Board of Directors
Amy Hudnall, Executive Director
Amy Hudnall has been the chair of Horse Helpers since 2008. She is a senior lecturer at Appalachian State University in the Departments of History and Global Studies and has devoted years of volunteer time to first dog rescue and then horse rescue. Specializing in equine behavior modification and nutrition Hudnall strives to provide a safe community for horses and the people who come to the rescue to volunteer and visit. Hudnall was the chairperson of Horse Helpers for 8 years and now serves as Horse Helpers’ Executive Director. Her goals are to professionalize Horse Helpers and help it evolve into an organization with a lasting influence.
Andy Koch, President
Dr. Andy Koch is a political philosopher and political science professor at Appalachian State University. A member of the Horse Helpers board for nine years, Andy provides Horse Helpers with sound political and parliamentarian advice and helps bring a pragmatic perspective to issues that are often fraught with emotional elements. Andy joined the board after adopting one of the first horses that Amy Hudnall adopted, followed by a second Tennessee Walker.
Merrilie Mangels, Vice President
Merrilie Mangels is a retired college professor from Miami, Florida. Her journey with horses began with three trips around the pony ring for 25 cents in the 1940’s. She graduated to English riding lessons, and as long as she could remember she also took tap and ballet lessons (which she hated!). Years of a mélange of horse experience followed: show groom in south Florida, riding instructor at summer camp, recreational Western riding out West, director of horsemanship at the Bar 717 Ranch in California (breeding, training, vetting via instructions from vet on a hand “crank phone,” teaching, wrangling, and “pony express,” yes, mail carrier to outposts. As an adult, she was the co-owner of a thoroughbred farm in Miami, breeding and training for racing, and showing hunters and jumpers. She was involved with all daily support activities: bathing, clipping, mucking, bedding, feeding, medicating, trailering and all the rest that goes with it! Merrilie is now retired in Banner Elk and an equine consultant for The Farm development and Amy! One final note, my last ride was an Icelandic horse (in Iceland) in 2016.
Dede Widenhouse, Secretary
Dede is originally from Concord, NC and a retired high school teacher. She first became interested in horses at age eleven when she took riding lessons. After a long hiatus of over forty years, she returned to horses by volunteering for five years at a thoroughbred farm in Miami. She then moved to Banner Elk, NC in 2003. At a charity auction in 2013, she bid on two riding lessons at a local barn. Those two lessons and the lessons that followed reminded her of her passion for horses. After attending Horse Helper’s annual fundraiser Eat, Drink, Bid, she began volunteering weekly and eventually was asked to serve on the board, currently as the Board Secretary. At the age of sixty-six, she finally owns her first horse and enjoys the daily responsibilities involved.
Heather Dixon Fowler
Dr. Heather Dixon-Fowler is an Associate Professor and acting department chair in the Management Department at Appalachian State University. She enjoys bridging relationships between representatives from business, non-profit organizations, and the academic community. Although she is an educator and an avid reader and writer, Heather ultimately considers travel to be the best form of education. She has an adventurous spirit and finds fulfillment in going to off-the-beaten-path destinations where she enjoys rich culture and making new friends. Heather is the proud mom of two teenagers, 3 dogs, a horse, 2 rabbits, a lizard, and a flock of chickens. She is thankful to live in the special High Country community.
Dr. Paul Gates
Paul Gates is a former lawyer and journalist on the faculty at Appalachian State University, where he teaches media law and researches First Amendment issues. He has worked for newspapers in New York, Maine, Louisiana and California and practiced law in New Orleans before earning a Ph.D. at the University of Florida.He and his wife, Diane, both Massachusetts natives, have lived in Boone since 1995.
Kelly grew up around the Boone area and always had a keen interest in horses. She started saving for a horse when she was five years old, started riding at the age of ten, and finally purchased her first (and only) horse when she was thirteen. Kelly financed her passion for horses through work at a local equestrian facility throughout high school and college, as first water girl, then stall girl, and finally assistant manager. Many years later, she found myself unable to provide care for her beloved mare, and Horse Helpers was able to fill her needs through her sunset years. Now, established in her professional career as an accountant, she is so grateful for the opportunity to give something back and be of service to this incredible organization. It is her hope that her understanding of financial matters, coupled with her experience as a horsewoman, will be a valuable asset to the board and the organization both now and in the future.
A lifelong horse owner, Megan grew up in the High Country riding and working with rescue animals. Her interests range from photography to art to social justice issues. Today she is a student at ASU in pre-law and applies her years of rescue experience to equine. Megan manages the rescue’s employees, is the first line of defense for all equine medical questions and emergencies, and aids in administrative and event planning. She has been an integral part of Horse Helpers for nine years and a board member for the last five years.
Dr. Tom Pace
Dr. Tommy Pace is retired professor with a EdD in Special Education. He taught at Appalachian State University for a number of years before moving to St. Augustine and Flagler College, from which he retired. He and his wife returned to the mountains and he has since devoted his time to two loves music as a board member of Mountain Home Music, and horses, as a board member and volunteer. Tom brings real heart to Horse Helpers, he spearheaded the Chester and Hank Education Program and helps guide the organization in working more and more with special needs populations.
Elizabeth Wegmann grew up in New Orleans, LA and amazingly owned, loved, and rode a gem of a horse in the heart of NO through her teens and twenties. He was a gentle soul, who took great care of her and her siblings and cementing her love of all things equine forever. In 1990 she made Watauga County her home. Around 2009 Elizabeth started following and photographing the wild, feral pony bands that live in the Virginia Parks, Grayson Highlands State Park, and bordering Mt Rogers National Recreation Area. She has tracked them ever since, including following the annual sale of babies every fall. In 2014 she bought two foals and another in 2016! So after a 30 year hiatus she is again surrounded by equine. Her hope, as a Horse Helpers board member and volunteer coordinator is to educate people on the care, rescue and rehabilitation of ponies and horses. She hopes to help spread the word about Horse Helpers across the High Country!
Dawn is the Operations Manager of a local business her partner, Kevin, has owned for 40 years. She has been Volunteering & Fundraising for a number of local non-profits for 26 years, 5 years with Horse Helpers. Dawn and Kevin are long time horse owners and have proudly adopted 2 from the Rescue. 5 Years ago Amy Hudnall told Dawn she needed to buy tickets and go to the Eat.Drink.Bid fundraiser and to bring her friends, and she did. Not long after that Dawn was on the Board and spearheading the next Eat.Drink.Bid fundraiser. Her mission with Horse Helpers is to find fun ways to raise money for the rescue that involves and includes our local community.
Frank C. “Ham” Wilson, ex officio
Frank C. “Ham” Wilson, III has spent thirty-one years successfully trying lawsuits in state and federal courts in Boone, Newland and Jefferson, the state of North Carolina, and Alabama. Mr. Wilson’s practice is 75% litigation, and he has extensive experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury, construction, real estate and insurance matters. Ham helped to establish Horse Helpers as a corporation in 2004 and joined the board in 2008. He assists with all legal questions and issues regarding Horse Helpers contracts, rescues, adoptions and civil cases.
Dr. Robert Monin, DVM, ex officio
Dr. Monin is an associate at Tennessee’s Mountain Empire Large Animal Hospital. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University College of Veterinarians, following in his father’s footsteps as a rancher and large animal vet. Dr. Monin provides the rescue with sound veterinarian advice and insight in regard to health care, illnesses, and the costs surrounding treatment along with assisting in the every difficult decision regarding euthanasia. He has been Horse Helpers’ main vet for eight years and understands well our mission and aims.