Founder & Board of Directors


Our Founder



Charlotte Dougherty


Founder/Director • PATH Certified Instructor • SpiritHorse Advanced Certified Instructor • ARCH Facilitator • Jefferson Award Winner
Charlotte grew up in a family that always had horses. She began taking riding lessons at the age of five and competed in Western Pleasure, Gymkhana, and High School Rodeo. As a lifelong rider and learner, she enjoys all aspects and styles of riding. In 2012, Charlotte started SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center because she knew the healing power horses naturally possess having experienced it herself.

In her early adult years, Charlotte became stuck in a dark season marked by trauma, drug addiction, and bad choices. Upon rehabilitation, Charlotte found solace and purpose by reconnecting with horses. Determined to rise above her past, she chose to become a survivor rather than a victim.

She recognized the profound impact of equine therapy and founded SpiritHorse with a single horse. She offered a free lesson, marking the beginning of her mission to exemplify the life-altering transformations achievable through the healing connection between humans and horses.

Charlotte’s commitment to her newfound purpose led her to attain certifications as a Certified Equine Health Care Instructor through SpiritHorse International, a PATH Instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, and EAGALA certification. These rigorous certifications equipped her with the expertise, knowledge, and credentials to deliver effective, safe, and beneficial riding experiences for individuals of all abilities and interests.

With three decades of teaching experience, Charlotte has shared her passion for horses, riding, and teaching with people of all ages and skill levels. Her dedication has inspired her to positively impact the lives of others through the SpiritHorse program, embodying the transformative potential that horses can offer.


Board of Directors



Margaret Hager


Margaret Hager is honored to be on the Board of Spirithorse of the Bay Area, and also is passionate about her role as a horse care volunteer with the organization for the past year. Margaret has worked with horses in a volunteer capacity for nonprofits since her retirement from a successful 36 year banking career in 2019. She has lived and worked in Napa Valley  for the majority of her life, having moved here at the age of 7 and growing up on her family’s 300-acre vineyard, walnut orchard and open space property in Chiles Valley. It was there that her lifetime love of horses began. 

Margaret’s banking career was based in the Napa Valley, working exclusively for local/regional community banks as a Vice President/Relationship Manager and Commercial Loan Officer specializing in Wine Industry lending. In this capacity, she managed multi-million dollar loan portfolios and established close, long-term working relationships with numerous winery, vineyard and business owners. Margaret has been an active member of the Rotary Club of Napa and served on their Board for five years in the role of Treasurer. A California Polytechnic State University/San Luis Obispo graduate, she earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration/Marketing. Upon her retirement, Margaret was eager to reconnect with horses while also giving back to the Napa Valley community through meaningful volunteer work. She loves her time spent caring for the many horses at Spirithorse and finds it truly rewarding. She also enjoys spending time with her family and grandchildren as well as her activities of hiking, cycling and traveling.


Dana Azevedo


Born and raised in the Napa Valley, Dana is a fifth generation cattle rancher who comes from the longest standing ranching family in the area that is still running cattle. Having grown up using horses on the ranch, her love of the animal quickly turned into a passion and a desire to compete. Over her show career, Dana has won 2 World Championships in cutting. But she will tell you, the best part of ranching and showing cutting and cow horses is doing it with her husband and her daughter. Being a 4H Leader herself, she enjoys sharing her love and passion for horses with the next generation and truly appreciates the incredible work that SpiritHorse does for everyone in our community, particularly with our youth programs.

Shiva Hess


Shiva is a firm believer in the transformative power of equine connection and healing. A Bay Area native, Shiva grew up in Concord. Her childhood included visits to her grandfather’s ranch in Folsom, where he raised ponies, but she was never really interested in the animals. It wasn’t until years later that horses would reenter her life.

As Shiva entered adulthood, she moved to Los Angeles and spent a few years there before returning to the Bay Area. Around that time, she began teaching yoga, Pilates, meditation, and breathing exercises at Evolve Treatment Centers, specializing in teen rehabilitation. Seeing the gradual changes in the teens under her guidance sparked a deep passion for helping others. One day, some of her students invited her to their horse therapy session, where she witnessed their remarkable transformations.

After watching her teenage students light up during their sessions with the horses, Shiva knew she needed to be involved. Not only were the students growing, but the horses also gave them hope and inspired them to explore equine-related careers.

Driven to help, Shiva began learning more about horses and their needs. Shocked at the costs associated with horse care, she recognized the need for fundraising to ensure the horses received the best care possible, given how much they helped others. Today, she is dedicated to supporting SpiritHorse’s animals and programs by raising funds while continuing to bond with the horses.