Wayne T. Jackson is the co-founder and Executive Director of Ride Above Disability Therapeutic Riding Center. Wayne grew up on a small farm outside Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. It was there that his passion for horses was born and at age 13 he began breaking and training them.
In 1994, Wayne left home (and horses) to become a United States Marine. He had a lengthy and varied career in the Marine Corps where he learned to become a leader and train others who had varying abilities for the task being asked. Wayne was stationed throughout the United States during his career, but it was while he was assigned to San Diego as an aviation mechanic that his passion for horses was reignited when he adopted and trained a BLM Mustang.
Wayne began volunteering for Helen Woodward’s therapeutic riding program in 2010. It was while volunteering at Helen Woodward he began to consider this as a possible career after the military, combining both his love of horses and love of helping others. After his retirement from the Marines in 2014 as a gunnery sergeant, Wayne, along with riding instructors Katie Cram and Allie Sarnataro, founded Ride Above Disability Therapeutic Riding Center.
When Katie was 8 she got her first pony and joined the United States Pony Club. There she learned how to ride, care for and maintain horses, and teach the difference horses can make in the lives of others. She competed locally and nationally in 3 day eventing, show jumping and dressage. Once out of Pony Club, Katie dabbled in western disciplines such as western dressage, and horsemanship challenges but her true passion remains with eventing.
In 2005 Katie began working at Helen Woodward Animal Center cleaning stalls. Within 6 months, she began teaching therapeutic riding lessons and became PATH Intl certified in 2006. While working at Helen Woodward, Katie met both Wayne and Allie, co-founders of Ride Above. She also gained more in depth knowledge on managing the care and training of therapeutic riding horses instead of sport horses. In 2012, Katie began working at PoVa Therapeutic Riding Center, expanding her knowledge about running a therapeutic riding center and what it takes to make it successful. In 2014 Katie, Wayne and Allie opened the doors to Ride Above where she is able to share her passion for horses.
Allie’s passion for horses began when she was very young. At 12, Allie began taking riding lessons. She competed in the local jumping shows for a few years and then changed disciplines to dressage riding. Allie soon became a working student, helping and teaching others to care for and tack their horses.
At 16, Allie began volunteering for SPUR Therapeutic Riding Center in New Jersey. On her first day volunteering, Allie knew this was something she wanted to be involved with for a very long time. Allie continued to volunteer with SPUR for 8 years and was also camp director for the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s horseback riding program.
In 2008, Allie moved to California and began volunteering and eventually working at a therapeutic riding center in San Diego. Here she met fellow friend and colleague Katie Wooldridge who shared the same passion for horses and therapeutic riding as she did. In 2010, Allie began her journey to become a PATH Intl. certified riding instructor and passed her certification that same year. In 2014, Katie, Allie, and fellow horse and therapeutic riding enthusiast Wayne Jackson, finally decided it was time to open a new therapeutic riding center for the community.
As a young girl Amanda had a passion for horses, with posters covering every wall in her bedroom. For Amanda’s 10th birthday, her parents surprised her with riding lessons and her passion grew from there. By the time Amanda was 15 she was an assistant instructor, and by 16, the camp director at the barn where she was riding. After graduating high school she moved to San Diego for college, and took a year off from riding and teaching.
Amanda realized quickly that horses were missing from her life, and began volunteering at PoVa Therapeutic Riding Center. Within two months, Amanda started teaching lessons and her passion for teaching riding lessons had been rekindled. There Amanda met Wayne, Katie, Allie, and Mary. When Amanda heard about the creation of Ride Above and the plan for the program, it was an obvious choice to join the team in doing what she loves so much.
It’s been almost five years since Mary and her daughter belonged to Pony Club. It was there she was introduced to therapy riding and it only took a few months of volunteering to know that she had found her passion. She was fortunate to begin her volunteer journey with students as young as 2 years old, who are still her students today. When they first started, those students were unable to walk and many people doubted they would ever be able to. But now, Mary watches them walk over from the car and hop on their horse. In some cases, students are even trotting and posting on their horses. Watching their growth and progression inspires Mary, and reminds her of the benefits that therapeutic horseback riding can offer.