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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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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.

Quote from Margaret:

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

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. 

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Favorite Quote:

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