Meet the People behind the Summit

The Best Horse Practices Summit is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization run by an executive director and many volunteers. It is served by a small, talented Board of Directors and steering committee.

Board of Directors:

Board president and Summit executive director, Maddy Butcher

Board President & Executive Director, Maddy Butcher: Aside from her duties of running the Summit, Maddy Butcher also maintains Cayuse Communications, a family of horse- and outdoor-oriented websites. She’s a former free-lancer for the Boston Globe and Wall St. Journal with a passion for learning and sharing knowledge with others for the betterment of horse lives. Butcher is the author of Horse Head: Brain Science & Other Insights

Board member Debbie Hight

Board Member: Debbie Hight, an active horsewoman from Maine. Hight is also chair of the Maine Grain Alliance board of directors and has excellent organizational talents, great brainstorming, and networking abilities. Hight coordinates Summit volunteers with fellow board member, Julie Kenney. She rides English and Western with her mare, Roxy. Read one of her guest columns here.

Board Member & Trade Show Manager: Julie Kenney, an avid Maine horsewoman and a warm and welcome presence in our popular trade show.

Julie Kenney

Kenney also manages the volunteers with Debbie Hight. When she is not helping to run Kenney Landscaping, Julie rides and trailers from her home in Harpswell where she runs Blackberry Farm. Read one of her guest columns here. 

Board member and popular Summit presenter, Dr. Sheryl King

Board Member: Dr. Sheryl King. She’s the past president of the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois and a professor emeritus, former Equine Science Program Director at Southern Illinois University. Dr. King was elected a Fellow of the Equine Science Society in 2009, an Associate in the Fifty Year Horse Society, an SIU Outstanding Scholar and Faculty Service Award recipient.  She has authored many scientific research publications as well as general horse articles and has spoken on horse management topics on five continents. She will present on tick-borne disease at the 2019 Best Horse Practices Summit.

Board Member: Josh McElroy, scholarship coordinator. McElroy is the horsemanship instructor at “The Stables” alternative high school at

Josh McElroy

Central Kentucky Riding for Hope (CKRH) in Lexington KY, where he also coordinates programs for veterans.  McElroy grew up in Texas and Oklahoma on ranches and has been training horses for over 25 years. Josh was introduced to the Summit by Steve Peters and Butcher when he connected over using evidence-based practices in his high school teaching curriculum. Josh also served for over 13 years in the Army as a Special Operations Medic. He’s excited to help others gain access to the Summit and sees it as a resource for making their interactions with horses more correct and beneficial for the horse. Read what he had to say about 2018 BHPS. 

Board Member: Mary Ellen Spaite was a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, before becoming a clinical psychologist practicing in Indiana. She is a long-time practitioner of animal-assisted therapies/activities and is involved with equine training and promoting equine well-being for over 25 years. She runs her farm, Harmony Ridge, with her husband, a neurologist. They have a herd of rescued donkeys, mini-horses, a Haflinger, and an Arabian mare.

Mary Ellen Spaite

Steering Committee:

Nicole Churilla graduated with an Associate’s degree in Horse Science in 2017 from The Ohio State University ATI and followed with a Bachelor’s in Animal Science from Ohio State University, graduating with honors in 2019. She lives in Ohio where she is a horseman and instructor for Windy Hill Farm.

Nicole Churilla

She is passionate about retraining horses and sharing her experiences with other aspiring horse enthusiasts. As an advocate for the horse, she is excited to be involved with the Summit.

Robert Sheckler grew up in Florida and New Hampshire and spent as much of his time as possible in the ring and the barn, despite his allergy to horses. He was always just as happy mucking stalls and picking feet as he was showing jumpers. Now he is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, New England’s Premier Horse Shelter.

Robert Sheckler

Robert Sheckler focuses his energies on connecting people and horses. At MSSPA, Robert manages a large group involving hundreds of volunteers, including a program for incarcerated women at the Southern Maine Women’s Re-entry Center.

Robert values learning and teaching; he helps every volunteer and visitor to the shelter leave with more knowledge of horses and the science that underlies their care than they arrived with.

Dr. Steve Peters, Utah. Steve is director of the Center for Brain Health at Intermountain Healthcare Systems and the co-author with Martin Black of Evidence-Based Horsemanship. He’s a skilled presenter and brings a wealth of who’s-who in-horse-world knowledge to the table. Peters will present on brain science for the trail and arena at the 2019 Summit. He collaborates with Maddy Butcher on HorseHead.

Kimberly Loveless, a retired career federal employee, owns and operates Gin Lot Farms, LLC with her husband Larry in Virginia.  Kimberly is a life-long horse owner and trainer, who has gentled and trained their six American Mustangs in Classical Dressage.   Kimberly works with Mustang Heritage Foundation and the wild horse program managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Kimberly Loveless

Well versed in many training disciplines, Kimberly has focused her efforts over the last few years on working with challenging horses, incorporating natural horsemanship with positive reinforcement.

Robyn Schiller, California. She’s the brains behind Warwick Schiller Performance Horsemanship and a former Human Resources director. An accomplished rider and a quiet, effective, and welcome addition to our team.

Amy Skinner, North Carolina. Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She currently lives in North Carolina where she starts colts, and rides and teaches dressage and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others. We’re excited for her Summit presentation with Katrin Silva this October

Dr. Petra Sullwold is wearing Patagonia WorkWear

Dr. Petra Sullwold, Colorado. Sullwold is a human and animal chiropractor with a successful practice in southwestern Colorado. She’s produced videos Stretch That Dog and will soon have Stretch That Horse available. The veteran rider, originally from Austria, introduced Dr. Gerd Heuschmann to Summit attendees in the past.

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