Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P) Unites Special Horses with Special Needs Children

When George Leavitt, founder of Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.), says “mis caballos especiales están aquí para sus niños muy especiales, de mi corazon,” he really means it. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, his short but meaningful introduction translates to “my special horses are here for your very special children, from my heart.”


Students in attendance: Karina, Mónica, Bárbara, Mayra, Adriana, Miguel and Cecy (Taller); Francisco, Ángela and Axel (Primaria 1); Jamin, Kilan, Zoe and Fidel (Inicial); and Esteban, Roxana and Jamin (Primeria 2).

George was referring to these 12 very special children from the Centros de Atención Múltiple #9 in Las Varas, who took a field trip to Los Compadres Resort in La Peñita today. They were accompanied by 12 teachers and about 10 parents. Not only did the students get their very own J.E.E.P. t-shirts and lunch, but they also got the opportunity to ride a horse – for most, this was their very first time.

As part of the educational program at Hilltop Refugio, the J.E.E.P. staff will begin introducing animal touch, interaction and therapy to local school children, especially those with emotional and physical needs. For children with disabilities, the companionship that animals provide is invaluable because it allows them to connect with and receive unconditional affection from another living being. Equine assisted therapy can improve muscle tone, balance, concentration and self-confidence. It also teaches them the value of animals in their lives and how to be responsible and take care of them.

The group arrived by bus promptly at 9am. Loretta Leavitt started passing out special orange J.E.E.P. t-shirts they had made for the children.

The school in Las Varas treats children and young people, age 45 days to 23 years, with special educational needs associated with motor and intellectual disabilities, deafness, blindness, communication disorders and hyperactivity.

Some were a little scared, but that quickly changed as George Leavitt introduced them, one by one, to the horses. This little guy was the first one on… and the last one off. There is no doubt that he will be back!

The smiles from the kids and from J.E.E.P. founder, George Leavitt, pretty much sum up the emotions of this extraordinary day.

All the students got help from J.E.E.P. volunteers and instructors-in-training.

Some also received a little extra help from their parents.

One of the teachers even decided to hop on for a quick ride.

Before lunch, Bertha Cueva introduced the J.E.E.P. project and gave a brief presentation to explain how these horses had been rescued, what special treatment they have been receiving in order to get them healthy and what kind of training they are going through so they can be part of J.E.E.P.’s educational program.

You can learn more about Bertha Cueva and her Charra team in our recent story: The Thrill of being a “Charra for the Day”

Local vet, Danny Cueva, took a minute to explain that he has been volunteering his time to help the J.E.E.P. team and horses. Today, he was there to give Hermosa an injection for pain and inflammation. She has bad knee joints and a lack of calcium caused by malnutrition.


Tommy, George Leavitt, Georgina Blasco (national championship Escaramuza trainer and judge of national championship of Escaramuza teams) Bertha Cueva, Neli, Christian (kneeling), Loretta Leavitt, Julie and Lic. Laurent Samantha Medina Gomez.

A BIG thank you to Lic. Laurent Samantha Medina Gomez, Nestlé senior assessor of special account sub-agency in La Peñita de Jaltemba, for donating water and juice for this event. J.E.E.P. loves Nestlé!

After lunch, many of the children asked if they could go for another ride, and as you can imagine, the J.E.E.P. team was thrilled to make that happen.

These sisters (shown above and below) got to ride together with help from the J.E.E.P. team.

This mother and son were both hesitant to interact with Hermosa… but not for long.

When George Leavitt, founder of Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.), says “mis caballos especiales están aquí para sus niños muy especiales, de mi corazon,” he really means it.

When the field trip was over, the students and parents boarded the bus to return to Las Varas. Transportation was provided by the State government, because the school does not have a working bus of their own.

We also want to thank Julie, Tommy and Christian, the J.E.E.P. instructors-in-training, for helping out and making today such a special day!

The J.E.E.P. rescue horses have come along way since being rescued five months ago. Today, Hermosa, Shadow and Billy Biscuit proved without a doubt that they are ready to begin giving back!

After the field trip, Carlos Félix Aguilar the school director, commented, “We do not currently have a date set for the next visit, but we all leave feeling very happy and grateful for J.E.E.P.’s hospitality.”

by Allyson Williams for J.E.E.P.

Note: Hilltop Refugio, the permanent refuge for the Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.), is not quite finished yet which is why the students had to meet at Los Compadres Resort today. We need your help to fund to complete the fence, build a shaded area for children, bathrooms and tack room before we can open our doors to the public and especially to these special needs children. We desperately need children’s saddles and bridles, saddle blankets and pads, lead ropes, fly masks and a 22-foot lunge line for to begin our educational program. Our wish list also includes a round corral with fencing, a hot walker and panels for our riding area. We need ongoing donations of feed as well. Please consider making a one-time or recurring donation to this worthwhile community project.

About Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.)
Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) was established in December 2012 by George & Loretta Leavitt to help large animals like horses, donkeys and mules who are ill, malnourished or being mistreated in Jaltemba Bay, Nayarit, Mexico. To learn more or to make a one-time gift or recurring donation, visit Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.)

Your donation will help J.E.E.P. buy food, shelter, medication and the equipment necessary to care for our rescue horses. Remember, donations of tack and gear, both new and used are always needed and much appreciated.

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8 Reviews on “Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P) Unites Special Horses with Special Needs Children”

  1. :

    How wonderful to see this. George looks like he has found his calling. The joy on his face is unmistakable... The children and staff will never forget this day. I was greatly moved by the story. A big big thank you to George and Loretta and the other volunteers. There are few people in La Penita now, and it is good to see that George and Loretta have some very committed people there helping them with this project. As Judy commented...who is rescuing who? Please everyone.. send funds, to help with these horses, especially over the summer months...!

  2. :

    what a great "good news" story!

  3. :

    When my friends and family ask what do you do when you retire and move to Mexico I can show them this story and tell them this is one of the the things you can do. Some gringas do things like this, others work behind the scenes and some write a check. George and Loretta have taken this project from a few rescue horses to horse companionship for children. There is such joy on the faces of George, Loretta, the children and teachers. George and Loretta's dream is now reality. See you two and your horses this winter.

  4. :

    The pictures sure tell the story of a great cause. The children look so happy as well as George's expression of sheer joy. The horses look great and I am sure they too enjoyed the children's visit. Glad to see as Rob points out the local involvement. Thanks George and Loretta for all you do. We will see you this winter......... Barbara & John

  5. :

    Beautiful story and photos. Thank you Allyson.

  6. :

    It is hard to put into words the emotional feelings when I see such wonderful compassion and out reached hearts and hands. Horses and animals are unconditional in their giving such is proved in the pictures of these horses and children riding. Who is rescuing who ? The smiles and calm of the children says it all! Thanks to all those helping with Jeep !

  7. :

    We are so pleased to be staying with such wonderful people this December . It makes my heart warm to see what you are doing for special people . I have a 40 year old Downes Syndrome son and I know what joy it would have brought to his life to have such a wonderful experience in his life at that time . You are truly wonderful caring people . Warren and Dianne Henn

  8. :

    Every picture of George proves this is truly a dream come true for him. J.E.E.P. and the rescue horses have come a long way in the past few months. It's great to see such local involvement, such as schools, local vet, State, businesses, and students. We're looking forward to getting back south next October. Rob

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