Meet The Team AtPony Power

Candy Cane

Dana Spett, MSW
Founder & Executive Director

Dana founded Pony Power in 2000 with four riders and one horse (Mat). Dana graduated from New York University and went on to get her Master’s in Social Work and practiced in schools. She has been an accomplished equestrian from a young age, taking the initiative to start NYU’s equestrian team and competing internationally with the intercollegiate show circuit. When one of Dana’s three daughters was diagnosed with sensory integration issues, she found a way to treat her daughter by combining her passions and becoming a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International-certified instructor. In 2005, her family bought Three Sisters Farm in Mahwah, NJ and dedicated the property to be an inclusive therapeutic riding community.

Miriam Berman, LMSW
Program Manager & Instructor

Miriam received her Master’s degree in social work from Hunter College and specializes in health and mental health. She has worked with a variety of populations, including children and adolescents with mental illness and children and adults with developmental disabilities. Her own journey and experience riding and being around horses led her to pursue a career in which horses can be used to transform people’s lives. Miriam is both a PATH International-certified instructor and an Equine-Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) certified mental health professional. Pony Power welcomed her as an intern in 2013, and she has since joined the staff to assist in executing our non-riding (ground) program. In her free time, Miriam enjoys riding and traveling.

Jen Caffrey
Volunteer Program Coordinator & Instructor

Jen started riding at the age of ten and fell in love with the sport immediately. She continued on to be a professional rider, trainer and instructor, teaching and competing in both hunt seat and dressage. She took the position of Barn Manager at a riding center that offered therapeutic horsemanship. Watching the positive effects on riders who participated in this program gave her the desire to continue on and receive her PATH International certification in 2012, and the following year, she joined the Pony Power team as the Volunteer Program Coordinator. Jen is also a Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist. In her spare time, she enjoys running.

Lauren Cotton
Development Director

Lauren joined Pony Power in 2013 as the organization’s first full-time Director of Development. Lauren brings more than a decade of fundraising experience to her position, having served most recently as the Director of Foundation and Government Relations for PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law. Prior to PILnet, Lauren was as a grant writer at the Opportunity Agenda and a consultant at the Whelan Group. Lauren holds a MA in International Relations from King’s College London and a B.A. in Sociology from Boston University.

Erin Chaffee
Program Assistant & Instructor

Erin is a horse person through and through. Not only did she begin riding at just five years old, but she owns three of her own, George, Matthew and Mya. Erin joined the Pony Power staff as an Instructor in 2013. The “little things” are what please her most about her day-to-day work – the riders’ smiles and growing confidence, watching them learn new skills and overcome obstacles. In addition to teaching lessons at Three Sisters Farm, Erin is a mental health counseling student, and when she’s not working or studying, she enjoys spending time with her friends, family, horses and cats.

Kerry Donovan
Communications & Development Associate

Kerry joined the Pony Power team in March 2014 as a full-time Communications & Development Associate. She is a Ramapo College of New Jersey graduate with a B.A. in Communications/Journalism and brings to her position more than five year’s professional experience in national media and communications, most recently with Toys“R”Us, Inc. Corporate Communications. Not only did Kerry grow up around animals like goats, chickens, peacocks and more, but she volunteered as a Puppy Raiser for The Seeing Eye, Inc. for more than eight years. It was this experience that led Kerry to Pony Power, as she made it a goal of hers to work with a non-profit organization that offered animal-assisted therapeutic exercises.

Elissa Goldner
Instructor

A long-time horse enthusiast, Elissa began her involvement with Pony Power as a volunteer, moving on to becoming an instructor and then a board member. Elissa is currently the owner of two retired Thoroughbred racehorses and a Holsteiner jumper. Elissa was a pre-school and kindergarten teacher for many years and adores working with children.

Julia Klopacz
Equine Manager & Instructor

Julia came to Pony Power as a high school senior intern in 2009. Julia began horse back riding at just eight years old, and owns Merle. With extensive riding and showing experience in the hunter ring, she has a natural way with any horse she works with. After graduating Drew University in 2013, Julia joined our staff full time as Pony Power’s Equine Manager and Instructor, earning her PATH International certification in December 2014. She enjoys riding at the farm and takes pride in watching her Pony Power students progress from lesson to lesson.

Laura Maresciallo, OTR
Classroom Curriculum Coordinator & Instructor

Laura joined the Pony Power team as an intern in summer 2014 and now oversees the organization’s classroom curriculum. From caring for and feeding horses, to grooming and tacking, Laura develops fun and engaging lessons to support our school groups program. Having started riding at just seven years old, and with volunteer experience at a therapeutic riding center, Laura quickly learned about the healing power of horses. So, with a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Ithaca College, she made it a goal of hers to pursue a career at a therapeutic riding center. Laura enjoys teaching the children within our school groups program about horses, as well as being able to bring a smile to their faces.

Gabrielle Tracey
Office Manager

In 2010, Gabrielle graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Anthropology. Gabrielle’s love of animals, proven by her experience as a Puppy Raiser for The Seeing Eye, Inc. in Morristown, NJ, brought her to volunteer at Pony Power in 2005. An incredible asset in this capacity, she was asked to work as the Office Manager following her graduation and continues to serve as an integral part of our team.

Leigh Vaccaro
Program Director & Instructor

Leigh began volunteering with Pony Power in 2009. Seeing students progress and grow stronger as a result of therapeutic horseback riding inspired her to teach. She became a PATH International-certified instructor in August 2011. Leigh experienced the same kind of confidence-building she sees in Pony Power students when she started riding in her early teens, showing over fences and in the dressage ring. A communications professional with over 12 years experience in advancing the missions of colleges, universities and other nonprofits, Leigh is also our Program Director.

Meagan Zakheim
Volunteer Program Assistant & Instructor

Not only did Meagan begin horseback riding at just eight years old, but she spent five years working as a Veterinarian Technician; she’s a TRUE animal person! It was her love of horses that led her to Three Sisters Farm in 2013. And, after volunteering with Pony Power for just a few months, she joined the team as a staff Instructor in September 2013. Meagan earned her PATH International certification in December 2014. She values the time spent with her riders in each lesson and enjoys watching them overcome obstacles and reach new milestones. Fun fact: Meagan is a Mercy College graduate, holding a B.S. in Health Science.

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