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.

Our Team

Board of Directors

  • Wendy O’Brien

    Past Chairman Wendy O’Brien is an accomplished equestrian with a lifelong dedication to equestrian disciplines, farm life, business ventures, and community causes. Her equestrian pursuits include Radnor Hunt Pony Club, horse showing, foxhunting, steeplechase racing, three day eventing, breeding and training. She is a competitive Combined Driver, and was on the U.S. Pony Team in

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  • Michael Sullivan

    Vice Chairman Michael Sullivan served on Great Oak’s predecessor board and he is interested in helping Great Oak grow to a scale sufficient to serve a broad population. Michael is a graduate of Williams College and he received his MBA from Vanderbilt University. After Michael graduated, his interest in finance took him back east, where

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    Michael Sullivan
  • Duncan Huyler

    Chairman Duncan has held senior leadership positions across multiple industries, including retail, advertising, technology, manufacturing, and finance. He began his career as an officer in the U.S. Army, spent ten years as a hedge fund CFO in New York and most recently was the CEO of the United States Polo Association. Duncan has served on

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    Duncan Huyler
  • Shawna Dietrich

    Shawna Dietrich grew up in Houston, Texas, “on the back of a horse.” When her family moved to Kentucky, she started showing hunters and jumpers in the Midwest, graduating into teaching and training on a professional level. Personal events led to a change of direction, and into the business world of equine insurance. Dietrich &

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  • Bonnie Fulghum

    BonnieAnne Osbon Fulghum is a lifelong Aiken resident. She earned her bachelors degrees in speech communication and theater/vocal performance from the University of South Carolina and is currently working on finishing her master’s degree in special education. She grew up working in her family business, Triple O Printing Company, until it was sold. Bonnie and

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    Bonnie Fulghum
  • Jeannie Groat

    Jeannie grew up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and attended Hiram College, studying history and art history, and performing in musical theater and concerts. Her marriage to Stephen Groat brought her to Aiken, where Steve taught at the Aiken Preparatory School and Jeannie studied at the University of South Carolina. In 1971, the Groats moved

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    Jeannie Groat
  • Mary Guynn

    Mary Guynn was born in Aiken. She received her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and thereafter obtained her juris doctorate degree from Emory University. She is a partner in the law firm of Smith, Massey, Brodie, Guynn & Mayes, where she practices in the areas of residential and commercial real estate

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    Mary Guynn
  • Judy McConnell

    Judy McConnell joins Great Oak after 18 years of involvement at Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, including three years as the President.  She and her husband, Chuck, have three children and six grandchildren.  They retired to Aiken and reside in Three Runs Plantation with her two horses and Schnoodle.  Judy actively hunts

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    Judy McConnell
  • Tony Rickard

    Tony Rickard is a life-long resident of Aiken.  Many of you may recognize Tony from Osbon’s Laundry and Cleaners, which he owns along with his uncle and cousin.  Tony is also the President of the Western Carolina State Fair Foundation.  He has been married to his wife, Ashley for ten years and they have two

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    Tony Rickard
  • Jesse Waters

    Jesse Waters Jesse Waters has been a resident of Aiken since 2010 along with his wife, April, and two sons William and Jackson. Jesse attended the US Merchant Marine Academy with a congressional nomination from the Hon. Floyd Spence. Following his 2005 graduation, with a BS in Marine Transportation & a USCG 3rd Mate’s license, Jesse

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  • Lela Wulf

    Ms. Wulf brings over thirty years professional experience gained through assignments in Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit and privately held enterprises, primarily in the healthcare industry. Responsibilities have included: financial and strategic advisory roles within payor/provider organizations, investment banking, valuation and consulting; and most recently in research administration. Her experiences with research administration provide key insights to

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  • 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

    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 said

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GO Ponies