Open Arms Therapy (OAT) - Dalhart (TX) equine therapy for the disabled

Kristen Hembree

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Kristen Hembree - Director, Public Relations


Kristen Hembree was born in the small town of Hampton in the northeast corner of Connecticut.   As long as she can remember, Kristen has always loved horses.  When Kristen turned 12 her parents kept their promise and she was able to buy her first horse.  Kristen was active in horse 4-H from the age of 12 until college when she was a junior 4-H leader.  She successfully competed in horse shows in the Halter, Showmanship, Equitation, Pleasure and Trail classes.  She also was second place in the CT State Horse Judging contest in 1986 and traveled with the CT Team to the National Horse Judging Contest in Louisville Kentucky.  She won the State 4-H Hypology contest in 1989 and she qualified 2-years in a row for the New England 4-H Horse Show held at the New England State Fair in Massachusetts.  Kristen enjoyed trail riding more than anything and the many miles of state forest behind her family farm was where she spent much of her riding time.  If you ask her what riding discipline she has spent the most time riding she would say “bareback”!  By the time she graduated high school Kristen had 2 mares and had foaled and raised one filly.  In 1989 after graduating high school she left Connecticut for Dodge City, Kansas.  She had been accepted to several schools with equine programs but going to the mid-west really interested her.  The program at Dodge City Community College (DCCC) was different than the horse programs back east in that it was Quarter Horse orientated and the school program traveled to events like the AQHA World Show in Oklahoma City, the Denver Royal Stock Show and others.  At the time her interest was in the Quarter Horse industry.  Kristen completed 2 years of college at DCCC and graduated with an Associate Degree in Equine Science.  She transferred back east to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to finish her 4 year Bachelor of Science degree, with a concentration in Equine Breeding Managment.  While at UMASS Kristen rode in the Intermediate level dressage and jumping classes.   It was here that she discovered a riding discipline that has since become her lifelong passion.  In 1993 Kristen attended Colorado State University for their short course in Equine Semen Collection and Artificial Insemination.  It was during this trip she interviewed with 2 training and breeding facilities and realized that her dream of working in the equine industry was going to have to wait.  Kristen switched gears and in her last semester she picked up some experience in micro-manipulation of oocytes and landed a job in the research department at the University of Missouri-Columbia working with swine.  Kristen co-wrote 4 published journal articles during her employment at UMC and she performed her own research animal surgeries consisting of oocyte recoveries and embryo transfers in swine.  Kristen worked in the lab for 2 years before accepting a job in management for Premium Standard Farms in Dalhart Texas in March of 1995.  She managed the Boar Stud at PSF for over 2 years before transferring, by choice, to the sow units to increase her experience.  She moved around the farm and held various positions ranging from farrowing manager to assistant site manager.  Kristen met and married Rusty Hembree while employed at PSF.  They were married in August 1996.  Kristen and Rusty have 2 sons, Jake (13) and Aaron (9).  Kristen is currently employed as Engineering Assistant at XIT Rural Telephone where she has been employed for 10 years.  Kristen and her family live on 10 acres on the edge of town where she keeps 2 horses.  She has a 16.2 hh Appendix QH mare which she someday hopes to compete in dressage and jumping.  She also keeps a paint mare that belongs to a good friend she met at Dodge City and the paint mare is due to foal in May.  When asked if she’d like to be on the Board of Directors for Open Arms Therapy her initial response was that she wasn’t sure she’d have time.  Kristen took on the challenge of public relations for OAT.  Over the course of the last year Kristen has found time to build this website, write numerous articles for the newspaper and she has helped create and document many of the forms and policies for the program.  She and her 2 sons volunteered many hours during the summer riding sessions and Kristen is also responsible for documenting our many adventures with her photos.

 “I never thought I’d get to use my “major” but now I have an opportunity to share what I know and use it to benefit these special people.  This opportunity has truly been a blessing for me.”

Kristen and Xoe July 2009

Kristen & Elf 1989

Kristen and Xoe in the 2009 XIT Parade

Kristen & Elf 1988

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