Healing Heroes Through Horsemanship, Inc

Forging Change through Equine Connection

aka Elite Vocations / Healing Heroes   |   Nipomo, CA   |

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GuideStar Charity Check

Healing Heroes Through Horsemanship, Inc

EIN: 93-2863275


Our mission is to empower Veterans, First Responders, and other at-risk groups through vocational horsemanship training, equine-assisted programs, peer-to-peer support, and vocational rehabilitation initiatives. We are dedicated to transforming lives through the power of horsemanship, while also providing re-training and re-homing opportunities for retired racehorses and other horses in transition.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Simon d'Unienville

Main address

230 Hans Pl

Nipomo, CA 93444 USA

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Subject area info

Vocational education

Animal adoptions

Animal rescue and rehabilitation

Human-animal interactions

Animal therapy

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Population served info


Economically disadvantaged people

Victims and oppressed people

People with disabilities

Substance abusers

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NTEE code info

Vocational Rehabilitation (includes Job Training and Employment for Disabled and Elderly) (J30)

IRS subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.


Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Our organization is dedicated to addressing the pressing issues of homelessness, suicide, and mental health challenges among Veterans and First Responders, particularly in California, where a significant percentage (30%) of the homeless Veteran population resides. We recognize that these individuals face unique and severe challenges, including high suicide rates and a lack of accessible support. Our Equine Connection programs, including vocational horsemanship training exclusively for Veterans and equine-assisted behavioral wellness initiatives for both Veterans and First Responders, aim to provide them with employable skills, mental health support, and a renewed sense of purpose. By harnessing the therapeutic power of equine interaction, we aim to reduce homelessness, suicide, and the emotional burdens faced by these heroes.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Elite Vocations

Elite Vocations is an extensive ten-week (210-hour) vocational horsemanship training program dedicated to empowering at-risk American Veterans who are eager to make a career change and reignite their sense of purpose. This program is provided free to at-risk Veterans in our community including those who are currently experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, are actively engaged in substance abuse recovery, and/or those with a 30%+ disability rating from the VA. Elite Vocations equips participants with the necessary tools and certification they need to enter the equine industry as professional grooms, barn managers, and assistant trainers.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Substance abusers
People with disabilities

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Right Horse Industry Partner 2023

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our organization is dedicated to transforming lives by forging change through the powerful bond between humans and horses. We aim to equip Veterans with employable skills through our vocational horsemanship training programs, fostering mental health support and increasing resilience among this group. Additionally, our equine-assisted behavioral wellness initiatives are designed to enhance the well-being of both Veterans and First Responders. Our goals include reducing homelessness among Veterans, lowering suicide rates, and improving the overall mental and emotional well-being of both these heroic communities. We also strive to provide re-training and re-homing opportunities for retired racehorses, contributing to their welfare and creating a sustainable cycle of healing. Ultimately, our vision is a future where this equine connection offers hope, resilience, purpose, and recovery to individuals facing challenges, while providing a safe haven for equine companions in need.

Our strategies involve a holistic approach that combines vocational horsemanship training, equine-assisted behavioral wellness programs, and peer-to-peer support. We provide tailored, evidence-based interventions to address the specific needs of Veterans and First Responders. Through certified instruction, equine interaction, and mindfulness techniques, we empower individuals to develop employable skills, enhance mental health, and increase resilience. Additionally, we collaborate with local communities, agencies, and partners to expand our reach and impact. By focusing on the transformative power of the equine-human connection, we aim to effect lasting positive change in the lives of those we serve.

Our organization boasts a dedicated team of professionals with diverse expertise, including clinical neuropsychology, equine therapy, mental health, veterinary medicine, and law. Our staff members bring extensive backgrounds in natural horsemanship, equine-assisted programs, and military service. We have also fostered collaboration with the tri-county Behavioral Wellness and Peer Support teams, ensuring specialized care and support for fire service personnel and law enforcement officers.

Together, our team is well-equipped to deliver transformative equine-assisted programs, provide vocational horsemanship training, and support the retraining and re-homing of retired racehorses, all aimed at achieving our mission of forging change through equine connection and empowerment.

Although we are a relatively young nonprofit organization, through our prior fiscal sponsorship model for Elite Vocations, we have already made strides in our mission. To date, we have successfully placed 80% of our Veteran graduates into meaningful employment within the equine industry. Moreover, we have witnessed quantifiable improvements in their mental health and resilience through the program.

Looking ahead, our focus remains on expanding our reach and impact. We aim to continue empowering Veterans with employable skills, reducing the risk of homelessness, and fostering positive outcomes for those who have served our country. Our commitment to the well-being of Veterans and First Responders, and our dedication to the welfare of retired racehorses remain at the forefront of our efforts.

Furthermore, we are excited about the upcoming launch of our Healing Heroes programs, tailored for Veterans and First Responders. These initiatives will further extend our reach and impact, offering enriching therapeutic experiences to these dedicated individuals.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback


Healing Heroes Through Horsemanship, Inc


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Simon d'Unienville

Simon d’Unienville brings a wealth of both equine and business experience to our team. For the past decade, Simon has dedicated himself to helping both horses and humans through natural horsemanship training. He served as Executive Director of Hope for Horses in South Africa from 2018 to 2020, and the Monty Roberts group of companies from 2020 to 2023. Simon’s accolades include recognition from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his “efforts to reduce violence in the training of horses, his dedication to assist veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress and the development of youth leaders.” As our Executive Director, Simon oversees daily operations, strategic planning, financial management, fundraising efforts, program development, and board relations, and plays a vital role in the organization’s growth and development. Simon also serves as our lead program facilitator.

There are no officers, directors or key employees recorded for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.

Healing Heroes Through Horsemanship, Inc

Board of directors
as of 10/05/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Dr. Andrew Dibbern

Joseph Halsell

Chad Huck

Dr. Mary Ann Evans

Dale Carrillo

Lawrence Carrillo

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 10/5/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Multi-Racial/Multi-Ethnic (2+ races/ethnicities)
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/05/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.