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Meet The Team


Renee Bouffard, LCSW
Founder, Executive Director

Renee founded Healing Hoofbeats in 2016 and continues to steer the vision of this practice as Executive Director. Renee has been working in the field of social work for over a decade in residential settings and community mental health. Renee specializes in complex and single incident trauma, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Depression, Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder with individuals of all ages.

Liz Carlucci, LCSW

Liz graduated from Fordham University with a Master of Social Work. She holds a Post-Master’s Certification from the University of Denver as an Equine Assisted Mental Health Practitioner; and as an ADHD Certified Clinical Services Provider. For nearly three decades she has worked in various roles for children and families in Connecticut.  Liz specializes in supporting individuals whose lives are impacted by Anxiety, Depression, trauma, ADD/ADHD and neurodiversity.

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Nikki Hedden, LMSW

Nikki earned her Master's degree from the University of New Hampshire. She has worked in community mental health in various roles for five years and has a passion for working with adolescents and young adults. Nikki specializes in Anxiety Disorders, ADHD/ADD, Family Needs and Trauma. As a lifelong woman in agriculture, she brings her understanding of animal psychology and love for nature-based models of therapy to the practice.  

Ashley Kenney
Development Director

Ashley Kenney has worked in the equine and agricultural industries as a horse trainer, riding instructor, farmer, and operations manager.  With nearly 20 years in these fields she formed a consulting firm to further her passion of helping mission-aligned not for profits meet their fundraising goals, create strategic plans, and grow. Ashley is also currently the Head Coach for Fairfield University's Equestrian Team and looks forward to meeting with volunteers, donors, and supporters as she spreads the word of the Healing Hoofbeats of CT mission.


Meet  the Board

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Nicole Bouffard
President & Treasurer

Nicole has been with Ameriprise Financial for over two decades as a financial advisor and holds a business degree from Sacred Heart University. Nicole grew up around horses and is passionate about the importance of mental health for Veterans and fellow humans. Nicole has been serving on the Board since Healing Hoofbeat's inception and continues to bring her heart and expertise to our growth.  

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John Freiheit
Vice President

John has 15 years of experience working as an accountant and is currently a tax executive at a Fortune 500 company. John holds an undergraduate degree in
Finance and an MBA from UConn, as well as a master’s in taxation from
Northeastern University. John served in the Marine Corps, including two combat deployments to Iraq. This led him to seek out opportunities to serve Veterans, which led him to our Board in 2021.

Cate Rusnak-Craig

Cate is an Attorney at The Law Offices of Ericson, Scalise & Mangan with offices in New Britain and Avon, CT. She specializes in estate planning, probate, Title XIX/ Elder Law, Medicaid and asset/wealth protection. Cate has always had a passion for mental health awareness and the welfare of animals. She is excited to serve on the Board of Directors for Healing Hoofbeats as a way to help those that have experienced trauma find a way to work through their experiences to live happier, healthier, more peaceful lives. 

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Sarah Colonese

Sarah works for CVS Health (formerly Aetna) and has almost 16 years experience in the healthcare industry. After many years on the finance side of the organization, she took her current Strategy and Sales Effectiveness role supporting the President of the Northeast Region and his sales teams. She supports external business partner relationships, continued market growth, and sales training initiatives. 


A Connecticut native, Sarah grew up in Kent and now lives in West Hartford with her husband, John, and eight-year-old daughter, Ellie. No stranger to the equestrian world, Sarah and Ellie currently both ride at Folly Farm in Simsbury. Health and wellness have always been a passion, and she feels strongly about the accessibility to mental health (and overall health) care and women’s health. In her spare time, Sarah acts as PTO President for a West Hartford Public School, coaches West Hartford Girls Softball. 


Brian C. Naylor

Brian attended Unity College for Forestry, then served in the Navy for 20 years. After 12 additional years in the Air Force, he retired as a Master Sergeant. He is currently a state CHOICES counselor and has been working as a Veterans and Independent Living Advocate
for 10 years. Full circle and now 42 years later Brian is thrilled to be back
working not only in the outdoors with Healing Hoofbeats, but he can continue to work with youth and be an Advocate for Veterans and Seniors.

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Paul Laedke

Paul Laedke has over 20 years of experience in the field of education.  After nearly two decades in the classroom, Paul has transitioned to a school counseling position at Nonnewaug High School. He is also a youth clinician at Danbury Youth Services while pursuing additional credentials in the field of counseling.  Paul earned an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education/History and a M.S. in counseling from Western Connecticut State University.  Paul served in the Army National Guard for 9 years where he developed a strong passion for service.  He is the co-founder of local, veteran-owned 501(c)(3) 2NDGO that facilitates physical activities for area veterans and first responders.


Paul is very passionate about serving others and looks forward to moving the mission of Healing Hoofbeats of Connecticut further.



Animals are the perfect partner for therapy. They utilize their keen sensitivity to non-verbal communication to assist us in developing new relationship skills, regulating emotions and beginning the healing process.


Our healing partners are dedicated to this unique work and appreciate your support for their wellness. Each four-legged partner has different needs, which recur monthly. Sponsorship of our animals plays a key role in our ability to keep them happy, healthy, sound, and present.

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