MRT’s Team

DJ Jesser, LICSW
Executive Director

DJ established MoonRise Farm in 2002. Inspired by her horses and working as a clinical therapist at an alternative school, DJ noted how horses motivated and encouraged students to view themselves in a new way. Students saw positive change in their lives through connection with the horses. In collaboration with Vermont Adaptive, DJ grew the program to serve hundreds of participants with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges. In 2018, she founded MoonRise Therapeutics.

DJ is a licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and has her own private practice at MoonRise Farm and at the Ottauquechee Health Foundation.  Her primary work focuses on anxiety, depression and issues from the impact of trauma. She has certifications from the Gestalt Equine Institute of the Rockies and EMDRIA for Equine-Assisted EMDR.  In addition, she is certified as a PATH Intl (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) Instructor and Equine Specialist in Education and Mental Health. With forty years of experience in the counseling field, and a lifetime of experience with horses, she is a great leader in this work. On-going goals for DJ are to continue to learn from her horses and others, and share her passion for horses, adventure, and positive change.

Sienna Whitney, PATH Certified as a TRI and ESMHL

Sienna and black horse

Born and raised in San Diego, CA., Sienna was introduced to therapeutic riding by volunteering at the BETH program in Bonita, CA. As a teenager she met the BETH founder JoAnn Rangus who took Sienna under her wings and taught her so much more than how to work with horses and people with disabilities. Throughout her eight years at BETH, Sienna learned so many life lessons through the examples of the people that surrounded her. She learned to ride at the neighboring hunter/jumper barn where she had the opportunity to work in exchange for her lessons. In 1996, Sienna moved to Vermont where she worked for four years at Hitching Post, an eventing barn in South Royalton. Sienna spent over a dozen years working with children in both alternative and mainstream schools. In 2013, she was drawn back to her roots in therapeutic riding at High Horses and MoonRise Farm where she began to volunteer. In 2015, Sienna went to High Hopes TR Center in Connecticut for her training and returned to Vermont with her certification through PATH Intl. as a Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL). Sienna is constantly impressed with how much horses teach us and feels blessed by being in the presence of these sentient animals.

Emily Anderson
Administrative Staff

Emily at Heidi Potters clinic

In June 2017, Emily retired from her position as the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Gordon School in East Providence, Rhode Island. She worked nearly twenty years focused on creating and sustaining an elementary school community committed to equity and justice. Presently in Vermont, she has returned to her life-long passion of working with horses as well as skiing. She volunteers her time and skills to programs devoted to horses and/or people. During the winter months, she volunteers at Woodstock Ski Runners Friday afternoon program for elementary children as well as volunteers at a local horse barn doing any horse or barn chore given to her. For Emily, working part-time at MoonRise gives her the opportunity to use her school administrative skills while being part of a community that engages with children and grows her knowledge of equine care and horsemanship. In addition, she is a member of the Board of Directors at the Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Jennifer McDermott, Certified PATH Instructor
Equine Specialist

Jennifer’s passion for horses began at 10 when she found a riding program at a local college barn. During her teens she showed hunter/jumper and hunted with the Somers Hunt Club. College, career and family distracted her for a decade but while living in Singapore volunteer opportunities at an equine therapy stable, aka Riding for the Disabled, put her back on the path. In the US, alongside her trainer, she began rehabilitating horses at Bill Steinkraus’s barn in 2005. Her focus turned to Off the Track Thoroughbreds in 2010. Being constantly presented with behavioral and wellness conundrums, Jennifer developed a holistic approach to horse wellness and training with a foundation in the Reiki healing arts and Marker teaching. She always saw the bridge between the traditional veterinarian world and the integrative wellness world and in 2016 & 2017 she organized and facilitated an Equine Wellness Fair with the intention of demonstrating just that. She was instrumental in the promotion of the diagnostic behavioral modality known as OSCAR therapy (recognizing and treating trauma in all species). Just to keep things interesting, she also hosted a radio show, HORSEtalk where equine wellness and local equine events in Connecticut were profiled. In 2018, the move to her husband’s family home in Vermont finally brought her horses home and she hung out with her herd enjoying well needed down time with the occasional student stopping by the barn. For her the greatest gift horses bestow is their unfailing effort to keep we humans in the moment, teaching awareness and fairness without judgement.  

Phil Prothero, LCMHC
Clinical Administrative Director, MRT Clinician

A native New Englander and former Environmental Engineer, switched careers after a sabbatical from engineering to study counseling and he never looked back. He has since earned both his Master of Arts in Counseling and Masters of Divinity from Mars Hill Graduate School, now known as The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. After starting a private practice in 2004 in the Seattle area , Phil returned in 2018 to New England and opened a office in White River Junction. He is licensed in Vermont as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Phil specializes in working with people who are looking to find freedom from their process addictions, including codependency. He also helps people suffering from anxiety, depression, trauma, life transitions, grieving, pet loss, spiritual concerns, and general blahs. Phil has always been passionate about animals but will call himself a true crazy cat guy. In 2010, he began learning about equine therapy and decided maybe his cat would be a good therapy cat. One of his rescue cats did join him at the office and officially was termed a therapy cat. In 2015, Phil took a deeper plunge into learning about equine therapy and experiential action-oriented therapy methods. Phil believes the equine assisted therapy offers the seeker a gentle and honest mirror of their heart and soul. This therapy modality involves horses and the therapeutic process working together to increase self-awareness and understanding of one’s self in relationship to others. When Phil is not working, he enjoys hanging out with his wife and cats, and exploring the wilderness by kayaking, backpacking, and hiking.

Ben Fox, LCMHC
MRT Clinician

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Expressive Art Therapist

Anne Marie Savino
PATH International Instructor & Equine Specialists and Barn Assistant