Diane lesneski auger
I am lucky to have found direction and a passion for my work at an age that has allowed me to experience both the challenge and fulfillment of pursuing a dream.
A childhood love of horses, exposure to many wonderful and consistent mentors, and the support of family and friends has fueled the energy and love that Friends For Tomorrow has come to represent to me. I was fortunate to meet remarkable and inspirational students during my first exposure to therapeutic horseback riding as a volunteer during my high school years. Sharing the experience with a family as they watched their 13-year-old son speak his first word, to a horse, is an experience that is as bright in my heart and memory as the day we all celebrated the moment a family thought they might never experience. In 1994, Friends For Tomorrow became a reality for me, and a place to let children facing physical, intellectual, and emotional challenges experience the freedom and friendship riding a horse has to offer.
My educational background encompasses non-profit business management, a paralegal degree, and more than 30 years of ongoing training as an instructor of students with and without special needs. In addition, I am blessed with a wonderful husband and four loving children. As the founder of Friends For Tomorrow, I have cherished every stage of development, from our initial enrollment of two students a week to our current schedule which supports a full lesson load five days a week. Building towards our future, I am indebted to our staff and our board, the extraordinary group of individuals who ensure our program continues to seek excellence in our work.
I am especially grateful to the students and their families, who inspire each of us with their courage and dedication. Friends For Tomorrow holds the promise of potential and success for every person involved with the program. The incredible support we receive from our host farm, our donors and volunteers, and the foundations that help to fund Friends For Tomorrow enable us to make a palatable difference in the lives of children and young adults whose future we hold in our hearts and hands.
Director of Marketing and BUSINESS OPERATIONS
ALLIE DINGMAN RICHARDSON
Director of Programming, Instructor, and Volunteer Coordinator
I am proud to have been a part of Friends For Tomorrow as a horseback riding instructor since 2007. I have known Diane since I was in middle school, back in the days at Arrowhead Farm. My time at Friends For Tomorrow began as a volunteer through high school, always cherishing my time with the children. I went off to Bates College in Maine, where I continued my riding on the Equestrian team. Through college and during summers I taught riding and worked in barns. At Bates, I completed an interdisciplinary major, including education, psychology and sociology. I spent my senior year working on my thesis about the effects of therapeutic horseback riding on children with autism. I created my own miniature therapeutic riding program and worked with four children, recording different measurements of their progress. Part of the thesis was focused on profiling successful therapeutic horseback riding programs in New England, including a chapter on Friends For Tomorrow.
I was fortunate to marry my best friend in 2013 and also to buy a farm which I am quickly filling with animals. We have dogs, kitties, chickens, a rabbit and a hedgehog and I adore sharing them with students in the Hooves, Paws & Claws program.
Head Instructor and Program Coordinator
Working at Friends For Tomorrow as a horseback riding instructor, Head Instructor, and creator of Pony Partners has been a wonderful opportunity for me to bring animals and people together for their mutual benefit. What I find unique about therapeutic riding is that it is an individual sport involving muscle groups, balance, coordination, sensory integration and motor planning but it is also a team sport. The rider needs to form a bond with the horse and learn to work together, whether it is cleaning out his feet and saddling up or steering him through a series of obstacles. As a result, learning and growth occurs physically, emotionally and intellectually. Furthermore, the skills learned around the horse and on his back are not isolated to the time spent at Friends For Tomorrow. Our horseback riding students feel empowered as they carry their new accomplishments into their everyday life.
I live in Lexington with my husband and wild mini poodle, Jacquie. We have two grown children who also live in the area. I have a Master's degree from the Simmons School of Social Work as well as a therapeutic teaching license. I have been working at Friends For Tomorrow since 2002.
cart and ground DRIVING INSTRUCTOR
Like many young girls, I dreamt of working with horses. That dream became reality for me 24 years ago with Clydesdales at a farm in Sudbury Massachusetts. This was also my first experience with driving. While there, I gained driving experience starting with a one horse two-wheeled cart and eventually moved on to a four-wheeled wagon pulled by six horses. I learned how to harness multiple horses, maneuver a carriage with multiple wheels, and steer using multiple sets of reins. The experience I gained during that time lead me to compete with a Belgian draft hitch at events across the United States and Canada where I was fortunate to win many blue ribbons.
Nine years ago, I joined Berryfield Farm, Friends For Tomorrow’s host property, and had the opportunity to expanded my driving skills once again, this time to dressage. The first horse I drove at Berryfield was Ohio, who at the time was also a therapeutic riding horse in the program. For the majority of my time at Berryfield, Ohio and I competed in Pleasure Driving and Driven Dressage events. We have won several preliminary championships and have worked our way to Intermediate level. We continue to compete as a driving team even today.
Over the years, I’ve been able to meet and work with many of the students and their families at Friends For Tomorrow. Watching them each week and being involved as a volunteer has inspired me to share my passion for driving with them. In the spring of 2014, I obtained my PATH Int’l Driving Level I Instructor certification and Massachusetts Riding Instructor license. I am so excited and proud to introduce Horse-n-Buddy, therapeutic cart and ground driving program to the students!
I live in Hudson with my husband Michael, our two certified therapy dogs, blue heeler's Koda and Zip and my “gentle giant” Jesse, a 18.3 hands, 2,300 lb Belgian Draft Horse.
I entered the equine therapeutic field in 2003 as a parent, volunteer, and recreational rider. In 2009 I became a licensed Massachusetts Riding Instructor and taught at a therapeutic riding program where my daughter was a student. At age four, my daughter was diagnosed with selective mutism. The only treatment available at that time was medication which was not a route I wanted to take. Frequently non-verbal, my daughter also suffered socially, often not wanting to leave my side to join other children on the playground. The one thing my daughter loved, however, was playing with her Breyer horses. She would line them up and put on shows for her Grandma. In 2006, at the age of six, she began riding lessons at a therapeutic program. Over time, her confidence grew to where I could sit in the car and watch her ride from a distance. Shortly thereafter, she began having lengthy conversations with her instructor. Horses were a bridge to communication. Through the growth of my daughters verbal and social worlds, she became a lead working student, trained new working students and rode in group lessons with children her age. Today, she is a 19-year-old success story: she graduated high school as Salutatorian (second-highest graduate to Valedictorian), she is currently a sophomore at Gordon College and a thriving therapeutic riding instructor. Witnessing my daughters development through her experience with horses inspired me to become a therapeutic riding instructor.
In 2013 I became certified as a PATH International Therapeutic Riding Instructor and taught at therapeutic riding programs. As a parent of a child with special needs in her formative years, I have a keen awareness of what parents are going through when their child/ren are struggling, especially with sensory integration and social milestones. As an instructor, it is my goal to use the time my students have with the horses to forget about their challenges, be in the moment and focus on all that they can accomplish while riding.
I live in North Andover, MA with my husband, daughter and two dogs. I hope to one day establish my own family farm in Southern NH, with the newest addition to our family, Haflinger pony Jax.
I fell in love with horses when I was eight years old, during a Vermont vacation where I rode a pony bareback, every day, to herd cows into the milking barn. After several years of riding lessons, I got my first pony. I began my equine education then with the Wayland 4-H Horse Club and continued with the United States Pony Club. I have owned horses and cared for them at home most of my life. When my daughter, Jess was 12, I bought her a horse. Jess was a volunteer at Friends For Tomorrow when she was in high school, and I was inspired to volunteer and see what therapeutic riding was all about.
As an elementary teacher and life-long horse owner, it was a natural progression for me to become a therapeutic riding instructor. The staff at Friends For Tomorrow took me under their wing and mentored me through the licensing process. After working for two other therapeutic centers, I opened my own practice in 2007 where I taught up to 20 students per week with my two horses. When my son and daughter went off to college and grad school, our small family farm in Wayland was sold and I closed my practice in the summer of 2015. I have come full circle back to Friends For Tomorrow, where it is my honor to join the staff of instructors.
I now work as a Special Education Teaching Assistant supporting grades 3-5 in the Wellesley school district. Stepping down from being a classroom teacher allows me time to continue working in the therapeutic riding field. Combining ten years of classroom teaching experience with a lifetime of horse ownership and training, I bring a significant amount of experience to the riding ring. I am happiest when I am working with children and horses to help our young riders reach their goals, whether they are social/emotional, cognitive, or physical. I am fascinated by neurological research that supports equine-assisted activities and feel blessed to be a part of this important work.
I live in Natick with my adorable and precocious Pembroke Corgi, “Pippin”. When I am not teaching, I enjoy kayaking, spending time with friends and family, cooking, and reading.
MARIE LOUISE (ML), Henry, Jeannie and anna
Equine Support Staff