Petaluma’s equestrian globetrotter

Katherine Theus blends lifetime of helping others with love of horses|

Katherine Theus is determined to become comfortable riding her classic, shadow blue 88 Honda motorcycle.

“I’ve had it for two years,” she explains. “But hills still intimidate me. Which is why I’m slowly exploring the flat streets of Petaluma.” Horses, however, are an entirely different story. “I’ve been working with horses professionally since I was at Terra Linda High, and worked as a trail guide in Olema.”

Katherine explains, “One of the reasons I went to Boston University was because of their equestrian program.”

Earning her BA in Photojournalism with a minor in Spanish, she soon began working with nonprofits on several continents. Katherine’s first non-profit gig started during the summer before she went to BU.

“I spent the summer in a tiny rural Mexican village teaching the locals about health and sanitation,” she says. “In 2007, I traveled to Morocco, and most of 2010 was either spent in Ghana or wanting to be there with the 26 beautiful children at the United Hearts Children’s Center in Bawjiase.”

Two years later, Katherine returned to Ghana to raise money to make the school bigger and roomier.

Katherine put her photo-journalist and Spanish degrees to good use by traveling to Ecuador to work for the Third Millennium Alliance (TMA), a non-profit established to preserve the most threatened tropical forest in the world. This is the group that established the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve to protect one of the last major remnants of Ecuador’s tropical rainforest and cloud forest that still survives. She spent most of her time in Ecuador at TMA’s headquarters in Quito managing donor communications, web content, and social communications.

Katherine is delighted with the opportunity to work for a horse-based non-profit as Development & Communications Associate at Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center on Lakeville Highway.

“It’s a perfect fit for me,” she says. “Giant Steps believes that riding and caring for horses can be a life-changing tool for the 125 children and adults we work with each week. Ranging in age from 4 to 88, our riders have a variety of physical and mental challenges including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders. Our military program focuses on veterans coping with PTSD and military sexual trauma as well as families from Travis Air Force Base. We use English saddles to allow greater contact between the horse and the rider, and pair the horse and rider based upon their horse’s size and temperament.”

Katherine works closely with Giant Steps Executive Director Beth Porter on every segment of fundraising for the non-profit.

“And on the Communications side,” Katherine adds, “I wear so many hats - newsletter, website, table events, and community outreach - I’m not at the barn that often.”

Which is why Katherine exercises horses at Willowtree Stables in Novato and rides her own horses Spritz and Houdina.

“I really enjoy a life centered around horses-It’s my own form of hippo-therapy.”

Fluent in the ways of horses and the language of Ghanans, Katherine is almost certainly the only Twi-speaking horse-and-motorcycle rider in Petaluma.

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