Hope Ranch Foundation


The mission of the Foundation is to promote and fund partnering with animals (including but not limited to: horses, dogs, and cats) for clients of all ages who could benefit from animal-assisted psychological services regardless of their ability to pay.


Fundraising efforts are needed to provide programming by EAGALA certified practitioners, client scholarships, and to care for animals.

Animal-assisted psychotherapy is provided, in a variety of settings, and may be group-based or individual in nature. The process is documented and evaluated, and the animal is an integral part of the treatment process.

Horse Powered Growth and Learning programs include programs related to students becoming more intrinsically motivated learners. Animal-assisted activities are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained and certified professionals, working with animals that meet specific criteria.

Programming includes: social skills groups for youth; young women’s group; young men’s groups; family groups; groups for youths and adults with PTSD; parenting groups; and horse-powered learning (tutoring).

Funds raised will also support programs to raise, feed, and care for the animals utilized in the work, including veterinary, farrier, stable, pasture care, and other services necessary to provide for the wellbeing of the animals.

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EAGALA model psychotherapy is a relatively new treatment approach in which horses are used as tools for emotional growth and learning.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, or EAP, is a treatment modality where humans and horses partner together for optimal client outcomes. It is a collaborative effort between a licensed psychotherapist, a horse professional, and at least one horse.

EAP addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and communication needs.

EAP is NOT Hippotherapy or therapeutic riding. The focus of EAP is not riding or horsemanship. The focus of EAP is providing mental health services.



Matt Nigbur, Board President

Work Place: Market President – Coulee Bank – Rochester, MN

Degrees: Graduate Degree, School of Banking, University of WI. BBA in Banking and Finance, Wisconsin School of Business

Matt has over 13 years of experience in the Rochester, Minnesota market. My diversified banking background includes work with commercial real estate lending, financing of heavy equipment, SBA loan programs, and home construction lines of credit. He currently serve on the boards for Sertoma 700 and the Hiawatha Homes Foundation, and HOPE Ranch Foundation. He is an Ambassador for the Rochester Chamber of Commerce while coaching the Rochester Youth Soccer and the Champions Basketball League.

(Jo Ellen) Josephine Heers-Rosen 

Credentials: BA Human Resources, Instructional Design Certification
Mayo Clinic Certification: Adult Customer Service Trainer, Leadership Training Certification, Emotional Intelligent, Empathic Communication.

Achievements/Awards/Certifications: The Minnesota “Governor’s Award”, Minnesota State Fair Community Pride award, Minnesota Outstanding Youth Leadership award, Pork Producer Minnesota Bell Ringer award and Mower County Leadership Award.

Work Place: 38 years Mayo Clinic ( Retired), 10 Years  Manager in the Hospitality Industry

Why I chose to join the board:
Animals have always been a part of my life. I have horses, a dog, and a few barn cats. I know the gift an animal can give. I am happy to support this organization that has so much to give to those in need. To be a member of a team and encourage the surrounding community to participate and help reach the goals of the HOPE Ranch Foundation mission.

Sheryl Barlow, Board Vice Chair

Credentials: CEO Owner of Barlow Business Services, LLC, Author, and Speaker
BS Degree in Business and Marketing, AA Degree in Retailing, Social Media Certification, Inbound Marketing

 Masters Course in Content Creation and Copywriting

Why I chose to join the board:

The work being done at HOPE Ranch is like no other and the individuals involved are incredibly committed to the mission, the clients, the animals, and the community. The entire organization has incredible heart and dedication. I am here to do whatever I can to help with this amazing organization.

Kathy A Lessard, Treasurer

Credentials:  Vice President/Investments at Stifel (11 years), CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM certification, CPA (Certified Public Accountant), Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting, University of Northern Iowa.

Why I chose to join the board:

Animals have always been a part of my life. I have horses, a dog, and a few barn cats. I know the gift an animal can give.  I am happy to support this organization that has so much to give to those in need.

Serving as an advisor to the board at the request of the board

Kit Muellner

Credentials: CEO & Founder of H.O.P.E. Ranch, Clinical Director and Psychotherapist, LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, EAGALA Certified Psychotherapist Horse Specialist

Education & Degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, Business, and Spanish from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Masters (MSSW) in Clinical Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Interested in serving on the Hope Ranch Foundation Board? Call or email us today 507-281-3033, secretary@hoperanchteam.com