Our head Instructor, Dee Hollander, has been involved with Special Equestrians since its beginning in 1987. She is a PATH Intl. Certified Instructor and we are delighted to have her as our head riding instructor. She is an accomplished horseperson and rider herself, competing in the past in Saddle Seat competitions in Illinois. Dee has contributed her time to all aspects of our program and, in fact, was one of the founders of Special Equestrians. She leads our evaluation team in accepting new students when they apply to the program. Dee places students in classes with other students according to their abilities and needs. Dee is an active trail rider with her horse, Slick, a Spotted Saddle Horse. They have also competed together in ACTHA competitions and local Extreme Equine Horse Shows.
Amy Oxendine is one of our Saturday instructors for Special Equestrians (SE). She joined our team in
2009 as a volunteer and it became immediately clear that Amy was a very valuable asset to SE and
would excel as one of our instructors. Amy completed her instructor certification and became a PATH,
Intl. certified instructor in 2010. Owning horses since she was very young, Amy possesses the knowledge and riding skills necessary for the instruction and further advancement of our riders. She is the coach for our Special Equestrians Miracle Outlaws team and has ridden on her own competitive drill team as well as a fast-paced rodeo drill team. Amy owns three horses and enjoys trail riding with friends and taking lessons to learn more about reining. She works as a marketing coordinator for Johnson Engineering and participates in our Special Partners Outreach Team with her miniature horse Guinness.
Justin Parchem is one of our Path, Intl. certified instructors, teaching classes on Wednesday and
Thursday. Justin is a Wisconsin native who moved to Florida in late 2000. While he was working in the
golf business, he began his journey with horses in Tampa, helping at a hunter jumper barn. After moving to Fort Myers area, he became a golf professional and invested as a partner in the ownership of three thoroughbred racehorses in Miami. Soon Justin began volunteering for a John Lyons Certified Instructor to learn even more about training and riding horses. Since Special Equestrians came into his life in 2009, golf and horse racing have been put on hold to dedicate more time to a career in therapeutic riding instruction and his growing farrier business.
Diane Shaw is one of our Path Intl Certiﬁed Instructors. Diane began volunteering for Special
Equestrians in 2007 and has always had a great love for our program. After years of sidewalking and
horse leading, Diane decided to mesh her love of horses, the students, and teaching by becoming a
certiﬁed instructor. She has owned horses oﬀ and on since seventh grade and rides Western and
English. Diane also volunteers with our Special Partners program and the sidewalker training program.
Sadie grew up with horses and loved to ride all over the countryside whenever time would allow. She
was homeschooled most of her life and graduated when she was sixteen. She and her husband moved
full time to fort Myers two and a half years ago, where she was introduced to Special Equestrians. She
knew she loved everything about horses and quickly went through side walker and horse leader training. But after just a couple weeks working with the participants, she fell even more in love with their hearts and couldn’t think of anything better than going through further training to become certified as an instructor for SE. For the past two and a half years she has been growing in her horse knowledge and has taken further steps to understand riding in English discipline. She looks forward to growing even more and spreading that knowledge with everyone who is under her guidance at Special Equestrians.
In 2014 Mike Freeman joined the ranks of Special Equestrians as a volunteer. Recently retired, Mike was
seeking to spend some of his available time in areas that involved his love for people as well as horses.
When introduced to SE the perfect combination was obvious. Although working as a groom, side walker
and horse leader was satisfying, there were new horizons that would dawn in 2015.
For several years there had been a desire to expand the opportunities at SE by adding a carriage driving
option for students. When the request went out for anyone who would be interested in ''taking the reins" of becoming a PATH certified driving instructor and heading up the driving program Mike stepped up. His years of breeding, training and showing riding and driving horses in central Indiana along with 40 years of working with public and private schools would serve as a good foundation for a quality driving program.
Growing up riding and competing in hunter/jumpers and dressage, horses have always been a passion of Sarah’s. She is also passionate about helping people and has been involved with adaptive riding centers as a volunteer since 2006 in both the Tampa and Ft. Myers areas. Sarah began volunteering for Special Equestrians in 2010 as a side walker and horse leader. She quickly discovered that there was something more to this and decided to pursue an occupational therapy graduate degree at Florida Gulf Coast University with the long term dream of incorporating horses into her therapy practice. Sarah joined the Special Equestrians board of directors in 2014. She attained her AHCB Certified Therapist status in 2016 after completing the American Hippotherapy Association Level 1 and 2 courses and passing the entry level board exam in hippotherapy. She now offers occupational therapy incorporating hippotherapy as a treatment strategy at Special Equestrians as a PATH Intl. Registered Therapist.