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.

Dorothy Magnotta

Office Manager, Volunteer 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!

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.”

Chelsey Mentz

Occupational Therapist

 Chelsey grew up in Michigan and has lived in Colorado and Alabama. In 2019, she and her husband moved to Lake Tahoe where she began providing occupational therapy at Kids & Horses through Highest Potential Therapy. It has been a dream come true to incorporate horses as a treatment tool while also working outside! She is extremely grateful for all the hard work and dedication the horses, volunteers, and staff at Kids & Horses put into her clients and their treatment sessions. Fun fact: Chelsey hiked a slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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.

Paige Dossey

Substitute PATH-certified Instructor 

Paige was born and raised in Carson City, NV. In December of 2017, she graduated 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 an instructor in 2017. Her favorite thing about Kids & Horses is “working with the amazing volunteers and staff that make this program the postive expereince that it is.” Paige enjoys working with the students and their families while being around such “healing animals”.

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!!

Anne Cipolla

 Ranch Hand 

Anne’s belief in the grace and strength of the equine spirit brought her to our program in 2017. In addition to helping care for the herd, Anne volunteers as a horse handler and is studying to become a PATH-certified instructor. 

Ani Thompkins  

 Ranch Hand 

Ani spent the majority of her life in the Bay area before moving to Gardnerville in the beginning of 2019. After volunteering for a couple of months, Ani was hired as a ranch hand. She loves working and volunteering at Kids & Horses. One of her favorite things about being a part of the Kids & Horses community is watching how “the team all works together to create a great expereince for the clients”. Fun Fact: Ani is an artist! She has done a lot of painting over the years and makes some beautiful pieces. 

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If you are interested in working together, send us an inquiry and we will get back to you as soon as we can!