Our Mission. . .
is Reaching Inside Souls using Equines by providing the best therapy possible for those who need it most!
Karen founded RISE Rehab in 2015 at RISE Therapeutic Equestrian Center just outside San Antonio. RISE incorporates her love of neurological rehabilitation and horses. She attended Texas A&M before graduating from physical therapy school in 1993 and developing a special interest in traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputee rehab, stroke and disabled sports.
Karen Fergason, PT, DPT, HPCS
Founder, Clinical/Interim Executive Director
After volunteering for years, utilizing her communication skills and her impressive experience serving families affected by disability, Gail joined the staff at RISE as the Program Director. She has an Associate’s Degree as a Deaf Support Specialist and is the liaison for the vast volunteer team and for the families receiving services at RISE.
Karen has a son who is on the autistic spectrum, making her particularly aware of the challenges presented by unique cases. It is the desire of her heart to bring joy and life to individuals and families with similar needs.
She spent 30 years working in Texas public schools in various positions including the PPCD (Pre-school Program for Children with Disabilities), has been instrumental in starting several Special Needs Ministries in the state and has worked with Joni and Friends International Disability Ministry hosting Wounded Warrior Getaways, which is a Family Retreat for families affected by a family member returning injured from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Her accomplishments include being the proud wife of her husband Sam for 50 years(!), mom of two grown children and the grandmother to 4 wonderful grandchildren. In her words, “God has raised me up with a love for families affected by disability and has been faithful to show me the places He has for me to share the gifts He has given me. It is my privilege to assist families, kids, horses and volunteers as we strive to give direction, help and joy to our riders.”
Andi currently attends Texas State University where she is pursuing her major in Animal Science. She loves to use her extraordinary equine skills to coordinate and train horses at RISE Therapeutic Equestrian Center.
She has been riding since she was six years old and has a natural instinct of horse behavior in addition to a background competing in the Hunter / Jumper Division with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. Andi knows the horses at RISE well and cares for them daily.
Andi is also a Level 4 Certified Riding Instructor.
Debbie grew up next to an equine veterinarian, rode and cared for his horses, and helped with farm calls. She was a member of a 4-H Horse Club, and later the U.S. Pony Club during which she participated in regional and national rallies and attained a rank of H-A. Debbie also worked for eight years at the Columbia Horse Center in Maryland, where she performed general barn duties, schooled lesson horses, taught lessons and summer riding camps, and was week-end barn manager.
She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a B.S. in Animal Science, horse emphasis, then spent 18 years at east coast racetracks as groom, pony girl, exercise girl, assistant trainer, trainer and owner.
An article that she wrote, “Attack That Tack,” was published by Horse Play magazine. Upon moving to Texas, she was employed by Retama Park in publicity and simulcasting departments for 27 years. Prior to joining RISE, Debbie had volunteered for two other therapeutic riding facilities; Special Equestrians in Bucks County, PA., and Saddle Light Center in Selma, TX.
Heidi Schmidt comes to RISE from the Frozen Tundra of Wisconsin as our new Development Director. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Phoenix and is a published author. Heidi became a part of the special needs community when she and her husband adopted their son from Central America. A few years later they adopted their daughter from Eastern Europe. Heidi became part of the RISE community and began her new adventure with horses when both of her children joined the program.
Heidi is passionate about coming alongside special needs parents and families and encouraging others along the journey. She has taken pain and transformed it into words of healing and inspiration for others. Heidi has served her community as a District Family Engagement Liaison and has co-lead a special needs family support group alongside her husband, Jeremy. Heidi is committed to continuing RISE's mission. She holds serving our clients and families as an absolute honor and privilege.
Jennifer Hunter, OTR, MOT, CKTP
Completed AHA Inc. Level 1 Hippotherapy Treatment Principles
Jennifer graduated with her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Sciences from the University of TX Health Science Center in San Antonio. She is currently pursuing her Ph. D. of Health Sciences through UTHSCSA. Jennifer has worked in various settings, such as acute care hospital, in-patient rehab, and outpatient adults. She has been a pediatric OT for the past ten years, working with special needs children and their families.
Because of her life-long love of horses, Jennifer is excited for the opportunity to combine her love of horses and therapy practice. She has recently completed AHA Inc.’s Level 1 Hippotherapy Treatment Principles, anticipating completing Level 2 soon to become a PATH Intl. Registered Therapist.
When not working as an OT or studying, Jennifer enjoys her time with her teenage son Luke, Eric, her fiancé, three rescue dogs, Petra and Prim (Belgian Mals), and Titan (Dachshund mix).