Boardmember Dennis Bigelow &
Director & Boardmember Rebecca “Becki” Bigelow
Dennis, a Navy Veteran and his wife Becki have made the vision of acquiring Reining Liberty Ranch a reality. They have both invested an immense amount of time, sweat and heart into the start-up of this ranch with the vision to have it become a legacy farm for Veterans and their families. Becki understood the amazing connection that can happen between humans and horses when her horse personally helped her through some very difficult events while growing up. She felt led to retire from her job to pursue her passion in getting involved with Therapeutic Horseback Riding.
Boardmember & Veteran: Bruce Messer
Bruce, an Air Force veteran, jointed the Reining Liberty Ranch team as a ranch chore volunteer in 2015. Wanting to serve his fellow veterans after retiring from the Air Force, Bruce brought his talents, high energy and enthusiasm to Reining Liberty Ranch and now serves on its Board of Directors, Administrative work committee’s and continues working on various ranch chores and programs. Bruce has degrees from the University of Michigan and Saginaw Valley State University. He is a Licensed Master Social Worker.
Board Member: Laurie Girardin
Laurie fell in love with a little paint filly at the state fair when she was four years old…since then she has nurtured her ’horse-gene’ and has been horse lover, stall mucker, trail rider and leader, dressage student, horse owner and supporter of anyone interested in the fine equine way of life.
Professionally, Laurie managed resorts and properties in Florida, holding the AMS Certification in Community Association Management licensure along with her Florida Real Estate License. Learned skills throughout her career include planning, leadership, organization and plan execution. Laurie has been certified through CHA in Equine Facilities Management and has worked with Equestrian Services and Management, planning and opening a state of the art signature Equestrian facility in Lake City, Florida.
In the fall of 2014, Laurie moved to Traverse City, bringing her Percheron/TB Cross gelding , “Promise” to board at Reining Liberty Ranch. She quickly became involved in barn chores and volunteering in the many sessions offered to the Veterans and Children in the community and joined the Board for RLR in October 2015.
“The horse business is a people business. Watching what happens as the horses and humans come together is so rewarding. The energy and emotion brought forward in the sessions benefit everyone involved…from the horse to the Veteran dealing with PTSD to the young woman in therapy after a car crash claimed so much of who she was to the young child who will benefit greatly through the horse human relationship to the instructor and the volunteers leading or side walking. I am honored to be part of this wonderful organization and look forward to many great accomplishments for the ranch.”
Equine & Instructor Coordinator, Board Member: Jennifer Lee
As I think about the paths in life the Lord has led me down as he prepared me for this mission to help people find healing through relationships with horses, I am amazed because I too have found a healing and a passion I never knew existed. Many years ago our family adopted some of our children through the foster care system. Some of our children came with some significant emotional issues, learning challenges and other special needs. Having missed the formative years of nurturing in a loving family they displayed some very extreme behavior issues. I had served as the Director and Horse Manager of Horse North Rescue for 7 years. During that time I developed my Natural Horsemanship skills through clinics, classes, videos and most of all hands on experience with hundreds of rescue horses. The children and I participated in the daily care of the rescue horses together. We began to realize how correct care and nurturing was the catalyst to begin healing these broken animals. These experiences helped our children empathize with the abuse and neglect some of these horses had endured. They began to learn to show compassion for the animals that were now under our care. Many conversations arose that helped the children begin to verbalize their own emotions about their past abuse and neglect. We watched as healing began to come to the children and the rescue horses simultaneously. I began to realize the life changing value of all types of equine assisted learning experiences with our children and decided to make the transition from rescuing horses to getting more involved in using relationships built with horses to help people heal. So my path changed from rescuing horses to pursuing teaching “Relational Horsemanship”. Horses are an amazing mirror for people. They offer instant feedback to our actions, emotions and intentions. Horses communicate non-verbally. Using body language they respond to the slightest suggestions within the herd. I am excited to bring my experience in working with horses and my passion for teaching Horsemanship to Reining Liberty Ranch. Our family has experienced first hand the healing that can come to both (horses and humans) who have had the opportunity to experience human and equine relationships. It is a relationship built on trust, fair expectations and clear communication. It is an incredible feeling to have a 1200 lb animal choose to be with you, not because you force them to, or even because you have a lead rope on them, but simply because of the relationship you have formed with them and the leadership they see in you.
Boardmember: Holly Middaugh
Holly has been involved with horses for a lifetime. Through the years she has served as a 4H Leader and mentor to many in horses. She founded Horse North Rescue and served on their Board of Directors for many years. She has a vast knowledge of equine health, training & rehabilitating. In addition she has many years of corperate experience in serving on Non Profit Board of Directors, setting up businesses including 501(c)3 Non-Profits, and Bookkeeping. She holds numerous business degrees including Business Management, Accounting, and Organizational Management.
Josh – Information to come
Volunteer Coordinator: Michelle Sands
I began volunteering at Reining Liberty Ranch in 2013, and found I also had some organizational skills to offer as Volunteer Coordinator. Though I much prefer the fulfillment gained as a direct volunteer within the program classes and doing the stable and horse maintenance which is necessary, I will be very happy to coordinate introducing you into volunteering here! What better combination than helping our honored veterans and working with animals.
Fundraising Committee Chair: Jerry Lauzon
Photo taken by Jennifer Lee
Info to come soon.
Stable Leads: Dennis Bigelow & Nikki Fink
Denny & Nikki oversea the daily operations in the stable at the ranch.