Staff Members

Audrey Cooper, Executive Director

AudreyAudrey joined the staff as Operations Manager, and transitioned into the role of Executive Director in June 2015. Prior to joining staff, Audrey spent many years volunteering in the program as a horse handler, assistant instructor, and a board member. While on the VTRA Board of Directors, she was instrumental in the re-branding of the organization, our new and improved website and our growing presence in the world of social media. Audrey holds Masters Degree in Business Administration and has extensive international management and marketing experience. Audrey has been a life-long equestrian, and enjoys spending time with her 2 boys and her lovely horse Tasha.

Liz Brown, Program Manager

LizLiz joined the staff in 2014 after volunteering in the program and working with VTRA to review and improve IT infrastructure. Liz obtained a BA in Anthropology from UVic, and worked as an Archaeologist prior to working for an large IT firm. Liz enjoys organizing, scheduling, and generally playing with data – so the role of program manager is a great fit. Liz grew up on a horse farm, and continues to enjoying hanging around barns.

Jillian Brown, Coordinator of Volunteers

Jillian joined the VTRA as a volunteer in March 2017 and loved the program so much she decided to apply to join the team. She grew up in remote part of Australia in a very horse orientated family.  Her childhood was spent at many events including, polo cross carnivals, gymkhanas, pony club, shows and countless other social events that gave her access to wide range of horse/pony experiences.

Jillian has over 15 years of customer service, administration, and team management experience, and is excited to put those skills to work in the VTRA office.

Liz Gagel, Head Instructor

Liz Gagel, Instructor and Volunteer co-ordinatorLiz grew up in London, Ontario and started riding at the age of 8. She spent her teenage years in the stable; working, riding and training horses. Her first horse was an “off the track” thoroughbred who she retrained to be a hunter jumper. While getting her education in Business Marketing from Fanshawe College she worked teaching riding lessons and horsemanship camps to children of all ages.
Liz moved to Victoria in 2008 and got her certification as a riding instructor through the Certified Horsemanship Association. She also started volunteering with the VTRA. In 2012 Liz became a certified Instructor through the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association. Liz keeps very busy managing the barn and teaching!

Cecilia Dingwell, Instructor

Cecilia Dingwell grew up on a Dairy Farm in Northern BC. She began riding at the age of 7 and competed at local horse shows in the area. After graduating high school, Cecilia came to Victoria to pursue a career in acting. She received her diploma in Acting for Film and Television and then decided to make Victoria her new home. Fast forward to 2012, Cecilia discovered VTRA. She volunteered as a horse handler and then as a assistant instructor. In 2014 Cecilia started her journey to become a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She is now a Certified CanTRA Basic Instructor and a PATH International Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Cecilia also has a certification in Equine Massage which is a nice bonus for the horses at VTRA.
She is a proud mother of two amazing boys and a wife to a very supportive husband. Cecilia came to VTRA for the horses but stayed for the riders. She is honoured to be part of a team that brings joy, magic, laughter, and success to the riders and program of VTRA.

 Jessica Game, Instructor

JessicaJessica has been volunteering with VTRA since the day she turned 16, and in November 2014 took on the role of Volunteer Coordinator. Jessica has been riding and cleaning up after horses for the majority of her life, and is also an experienced horse handler and assistant instructor with VTRA. Jess spent 3 years based in Calgary, living the corporate life, before returning to balmy Victoria in 2014. In August of 2016, Jess became a Certified Instructor with Path International.

Kate Masters, Instructor

Kate MastersKate began volunteering with VTRA in 2012, and in 2016 she fulfilled her goal of becoming a PATH International certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She has a BSc. in Psychology from University of Victoria, and has years of experience working as a Community Support Worker and Behaviour Interventionist. Growing up in Calgary, Kate took riding lessons and worked as a barn hand at a local stable. She competed in the hunter/jumper circuit with a mare she leased for many years. Kate is very excited to be working at VTRA as it allows her to combine her two main interests: horses and therapy!

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