Chinook Horses
Chinook Horses

To provide opportunities for individuals and families to engage, learn, and thrive outside of the classroom and traditional therapeutic environments by practicing equine-facilitated activities and psychotherapy, regardless of their ability to pay.

Abigail Hornik, Founder & Director

She hails from New York City where she had a career in online advertising and marketing. Abigail came to Montana in 2001 to breed Spanish Mustangs and work with children on the Blackfeet Reservation. A year later, she met her husband, a native Montanan. For 8 years, she owned and designed for her high end home accessories company, WesternWare Goods with an equine theme appearing in the majority of her product line. She closed the company in 2013. In 2014, she returned to her original passion and belief that horses are remarkable creatures and make amazing partners in healing and improving people’s lives. She pursued and earned both her EAGALA certification and has her PATH International certification as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health. Abigail owns two horses and loves to do dressage in her free time.

Kelly Melius, Specialized Education Professional

Kelly has been key in developing our programming for our clientele with autism and learning differences. She is a Licensed and Certified PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) Project and Autism Specialist. Kelly has over 15 years experience working with individuals diagnosed with Autism and other special needs. She is a certified EAGALA specialized professional and has a passion for supporting children and adults on the autism spectrum to reach their fullest potential.

Carolyn Yegen, M.Ed School Counseling

Carolyn Yegen earned her Masters of Education in School Counseling from Montana State University-Billings in 2005. Before retiring in 2019 from her position as an elementary school counselor, she facilitated small group counseling sessions and provided one-on-one support for k-5th grade students. Additionally, Carolyn taught an average of 350 students during weekly classroom lessons on social, emotional, and behavioral skills such as anger management, problem solving, friendship skills, and empathy. We are honored to have her as a teacher and co-facilitator for our new Leadership Development class! Carolyn believes in educating all students with a common language to advocate for themselves and articulate their mental health needs. Her work to help students cope with their problems earned her the 2018 Montana School Counselor of the Year Award.

Kyane Wear, LCSW

Kyane graduated from Montana State University, Billings in 2000 with a BS in Psychology, and Walla Walla University, Billings in 2004 with her Masters in Clinical Social Work. She has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 2010. She has gained her experience through providing case management services, individual, group and family therapy at mental health agencies in the Billings and surrounding areas. She branched out into private practice in 2015 and joined Chinook Horses as a co-facilitator in January 2016. She is a certified EAGALA mental health practitioner. Her experience and supplemental training has primarily focused on working with youth and families addressing concerns with Depression, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Oppositional Defiance, Impulse Control Disorders and parenting concerns. After experiencing first hand the power in Equine Assisted Therapy she is expanding her training in this area. The basis of her therapeutic approach is Person-Centered and Strength Based, however, she makes adjustments along the way to meet the needs of the individual(s) and families she is working with. Her overall goal is to help people reach their full potential and be the happiest and healthiest person they can be. She often tries to set goals and expectations high for clients, but never higher than she truly believes they can achieve.

Stephanie Melmer, LCSW & ES

Stephanie is a licensed clinical therapist since 2013 and has been working as a mental health professional since 2005. She specializes in trauma reprocessing using techniques from transpersonal therapy, EMDR, and Equine Assisted Therapy with clients from adolescence to adults. Her therapy practices include a private practice, the Employee Assistance Program with Billings Clinic, and contracting with Chinook Horses, which is near and dear to her heart.

Stephanie has a Bachelor of Political Science from Black Hills State University and a Master of Social Work from Walla Walla University, Billings MT campus. She grew up in Minneapolis and also has roots in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She relocated to Billings, Montana in 2005 to enter the field of mental health and in 2008 began graduate school. Stephanie’s mission and life’s work is to assist individuals on their healing journey. When individuals heal, families are healthier. When families are healthier, communities are healthier. When communities are healthier our country and our world community is a better place for all. Stephanie was raised with love for all animals, and her mother shared with her a special love for horses. Holding a belief that our equine partners assist in providing a uniquely supportive and healing therapeutic experience, Stephanie became EAGALA certified in July 2021.

Shannon Hodge-Shirley

 Having grown up on a farm with horses, Chinook Horses co-facilitator Shannon Hodge-Shirley knew firsthand about the therapeutic potential of horses. It was not until Chinook Horses’ founding in 2016, however, that she became involved with equine-assisted therapy herself.

Licensed in mental health and addiction counseling, Shannon first learned about Chinook Horses when Founder and Director Abigail Hornik posted on a Facebook page for mental health in 2016 expressing the need for counselors to add to Chinook Horses’ growing team. With her expertise and knowledge about the positive benefits of equine-assisted therapy, Shannon reached out to Abigail and quickly became an invaluable member of the Chinook Horses “herd”!

Leanna Winslow

Horses were not a part of Chinook Horses co-facilitator Leanna Winslow’s upbringing. Even though she eventually married into a ranch family, there was still a stark difference between the traditional “working horse” mentality and the more therapeutic approach of equine-assisted therapy. It was not until Leanna began working at the Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch that she was opened up to the healing power of horses.

Today, Leanna works in her own private practice, Anahata Counseling, and contracts with Chinook Horses to provide therapy as one part of Chinook’s four-pronged approach to therapy, which includes a therapist, an equine specialist, the client, and the horse. Leanna defines her role of therapist as “holding space” for the client, where the equine specialist “holds space” for the horse. Together, they all work in synchronicity to bring about a positive therapeutic experience for the client.

Board of Directors

Abigail Hornik, Founder/Director

Heather Estus, President

Abbey Wink, Vice President

Adam Decker, Treasurer

Nancy Stanley, Board Member

Abby Reno, Board Member

Martha Fuller, Board Member

Maggie Sparboe, Board Member

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