Erin was blessed to grow up on Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, California, the historic retirement home of the famous racehorse, Seabiscuit. As a result she had the fortunate opportunity to work with horses and many other animals, so it was a natural step for her to join 4-H.
In 1993, at the age of 11, Erin, Dan Bartholomew, Aimee Swearengin (current co-president), and many other 4-Hers helped start Mendocino County 4-H T.R.A.I.L. with the support of their families and 4-H leader and Willits Rotarian, Jerry Colwell. Mendocino County 4-H T.R.A.I.L. provided therapeutic riding lessons to individuals with disabilities. Erin continued to volunteer in the program throughout high school, college, and beyond.
In high school, Erin worked as a teaching assistant in special education classrooms. She continued raising animals in 4-H, including guide dogs, and learned so much from each of those experiences. Erin went to Mendocino College, where she earned an AA in general studies. Shortly after that, she spent a season guiding horseback tours in Yellowstone National Park, while she decided what she wanted to do next. After working for two years as a veterinary assistant at a small local animal clinic, she moved to San Diego and taught vocational skills to adults with disabilities. As she realized how incomplete her life felt without horses, she reached out and volunteered at The Magic Horse Therapeutic Riding Center and San Diego Hippotherapy, where she continued to grow in horsemanship and in her human-horse connection.
In 2007, Erin returned to T.R.A.I.L. as a full-time instructor, and in 2011, she became Director of Programming. Meanwhile, in 2009, she earned her certificate as a therapeutic riding instructor from PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship). In addition to teaching therapeutic horsemanship, Erin has worked as a mental health rehab specialist with local agencies supporting at-risk youth.
In 2016, the program name was changed to Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center (STRC), drawing from the history of the ranch and the remarkable story of hope inspired by the famed racehorse and his jockey, Red Pollard.
Erin is most proud of the community that has developed around STRC.
Diane has lived in the Willits community since the early 70s. Her hobbies of horseback riding, boating, electric bike riding, and RVing all reflect her passion for being outdoors.
Working in dialysis for a decade gave Diane a clear understanding of how fortunate some of us are to have our health, as well as the satisfaction of helping others. When the unit was shut down, she looked for a career path that satisfied her love of horses. At that time, she was introduced to a different way to approach the horse, which included psychology of the horse, relationship, and biomechanics. She had an opportunity to study and participate in riding clinics with some of the top horsemen in the nation and attended biomechanics classes, including field work with chiropractors.
Co-President of the Board
Lydia Colvig currently serves as Co-President of the Board of Directors for the Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center. She has over 20 years of experience serving individuals with disabilities. Her background includes managing a group home for adults with disabilities in Washington D.C., teaching elementary and secondary special education in Baltimore, teaching high school transition in Ukiah, and currently serving as the Director of Special Education for Ukiah Unified School District.
Lydia became involved with Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center (formally known as the T.R.A.I.L. program) as a volunteer when she was in middle school. That experience led her to her chosen career path in the disability field.
Lydia believes that we all have unique gifts and abilities and finds it very rewarding to see both clients and volunteers grow in confidence and experience the many benefits of the STRC program.
Treasurer of the Board
A local native for over 60 years, Jill Scott grew up loving animals and the great outdoors. She played sports and participated in FFA (Future Farmers of America) which included showing her heifer “Sunshine” at the local fairs. She also lived and worked on the Butler Cherry Ranch in Ukiah for three summers in her youth. She has wonderful childhood memories growing up in this beautiful valley. Today she is blessed with five children and five grandchildren and all the joy that family brings.
After nearly 30 years of service with the City of Ukiah, Jill retired and now enjoys spending more time having adventures with family and friends, along with volunteering at the Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center.
Jill’s journey with STRC began many years ago when she was asked by a friend and board member to take pictures of the program in action. She was so touched by what she witnessed that day that she knew she wanted to get more involved. She joined the STRC board of directors and has been a board member since 2009.
The Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center reaches so many people in so many ways. As a grandparent of a child with a disability, Jill knows how very important a program like this can be for these individuals and their families. She feels grateful and honored to serve on a board that works so hard to keep this valuable program available to our community.
Co-President of the Board
Aimee is one of the founders of the Mendocino County 4-H T.R.A.I.L Program, now known as Seabiscuit Therapeutic Riding Center (STRC). During the time Aimee has been involved in the program, it has grown and changed in many wonderful ways.
Aimee has been a volunteer and has served on the board of directors for many years. She is currently co-president.
In addition to her work for STRC, she has worked with individuals with disabilities in Mendocino and Lake counties for over 20 years. She has also worked for the State of California Department of Rehabilitation for 14 years and is currently a manager for the Ukiah and Lakeport offices. The department provides employment and training services to individuals with disabilities that are a barrier to employment. She has seen how the skills they have learned through riding and participating with STRC have helped them prepare for adulthood, employment, and independence.
Ellen Bartholomew grew up on the high plains of Colorado where she spent a lot of time on horseback. When she moved to Ridgewood Ranch near Willits, she encouraged her children, as well as the other ranch kids, to have fun with horses through gymkhanas, horse shows, and trail riding.
Ellen spent years as the advisor for Willits Junior Horsemen and as a 4-H Leader. But the experience that had the most impact on her was at a special education preschool, where she worked with preschoolers with special needs for two years. She loved the children she worked with and was hoping to work with children with special needs again.
When STRC was in its early form as a 4-H program, Ellen was one of the instructors who was blessed with students from the special education preschool as some of the first clients of the program. She eventually became the director and instructor until injuries required her to step down.
Supporting this program, in any way possible, became a big part of Ellen’s life. She has worked as a master gardener, print shop printer, working cowgirl, and many more jobs that she loved. But working with the therapeutic riding program was and continues to be one of the most important roles in her life.