Equine Services for Heroes


2018 virtual conference signature es4h


What attendees of the 2017 Virtual Conference had to say:

"I am not able to attend national conferences very often, or at all, so this was a great resource and help in allowing me to get some CEUs. The networking was also amazing."
"Thank you for the flexibility of watching the presentations later, we had lessons and could not watch it live. I look forward to more virtual conferences!"
"Overall, I was impressed with how well organized and smoothly everything ran. I feel much more connected to the organization now than ever."

One event, many topics. When we say "Viritual Conference," we don't mean just webinars!

Do you have everything you need to support a Veterans EAAT program? Are you an instructor looking to increase your knowledge and elevate your program's veteran services? Don't miss this opportunity to expand your knowledge, contribute to the growth of EAAT and chat with like-minded EAAT professionals! And remember, if you are a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor, conference attendance can contribute to your continuing education requirements. 

The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) hosts the virtual onference, which attracts attendees in the field of EAAT from all over the world. This exciting and engaging conference is one of PATH Intl.'s premier education events, where PATH Intl. members and other EAAT professionals gather to attend lectures by leading industry and medical professionals. Learn about new developments in the field and network with colleagues and peers.

The PATH International Equine Services for Heroes® Virtual Conference is paid in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports Grant.

Worried you can’t make a session? All attendees will receive video recordings of the conference sessions! Still have some lingering questions? Reach out to the staff with an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Conference Dates

11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (EDT), August 28 and 29, 2018


Registration is now closed.


If you are looking to sign up as a center, you will need a discount code. Please call the office at (800) 369, 7433, ext. 125, and speak with Elias Holdman, PATH Intl. Education Representative, to receive a code.

Member Rate - $119
Non-member Rate - $169
Center Rate (good for three people) - $240
Veterans - $29

Technology Requirements

What you will need:
- Adobe Flash Plugin
- Broadband Internet
- Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Google Chrome
- Compatible with IOS and Android based tablets and smartphones

For full specifications, click here.


The full 2018 PATH International Equine Services for Heroes Virtual Conference is worth 12 CEUs.

Presenters & Sessions

Different Models of Engagement in Programs/Families
Julianne Mills, Julia Ray and Bre Podgorski
Julia Ray, Programs Director, Disabled Sports USA

A native of the United Kingdom, Julia has been working with Disabled Sports USA since 2003. During her tenure she has been instrumental in getting thousands of individuals with disabilities, including youth and wounded warriors involved in adaptive sports. It is her personal and professional mission to find ways in which people with disabilities can have an equal opportunity to participate in sports and recreation. Julia oversees all of Disabled Sports USA’s programs, including Warfighter Sports, Adapt2Achieve, Empower YOUth Sports and Ski Spectacular. She also serves as Disabled Sports USA’s representative for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Multi-Sport Organization Council and Youth Sports Working Group. Prior to joining Disabled Sports USA, she worked in the U.K. in governmental inclusive sports programing and international sports doping control. She is a certified gymnastics coach, SCUBA diver and has many years’ experience in the development and expansion of sports programs for people with disabilities. Julia received a B.S. (HONS) degree in sports administration and management from Nottingham Trent University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two daughters.

Julianne Mills, Program Manager, Disabled Sports USA
Julianne first discovered adaptive sport as a high school student volunteering at a therapeutic riding program. After completing a B.S. degree in psychology and a brief stint in healthcare, Julianne followed her heart back to the barn and pursued a career in equine-assisted activities, later earning a PATH Intl. Advanced Instructor certification. She also has extensive experience in volunteer management and piloted a mentor program to provide supported volunteer opportunities for adults with disabilities. Julianne joined DSUSA in late 2016 to serve as program manager for Adapt2Achieve, DSUSA’s training and education initiative. She is passionate about promoting professional development for adaptive sport providers to elevate the industry and help ensure athletes of all abilities can participate in activities safely and successfully. After her spouse served two tours in Iraq, they gained a newfound appreciation for the way sports, recreation and community involvement can improve quality of life, and they remain committed to sharing these experiences with other veterans.

Bre Podgorski, Program Coordinator, Disabled Sports USA
Bre Podgorski joined the DSUSA team in August of 2013 as an intern and never looked back. A 2013 graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a degree in recreation, sport, and tourism, Bre found her love of providing opportunities for people with disabilities through working as a camp counselor and managing the wheelchair basketball team. Bre now coordinates all of the Warfighter Sports programing out of the DSUSA headquarters office and is a big believer in the power of sport and all of the positive effects it can have on a person.

About Disabled Sports USA
Since 1967, Disabled Sports USA has focused on one goal: To improve the lives of wounded warriors, youth and adults with disabilities by providing sports and recreation opportunities. Our unique structure as a community-based chapter network allows Disabled Sports USA to serve over 60,000 people across the country, through a grassroots approach that supports local chapters in identifying the needs of the communities they serve. Over 50 different sports are offered at 120+ chapters in more than 40 states. These opportunities transform the people we serve, highlighting the potential in each of us, embodied in our motto: “If I can do this, I can do anything!”

About Warfighter Sports  https://www.disabledsportsusa.org/sports/warfighter-sports/
Warfighter Sports, a program of Disabled Sports USA, offers sports rehabilitation for wounded warriors with permanent physical disabilities in military hospitals and communities across the U.S. in partnership with a nationwide network of community-based chapters. Since 1967, Disabled Sports USA has proudly served over 12,000 wounded warriors, including those injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, offering over 50 winter and summer sports at more than 100 events each year. Warfighter Sports rebuilds lives through sports by improving self-confidence, promoting independence and uniting families through shared healthy activities. Contributions cover all expenses for participation of the warrior and a family member, including individualized adaptive instruction, adaptive sports equipment, transportation, lodging and meals.

About Adapt2Achieve https://www.disabledsportsusa.org/chapters/training/
Adapt2Achieve, a program of Disabled Sports USA, offers training in adaptive sports and nonprofit management to develop and strengthen community-based adaptive sports organizations. Last year, Disabled Sports USA committed $300,000 to training programs. Training is delivered through in-person conferences, webinars, adaptive sport-specific coach/instructor trainings, and manuals produced in partnership with National Governing Bodies. Since 2009, 75+ training events in a variety of adaptive sport and nonprofit management topics have been delivered to chapters of DSUSA and several hundred other community-based organizations and VA Medical Centers.

Equine Immersion Program Model
Tara Mahoney, LPC, and Gerry Duncan
Each of us has come to this special field through a unique personal path, and Tara Mahoney is no exception. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Masters of Arts degree in counseling as well as certificates in forensic psychology and veterans behavioral health. Since 1996, she has counseled in diverse settings including a jail, a homeless shelter, an in-patient psychiatric hospital, a Vet Center, Family Drug Court, DBT Out-Patient Clinic, and private practice. Most recently, Ms. Mahoney has focused her education, experience and energy to equine-assisted activities and therapies for veterans and their families. As a PATH Intl. ESMHL and psychotherapist, she recognizes the tremendous impact of EAAT for trauma processing; thus, she developed Equine Immersion Programs™ for Touchstone Farm and for Home Base A Red Sox Foundation/Massachusetts General Hospital Intensive Clinical Program. Over the past few years, Ms. Mahoney has implemented Equine Immersion Programs ™for several hundred veterans and their support persons. She is thrilled to combine her professional vocation with her lifetime passion for horses to provide healing opportunities for our deserving service members. 

Operation Centaur
George Paffendorf
Major George W. Paffendorf, KCA, U.S. Army Retired has more than 23 years of military service. After the Army he worked with youth at risk in New Jersey and retired as the state director for Youth Programs and Special Initiatives.  A lifelong horseman, he is a PATH Intl. Certified Riding Instructor, Driving Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL) and Mentor and serves on the PATH Intl. Driving Subcommittee. He has completed the PATH Intl. Advanced Veterans Training and is certified through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) as a Level Two Equine Specialist in Equine Facilitated Mental Health and Learning (EFMHL). He is certified in Equine Assisted Personal Development (EAPD), is a Special Olympics Equestrian Coach and is a licensed New York City Carriage Driver.  In addition, he serves as the volunteer director of Operation Centaur, Centenary University’s veterans program and is the volunteer assistant director of therapeutic riding at Centenary (TRAC). He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Therapeutic Riding Activities and Traumatic Brain Injuries 
Anita Shkedi
Anita Shkedi introduced therapeutic riding in Israel in 1985. Since then she has continued to work in the field providing and facilitating equine-assisted activities and therapies to challenged and disabled children and adults. She has a doctorate and master's degree in education, a post graduate diploma in preventive medicine, and British State Registration Nursing diplomas as well as a therapeutic riding instructor’s certificate. Her doctoral thesis researched Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy: Towards a Future Curriculum. In 2015, she received the Award of Excellence from the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for her work in Israel. She is an author of the book Traumatic Brain Injury and Therapeutic Riding, which has been praised by many colleagues in the field of therapeutic riding.

Anita, along with her husband Giora, were founding directors of INTRA, the Israel National Therapeutic Riding Association, where she continues to work in a part-time capacity as a consultant. In 1988, Anita founded the Wingate Institute Diploma Course for Therapeutic Riding Instructors, and administered for 21 years. Currently, she examines and teaches in some of the 11 therapeutic riding instructor courses available in Israel. Anita and Giora took the first Israel Paralympic teams to World Championships and Paralympic competitions for riding for the disabled. She became a steward for FEI Para equestrian and served on the committee of the IPEC (International Paralympics Equestrian Committee) from 1996-2001. This committee became a new branch of the Federation Equestrian International, (FEI), in 2006.

In 2005, she developed a successful and on-going Equine Studies course for youth at risk that offers a five-point school matriculation for high school students in Israel. Anita continues to give clinics, lectures, write articles and train instructors in equine-assisted activities and therapy in more than 15 countries. She is also a leader in partnering with the horse to provide EAAT for veterans with PTSD and adults who have severe disabilities.

Anita continues to enjoy horseback riding, while spending more time with her children and four grandchildren.

When Horses Hear the Unspeakable and We Don't Know What to Say
Sarah Jenkins
Sarah Jenkins, MC, LPC, CPsychol, is an EMDRIA Approved EMDR Training Provider, EMDR consultant and therapist, equine-assisted therapist and lifelong horsewoman. Sarah created EquiLateral (TM) The Equine-Assisted EMDR Protocol and offers the first EMDR International Association approved training in Equine-Assisted EMDR for EMDR therapists and equine professionals. A trauma and dissociation specialist and highly sought after international speaker, Sarah provides consultation and trainings on EMDR therapy, structural dissociation theory, equine-assisted EMDR, as well as the ethics and best practices in providing trauma informed equine therapies for clients who present with complex trauma and dissociation. More information can be found by visiting www.DragonflyInternationalTherapy.Com and www.EAEMDR.com

Veterans as Volunteers
Michael (MJ) Higgins
MJ Higgins served in the United States Marine Corps as a cyber network systems chief with the infantry. He deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and completed two tours in Afghanistan with the 2nd Marine Division. After being honorably discharged as a Sergeant, he entered the private sector to pursue a career in information technology. A few years after being discharged, he admitted there were mental and physical ramifications from the war that needed tending to. 

In January 2017, he visited WarHorses for Heroes as a “trial” option while waiting for a spot in another program to open; however, he immediately bonded with the horses and staff. He requested to continue attending and learning. Throughout his time in the program, he wanted to learn more about equine-assisted therapy and the English riding discipline in general. He emailed Trey Lawson, the co-founder, after his second session and was able to start learning and volunteering after graduating the program. Since then, he has helped numerous other veterans continue their journey to recovery.

Now, MJ is a PATH Intl. Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning and also serves on the PATH International Equine Services for Heroes Committee. With this, he is able to aid the continuing growth of the program. He also instructs the advanced rider course and is constantly working to improve his own skills in the English riding discipline. His next goal is to achieve certification as a PATH Intl. Therapeutic Riding Instructor. As an ESMHL, he has also been able to expand beyond veterans equine-assisted activities and therapies and works with the Memphis Jewish Community Center, and similar organizations, providing EAAT to disabled adults and children. His wife and young son have become an intricate part of these programs with him. MJ's passion for this work grows each day and the experiences gained throughout have been immensely rewarding.  

In summary, MJ states, "Helping other veterans work toward their recoveries is the ultimate experience. The people and horses are truly a family. It took me far too long to admit things weren’t alright and I needed a positive therapy program. WarHorses for Heroes accepted me and has allowed me to grow immensely. Now I look forward to helping others do the same."

The Bigger Picture: Explaining the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports Grant
Mike Welch
Michael F. Welch, Colonel, USAF (Ret) serves as the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Paralympic Program Specialist, overseeing the VA’s adaptive sport grants (ASG) with the National Governing Bodies in sports, hospitals, colleges and universities, and other adaptive sport entities and their partners nationwide; the Olympic and Paralympic assistance allowance; VA strategic partnerships with sport entities; and other adaptive sport programs. Since its initial proposal in July 2017, these duties include the stand up and implementation of the ASG for equine-assisted therapy for mental health issues. He has worked VA adaptive sport programs since his retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 2011. His VA awards include selection by the Secretary as 2015 VA Employee of the Year.

During a 30-year USAF career, Mike Welch served mainly as an officer in logistics and Foreign Area Operations. His early years were in aircraft maintenance, in which he served as commander at both squadron and group levels. He began foreign operations as the logistician overseeing airlift operations in U.S. Central Command, including set up of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.  Later, he served as in-country Operations Officer overseeing DoD counter-drug and security assistance programs in Mexico; Deputy A-4 overseeing the Combined Logistics Center and USAF facilities in the Republic of Korea; logistics and force assessment officer at NATO Reaction Force Air Staff, Germany; advisor to the Afghan Minister of Defense and staff in Kabul; Chief of J7 and operational training for NATO Training Mission-Iraq working with senior military and civil security forces in Iraq, and military advisor to the Organization of American States. His degrees include a BA in economics and public management, Univ. of Maine; MS in systems management, Univ. of Southern California; and MA in history, Univ. of Alabama. 

Teaching Adult Veterans
Meggan Hill-McQueenyy
Meggan Hill-McQueeney is a lifelong equestrian. Nationally, she has competed in both English and western events since childhood and, later, she competed at the Mustang Million. Meggan spent much of her time in the cutting horse and thoroughbred performance horse worlds, learning the art of breeding, raising and competing at the highest levels. Meggan is self-taught, relying on her experiences and her natural understanding of both horses and humans. She developed her own therapeutic riding program in 1996 and began a second in 1999. Meggan is a PATH Intl. Certified Master Instructor, a Special Olympics coach, a trainer for Illinois SO coaches, and a PATH Intl. evaluator. In 2010 Meggan stepped into the role of BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center President/COO. She is the 2015 recipient of the PATH Intl. James Brady Professional Achievement Award, honoring her great dedication, proven leadership and high ethical standards as well as her ability to develop and implement innovative, creative and effective ideas for the industry. Meggan’s theories have resulted in the ability of BraveHearts to expand its veteran services nationally, helping BraveHearts PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center retain its status as the largest veteran program in the nation, using innovative equine-assisted services. Meggan’s desire to provide quality programing through higher-degree horsemanship with veterans is achieved through advanced concepts including gentling wild mustangs, mentoring veterans to become PATH Intl. Certified Instructors, and working cattle. Under her leadership, BraveHearts has developed a top-notch team of staff and extraordinary horses providing 13,107 sessions to 726 veterans in 2017 – all at no cost to any veteran. Meggan is a firm believer, as heard in her 2015 TED Talk, that all veterans deserve to be given limitless opportunities – and that belief is demonstrated daily through the veterans who organically begin to explore a world of possibilities because of the experiences with BraveHearts horses and staff. 

Therapy vs. Therapeutic
Leif Halberg
Leif Hallberg, MA, LPC, LCPC, is an internationally recognized author, consultant, licensed mental health professional, educator, horse professional, and avid lover of nature and animals. Her professional career and life’s work have centered around researching the human-equine bond, and studying the industry of equine-assisted activities and equine-assisted therapies (EAA/EAT). As a leading expert, innovator and pioneer, she has developed a reputation over the past 20+ years for her broad-reaching and objective study of the industry and dissemination of information. Leif's books, The Clinical Practice of Equine-Assisted Therapy: Including Horses in Human Healthcare, The Equine-Assisted Therapy Workbook: A Resource Guide for Professionals and Students, and Walking the Way of the Horse: Exploring the Power of the Horse-Human Relationship are considered essential resources for research and clinical practice and are used by colleges and universities around the world as teaching texts. Leif provides workshops and trainings, business consultation, professional supervision, and private intensives both nationally and internationally. She is an animated and skilled presenter whose passion and dedication to professionalism is clear in all that she does. Learn more at www.leifhallberg.com.

15 Things Veterans Want You to Know
Heidi Squier Kraft, PhD
Heidi Squier Kraft received her Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the UC San Diego/SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology in 1996. She joined the Navy during her internship at Duke University Medical Center and went on to serve as both a flight and clinical psychologist. Her active duty assignments included the Naval Safety Center, the Naval Health Research Center and Naval Hospital Jacksonville, FL. While on flight status, she flew in nearly every aircraft in the Navy and Marine Corps inventory, including more than 100 hours in the F/A-18 Hornet, primarily with Marine Corps squadrons. In February 2004, she deployed to western Iraq for seven months with a Marine Corps surgical company, when her boy and girl twins were 15-months-old. Rule Number Two is a memoir of that experience. Dr. Kraft left active duty in 2005, after nine years in the Navy. She currently serves as clinical director at PsychArmor Institute, a national nonprofit that provides free online education for those who live with, care for, and work with military Veterans. She is frequently invited to speak at conferences and panels on combat stress, stigma and caring for the caregiver. She is also an adjunct professor at San Diego State University, where she teaches stress, trauma and the psychological experience of combat, as well as abnormal psychology. Dr. Kraft lives in San Diego with her husband Mike, a former Marine Harrier pilot,, and her twins Brian and Meg, who are now 15 and have no memory of their mother’s time in Iraq.

Breakout 1: Para-Dressage with Sarah Armentrout and Michel Assouline

Breakout 2: PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee with Jessica Normand, "Top Feeding Tips for Metabolic Conditions"

Breakout 3: PATH International Equine Services for Heroes® Committee

Breakout 4: Michelle Weed and Michele Kane

Final Schedule (all times on schedule are in Eastern Time)

 August 28

 11 - 11:15 a.m.

Keynote Kathy Alm
 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Session 1 Tara Mahoney and Gerry Duncan 
 12:20 - 1:20 p.m. Session 2 Julianne Mills, Julia Ray and Bre Podgorski                                                                                     
 1:20 - 1:50 p.m. Breakout 1 Sarah Armentrout 
 1:50 - 2:50 p.m. Session 3  Sarah Jenkins 
 2:55 - 3:55 p.m. Session 4  George Paffendorf 
 3:55 - 4:25 p.m. Breakout 2                 Jessica Normand, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee, "Top Feeding Tips for Metabolic Conditions"              
 4:25 - 5:25 p.m. Session 5  Anita Shkedi 

August 29 

 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.          Session 6 Michael Higgins
 12:05 - 1:05 p.m. Session 7 Mike Welch 
 1:05 - 1:35 p.m. Breakout 3             PATH International Equine Services for Heroes® Committee                                                                              
 1:35 - 2:35 p.m. Session 8  Meggan Hill-McQueeney                                          
 2:40 - 3:40 p.m. Session 9  Heidi Kraft 
 3:40 - 4:10 p.m. Breakout 4 Michelle Weed/ Michele Kane 
 4:10 - 5:10 p.m. Session 10  Leif Halberg 


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