Staff

Ann Villa

Executive Director

Eva Finnan

Program Director and PATH Instructor

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 they 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 successful retail management career, she took the opportunity to volunteer at a therapeutic riding school, Giant Steps in Sonoma County, California. It was there that she realized that working and qualifying as a PATH International therapeutic riding instructor was how she could attend to her own spirit and share experience. She knew how horses can be the catalyst for positive change and personal growth. Powerful equine assisted activities are an effective way to reach people who may be struggling to fully express themselves. Eva lives and works with her husband and two daughters on Sparkleberry Farm in Aiken, South Carolina.

Grace Flanders

Manager of Volunteer Services and PATH Instructor

Grace 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 has been teaching therapeutic riding lessons for nearly 2 years. She loves to see the full smiles and confidence form from all of her riders! 

Deborah McWhirter

Manager of Equine Services

Deborah has been an equestrian for most of her life, but for the last 15 years she has focused on the discipline of eventing. She has competed at the upper levels of the sport with her two horses, Mr. Bounce and Nero. She trains with 5* Event rider Caitlin Silliman here in Aiken and in Pennsylvania during the summers. Her passion for horses brought her to Great Oak in August of 2020 when she started as a volunteer. As the Manager of Equine Services her knowledge and passion is now translated to oversee the proper care of our Great Oak horses.

Leslie Waters

Path Instructor

Leslie started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center in NC in 2005. She became a PATH registered instructor in 2008. She is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant. She loves working with kids and horses add the icing on the cake. She loves partnering with the horses to make a difference in each person’s life. At home she and her husband, Andy, are always busy with their 5 kids (3 in college/ 2 at home) and their own little farm.

Board of Directors

Founder
Wendy O’Brien

President
Mit Carothers

Vice President
Tony Rickard

Secretary
Judy Mcconnell

Treasurer
Andrew Aquino

Kate Hawks

Michael Sullivan

Jesse Waters

Shawna Dietrich

Caroline Herlong-Turner