Our Team - Horses for Healing Nebraska
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Our Team


Kari Hoeft

Certified PATH Instructor

Kari Hoeft is a certified PATH Instructor, but therapeutic riding is one of many things that you will find Kari doing to better her community. She’s an active member in her church and helps with fundraisers and civic organizations.


Kari started riding at age 8, and has shown Arabian horses in Western, Hunter and Showmanship. She has a BS in Psychology and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. When you see Kari at the barn, her daughter Cora is not far behind her, helping riders and their families get to know the horses better!

“Kari has a special gift with her students.  She has a great balance of appreciating their challenges, yet finds a way to give them an opportunity to do things that they never thought possible.  Any time Kari is in the ring, expect to be amazed by the abilities of her riders.”

Justy Hagan

Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Justy Hagan is the perfect combination when it comes to an instructor, she’s both a horse professional and teacher! Justy has a masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has been a teacher for 32 years. When not teaching 6th-grade science, you can find Justy with her horses.


She’s been showing horses since she was four and training horses since age 10. She participates in rodeos where she runs barrels, breakaway, and team rope. She’s currently on track to be a certified PATH instructor. Justy loves sharing her love for horses, especially with her two grandsons.

“When Justy is in the barn, you know that things are going to happen. She’s always hard at work with the horses, and is excited to show her students how to become strong, confident riders.”

Katie Whitten

Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Katie Whitten is a natural born caregiver. She’s an LPN and is on track to be a certified PATH Instructor. Like the other instructors at Horses for Healing, Katie has been riding horses since she was little.


She has shown horses since the age of 3 including Arabian Horses in Western, Hunger, Saddle Seat and Showmanship. In addition to her love of horses, she loves cats!

“Katie portrays a sense of happiness and calm for both her horses and her riders. When Katie is in the arena, you are sure to see big smiles on the faces of everyone, and know that everyone is happy and comfortable.”

Kari Eller

Kari Eller

Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Kari Eller has recently moved to the Lincoln area. Kari has her BA in Spanish language and literature with an Education certification and ESL licensure. She is currently completing her Masters in International Family Studies and is also on track to become a PATH certified instructor.


Kari grew up riding and showing Quarter horses and is excited at opportunities to share therapeutic riding with people from a variety of backgrounds.

“Kari has a gift to help people find their confidence and build on their strengths. She has a contagious smile and positive energy that enlightens everyone around. She is also always great for a story about her travels around the world.”

Kari Valentine

Kari Valentine

Occupational Therapist, HIPPO Therapy Instructor

Kari Valentine loves to help people and she loves horses. For her, there is no better job than being in the ring instructing her riders and and providing a therapy session. She’s been a practicing occupational therapist for over a decade- and is certified in in several specialities. Kari has worked with many populations over the years including both inpatient and outpatient clinics, home health, nursing homes and with the public school systems.


Kari has been riding and showing horses at age 10. She received her Occupational Therapy degree from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA. Kari has four children and various farm animals!

“Kari brings a wealth of knowledge for helping treat a wide range of diagnoses. This proves to be an asset to not only the riders and caregivers but also the volunteers and other instructors.”



Gentle Giant

He’s a gentle giant. Known for his kindness to riders…but a sense of humor It’s not unlikely to find Jet moving things around in the barn- hiding things from the instructors!

Shot Gun

Friendly Snorter

Don’t let his name fool you, he’s one of the friendliest horses around. This guy is super laid back and ready to take riders for a stroll. Shotgun is sure to give you a laugh with his regular snorts while on duty.


Thank you to Jena Schmidt and family for letting Horses for Healing borrow Shotgun.


Happy Trotter

This beautiful quarter horse loves his job, he’s always happy to have a rider. Doc’s led a fast life as a ranch/rope horse but is happy to slow things down at Horses for Healing. But don’t worry, he’s always up for giving people a trot!


Thank you to Gina Chambers and her family for letting Horses for Healing borrow Doc.


Loving Welsch Pony

She may be tiny—but her heart is huge! Tinkerbell is a Welsch pony who loves everyone. She’s definitely a barn favorite! Tinkerbell’s been in the United States for 15 years, but her first home was across the Atlantic in Wales.


Thank you to Tracy and Matt Kleinschmit for donating Tinkerbell!

Board Members

Justy Hagan
Kari Hoeft
Matt Smith
Michelle Smith
Nancy Whitten
Kari Eller
Tiffany Verzal
Christine Vanderford