Our Board of Directors
If you have the time and the desire to become part of the team that insures that MTRA will continue to provide wonderful opportunities to challenged individuals through therapeutic horseback riding, the MTRA Board of Directors may be just the reward for you. Please contact Karen Cunningham or Pam Morrison to discuss opportunities as a Board Member.
Karen has called Marion County home since 1989. Born in New Jersey and raised in Pennsylvania, she was drawn here by her love of horses and found it the perfect place to raise her children. Once the children were grown and on their own, Karen filled her time by serving on the Board of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. She has also been involved with the Mental Wellness Coalition of Marion County and the Florida Local Advocacy Committee. Karen is a Real Estate agent, a job that blends well with her background in banking and title insurance. She still has her love of horses and enjoys trail riding and helping staff keep the MTRA horses exercised and healthy.
Karen came to MTRA as a volunteer and felt it is the best of both worlds. It provides her the opportunity to be around horses, and also the benefit of watching Equine Therapy at work. One of her greatest moments was witnessing an autistic child who would only speak while mounted on her horse. Now, as a member of the Board of Directors, Karen is excited to be more involved in the future of MTRA. We were very fortunate that Karen was able to step in from April through August of 2014 to serve as our Interim Executive Director while we searched for our next ED, and she did a wonderful job of organizing and problem solving and now has an inside look at our operations, which is a valuable asset to the board. Karen joined our board in September 2013 and was elected President in August 2015.
Melanie is an Ocala native with strong family ties in Louisiana where she visits often. Melanie is the proud mother to one son, D.J. Her interest in MTRA was stimulated when searching for a summer camp for her son to attend and she discovered the great opportunities that were offered at MTRA’s Camp Caballo. While DJ is not a special needs child, he gained great pride in being at the camp, which is opened to challenged kids as well as those more fortunate. He met new friends with all levels of abilities, as well as assisted in the everyday chores and upkeep of the animals. What a great atmosphere to allow your child to experience! Melanie has been a Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker since 1988. Currently, Melanie is working with a prospering local hydraulics company here in Ocala, which is proving to be a good match with her family background in heavy equipment. She is proud to have helped open and manage several companies utilizing her broad knowledge in business with a heavy accent on accounting. When not working or volunteering, Melanie enjoys traveling, camping, fishing, beach outings and other outdoor activities offered here in our beautiful Marion County area. Melanie joined our board in October 2015.
Originally from upstate New York, Tina and her high school sweetheart, husband Eric and two daughters, moved to the Ocala area in July 2005. This busy family has owned horses for pleasure and enjoyed volunteering at MTRA for several years, and have logged hundreds of hours as a family. In May of 2009, Tina purchased the struggling Sneak-e-Snacks All Natural Horse Treats business and with husband Eric’s help, began to grow and promote their young company with their usual enthusiasm. Sneak-e-Snacks is now a thriving Ocala business that is a favorite among the equine industry here and is a frequent sponsor of MTRA events. She is also the host of “Horse Sense” on NBC Sportstalk Radio, sponsored by the Ocala Chamber of Commerce. When not baking treats or helping their active daughters achieve scholastic goals in high school and college, Tina and Eric enjoy boating, beach days and quiet days at home with their many animals. Tina says “I look forward to becoming more involved with MTRA… I believe it takes a village and together we can make this program successful!” Her entrepreneurship has brought a great deal of insight to the board and we are very lucky to have her. Tina joined our board in September 2014.
Born and raised in the Washington, DC area, Gail spent 30 years with the United States Postal Service, beginning in postal headquarters and moving to numerous managerial and executive positions in Austin, TX, New Orleans, LA and Richmond, VA before returning to DC. There, she served in several officer positions, including Vice President of Human Resources and Senior Vice President of Sales. A lifelong horse lover and rider, she competed in junior and adult hunters throughout her life. She studied at the University of Maryland, the Duke Fuqua School of Business, and the Darden School at UVA.
Gail co-founded the High Performance Equestrian Foundation in Middleburg, VA, establishing a 501(c)3 to support talented, underfunded aspiring equestrians. She served on the Board of SmartMail in Atlanta, GA, and as a marketing and sales consultant, she has worked with several transportation and logistics companies. She ran a boarding and training business at her farm in Virginia, and was “show mom” during her daughter’s junior career in hunters and jumpers. It was seven years of visiting Ocala for HITS each winter that led her and husband Bob to sell the farm in Virginia and relocate in 2011. Gail has been a volunteer with MTRA since 2014, and joined our board in March 2017.
Tami joined the MTRA team as a board member in the fall of 2011, and has been an active participant since. Born in Dearborn, Michigan and a graduate of William Woods University with degrees in Business Administration and Equestrian Science, she moved to the Ocala area in 2010 after 30 years in the St. Louis, Missouri area. She is the owner of Masterworks Creative, a boutique advertising agency specializing in the equine industry with clients from coast to coast, as well as the owner and developer of MorganShowcase.com, the internet’s leading Morgan Horse sales venue. She is also a professional equine photographer and can frequently be found shooting at horse events around Ocala and at farm shoots on location for clients from Florida to New England and points west. She is also a USEF “R” Morgan judge, having officiated in the US, England, Sweden and Canada for over 20 years. She has enjoyed breeding, training and showing her own Morgans for over 40 years and is a member of the American Morgan Horse Association, the Florida Morgan Horse Association, and the United States Equestrian Federation. Tami joined our board in November 2011, and served as our President from August 2012 until August 2015.
The second of five generations born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, Erica studied in Israel, Denmark and the USA before returning to Johannesburg, South Africa. She taught for five years at Kingsmead College, then took the reins of a bankrupt animal shelter. The Animal Anti-Cruelty League then incorporated The Horse Protection Society under Erica’s management.
She worked for three years in Soweto, the largest black Township in S.A. The only private business allowed there during Apartheid was coal hauling with horse drawn carts, which created a crisis with over 500 horses suffering from destructive shoeing. Erica arranged for training for a farrier who assisted in their rehabilitation under the shelter’s care, a huge job for all involved. After three years, she moved on to her next challenge of managing the public relations of The Wilderness Leadership to help educate the public about conservation. Her final job in S.A. was as editor for Ellerines, a large furniture retailer with over 650,000 circulation through three publications, as well as managing in-store promotions.
Erica then returned to the states, where she became an engineering recruiter, then spent over 20 years as an international executive healthcare recruiter, finally retiring here in Florida where she discovered her next mission was to assist in the growth and management of MTRA. Erica joined our board in February 2020.
Kelli is a born and raised Floridian hailing from Tampa, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of South Florida in Public Relations. For the past 19 years, she has managed marketing, events and public relations for Quantum Marine Engineering and Norwegian Cruise Line. Currently, she works as the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Equus Inn, Ocala’s only boutique Hotel featuring a mid-century modern, vintage equine design.
Her profession has enabled her to travel extensively through the Netherlands, Germany, France, England, Canada and the United States. In her career, she has launched new cruise ships, planned and attended international and domestic trade shows, developed numerous event themes, and donated her time and drive to raise money for charities including the Marine Industry Cares Foundation in Ft. Lauderdale, which she co-founded and Marvelous Pet Rescue in the Florida Keys. She believes there is no better feeling than applying your skills to help make a difference in another’s life.
Kelli and her husband moved to Ocala in March 2019 and are loving the farm life. They plan to have a full farm with donkeys, chickens, cows and of course horses. She loves horses and joined MTRA because she believes that connecting people to horses in their time of need is the best therapy to assist in improving the lives of those who need it most. Her goal is to increase fundraising efforts for MTRA and develop amazing events to engage donors and volunteers. Kelli joined our Board of Directors in September 2019.
Dana Waters, DVM
Dana has spent most of her life with horses. She has competed to the Grand Prix jumping level and trained scores of horses and clients in the sport of show jumping. She and husband, Chuck Waters, have operated Waterworks Farm here in Ocala for over 20 years. Their business focuses on finding the right mount for riders at all levels.
Dana graduated from LSU with a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. The Waters now enjoy the sport of ranch sorting when not hitting the east coast show circuit with daughter Haley, who competes at the Grand Prix level. Dana joined the board at MTRA in August 2018.
Gail was born in Ontario, Canada. She attained her teaching degree at McMaster University in Hamilton and taught primary education in both Ontario and New York City. She was a successful junior and amateur rider of hunters and jumpers on the Ontario circuit, until she traveled to Iran, where she became the trainer for the Shah’s horses and the Iranian National Team in the 1970s.
In Virginia, she operated a school of equitation and training facility for hunter/jumper riders and until retiring in Ocala, where she follows her passion for writing. Gail joined our board in January 2020.