - “In appreciation of her activities with New Mexico horse groups, including helping to found the New Mexico Horse Council and serving often as director and officer; forming New Mexico Horseways, a trails advocacy group; publishing The Horsemen’s Voice beginning in 1982 and continuing for seventeen years; supporting and promoting the Rio Grande Horse Association and the New Mexico Hunter Jumper Association; helping to manage the Lions’ Club and Saddlebred Charity Horse Shows; and providing a home for the Albuquerque Vaulters and the Cloud Dancers Therapeutic Riding Program. She truly cared for the horses and riders of New Mexico.”

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2010 Horseman of the Year
John Collins

From the beginning, this award was created to reward volunteer dedication to improving all aspects of the world of horses.  The horse person may be a professional, but goes outside the scope of the profession to increase awareness of horses and raise the visibility of horse activities.

As a boy, John helped at his grandfather’s farm in all aspects of caring for and, later, training and exercising horses.  He was also an athlete who excelled at school sports.  This was followed by high school, college and an army career.  Working at VA hospitals, he started several programs that are still used today, and is only the fourth Physician Assistant to reach the rank of full colonel.

Although he had spent thirty years away from the horse world, after marrying DJ in 1993 they both purchased horses.  DJ specialized in jumping, dressage and English riding; John did competitive trail and endurance.  Army duties filled a large part of his life after 2001, but they found time to build Cherry Tree Farm and manage 20+ horses.  John also found time to take many clinics to improve his riding and ground handling skills.

He joined NM Dressage Association in 2004 and has helped that group gain members and grow far more active.  He and DJ have volunteered to host several shows and clinics each year since then, bringing in national experts.  He assumed the office of President of NMDA in 2011.

John Collins joined the Horse Council in 2008 and is a lifetime individual member.  He became one of the reliable go-to people, organizing the Annual Meeting dinner including extensive research choosing the venue, more extensive investigation of awards, and soliciting donations.  

He and DJ also managed the Horse Emporium for the Council in 2010.  He donated Cherry Tree Farm as the event location, solicited items for the silent auction, created signage, created and distributed flyers, and visited every horse merchant in the central part of the state to publicize the event.  (And the Emporium was a very successful fund raiser for the Horse Council.)

John is known for going out of his way to help any individual with a horse problem.  In 2010 purchased a new horse, and with his retirement from the Army, became an active competitor.

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2009 Lifetime Achievement Awards
Dick Hensleigh
Eldon Reyer
(presented in January 2010)

Read the nomination letters for each of these extraordinary men.
Dick Hensleigh
Eldon Reyer

A special certificate was presented to Delbert Latham, in recognition of the many contributions he made to the equestrian community of New Mexico over many years.  Delbert passed away shortly before the Awards Dinner.


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2008 Horsewoman of the Year
Carolyn Bader

Carolyn Bader, in her own words:  My husband Dick and I arrived in New Mexico from Pennsylvania in 1958.  We started riding professionally and giving instruction from then until Dick died in 1986.  I continued the business after his death.  Our son Barry worked at our stable on and off over a period of years and also spent time in Germany training horses.

When we started training in New Mexico, Appaloosa horses were becoming popular.  We started with that breed and with quarter horses.  We also trained and showed Arabians, Morgans, Buckskins, English, cutting, roping – a little bit of everything.  We found over time we needed to concentrate on one breed when it came to showing and that was quarter horses.

Our sons showed in Hunter Jumper youth classes and Quarter Horse youth activities.  Later in high school they enjoyed High School Rodeo where they entered the team roping events.  Both have competed through their junior years at all levels including the world shows.

I have been a part of the horse industry in New Mexico for the last fifty years.  I am grateful to have been able to earn a living and follow my passion.

Trainer and Instructor 1960-present
Trained 7 American Quarter Horse Association Champions, earning all points for those championships.  Trained one World Champion, one Youth World Champion, one Reserve Amateur World Champion.  Numerous other high placing horses and riders at World competitions.  Numerous New Mexico State Champions in Open, Youth and Amateur Divisions of competitions.

Conducted and instructed Amateur and 4-H Horsemanship Clinics.  Also gave two clinics in Germany.
Continuous program of private instruction in most phases of A.Q.H.A. competition and horsemanship.

Writer and subject of articles on horse training in several publications.

Owner/Manager:  BaderTraining Stables, Quarter Horses
Owned and promoted many Quarter Horses, including standing stallions at Bader Training Stables.
Acted, and still acting, as agent for the purchase and sale of show quality Quarter horses.
Supervision of employees and day to day operations.Responsible for financial management.


New Mexico Quarter Horse Association
Chairman, Show and Contest Committee
Youth Committee, member and advisor
Land of Enchantment Committee
New Mexico Breeders Futurity Committee
Awards Committee

American Quarter Horse Association

Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association, Charter Member

Greater New Mexico Cutting Horse Association, Charter Member

New Mexico Reining Horse Association

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2007 Horsewoman of the Year
Val Cole

At the 2007 Annual Meeting of the New Mexico Horse Council, held January 19, 2008, Val Cole was awarded the honor of being named the Horsewoman of the Year.  A nomination letter was submitted by Maura Lewiecki, and outlined the many ways in which Val has been an advocate for equestrians and equine activities in New Mexico and nationally for many years.

Val has represented equestrians on the Greater Albuquerque Recreational Trails Committee for three terms beginning in 1998.  She was appointed to Governor’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Equestrian Committee by NM State Highway & Tran

Val has represented equestrians on the Greater Albuquerque Recreational Trails Committee for three terms beginning in 1998.  She was appointed to Governor’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Equestrian Committee by NM State Highway & Transportation Department Secretary Pete Rahn in 1998, and the two-year appointment has been renewed as it expired, most recently in February, 2006 by NM Department of Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught.  She has served as the New Mexico delegate to the American Horse Council State Horse Council Advisory Committee (at her own expense), and served as chair from 2004 to 2006.  She represented State Horse Councils at the national Unwanted Horse Summit in 2005, and has remained actively involved in the Unwanted Horse Coalition that evolved from that summit.

Val has been a member of New Mexico Horse Council for 25 years and currently serves as Treasurer.  She has also been the Newsletter editor for 17 years, has worked on the Horse Fair every year, has actively lobbied on behalf of the equestrian community as a NM Horse Council member for the limited liability for trails legislation, funding for a State trails coordinator, and has been contracted to work at horse shows as paddock master and announcer in New Mexico and nationally.

Val is a thoughtful and informed equine supporter. She attends public meetings to serve as a voice for the equestrian community and then keeps everyone informed through the newsletter, or by telephone or email if immediate action is required.  Through it all she has been supported by her husband who has also dedicated time, expertise, and a sense of humor to her passionate involvement.

We congratulate Val Cole as the 2007 Horsewoman of the Year!

2007 Certificate of Appreciation 

NM State Parks' State Trails Planner, Jessica Terrell, was killed in a head-on collision near Farmington January 9, 2008.  Jessica was full of energy and was making great inroads in the development of the state trails program.  She worked closely with Tim Rogers, Bicycle/Pedestrian/Equestrian Coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, to develop local initiatives toward a greater Rio Grande Trail and other statewide trail activities.  Jessica will be dearly missed. 

Eldon Reyer accepted the Certificate of Appreciation for Jessica at the NMHC Annual Meeting.

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First New Mexico Horse Council 
Lifetime Achievement Award
2006 – Blair Darnell

At its 2006 Annual Meeting (held January 20, 2007) the New Mexico Horse Council departed from its “horse person of the year” award instituted in 2002.  This year, the Board decided instead to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Blair Darnell of Corrales.

Blair has been involved with horses since she was a very small child.  For over fifty years, many horse owners, their children and their horses have benefited from Casey and Blair Darnell’s time and expertise.  She has helped the Rio Grande Horse Association, Bernalillo County 4-H Horse Program, New Mexico Quarter Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association (where she has been appointed director emeritus), horse racing and breeding (including a runner in the 1994 Kentucky Derby), and of course has been involved with the New Mexico Horse Council since 1970.  After Casey’s death in 2001, she promised to slow down a bit – and there are fewer horses in residence at Alamo Farm in Corrales.  But in presenting the award, Elsie Shollenbarger spoke of her “imprint” on every part of the horse community.  And she also said people kept finding Blair involved in many other activities – art, archaeology, music, education, travel.  In all these areas Blair has made a difference. 

Several members of Blair’s family were present to see her receive the award. 

Blair Darnell passed away on November 18, 2015.  She was a lifetime supporter of equestrian organizations and their activities, and was the recipient of the NMHC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.  She will be greatly missed.  See her obituary here.

At their December 28, 2015 meeting AQHA recognized Blair's contributions with a Proclamation.  See that Proclamation here.

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2005 Horsewoman of the Year
Suzanne Norton Jones

The NMHC Horsewoman of the Year Award for 2005 goes to Suzanne Norton Jones.  The award was presented by nominator Elsie Shollenbarger.  

Suzanne is “an icon” according to Elsie, who brought up the standard of teaching in New Mexico and sent students to compete successfully in national events in every discipline.  She trained Nautical, the palomino show jumper ridden by Hugh Wiley for the U.S. Equestrian team and immortalized in the Disney movie The Horse With the Flying Tail. She is the “parent” of the week long 4-H Horse School held on the Fairgrounds annually since 1984.  She has written books and articles about horses and people, bred, bought and sold many over the years, and is still always looking for that perfect match of horse and rider.  Suzanne Jones and husband Punch of Tatum, New Mexico were present to accept the award.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame named Suzanne an Honoree in 1999.  The biography posted on their website says, “Suzanne is one of the most influential trainers, breeders and judges in the equestrian world. The daughter of an army cavalryman, she began showing horses at four. Her career saw her win virtually every major horse show in North America and become one of the top quarter horse breeders. Suzanne acquired judging cards in several breed associations and served on the AQHA International Committee. She is also an author and columnist for a major horse journal.”

Jones was involved in nearly every aspect of the horse industry, from breeding to showing to riding in international competition and more.  She was the daughter of an Army colonel who was skilled in horsemanship. She first sat horseback at the age of one and by five, was competing in horse shows. At 10, she defeated 15 skilled riders in a stakes race.

Under her father’s guidance, Jones developed expert training and riding abilities. Her father organized the polo team at the New Mexico Military Institute and was responsible for establishing hunt seat riding within the state.

Jones’ career as a trainer took off after she graduated from the University of Arizona, where she was on both the rodeo team and in the show ring. Four of her personally trained mounts were certified as Olympic prospects, one of which was sent to the final tryouts.

In 1953, Jones qualified for the United States Equestrian Team, which was to compete in Canada, the United States and Mexico. A revolution in Mexico cancelled the shows south of the border, ending her international show career.

Jones and her husband, New Mexico rancher and AQHA Director R. C. “Punch” Jones, were successful breeders. The couple received the Association’s 30-year continuous breeder award and the 40-year cumulative breeder award. Their ranch has produced 351 registered foals, 131 of which have earned nearly $2 million at the racetrack and 26 have earned 2,061 points in the show ring.

Jones became involved in 4-H through her children. She became a 4-H judge and clinician in New Mexico, and became involved with the New Mexico 4-H Horse School, renamed the Suzanne Norton Jones 4-H Horse School in 1992. Jones has judged horses and taught clinics on a national and international basis and held cards for the Palomino, Paint and Appaloosa Associations, as well as the American Horse Shows Association. She served as an AQHA judge for 31 years, from 1962 to 1993.

To read about Suzanne's life in her own words, click here.

Update: Jones was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 1999, the same year she was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Punch Jones was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame Hall of Fame in 2008. The two were inducted into the Ruidoso Downs Racehorse Hall of Fame in 2014.  Her most recent competition was at the 2014 Adequan Select World Championship Show, where she was honored as the Nutrena Senior Athlete.

Suzanne Norton Jones passed away December 5, 2015, at the age of 91.  She was involved in nearly every aspect of the horse industry, from breeding to showing to riding in international competition and more. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame named Suzanne an Honoree in 1999. She was the recipient of the NMHC Horsewoman of the Year Award in 2005.  At the 2014 Adequan Select World Championship Show she was honored as the Nutrena Senior Athlete.

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