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Our Team

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Jill Haag, Executive Director

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 the founding Executive Director of the We Promise Foundation, and 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.

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Sara Zurenko, Program Director and Head Instructor

Sara is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 is certified as a PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning.


Sara enjoys spending time with her son, Ellison, and daughter, Charlotte.

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Meredith Massa, Volunteer and Program Coordinator

Meredith grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and she moved to Memphis in 1987 to attend Christian Brothers University where she graduated with a degree in Telecommunications and Marketing. She worked at Baptist Memorial Health Care for 11 years as a sales representative in their managed care department  before becoming a stay at home mom to her 2 boys. 


Meredith started riding horses with her parents when she was 2. She began volunteering at Southern Reins in 2019 and enjoys being with our participants, horses and wonderful volunteers.

 

Meredith joined our team as Volunteer and Program Coordinator in September of 2021, and she lives in Collierville with her husband Joe and two boys, Parker and Carson.

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Diane Kirksey, Communications Assistant

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 and they have a son named Logan. 

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Katharine Allen, PATH Intl. CTRI

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, and received her Instructor CTRI certification in January of 2022. 

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Virginia Roberts, Therapist

Virginia was born and raised in Kingsport, TN. After moving to Memphis for undergraduate studies at the University of Memphis she attended the University of Tennessee Health Science Center where she received a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy in 2009. Since graduating summa cum laude, she has worked in several settings including adult acute care, community-based mental health, home health, and inpatient pediatrics. She, her husband, and their seven children live on their family farm, Maranatha Farms.

 

Virginia provides occupational therapy services at Southern Reins utilizing equine movement as an effective treatment tool to improve function in daily skills. She has received specialized training through the American Hippotherapy Association and is a PATH Intl. Registered Therapist. She received her AHCB certification in October of 2022.

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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.

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Pam Wellborn, Barn Staff

Pam was born in Missouri and lived all over the eastern United States while growing up. Her family has been in the Memphis area for over 40 years and her three children were born here. She made the permanent move to Collierville in 2020 with her husband of 22 years, Paul. They purchased the guest house that was formerly owned by Southern Reins, so she is always just a few steps away from the barn. Pam worked at a horse stable for three years, and has had a lifelong love of horses. She is the proud mother of our Program Director, Sara Zurenko, so working at the farm is a true family affair. 

When she is not in the barn Pam enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her four grandchildren.

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Rylee Davis, Barn Staff

Rylee was born and raised in Michigan and moved to the Memphis area in the fall of 2022. She attended Ferris State University and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations. After graduating college she pursued her passion for horses and children as a volunteer at a therapeutic riding center in Michigan before her journey to Tennessee. 

 

Outside of work, Rylee enjoys spending time outdoors going on hikes with her family, friends, and her dog, Chloe.

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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. 

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Lauren Gates, Barn Staff

Lauren grew up in Memphis and attended Immaculate Conception Cathedral School. After graduating she relocated to Frankfort, Kentucky where her love of horses developed. She began working with horses learning how to ride, and developed her skills to compete in the 2019 Special Olympics. While in Kentucky she developed a special bond with a horse named Jack who gave her confidence to do extraordinary things. He inspired her to pursue a career in equine-assisted services.

Lauren moved back to the Memphis area and began volunteering at Southern Reins in July of 2019. She also joined the program as a participant and began an internship to gain her PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning certification. Lauren received her certification in the summer of 2022 and looks forward to continuing her education to help people with special needs.

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