JOYRIDE STAFF TEAM

The JoyRide Team is the engine behind “making the impossible possible” for our clients. The staff is a caring group invested in the success of the clients and horses, and they use the highest levels of professionalism in their work. Team members are certified through PATH, “the credentialing organization for accrediting centers and certifying instructors and equine specialists”. Their warmth and expertise is felt as soon as you come to JoyRide.

We’re proud of who we are and what we do!

Debbie Blackmon

Director of Operations.
PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor
PATH Intl. Mentor
Education Specialist

dblackmon@joyridecenter.org

Debbie began volunteering at JoyRide Center in January 2012. She quickly realized that she wanted to be more deeply involved in the therapeutic riding profession. A retired Licensed Specialist in School Psychology, with additional certifications in deaf education, early childhood, and English as a Second Language, Debbie found therapeutic riding to be fascinating and remarkably effective on many levels. Her background as a hunter rider added to her appreciation of the value of this unique therapeutic modality. She completed an instructor training program, and become a PATH Registered Instructor in Therapeutic Horseback Riding.  She returned to her first love, teaching, when JRC Prep was started.  Debbie currently functions as the Director of Operations for JoyRide Center. She continues to teach JRC Prep while overseeing the rest of the program. Debbie believes there are no limits to what equine therapies and activities can accomplish, and looks forward to miracles every day.

Cassie McCollum

PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor
PATH Intl. Mentor
Equine Program Manager

CMcCollum@joyridecenter.org

Cassie was born and raised in the Houston area and began riding at 5 years of age. She showed Arabian horses for several  years in all disciplines, but Saddle Seat is her favorite. Cassie has spent the majority of her life training, showing and teaching riding lessons. Her love of horses and helping others took her to a therapeutic riding center in the Dallas Area. Cassie enjoyed therapeutic riding so much she became a PATH INTL. certified instructor. Cassie enjoys being outdoors and staying active. She also serves on a committee for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Peggy Wagner

Office Manager
Founding Member

pwagner@joyridecenter.org

Peggy graduated from the University of Texas with a BS in Elementary Education. She taught elementary, Jr. high and pre-school for 10 years. She spent 25 years as a volunteer staff member of SIRE, Houston’s Therapeutic Equestrian Center, serving as a board member for 16 years and receiving the Lifetime Humanitarian Award in 2008. Peggy has owned and ridden horses for most of her adult life. She currently is owned by Gigi, a palomino mare and Sadie, a black lab. Peggy enjoys attempting dressage, getting away to the Texas hill country with husband, Roger, and shopping with daughter, Emily.

Jackie McDonald

Fundraising Team Leader
Billing Team Leader
Founding Member

jmcdonald@joyridecenter.org

Jackie has been involved in therapeutic horseback riding for over 20 years, as an arena volunteer and as Fundraising Team Leader on both large and small events…everything from mailings to galas.   When she’s not planning a special event, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Bill, their children and grandchildren.

Paige Finke

Paige Finke

Equine Trainer
Volunteer Coordinator

volunteer@joyridecenter.org

Paige came all the way from Wisconsin to attend Texas A&M University, where she received a bachelors degree in Agriculture Leadership & Development with a minor in special education. While at Texas A&M Paige was a very involved member of the equine community, being part of the judging team as well as the rodeo team. However, this was not her first experience around horses! Horses have always been a big part of her life as she’s has been riding and showing since around the age of 4. She’s also competed in Pony Club, eventing, hunter/jumpers, and polocrosse. She now lives in Navasota with her husband Sloan, where she continues to train, coach, and compete in rodeo events when shes not at JoyRide!

Kassie Collins

Equine & Facility Coordinator
Founding Member

kcollins@joyridecenter.org

Kassie was raised in Bryan-College Station, Texas. She graduated from Texas A&M University and met her husband of forty years while at A&M. They have two grown sons. She taught first grade for 31 years in Spring Branch ISD in Houston. After retiring she worked as a Volunteer Coordinator and now is Equine Team Leader for the JoyRide horses. She had horses as a teenager and as an adult has a herd of 9 horses at home. She raised, trained and cared for 4 of these from day one – with their moms help, of course. Her favorite horse is a Paint, but she loves all kinds. She lives near Waller with her husband, Fred, 9 horses, 4 dogs and a flock of chickens. Her hobbies (other than horses) include antiquing, quilting and cooking.

Erin Malia

PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor
PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning
PATH Intl. Mentor

emalia@joyridecenter.org

Erin began volunteering at a therapeutic riding center as a teenager and loved sharing her passion for horses with many amazing individuals. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2004 with a degree in social work and became a PATH certified instructor in 2006. Her horse experience includes being an instructor in the hunter-jumper discipline, an equine veterinary technician and horse owner for many years. Erin is passionate about providing the best and most natural care for her horses and loves learning new ways to do so. In addition to being a therapeutic riding instructor, she is also an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. In her spare time she cares for a family of horses, dogs and cats, and enjoys the Texas sunshine riding her mare, Katie.

Lee Ruonavaara, PT, DPT, HPCS

Hippotherapy Coordinator
Licensed Physical Therapist
Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist
PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor

lee@joyridecenter.org

Lee is a Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist and Registered PATH Therapist. She has also been a Registered PATH Instructor since 2004. She has been the Texas Liason to the American Hippotherapy Association since 2009. Lee has presented at the Regional LSTN Conference and at National American Hippotherapy Conferences. In addition to hippotherapy, Lee has experience and training in neurorehabilitation, sensory integration and wound care. She received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2016 and Masters Degree in physical therapy in 1998 from Texas Women’s University, and  a BS in psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University (1992). Lee has loved horses all her life and continues to enjoy a good ride any day of the week!

Emma Ogzewalla

Emma Ogzewalla

Development/ PR Associate

Emma@joyridecenter.org

Emma is a Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in Business Management, Experience Design and Management. While at school she helped to coordinate the efforts of 70 service organizations, 250+ leaders, and hundreds of student volunteers as a service council member. She also led the Horse For Healing program and volunteered at several therapeutic riding centers. Since 2008, she has given riding lessons and trained horses, and has been involved with therapeutic riding, including Special Olympics. She comes with lots of experience planning and managing large events. Currently she is riding a bay warmblood named Annie and working on her medals in dressage.

Susan Hudnall Hart, OT

On-Site Facility Assistant

Occupational Therapist
Path Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor

shhart@joyridecenter.org

Susan has been an Occupational Therapist since 1997. She volunteered at Richmond State Supported Living Center in their horsebackriding program after being introduced to Special Olympics while serving as a police officer. While at University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, Susan volunteered at Hope Therapy and earned her certification as a therapeutic riding instructor and trained in hippotherapy. Upon graduation, Susan volunteered then later taught at SIRE. She left the industry for a while to focus on her own children. Susan and her sons enjoy trailriding and horse camping as well as 4H activities with their horses. Susan has recently returned to therapeutic riding with JoyRide and brings her sons as volunteers.

Rebecca Gribben

PATH, Intl. Advanced Level Therapeutic Riding Instructor

rebecca.gribben@gmail.com

Rebecca graduated from The University of Texas with a BS in Education and minor in Chemistry. She began her teaching career in the corporate environment, training Medical Emergency Response Teams after becoming an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). As an adult, Rebecca purchased the love of her life, Arabian horse, Padre, as soon as she had the money saved. Looking for a way to join her love of horses and her love of teaching, Rebecca attended a Path (formerly NARHA) conference in Virginia. (Isn’t it amazing how God plants the seeds for us as we move through life?) At that moment she knew she had to become an advanced riding instructor. For 15 years she taught at SIRE-Houston’s Therapeutic Equestrian Center and became the Tuesday Night Instructor/Party Leader of the adults who rode after their work or school. It is with much Joy that she continues the fun with JoyRide! It must be said that in her off time she rescues and rehomes cats, cats, cats. (sometimes dogs, too)