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, was active in 4H, and competed in Western Pleasure, Gymkhana, and High School Rodeo. She was the Russian River Rodeo Queen!

Fun fact: When Charlotte was growing up, her Uncle Billy Wright owned an area of land called Clarke Ranch. She and her friends would ride at the ranch and even learned how to rope cattle out there. Clarke Ranch is the same land where SpiritHorse is located today. Isn’t that wild?

Charlotte received her PATH Certification in 2012 and has mentored and helped other instructors obtain their certifications. She is also EAGALA certified and SpiritHorse International certified. She has over 30 years of teaching experience, and as a lifelong rider and learner, she enjoys all aspects and styles of riding.


Spirithorse certified
Heather is a lifelong horse-lover. She started riding at age 9 and rode mostly western, saddle seat, and bareback. In high school, she began exploring the world of dressage which led her to Sweet Briar College in Virginia, a hunter/jumper school where she spent 4 years learning the techniques of hunt seat and cross-country riding (while also earning bachelor’s degrees in math/computer science and theatre arts). Heather spent many years as a working student for her mentor, where she gained invaluable experience riding, training, and teaching dressage. She eventually took a break from horses after having kids, but when her daughter started taking lessons at SpiritHorse, she decided to jump back into teaching.

Heather now helps teach the empowerment classes on Saturday mornings and the Therapeutic Riding Lessons on Sunday mornings at the American Canyon location. Heather feels very blessed and grateful that she and her daughter are part of the SpiritHorse family!


Spirithorse certified

In middle school, Mandy met her best friend named Brittany, who had a cousin named Julie, who was a horse trainer. She grew up riding and showing Arabians under the training of Julie Daniel and with Brittany on the Class A Arabian Show Circuit all around the United States in the western, hunt seat, and saddle seat disciplines. With many stories and lessons learned since then (It’s been a bumpy ride…pun intended!), she now applies all of it into the empowerment classes she leads during the week.

Mandy is our weekday lead riding instructor and hosts a preschool playdate with the ponies. She loves seeing the joy horses bring to everyone and the sense of calm that is experienced on the ranch. But, her favorite thing is watching her students moments after a hard day or a breakdown moment, it’s the moment when she helps the student take a deep breath and step into their own breakthrough.

Mandy is in the process of becoming a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and cannot wait to finish!

Yvonne Benavidez-Wayne

Spirithorse certified

Yvonne has had a lifelong love of horses and began riding at 3 years of age. She was active in 4-H and the Petalump Jr. Riding Club, where she grew to become the president for 2 years. She competed in all forms of horse shows with her favorite being the gymkhana events. She was District Two High School Rodeo Queen and ran for Miss Grand National at Cow Palace.

Her life took a turn when she discovered dancing. Dancing took her all over the world to compete and teach. One of her greatest accomplishments was winning a world championship.

Yvonne loves children and has taught dance for over 15 years. Now she has united her love of horses, children, and teaching and is happy to share her knowledge and understanding of these animals to kids of all ages.


Spirithorse certified • ARCH Facilitator

Horses are magnificent creatures, and Trish been blessed to have interacted with them since she’s been teenager. She also has a strong connection to children; She loves to teach, nourish, and help them recognize and honor their dreams. She has run her own preschool for 22 years, and was an elementary substitute teacher for 8 years. Now, she is grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer at SpiritHorse and combine her two passions of horses and children. She also loves traveling and has been to more than 20 countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon! She has a Behavioral Science degree and loves getting to know cultures and the uniqueness of each human.

Trish assists with lessons on Saturday and Sunday mornings at our American Canyon location, while working on her PATH Therapeutic Riding Certification with Charlotte as her mentor.

Oona O'Neill

Spirithorse certified

Oona’s love for horses started in the stroller when she and her dad visited the quarter horses next door each morning. Since then, her love has grown with each horse she has met. Growing up the Bay Area provided plenty of opportunities for her to ride and care for horses. Depending on who she was working for, Oona has ridden English, dressage, hunter jumper, and western, as well as along many a trail ride.

For the past 10 years, she was an Equestrian Director at a non-profit summer camp in the Sierra Foothills. There she focused on teaching campers the importance of learning about and connecting with horses beyond just riding; emphasizing the partnership and opportunity to learn about ourselves through the eyes of our horses – with some jousting and horseback archery thrown in!