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Volunteer Spotlight-Tammy Chako

“They used to say I was born drinking, eating, and sleeping horses. I was just horse crazy for as long as I can remember.” – Tammy Chako 

Tammy Chako, Vice President of Between Horses and Humans, was highly involved with horses starting from a young age. She got her first horse after taking lessons as a young girl, which then got her involved with horse showing and raising/training a newborn baby bred from her family's mare. She spent every moment learning from the bottom up by grooming horses and cleaning stalls and the barn to earn her way to riding and showing the family’s horses. She had a natural talent for riding and handling horses and competed in barrel racing, pole bending, showmanship and Western pleasure and horsemanship. 

Years later as a young mom in Wisconsin knocking on doors to find a job to support herself and her kids, she came across a wealthy family that had a show barn and facility of registered world-class show quarter horses. She went from mucking stalks to the family picking up on her natural talent and exercising, grooming, and doing the groundwork for the show horses. She also worked with the babies that were bred, raising them and getting them ready for riding. Eventually, she became the Barn Equine Manager for the facility - all from her natural talent and knowledge from growing up around horses. 

Once she moved to Gardnerville, Tammy wanted to get involved with the local community and came across Between Horses and Humans. After attending a volunteer day orientation, she joined the organization as a volunteer and within three months she was on the board of directors.  

“Being down in Gardnerville and joining Between Horses and Humans has brought me back to my horse roots,” Tammy said. “I love the mission and what we do at BHH, and I've been really happy to contribute not only my horse skills but my leadership skills.” 

Tammy spent her time working with the horses rather than the kids. She worked with Afka, our wonderful purebred Friesian mare, who had just joined the organization after her time as a broodmare. She was a bit out of shape and out of manners, so Tammy trained with Afka to condition her and assess her for safety and appropriateness for the kids. They worked together trotting, lunging, grooming, and tuning up her manners until she was ready to work with the children and volunteers at BHH. 

Now, Tammy serves as Vice President and still offers her skills when needed, but primarily uses her leadership skills to help the organization. Through her role as the Child Welfare Deputy Director for Eldorado County Health and Human Services, El Dorado County Child Welfare makes referrals to BHH for kids they feel can benefit from the program.  

Tammy believes in the program’s mission and its ability to help children heal from their trauma through the skills they learn through horsemanship.  

“Family systems are like a baby mobile, with five or six different moving pieces,” Tammy said. “If you look at that as a family system, and each piece is a member of that family, what happens when one of those pieces gets jarred or moved? The whole system is impacted. When those kids can come to our program and they can experience healing and learn how to emotionally regulate and heal their hearts and souls a little bit, that radiates out to all the other relationships in their lives.” 

The connections children can make with the horses are magical, and something she said has felt herself many times before with her own experiences with horses. 

“It is a beautiful magic that happens,” Tammy said. “I feel so honored and blessed to be able to be part of this organization, to help grow it and keep it going, and to care for these wonderful healers we have and be able to do my part to ensure this program touches as many children and families as possible.” 

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