- Staff -
Founder/ Executive Director: Savanah McCarty
Wild Souls Ranch was founded by Savanah McCarty in 2012. She was inspired and driven to help the local "at-risk" youth in her community from her own experience with horses as a child who endured life's difficulties at a young age. She has shaped and formed the Wild Souls Ranch program around the tasks that made an impact on her as a former at-risk youth, and shaped her into the adult she is today. Grooming, mucking stalls, ground work, riding, manners, respect, and loving and caring for the horses as their own are all things that Savanah instills in her kids at Wild Souls Ranch. Savanah has first-hand experience with the systems of Humboldt County as a former foster parent, Case Worker for the local Tribal Social Services Agency, and a former advocate and staff member of CASA of Humboldt. She is proud to still be a CASA Advocate of Humboldt County, and a member of her local Kiwanis Chapter. Savanah works dilegently for Wild Souls Ranch to become successful in the community so that more and more youth may experience the healing power and love from horses.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker: Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown graduated from Cal State Long Beach with her Master’s degree in Social Work in 2010. After Jennifer graduated with her Bachelor Degree she knew that she wanted to help a vulnerable underserved population but was not quite sure where she belonged. She spent some time working with at-risk teenagers at a group home, juvenile hall, as well as working with foster youth and their foster families through a foster family agency. She moved onto a different role as a psychotherapist working with children but kept her focus on trauma and attachment disorders. She has been trained in multiple different modalities to help including:
EMDR, Internal Family Systems, Neurofeedback, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Theraplay, and play therapy, which can assist to heal individuals who have experienced trauma, dissociation, Disrupted Attachment, Anxiety, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Depression. Jennifer moved to Humboldt County in 2017 with a drive to offer quality therapeutic care to youth and families seeking healing and transformation. By chance, Jennifer met Wild Souls Ranch Founder Savanah, and they decided to merge their therapeutic expertise together to create the unique equine wraparound program that launched in July 2017.
Equine Specialist/ Social Worker: Abby Samaniego
My name is Abby Samaniego and I have been riding horses of various disciplines for 14 years. I graduated from Humboldt State University with my bachelor’s degree in social work in 2016. I am currently the Assistant Service Director at a day program for adults with disabilities, but I have also worked with children in a school setting and have given horseback riding lessons to children and adults. My passion for helping humans and horses alike led me to become a part of Wild Souls Ranch, of which I am so grateful! Horses have been one of the most positive and influential parts of my life and I am so excited to help others experience the things that our equine friends are able to teach us. The best thing about horses is that they continue to teach us things about them and ourselves every day, and I would not be the person I am today without them. I know I will get to witness the same positive experiences through this program. Happy trails!
Fundraising Events Director: Mariah Lewis
Mariah Lewis was born and raised in Fortuna, CA, and has been with Wild Souls Ranch from the start in 2012. Starting as the Program Coordinator, Mariah's passion for event planning made the transition to Fundraising Director a natural fit. With encouragement from friends and family, she has continued planning events outside of Wild Souls Ranch from Bachelorette Parties to Weddings. Most recently, Mariah moved from being the live-in care taker at Hillcrest Stables, where WSR is ran, to broadening her horizons in Del Mar, CA. Though across the state, she still works tirelessly to put on Wild Souls' three main annual fundraising events. In her spare time, Mariah enjoys hiking with her boyfriend and dog, and soaking up the sun on the beach in Southern California.
Equine Specialist: Christie Buckner
My name is Christie Buckner, and I've ridden and loved horses since I could walk. My parents competed in rodeos, and my fondest childhood memories revolve around horses. I have competed in rodeos since I was 4 years old, and now compete occasionally for fun. While attending college to become a Dental Hygienist, I worked for a reining trainer in Southern California. This is where I became a student of the horse, and greatly improved my skills for working with young horses. I now work as a Dental Hygienist, and enjoy working with our 5 horses we use on the cattle ranch and for rodeo events. I continue to work with various horse trainers, and I love how there is always more to learn when working with horses. I have been blessed with a loving and supportive family, yet I was a bit of an outcast during grade school. During these tough years, I clung to my horses for a sense of stability, kindness, and a judgement free zone. Wild Souls Ranch immediately caught my attention because I know personally how horses can be a refuge during tough times. Horses are kind, sensitive, and a direct reflection of yourself. The lessons they offer are priceless, and this program will continue to change these children's lives for the better.
Youth Mentor: Stephan Cheney
Stephan Cheney has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of South Dakota. During his studies Stephan started working as a Wildland firefighter and fell in love with the job. He became a full time firefighter after graduating and was able to travel all over the United States. Stephan is a member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate, located Lower Brule South Dakota. Although he enjoyed firefighting, Stephan always had a passion for helping young people see their potential and helping them reach their goals. Children are sacred, they are the future and he feels it is the responsibility of healthy adults in the community to help the children find their way in the world. He has been especially passionate about helping Native American youth and is currently working as the Youth Coordinator for the Bear River of Rohnerville Rancheria. Stephan grew up with horses on his reservation and has been learning so much about the healing power of horses through Wild Souls Ranch.
Youth Mentor: Jade Falls (15 Years Old)
My name is Jade Falls, and I have been with Wild Souls Ranch for over two years and it has helped me greatly. I started as a participant in the program and am now a Youth Mentor for other kids. Before Wild Souls I was an out of control preteen/teenager, failing all of my classes and not caring about much. Luckily for me, Wild Souls was able to pull me out of my dark time and help me become the hard working person I am today. I now attend a college/ high school and earn a 3.67 GPA. When I grow up I would like to own a ranch and rescue horses.
Working with "at risk" youth through horses is an amazing experience that has helped so many individuals. Horses can teach you so much about yourself, they don't judge like we humans judge each other everyday. They are a reflection of you and your feelings, they make you face your feelings. Equine therapy is something I enjoy and I am so glad that I am apart of Wild Souls Ranch.
Youth Mentor: Madilyn Andersen (14 Years Old)
My name is Madilyn Andersen, and I have been a part of Wild Souls Ranch for over a year now. I started as a youth participant in the program, and now I am a Youth Mentor volunteer for other kids.
I came to the ranch not knowing what to expect, I knew nothing about horses. But after my first day I felt welcomed with open arms. Throughout my time at Wild Souls, I learned that the program is not about becoming a good horseback rider, its about improving yourself as a person and working through your challenges with the help of horses. After just a few months I fell in love with the horses, and started volunteering all of the free time that I had to help Savanah in any way that I could. I now want to help kids at Wild Souls Ranch the way that Savanah helped me. She accepted me for who I am, and treated me like her family. She is always a shoulder to lean on, and she has taught me the love and respect she has for horses. I am so grateful to be able to come to Wild Souls Ranch!
Clare Edwards was born and raised in Humboldt County. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work with an emphasis in early childhood development from Humboldt State University. Clare’s passion for working alongside children began at a young age, and her love of horses began at birth. She spent time with them alongside her grandparents on their ranch in McKinleyville, learning the joy of caring for them. Through the department of social work at Humboldt State, Clare found Wild Souls Ranch and immediately fell in love with the work that was taking place in Humboldt County. As Clare continues to pursue her degree in social work, she hopes to work as a school social worker and impact the lives of children in a meaningful and purposeful way.