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Special horses.

Lana Mapes knows horses. A typical day for her includes caring for her 10 riding horses and four to seven boarding horses, training horses for 3BarC Quarter Horses in Terry, and, perhaps most importantly, teaching group and individual riding lessons to riders with disabilities.

Mapes started Aztec Farms in 1992 in Itawamba County and moved to Crystal Springs in 1996. In 1997, Aztec Farms became handicapped-accessible and began welcoming riders with disabilities with the slogan, "special horses for special riders."

"We use American Indian and Arabian horses for therapeutic riding, and they are, indeed, special," says Mapes, who is certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association and the Horsemanship Safety Association for American.

Mapes teaches riders with physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as riders without disabilities. Aztec Farms also puts on camps for girl scouts, church groups, and the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi.

An annual highlight for Aztec Farms is the upcoming Dixie National Special Needs Show (part of the Dixie National Rodeo and Livestock Show festivities) on February 9 at the Fordice Center on the State Fairgrounds in Jackson. Aztec Farms has produced and managed the show for 12 years, and this year Mapes expects more than 50 competitors showing 200 entries.

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"This is the only horse show in the Southeast open only to special needs riders," Mapes explains. "We have classes for costume, in-hand, wheelchairs, and many levels of riding." Mapes adds that the show includes six American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) sanctioned classes.

Mapes says the satisfaction she gets from helping people with special needs become horseback riders is like "nothing on earth."

"Horses have a very special way of sensing the needs of a rider and form amazing bonds to their 'kids,'" she insists. "Even after several months' absence, my horses still know those special riders and their needs. This work is as rewarding for the horses as it is for me and my students."

For more information on Aztec Farms, call 601.878.5421 or 601.308.0415, or email aztecfarms@yahoo.com. Aztec Farms is located at 9400 Tank Road in Crystal Springs.
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Title Annotation:mississippi matters: scrapbook
Author:McNair, Ann Shivers
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:355
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