Deborah Durkan: Executive Director
My parents have always regretted the first time they took me to Badgley’s Farm for a pony ride. A fifty five year old photograph commemorates that day, the day I fell hopelessly and eternally in love with horses. My most treasured childhood memories are of summer rides in the Okanagan Valley that included diving from Misty’s back into Skaha Lake, galloping bareback through blooming peach, cherry and apple orchards and fabulous adventures trail riding in the hills with friends playing cowboys and Indians, hide and seek and pony express. We were wild and free. It is my hope that M.A.R.E. riders have an experience here that provides a sense of wonder and freedom similar to my experience of riding as a child. I love what we have built, I love the people we serve and mostly I love the horses who provide the ride.
Maria Naslund: Program Director
PATH Int’l Certified Riding Instructor
Born in Sweden, I came to the United States in 1999 and to Bakersfield via Las Vegas, San Diego, and Lockwood Valley! My background includes working the World Cup circuit for 10 years and traveling while training some great horses. I am excited to be at MARE to focus on building the program and piloting new programs.
DebbyKate Kroeger: Volunteer Coordinator
I had the pleasure of knowing Diane as she was working with others as they began MARE. I was not able to get involved at that time; my life took a path where I worked with a different set of animals. Later, I was able to become involved as a supporter and volunteer. It feels good, on the body and mind, to come work around the horses -whether it is hot or cold, wet or windy! Now, as the volunteer coordinator, I have the opportunity to train others about what MARE does and how their efforts benefit our horses and riders. It is great to see volunteers eager to come and help because they understand how they are making a difference; they receive as much as they are give! I am blessed to be here.
Kristi Frick: Barn & Equine Manager and Safety Manager
I was raised “in the country” (off Rosedale Highway!) around all types of livestock and animals. My dad was a farmer, I learned how everything is interconnected. I had the opportunity to participate in drill teams and horse shows. As the wife of a farmer, I have used my knowledge and skills learned in childhood. As a mom, I was able to give my children a variety of animal experiences and teach them the rewards of hard work. Here at MARE, I am again using my knowledge and skills caring for our therapy horses, along with helping our special needs riders. Each day is different and rewarding; I love my job!
Tiffany Pennington: Lesson and Barn Assistant
I work at MARE because it provides me a chance to give back to my community while doing something that I love. When I was a child I was part of the vaulting program which evolved into taking riding lessons, then volunteering here. After years of absence, I guess I just could not stay away and now I have a job that is truly fulfilling.
Kelley Higgins: Barn Assistant
All my life, horses have mesmerized me. I know how much wonder they can bring into a person’s life whether they are young or old. Working at MARE definitely brings horses into a greater light. Not only do they have power in their stride, but they also have power in their spirits. The changes I witness that they make in people’s lives is astounding and so rewarding. Being a barn assistant allows me not only to gain more experience in various job skills and management, but it has also given me something so much more. It has provided me with the attitude to go up and beyond and believe in myself. No matter where I go in life, MARE will always be the place that put down the first stepping stone that will allow me to achieve my potential. As Pam Brown stated, “A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.”
When I first joined MARE, I saw one of their flyers posted at school and thought, what a great organization. I’d always wanted to learn about horses – though was never lucky enough to have one growing up as money was always tight around our house. I thought the two combined, horses and therapy, sounded amazing. So I found myself wandering out to the old facility and who did appear out of the barn mucking stalls – none other than Deb and Diane. That really spoke to me. Here was the executive director and head riding instructor, actually doing the dirty work. I was sold on the program from that point forward. When the leaders are willing to get in the arena and get dirty, I knew this was where I belonged. Not to mention the smiling faces beaming with joy on top of a horse riding tall and enjoying every minute of it.