Therapeutic Riding Staff
Alicia Roe, Program Manager
Alicia’s mother competed in hunter/jumper shows growing up in the New York area, and had Alicia herself in lessons by the time she was 8 years old. Alicia rode throughout her high school years, gaining experience in hunters, dressage, and ‘hunt paces.’ During her time at Centenary College in New Jersey, she also worked as a groom and exercise rider at an “A”-Circuit show barn in Long Island, NY.
In 2002, Alicia decided to move to San Diego, where she became involved as a volunteer with Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Therapeutic Riding Program. During this time, she was also employed as a part-time instructor for the riding school at North Coast Equestrian Park, a local boarding and training facility. At North Coast, she taught beginning-level riders in individual and group lessons, as well as camp settings. Working with the horses and clients in the therapeutic riding program, Alicia realized she had found her calling. She immediately began working towards her PATH Intl Registered Instructor Certification. The Therapeutic Riding Program staff was very supportive in assisting Alicia to achieve her certification. She learned a tremendous amount about how to adapt her previous horse knowledge to the special needs of clients from the team of instructors they had on staff.
As soon as she achieved her certification in 2003, Alicia was hired by the Center as a full time instructor, and has made it not just a full time job, but a life-long career and passion. In 2005 she was named as Program Manager, and has continued to build on the long-standing program philosophy of improving the lives of others through interaction with horses. In her capacity as Manager, she has also been honored to mentor many people in their own certification process, including all Therapeutic Riding Program instructors now on staff , and several former ones.
Dolly Urnezis, Barn Attendant/Instructor
Dolly joined the therapeutic riding staff in 2012. Her wide range of duties includes feeding, riding, and caring for the horses, as well as instructing and assisting in lessons. She is a native of Hawaii and an active participant in the hunter/jumper world. She actually came to Therapeutic Riding working for some time at the Center’s boarding kennels, Club Pet. Dolly is currently taking classes to work towards a degree as a veterinary technician and is planning on transferring to UC Davis sometime in 2015 once her local classes are completed. We wish her the best of luck in her educational pursuits – but not too much since we love having her here!
Gretchen Davis, Administrative Assistant/Instructor
Born and raised in San Diego, Gretchen began riding and showing locally in the hunter and equitation divisions at age 12. She spent all her junior years riding and working at BlackLand Farm, formerly located in Bonita. As a working student she assisted in horse care and preparing students for lessons. She even traveled with BlackLand Farm owner Sally Black up and down the California coast as a groom for the farm’s outstanding Hunter Breeding division horses. Upon graduation from high school, she attended Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, VA. During summer and winter breaks, she would return to San Diego to teach camps and beginner riding lessons at a riding school in Rancho Bernardo. At VI, she also competed on the school’s IHSA team. In 1996, she graduated with a B.A. in Business Management, with a minor in Equine Studies, and the next year married Drew Davis, whom she met while at school. She worked as assistant barn manager and instructor at Webb Valley Ranch, a 40 acre facility in northeast Tennessee until returning home to San Diego in 2000.
Immediately upon return to San Diego, she began working with Sally Black, this time at North Coast Equestrian Park, a boarding stable and riding school in Encinitas, first as an instructor, then as Riding School Director. After nine rewarding years with North Coast, Gretchen decided it was time to step into a position that would allow her to spend more time with Drew, and their two children, Annie and Molly. Upon speaking with Alicia, she learned that the Center would soon be in need of a full-time instructor and administrative assistant. Excited by a new challenge that would allow her to still utilize her 15 years of teaching experience, Gretchen began volunteering with the therapeutic riding program and started the process to become a PATH Intl. Registered Certified Instructor. She passed her certification in June of 2009, and began working for the Center full time in August of 2009. The students have been fun and rewarding, and she is so happy to be a part of the therapeutic riding team!
Gina Gregory, Instructor
Gina Gregory joined the staff of the therapeutic riding program in the spring of 2013. She grew up with horses, including caring for them at home and showing both English and Western. She currently rides for several private horse owners in the Rancho Santa Fe area, helping them keep their horses exercised and well-trained. She also has two horses of her own, Jagger and Neytiri, that she enjoys riding and working with. Gina has a strong background working with individuals with special needs, and is certified both as a Medical Assistant and a CNA. She’s been very enthusiastic about the therapeutic riding clients, volunteers, and horses right from the beginning. In October of 2013, Gina attended the PATH instructor workshop, and achieved her Registered Level Instructor certification with flying colors.
Tiffani Choi, Barn Attendant
Tiffani is an Orange County native who earned her degree from New Mexico State University, an animal science major with a concentration in equine management. Her riding background includes western, gymkhana, and barrel racing. In addition, she is a certified Registered Level PATH instructor! We’re excited to having Tiffani on staff, as her horse care experience combined with her PATH certification makes her a diverse and valuable member of the team.