Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) at Hilltop Refugio

La Peñita de Jaltemba


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    Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) was established in December 2012 by George & Loretta Leavitt and Donna Brownfield to help large animals like horses, donkeys and mules who are ill, malnourished or being mistreated in Jaltemba Bay, Nayarit, Mexico.

    Since then, Hilltop Refugio, our 3-acre refuge, has been transformed into a permanent place for rescued equines and other animals. It includes a state-of-the-art stable, arena, hot walker, horse bathing area, equipment, tack and feed rooms, dog and cat kennels, entertainment and outdoor cooking area, and several structures under development including a cat facility and another dog run. Construction is ongoing with donations greatly appreciated.

    Our Projects

    Equine Education: The original rescue horses are being boarded and cared for at the refugio, and they are being used in the J.E.E.P. equine education program. A group of local boys and girls, called Junior Trainers, are being educated in the proper handling, care and maintenance of the horses in the hope this knowledge will be passed on to future generations. We also sponsor annual clinics to vaccinate local horses.

    Therapeutic Horseback Riding: Our therapeutic horseback-riding program focuses on helping special needs children from Compostela to Bucerias, Nayarit. The children, their teachers and caregivers come to the refugio weekly to ride and interact with the horses, followed by lunch. According to their caregivers and educators, this activity has made a significant difference in the children’s lives in terms of self-esteem and competency. 

    Dog and Cat Adoption: Rescue animals receive shots and veterinary care to bring them back to good health. As animals are adopted out, we can accept new rescues. However, we ask the person rescuing to pay for any shots and veterinary care prior to bringing the animals to the refugio, as well as assisting with the cost for food and spay or neuter. Watch for our booth at the Tianguis Market in La Peñita to see some of the now-healthy dogs and cats up for adoption.

    Spay and Neuter Clinics: We now hold monthly spay and neuter clinics, which are open to the community at a minimal cost of $300 pesos. Funding is available for those who are unable to pay through our Tianguis donations. Pets are accepted by reservation only. Two local vets, Juan Manuel and Alvaro Fernando Ventura Espinoza of Veterinaria Ventura in La Peñita, volunteer their services during these clinics.

    Dog and Cat Boarding: We offer low cost dog and cat boarding. We can also arrange dog grooming, if needed. Animals are boarded in our kennels, with access to the large outdoor area, as well as a fenced dog run. A record of current shots is required, and we do not accept aggressive dogs for the safety of our other animals and caregivers. Please consider volunteering to walk our rescue dogs.

    Foster and Sponsor: You can foster a dog or cat until it is adopted or for the time you stay in town. If you cannot adopt or foster, please consider becoming a proud sponsor of any of our rescue animals by paying a monthly fee to cover their food and care.

    Get involved in this community project today!

    Upcoming Events at Hilltop Refugio for 2015-16

    4th Annual Pony Up! for J.E.E.P. FUNdraiser
    Saturday, January 23 | 2:30 pm – 6:00 pm

    Our annual event includes a horse expo and races, silent auction, dinner and live music. 100% of the proceeds will support Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.). Come up to see the horses (and dogs and cats), support a worthy cause… and enjoy the spectacular view!
    Tickets: $350 pesos, now on sale at the Tianguis and from J.E.E.P. volunteers.

    J.E.E.P. Spay & Neuter Clinics
    First Sunday every Month | 8:00 am – noon

    Donations collected at the J.E.E.P. Tianguis booth are used to assist those unable to pay. Please let us know in advance if you are bringing an animal. Cost is $300 pesos.

    Saturday Open House

    8:00am – Noon
    April to October (call or email in advance)

    Everyone is invited to come up the hill to meet our rescue horses, cats and dogs, our Junior Trainers and the J.E.E.P. volunteers. You can help brush the horses or help muck out stalls. The rescue dogs need to walked and given attention, as well.

    We hope to see you soon!

    Volunteer Opportunities

    Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) is a thriving project with many volunteer activities:

    • Come visit the Hilltop Refugio (see visiting hours below)
    • Contact Carolyn Speers
      Volunteer Coordinator/Secretary
      phone: (322) 205-5605 (English)
      email: carolynspeers596@gmail.com

    Learn More about J.E.E.P.

    • Read Articles, News & Updates published on the Explore Nayarit Blog
    • Contact George & Loretta Leavitt via the form below.

    Hours & Details

    Monday-Friday: 8:00 am – 10:00 am
    Saturday: 8:00 am to noon

    EN.com round logo smallThe ExploreNayarit.com team is proud to donate their time and resources to create and host community webpages like this one. It’s one small way we can give back to those who play an integral part in our community!

    Business Categories: Activities & Tours; Pet Services; Community & Volunteering

  • J.E.E.P. History

    Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) was established in December 2012 by George & Loretta Leavitt and Donna Brownfield to help large animals like horses, donkeys and mules who are ill, malnourished or being mistreated in Jaltemba Bay, Nayarit, Mexico. George’s love of horses and his love of Mexico have been combined for over 35 years, and forming a large animal group has always been his dream.

    The project began when Donna was horseback riding in the hills above the small fishing village of La Peñita. She came across an Appaloosa, now known as “Chance,” who led her to another six horses who were literally starving to death. Eight others in their herd had already died, including Chance’s mother, whose body was still sheltering his younger sibling. George and other volunteers immediately started raising necessary funds and working with the owners to surrender these unwanted animals.

    All seven horses were successfully rescued and given emergency medical care and a special diet. Unfortunately Chance, the strong and gentle leader did not survive. Five days after the rescue, he passed quietly with George and Loretta by his side. He was buried on a donated piece of property in La Peñita. This 3-acre site is currently being developed into the Hilltop Refugio, a permanent place for rescued equines.

    Once the refuge is completed, we can begin to break in these horses and use them as part of our educational program for adults and children in the community. The general public will then be able to visit the site and help care for these animals.

    Our Goals

    The Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) operates in partnership with Hilltop Refugio.
    Our goals are to:

    • Provide a safe refuge for rescued animals;
    • Offer critical medical attention when needed;
    • Teach equine owners how to better care for their animals;
    • Protect and promote the heritage of horses in our area;
    • Educate the community about the value of animals in our lives;
    • Create opportunities for children to spend quality time with equines and other animals;
    • Introduce animal touch, interaction and therapy to local school children, especially those with special needs.

    About J.E.E.P. Founders

    Charro LogoGeorge and Loretta Leavitt have lived in La Peñita de Jaltemba for 35 years. George has been a member of the Federación Mexicana de Charrería, A.C. for over 30 years and has built strong relationships with farmers and ranchers via community horse rides, and charro and rodeo events.

    Donna Brownfield has been involved with horses for over 50 years. She has been a student of natural horsemanship for 20 years and is currently involved in teaching equine communication techniques to students. Donna and her husband, Jerry, spend winter months in La Peñita and the rest of the year in Eagle Point, Oregon.

  • Project Needs

    Urgent Needs:

    • Funds are needed to secure the Hilltop Refugio, such as fence posts, fencing and materials to finish building dog and cat kennels.

    Ongoing Needs:

    • Contributions of horse feed, dog and cat food, Frontline for dogs and cats, tack, medicine, medical supplies, volunteer time, money and other resources are always needed. Note: If you can’t bring these donations to the refuge, you can pay for them and we will gladly pick them up.
    • Bags of feed may be purchased at:
      La Casa del Ganadero (Dr. Eladio Arreola Tello), Calle Esteban Baca Calderon #3, La Peñita
      Veterinaria “Ventura”, Calle Oceano Pacifico #15, La Peñita
    • School supplies for our special needs J.E.E.P. children such as notebooks, pencils, erasers, crayons, coloring books, colored construction paper, children’s backpacks, etc. With the medications required for many of these children, school supplies are often hard to purchase. Every bit helps so much.


    Donations can be made in person (see map tab), bank deposit or via PayPal.

    1) Make a One-Time Gift:
    Your donation will help J.E.E.P. buy food, shelter, medication and the equipment necessary to care for our rescue horses, dogs and cats. Remember, donations of tack and gear, both new and used are always needed and much appreciated.


    2) Sponsor a Rescue Horse:
    When you sponsor a horse, your monthly donation goes towards the cost of feed, trimming hooves, shoeing and ongoing medical care for one of our rescue horses for the period you indicate.

    Select your option below before clicking the Subscribe button.


    3) In Person Donations:

    • George and Loretta Leavitt
      Los Compadres Resort
      Cristóbal Colón #408
      La Peñita, Nayarit, Mexico
    • Bertha Cueva
      Carniceria La Nayarita
      Emiliano Zapata #27
      La Peñita, Nayarit, Mexico
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Contact Us

  • Owner/Manager: George and Loretta Leavitt
  • Address: (call for directions)
  • Town: La Peñita de Jaltemba
  • Phone: (327) 274-3263
  • Cell:
  • US/Canada Phone:
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