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.

Our Horses

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. 

 

Our Staff

Administrative Team 

 
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Alexis Leonard, Executive Director 

Alexis joined the team in 2020, and comes to Great and Small nearly a decade 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.

Email: aleonard@greatandsmallride.org

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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.

Email: pclark@greatandsmallride.org

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Katy Hansen, Director of Volunteers and Outreach
Equine Specialist

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.

Email: khansen@greatandsmallride.org

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Lisa Gatons, Assistant 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.

Email: Lgatons@greatandsmallride.org 

PATH Instructors and Equine Specialists

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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Dakota Quelland, Barn and Facility Manager

More information coming soon!

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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. 

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Lexi James, Barn Staff

More information coming soon!

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AT GREAT AND SMALL

 
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Certified Hippotherapist

Great and Small is in search of a Certified Hippotherapist (and licesnsed Physical Therapist/Occupational Therapist) to join our team and launch our Hippotherapy program.

More information to come! For questions or to submit a CV for the position, please email Paige Clark, Program Director: Pclark@greatandsmallride.org

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 pclark@greatandsmallride.org.

Board of Directors

Karen Merszei, Executive Coach | President

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 McGovern | Vice President

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.

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.

Connie Eysenck – 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.