Joell Dunlap, Square Peg founder/Registered Behavioral Technician, has taught hundreds of students to ride. An equestrienne since childhood, she has participated in many different disciplines including racing, polo, hunting, jumping, three-day eventing and reining. Joell has worked professionally in many facets of the equestrian industry including racing, marketing, special events, and breaking and training of young horses, in addition to teaching.
However, Joell has always been passionate about changing the way people teach and is an advocate for alternative education. Joell has been published nationally in equestrian publications regarding a gentler and more creative approach to teaching students and training horses.
Since she started working with developmentally challenged children, Joell has been developing a unique teaching method which resonates. Her philosophy of “Inspire, Guide, Challenge” and her sensitive style of instruction have helped hundreds of students to achieve important goals.
Darius Christopher Dunlap is Square Peg’s co-founder and Joell’s husband. He is a veteran of four high-tech firms, including 13 years at Silicon Graphics in services and support. Darius has managed large teams, ran multi-million dollar operations, and developed and run programs with global reach. He’s adept at building sustainable businesses and replicating successful programs and ideas into new environments.
Becca Knopf, Sonoma Program Manager, was that horse girl as kid—luckily for her, she found a career in the industry after graduating with a degree in equine business management from Otterbein University in Ohio. Becca participated in 4H with her horse Danny Boy growing up and rode for all three of her university’s equestrian teams. She has been a Certified Horsemanship Association riding instructor since 2012. Since becoming an instructor at Square Peg foundation in 2015 she has helped the program grow in Half Moon Bay and to it’s new satellite location at Cadence Farm in Sonoma. Becca finds joy and success in her work with the kids and retired racehorses by gaining trust through silliness, kindness, and genuine interest in their passions. A native of San Rafael, Becca will dress up in a tutu, T. Rex, or donkey costume to earn giggles from the kids or parishioners during the annual Christmas pageant at her parent’s church. Ask her questions about horse anatomy or the Harry Potter books at your own risk. Becca manages the Cadence Farm location in Sonoma, email her at Becca@squarepegfoundation.org .
Tessa Biggs, Square Peg staff, is a lifetime equestrian and long time member of the Square Peg tribe. Tessa was introduced to Square Peg as a 13-year-old during a showing of the “Horse Boy” film at her local pony club. She began volunteering on a weekly basis, and fell in love with the program. After a few years of regular volunteering, Tessa’s school demands and desire to pursue a career in competitive riding meant she could only visit on occasion. After a few years competing, Tessa came back to join our team as an instructor. Despite being a full time college student here in the Bay Area, Tessa spends her weekends adventuring the trails with our students, choreographing silly dances, and inventing imagination games. Her years of volunteer experience and passion for the Square Peg spirit of acceptance translates directly into her teaching, and she is guaranteed to bring warmth and humor to every client interaction. Tessa works weekends in Half Moon Bay and when her school schedule allows, email her at email@example.com
Emma Bond, Square Peg staff, still can’t believe that this is what she gets to do everyday. As she was practically raised in a barn, and hasn’t left yet, Square Peg is stoked to have Emma join us in January 2020. She’s done a lot, from working on a cattle ranch in Hawaii to being a working student for a dressage trainer; and she’s thrilled to have found a home at Square Peg. With a background in the arts and arts education, Emma uses her goofy-ness and humor to get the kids to open up to her, and loves to see her kids express themselves, and think creatively. She’ll do pretty much anything to make the kids laugh, from making up a silly song to rolling around in the grass. Her approach to training horses is the same as her approach to most things in life—by being gentle, empathetic, and patient. When she’s not at Square Peg she’s hugging her own horse, Teddy, or looking at the stars. Emma works during the week in Half Moon Bay and Saturdays in Sonoma, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aled Jones, Square Peg barn staff, is a lifelong animal lover, and has ridden horses with Joell since he was a kid. After spending several years volunteering with the Humane Society on the weekends while in high school, Aled was hired to help care for the Square Peg herd in 2015, and has been with us since. Through the Square Peg connections he has been able to work abroad with similar programs, visiting the Horse Boy ranch in Texas, and spending 2 weeks working in England at Liskennet. When not going to college, cleaning and feeding our hungry ottbs, Aled enjoys programming, baking, learning about history, and pretty much anything that involves nature. Aled works in the barn caring for the herd in Half Moon Bay.
Mora McWaters, Square Peg barn staff, has been part of the Square Peg tribe on a volunteering and working student position for several years. She became an official team member in July 2019. Mora loves all animals, but especially horses. She revels in the peace and quiet of the ranch and finds working with the horses to be very rewarding. Her favorite Square Peg horse is Cecil. Mora works in the barn in Half Moon Bay.
Gabriela Trava, Square Peg staff, started volunteering for Square Peg’s Sonoma location when she and her family moved to California from Quebec, Canada. She grew up riding jumper horses in Yucatán, Mexico and stopped riding before starting her bachelors in Marketing from Instituto Technologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterey. Having always loved kids she is thrilled to now be raising her own in Sonoma. Raising her kids in different cultures than the culture she grew up has had a profound impact on her understanding of the influence of unique family dynamics. Gabriela is thrilled to have found a sincere, supportive, and accepting community of people in the Square Peg Tribe. As a silly mom she has found great joy in working with the Square Peg families, volunteers, and job training program. Gabriela works at the Cadence Farm location in Sonoma, email her at email@example.com.
Michael Yablon, Square Peg Director of Community Engagement, joined the Square Peg team in December 2019. Prior to working for Square Peg Michael built and sold an international art supply business that integrated meaningful jobs for special needs workers. With his experience in business development and operational skills from working with nationally recognized e-commerce and retail companies, Michael is thrilled to help Square Peg identify and build relationships with different communities to expand our programs and reach more families. As a fellow horseman—Michael has ridden with Joell as a student over the years—he is passionate about the work Square Peg does finding homes for retired and rescued racehorses. If he isn’t working at managing the business end of Square Peg, you can find Michael at the barn riding his horse Shooter on the trail along with his so-sweet golden retriever Lucy, or cooking up delicious meals for his horse-loving wife and friends at his home in Pacifica. If your organization is looking to build a relationship with Square Peg, or you have billing questions please email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.