Marya Pecukonis has been in the special education field for 35 years, and prefers to focus on the abilities in exceptional individuals rather than on the disabilities. Pecukonis is currently a transition specialist for the Howard County Public Schools/Diagnostic Center and is also, along with her husband, joint owner of Le Cheval Stable, a non-profit organization where her role is to provide therapeutic horse riding instruction and other related educational services to special needs individuals.
Pecukonis has a B.S. from the University of Maryland in special education and an M.S. in communication disorders from Johns Hopkins University. She also has a national board certification as an exceptional needs specialist and is a therapeutic riding instructor and equine specialist in mental health and learning, both certified by PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship).
What inspired you to enter the special needs field originally and then to start Le Cheval?
“I was inspired to be a special needs teacher as a teenager. I’ve always had a connection with animals, and I rode horses as a young child. It inspires me to see the connection individuals can create with animals, especially horses. My husband, Ed, and I started our non-profit to bring our skills to the community, and, over the last ten years, we have built up our program. Initially, I provided therapeutic riding, but we have expanded. We are inspired by watching the progress in our clients and their families.”
How does your educational background relate to your current role?
“My background in special education and as exceptional needs specialist laid the foundation for my non-profit work. While I was comfortable and competent working with horses, I needed to gain certification in the field. I first became a registered therapeutic riding instructor, then an equine specialist. This has worked beautifully to support our mission.”
How has your education helped to further your career and contributed to your success?
“This summer, my husband and I will present our first course in animal assisted therapy at the University of Maryland. We hope to encourage others to explore the field. I have contributed to the statewide 4H equestrian clubs by serving as safety examiner. Lastly, I serve as current president for MCET/Maryland Center for Equestrian Therapies. We also host regional conferences on equine assisted activities and therapies whenever possible.”
What is some advice you can offer others looking to go into the field of therapeutic riding?
“Try to obtain experience via an internship; volunteer in a licensed and credentialed facility. Seek out resources, classes, and individuals who currently work in the field. Two helpful websites are PATH: Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and EAGALA: Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.”
Susan Brown originally spent many years in banking/finance before confronting her addictions. She has now been in recovery for 20 years.
Primary interests include metaphysics and energy healing in which she has several certifications. She has written for Examiner.com since 2009 and also writes for Om Times. Sue lives in Baltimore.