Awards

Nominate your center's exceptional humans and horses

The nomination process has been simplified and is ongoing. Click here for nomination forms. Any nominations received after the deadline of the current year will be considered for the next year.

All winners for 2016 will be recognized at the 2016 PATH Intl. Conference and Annual Meeting Awards Banquet in Williamsburg, VA, Friday, November 4, 2016.

2015 Award Winners
2014 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

2012 Award Winners

2011 Award Winners
2010 Award Winners

2009 Award Winners

2015 PATH Intl. Award Winners

Congratulations 2015 PATH Intl. Exemplary Award Winners!

Premier Accredited Centers are in green.

 adult-equestrian-Cara-Yar-Khan

2015 PATH Intl. Adult Equestrian
Award
Cara Yar Khan
Region 5
Chastain Horse Park
Atlanta, GA

 Child-Equestrian-Joshua-Kim

2015 PATH Intl. Child Equestrian Award
Joshua Kim
Region 8
R.O.C.K., Ride on Center for Kids
Georgetown, TX

Independent-Adult-Josef-Hudson 

2015 PATH Intl. Paul Spiers Independent Adult Equestrian Award
Josef Hudson
Region 5
Calvin Center Therapeutic Riding Program
Hampton, GA

youth-equestrian-tricia-sullivan 

2015 PATH Intl. Youth Equestrian Award
Tricia Sullivan
Region 7
BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center
Harvard, IL

Sis-Gould-Lauren-Fitzgerald 

2015 Sis Gould Driving Recognition Award
Lauren Fitzgerald
Region 1
High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc.
Old Lyme, CT

 EFP-EAL-professional-Cheryl-Meola

2015 EFP/EAL Professional Award
Cheryl Meola
Region 3
Rocking Horse Ranch Therapeutic Riding Program
Greenville, NC

Equine-Services-for-Heroes-Mary-Ballengee 

 2015 PATH International Equine Services for Heroes Equestrian Award
Mary Ballengee
Region 8
R.O.C.K., Ride on Center for Kids
Georgetown, TX

james-brady-award-meggan-hill-mcqueeney
 

2015 PATH Intl. James Brady
Professional Achievement Award
Meggan Hill-McQueeney
Region 7
BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center
Harvard, IL


reg-5-equine-phantom
 

2015 PATH Intl. Equine of the Year Award
Co-Sponsored by:
Purina and The Equus Foundation
 
Region 5
Bethany's Equine & Aquatic TS, Inc. (BEATS)
Canton, GA

reg-7-cert-prof-patrick-mckevitt 

2015 PATH Intl. Certified Professional of the Year Award

Patrick McKevitt
Region 7
BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center
Harvard, IL

 reg-2-volunteer-caroline-black

2015 PATH Intl. Volunteer of the Year Award
Sponsored by AIM/Equine Network

Caroline Black
Region 2
Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc.
Bedford, NY

 reg-7-vet-andrea-mcgowan

2015 PATH Intl. Veterinarian of the Year Award
Sponsored by Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, makers of Adequan
 
Region 7
Main Stay Therapeutic Farm
Richmond, IL

2015 PATH Intl. President's Award

Jody Enget
Region 10
Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding CenterPikes Peak Therapeutic Riding CenterPikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center
Elbert, CO

2015 PATH Intl. Volunteer Leadership Award: Programs and Standards

 Asa (Ace) Raymond
Region 4
New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding, Inc.
Bowling Green, KY

2015 PATH Intl. Volunteer Leadership Award: Education

Cathy Languerand
Region 1
Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center
Bristol, CT

 

 

2015 Region Award Winners

Pictures coming soon to the region pages. PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Centers are in green.

 

Region 1

Equine of the Year Chester Strongwater Farm Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Inc.
Tewksbury, MA
Certified Professional of the Year NA

NA

NA
Veterinarian of the Year NA NA NA
Volunteer of the Year Gregory Wentworth Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center
Bristol, CT
Region 2
Equine of the Year White Roses' Lilly, "Lilly" Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc. Bedford, NY
Certified Professional of the Year Emily Wygod Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc. Bedford, NY
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Rosemary Ganser Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc. Bedford, NY
Volunteer of the Year Caroline Black Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc. Bedford, NY
Region 3
Equine of the Year Levi EQUI-KIDS Therapeutic Riding Program
Virginia Beach, VA
Certified Professional of the Year Linda Aikey Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program
Clifton, VA
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Candace Thrift Rocking Horse Ranch Therapeutic Riding Program Greenville, NC
Volunteer of the Year Elizabeth Schwitz Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center Haymarket, VA
Region 4
Equine of the Year Reo

Offering Alternative Therapy w/Smiles, Inc. (O.A.T.S.)

Clarkston, MI
Certified Professional of the Year Lauren Simak Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center
Chagrin Falls, OH
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Colleen Porter Offering Alternative Therapy w/Smiles, Inc. (O.A.T.S.) Clarkston, MI
Volunteer of the Year Dave Barry Reins of Life, Inc.
South Bend, IN
Region 5
Equine of the Year Phantom Bethany's Equine & Aquatic TS, Inc. (BEATS)
Canton, GA
Certified Professional of the Year Cynthia King Bethany's Equine & Aquatic TS, Inc. (BEATS) Canton, GA
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. April Andrews Montgomery Area Nontraditional Equestrians
Pike Road, AL
Volunteer of the Year Kim Light Colby's Army Fairview, TN
Region 6
Equine of the Year Amanda Equul Access, Inc. Hutchinson, MN
Certified Professional of the Year Anne Anderson We Can Ride, Inc.
Minnetonka, MN
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Judy Batker Three Gaits, Inc. Oregon, WI
Volunteer of the Year Anna Klinke Free SPIRIT Riders, Inc. Fond Du Lac, WI
Region 7
Equine of the Year Huff BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center Harvard, IL
Certified Professional of the Year Patrick McKevitt BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center Harvard, IL
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Andrea McGowan Main Stay Therapeutic Farm
Richmond, IL
Volunteer of the Year Anna Vermett BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center Harvard, IL
Region 8
Equine of the Year AMIGOS IN JAGS, "Amigo" EQUEST Wylie, TX
Certified Professional of the Year Priscilla Lightsey R.O.C.K., Ride on Center for Kids
Georgetown, TX
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Kurt Heite JoyRide Center, Inc. Magnolia, TX
Volunteer of the Year Smith Bazemore The Right Path Riding Academy Drumright, OK
Region 9
Equine of the Year Zorro Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center
Redmond, WA
Certified Professional of the Year NA NA NA
Veterinarian of the Year Dr. Ron Friedman Forward Stride
Beaverton, OR
Volunteer of the Year Lori Shepp Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center Redmond, WA
Region 10
Equine of the Year Mr. P Horses Help
Phoenix, AZ
Certified Professional of the Year Heather Cotterman Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center
Elbert, CO
Veterinarian of the Year NA NA NA
Volunteer of the Year Elise Brenninkmeyer Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc.
Longmont, CO
Region 11
Equine of the Year Magic Marker, "Mark" Helen Woodward Animal Center Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Certified Professional of the Year Heidi Koch Xenophon Therapeutic Riding Center
Orinda, CA
Veterinarian of the Year NA NA NA
Volunteer of the Year Bev Winton EQUI-ED Santa Rosa, CA

Bios

Mary Ballangee
We often hear about how the work at PATH Intl. Centers enriches participants and makes them stronger. But sometimes, a participant gives back to the center in such a way that the center itself is better, stronger and able to offer more to the community. Such is the case with R.O.C.K. Ride on Center for Kids, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Georgetown, Texas, and Mary Ballangee.

One person at ROCK said, “Mary has truly blessed our program many times over. She has learned to deal with trauma in her life by first learning to build an extremely strong relationship with her horse.  She explains that this bond led to eventually trusting people. She has also learned that healing takes place by mentoring other veterans during our program’s entry-level classes. Her experience, passion and vision for having a space for women veterans to receive services have led to a women’s program at our center.“

Mary‘s positive spirit is contagious. In a specific lesson, she was given a leadership role to teach a lesson to the other veterans about trail riding. She not only taught but also demonstrated incredible horsemanship. She displayed the techniques on horseback and then helped the others accomplish the tasks as well. By the end, the class knew more about trail manners, emergency stops and more. She did all of this with a great sense of kindness. She has a positive power running through her veins, and it is clearly evident when she rides.

She has an incredible knack for getting people to step out of their box and just laugh. To start out each week, Mary always prepares a ‘warm up’ activity for the group on the ground before we get on. The activities are always entertaining and are sure to get people laughing, relaxed and ready to ride. On this day, notes her instructor, she led a group of 15 volunteers and veterans in a banana dance!

Whether it is trail riding, working with a drill team or mentoring other veterans, Mary exhibits grace and confidence. We are proud to name her the PATH International Equine Services for Heroes Equestrian of the Year.

Caroline Black
Volunteers are sidewalkers, horse handlers, stall muckers and groomers. But sometimes volunteers are also the ones who fill out 501(c)(3) paperwork, raise funds, find insurance and keep a fledgling program going. Meet Caroline Black. She and a fellow board of directors member always dreamed of opening their own center, and in November 2014, they took the plunge.

Caroline has served on the boards of two therapeutic riding organizations and has had key roles in how these programs were designed, funded and implemented. She is a leader in maximizing the financial and organizational health of these centers, and her passion and enthusiasm are highly contagious. As the co-founder of Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc., in Bedford, NY, Caroline has engaged the entire community through press interviews and personal connections to educate, inform and garner support.

Her fellow board of directors member says, “My favorite thing about Caroline is that she sees the long-term goal. We want to be a sustainable, professional, welcoming center. Caroline is focused on recruiting a diverse Board of Directors to help create a strong foundation for the center. She is passionate about developing our staff and encouraging everyone to seek continued education. She wants to see our center become part of the community. If there is a community event going on, you know she is setting up a booth and spreading the word. There is no way we could get this center off the ground without Caroline.”

Caroline has been directly involved with therapeutic horsemanship for the last 10 years.  The revelation of seeing the immediate impact of equine-assisted activities and therapies on her then four-year-old son with special needs has kept her passionately committed to his development and to so many others like him. Her son is now a fourteen year accomplished rider.

Another person who has worked alongside Caroline says, “We cannot give enough thanks and appreciation for the energy, time and efforts she gives to the program on a daily basis. Caroline’s talents and support are a true blessing.”

It is an honor to name Caroline Black the PATH Intl. Volunteer of the Year.

Jody Enget
The President’s Award is an award decided upon and given by the board president to an individual or group of individuals who have helped to make the president’s term a success.

This year, President Jim Harlan awarded past president Jody Enget for her outstanding leadership, dedication and service to PATH Intl. over the last six years.  

Jody was instrumental back in 2009 in the integration of EFMHA (Equine-Facilitated Mental Health Association) and PATH Intl. She went on to join the PATH Intl. Board of Trustees and quickly demonstrated her ability and willingness to lead. She was key in the Membership Oversight Committee restructure, served as board president and then past president, all while raising a family and leading Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Elbert, CO. "She was the person I relied on as I got my feet on the ground as PATH Intl. President," said Harlan. "I have great appreciation for all of her time and effort."

Lauren Fitzgerald
It is rare that one meets an instructor who builds instantaneous rapport with such a wide range of participants, but that is what is said about Lauren Fitzgerald at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Old Lyme, Connecticut. From young drivers in summer camp to an elderly gentleman with dementia, Lauren finds a way to discover each individual’s personality and strengths. Before you know it, the drivers in her classes are excelling beyond expectations. As one person at High Hope said, “The participants develop a strong trust in her leadership, which results in a willingness to push themselves in skill development.”

Lauren’s passion for carriage driving and the barriers it breaks down extend far beyond High Hopes, where she is the lesson manager.  Her involvement in the PATH Intl. driving community has had a significant impact through chairing the driving committee and through an apprenticeship developing the skills to become a lead evaluator for both riding and driving. One example of her contributions is the development of a disabilities curriculum and PowerPoint presentation that is now used as part of the PATH Intl. Driving Workshop. She contributes to the field through active mentoring, being faculty at PATH Intl. certifications and workshops, providing leadership through committee involvement, including as the Driving Certification Committee chair, and providing articles for PATH Intl. Strides. Another person said, “I am confident that Lauren’s dedication and enthusiasm will carry therapeutic carriage driving progressively into the future.”

Lauren has a positive, can-do attitude that translates to horses and people alike.  A consummate professional, Lauren constantly strives to learn more and develop skills that will be used to benefit participants and horses. This giving, generous, sharing woman knows first-hand the true value of equine-assisted activities and therapies and eagerly shares her extensive knowledge to continually improve the lives of others.

Lauren, we are proud to name you the recipient of the Sis Gould Driving Recognition Award. Congratulations!

Meggan Hill-McQueeney
It takes someone of great dedication, proven leadership, high ethical standards and a demonstrated ability to develop and implement innovative, creative and effective ideas to receive the James Brady Professional Achievement Award. The recipient must be dedicated to the equine-assisted activities and therapies industry and demonstrate that through the delivery of service, educational contributions, support and promotion of the industry at all levels.

PATH Intl. is proud and honored to name Meggan Hill-McQueeney the 2015 James Brady Professional Achievement Award winner.

Meggan is the President and Chief Operating Officer at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Harvard, Illinois, but that is only where it begins. Meggan is also a PATH Intl. Certified Master Instructor, Evaluator, Lead Instructor and is on the PATH International Equine Services for Heroes committee, and is a Special Olympics coach.  

Meggan believes in working together to achieve goals. She has collaborated with many organizations and groups that serve individuals in need in order to provide more services. Her involvement with PATH Intl., Wounded Warrior Project, Special Olympics and mulitiple veteran associations are just a few groups she has worked with diligently to develop transformational solutions. Her work has resulted in serving more individuals, helping BraveHearts to achieve and retain the status of having the largest veteran program in the nation serving veterans through equine-assisted activities and therapies.

Meggan is always willing to help centers develop and achieve more recognition and funding in an effort to reach more individuals. Her recent involvement with veterans is one example. She closely worked with PATH Intl. in an effort to reach more veterans by developing a curriculum to educate those individuals in our industry on how to better serve veterans. Working with the Wounded Warrior Project to reach more veterans on a national level, Meggan worked on the development of the first-ever PATH Intl./Wounded Warrior Project four-day workshop for veterans from centers around the country.

Meggan introduced the concept of adopting wild Mustangs from the Bureau of Land Management, and with her expert guidance has introduced this to veterans as a vocational skill, which has been instrumental in increasing their self-confidence, self-esteem, socialization and level of trust. Not only has this had a significant impact for veterans, but also for the Mustangs that have been rescued from a dismal life spent in holding pens to a useful life in therapeutic horsemanship.

In conjunction with clinical psychologists and social workers, Meggan has developed innovative three-day retreats for female veterans with PTSD due to military sexual trauma; male veterans coping with PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury; returning veterans struggling with reintegration with their spouses and society; and Gold Star parents who have lost a child as a result of military service.

Marny Mansfield, the 2014 Certified Professional of the Year, said, “Meggan is a true professional in the field who believes in all that our participants CAN do. She is a professional force who will continue to bring services provided in the industry to a whole new level.”

Paddy McKevitt, the Director of Operations at BraveHearts and this year’s Certified Professional of the Year, said, “Meggan offers help and guidance to anyone in need and is a true advocate of equine-assisted activities and therapies. In the past few years, Meggan has really focused on advancing our industry as a whole, challenging us to serve more individuals using innovative programing. Meggan has encouraged us to step outside the box and push ourselves to do more. Meggan’s contribution to EAAT is still in full swing, and she will continue to do more in order to help more people in need.”

Jeanna Sorgani at BraveHearts says, “Meggan inspires everyone whom she encounters and encourages each to attain his or her highest potential. She is a woman of perseverance, diligence and tremendous leadership. For ten years, she has been my friend and my mentor, but, most importantly, Meggan now has become my hero. I cannot wait to see what she achieves next.”

Dr. and Mrs. Rolf Gunnar, co-founders of BraveHearts, wrote, "In Meggan Hill-McQueeney we see some of the finest qualities a person can possess—honesty, integrity, loyalty, deep personal faith, unflinching commitment to excellence, and passionate dedication to the EAAT industry she loves. She is most deserving of the James Brady Award."

We agree, and we are honored to bestow on Meggan the James Brady Professional Achievement Award for 2015.

Josef Hudson
“His enthusiasm is contagious.” “He is the most considerate young man and is always putting others first.” “He is always one to brighten anyone’s day.” “He has an infectious personality and loves to volunteer his time.” These are just a few ways the people at Calvin Center Therapeutic Riding Program, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Hampton, Georgia, describe Josef Hudson.

Josef works hard to overcome challenges, and he is determined to better himself as a person and as an equestrian. Perhaps the most successful lesson he has accomplished is not in his riding (which he works very hard on), but by demonstrating to other students and volunteers that it is about more than just riding. He is willing to do everything from care for horse and muck stalls to help other students. As a rider, he never stops trying to improve his canter and he can't wait to learn to jump. With his positive attitude and his willingness to do whatever it takes, we know he will succeed.

His instructor knows it too, and told this story. “Because of his learning disability, Josef has particular difficulties with following directions. This year, for the first time, he was participating in the advanced level dressage competition at the Special Olympics state games. Trying to follow the pattern, even with a caller, was near impossible. A few weeks before Special Olympics, when I was teaching him, he messed it up multiple times. But he never gave up. After each failed attempt, he would look up at me, smile, and say, ‘But next time, I'll get it. I was closer this time, wasn't I?’ In each failure, he found a positive. By mid way through the lesson, a crowd of parents had gathered. Finally, at the end of the lesson, he completed a beautiful 20-meter canter circle. Everyone was cheering and jumping up and down. Telling him, YOU DID IT and giving him a giant high five and seeing him break out in the biggest smile is a memory that will stick with me for all my teaching years!”

We are proud to name Josef the Paul Spiers Independent Adult Equestrian of the Year.

Cara Yar Khan
Several years ago, Cara Yar Khan was diagnosed with hereditary inclusion body myopathy, an extremely rare degenerative condition that typically leads to severe incapacity within 10-15 years of onset. Even though this condition is destroying all of her muscle tissue, Cara is determined to keep going and use her time to help others with disabilities. Although she had never ridden a horse, when she learned of equine-assisted activities and therapies, she jumped in with enthusiasm. Cara has worked for UNICEF all over the world helping improve others’ lives and is extremely empathetic and compassionate. She dove into therapeutic riding with the same energetic spirit, demanding excellence of herself and others, facing challenges head on. She is determined to spread the knowledge about EAAT and how it has positively affected her life. She says, “It makes me want to get out there so people can see a young woman with a disability who is fully engaged in life.”

An instructor at Chastain Horse Park, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Atlanta, Georgia, said, “This rider is the most incredible person I have ever met. She struggles with a terrible illness that is destroying all her muscle tissue. In spite of it, she is determined to keep going and to use her time to help others with disabilities. Her contributions to our program have been so significant that she was asked to join our board of directors.”

Cara asks that all her lessons be videotaped so she can review her performance and improve. Her doctors see the videos and tell her that what she is doing is not possible—and yet she does it every week.

Cara’s goal is to ride across the Grand Canyon on horseback, and with her determination and upbeat attitude, there is no doubt she will achieve all her goals. We are proud to name Cara the PATH Intl. Adult Equestrian of the Year.

Joshua Kim
Spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle weakness and mobility impairment, is Joshua Kim’s diagnosis. However, it certainly doesn’t define who he is.

When Joshua first came to ROCK, Ride On Center for Kids, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Georgetown, Texas, he couldn’t lift his head, raise his arms or sit independently, and hospital visits were frequent. But nothing could hamper Joshua’s spirit.  Those at ROCK say that he is a constant encouragement to others because of his willingness to continue to try, to step up and keep lifting his head. Yes, that’s right, Joshua now is able to lift his head and sit independently, riding his horse proudly, including verbalizing “Walk On” loud enough for his horse to hear. His family reports that because of equine-assisted activities and therapies and Joshua’s hard work at ROCK, he also stays out of the hospital for six months at a time.

Joshua loves to have jousting matches, using his play sword, with other riders in the arena. He motivates them to try their hardest as they “charge” at a walk toward each other. He then proudly salutes the other rider and both teams with his sword. His perseverance and positive attitude inspire everyone in the arena.

Joshua and his horse have become true partners in their journey together, moving in rhythm, two separate pieces making a whole. He is gaining strength in his legs and is now able to keep both feet in his stirrups. He maintains excellent balance and posture while direct reining his horse.  One who works with Joshua says, “His accomplishments are breathtaking. He lives a better life because of the interaction he has been afforded through equine-assisted activities and therapies.”

An instructor says, “We are proud beyond belief and honored to help him partner with his horse for healing. He demonstrates the true healing power of our industry.” Congratulations, Joshua, on being named the PATH Intl. Child Equestrian of the Year.

Cathy Languerand
It is Cathy’s contribution as the Chair of the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee that has earned her the 2015 Volunteer Leader: Education award. Cathy’s passion for educating people about the importance of maintaining both the physical and emotional well-being of our equine partners, as well as supporting and maintaining PATH Intl. standards, have been tremendously valuable to PATH Intl., its members and others in the equine industry as a whole.

Cathy has contributed equine tips for the PATH Intl. eNews, has presented the Equine Welfare Best Practices Webinar, and has been instrumental in leading the committee in designing a new presentation on promoting holistic awareness of body, mind and spirit of the equine.

Cathy is currently the program director at Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center, a PATH Intl. premier accredited center in Bristol, CT, and despite her busy schedule, she is always available to answer members’ questions about equine welfare on Community Connections and on Facebook.

Dr. Andrea McGowan
Without happy and healthy equines, centers could not function and participants would not be able to accomplish their goals. Veterinarians are part of a center’s team, and Main Stay Therapeutic Farm, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Richmond, Illinois, looks to Dr. Andrea McGowan for her expertise and caring spirit, and they have found a vet who regularly goes beyond expectations.

Dr. McGowan’s dedication to researching unusual medical issues is unparalleled.  Over the years, the center has encountered some very unusual medical issues requiring research, problem solving and multiple visits to discover the issue. She has demonstrated outstanding clinical judgment and tenacity even when things become complicated. One example that demonstrates this knowledge involved one of our “go to” horses who was starting to have chronic lameness issues. This horse is confident, smooth-gaited, and unflappable—attributes Dr. McGowan knows are hard to find and are needed in an excellent equine-assisted activities and therapies horse.  After all, this horse carried many of our most vulnerable clients each week. Dr. McGowan started with the least invasive treatment plan for this horse and then kept progressing, researching, trying her best to keep her healthy. She collaborated with Main Stay’s farrier and other vets to exhaust all the possibilities.  She went above and beyond, both financially, when the program couldn’t afford the options, and personally, when it came time to retire her. She gave from her heart.

Main Stay’s horses aren’t top show horses, but Dr. McGowan treats them as if they are.  She understands that the work they do and the joy they bring make them irreplaceable. She knows that for a young girl on the autism spectrum, riding her horse Maggie is the best part of her week. When Maggie became lame, Dr. McGowan went to great lengths to diagnose and treat her, treatments a small program could never have afforded without generous and significant in-kind donations made by Dr. McGowan so that Maggie could continue to be the bright spot in a young girl’s week.

Dr. Andrea McGowan is well named the PATH Intl. Veterinarian of the Year.

Patrick McKevitt
Patrick McKevitt, an instructor at the PATH Intl. Premier Accredited BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center in Harvard, Illinois, has devoted his life to helping humans and horses, and he truly understands the connection and impact a horse and rider can have. He attributes his own successes in overcoming tragedy and grief to his horse Wyatt. But what stands out is how many people refer to Patrick, or Paddy as he is known, as “more than an instructor.”

Whether it is with young children learning to ride or with veterans learning to trust again, Paddy continually exhibits patience, kindness and compassion in progressing participants toward meeting their goals. For example, he has worked with a man who was recently accepted to compete in the Special Olympics World Games. Paddy worked diligently to get him where he needed to be to successfully compete. This athlete is still excited and interested in riding, due in large part to Paddy’s ability to challenge the rider while still having fun. The athlete refers to Paddy as more than an instructor; Paddy is his best friend and role model.

Perhaps it is said best by one of his participants. “As a new rider and military veteran who was fearful and untrusting, Patrick accepted me as I was.  He slowly introduced me to the horse and convinced me it was safe to ride. He was with me from the moment I sat on the horse, reading my body reaction to stress and hesitation. In a short one hour lesson, he was able to get me to trot and steer on my own. At every moment of insecurity, he was there to help me through it. Numerous times he had demonstrated to me that horses were the mirror to the soul, which at first, scared me. The longer I was able to ride under his instruction and develop a relationship with these wonderful equines, I was not only developing my riding skills, but my self-confidence as well.  He is more than a teacher in arena who teaches you how to ride a horse. This instructor is teaching how to build self-worth to continue to live and grow in the uncertain world. I am starting to like who I am becoming.”

Congratulations, Patrick, on being named the PATH Intl. Certified Professional of the Year.

Cheryl Meola
It takes a person of talent and determination to pursue a vision and bring it to completion. Such a person is Cheryl Meola, the PATH Intl. Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy / Equine-Assisted Learning Professional of the Year.

Cheryl started working at Rocking Horse Ranch Therapeutic Riding Program in Greenville, North Carolina, about a year ago, and quickly distinguished herself as someone deeply invested in mental health. She actively pursued partnerships with other organizations and was instrumental in launching PATH International Equine Services for Heroes at the center. In order to accomplish this, she developed and facilitated a presentation to the community about the program, which included a public viewing of a documentary to approximately 75 staff, board members and guests at a local community college. Along with other staff members, she developed and piloted this program with a group of local veterans.

She embodies the spirit of an ideal mental health professional in all she does, and has recently began talks to have weekly adolescent substance abuse groups.

As one participant noted, “She has helped me greatly to understand and improve myself and my horsemanship skills. The veterans program has helped me to open up and actually show the confidence and courage that is within. Without her leadership and caring for others, none of this would have happened. She has taught me everything from safe handling to proper grooming, and I feel we will succeed at anything we try in the future.”

Congratulations, Cheryl, on being named the PATH Intl. EFP/EAL Professional of the Year.

Phantom
Phantom started at Bethany's Equine & Aquatic TS, Inc. (or BEATS)in Canton, Georgia, 14 years ago.  He was patient and tolerant as a teenage boy who had suffered a TBI made his first voluntary movement in reaching to pet, then ride with FOUR sidewalkers to allow him to sit as Phantom stepped carefully forward.  Since then, Phantom has helped countless children and adults in hippotherapy, adaptive riding, Special Olympics and learning to ride.

One parent says of her 26-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy, “He is patient and tolerant as she starts each session tight with spasticity. His movement gently rocks her until her muscles relax. He has been her partner in Special Olympics for the past eight years and last year they earned yet another gold medal. They are truly connected.”

It isn’t often that someone nominates himself, but Phantom had things to say. “For 15 years now,” he says, “I’ve seen it all. Kids of all ages and all abilities. My mom says my movement is very gradable. No clue what that means, but I just do exactly what my leader tells me whether it is with words or body language. My FAVORITE thing is Special Olympics!!! SO MUCH FUN! Our team does these group numbers to music.  All of the kids dress up and we horses do too.  I was the most handsome steed for Aladdin! I’m a gelding but I still loved all that bling! And not to brag but you should see my gold medal collection from the past seven years! I’ve come close to retiring several times, and I admit, we are taking it year by year now. So for that reason, I nominate myself for the PATH Intl. Equine of the Year for 2015, so that I can ensure myself enough bragging rights to get carrots every day, even when I’m retired.”

As one person said, “The gifts Phantom gives are exceptional. He is truly one of a kind.” Another said, “Phantom is a hero.”

Phantom, we are honored to name you the PATH Intl. Equine of the Year. Go get your carrots!

Asa Raymond
Certified as both a therapeutic riding instructor and driving instructor, Asa, or Ace, Raymond has been involved with PATH Intl. for nearly 15 years. He currently serves on the Faculty Development Workgroup and is a Lead Accreditation Site Visitor. As a dedicated site visitor, Ace is always willing to jump in his car and make a six-hour drive for a last minute site visit. Ace takes every available opportunity to improve on his skills and help to foster the growth of participants, volunteers and his colleagues. Unassuming and humble, Ace is a model volunteer to the entire EAAT industry, and well deserving of the 2015 Volunteer Leader: Programs and Standards award.

Ace is an instructor at New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding, Inc., a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Bowling Green, KY.

Tricia Sullivan
You might say this is a love story, one that began with a tragic car accident ten years ago, resulting in a traumatic brain injury for eight-year-old Tricia. When she came out of a coma, she joined a summer camp at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center, a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center in Harvard, Illinois, and slowly began regaining her speech and ability to walk. At that summer camp, she found more than just new friends; she discovered the friendship of four-legged friends and a newfound love for riding. Her horse not only helped her physically but also helped her heal emotionally from losing her younger sister in the same accident.

An instructor at the center said, “When I first began teaching I had the opportunity to work with Tricia and immediately saw her love and connection with the horse she rode named Hank. Tricia worked hard on her goals, increasing her strength each visit as she would groom, help tack and ride.” The excitement she expresses about her accomplishments makes every moment memorable.

For the past five years, Tricia has participated in Special Olympics, winning the gold medal four times. One instructor noted, “She competes solely for the joy of being in partnership with her horse and is the most gracious competitor to enter in the ring with other athletes.”

Tricia enjoys not just the ride but also the grooming, tacking, friendships, time and experiences she has at BraveHearts. Her instructor said, “She lives every moment with new enthusiasm.  She has mastered to ride independently at the walk and at the trot and most recently learned her diagonals.  Even though it may take her longer to accomplish a task physically, she is most patient not only with herself but also with her horse. Her kind, diligent, perseverance that she applies to herself and her horse sets an example for me to be a better instructor.”

Each time Tricia comes to her riding lesson she greets Hank with a hug, and each time she leaves she delivers endless kisses and thank you’s to her volunteers, her instructor and, of course, to Hank. You might say this is a love story. The very best kind of love story.

Congratulations, Tricia, on being named the PATH Intl. Youth Equestrian of the Year.

markel-insurance-company

Adequan

equisure headercrop

Therapeutic RidingTherapeutic DrivingInteractive VaultingEquine Services for HeroesEFP-EFL

Additional Sponsors

AdequanEQUUS FoundationMarkel Insurance CompanyCavalloRIDE TV