Meet the Team
Our dedicated team of administrators, instructors and horses works hard to ensure that you have the best experience at Great and Small. Please take a moment to get to know the team.
Help us care for our therapeutic partners and consider sponsoring one or more horses to help support and sustain our riding programs. Visit Great and Small's Sponsor a Horse program for more information.
Alexis Leonard, Executive Director
Alexis joined the team in 2020, and comes to Great and Small with over seven years of fundraising and nonprofit experience, and is a lifelong horsewoman. She is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and serves on the board of directors for Montgomery Countryside Alliance.
Paige Clark, Program Director, PATH CTRI
Paige began volunteering at a therapeutic riding center in high school. She graduated from Centenary University in 2017 where she received a B.S. in Equine Business Management, minored in Psychology, and certified as a PATH Intl. certified instructor. She was the volunteer manager at Maryland Therapeutic Riding before joining Great and Small in November of 2019.
Katy Hansen, Director of Volunteers and Outreach
Katy joined Great and Small in May 2016 after 17 years in higher education. She is a PATH Intl certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. A lifelong horsewoman, Katy actively competes in eventing on Social Code, her off-track Thoroughbred. She lives in Poolesville with her husband, two children, and two dogs.
Lisa Gatons, Interim Program Director
PATH Equine Specialist
Lisa Gatons is certified as a PATH Intl. Equine Specialist and has had training and experience with Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) methods. She supports many of Great and Small’s special programs, acting as an equine specialist for Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning as well as horse handling for hippotherapy sessions. Lisa lives nearby with her husband, two sons and two dogs. Both of her sons volunteer at Great and Small on a regular basis.
PATH Instructors and Equine Specialists
Laurie Dove, PATH CTRI and Equine Specialist
Laurie graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. She has worked as a dental hygienist since 1975. In 2008 she was asked to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center because of her many years of horse experience. She became a PATH certified instructor in December of 2009. Laurie is proud to be an instructor and receives much gratification from working with her students and their equine partners.
Nancy Heller, PATH CTRI and Mentor
Nancy is a retired special educator who specialized in early childhood special education. She has been a PATH certified instructor since 2003. Nancy has participated in PATH’s Mentor Training program and serves as a mentor to those who are working toward instructor certification. She has also served as vice president of the Maryland Council of Equestrian Therapies.
In 2021, Nancy was the PATH Intl. Region 2 Credentialed Professional of the Year. Congratulations Nancy!
Peggy Itrich, PATH CTRI
Peggy graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and worked for Lockheed Martin from 1993 to 2012. A life-long horse lover, opportunities to ride and be around horses were few and far between. When she began volunteering at Great and Small in 2007, it was a dream come true. She loves seeing the smiles on her students’ faces and the wonderful accomplishments that can happen when kids and horses come together.
Elena Pezzana, PATH CTRI
Elena graduated with a Master of Law from the University of Camerino, Italy, but she set aside her professional career to raise her children, one of whom has special needs. She moved with her family (her husband, three children and two dogs) to the USA in 2014, after having lived in Italy, France, and French Guiana. She has been riding since a young age and her favorite discipline is dressage. Elena joined Great and Small as a volunteer in 2015, and in June 2018 she became a PATH Intl. certified instructor. She is also a part-time Italian teacher in D.C. for children.
Alia Mortenson, PATH CTRI
Alia first joined Great and Small as a boarder with her gelding Louie before officially joining the team several months later. Alia's generosity of spirit and passion for community-focused work makes a perfect addition to the Great and Small family. She brings over a decade of experience building programs for youth facilitating educational, physical, and social-emotional goals, in addition to her years of experience as an equestrian and therapeutic riding instructor.
Kaye Otten, PATH CTRI
Kaye Otten quickly became part of the Great and Small family as she was officially certified in December of 2019. She has been riding for 23+ years and instructing professionally since 2013. Kaye has worked under two master riders in Germany, was an assistant trainer to a US Olympic Dressage trainer. She competes on both the regional and national level with her clients and her own horse Jack. When Kaye is not at the barn you can find her hard at work studying to complete her MSW with a clinical focus through the University of Maryland. Kaye's goal is to run a program that incorporates the importance and knowledge of horsemanship skills with the development of group social skills.
Barn Staff Team
Caroline Perry, Barn Staff
Caroline Perry has been a member of the team at Great and Small for many years - filling roles of program volunteer, Saturday volunteer coordinator, barn staff, and even helping with grant writing from time to time! Caroline keeps her horse, Mozart, at Great and Small and has been riding since she was five years old.
Lexi James, Barn Staff
More information coming soon!
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Jaxon Gatons, Barn Staff
More information coming soon!
Great and Small Interns
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Sally Sterkel, 2021 Summer Residential Intern
Sally joins us as our Summer 2021 Intern. Sally is a junior at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, and currently pursuing a degree in Marketing. She has been riding horses since she was 8 years old, and has a heart for the special needs population and desires a career in therapeutic riding. Her experience includes internships in accounting and work in summer horsemanship camps. Sally is from Chesterland, Ohio.
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AT GREAT AND SMALL
Barn and Facility Manager
The full-time Barn and Facility Manager position is a 5 day/week schedule (one weekend day required) and reports to the Executive Director. This position will work with three part-time barn staff and occasionally volunteers and interns. The Barn Manager will be responsible for overall management of 10 therapy horses and 14-16 horses in Great and Small’s boarding operation. This position requires a strong equine and facility management background.
A full position description can be viewed and downloaded here.
Send resume and salary requirements by May 31st, 2021 to , Attn: Alexis Leonard, Executive Director. No phone calls, please.
Part-Time PATH Instructor
We are growing and have part-time openings for PATH Intl. certified therapeutic riding instructors on a rolling basis. Afternoon, weekend, and limited daytime hours possible.
Offering a structured, supportive, positive work environment, and dynamic opportunities for professional development. Pay scale of $20/hour and paid sick leave. Please contact Paige Clark, Program Director, to submit a resume or for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Board of Directors
Susan King – President | Attorney – Caulkins & Bruce, PC
Great and Small’s mission to serve individuals with special needs has always resonated with Sue as she has a sister with special needs. Horses have played a large role in her sister’s physical and emotional wellbeing, helping to center her and giving her an activity where she can compete (at a low level) with the rest of the world.
Sue first became involved with Great and Small in 2008, when she was asked to help with organizing the inaugural Horses on Pointe fundraiser. She joined the Great and Small board in 2011, and became president in 2018. Sue chairs the organizing committees of the Horses on Pointe and Murder Mystery Trail Ride fundraisers for Great and Small.
Sue’s own interest in horses started at the age of 8 with weekly lessons at a local barn. As an adult, her focus turned to dressage after her very sweet but highly klutzy off the track thoroughbred finally convinced her that he was not cut out to be her adult amateur hunter, and that his jumping career was better left to popping over an occasional log in the woods and teleporting 10 feet sideways when startled.
In her day job Sue is a corporate and securities attorney, acting as outside general counsel to emerging companies and helping them raise private financing, and acting as lead counsel in merger and acquisition transactions for both emerging companies and government contractors.
Connie Eysenck – Vice President | Communications Specialist
Connie joined the Board of Great and Small in February 2016, bringing 30 years of experience in strategic communications at the World Bank, and several years of teaching. Recently retired, she is exploring other opportunities and adventures, and applying her experience, skills, and enthusiasm to meaningful and interesting initiatives and projects. Connie’s professional passions remain international development, the power of communications, leadership roles and behavior, advocacy, campaigns, and community building. Her personal interests include supporting activities that make a difference.
A lifelong horseback rider, Connie was introduced to Great and Small when her wonderful horse “Huck” retired from the eventing world and joined the Great and Small equine team. After seeing the impact that the programs have through Huck’s five years here, Connie joined the Board to support the organization and contribute to its success. Originally from London, England, she lives in Washington DC with her husband.
Al Blount – Treasurer | Entrepreneur
Al is a proud parent of a son with Fragile X and has been actively engaged with Great and Small since his son began taking therapeutic riding lessons shortly after they moved to Boyds in 2012. He began volunteering after seeing the positive impact the program had on his son and is honored to be a committed supporter and serve on the board. Now retired from a technology career, Al spends his time in real estate development and advocating for individuals with intellectual disability with a particular interest in fostering meaningful employment opportunities for adults with learning differences.
Sue Sheridan – Secretary | Attorney
Sue has enjoyed having more time for horse-related activities since she retired from her work as a counsel on Capitol Hill, teaching law school, and running a consulting business focused on energy and environmental policy issues. In addition to her work with the Great and Small Board of Directors, she serves on the boards of two nonprofit environmental organizations. Following a stint as a volunteer at Great and Small in 2008, Sue now volunteers weekly at the barn and finds enormous satisfaction in working with clients with varying needs.
Sue’s interest in riding was handed down by her mother, who grew up cow-girling in the Texas Panhandle during the Depression. She rides regularly in Rock Creek Park, and has gone on a number of trail rides out West, in Europe, and in South America. Continuing the family riding tradition, Sue holds among her fondest memories family visits to dude ranches, and a riding safari in Kenya with her daughter.
Karen Merszei | Executive Coach
Karen’s initial introduction to Great and Small, while watching a series of lessons, was so powerful that she immediately sought to somehow support the organization; she was asked to join the Board in January 2018. Karen spent 20 years at the World Bank in human resources, heading global recruitment and executive search before retiring early in 2007 to pursue new opportunities in executive coaching and leadership development. Being motivated to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them realize their full potential, Karen pursued her passion through designing and delivering impactful leadership and coaching programs for emerging women leaders in development and other international organizations.
While Karen still consults in executive search and executive coaching, she also supports breast cancer patients and causes. Her professional work and personal interests align well with the mission of Great and Small. Born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland, Karen has ridden horses since childhood. A frequent traveler, Karen lives in Washington DC with her husband.
Nancy recently joined the Board of Great and Small in April 2020. Born in Washington, DC and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, Nancy first learned to ride at Wheaton Stables when she was a young girl. Later as an adult she rode at Avenel Stables along with her daughter. Her love of horses has taken her to Ireland where she rode her first Connemara Pony, a dude ranch in Arizona and Grenoble, France where she lived for several years.
Prior to starting a family, Nancy spent over 12 years in the telecommunications industry (AT&T Global Business Systems) employed in various sales and marketing positions as well as employee training. She left the corporate world when her first child was born and started her own business, “Baby Beepers”, a short-term paging company targeted for pregnant couples. Nancy eventually sold the company around the time her daughter was due and diverted her energies to various volunteer positions at both children’s schools and her church. Eventually she returned to the workforce as a Senior Sales Representative for a health insurance company (Kaiser Permanente) helping people make decisions about their health care coverage.
Nancy brings her strong organizational skills, and multitasking abilities to the board as demonstrated when she served as the General Contractor overseeing the renovation of her 1925 Sears Kit home in Washington, DC. Her desire to help others and give back to the community aligns well with the mission of Great and Small and the reason Nancy looks forward to working with the organization.