Talley Hutcherson had wanted a horse since she was a little girl, but didn’t get one until she was 25 years old. Today, she manages more than 30 horses and is the successful owner of Connemara Ranch, a riding stable and equine therapy center located on a four-acre spread in the Malibu hills.
Hutcherson graduated from Pepperdine University in 1984 with a degree in youth agency administration. Two years later she started Connemara Ranch. The ranch is named after her daughter Connemara, a Malibu High student, who is an active volunteer at the ranch. Hutcherson also collaborates with the Shalom Institute and runs its summer camp program.
The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who saw her life change when she decided to turn her hobby into a business.
What inspired you to open the Connemara Ranch?
I’ve always been passionately drawn to horses. My family was never able to give me a horse of my own. After many, many, many times of asking my mom for a horse, she told me that if I wanted a horse of my own I should put myself in a path where I’d have access to them. That decision led me to Malibu, where I went to Pepperdine University for college. After I graduated, I did a lot of fundraising and tried a few different things, but everything led me back to horses. That’s when I decided to turn my hobby into a business of my own.
What types of programs does the Ranch offer?
Recreational horseback riding—I teach how to ride, individual and group equine therapy. We have a program called Connecting with Horses, where I teach people how horses build relationships with each other and how they communicate with each other. I have another program called Hiking with the Ponies, where we take ponies out into nature and go hiking in and around Malibu.
Who pays for the management and daily finances of the horses?
It’s a collaborative effort. The horses generate funding for themselves. People pay for use of the horses and use of the camp during summer camp. People also donate money.
What are your goals for the ranch?
My most urgent goal right now is to offer the horses more preventative care. The cost of it makes it very challenging and it requires additional funding sources. I’m looking for ways to creatively encourage people to give more to the horses that already give so much to people. I’m also looking for talented and experienced horse people to join the work that we’re doing so we can expand. One of the challenges someone like me faces is the people who move to rural places and don’t appreciate it. It doesn’t equate with developing property. More homes, less animals. We’re really in jeopardy right now. And this is the year of the horse!
What brought you to Equine Therapy?
Just the realization that horses brought me joy. They made me happy. My inner peace was improved. I was saved by horses and it created an inner desire to find out more. I received training and was one of the first providers of equine therapy in Malibu in 1997. I started Connemara Ranch focusing on recreational horseback riding, but learned how therapeutic horses can be turned to equine therapy.
How have you seen Malibu change over the years?
Malibu has changed a lot since I’ve moved here in 1979. In some ways better and in some ways worse. The massive amount of money that’s moved in has changed things a lot. The rural life is changing. Some of my favorite restaurants have closed because they couldn’t afford their rent. It used to be more family-run. I used to know everybody, and it’s not like that anymore. But it’s still a very beautiful place where people care a lot about each other. There are as many wonderful things as those things that have changed. The people in Malibu are very generous. I myself am a recipient of many generous donations.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was a really interesting and unique experience. A feeling of being vulnerable. We spoke on an authentic level with each other. The experience was quite surprising. We shared many good stories with each other. She’s an amazing artist and I’m thrilled to see how she captured it.
Johanna Spinks paints portrait by commission. Visit johannaspinks.com or call 310.384.7029.