Meet the Staff


Jane Strong, SEP, ESMHL

Founder and Senior Instructor
Eponaquest Equine Experiential Learning Instructor
PATH, Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning
Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner
Certified Enneagram Teacher

Jane began her lifelong love of horses as a competitive rider. When she left the world of traditional horsemanship behind, she had no idea that horses would ever become an integral part of her life again. It was not until she began to study the principles and practices of natural horsemanship that she came to understand what horses had to teach us about how we come across to others, about being in the moment and how to bring out the best in ourselves.

She is an accredited Experiential Learning with Horses Instructor who graduated from the Eponaquest Program in Tucson, AZ in 2005 and is also a certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning through P.A.T.H. Int’l.


Prior to returning to a life centered around working with horses, she was a professional coach and facilitator who has taught leaders and individuals how to ‘take back the reins’ in their own lives. She’s coached young people and adults through transitions from home to school, recovery to sobriety and changes in their careers.


Beginning in 2009, in learning about the rising suicide rate among veterans, Jane and David decided to focus their attention on this group of men and women who were sometimes resistant to talk therapy and whose symptoms were often only masked by medication. They based their program on what they had learned at Eponaquest Program. General Patraeus (Ret.) recognized this program for its soundness and sensitivity to these men and women who have served their country in this way. They have also studied the work of Dr. Peter Levine at the Somatic Experiencing Training Institute and both completed this program in 2015.


Jane is an Accredited Enneagram Teacher, has studied with the Coaches Training Institute, the Center for Authentic Leadership and the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

I've worked in this way with horses for the past 10 years. Because horses engage all of our senses and ask us to be as present as they are, they can help people discover new ways of seeing themselves in relation to others. This work is both serious and fun, energizing and relaxing, easy to understand and deeply meaningful. By teaching us to stay present in the face of change, horses can help us develop our capacity to navigate transitions from one phase of life to another faster than any other mode of experiential learning or treatment I know. They invite the deepest, most honorable part of ourselves to come forward and meet life on life's terms.

David Sonatore, LCSW

Program Director and Senior Instructor
Eponaquest Equine Experiential Learning Instructor
Somatic Experiencing® Advanced Training Graduate
Certified Martha Beck Coach

David is a certified Experiential Learning with Horses Instructor. He also graduated from the Eponaquest Program in Tucson, AZ in 2005. He brings his inherent gifts of compassion, curiosity and intuition to this work and has an uncanny sense of identifying the human concerns that lie beneath the surface.

In his unique, gentle way, David is able to help veterans and others we work with learn how to make sense out of feelings and discover new ways of seeing through old patterns so that they can move from surviving to thriving.

He’s also a therapist with a private practice in NYC and Bedford, NY and is a certified Dr. Martha Beck Life Coach (frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and O Magazine columnist). David developed his clinical skills by working with inmates in the New York State Correctional system and outpatient clients at the psychiatric clinic of St. Vincent’s Hospital in NYC. David has also completed his final year of study at the Somatic Experiencing Training Institute where he is honing his skills as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner.

David’s father served in World War II, so he also has a deep understanding of the impact that military service can have on relationships at hom, work and school.

Inviting clients out of traditional settings and into this remarkably unique and natural environment expedites trust, creativity and freedom. People can explore their own true nature and discover their own best solutions more quickly and with meaningful results.

Jesi Sarno

Executive Director

Jesi joined The Equus Effect in March of 2019 and has been a non-profit executive with many years of experience in leadership, fundraising and event planning.  With an AS in Criminal Justice from Berkshire Community College, a BA in Sociology from Smith College and an MPP from UMASS Amherst, Jesi has dedicated her life to working in the non-profit arena and helping others. Veterans and their families hold a particularly special place in her heart.

Jesi’s father is a career military veteran. Growing up as a “military brat” meant every few years she had to pick up and move to a new school and friend circle. During these times of transition Jesi would seek out opportunities to be around horses and this always helped her to adjust to her new surroundings. It was not until adulthood when studying natural horsemanship that she realized that her experiences with horses as a child were not unique.

When the opportunity to join the staff at The Equus Effect was presented, I was more than excited to put my professional skills together with the love for horses and veterans. My goal is to provide leadership to grow the reach of The Equus Effect so that we can offer our program to as many as possible.

Kelly Hitt

Communications Director

Kelly’s experience spans two decades in the marketing and communications categories.  She has managed large design and production teams, and mentored many young staff members. With a passion for working for the greater good, she has always had a preference to work for nonprofit clients.  And, pro bono consulting and hands-on volunteering have been a high priority for equine therapy and animal rescue organizations.

As an adult amateur dressage rider, showing her own as well as trainers’ horses throughout the years — she witnessed the emotional and physical challenges that the horses faced.  A culmination of events brought her attention back to natural horsemanship. Listening to what the horses had to say and learning more about horses’ behavior and body language was a game changer. The subtle, yet strong signals shown between horses and humans brought a newfound admiration to the powerful energy that these creatures have to share. 

My goal while working with this highly skilled team is to help raise the bar and bring this organization to a level that will impact more people’s lives — to a degree that can make a significant difference in our society.

Tracie Shannon

Senior Instructor

Tracie is a Reiki Master and Instructor who also does equine massage. She provides a deep understanding of horses and human nature that is both enlightening and useful to our veterans. Her role with us is to keep our horses emotionally and mentally safe as well as to provide insights into the veterans’ experience that most of us don’t see.

Tracie lives and practices in Lakeville, CT.

The Equus Effect creates a unique opportunity for people to see a different side of themselves, a side they may not know existed. With that comes a great sense of hope, empowerment, and inner strength they carry with them into all aspects of their lives.
Leslie-Wilcox-Instructor in Training at The-Equus-Effect-Staff

Leslie Wilcox


Leslie is an experienced rider and former horse owner.  She also has her Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning certification from PATH. Working for 10 years with an equine vet gave her the opportunity to observe and appreciate first hand the relationship between human and horse. It is the healing effect horses have on people that brings her to our program and makes her contribution to our program invaluable.

To know a horse is to...know a teacher that shows you how to be present in your life. Know a therapist who lets you be the real you without judgement. Know a soft shoulder that will always be there when you need one. Know a friend who always gives it to you straight.

Veteran Mentors

Angel, Mike, Kathy, Stacia and Diane

Are you interested in helping us?

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The Equus Effect is a registered 501(C)(3) corporation. All contributions are 100% tax deductible.

The Equus Effect
37 Drum Road, Sharon, CT 06069

Main Office  (860) 364-5363

Jane Strong   Founder / Senior Instructor
(860) 364-9985

David Sonatore   Program Director / Senior Instructor
(347) 439-1777

Jesi Sarno   Executive Director
(413) 446-5698

Kelly Hitt   Communications Director
(203) 613-1107


IMPORTANT!  Please use Google maps with address above!  See map on our Contact Page. 

IMPORTANT!  If using Waze app, set destination to Sharon Town Beach, Mudge Pond Rd., Sharon, CT.  When arriving, Drum Hill is directly across.