Victoria Nodiff-Netanel has been a horsewoman all her life. From pretending to be a horse as a kid in Wisconsin to painting photorealistic horses at California Institute of the Arts, from toy horses to competing in dressage at the Intermediaire level, Victoria has always known the magic of horses. In 2007, after many years of competing in dressage, Victoria shifted gears when a little horse came into her life. She realized that she wanted to help people with this miniature horse and she immediately started training Pippin, putting all her years of horsemanship to work. Sadly, Pippin passed away and Quicksilver’s Black Pearl came into her life. Pearl became Victoria’s first therapy horse. In 2008, Victoria established Mini Therapy Horses, which has grown into an incredible charity: helping over 50,00 children and adults a year with highly trained teams of handlers and miniature therapy horses.Victoria and her teams inspire children to volunteer and help others, bring joy and relief to children and families staying at Ronald McDonald House, help veterans in the Intensive Care Unit at the Veterans Hospital, and comfort survivors of traumatic events. She is so proud to be an integral part of Mayor Garcetti’s Crisis Response Team and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with her partner Steve Sullivan. Mini Therapy Horses is available 24/7 with their teams of highly trained mini horses and handlers.
Steve Sullivan has been a horseman, horse owner, exhibitor, vaulter, and trainer during his lifetime. He devoted 10 years in the competitive horse show arena. Steve focused on vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) for the next 15 years, achieved a Gold Medal rating and was a member of an “A” level team that held a five consecutive year reign as national champions. He placed third in vaulting pairs (pas de deux) competition in the 1980 World Cup competition in Paris, France and was a member of the exhibition team at the 1984 Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles before retiring from competition. Steve is a graduate of UCLA where he researched innovations in learning and memory. He has spent nearly four decades in the public safety field and teaches in the California State University system. He volunteers his time with Mini Therapy Horses in support of a number of programs including the Los Angeles City Mayor’s Crisis Response Team and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Deborah has been a volunteer for Mini Therapy Horses for the past three years and is currently the president of Roth and Associates Brokerage Company since 2008. Deborah has also volunteered with Elsa, Inc., which works with horses and young adults with special needs, and for the past 13 years she coordinated all volunteers for the Day of Service at the Self Realization Fellowship. Deborah is a horse enthusiast with two Arabian horses of her own. She designed and developed the Freedom Belt, which she is now marketing to the equestrian community. Her dedication and experience brought her to join the board for Mini Therapy Horses.
Volunteering and animals have pretty much been the thread of Patty’s life—from raising two children and serving in just about every capacity on Parent Boards in their schools to collecting blankets and towels to deliver to animal shelters. As a relocation specialist she assisted families moving from Europe and Asia to the United States in establishing their new life and assimilating into our culture. Most recently she volunteered for eleven years as a patient/doctor liaison in the Emergency Department of a local hospital. After having competed in dressage for 10 years she now enjoys riding and camping with her current equine partner, Rocket, a Rocky Mountain gelding.
Pam Cameron is a serial entrepreneur, having owned and operated an indepenvnt commercial/ residential design firm for 25 years and a retail design store for five years. She is a former Editor in McGraw-Hill’s architectural division, and holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism from Pepperdine University. Pam is also a board member of Hearts for Hope, a CASA advocate, and a member of ISID and LACMA Arts Council. She cares for ELSA’s equine staff, Riley, Chase and Oreo.
Horses have been in Megan’s life since she was born and the equestrian gene has been passed down several generations to her. She is currently working towards her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University in order to use horses in therapy. She has seen how powerful horses can be in connecting with people who need it the most and wishes to dedicate her life to help ‘forgotten’ populations. Every day, she looks forward to spending time with her horse, Dino.
I’ve been a paralegal for over twenty-seven years and a Reserve Deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for over fifteen years. I have a beautiful daughter and son and have been blessed with four grandchildren. I’m awestruck when I see how much joy and excitement these amazing little horses bring to everyone they meet. Wherever these little girls go, they steal hearts and, undoubtedly, the show!
Stuart Ackerman has been a practicing physician in private practice in the SF Valley for over thirty years. He has been a Reserve Deputy for over thirty years and is a former Reserve Commander, LASD. He is a horse and animal lover, owned by Peaches the Pug and Dashiell the cat.
Rocky graduated from UCLA summa cum laude and also earned her MSN at UCLA and became a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She practiced in the Conejo Valley until her recent retirement. Rocky is a founding member of a local hiking club, which now has approximately sixty members. They meet regularly to hike the local trails in the Conejo Valley and beyond. Rocky is a Los Angeles Sheriff Department reserve deputy, and has been an active member of the Malibu Search and Rescue Team since 1990. The Malibu Search and Rescue Team is an all-volunteer team comprised of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department reserve deputy sheriffs and specialist civilian volunteers. Rocky takes the greatest joy in her family, including her five grandsons.
I was a television producer for 20 years on a variety of shows. During my summer hiatuses, I volunteered at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times – a camping program designed for children with cancer that builds courage, fosters hope and promotes healing. Several years ago I spent time volunteering with Create-A-Smile animal therapy group. We took dogs to various hospitals, foster homes and mental health facilities to visit with the patients. I have since moved on from television and have started studying early childhood development, focusing on children with special needs. From the two rescue dogs in our family, to the kittens I foster on their way to permanent homes, animals are my passion. I love pet therapy and am excited to help Victoria with her incredible miniature horses.
Alanna Flax-Clark is a Grade 1b para-dressage rider training with Lehua Custer at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center for the 2020 Paralympics. She is passionate about mentoring children and adults with physical disabilities and speaking about overcoming obstacles and para-dressage. Alanna has battled many obstacles and roadblocks, but never lets her disability limit her capabilities.
As a psychotherapist, I am most passionate about working with populations that other people have given up on. Clients struggling with addiction, criminal backgrounds and or complex trauma have suffered in a way that makes talk therapy less effective. Animals and horses in particular have a large, non-judgmental, and healing presence. These horses have the power to ground (calm down) people in the worst circumstances. It’s thrilling and inspiring to be in their presence as they naturally touch people in ways that I can’t. I’m humbled and fortunate to volunteer with Victoria and her furry four legged healers. She is a beautiful person who spreads sunshine wherever she goes. Anna Pirkl, M.A., LMFT BBS#89201, ATR, LAADAC #LR02680117
I volunteer and raise money for animals because the world wouldn’t be the same without them. The mini therapy horses are loving and help people feel better. I’m happy when I’m helping with the horses. I can’t wait until the next time I get to help again.
My name is Liam Mogan, a senior at Pepperdine University in Malibu. I have been around horses for most of my life, starting out by learning horsemanship on my dad’s friend’s horses. Over the years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with horses of various breeds and temperaments. From my own experience, there is an extraordinary therapeutic nature to horses. As soon as I saw the pamphlet for Mini Therapy Horses, I decided to reach out and apply for a volunteer position. I am honored to be a part of the team!
Sophie Netanel is an actor based in NYC and a recent graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA acting program. Sophie grew up following her mom, Victoria, around horse shows (always with a book in hand) and spent a ton of time in her mom’s art studio drawing horses and other creatures. When Sophie was younger, Victoria took her to Quicksilver Ranch to visit the new-born mini-horses and she fell in love. Victoria said, ‘One day we will take one of these babies home with us.’ When Sophie went away to college at Brown University, Victoria finally brought home a mini. Over the last few years, Sophie has acquired a batch of horse sisters who bring joy and magic to thousands of people. Sophie is so proud of all that her mom has accomplished. Whenever she is home from New York, she loves to volunteer with Mini Therapy Horses.
Ané Vecchione is excited to be a handler for Mini Therapy Horses, forever learning from the seasoned handlers and horse experts of Victoria’s wonderful charity. Ané believes in the power of equine assisted therapy and animal therapy. One of the most beautiful things she has ever witnessed is the interaction of a child and a miniature horse for the very first time. A child may be sick or in extreme emotional pain, but for that brief moment they leave their little body and become one with the horse. It’s a spiritual experience that is full of love and peace. There is nothing else like it. With a solid foundation in crisis intervention as a responder for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Crisis Response Team, and a trained and credentialed NACP certified Victim Advocate through National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA), Ané utilizes her skills to assist surviving victims and children and adults in crisis on scene. In 2016, she introduced Victoria and Mini Therapy Horses to the Mayor’s Crisis Response Team while she was serving as Program Manager. She invited them to participate in a volunteer appreciation event she was hosting, and shortly after MTH joined the team and was incorporated into the CRT training academy curriculum. In addition to her volunteer work in the compassionate field of crisis intervention and advocacy, she enjoys bedazzling, and demonstrated her true love of the craft during the detailed construction of the ribbon and roses for the MTH horse tails and forelocks, for the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade. Ané’s favorite mini is a stunning dapple gray named Willow Blue, and her favorite MTH dog is the affectionate and loving King Charles Spaniel named Violet. To learn more about her day job go to www.anevecchione.com
Lauryn Hill has always held a huge space in her heart for horses. As a child her family had a pony named Comanche and her favorite subject to draw were horses. She grew up in the Napa Valley where she raised sheep in 4H and went on to study Illustration from California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco. Moving back to Napa after receiving her Bachelors of Fine Arts, she worked as a fine art consultant for 6 years at Aerena Galleries and Gardens. She now lives in Los Angeles working for TASCHEN Publishing as the West Coast Sales Representative. She is devoted to living a wholehearted existence and sharing the message of compassion and joy with all.
I like helping kids because my brother has autism and I have a lot of experience helping him. This makes me want to help other kids. I know what it’s like to feel compassionate for someone that has a disability. I like to help with the therapy horses and go to places where kids need a laugh or a smile, and that is my reward.
Sandi Zaslaw has been involved with horses since she rode her first horse at the age of seven on a farm in the Midwest where she grew up. After college she bought her first horse even though she was living in the city of Chicago at the time. A few years later when living in the Portland, Oregon area, she bought a 3 year old Arabian mare who she rode on trails till the horse died at age 27. She bred this mare and raised and trained the foal herself and rode her for 25 years. Both horses moved with her, first to San Diego and later to the Los Angeles area. Sandi has a Masters Degree in Social Work from Portland State University and worked for over 30 years, mostly for private, non-profit treatment centers for emotionally/mentally disturbed children and adolescents and their families. For the past 8 years she has volunteered for Ahead with Horses, an equine therapy program serving children with a variety of physical and developmental disabilities.
Hi, my name is Matthias Hues and my love for animals has always been legendary among my family and friends. I grew up on a farm and refused to see our animals as a work force but rather saw them as best friends. I spent hours as a kid in the stable talking to my favorite horse or the cows. The horses would listen all day and nibble on my ears. Years later, finally ending up in Hollywood doing what I do now, action movies, yes, not feeding pigs any longer, but kicking and punching on the silver screen, I met Victoria. I heard around town there is someone with special horses who do amazing charity work. Has her horses trained to go to hospitals, is part of the first emergency response team, works with the sheriff department and so on. Well, Hollywood is a small place and I knew I had to find this woman who has such love for people and horses. Seeing these little tiny unbelievable proportioned miniature horses running around a little circle, doing tricks, playing music, and parading in perfect gear, I was sold to want to know more. We did an amazing visit at the LA Vet’s hospital in Brentwood. So many smiles, so much laughter, so much happiness in such a short time. Such a blessing to be able to brighten a suffering soul.
Jamie has been a nature and animal lover since she was a little girl. At 3 years old, as the youngest child at summer camp in Massachusetts, she discovered her passion for horses. While Jamie rode Western for fun, she competed in English and Dressage horse shows. In college, Jamie worked as a volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House. She helped organize fundraisers throughout the year for the children and their families receiving services from this wonderful organization. In addition, Jamie has been actively involved in fundraising and special events for the Leukemia Society. Recently, Jamie has participated in two LA Marathons and used these events as a platform to raise over $10,000.00 for Children’s Hospital LA. In the past she has been a wardrobe stylist, then started her own company designing and manufacturing women’s contemporary clothing. Holding a California Real Estate License, Jamie has been busy helping her clients buy and sell homes and with the interior design of their new homes. Jamie met Steve Sullivan, and after a brief conversation about Victoria and her Mini Therapy Horses she knew she needed to be a part of such an amazing charity. To be able to make a positive impact on the lives of others with such gifted animals and people is a dream come true!
David has been an animal lover his entire life. He devotes 6 days a week to riding and training his horses and travels often to compete in hunter/jumper horse shows around the country. His love for horses comes from his Uncle who plays Polo and his Aunt who rode on the Unites States Equestrian Team competing in Nations Cups around the world.
David first discovered Mini Therapy Horses on Instagram and contacted Victoria shortly after to inquire about volunteering. He knows first hand just how therapeutic horses are and is honored to be volunteering for a charity which he feels so passionately about. David’s ultimate dream is to have a yard full of dogs and minis just like Victoria.