Meet the Team

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.

Email: dana@ponypowernj.org

Kerry Barrett
Development Assistant

Kerry joined Pony Power in February 2016 as a full-time Development Assistant. She received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Montana in 2012. Since returning to New Jersey, Kerry has worked in development and event planning at several non-profits in the tri-state area. She also has spent years working as an advocate for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. While new to the horse world, Kerry is excited to spend time on the farm and use her skills to advance Pony Power’s mission.

Jen Caffrey
Volunteer Program Manager & 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.

Email: jen@ponypowernj.org

Erin Chaffee
Program Assistant & Instuctor

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, Tyler, and Maya. 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 her spare time, Erin loves spending time with her puppy and cats.

Elissa Goldner
Instructor, Part Time

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, Part Time

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.

Wendy Lupo
Director of Development

Wendy joined Pony Power in October 2015 as a full-time Development Associate.  She received her MBA in Marketing and International Business from NYU Stern School of Business and her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Boston College Carroll School of Management. After working corporately in the fashion retail industry for more than twelve years, and managing and running her own retail business for 10 years, Wendy is thrilled to combine her professional experience with her passion for philanthropy, and for Pony Power. With a daughter who has been riding at Pony Power for several years, Wendy and her family have personally experienced the benefits of therapeutic riding and the magic of being on the farm.

Email: wendy@ponypowernj.org

Dana Patacova
Assistant Volunteer Coordinator & Instructor

Dana moved to the United States from her native Slovakia over 10 years ago. She holds a Master's Degree in human resources and spent years working in the corporate world. She started volunteering at Pony Power in the fall of 2014 and began her instructor training a year later. She is so excited to be a full-time team member, because Pony Power connects what she loves most: movement, horses, and children. When not on the farm, you can find Dana hiking, dancing, watching movies, and hanging out with her family.

Jenn Ripston, MS, OTR/L
Clinical Director & Instructor

Jenn joined the Pony Power team in 2006 as a volunteer and quickly became certified as a PATH registered level instructor. Jenn continued on as a part time riding instructor while she completed her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy at Seton Hall University. During her time at Seton Hall, Jenn completed a full-time Level II fieldwork in hippotherapy and has also completed both the American Hippotherapy Association’s level 1 and 2 Hippotherapy Equine Skills & Treatment Principles courses. Prior to joining the Pony Power team full time, Jenn worked as an occupational therapist in the school setting, working primarily with children on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, Jenn enjoys spending time with her horse Henry.

Email: jripston@ponypowernj.org

Pat Russo
Instructor, Part Time

Pat joined our volunteer force in 2009 with a purpose to combine her love of horses (a horse owner in her past!) with her experience working with individuals with special needs. She officially joined our staff as a part time instructor in fall 2015. For 25 years now and in various capacities, Pat has worked with adults with multiple disabilities at the North Jersey Elks Developmental Disabilities Agency Adult Center in Clifton, NJ. Her favorite thing about therapeutic riding is being a part of her riders' teams, seeing their connection to their horses and helping to facilitate an enjoyable experience for them on beautiful Sunday mornings, rain or shine!

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.

Email: leigh@ponypowernj.org

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