DJ Jesser, LICSW,
DJ developed MoonRise Farm in 2002. Inspired by her horses and working as a clinical therapist at an alternative school, DJ noticed quickly how the horses motivated and encouraged students to view themselves in a new way. As a result, students saw positive change in their lives through their 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, a non-profit offering equine-assisted psychotherapy to children and families in Central and Northern Windsor County.
As a licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) DJ also has her own private practice both at MoonRise Farm and at the Ottauquechee Health Foundation in Woodstock, VT. One of her focuses is working with anxiety, depression and issues around the impact of trauma. She has received certifications through the Gestalt Equine Institute of the Rockies and also 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 continues to learns from her horses and others. Her desire is to keep on learning and sharing her passion for horses, adventure, and positive change.
Sienna Whitney, PATH certified as a TRI and ESMHL
Assistant Program Director
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.
Alex joins the MoonRise team as the first Operations Director. As an experienced operations developer, skilled project manager and former high school English teacher, she has more than a decade of experience analyzing data, creating operations structure, and writing. Her background includes many fields including education, health and fitness, marketing, human resources, and non-profit management. Alex is a problem-solver and team-player who recognizes avenues for positive change and makes it happen. Her most recent job experiences include Treasurer and Board Member at Hartland Farmers Market, Operations and Communications Manager at Sustainable Food Lab, and Sales Communications Manager and Retail Operations Manager at Ibex Outdoor Clothing. Alex has the skills and energy to manage the overall operations of MRT and to assist with sustaining and moving the program forward. Alex lives locally with her husband and two year old daughter and in her spare time enjoys cooking, hiking, pottery and poetry
Phil Prothero, LCMHC
Clinical Administrative Director
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.
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 has recently joined the Board of Directors at the Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.