Our Instructors










Betty Gray, Registered Instructor & Level 2 Driving Instructor

I have been blessed to live my lifelong dream of working with horses for over 55 years. At the age of 16, I opened my 1st boarding & training stable in New York. I started showing horses at the age of 9 & was very active in the 4-H. I showed Western, Hunters and Open Jumpers in my teens. I started training and showing Morgan Horses in 1965. After marrying into Florida in 1971, I opened a Morgan training & show barn under the banner of Hi-Time Farm & became a Recognized Morgan judge in 1995.

After my daughter, Kathy, was kicked in the head by a horse in 1980 I helped start the 1st therapeutic horseback riding program in Marion County in 1983. I became a certified therapeutic riding and carriage driving instructor and started promoting therapeutic riding in our community. People needed to learn about the “miracles” that can happen to children and adults that live with disabilities after riding a horse. After seeing what riding did for my daughter, this became my #1 goal in life.

In 2007, I opened Stirrups ‘n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center at Hi-Time Farm in Orange Lake. In the 9 years we have been in existence, we have grown to15 horses, 3 arenas and over 60 clients. Therapeutic riding has become my 1st love; I want to help as many people as possible with disabilities to overcome their challenges in life. I sadly had to give up my training & show barn in order to continue to grow Stirrups ‘n Strides, but this is now where my heart lies and I have a very special daughter that gives me the strength to continue on this wondrous path that helps make miracles happen.

Rev. Stacey Spence, Registered Instructor and PATH Mentor

Stacey, born in Dayton, Ohio moved to Florida at an early age with her family and grew up in Broward and Palm Beach County. She has three adult children and two grandchildren.  Stacey attended Zion Lutheran High School in Deerfield Beach. From there her education continued at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Her life path led her studies to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore Kentucky.  She has been a resident of Marion and Alachua Counties for the last eight years.

Stacey has a strong dedication to her children, family, friends and her faith.  Her personal and loving relationship with Jesus coupled with a passion for helping and guiding others led her to Hawthorne First United Methodist Church where she was recently appointed a Provisional Elder. Youth ministry and animals have always been Stacey’s passion.

Stacey has served Non-Profits as staff or as a volunteer over the last twenty years. Her expertise is forged in her strength to carry on regardless of the circumstances. She has faithfully served Stirrups n’ Strides as a PATH certified riding instructor, mentor and Board President over the last seven years. Stacey is an experienced equestrian whose love for people and horses are messed together in her service to Stirrups n’ Strides. A favorite quote is “Well done my good and faithful servant. GOD”

Debbie Parker, Registered Instructor

Debbie was born in Orlando, FL and grew up in Grenada, MS.  She had horses as a teenager and young adult.  Debbie moved back to Florida after the passing of her mother in 1999.  She has worked for Wal-Mart since 2007 where they encourage employees to volunteer.  Debbie started volunteering in 2010 as a side walker where she quickly fell in love with the program.  Betty encouraged her to help teach the class with her and soon she talked to her about becoming one of the next instructors.  With the help of Betty and Stacey Spence, Debbie learned to ride English.  In 2013, she became an instructor and has come to love being at Stirrups ‘n Strides.  “To see the change in the riders right before your eyes is more rewarding than I can say.  I encourage anyone to come and volunteer and try it.”

Elaine (Laney) McGivern, Registered Instructor

Laney grew up in Western Pennsylvania close by her grandparents’ farm. Her first ride on a horse was on her Grandfather’s draft horse, Jack. She got her own pony at the age of 12. And so began her love of horses.

She earned a BSBA from University of Florida and an MBA from University of Tampa. She pursued a career in market research and development in the Tampa Bay area and Atlanta, before taking a three year break to travel solo around the world. Upon her return, she settled in San Francisco and worked in the customer service department for United Airlines for 15 years. Laney and her husband, Jim, have been married for 24 years. Bi-coastal for many years, they moved from California to Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, FL full time 10 years ago.

Along with a love of horses and equine assisted therapy, Laney is also an avid golfer, an interest she shares with her husband Jim. She is on the course rating team for Florida State Golf Association as well as the rating panel for Golfweek Magazine.

Laney began volunteering at Stirrups ‘n Strides in 2010 once they settled in Lecanto. She has been an enthusiastic volunteer at many equestrian competitions such as eventing, dressage and combined driving events. Laney joined the Board of Directors in June, 2013. In March, 2015, Laney became a PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

“Knowing the effectiveness of the program at Stirrups’n Strides, participating on the Board presents an opportunity to help grow the program and assure its future sustainability.”

Ellen Rankins, Registered Instructor

Ellen grew up on a diversified livestock operation in Cusseta, AL.  This gave her the opportunity to own her own horse and her participation in the 4-H program fostered her interest in learning everything she could about horses.  This passion for horses and learning has continued and resulted in her earning a B.S. in Animal Sciences-Equine Science from Auburn University and pursuing a Masters in Equine Behavior at the University of Florida.

Likewise, her interest in the field of therapeutic riding was born early on.  She began volunteering at a local center and worked her way up from cleaning stalls (which she still does on a routine basis!) to exercising horses and eventually to teaching lessons.  As a college student, she completed two internships at therapeutic riding centers and began to appreciate the diversity that exists within the industry.  Her desire to pursue the Advanced Level Riding Instructor Certification was also born during this time and in the Spring of 2017 she was able to achieve this goal.  When she moved to Florida, Ellen knew that she wanted to keep teaching therapeutic riding lessons, so she began to look for a center near Gainesville.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Deborah Tucker, Instructor in Training

Heather Moyer, Instructor in Training

Connie Sawyer, Instructor in Training










Stirrups ‘n Strides offers mentoring opportunity for instructor certification!