Dr. Carole Harris received her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1989, her Master degree in Social Work in 1991, and her Doctorate in Psychology in 2003. She is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker. In 2010, Dr. Harris was Eagala certified to provide equine assisted psychotherapy sessions and formed Horse Play Therapy and Free Rein Foundation. She is a recognized continuing education provider through the National Association of Social Workers and has her advanced training certificate through Eagala. These two certificates allow Dr. Harris to provide trainings to other mental health professionals. Dr. Harris is also an approved mentor through Eagala.
Dr. Harris has presented at conferences in the United States as well as in Belgium and Australia Her main focus has been on trauma and how equine assisted psychotherapy changes the brain. In her personal life she sits on the board of the Algalita Marine and Research Foundation as well as doing philanthropic work in Tanzania, Africa by supporting water and education projects to the Maasai communities. She has also published a book on her family’s adventures in Mexico.
A consummate equestrian, environmentalist and philanthropist, Justine has been instrumental in helping Dr. Carole Harris execute her vision to expose inner city kids to Equine Assisted Learning. Because of Justine’s philanthropic work and deep connections with the Los Angeles Police Department’s community youth programs, she was able to initiate programs with teenagers from the Projects, the first to come through Free Rein for Equine Assisted Learning programs in 2014.
Within a very short time, word spread and Justine had created programs for many more youth groups, including the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Sunburst Youth Academy, which she serves as a member of the Board of Directors. To help fund these programs, Justine tapped in to her sales and marketing background to execute the first annual Free Rein Gala event in 2015, which raised nearly $100,000 in its first year. Today, Justine continues to lead fundraising efforts for Free Rein and is dedicated to expanding services to many more adult and child groups.
Nicolas received his Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage & Family Therapy from Pepperdine University in 2015. Prior to receiving his Master’s Degree, Nicholas worked with children and youth with social needs at Lilebaelt University College in Denmark. In addition to his EAP work with Free Rein and Horse Play Therapy, Nicholas works in private practice in Tustin, teaches parenting classes, and provides clinical support to children, adolescents, and their parents through several schools in Orange County. Nicolas was born in the United States, but grew up in Mexico where he developed a passion for horses and sports that involve horses, particularly the Mexican national sport “Charreria.” He acknowledges the importance of the connection with his horses and believes that they are true mirrors of whoever interacts or simply observes them.
Michelle Desmond has over 20 years experience working with horses. Prior to becoming an Equine Specialist, Michelle taught horse curriculum for 4H. She also served in law enforcement as a civilian dispatcher and desk officer. The daughter of two psychologists, Michelle currently coordinates and facilitates the sessions for Free Rein. She appreciates the rewarding work of therapy and is able to combine her knowledge of therapy and deep connection to horses to help a wide range of people suffering from emotional illness in individual or group Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions. Michelle is an avid rider, always opting to ride bareback and without the use of a bit.
Janel obtained her B.A. in Human Development with an emphasis in Special Needs Infants from Pacific Oaks College. She completed a six-month internship at Fran Joswick Center (now Shea Center) working with horses and people with physical and cognitive challenges. She taught preschool for 10 years at Irvine Valley College and Early Childhood Education Methodology Courses to adults entering the field of Early Childhood Education. She had completed Level 1 and 2 with Pegasus and is certified through Eagala. She is an Equine Specialist, Peer Recovery Coach, Intervention Specialist, and Family Group Education consultant. Janel has owned and taken care of horses since age 7. She continues to be an active horsewoman with a focus on Natural Horsemanship.
Jane Manolakas is an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW). She completed her Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) at the University of Southern California and has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Occidental College. In addition, she is an attorney and holds her Juris Doctorate (JD) from McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. She has worked as a Social Worker at the Friendship Shelter, located in Laguna Beach, for the past five years.
Kristine received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University in 2011. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is Eagala certified as a Mental Health Professional and Equine Specialist. In addition to being a member of the Free Rein and Horse Play Therapy teams, Kristine works in a private practice in Anaheim. Prior to this, she worked in an intensive outpatient program in San Diego and provided individual and group therapy for adults coping with chronic mental illnesses and addictions. She also worked as the lead therapist for Becky’s House and Passages of the YWCA of San Diego, where she worked with women and children who were survivors of domestic violence, as well as homeless women and families. Kristine owned and cared for horses throughout her childhood and young adulthood and has a deep understanding of the therapeutic qualities and healing power of horses.
Alejandra Sandoval is an Eagala certified Equine Specialist with extensive training and experience in natural horsemanship. Bicultural and bilingual, Alejandra began working with horses at age 12 and has continued to develop her skills through trail riding and participation in a competitive drill team, also known as Escaramuza Charra. Alejandra has also completed natural horsemanship training with Buck Brannaman and continues to work with her herd at Hacienda Esperanza, to further develop her skill set. Alejandra obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Community Health Education from California State University, Long Beach in 2013 and is passionate about transforming health by providing Equine Assisted Therapy/Learning to the community, as she believes everyone is capable of living rich and full lives. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and resides in Avocado Heights, California.