Author Archives: Mari Parino

Xenophon’s Silver Jubilee Gala is SOLD OUT!!!

Wow! What a tremendous response we have had! Thank you to all who have bought tickets and will be there to celebrate 25 years of Xenophon changing lives through equine-assisted therapy. We are so excited for this event. We apologize to those who were not able to purchase tickets. Please call our office, (925)377-0871 or email Mari,,  and we can get you on a wait list. Sometimes spots open up. For those of you who have spots reserved through Mari or a table captain, you may still make your payment online. Again, thank you to everyone who has already contributed to the success of this special gala!

Long Liners Get Double the Pleasure From Their Training

While the center may seem quite without the hustle and bustle of lessons, much happens behind the scenes during our winter break. The horses are given exercise and training, as are some of our volunteers. Xenophon continually strives to provide the highest quality programs possible, as well as the safest. As fundamental part of achieving this goal is training for our volunteers.

Our horse handlers play a key role in all of our programs. There is always more to be learned about the subtleties of working with our equine partners. We are blessed to have a group of dedicated and enthusiastic individuals working as horse handlers at the center. One such group, our Long Liners, who handle our horses for Hippotherapy sessions, turned out in force for a training day at the center on December 11, 2018. In Hippotherapy sessions, the horse is driven from behind, rather than lead from the front. In this manner, the horse’s movements can be more controlled, allowing for the consistency and precision needed by the therapist. Finesse and skill are needed in driving the horse. Our Long Liners go through extensive training and continue to work on their skills and connection to the horse through regular training sessions. This is a very dedicated group of volunteers, evidence through their commitment to this 5 hour training day!

Their day consisted of learning the personalities and handling sensitivities of each horse at the center, practicing proper driving techniques, improving their skills through difficult obstacle courses, as well as practicing movements and changes of gait particular to Hippotherapy sessions. Of course, all work and no play is dull and boring, so a wonderful lunch was provided through the generosity of Diablo Foods, and the day ended with the double the fun, as each horse handler got the chance to drive Mari’s pair of Friesians. All in all a great day! Thank you, Long Liners, for coming out and devoting so many hours to Xenophon.

Tips For Change Fundraiser Raises $3,400

Gianni’s Italian Bistro in San Ramon is known for its wonderful food and is touted to have the best Gnochi to be found in the East Bay.  But, what they are best known for is the impact they are having on their community through their “Tips for Change” fundraising program.  On Monday evenings, a day when the restaurant is usually closed, Melanie and Gianni Bartoletti open the restaurant for small non-profits in the community.  The non-profit invites the guests to dinner and provides the wait staff, Gianni provides the wonderful food.  The non-profit keeps all of the tips, and Gianni’s restaurant donates 10% of the food sales.

Xenophon has been fortunate to participate for over 5 years.  On Monday, December 4, 2017, our dining guests arrived.  In testament to the food, Xenophon was able to sell out the restaurant!  Over 120 guests were served that evening.  Our servers for the evening, Laura Fend, Jean Johnstone, Haley Mathews, Danielle Coburn, Mari Parino, Lisa Powell, Lindsay Hendricks and Heidi Koch all donned their aprons and nervously hung onto their order books.  Sam Parino came on board as bus boy and a prior Xenophon Student, Rebecca Weston, helped to hostess.   Despite the inexperience of the servers, salads and entrees made it to the table, cheese and pepper were applied, and water refilled.  Thank goodness for understanding guests.  There was no mistaking the jovial atmosphere and the good natured jibes between guests and servers were taken in stride.

Thank you to our wonderful supporters who came for dinner and gave so generously in tips.  Thank you also to the Bartolettis for this wonderful opportunity.  Please be sure to join us next year, but make your reservations early!

A Huge Thank You to Our Wonderful Volunteers

On Saturday, November 18, 2018, Xenophon wrapped up its 24th season.  It was a wonderful year, filled with fantastic programs: Hippotehrapy, Therapeutic Riding, Bridle Paths to Success, Operation Hooves on the Ground and Connected Horse.  Not a one of these programs would have happened without the dedicated support of our wonderful volunteers.  There were so many jobs to fill, from sidewalker to horsehandler, muckers to feeders.  There were board positions to be filled, auction chair, compost manager, repairman, arena grader.  The list goes on and on with the help needed to keep our non-profit functioning.  So many people came to the center and gave of their time and talent so that we could serve our community of children and adults with special needs.  No job seemed too small or too great.   No expression of gratitude is too great to say thank you for all these hours.  Our volunteers logged in over 17,000 hours this year.  That is spectacular.  Thank you to each and every one of you for all that you do!  Each of you is cherished beyond measure!

“Volunteers walk with working boots, but leave angel footprints”

Xenophon Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

Saturday, November 18, 2018 was Xenophon’s day to honor our amazing volunteers.  As soon as lessons were finished, a gang of helpers converted our arena from riding center to outdoor cafe.  The taco truck arrived, the food materialized and the party started.  Keeping with tradition, the afternoon was kicked off by cheers from each day’s volunteers and they did not disappoint.    Wednesday pranced in to a classical march with lead horses AND their “drivers” doing quite the piaffe.  We had singing renditions and clever poems.  While some of the staff made a valiant attempt at a “Cheers” singalong, it was decided they should start practicing now for next year.  The Connected Horse crew joined in the fun and the Tuesday veterans group brought tears to our eyes as they shared their experience .  Who knew we had so much talent amongst us?

As is also tradition, we honored a volunteer teen with the Patience Honorary Teen of the Year award.  This year’s winner was Kaitlin. Parodi.  Kaitlin has been volunteering for Xenophon for a year.  In that time, she worked her way from sidewalker to groom to horsehandler.  Kaitlin has come to the center for multiple shifts per week,giving generously of her time despite a rigorous school schedule.  From her first day at the center, Kaitlin demonstrated a n enthusiasm and willingness that set her apart.  She could be found cleaning waterers, mucking stalls, cleaning tack and fitting helmets.  You rarely found her in the lounge, even to get a drink of water.  She always managed to make herself an integral part of the lesson program.  It was a joy to honor this special teen and we were thrilled her parents could join us for lunch and the award.  Katilin received a plaque and her name will be added to those of other teen winners on the perpetual plaque in the office.

Of course, the day concluded with the awarding of the coveted “Xen wear”  to those who earned their T-shirts, hats and gifts.  Our gift awards are a small token of appreciation for the house that each of volunteers give.  They come with the deepest of appreciation.


Connor Akers Builds New Viewing Deck

Xenophon would like to extend a big thank you to Connor Akers for building the lovely viewing deck on the side of our outdoor arena. Connor built the deck for his Boy Scout Eagle Project. Connor was an amazing young man to work with. Connor spent months building a model prototype, consulting with construction specialists and securing a donation for the building supplies. When building day finally came around, Connor brought a large group of scouts and was the perfect job foreman, overseeing the safe, and precise pouring of concrete, framing, and building. The new deck is spectacular and was a much needed addition in order to provide our parents with a safe and visible place to watch their child’s hippotherapy session or therapeutic riding lesson. Thank you, Connor, for all your hard work and efforts.

Xenophon would also like to thank ETIC Engineering for their generous donation which was used to purchase the building supplies for the deck. Your support of our program is greatly appreciated.

Xenophon Pilots “Connected Horse”, an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Program

Xenophon is fortunate to have a staff and a Board of Directors who are dedicated and hard-working people. Never ones to less the moss grow on their feet, they are forward thinking and committed to finding ways to maximize the use of our beautiful center, as well as to meet the needs of the disabled in our community. It is this drive to serve that has led the center to start Operation Hooves on the Ground, our veteran’s program, as well as Bridle Paths to Success, our adult program.

Xenophon has had to face limitations in terms of what we can offer in the way of riding. Restrictions to our herd size (county ordinance) and the size of individual horses had limited our ability to provide riding programs for adults. But, evidence has shown that horses offer therapeutic value in many ways, not just from sitting astride. Horses are extremely perceptive animals and can sense stress, anger or other emotions and often mirror these back to the individual interacting with them. They will willingly to work with any person, regardless of illness or limitations. With our therapy horses, their calmness and patience reduces stress. On these principles, Xenophon designed out unmounted programs for vets and adults.

This is also the basis behind Connected Horse. This non-profit organization uses evidence-based models utilizing non-mounted equine guided activities to help individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s and their care partners. Connected Horse recently conducted research projects at Stanford University and UC Davis to measure the effectiveness of these horse interactions on stress reduction and quality of life indicators. Both studies confirmed positive outcomes on these indicators.

Connected Horse was looking for a center to pilot their program and Xenophon rose to the challenge, yet again realizing the need in the community for help with this population. Over 35 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and there are very few services for these individuals and their caregivers.

The Connected Horse program had its first day at Xenophon on August 30, 2017. It consisted of 3 “dyads” (an individual suffering from dementia and their care partner), a Connected Horse facilitator, Liz Williams, our staff members Tineke and Wanda, as well as a number of Xenophon volunteers. Activities with the horses included observing herd behavior, grooming, leading them, and connecting with them over the fence – all were intended to teach non-verbal communication skills to both care partners and persons living with dementia. Reflection on these experiences was the focus through out the workshop. The program ran for 4 weeks.

The response was amazing from both the perspective of the participants as well as the volunteers. Said one caregiver, “This benefits both people because this caretaking job requires 24/7, high alert. The change of pace makes me feel calmer. I know from knowing Jim for 56 years that he’s content. It’s relaxing to watch him relax.” Connected Horse co-founder Paula Hertel explains the benefits for individuals living with dementia, “For people used to only receiving care, this process reverses that. They become the givers of care. The roles of caregiver and cared-for melt away.”

Our first pilot program was featured in the East Bay Times.

The response has been tremendous and we will continue with a second session of workshops later this month, with a third scheduled for November. Xenophon has applied for grant funds to continue the program into next year. We are grateful to be able to offer this opportunity to people struggling to cope with this debilitating disease. For more information or opportunities to participate, please contact Mari Parino at Xenophon, (925)377-0871. A screen process for potential participants is necessary.

Perfect Day for the Xenophon Horse Show and Open House

The preparations for Xenophon’s Annual Horse Show and Open House began last February. Our riders have been working on their balance, strength and skills since the opening of the season on February 21, 2017. They have worked tirelessly to master neck control, straight posture, ability to use their reins, mastering leading, or riding independently and remembering patterns. Their hard work shone through on Saturday as over 48 riders demonstrated their skills through a variety of classes. The day was started off with pizzazz by our Opening Ceremony class to the beautiful music of Dulcinea, an all-girl Acapella choir from Los Lomas High School. The girls harmonies echoed through the covered arena as our class paraded our country’s colors, while former students, Rebecca Weston and Sierra Olson proudly paraded in with the Xenophon banner. Our Hippotherapy Parade classes followed, and then it was on to Walk Trot, Trail, Showmanship and Dressage. It was a day to spend with family and friends, taking in demonstrations by Canine Companions for Independence; a Pas de Deux, by instructor, Melissa Maker, and student, Laurel Gallion; and a BBQ lunch hosted by the Xenophon Board of Directors.

Our students weren’t the only ones prepping months in advance. Instructors were planning classes months ago. Danielle, Lindsay, and Linda, with the help of Diane Morabito, spent weeks coordinating 49 riders with 7 horses and various tack and equipment. Volunteers from Chevron came mid-September to freshen up paint and spruce up our flower beds. Jim Fix-It Taylor was out the week before revving up the tractor to prepare the field for parking. A cadre of volunteers arrived on Friday to set up pop tents, tables and chairs and bathe horses. Then, over 75 volunteers arrived the morning of to ensure that all was ready, resulting in a perfect horse show that flowed seamlessly and created a day of smiles, accomplishments, and fun.

Please do not miss the beautiful picture gallery that is posted below. Pictures can be purchased through Zenfolio.

Xenophon wishes to thank the following groups whose help was invaluable:

  • National Charity League of Lamorinda: provided snacks and drinks for the volunteers and volunteered their time on Saturday.
  • Boys Team Charity of Lamorinda: volunteered on Saturday to help with traffic control and arena set-up.
  • Boy Scout Troop 810: volunteered on Saturday and helped with parking, traffic and helped to clean up the center at the end of the day.
  • Dulcinea Acapella Choir: Who so beautifully provided music and our national anthem.
  • Mike Miller and the United Steel Workers Union #326 from the Phillips 66 refinery who purchased our trophies and sponsored the horse show in addition to bringing their fabulous BBQ for our use.
  • Clipped Wings: a group of retired United Airlines Flight Attendants who helped prep for our BBQ and run the table.
  • Canine Companions for Independence, East Bay Chapter: for a wonderful demonstration.
  • Our Amazing Volunteers: who do so many things and help in so many ways that it is impossible to mention.
  • Our Fantastic Staff: who worked tirelessly to put on a fabulous event.
  • Our Board of Directors: for sponsoring our BBQ
  • Our BBQ Team: Mark Caron, Joe Dionne, Greg Welch, Mike Miller, Brian Neville, Bruce and Trudy Presser
  • Our MC: Michelle Bushong, who stood all day with a microphone on her head and did a wonderful job announcing and educating our audience.
  • Our Photographers: Jim and Kelly Pire who are magic at capturing the essence of Xenophon.

Pre-Show Work in Progress!

It takes a village, as they say, and setting up for a horse show and open house is no exception. The center was buzzing on Friday (and the entire week before) with preparations for the show. A huge thank you goes out to all the volunteers who came on Friday, September 29, 2017 and bathed, braided, dragged, popped up tents, set up tables and chairs and cleaned the office and lounge. The center and horses looked beautiful. Let the show begin!!!