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Fair or foal

Shani Silver loves horsin’ around, and horses have become her life.

By day – most of the day – she’s a special education teacher at Rio Rancho’s Cielo Azul Elementary.

Once that bell rings to end the school day, she can’t wait to drive a few miles to her home in central Rio Rancho, and her new Penny Lane Foal Rescue & Training Center.

“I can’t wait to get home every day,” she said.

A SoCal girl by birth – “I wanted to be a veterinarian,” she recalled – her heart’s in New Mexico, and she needs only to look to the east and the Sandia Mountains, within view of her corral and arena.

She’s jumped through a lot of hoops, she said, to get city approval for what she’s doing and plans to do at Penny Lane, named after her first Rio Rancho horse.

“I have five (horses), and I can have six (by regulation),” she said. “Nobody is against what I am trying to do.”

Silver is committed to providing quality care, extensive foundational skills and placement of rescued foals into loving, forever homes.

“I am the first in the state to focus on (foals) under six months of age,” Silver said.

She isn’t doing it alone: Penny Lane is also dedicated to bringing youth and horses together to learn, grow and achieve their full potential, and she’s offering area youngsters (10 and older) opportunities to participate in 50-minute individual or partner lessons; work with horses from the safety of the ground; develop respectful partnerships with horses through natural horsemanship techniques; learn to communicate with horses, along with socializing and providing foundation skills for rescued foals; and make a huge difference in the outcomes of these rescued foals, giving them a second chance at a wonderful life.

“Kids take these skills and apply them to the foals,” Silver said. “I need to place those foals.

“If people are unable to step up and help these young horses, there’s a possibility they could end up in livestock auctions and be brought down south into Mexico where they have meat processing plants,” she said. “My life is dedicated to helping youth and animals. For over 26 years, I have worked with youth in education and community services. I am a Level III K-12 teacher with a master’s degree in special education.”

The sister-and-brother duo of Mykaela and Josiah Hoppman live a few hundred yards away from Penny Lane and spend a lot of time with Silver and her horses, 21-year-old donkey and goats … but mostly the horses.

“She’s been here about eight years,” Silver said of 17-year-old Mykaela – “She is my staff” – whom Silver helped obtain her first horse, “Candy.” She’s been improving her barrel-racing skills lately.

“I love everything about horses,” Mykaela said, and although Josiah, 13, hasn’t been around as long, he also loves horses.

Silver said she met the kids a few years ago and it was an immediate attraction.

“There are only 12 of us on the (Oculus) Loop or so,” Silver said. “(The Hoppmans) had two llamas and a couple goats. We met through walking horses – they’re always outside. The Hoppmans are my wonderful neighbors.”

Someday, Mykaela said, she could see herself training horses for a living; Josiah said he’d like to be “an aeronautical engineer and a builder.”

The Hoppmans – there are eight siblings in all, including Mykaela’s twin – got a much earlier start in equestrians than Silver.

“I was 28 and decided to learn horseback riding to reduce stress,” she said. “I had worked in Planned Parenthood.

“I fell all the time, but I went to clinics and learned all I could, and volunteered at a stable,” she said. “Years later, they let me starting training the kids – after I stopped falling off.

“This is my life,” she added. “I already spend all my free cash on them. I really want the kids to be advocates and stewards of New Mexico’s horses, promote responsibility and horse ownership and horsemanship.”

For more information or to get involved, email Silver at, or visit or the Facebook page.