Amy has been infatuated and inspired by horses for as long as she can remember. Growing up in urban San Francisco did not provide many opportunities to ride, but she took advantage of every chance that came her way! In college Amy had the opportunity to ride and teach each summer at a camp on Orcas Island, Washington- here she gained a deeper knowledge of horse and herd care and behavior. In 2006 Amy became a volunteer at Giant Steps, and two years later she became certified as a PATH instructor. In 2012 Amy's life-long dream of owning a horse came true when an off-the-track Thoroughbred came into her life. She regularly competes in hunter/jumper shows in Northern California on her mare, "Pulitzer Prize".
Marilyn started volunteering at Giant Steps in October of 1999 – making her the longest active Giant Steps volunteer! When she began volunteering she was working full-time and could only volunteer on Saturdays. Once retired she started volunteering more hours and then she pursued instructor certification in 2009. She loves watching her riders grow and learn each week. Marilyn is also a volunteer at HoofBeats, helping with horse care and training, as well as volunteering with the Petaluma Elks Lodge. She has owned two horses in the past, and although she does not have one of her own now, she loves being grandma to her son’s horses.
Debbie grew up in Illinois where she graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. She now lives in Sonoma with her husband, Dave, and their dog, Dutch. Debbie started riding horses 20 years ago and is currently taking lessons with a hunter/jumper trainer. She began volunteering at Giant Steps in 2007, and became a registered instructor in 2010. Along with her teaching responsibilities, she continues to volunteer her time with Giant Steps and GEVA, an equine retirement foundation in Sonoma County.
Jenny grew up in Great Britain riding in the woods for recreation. Most recently she has been taking lessons in dressage. She has always loved the freedom she feels when riding, and the bond that happens when horse and rider unite. Since coming to the US, Jenny has lived in DC, Burlington, VT, Brooklyn, and now California. In Vermont Jenny began working with people with special needs at a mental health agency where she was exposed to equine therapy for the first time. Her desire to be part of the wonderful healing process of equine therapy led her to volunteer at Giant Steps. She became an instructor in 2012 and feels privileged to encourage the same bonds and freedoms that she has when around horses. When she is not at Giant steps Jenny enjoys traveling, gardening, hiking, cooking and walking her dog.
Jen McWherter, Head Instructor
Jen has been involved in therapeutic riding for over 15 years. She grew up riding bareback in Australia, and after moving to Birmingham, AL she started volunteering with Special Equestrians, Inc. She became volunteer coordinator for Special Equestrians, and in 2006 became a certified riding instructor. Jen and her family relocated to California in 2011 and she sought out a place to continue her therapeutic riding career. Luckily she found Giant Steps and started volunteering and teaching here soon after her arrival in Sonoma County.
Mariah has been riding for 20 years. Her background is in competitive show jumping where she progressed to A level shows and jumped as high as four feet. She has also competed in beginner level dressage shows, had a brief stint in breaking horses, and has worked as a horse trainer for 10 years. Mariah joined Giant Steps as a volunteer in 2008. “I think my knowledge of horses helped me settle right in and focus on the students, who are the reason why I come to Giant Steps!” Over her five years, Mariah has seen and learned a great deal about therapeutic riding and how it can help the human body and mind, which led her to become an instructor last year. “I learn more every day that I get to work with my students, their families, and fellow Giant Steps volunteers and instructors. I look forward to using that knowledge to not only help my students become better riders, but also to achieve their goals outside of the ring.”
All photos courtesy of Lee McLaughlin.