Most people take years, or even a lifetime, trying to figure out what makes them happy. This is not so for Kate Vasquez. She’s known since early on that she wanted to combine her love of horses with her desire to help those 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.
Lynn’s riding career began when she was 8 years old, taking English Saddle Seat lessons from her hometown barn in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She rode with the barn and showed at local shows until she was old enough to drive upon which she purchased her first horse and boarded her at a Polo farm in Tulsa, mainly enjoying trail riding in a nearby park.
In attending college, she worked for a summer camp that hosted a group of special needs adults at the beginning of each summer. Her love for working with them led to a degree in Special Education with a specialization in working with the intellectually disabled.
After moving to Texas, she taught Special Education elementary school students in Northside ISD for 26 years. She holds a Lifetime Texas Certification in General Education K-8 and Special Education K-12 and, upon retirement, became certified as a PATH instructor in May 2016. She has co-coached with the Bexar County 4-H Horse Judging Team, Kendall County Drill Team, and 4-H horsemanship and reining clinics.
She owns two horses of her own and, when not at her dream job at Open T.R.A.I.L. Ranch, she is spending time with her family, dog and equines.
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 recently graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor of Liberal and Fine Arts in Psychology.
Catrina is our assistant barn manager. She oversees the care of our equines, our other various animals, and facilities. She also assists with schooling our therapy horses making sure they are in good shape.
Before coming on as a staff member at OTR, Catrina volunteered as a horse handler and side walker and still continues to do so. She started volunteering at therapy centers at the age of 13 and hasn’t found any reason to stop any time soon.
To Catrina, the horses have been her bridge into the lives of the people who come to OTR. And that’s why she loves working with both people and equines.
Gabrielle (Gaby) Perkins
Gaby’s riding career started as a 7 years old in Virginia. Her parents co-bought a small pony, Peanuts, and brought him home in the back of a pick-up truck. Neither family knew much about horses, but that pony was the first of many ponies and horses to come.
She was very active in Pony Club and graduated as an H-A from Difficult Run Pony Club. She rode competitively in eventing up to preliminary level and dressage up to 2nd level. She does not currently own a horse but is still passionate about them.
Gaby graduated from Radford University with a degree in Political Science. Shortly after graduation she discovered therapeutic riding. She attended a certification program at the CHEFF center in Michigan, and became a NARHA certified therapeutic riding instructor. She worked for several years for several small programs in Virginia and became the head instructor at the Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center.
There she was responsible for scheduling and teaching lessons, training volunteers, and training horses. It was during this time she met an occupational therapist who influenced her to return to school.
Gaby graduated from the University of Puget Sound and became a licensed occupational therapist. She has worked in a variety of settings such as a birth to 3 center, home care, hospital pediatric inpatient and pediatric acute care and private clinics, in Washington, Colorado, Kenya and now, in Texas.
Gaby recently completed her AHA, Inc. Level 1 and Level 2 Hippotherapy Treatment Principles courses and is now a PATH Intl. Registered Therapist. She is very excited to join Open TRAIL Ranch to learn from her patients, horses and volunteers.
When not working as an occupational therapist, Gaby is a wife and a mother of 2 children, Caleb (13) and Amelia (11). Amelia enjoys coming out with her mother to help out in the barn. Gaby and her husband, Rick also compete in triathlons and are proud of their Ironman accomplishments.
Evvie Marshall is our Administrative Assistant/Assistant Barn Manager 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!