Cat Thompson
Cat, founder of BDF and certified speech pathologist of 22 years, specializes in: autism, severe speech and language disorders, apraxia, cleft palate, feeding aversion and swallowing disorders. She is also certified by PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) as a therapeutic riding instructor and with the American Hippotherapy Association. She has been using hippotherapy as a treatment modality since 1994, when she helped to build a hippotherapy center as an adjunct to traditional therapy services at St. Mary’s hospital in Athens.

Benita Nelson
Before she could walk, she wanted to ride.  Benita’s very first exposure to a horse was when she was in her mother’s arms at a county fair in rural North Carolina.  She reached out for the horse, her mom put her on, and the rest was history. After four years of lessons, Benita got her first pony at the age of 11 and successfully competed through high school in the hunter/jumper arena.  After graduating from the University of Georgia, Benita married David Nelson, started a career, they raised two daughters, and sadly just didn’t have time for riding. But after a 37- year hiatus, she re-entered the riding world with the same passion and enthusiasm that she had as a young girl.  She is PATH Certified. Helping riders feel at ease with their equine partners is a high priority in her lesson plans.

Ashley Burdette
Ashley Burdette, M.S., CCC-SLP grew up on a small farm in Hart County, Ga, with cows, goats, cats, and dogs. She has always been passionate about working with children and animals, and when she realized she could combine those passions through hippotherapy, she was hooked. She immediately began utilizing horses through hippotherapy to create meaningful and effective treatment sessions for the pediatric population she has served since completing her graduate school training in speech-language pathology. She received her undergraduate in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Georgia in 2014 and her Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Georgia State University in 2016. She has experience treating a variety of pediatric speech and language disorders including, but not limited to, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, genetic disorders, pediatric stroke, stuttering, articulation disorders, and language disorders. Ashley is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She has completed both American Hippotherapy Association Treatment Principles Part I & II courses.

Heidi Maloy
Heidi Maloy acquired her love for horses when she got her beloved first pony at the age of six. At this point she went on to join and graduate from the USPC (United States Pony Club). Then continued on with her career earning her silver medal in Vaulting and demonstrated in the 1996 Olympics. She has competed in regional and national events in Vaulting, Eventing, and Games. Heidi developed her love for working with special needs students while volunteering at Camp Sunshine. Heidi then went on to get her PATH certification in 2007 and her interactive vaulting certification in 2011. Heidi has also decided to expand in her development and gained her YTT (Yoga Alliance certification) and her Equine Om Yoga certification. Heidi has combined her love of horses, yoga, and teaching to touch individuals lives from children to adults.