Melissa Abbey, PATH Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning


Melissa Abbey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, PATH Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor, and an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning.  Melissa brings a wealth of life experience to these varied roles, including many years of leading groups, facilitating adventure experiences, and teaching in a variety of settings.

During her eight years as Assistant Director of Outdoor Education at Mission Springs Conference Center, Melissa developed her skill as a “teacher of teachers” as she mentored the staff of Naturalists. She also wrote much of the curriculum that is still used by that program.

At Houghton College Melissa got her first formal exposure to Equine Science and received her first riding lessons as part of the school’s Physical Education program.  The school has its own horse farm and not only offers college-level horsemanship classes, but allows students to ride as part of their homework!

While in graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy, Melissa discovered Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and pursued a specialty in that field through DreamPower Horsemanship, where she volunteered for over 7 years and earned the majority of her Marriage and Family Therapy intern hours.

An engaging writer, teacher and presenter, Melissa has written several articles for the PATH International magazine, as well as created and presented workshops on elderly horses, managing transference, desensitization of horses, professional competence, and teaching math and science at the barn.

Melissa considers it a privilege that she now gets to spend 5 days a week with horses, and is happiest in her “barn clothes”, getting dirty with students and horses at LOARC.

Debbie Melnikoff, Therapeutic Riding Instructor – In Training

Debbie rode English Hunters and Jumpers as a youth and young adult for over 15 years and has been around horses most of her life. She joined LOARC in the spring of 2017 as a volunteer Side Walker and Horse Handler.

Soon after joining LOARC she found her joy in volunteering, love for horses and her counseling background to be the perfect combination. In addition, LOARC has provided her the opportunity to learn about working with horses as co-workers instead of just controlling them; natural horsemanship. With the LOARC program blossoming, she was offered the opportunity to pursue her certification as a PATH Therapeutic Riding Instructor, which she anticipates attaining in 2018.

Debbie’s professional background includes 20 plus years in high tech Human Resources and 10 years as a Certified Career Coach. Her practice, Third Wave Career Coaching provides career transition and job search coaching services for mid career professionals.

Debbie is living the dream she coaches her clients to achieve; which is obtaining an encore career opportunity through volunteering for a cause one feels passionate about.

Debbie is a Certified Career Coach holds an MS in Career Counseling and is a Certified Myers Briggs™ Practitioner.  She lives in Santa Cruz, CA.

Kristy Newstrom, PATH Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Kristy has had a fascination and affinity for horses most of her life, riding occasionally, and working with her friends’ horses. Described by her family as a “child whisperer” for the way that kids are drawn to her and open up to her, Kristy is a superb teacher who easily balances fun and learning. She began working with children right out of high school in 1997, while pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from San Jose State University.

In 2015 while visiting Ojai, Ca, she met a woman who was a Therapeutic Riding Instructor who introduced her to the art of working with horses and humans in a therapeutic manner. On the same trip, a friend of hers told her that she should work with horses, because she has a way of working with them that is empathetic, kind, and straightforward.

From that moment forward, Kristy has been learning, working, volunteering and doing all she can to be a great Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Kristy has been a committed volunteer at LOARC since 2016, for several months even driving from Pleasanton to Felton to assist in lessons.  She considers this her life’s work, and she is honored to be at Lichen Oaks Adaptive Riding Center, working with everyone who comes through the barn door.

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