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National Center For Equine Assisted Therapy (NCEFT)

GUARDIAN PROFILE - Last Updated: 01/23/2017



Chief Staff Officer:  Gari Merendino

Employees:   Full-Time:  8  Part-Time:  16  Volunteers:  150

Does your organization utilize a management company for management and administration? No

Describe your training process for employees and volunteers and the types of human resource documents used in your organization including job descriptions, evaluations, etc. Staff: Staff policy manual, job descriptions, annual reviews, monthly staff meetings, weekly team meetings, periodic enrichment trainings.
Volunteers: Approximately weekly volunteer on-boarding training, one-on-one training ongoing.

Governing Body:

Board meetings per year:  12

Number of Board Members:  13  Number of Voting Board Members:  13

Board Compensation:

Is Board Chair compensated?  No  Is Treasurer compensated?  No

Are there any other Voting Board Members that are compensated?  Yes

If yes, provide the name, title and responsiblility of each VOTING Board member who is compensated: Gari Merendino, Board Secretary, is the Executive Director of NCEFT and is compensated in that capacity.

Board Relationships:

Are any members of the Board or Staff related to each other through family or business relationships? No

Board Affiliations:

Are any Board members or Staff associated with and/or compensated by another organization with a relationship or business affiliation to your organization? No

Conflict of Interest:

Does your organization have a written conflict of interest policy and regularly and consistently monitor and enforce compliance with the policy, including requiring officers, directors or trustees, and key employees to disclose annually interests that could give rise to conflicts?  Yes


1. What percent of your total programs and services are horse-related? 100

2. Describe your specific horse-related programs services or activities:
     We provide hippotherapy (physical, occupational or speech therapy done on/with horses), adaptive riding and other equine-assisted therapy programs to children, adults and military veterans with a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities. NCEFT is the only Northern California facility member of the American Hippotherapy Association, and differentiates itself from other equine-facilitated therapy centers by specializing in hippotherapy and offering the most extensive hippotherapy program in the San Francisco Bay Area.

NCEFT's programs fall into five major categories: Hippotherapy, Adaptive Riding, Veterans Programs, Equine-Assisted Mental Health and Learning Programs and School Programs.

Hippotherapy is specialized physical, occupational and speech therapy in which board-certified therapists use horses as dynamic platforms to deliver therapy. Patients receive medically prescribed PT, OT and SLP; they are simply on a horse instead of a cold, sterile piece of clinical equipment. The movement of the horse creates sensory input that helps the patient improve balance, core strength, sensory integration and self-esteem.

Adaptive Riding teaches horsemanship and riding, but instruction is adapted to meet the needs of someone with a mental or physical disability or injury. The unique combination of recreation and education facilitates cognitive, physical and behavioral rehabilitation.

Veterans programs, coordinated with local Veterans Administrations, make a profound difference for military Veterans and active-duty personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress or other mental or physical impairments. Our equine-assisted activities enable recovery, offer healing and the mastery of new skills, and restore strength, confidence and independence. NCEFT never charges Veterans for services, and we receive no governmental funding. Instead we rely 100% on donations to fund our Veterans Programs.

Equine-assisted psychotherapy and other mental-health exercises bring together teams of certified mental health professionals, qualified equine specialists and horses to benefit individuals emotionally, mentally and behaviorally.

School programs provide field-study learning for children in special education classes. We serve several local school districts as well as independent schools that specialize in educating children with disabilities.

3. Enter the total number of facilities/locations where the horses used in the conduct of your horse-related programs are housed and cared for: 1

4. Describe your non-horse-related programs, services or activities you provide, including those involving other animals. In addition to our horses and donkeys, we occasionally use dogs and chickens in programs such as our summer camp.

5. Does your organization operate programs involved with animals other than horses?  Yes


1. Describe your equine management philosophies, practices, policies and operations with respect to the use of the horses in your program, including the rehabilitation and retraining (if applicable), ongoing training, schooling and exercising plan for each horse and your policy as to the number and condition of the horses accepted by your organization. 
     As a general rule, NCEFT has 12 to 15 therapy horses working and in training. Our commitment to our horses is to create a safe and healthy environment where they can help our clients address physical and emotional challenges. Each horse is schooled daily to maintain condition and each of them has a minimum of two full days off each week. Every 9 or 10 weeks the horses have a week off from participation in hippotherapy sessions. We have 24/7 onsite care for our horses.

2. Describe how your horses are acquired (adoption, seizure, surrender, donation, purchase, auction sale, retirement). 
     Most of NCEFT's horses are donated, but we have also purchased horses that are considered ready and appropriate for our therapy program with little training. On occasion, we lease a horse from a private owner who retains ownership. In this scenario, we provide all care for the leased horses, including shoeing/trimming, regular vaccinations and dental work. Major veterinary expenses are shared with the owner.

3. Describe under what circumstances horses leave your organization. Please describe in detail your horse adoption/fostering practices and procedures including any recruitment initiatives you have to attract potential adopters. Please include your policies and practices with respect to horses that are no longer useful or manageable and horses that need to be retired. 
     A horse that is unable to work without pain is retired by finding them a suitable home. That may mean a horse is still OK for short trail rides, but not the level of work we require. In many cases, they become stable mates or pasture pals. If a horse is being leased, we ask to return that horse to the owner. If they do not want the horse, we keep it until we can find a suitable home.

4. For new horses, describe your initial assessment process for each horse (i.e. physical examination, test ride, health record, Coggins test, quarantine, veterinary consult, etc.). 
     Our barn manager and program director evaluate each new horse in the horse‚Äôs home environment. That evaluation takes into consideration both their physical and mental suitability for therapy work, as well as the horse's overall temperament. They may ride the horse as well. All horses come to NCEFT on a trial basis to determine their suitability for our programs. If there are physical concerns, we have our veterinarian do a full vet check of the horse.

5. Describe your overall horse health care plan and how you assess and monitor the health of your horses on an ongoing basis. Include a description of your vaccination and worming schedule. Include a description of your health/veterinary care plan for at-risk animals, geriatric horses and horses with serious issues. 
     Our horses are evaluated each day on their general health and temperament. All our horses are vaccinated on a regular basis (twice a year) and worming is done on a regular basis as well. Chronic issues such as lameness or soreness are evaluated by our veterinarian and treated with either a reduced work schedule, medications, or both. Supplements are provided for horses that require them for management.

6. What is the euthanasia policy? Please include specifically under what circumstances your organization will euthanize a horse and whether your organization will euthanize a healthy but difficult horse for space: 
     We only euthanize a horse in the case of catastrophic injury or if the horse has a medical condition or disease that causes disabling pain that cannot be effectively managed with rest and reduced work, medication or other treatments.

7. What is the breeding policy? Please include specifically if horses become pregnant while in your care, and if there is a no-breeding clause in the documentation your organization uses to adopt, donate, sell, etc. a horse: 
     This is not applicable.

8. Does your organization provide horses to any facility to use in research or medical training? 

9. If your answer to Question 8 is 'Yes', please explain where and for what purpose horses are provided to use in research or medical training?  NA

10. Does your organization sell, donate or give a horse to an auction? 

11. If your answer to Question 10 is 'Yes', describe under the circumstances where you have sold, donated, or given a horse to an auction, or where you would sell, donate, or give a horse to an auction. NA

12. Does your organization place horses in foster care? 

13. If your answer to Question 12 is 'Yes', describe how foster homes are selected, screened, and monitored and address all the questions below for each foster home in the space provided: NA

14. What is the average equine adoption fee/donation received by your organization: Not applicable; None received

15. Adoption Fee Policies
  Not applicable; Fees are not collected; Horses are not offered for adoption.

16. What is your position regarding varying adoption fees vs. one set fee:
  Our organization has never considered this concept.

17. Provide any additional explanation to your answers if needed:


This section must be completed for each facility/location where the horses used in the conduct of your horse-related programs are housed and cared for. For example, if the applicant is involved with horse rescue and utilizes foster care facilities, the applicant must complete this section for each foster care facility. If the applicant provides equine assisted activities/services to the public at more than one location, the applicant must complete this section for each location that horse-related services are provided. If your organization uses the facility of another organization, please enlist the aid of that organization in answering the questions.

Total facilities at which our organization operates horse-related programs: 1


V. Instructors/Trainers

     1. *Instructor: Darrell Le Blanc, Horse Handler

         *Facility Participation:


Is the instructor certified by an organization that provides training in the programs, activities and/or services conducted by the organization? No

     2. *Instructor: Marty Raynor, Barn Manager

         *Facility Participation:


Is the instructor certified by an organization that provides training in the programs, activities and/or services conducted by the organization? No