Our Story

The genesis of Great Oak starts with the story of a boy, Alan Corey IV.  Alan enjoyed adaptive riding on Long Island, New York. More than 20 years ago, while visiting his father in Aiken, he asked if there was a similar program available.  When the answer was “No,” he questioned, “Why not?” That is when Specialized Therapeutic and Recreational Riding (STAR Riding) was born.

Today under the protective branches of a Great Oak, that dream is carried forward by a dedicated group of passionate individuals and reliable horses under the professional affiliation of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship).  The future holds so many possibilities for unbridled success.

Our advantage is our knowledge and experience. We leverage our assets in  a state-of-the-art facility that is supported by generous contributions from many of our local patrons and students.

Over the last 15 months alone we have served over 200 unique individuals through creative programming, dedicated volunteers, certified instructors and our fantastic herd of award-winning GO Ponies. Great Oak now manages a facility that allows for transformative growth through equine assisted activities in all seasons.

We believe that riders aged 4 years and older with emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges will find that equine interaction may improve their condition. Prior to programming all potential participants must complete a screening session with Great Oak PATH certified staff. As we grow in our community and beyond, we look forward to the new adventures and journeys that our students will go on with us, and we know we cannot do it alone. It can take up to three volunteers and an instructor for reach individual session. We provide thorough training for volunteers assisting with therapeutic riding lessons, barn management, office administrative tasks, fundraising efforts, or community outreach.

Great Oak is located on a picturesque 40-acre farm five minutes from downtown Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken is among the foremost equestrian communities not only in the Southeast, but also in the nation. It seems imperative that Aiken should be home to one of the PATH certified riding programs. We share our expertise to empower individuals with special needs and their families. We aim to see our students discover a new relationship with the horses through thoughtful programs that guide and nurture the riders.

Simply put, we change lives. Help us build the next 20 years and beyond at Great Oak.

Great Oak is PATH Certified

The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.®), is a federally-registered 501(c3) nonprofit. The organization leads the advancement of professional equine-assisted services (EAS) by supporting its members and stakeholders through rigorously developed standards, credentialing and education. At 881 member centers, more than 66,000 children and adults, including 6,200 veterans, may find improved health, wellness and a sense of pride, independence and fun through involvement with horses. EAS at member centers may include therapeutic or adaptive riding, interactive vaulting, driving, adaptive equestrian sport, equine-assisted learning and therapy services. Through a wide variety of educational resources, the association helps individuals start and maintain successful programs and professional careers. There are nearly 62,500 volunteers, 5,011 instructors, 7,800 equines and thousands of contributors from all over the world helping people at PATH Intl. Member Centers.

Board of Directors

Mit Carothers
Robert Cudlip
Shawna Dietrich
Milly Epps
Annie Groat
Jensen Jennings
Judy McConnell
Wendy O’Brien
Chuck Pexa
Tony Rickard
Micheal Sullivan


  • Meghan Benge

    Meghan Benge comes to Great Oak as a lifelong equestrian who began her journey with horses at a therapeutic riding center, SIRE, in her hometown of Houston, Texas. After effectively graduating from the therapeutic riding center, Meghan competed with her ponies in hunter shows, then switched to driving. She was a Team Bronze medalist at

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  • Eva Finnan

    As a therapeutic riding instructor, Eva feels privileged to work with children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. As a young girl, she realized how incredibly special are and admired their ability to mirror what humans were experiencing and feeling. Additionally, the physical benefit of the sport of riding. Years later, after a

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  • Grace Flanders

    Grace Flanders is a lifelong North Augusta resident. She has grown up around horses most of her life and rode on the Lander University Equestrian Team. She received a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Lander University with a minor in therapeutic horsemanship. She is working towards becoming a certified PATH therapeutic riding instructor and can’t wait to start

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  • Nicole Pioli

    Executive Director Pioli has called Aiken home since 2016, along with her husband, two rescue dogs, cat, two miniature donkeys and horse.  She relocated from Myrtle Beach, where she was an avid volunteer and board member for a therapeutic riding program. With degrees in Public Health and Social Work, along with a love of horses, Nicole

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GO Ponies

View Great Oak’s 990s below

Careers (none at this time)