Special Spirit

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"The activities (at Special Spirit) were creative and helped my children to be better aware of their emotions, actions and reactions, and the affect these have on other people."

- Gavin & Sandy's Mom

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MEET OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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Paul Reynolds
Founder/President
Kathy Alonzo
Secretary
Eva Lund
Founder/CEO/Treasurer
Dylan Coffey
Financial Officer
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Nancy
Alspaugh-Jackson
Adviser
BBrian Martin
Adviser Business Development

PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Center.

MEET OUR TEAM

 

Eva Lund

PATH International Certified Riding Instructor/EAGALA certified Equine Specialist/Executive Director

In 2005, Eva opened Moonshadow Ranch, a small ranch in the heart of Shadow Hills. Moonshadow Ranch is committed to enriching the lives of both horses and people. Eva developed a passion for helping children at an early age. Growing up in her native Sweden, she lead special needs children around the arena at her riding school, as a way to earn lessons for herself. In Sweden, almost every riding school has a special needs riding program and Eva discovered that the effect riding had on these kids was tremendous. In 2007, Eva volunteered at the "Special  Olympics" at Hansen Dam, and was reminded of her childhood encounter with special kids.  Eva holds a Certificate for Therapeutic Riding from PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship), and certified through both PATH and EAGALA as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. Autism awareness is a subject close to her heart, as Eva is the godmother of Jake, who is autistic. Jake is a tremendously brave person, with a heart of gold and a pure soul. 

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Cassie Hurlbut

PATH International Certified Riding Instructor/EAGALA certified Equine Specialist 

Cassandra Hurlbut grew up riding horses in her home state of Hawaii. She learned the true value of riding by having to work off her lessons from a young age by grooming, cleaning stalls, feeding, and eventually working for a trainer. She competed competitively in dressage with her horse Hudson, taking a few national titles in the lower levels. After high school she moved to California to pursue her other love of film and writing. After graduating with a BFA in 2011 she started work in the film industry. After balancing owning a horse and working on a busy television show for 3 years, Cassandra found her true passion at Special Spirit, Inc. She started out volunteering and loved it so much that by April of 2015 she had acquired her PATH Intl Registered Instructor status and left the TV world behind to pursue teaching therapeutic riding. She loves spreading her love and knowledge of horses with children and adults of all abilities with a kind and patient teaching style. She still enjoys riding and training her same horse from high school, Hudson, in the discipline of dressage and going for long, relaxing trail rides.

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Oliver Coffey

Ranch Manager

Oliver is our barn manager he oversees the proper care of horses, supervises employees, and maintains the buildings and grounds. Originally he is from London but he came to Special Spirit in 2020 in a time of need, right as the pandemic started and has been here ever since. Prior to coming and working for us Oliver had never been around horses, however he took a natural liking to them and now works with them daily. He is also heavily involved in helping the autistic community and works daily with individuals on the spectrum. Oliver has traveled many different countries gaining experience in many different fields and despite being young has great knowledge. Oliver enjoys helping others and has devoted his time and energy to doing so.

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Nicoletta Heidegger, LCSW

Clinical Staff

Nicoletta von Heidegger is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#110256) practicing in Los Angeles. Nicoletta received her BA in Psychology from Stanford University, her MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and her MEd in Human Sexuality from Widener University. Nicoletta is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Sexuality from Widener. Nicoletta is an EAGALA certified mental health and equine specialist, though she usually works from an eclectic approach to animal assisted and eco therapies and sees clients in private practice both at the ranch and virtually. Nicoletta believes in embodied practice and is certified in levels I and II of The Trauma Resiliency Model. When not working with clients, Nicoletta creates and hosts the growing hit podcast Sluts & Scholars and teaches educational seminars, retreats, and classes to help others learn about sexual and mental health.  

The Special Spirit Farm Team

Rotem Douer and Keegan Longo

For Rotem, working at “The Farm” with his client, Keegan Longo, is both pleasurable and rewarding. Rotem grow up in Israel and spent a summer working with his uncle on his farm, where he fell in love with nature and animals. With his background in Psychology, Occupational Therapy and working with Neuro-diverse adults the opportunity to join the amazing staff here at the farm felt like a perfect match for Rotem. He knew he wanted to empower and bring joy to challenged yet very capable individuals, and in the process, he found his own happiness.

 When Rotem first met Keegan, Keegan extended his hand and introduced himself with a truly kind demeanor. Rotem correctly predicted Keegan had enormous potential. Keegan has been working at the farm for over a year now. Since starting to work at “The Farm” he has been put in charge of taking care of the barn animals and continues to be assigned other essential responsibilities. Keegan is a kind, hard worker and takes immense pride in his work. He is a team player who enjoys working with his co-workers and is a vital part of “Special Spirit Farm”.

Aimee Lund and Theresa Francis:

Aimee is the job coach for Theresa her at Special Spirit Farm. Theresa and Aimee maintain the animal care at the farm and do daily grooming of the critters. One of Theresa’s major jobs is to give tours to our guests, Aimee assists her in giving the tours. Theresa and Aimee enjoy working with the animals and love making our tours fun. Theresa is making sure all the animals are well taken care of. When they have tours, they greet our guests and tell them all about our animals’ fun facts and the life at the farm. Theresa’s favorite animals at the farm are Sonny the goat and Onyx our pony. Theresa and Aimee enjoy coming to the farm every day, it means so much to them to work with our animals. 

Shenae and Jon:

Shenae, been happily working at Special Spirit Farm for going on 3 years. She is the Job Coach of our petting farm zookeeper, Jon. Shenae assists Jon in the garden area, on his daily duties as the zookeeper and with wrangling the critters. She helps to organize the team and volunteers on the daily tasks around the farm. Duties that make it a wonderful place to visit, volunteer or tour. Shenae loves to be around the animals the most. It is the best part of my Job. Jon is the petting farm zookeeper. He wrangles the critters, make sure the grounds are looking nice and especially around the green house. Jon loves to drive the critters from the barn to the arena, to be turned out. But his favorite thing is to take Glitter, our donkey to and from the arena. He enjoys his work here very much.

 

Sandy (Gavin and Sandy's Mom) 

"The people at Special Spirit truly are special. I was amazed at their keen insight into the personalities and emotions of my children based on how the kids interacted with the horses during their EAP encounters. The activities were creative and helped my children to be better aware of their emotions, actions and reactions, and the affect these have on other people."

Weston & Catherine (Avery's Parents) 

"Our daughter Avery is 5 years old and started riding at Moonshadow Ranch almost a year ago.  She had a major abdominal surgery when she was 4, and we began riding lessons as a way to restore and strengthen her stomach muscles.  Avery loves animals and is very at home in the stables.  We strongly recommend Eva Lund and her riding program for children.  Eva has a passion for her work and a natural ability to inspire and motivate our daughter.  We feel that safety is a priority to Eva, which puts us at ease.  Avery doesn't seem to mind being pushed to try new things in her lessons, which is a testament to Eva's ability to make riding fun.  All of the positive reinforcement Avery has received from even her small achievements in riding has boosted her confidence.  We also love the wonderful volunteers who help and encourage Avery.  Special Spirit at Moonshadow Ranch is more than a place of learning, it is a place of mentorship!"

Jackie (Donovan's Mom) 

"Donovan is an 8 year old boy, riding since November of 2011.  He is our little trooper.  Donovan suffers from type 1 diabetes and autism spectrum disorder.  At first we were not sure if being around horses would be a good idea or if he would even enjoy it, but he proved us wrong.  Since the first time he rode, he has had a smile of joy every time we come to the ranch.  Donovan has trouble using his hands for some tasks, walking properly, and social skills.  In just a few months he is learning how to finally tie his shoes, use his hands for more tasks, and is walking better. Donovan does not like making eye-contact or having conversations with people, but when he's riding he will look at you and answer when he is being asked too.  Donovan loves caring for the horses but his favorite thing is trotting on the horses!  He's the happiest little boy when he knows we're going to the ranch to ride, especially on Pumpkin.  Thanks to Miss Eva and Special Spirit's time, patience, and support we have gone one step further in changing Donovan's life."

Petya Bankov (Boris' Mom) 

"My son, Boris, who has Cerebral Palsy and I have been going to Special Spirit for a therapeutic ride for a few months already and I can say that it is not only an excellent physical exercise for muscle strengthening and balance improvement for my son, but also a wonderful experience for both of us.  When we go there, he brushes his horse, gets acquainted with the other horses, after the ride he feeds them carrots, goes to see the rooster and the chicken, Eva even gave us a few fresh eggs once. There are also peacocks walking around and everybody is so nice and friendly. We LOVE going there!"

AWARDS

"Spirit of Johny Carpenter" Award 2010 

 

The 8th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner/Korean BBQ,

Spirit Awards & Community Scholarships

Thank you to councilman of District 7, Filipe Fuentes for recognizing the amazing work that Special Spirit does with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Thanks to a fundraising effort from the Glendora High School, ASL students class, Special Spirit was able to deliver highly affordable classes to Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Blind Youth over the summer.

Thank you Glendora High School for all your support!