About Our Team

Passion Driven By Knowledge And Solidified with Loving Action

Kids & Horses Staff

Cat O’Brien

Program Director, PATH-certified Instructor

Catherine “Cat” O’Brien is originally from Chicago, but spent much of her life in Southern California. Cat had been in public education for the 20 years, teaching ESL and Spanish at Carson Middle School. She became a certified instructor in 2017. Cat loves being a part of the Kids & Horses team.

Barb Morningstar

Business Manager 

After volunteering one Sunday afternoon in 2008, Barb knew that that working with Kids & Horses was what she wanted to do. She retired early from the State of Nevada to accept her “dream retirement job” at Kids & Horses in 2011. “There is nothing like seeing the day to day benefits of the program for the students I’ve been involved with in lessons.” Barb did not have the opportunity to be around horses until she and her daughter adopted their first mustang in 2001 and cannot imagine life without these wonderful animals.

Dorothy Magnotta

Volunteer and Event Coordinator 

Dorothy moved from New Jersey in January of 2017. She became involved in our program as a volunteer the same month she moved to Minden. Shortly after, she joined the staff team.Here at Kids & Horses, she enjoys seeing the appreciation the students, staff, and volunteers have for the program. She has been happily married for 32 years and has two young adult children. Dorothy loves exploring new surroundings and socializing with people. Fun Fact: Dorothy likes to cook and entertain when time permits.

Alissa Burns

Equine Manager, PATH-certified Instructor 

Alissa became involved in the arena of therapeutic riding in the late 1980’s.  She retired from a career of over 30 years in public safety, which also included her active involvement in Mounted Patrol units.  She was then able to quickly fulfill her goal of becoming a PATH Certified Instructor in 2011.  One of her greatest blessings in life has been the ability to share and teach the joy of horses and safe horsemanship with others, no matter what their level of involvement or ability might be.  “To see the wonderment and be a part of their journey’s is more than just a privilege, it is pure joy!”

Ryanna Blake

Public Relations, PATH-certified Instructor

Ryanna has lived in Nevada her whole life. She loves to spend time with her family and friends (four-legged ones included). Ryanna started working at Kids & Horses in 2016 and loves being part of a community where lives are changed and miracles are witnessed. She was certified as an instructor in May of 2018.  “It has been a immense blessing to be a part of this program and getting to know some of the families, the volunteers, and the staff. It’s a unique opportunity that I am incredibly grateful for.”

Vince Pirozzi

Facility/Safety Manager, PATH-certified Instructor

Vince was born and raised in New York City. He has 38 years of firefighter/paramedic experience, and was commander of Carson City mounted police for 10 years! Vince became an instructor in 2013. His favorite part of teaching is helping his students reach their goals. Fun Fact: Vince enjoys building detailed model boats!

Lisa Fletcher

PATH-certified Instructor

Lisa is a native of New Orleans. She earned a BA in elementary and special education from the University of New Orleans.  Lisa met Sam (our founder) in 1999. He recruited her to volunteer and instruct at Kids & Horses. She is proud to be part of the Kids & Horses family!

Paige Dossey

PATH-certified Instructor 

Paige was born and raised in Carson City, NV. Paige graduated from the University of Nevada Reno with a Bachelors in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Developmental Disabilities. Paige began volunteering at Kids & Horses in 2013, and became a instructor in 2017. Paige’s favorite thing about Kids & Horses is as she puts it, “the sense of community as soon as you walk in the door. I love to work with the amazing volunteers and staff that makes this program the positive experience that it is”. Paige enjoys working with the students and their families while being around such “healing animals”.

Sheila Schwadel

PATH-certified Instructor

Sheila is a Real Estate Broker, and has had horses for many years. “It has been really gratifying to see the progress in my student riders, some who were afraid to go near a horse the first time, yet now groom, saddle, and ride independently ride!” Fun Fact: Sheila volunteers with mustang rescue and training.

Erin Vaillancourt

Physical Therapist

Erin was raised in Gardnerville, Nevada since she was 7 years old.  In her spare time, Erin love doings anything outdoors with her husband and two kids.  Some of their favorite hobbies (besides horses of course) are rock climbing, skiing, and kayaking.  The thing Erin loves about working at Kids and Horses is being a part of a team that is passionate about helping others through the use of a horse. Erin says, “It really doesn’t feel like work, and I love the entire team here.”

Annie Struemph

Occupational Therapist

Annie grew up in Missouri. She started working at Kids & Horses in April of 2018. Annie loves being able to give kids the therapeutic input in such a unique and beneficial strategy!  “There are so many therapeutic benefits that horses offer my clients, and that wouldn’t be possible without Kids & Horses,” she states. Fun Fact:Her favorite flavor of ice cream is butter pecan.

Kim Scott

 Ranch Hand 

Kim was raised in Southern California. Horses have always been a part of her life, and her love for horses is what brought her to our program. Kim started working at Kids & Horses in 2016. Her favorite part of her job is everything from the volunteers, the horses, and the staff!!

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