Jill grew up in Virginia horse country and relocated to the Memphis area in late 2014. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech, and was previously employed as the Executive Director of EQUI-KIDS Therapeutic Riding Program in Virginia Beach. She was also the founding Executive Director of the We Promise Foundation. Jill served on the Board of Directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern Virginia, as well as the Virginia State Board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Jill is a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and has been actively involved in the nonprofit industry since 1996.
Jill is married to Doug and they have two boys, Jack and John. She continues to ride and enjoys spending time with her thoroughbreds, Rhett and Bender.
Sara Zurenko, Program Director and Head Instructor
Sara is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina who now lives in Nesbit, Mississippi. She studied Business Administration and Economics at Central Piedmont Community College and has been an avid equestrian for more than two decades in a multitude of disciplines, including riding, showing and training. She is a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, mentor and holds a PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning certification.
Sara enjoys spending time with her son, Ellison, and daughter, Charlotte.
Diane Kirksey, Volunteer & Program Coordinator
Diane was born and raised outside of Memphis in Germantown, TN. She attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville where she received a degree in Recreation and Sport Management with a Therapeutic Concentration with a Minor in Psychology. Diane became a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist and has focused on working with adults with various disabilities. Moving back to Memphis, Diane began working as a Recreation Therapist with SRVS serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She began volunteering at Southern Reins where she saw a whole new side of therapeutic activities, and became a PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor in August of 2018.
Diane is married to Reed.
Amanda Cobb, Occupational Therapist
Amanda was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Ever since her first time in the saddle at the age of 7, horses have played a major role in her life. She showed competitively on the hunter/jumper circuit for nearly twenty years. Amanda received her Bachelors degree in Exercise Science from the University of Mississippi in 2003. Following her time at Ole Miss, she continued to pursue her passion of horses as an assistant rider and trainer in the hunter/jumper community under Phoebe Sheets. She subsequently obtained her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Belmont University in 2011. While enrolled at Belmont, she volunteered for a therapeutic riding program, where she learned of the amazing therapeutic benefits of equine movement. When not at Southern Reins, Amanda can be found working at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. She has also had the privilege to train and partner with her two dogs as a registered therapy team through Mid South Therapy Dogs. Amanda completed the AHA Level 1 and Level 2 training courses, and is AHCB and HPCS certified.
Mariah Johnson, Instructor
Mariah has been a Memphian her whole life. As a child and teenager, she competed in local horse shows showing Tennessee Walking Horses and running barrels and poles on her Quarter Horse,
Sassy . . . a horse she would love and charish for close to 30 years. She worked as a veterinary technician in Memphis and north Mississippi for more than 16 years; leaving the veterinary field to become a school bus driver for the local school district in order to have the availability to become a PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor to teach the amazing participants at Southern Reins.
Mariah now resides in Hernando, MS. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Brandon. They have two boys - Cooper and Nathan. She has a Paso Fino named Gimlet and enjoys trail riding.
Marie Leathers, Instructor
Marie was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She has a degree in Pre-Veterinary Medical Technology from the Northwest Mississippi Community College. She interned for two years at Mississippi State University’s Equine Assisted Therapy program, as well as competing on the Mississippi State Equestrian Team. She is a PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor.
Marie enjoys spending time with her fiancé, Jacob, and their daughter, Adeline.
Katharine Allen, Barn Staff
Katharine was born and raised in Memphis. She attended Fort Lewis College in Colorado where she received an Exercise Science Specialist degree in 2011. Since graduating college, she has spent her time teaching children to swim, as well as teaching lifeguarding classes to young adults. In 2017, she started her own swim lesson business, KatSwim, and has enjoyed helping children build self confidence while learning an important life skill.
Katharine is excited to serve people of all ages at Southern Reins. She rode horses as a child and is excited to continue doing something she loves. She started volunteering at Southern Reins in the winter of 2017.
Carrie Ross, Barn Staff
Carrie was born and raised on Memphis. She has three wonderful horses: Cowboy, Ike and Brandy. Carrie was involved in 4-H since when was in the 4th grade through high school. While in 4-H she won multiple championships. Her own barn is less than five miles from Southern Reins! Carrie found our program when she was working on a school project for college.
Carrie is also a program volunteer, and often lends a hand in our lesson program. She is excited to be a part of the Southern Reins' team, and truly enjoys working with all of the participants, horses and volunteers.
Alicia Lartigue, Barn Staff
From New Orleans and raised in Memphis, Alicia credits the horse for many life lessons learned.
Alicia spent several years at Shelby Farms Stables where she led rides through the wooded trails and helped develop summer camp programs for children to learn the basics of horsemanship and share in the fun of riding. She enjoyed caring for the entire herd of horses at Shelby Farms, as well as for the four resident horses at Graceland, and found it inspiring to see visitors of all ages experience so much joy from interacting with horses.
Alicia began volunteering at Southern Reins as a Sidewalker in January 2019 at both the Collierville and DeSoto campuses, and joined the program as a member of our barn staff in August of 2019.
Elena Smith, Barn Staff
Elena has been an equestrian since she could walk. As a native of Germantown Tennessee, she comes from a long line of competitive riders, including her mother, Sunde Smith, and her aunt, Olympian Melanie Smith Taylor.
Elena was one of our FIRST volunteers having joined our program in September of 2015. She has donated her time as a program volunteer, in the barn as a barn volunteer, and is also an exercise rider keeping our horses strong and happy. Elena was even a Volunteer Service Award recipient in 2019.
Elena officially joined our barn staff family in January of 2020. When she is not at Southern Reins, she enjoys traveling the globe and spending time with her horses Bling, Amber, and Winslow.
Terry Lemmon, Barn Staff
Terry is a native Memphian. He attended Raleigh-Egypt High School then went on to serve in the US Army. He has a BA from the University of Hawaii and a degree in nursing.
He has worked with horses since a young age, and competed in horse shows and rodeos in his early years. After serving in the Army, Terry was diagnosed with PTSD and received services at the Memphis VA Medical Center where he took part in an equine therapy program that he contributes to saving his life. Terry is a PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, and is pursuing his certification as a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor so he can support the amazing participants at Southern Reins, as well as Reise Adaptive Equine Services with his friend and fellow veteran, MJ Higgins.
Ginna Rauls, Community Liaison
Ginna is originally from Nashville, TN. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhodes College and has been volunteering to support the special needs community since she was 12 years old (when she saw an ad for a special needs school in Nashville). It has been her passion ever since.
Ginna is married to Jason and they have two daughters; Brittain and Ella. Their family has been involved with the special needs ministry at Second Presbyterian Church for more than a decade.