New covered arena benefits therapeutic riding program at NMSU


In an emotional ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers helped the university’s therapeutic riding program celebrate its new covered arena at 750 Stewart St. on the Las Cruces campus.

The open-sided roof structure may have been simple metal and concrete, but it meant much more to the volunteers who provide equine therapy activities there and the clients who benefit from the program.

The therapeutic riding program helps individuals with disabilities meet a variety of therapy, education and recreation goals. Volunteer therapeutic riding instructor Deanna Duran became emotional as she described the program’s impact to the crowd that gathered for the ceremony.

“It’s amazing to see how big an improvement they can make and what they can do,” Duran said as she watched client Victoria Benavidez go through a lesson on Finale, one of the program’s therapy horses. “For some clients, these horses are their best friends. Sometimes, they are their only friend.”

Victoria’s father, Gary Benavidez, told guests how an auto accident left his daughter with a traumatic brain injury. In the seven years since her crash, he said, she’s regained much ground – including the ability to walk and speak – thanks, in part, to her work with Finale.

“It has strengthened her core. It has helped her to walk,” Benavidez said. “We’ve noticed a difference in her speech. She has come a long way, and this therapy is a very important part of our team.”

Benavidez said the arena’s cover allows Victoria to focus more on her riding experience, with less distraction from the sun, heat and environmental conditions. It also reduces the number of lessons canceled due to inclement weather, so Victoria and the program’s 21 other clients can get the most our of their scheduled sessions.

The total cost of the covered arena was $200,000, with $150,000 coming from capital outlay funding with support from N.M. Sen. Mary Kay Papen, and an additional $50,000 from private donors and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences funds.

“This is another project that demonstrates that NMSU is a caring community with a commitment to transforming lives through outreach,” Carruthers said of the Therapeutic Riding Program. “It’s also an excellent way for our students to get additional training and volunteer opportunities.”

For more information on the therapeutic riding program, visit

Author:  Amanda Bradford – NMSU