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Towne Salute: Tom Saquella of Talisman Therapeutic Riding

Mar 28, 2017 12:00PM ● By Nicole Gould
By Caley Breese

Tom Saquella retired in July of 2010 after successful careers in the Army, with the State as Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff to the Maryland Secretary of Economic and Community Development, as President of the Maryland Retailers Association, and also serving on a number of government boards and commissions. He did not know what the next chapter of his life would bring, when he met Anne L. Joyner, Founder and CEO of Talisman Therapeutic Riding. But the rest is history.

“I had just retired. I had a very intense job, and I really wasn’t looking for anything else to do. And then, I met Anne,” Saquella laughs fondly. “So this felt natural for me to do. It was a start-up, which was a real challenge. I mean, we were starting from ground zero.”

Joyner founded Talisman Therapeutic Riding, located in Grasonville, in June 2012. The organization, which operates year-round, serves to help support individuals with special needs, such as physical, cognitive, social, emotional, or behavioral conditions, with equine-assisted activities. From horseback riding to helping brush the horses and everything in between, Talisman Therapeutic Riding will accommodate an individual’s specific needs to provide a therapeutic experience that can help enhance quality of life.

Joyner, who joined us during the interview, described how she got Talisman started.

“This is a combination of things that I love. And I’ve had the opportunity to know what therapeutic riding does and how it benefits,” she explains.

Saquella, who grew up in New Jersey, has been with Talisman since the very beginning. In those early days you could find him doing trimming and weeding on the property, anything that needed attention. He then served on the board of directors for five years and has been chairman for four.

“I always say I went from gardener to chairman,” Saquella laughs. He explains that although he has been on a number of boards throughout his career, he enjoys it. The Talisman Board primarily focuses on fundraising and introducing people to the organization.

In addition to being chairman, Saquella and his wife are both co-chairs for the Derby Day Benefit, an annual fundraiser held every May. At this event, which takes place on Talisman Farm, there is a silent and live auction and the Kentucky Derby is shown live as well.

“It’s really a wonderful event. We get 150 people,” Saquella says. “It’s probably the largest-attended fundraiser we have. And we’re hoping to make it even bigger this year!”

Starting from the bottom has been no easy task either. The staff and volunteers at Talisman Farm have been very adaptive and creative in building up this organization.

“We’ve been pretty innovative because we’ve had to be. We didn’t have a built-in clientele of a couple hundred clients. We had to start from one rider and one horse,” Saquella explains. “Probably the most rewarding thing is seeing the progress our clients make.” He smiles.

While Saquella has volunteered in many different ways over the years, the message has always stayed the same for him.

“It’s just been very rewarding and, you know, I guess I was, to a great degree, influenced by my mother. She always preached to us when we were little kids [to] always give back,” he remembers. “It’s been a wonderful experience. Very rewarding. As I said, it’s amazing how much progress we’ve made.”

For more information on Talisman Therapeutic Riding, visit talismantherapeuticriding.org.

Do you have a volunteer to nominate? Email Nicole Gould at Ngould@WhatsUpMag.com