Free Rein Staff

John BioJohn Owen, Executive Director
John Owen is originally from Pasadena, CA, but since arriving in Spokane in 1980 as a transfer student to Whitworth College, he’s come to identify himself as a “Northwesterner at heart who happened to be born in Southern California.”

After graduating from Whitworth in 1983, John was commissioned as a U.S. Coast Guard officer and served as a helicopter pilot until 1993. He attended Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, receiving a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree in 1996. He was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served as Associate Pastor for First Presbyterian Church, Port Angeles, WA from 1996-1998.

In 1998 he returned to active duty, this time as a Navy Chaplain. He served on three ships, two tours with Marines (including in Okinawa, Japan), a Navy Medical Center, the United States Naval Academy, and Naval Base San Diego, CA. He made four extended overseas deployments, including a tsunami and earthquake relief mission to Indonesia in 2005 aboard the Naval Hospital Ship USNS MERCY, and two combat deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as Command Chaplain aboard USS ENTERPRISE, the most legendary (and now retired) ship in the Navy.

He retired from active duty in June 2015, and joined his wife, Shelly, and younger daughter, Claire, in Spokane…the first time they actually got to choose where they were going to live in over 33 years of marriage! Their oldest daughter, Courtney, and her two-year-old daughter, Shiloh, joined them in 2016.

John brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience to his role at Free Rein, particularly in the military and the church, and has provided initiative, directorship, and strategic management for a number of other organizations throughout his career. John started with Free Rein as a participant in the Military Horsemanship program in April of 2017, became a volunteer in June, was invited to join the Board of Directors in September and joined the staff as Executive Director in January 2018.
Sandy_Jones_bioSandy Jones, Founder/Instructor/Rider Relations
Sandy is the founder and current Executive Director of Free Rein as well as an instructor for the program. Sandy began her horse career teaching kids to ride at a small horse camp and cattle ranch near Yakima, WA. Sandy began volunteering at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville, WA in 1991. After working with the physical therapists for several years she received her physical therapy assistant certification in 1998 and her Hippotherapy training in 1999. Sandy was at Little Bit until 2002 when she and her family moved to Spokane.
20170111_141200 (1)Erica Curless, Lead Instructor and Equine Specialist
Erica has been involved with Free Rein on many levels since 2008, soon after we started the program. Erica was a 4-H kid, growing up in Sandpoint, Idaho with a lifelong love of horses. Today she still volunteers with local 4-H chapters teaching ranch horse skills, equine body work, and riding clinics. Erica is a woman of many talents; one being a journalist, most recently working as an editor/writer for Keokee Publishing in Sandpoint, Idaho. Erica is also an equine and canine massage therapist; we know many happy horses and dogs that have experienced the love of her kind hands. Our horses have had the pleasure of enjoying many donated hours of massage by Erica over that past eight years, it has been a very special gift to them. While at Free Rein, Erica has not only massaged our ponies but she has volunteered in classes, been on the horse selection team, assisted in writing our newsletter, and been involved with our annual auction.
nicolebioNicole Shek, Volunteer Coordinator
Nicole came to Free Rein in 2016 as their new Volunteer Coordinator. Originally from the Chicago area, Nicole earned a BA from the Evergreen State College and moved to Spokane in 2012. After four years of social work with Catholic Charities, she dedicated herself to the arts full time before joining Free Rein. Nicole loves horses and has studied with several different trainers in Illinois and Washington. Nicole is big a believer in equine assisted therapy and couldn't be happier to work in the field. She is also a performing artist and produces and directs shows around town. She is so grateful to be living her dream and is thrilled to be a part of the Free Rein crew!
22829013_10100803135976143_8277339799066425061_oKatie Sieck, Development Coordinator
Katie joined Free Rein in Fall 2016 as Development Coordinator. She grew up on a sheep and pony farm in the Spokane Valley and participated in local rodeos and fairs as a child. Katie stayed in the area to attend Gonzaga University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2009. After graduating from GU, she moved to Washington, DC, to serve as an AmeriCorps*VISTA, and worked in development for sports-based youth development programs for several years. Most recently, she worked with school districts across the country in a technical role for an education consulting start-up. She moved home to Spokane in early 2016 to be closer to family, and is happy to be back on the ranch as she works with Free Rein.
IMG_1304Caitlyn Baird, Military Horsemanship Program Class Coordinator
Washington Service Corps AmeriCorps Member

Caitlyn joined the Free Rein staff in the Fall of 2017 as a Washington Service Corps AmeriCorps member and earned her certification as a PATH-certified therapeutic riding instructor as she began her AmeriCorps term of service. She has been involved with Free Rein off and on since the Fall of 2013 when she moved to Spokane to attend Gonzaga University. She graduated from GU with a Bachelor's in Psychology in 2017. Caitlyn grew up in Umpqua, Oregon where her love of horses started at a young age. She was involved in Pony Club growing up and enjoyed competing in hunter/jumpers and dressage as well as helping the younger members develop their riding skills and horsemanship. Caitlyn was also involved with 4-H and FFA raising sheep and dairy cattle and loved her time spent in these organizations. Caitlyn is excited to serve Free Rein and plans to continue working within therapeutic riding in the future while pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy.
cyndiCyndi Caniglia, Instructor
Cyndi spent her childhood and high school years in 4-H and High School Rodeo. She has shown horses primarily in 4-H shows an traveled the Junior and High School Rodeo circuit competing in barrel racing and pole bending. In 1988, she came to Spokane for college and graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Special Education. She earned her Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from Washington State University in 2016. Cyndi was a Special Education teacher and Education Specialist in the East Valley School District until 1996 and has since been an education consultant both locally and nationally in regular, remedial, and special education. She is excited to bring her two passions, children and horses, together as a PATH registered therapeutic riding instructor.
IMG_4024152466837Katie Smith, Instructor
Katie started volunteering at Free Rein in the spring of 2010 and became a PATH certified instructor in September 2013. Katie wears many hats at Free Rein; she is active with the Cheney High School student classes and volunteering in other classes. She is very involved in Spokane County 4-H, has ridden many miles on the trails, and has done several horse shows.
Photo_AshleyKarshAshley Karsh, Instructor
Ashley has been involved with horses since she was a young child, showing in 4-H and competing in equine public presentations and knowledge contests. She began volunteering with Free Rein in 2014, while attending EWU to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Biology. After a two-year stint in AmeriCorps, she earned her PATH instructor certification in August of 2016. Along with teaching at Free Rein, she is also working on earning her WA Teacher’s Certificate and Master’s in Education from Whitworth. In her spare time, she is a 4-H leader in Stevens County and continues to ride the trails and show her horses locally.
Photo coming soon!Celeste Eversole, Instructor
Bio coming soon!
Version 2Robert Eversole, Instructor
Robert Eversole “The TrailMeister”- Owns and operates the largest horse trail and horse camp guide in the world, Robert founded when he found that accurate trail information wasn’t easily available for trail riders and horse campers. 11 years later, is the largest guide to horse riding and camping areas in the world. Active in the equine community, Robert is a PATH Registered Instructor with over a decade of experience helping individuals with special needs experience the rewarding benefits of equine-assisted activities. When he’s not speaking with horse and mule riders at events across the US, writing regular feature columns in leading equine publications including Trail Rider Magazine and The Northwest Horse Source, Robert can be found riding and packing trail maintenance crews into wilderness areas throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Equipping Riders for Life!