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ABOUT SPECIAL SPIRIT
MEET OUR TEAM

"Special Spirit at Moonshadow Ranch is such a special place.
The staff is incredible and very experienced.
My son had an incredible time riding horses for the first time!"

- JARON’S DAD

EVA LUND
Executive Director
PATH International Certified Riding Instructor
EAGALA Certified Equine Specialist

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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LAINIE BAYDIAN
Director of Operations
PATH International Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning
To be certified as a PATH International Certified Riding Instructor

With an extensive healthcare background as a Registered Nurse for almost 40 years, and as an equestrian/horse owner for decades, Lainie has been fortunate to combine her two passions and experience. Lainie is dedicated to the holistic health, wellness, and safety of our clients, students, volunteers, staff, visitors, and community as well as our beloved equines and farm animals. Special Spirit has quickly become Lainie’s "home away from home“ as she continually strives to promote the growth and excellence of our therapeutic/adaptive, learning, and recreational programs, inclusive for all ages, riding abilities, mounted and unmounted activities, adaptive, and able-bodied. Lainie collaborates with our Executive Director Eva Lund, Board of Directors, Mental Health professionals on-site, and staff. As a liaison between clients, boarders, staff, volunteers, and the SS Board of Directors, she strives to facilitate outstanding communication and cohesiveness for the betterment of the ranch. Married to Eric for 35 years, and enjoying three amazing adult children and their spouses all living locally, Lainie is “over the moon“ recently becoming grandma "Nonnie” to Baby Hudson Henry. Reflecting as her family continues to grow, Lainie is so grateful for the positive impact that the role and relationship animals have made to each of her family members. “Animals are a Gift to show us how much our Creator loves us“.

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.

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 VOLUNTEER FARM TEAM

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SUSY with THERESA, TINA & TANNER

Suzy is hired by Tierra Del Sol, she assists the associates that work at the Farm during the week. Suzy over sees all their work duties, i.e. bringing out the animals and horses to the arena. Suzy helps with the trimmings of the trees and bushes as the associates help with the cleaning up of the trimmings and raking to make the farm look nice. Suzy works with the associates on learning how to put on a halter and a lead rope, for the horses and goats. Suzy and her associates are also learning to milk the goats.

Theresa enjoys giving tours of the farm, telling them about the goats, mini horses and donkey.

Tina enjoys working at the farm. Her favorite part is working with the animals. She loves bringing the horses out to the arena. Her favorite horse is Onyx.

Tanner likes Pixy, the mini horse. He is also a fan of our pigs. He enjoys bringing the mama goat and baby goat out of the barn. 

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SHENAE & 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.

HELP ENRICH THE LIVES OF OUR RIDERS

Your donation will help us continue our mission to enrich the lives of our young riders through our various programs. Thank you for your support and all you do for Special Spirit!

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