Meet Our Board

Julie Puentes,
Executive Director

Julie received her Master of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership & Ethics from St. Edward’s University and her BA in Psychology from the University of Texas.

Julie is a lifelong horse person and rider with fourteen years’ experience facilitating Equine-Assisted Learning programs. She is a trained facilitator in the Epona Method, completing a comprehensive 14-month program at Leadership Outfitters in Bozeman, Montana.

Theresa Pugh, MD
Board Chair

Theresa’s love for horses started at an early age in Virginia, where she grew up riding hunters, jumpers and dressage horses. When she’s not at the barn pampering her horse, Hazel, she can be found at Central Family Practice where she practices family and functional medicine. Theresa was a member of the first graduating class in the Facilitator Training Program in Equine Assisted Learning where she was trained to become a HorseLink facilitator.


Shannon Taylor Parks,
Vice Chair

Shannon Taylor Parks is an Austin-based marketer, educator, and entrepreneur with expertise in strategic planning, outreach, and small business growth and management.  Shannon has been involved with horses for much of her life and is interested in increasing public awareness of the unique therapeutic benefits of working with horses.  Early in life she became inspired by the powerful breakthroughs that horses and humans can experience together; that’s what drives her to advocate so passionately for HorseLink’s vital work.
Shannon attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and Virginia Tech, earning a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Physics.  She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, Brian, and two children.

Jessica Marina,

Jessica is a professional equestrian (rider, trainer, competitor), focusing on hunters, jumpers, equitation with a foundation in dressage. Her program emphasizes natural horsemanship and connection between horse and rider. She has a special gift for starting and gentling top show horses, and also (what many might call) “difficult” or “problem” horses that many trainers will overlook.

Jessica brings significant nonprofit management and business development experience to HorseLink. With nearly a decade of experience at international NGO Oxfam, as lead for Corporate and Strategic Partnerships, Jessica has garnered millions of dollars in support of Oxfam’s humanitarian and long-term development programs worldwide. She is eager to help secure significant and long-term funding for HorseLink’s programs and increase the number of beneficiaries (equine and human) served.

Jessica earned a degree in Classical Languages from Hamilton College and is a Posse Foundation Scholar.

Kate Thompson,

Kate is a native Austinite, a graduate of the The University of Texas at Austin and co-owner of Thompson Farms. While Kate is not an equestrian, she has a love for all animals and understands the important role that Horselink plays in helping horses and people. Kate also serves on the board of the Pease Park Conservancy.

Michael Kryzak,

Michael is a graduate of St. Andrews University of North Carolina and holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.  A former elementary school teacher, he currently serves as an Instructional Facilitator in Dripping Springs ISD.  Being a lifelong equestrian, former PATH registered instructor, and cancer survivor has shown Michael the incredible impact that horses can have on people.  
Michael is a three year resident of the Austin area.  He is looking forward to serving on the HorseLink Board of Directors to help continue the vision of the organization and grow the impact being made on people and horses alike.

Melanie Schwartz

While Melanie grew up in Texas and has always had a love for horses, her equestrian passion didn’t take roots until living in Sonoma, CA. In 2019, she and her husband, their 2 huskies and her OTTB Admiral made the trek to Austin.  Melanie runs her own travel planning service helping visitors to Napa, Sonoma and Texas Hill Country plan wine country vacations.  Prior to being an entrepreneur, she worked in the adverting agency world for many years honing her client service skills. She also has extensive non profit experience, notably serving on the Board of Directors for Sonoma Valley’s only pet shelter for many years.   Melanie holds an MBA and BBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Christina Crean

Christina moved from Washington D.C. to Austin in 2011 where and continued her work in the hospitality industry. In 2016, she took a job with Tito’s Handmade Vodka with the task of managing and expanding their philanthropic event footprint in Austin.  Christina has doubled the amount of charity events Tito’s contributes to and continues to grow nonprofit relationships, while managing events throughout the state of Texas. Becoming a Texan encouraged her to reinvigorate her love for of horseback riding, which was initially discovered at summer camp as a child. As an adult, Christina continues to take riding lessons as a form of exercise and therapy.

“I feel very fortunate to have found HorseLink which has given Padi a new career working with people. HorseLink understands that retired show horses have been exposed to so much and have a trustful and giving nature and helping people is what they loved to do. So glad that Padi can be a part of the work HorseLink does with veterans and with those dealing with trauma through illness or loss. This work is so very important in helping people heal and move forward with their lives.”
–Judi, Previous Owner