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 Catherine Sears to discuss opportunities as a Board Member.
Jerry Deese, a retired Veteran, Accountant, and Financial Analyst, joined the Board of Directors in 2020. He has ridden in the therapeutic riding program at MTRA as a Veteran and also living with Multiple Sclerosis. In 1986, he supervised financial management and services activities including appropriation, cost expense, operating and capital property accounts. He then became a Cost Accountant for
esponsible for analyzing financial information and preparing financial reports to determine and maintain record of assets, liabilities, profit and loss, tax liability, and financial activities. He developed, esponsible for accurate and timely analysis and reporting of all inventory and cost of sales transactions to senior management on a monthly basis. Jerry also served in the Florida Air National Guard for eight years.
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.
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 and served as Treasurer from 2018-2022.
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 nearly 30 years. She has enjoyed breeding, training and showing her own Morgans for almost 50 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 2012 until 2015.
Pam Pierceall, DVM
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 served as our President from 2015 to 2022.
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.
Jason moved from Tallahassee to Ocala in January 2018 and accepted the position of Executive Director of the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park Authority, also known as the Florida Horse Park.
In the short time Jason has been at the Park he has added over $4.5 million in capital investments and eliminated nearly half a million dollars in debts – making the Park 100% debt free. In addition, the parks annual revenue was increased by three times while lobbying the state for over $10 million in funding.
Jason is a proud Air Force Veteran who was deployed to the Middle East Region on two occasions and during that time, was awarded the Air Force Law Enforcement Airman of the year. After serving in the Air Force, he worked as the Operations Coordinator for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association in Tallahassee and was later promoted to the Director of Public Policy where he strived to protect, educate, and promote the diverse interests of Florida’s hospitality industry before Florida and Federal lawmakers.
Along with being a sub-par groom for his 3-day eventer fiancée, Jason is extremely engaged in the local community and serves on several boards. He is the Chairman of the Marion County CEP Equine Advocacy Board, and he is Vice-Chairman of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Political Action Committee. He was picked by the Marion County Board of County Commissioners to serve on the Tourist Development Council and chosen by his peers to attend Leadership of Marion County Class number 36.
Jason is passionate about helping veterans, animals, and local heroes. He and his fiancée Jayne, have three dogs (Kooper, Boomer and Sadie) and a horse (Monee). MTRA is thankful that Jason has found time in his busy schedule to join us as a Director on our board, and his input has been invaluable since he joined us in 2021.