Executive Director & Founder
Most people take years, or even a lifetime, trying to figure out what makes them happy. This is not so for Kate Vasquez. As an Autistic individual herself, she’s known since early on that she wanted to combine her love of horses with her desire to help others like her with special needs. As early as elementary school Kate enjoyed assisting with activities in the special education department rather than enjoying recess with her classmates. About that time she attended a summer bible school camp where she especially liked the horseback riding activities. Kate had found her niche — horses and helping those with special needs.
Even at that tender age, Kate had a dream, and she set out to make it a reality. She volunteered at a Therapeutic Riding Center in TX. A valuable asset to the program, she was put on the fast track for her certification as a therapeutic riding instructor for adults and children with special needs, which she achieved soon after her high school graduation.
Majoring in psychology and minoring in special education, Kate then attended Texas A&M University San Antonio full time, but never gave up her duties at the Therapeutic Riding Center. She taught a full load of classes there and also took time to attend and take classes at PATH international’s (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) conferences throughout each year.
With PATH she first became a registered therapeutic riding instructor, then a certified equine specialist in mental health and learning instructor. She was allowed into the latter program early, due to many letters of recommendation extolling her maturity and dedication to those with special needs and horses.
Towards the end of her college career it was time for Kate to continue chasing her dream, so she found and started Open T.R.A.I.L. (Therapeutic Riding Actively Improving Lives) Ranch, her own therapeutic riding center. She owns majority of all of the horses and has specifically trained them to be used in her program for therapy.
Graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2012, the ever over-achieving young lady continued accruing academic accolades. She also minored in Sign Language, and has completed and received her certification for her equine therapeutic vaulting instructor’s license. Both specialties aid Kate in helping different types of children and adults with special needs. She also is a registered Mentor for PATH International, able to aid those wanting to go through the same process she did and help them achieve their dream of becoming a therapeutic riding instructor.
Program Director, CTRI & ESMHL
Amber Wodarz was first introduced to horses at the age of two years old, and has been hooked ever since. Amber grew up as a military brat, with a Dad serving in the United States Army. She has traveled and lived many places around the world including Heidelberg, Germany.
Amber has been taking riding lessons since she was seven years old. While in Germany, Amber’s main discipline of focus was dressage, which is still one of her great passions today. She also shares the same amount of love and passion that she has for horses with helping those with special needs, which has led her to Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch, where she has fallen in love with the amazing work they do there.
Amber graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor of Liberal and Fine Arts in Psychology. Amber has both a Certification as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) as well as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL). Both certifications are through PATH Intl.
Lauren (LJ) Jimenez
Development Director & Volunteer Coordinator
LJ was born in Austin and raised in San Antonio. With a full immersive background in the Deaf culture, American Sign Language is their first language. Their love and passion for animals and the willingness to help is what led them to Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch; where they have stepped up to help with our volunteers and any potential development to help OTR succeed.
When they are not living their best life at Open T.R.A.I.L they are working as an American Sign Language Interpreter with Sorenson Communications. Offering full access to communication for Deaf individuals across the country. They will be pursuing a future in Veterinary science and Zoology which they hope to put forth those skills to Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch and animals in need, should they cross paths.
Their hobbies include: writing, singing, art, and exploring the great outdoors. Their favorite horse is Lady, and when the opportunity arises really enjoys taking a moment to say hello to ALL of the horses.
Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI)
& Social Media Manager
Maggie Hoffman is originally from Corpus Christi, Texas and started riding horses when she was 10 years old. After riding for a couple of years, she decided to start showing horses. For six years she rode horses competitively in All-Around Performance which includes classes in western showmanship, western pleasure, western horsemanship, trail, hunt seat equitation, and hunter under saddle. She is well versed in both english and western with her main discipline being western pleasure. Through showing, Maggie discovered her passion for working with horses and knew that she had to find a career where she could use this passion.
After her show career, Maggie attended Texas A&M University where she graduated with an honors bachelor’s of science degree in Psychology and a double minor in Sociology and Business as well as acquiring a psychological certificate in Applied Behavioral Health. Throughout her undergraduate years, Maggie found her passion for therapy work and working with those that have special needs. This passion for both horses and helping others led her to Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch where she is currently a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI). Maggie is so excited for this opportunity that combines all of her passions and loves her work here at OTR!
Barn Manager & CTRI - In Training
Jerry Jones was born in Beaumont TX and has spent most of his life growing up in East Texas. He is currently attending school at Palo Alto college and plans to become a CTRI after he graduates! After deciding he wanted to become a CTRI Jerry found his place at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch! Jerry works as our barn manager at OTR! You’ll often see him working on the mower, the tractor, and weed eating around the barn. Jerry’s favorite thing to do at the barn is riding and his favorite horse is Hank. When not at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch you can often find Jerry at school, doing homework, and hunting. He started cleaning stalls at a small ranch when he was 17 years old, and has loved this kind of work ever since! His favorite thing about OTR is being able to work with his friends. If you see Jerry around the barn, don’t hesitate to say hi!
Evvie Marshall is our Administrative Assistant/Equine Caretaker at Open Trail Ranch. Her job is to help keep things organized around the facility, be an assistant to the Executive Director, and help care for all of the equines on the ranch. She has 17 years of horse experience which includes: riding, driving, and daily equine care.
In 2003, Evvie started volunteering with a non-profit program that worked with special needs children and Shetland ponies. In 2006, she started volunteering at Banbury Cross Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Michigan. After moving to Texas in 2008, she volunteered and worked at another local Texas center, met Kate and has been working with her ever since!
When Evvie isn’t at the ranch or spending time with her miniature horse, Brite, she works as a part-time respite caregiver. For her, it’s a joy working with the riders and equines!
Josh Archilla has lived his whole life in the Boerne area. He will be a junior in high school this fall, and plans to go on to live in Alaska after he graduates! After deciding he wanted to work with horses Josh found his place at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch! Josh works as our ranch hand at OTR! You’ll often see him working on maintenance, stalls, and interacting with the animals around the barn. Josh’s favorite thing to do at the barn is ride and his favorite horse is Tonka.
When not at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch you can often find Josh doing schoolwork and school activities, playing guitar, and working out. He started playing guitar when he was 12 years old and has been hooked ever since! His favorite thing about work is being able to hang around all the horses. If you see Josh around the barn, don’t hesitate to say hi!
Wes Schweers was born in San Antonio and has spent most of his life growing up in Boerne. After deciding he wanted to work with animals, Wes found his place at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch! Wes works as our ranch hand at OTR! You’ll often see him working on stalls, feeding animals, and cleaning up around the barn. Wes’ favorite thing to do at the barn is feeding and interacting with every animal and his favorite horse is Roni. When not at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch you can often find Wes reading , listening to music, and volunteering at animal shelters. He started working with animals when he was 4 years old and has been hooked ever since! His favorite thing about working with horses is being able to see all of their different personalities. If you see Wes around the barn, don’t hesitate to say hi!