Wood Panel

Our Staff

The staff of Courageous Connections not only share their valuable knowledge and expertise, but their passion in supporting others through horses and nature. They expand the reach of our program by bringing their own unique background and education for the benefit of our mission.

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Natalie Steilling (she/her)
Instructor

Natalie Steilling is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L), Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI), Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist (CTRS) and, Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) Instructor. She first became involved in therapeutic horsemanship 17 years ago as a volunteer at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center where she later met Kathy and Sue. After completing her CTRI certification she attended Western Washington University and graduated with a B.S in Therapeutic Recreation. She has since worked at a CTRS in therapeutic horse riding centers and memory care. She recently became a COTA/L and worked in pediatric therapy until she realized she missed working outside with horses. She is excited about implementing all of the skills she has gained over the years into teaching horsemanship at Courageous Connections. She is excited to be a part of something that she is passionate about and helping people to find their value through partnering with horses.

Favorite Quote:

 “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”
― A.A Milne

Leah Hutchins (she/her)
Instructor

Leah started riding when she was 5 years old. She owned and showed two horses starting in junior high school until she graduated from high school. Leah loved to teach horseback riding lessons when she was younger.  Her educational background is in abnormal psychology and criminal science. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelors of Science degree in HDFS (human development and family studies). She has been working in Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy classes since 2017 with people ranging from age 4 to 84 years old with a wide range of diagnoses and treatment goals.  Her passion for working with people and horses shines through whenever she is around!

Favorite Quote:

“Be the change you would like to see in the world.”

 

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Madalyn Borntraeger (she/her)
Instructor

Madalyn has always felt a strong pull towards horses and has never stopped being that "horse crazy girl".  She has led trail rides and taught children and adults how to ride horses for over 12 years. Madalyn started volunteering at therapeutic facilities in high school.  She then traveled the states while working at different ranches along the way to receive new perspectives and experiences. She was drawn back to equine therapy and her passion for helping people so acquired her Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) certification and focused on teaching full time. Madalyn is also a Massage Therapist for horses and dogs.  She has experience in counseling and working with at risk children and plans to obtain her Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESML) certification soon.  In Madalyn's words: "I love sharing the magic horses hold with any and everyone. I find horsemanship to be a key step to bonding and communicating with a horse. I am very excited to be involved with such a like minded and passionate organization". 

Favorite Quote:

 Horses change lives. They give our young people confidence and self esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls. They give us hope.  -Toni Robinson

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Carla Woodworth (she/her)
Instructor

Carla is an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL).   She first became involved in therapeutic riding over 12 years ago as a volunteer at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center (Little Bit) where she met and worked with Chloe Wilkins (CTRI and Courageous Connections Board Member).  Carla’s volunteer experience at Little Bit, her own riding experience and research into horse behavior over the year’s has provided her the opportunity to witness and experience the therapeutic benefits of riding, learning horsemanship skills and working with horses for herself and for others of all ages.  As a Professional Geologist with a private consulting firm, she has discovered that working with horses has helped her find calm and focus while at work and during stressful times.  Her lifelong love for horses and her recognition of the many benefits of interacting with horses inspired her to become an ESMHL and to help share the equine benefits with others.  She is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Sue and the horses and minis at Courageous Connections to bring healing, learning and growing through experiences with horses to the community.       

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Favorite Quote:

“Take life’s experiences and build strength from them, not weakness.  Bless Me, Ultima.
- Rudolfo Anaya.”

Margaret Frey  (she/her)
Educator

Margaret lives in Long Lane, Missouri, but was born and raised in Western Washington. She has a BA in English, a teaching certificate with elementary, English, and special education endorsements, and a Master's degree in Special Education. She has taught for 22 years, from 1st to 12th grade - special education, general education, math, and science. She has also worked with special education law and adjudicated youth, and juvenile drug court, at risk youth, and JSO. Margaret is a state-level trainer and curriculum developer in the area of Inclusion: Behavior/SEL, Significant Disabilities, and Equity. She is a Character Education Fellow with WGU, and in the process of earning a Master’s degree in Character Education from the University of Birmingham in the UK. When not teaching, Margaret enjoys reading and hiking through the woods on our property and kayaking on her lake.

Liz Vital-Gragnani (she/her)
MA, LMHCA, SUDPT, RDT 
Therapist

Liz is a drama therapist and mental health counselor, as well as an actor, a mother, and a lover of animals. She first came across Equestrian Therapy 18 years ago when she and her mother, who has since passed away, volunteered with a group called Horsefeathers Therapeutic Riding Center. She sought out similar volunteer work in the Washington area in order to integrate the work with her current counseling career, and also to commune with the spirit of her mother through working with horses again. She feels that meeting Kathy, Lisa and Sue (all family members!) are serendipitous and she cannot wait to connect and carry out this beautiful therapeutic method alongside them and their dedicated team. 

Favorite Quote:

“You look at me and cry; everything hurts. I hold you and whisper: but everything can heal.”
― Rupi Kaur

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Favorite Quote:

"My goal is to spark an interest in trauma informed care."

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