Our Mission

Specialized Equine Services (SES), through accredited professionals and dedicated volunteers, provides equine therapeutic riding for children, adults, and Veterans with disabilities, improving their quality of life through the healing power of horses.

Our History

Specialized Equine Services and Therapeutic Riding Center Corporation (SES) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization operating at Giant City Stables (GCS). It was established in 2012 and received its 501(c)(3) status in January 2013. SES provides therapeutic riding (TR) to children and adults, ages 4 to 80, with physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive disabilities, as well as foster children, adults, children and Veterans suffering the effects of trauma.

TR has been provided at GCS since 1995. The stables are located in Giant City State Park near the small town of Makanda, Illinois. In 2012, parents and benefactors of the existing clients established a nonprofit organization to support the growing TR programs at GCS with donations and charitable giving. With that, SES was established by co-founders Ramona Twellman, Patricia Nardini, and Berardino Baratta to guarantee these specialized services would continue. Ramona Twellman is also the Executive Director of SES, a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) member facility.

our board

Ramona Twellman - Executive Director, Lead PATH instructor, and Co-Founder

Ramona Twellman is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Specialized Equine Services (SES). Ramona has owned and operated Giant City Stables, LLC since 2002, which is the home of SES. She is a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) and an International Society of Rider Biomechanics Coach with over 30 years of horsemanship experience. Ramona brings 40 years of teaching experience working with kids and adults of various experience levels. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Central Methodist University in Fayette, MO. Ramona has continued her education annually to maintain current techniques and standards in the specialty areas of horsemanship, training, and teaching.

Kevin MacDonald - President
Kevin MacDonald, who is himself a Veteran with multiple disabilities, comes to us from a background in the U.S. Army. He has a BS in Workforce Education and Development with a minor in Speech Communication from SIUC. Kevin has worked for several nonprofits in the Southern Illinois area benefiting Veterans and currently works for the Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living, (SICIL), Carbondale, IL as their Lead Advocate for the ADA and consumers with disabilities.
Kevin has sat as a Board Member for the Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living, (SICIL), in Carbondale, IL and The Statewide Independent Living Council, (SILC), in Springfield, IL. This unique and diverse background enables Kevin to bring an empathetic viewpoint to his duties as President of Specialized Equine Services
Berardino Baratta - Co-Founder/Treasurer

Berardino Baratta is an accomplished leader in technology and advancing manufacturing, with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. As the CEO of MxD, the digital manufacturing and cybersecurity institute, Berardino works with the U.S. Department of Defense and a nearly 300-member ecosystem to drive economic prosperity and support national security by increasing U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.

Through MxD’s diverse array of projects and partnerships, Berardino oversees critical efforts to enhance digital readiness and cybersecurity across the manufacturing sector, prepare the workforce for the advanced manufacturing jobs of the future, and ensure resilient and secure supply chains in an era of increased geopolitical disruption.

Berardino’s diverse experience includes recent roles as Vice President of Projects and Engineering and Sr. Director of Technology Strategy for MxD. Prior to joining MxD, Berardino was CEO of Potentia Analytics, an AI healthcare startup, and held multiple positions at Freescale, including General Manager of Freescale Semiconductor’s Multimedia Applications Division. He began his career with Metrowerks Corporation, a leading provider of Software Development tools, where he led engineering through its growth from startup through acquisition by Motorola Corporation. Berardino received his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) from McGill University.

Rachelle Gray - Secretary/Fundraising

Rachelle Gray is the secretary for the board of Specialized Equine Services (SES), does fundraising for SES social media posting, and assists the volunteer coordinator.  Rachelle has been a LPN since 2002. She has worked as a med-surg nurse at a family practice and a psychology and pulmonary disease office. In 2009, she became a stay-at-home mom to care for her son Tommie, who has cerebral palsy. She is married and has two sons. She joined SES in 2012 as a parent to a rider when Tommie started riding with SES.  Rachelle also co-founded a support group in Southern Illinois called Southern Illinois High Five Society for children and adults with disabilities and their families.   She loves crafting, decorating, and putting on galas and events.

Patricia Nardini - Co-Founder/ Outreach

Patricia Nardini is a co-founder and past president of Specialized Equine Services (SES), an organization that focuses on improving the quality of life for people through the healing power of horses. Before Patricia’s involvement with SES and her passion for horses began, she had a career as a Certified Financial Planner, Field Trainer, and District Manager for Investors Diversified Services (IDS), an American Express company, for many years. Prior to IDS, she worked for Trans Union as an outside salesperson in the Chicago suburbs and on the National Staff, where her responsibilities included setting up new markets and supporting Trans Union Service bureaus.

After working for IDS and; TransUnion, Patricia established a small business called “Patricia’s Gourmet Sweets and More” in downtown Glen Ellyn, where she offered gourmet chocolates and creative gift baskets. While she loved the city, her decision to move to Southern Illinois marked a significant change in her life, and it opened new horizons and opportunities for personal growth.

Patricia began her journey with horses by volunteering at Giant City Stables in 1998, where she learned about horse care and how horses can have a positive impact on people’s lives. During her time here, Patricia worked as a wrangler and actively participated in various lessons, clinics, and pilot programs that helped develop SES. Her dedication to improving people’s lives has been a central mission throughout her life.

Debbie Cooper- Billing/Scheduling/ Fundraising Assistant

My name is Debbie Cooper. I do the billing for our students and our veterans; I do the scheduling for our student riders; I find scholarships as needed, and I am the fundraising assistant. I am also a board member of SES. I am retired after thirty years with the Illinois State Police Crime Lab. I have been married to a wonderful man for 45 years. I have one beautiful daughter and two lovely grandchildren.

Linda Cramer - Board Member

Linda Cramer has been a registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH Intl.) since 2004.  She has volunteered and taught for several therapeutic riding programs since 1980.  She attended and graduated from the Kentucky Equine Institute of Lexington, Kentucky in 1987.  Prior to moving to Southern Illinois, she coached Equestrian and Snowshoeing for Special Olympics. Linda worked full time for the Clarendon Hills Police Department prior to becoming a Pharmacy Technician for over 30 years. Currently she works as a Program Support Assistant.  Her hobbies include horseback riding, martial arts,  scuba diving and flying.  Linda lives on a 16 acres farm with her husband.   There they care for several gardens, five horses, and a variety of other animals.  Her passions include volunteering with Veterans, animals, and individuals with special needs.  She feels honored to be a part of SES/VETS.

(618) 529-4110


SES Directory

Debbie Cooper
Billing/Scheduling/Fundraising Assistant
(618) 529-4110

Patricia Nardini
(618) 529-4110

Ramona Twellman
Executive Director/Lead Instructior
(618) 529-4110

Rachelle Gray
Board secretary/Fundraising
(618) 529-4110

Kevin MacDonald
(618) 529-4110

Berardino Baratta
(618) 529-4110

Becky Ashton
Volunteer Coordinator
(618) 529-4110

Pam Rodely
Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) with PATH Intl.
(618) 529-4110

our horses

Annual Report

Report is not available at this time.

501(c) 3 Statement

Established in 2013 as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit center, operating out of Giant City Stables located in Giant City State Park, Makanda, IL.

We are a 501(c) 3 organization.  Make Your Tax Deductible Donation Today.


Open: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Hours: 9am - 4pm

Closed: Tuesday

Social Media
Copyright © 2024 Specialized Equine Services (SES). All Rights Reserved.