Carol Fuller Powell loves helping people and loves horses. So she combined the two and created the Blue Oaks Center.

Powell owns and operates the Smartsville property, where she helps at-risk youth and others through art, education and equine therapy, as well as working to preserve an early breed of horse known as the Spanish Colonial horse.

“I believe in the power of the human connection with horses,” she said. “Dolphins, elephants and horses have an ability to connect with people on a completely different level – it’s incredible.”

Her background is in education for emotionally challenged and at-risk youth and she has a doctorate in curriculum development, but her love of horses drove her to find the perfect breed for equine therapy.

“Joty Baca, who was born in 1927, started breeding horses for kindness and upon his death, he had about 40 horses,” she said. “I first met the horses in Vermont and they were fantastic. I found a total of eight of them from all over the country and brought them out here.”

Powell said the horse’s lineage dates back to the 1500s when Spanish settler Hernán Cortés led an expedition to Mexico.

“I thought that was a good story about the old Spanish horses that were brought over to Mexico from Europe,” she said. “They were traded back and forth in what is now New Mexico and Colorado. A family had a landlocked ranch and unbeknownst to them, they preserved the breed for about 300 years.”

She said there were different breeds coming into the states after Columbus and that diluted the Spanish Colonial breed to some extent.

“At the same time as all the Spanish Colonial horses were here, the East Coast was getting the big, strong horses that came from Europe and that diluted the breed,” she said.

Powell is working with different universities, groups and individuals to identify specific Spanish Colonial horses and breed them in a way to preserve their best attributes.

“I was surprised to learn that most people think that the Native Americans had horses originally when the settlers got here but they didn’t,” she said. “The Native Americans called them spirit dogs and traded them.”

There was a group of young men at the Blue Oaks Center on Monday learning to take pictures with Michel Llewellyn and learning to be around horses from Lisa Calder, who owns Mindful Horsemanship and contracts to help at the Blue Oaks Center.

“My focus is equine art and education,” Calder said. “It all starts with an awareness of yourself and the horse. Then, you take a deep breath and that pushes away all the scatterings and then the horse can connect with you.”

Calder was working with Adalina, a 7-year-old Baca horse – one of the first that Powell got.

In addition to working with at-risk youth, the center offers classes for women and others who want to get a feel for equine therapy and the power of the horse/human connection.

“We’re doing short little workshops utilizing the space we have here,” she said. “We’re trying to work with the people at Beale for their children and families and want to get more involved in the community.”

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