She’s 5’3” with a never-ending supply of energy, a deep well of creativity and a subtle sense of humor. Karen Mikita-Kaufhold is Mane Stream’s new President of the Board of Directors and we are excited! An extremely dedicated volunteer for all our programs and events, she is also always there when anyone from Mane Stream needs her to calmly assess any situation. These qualities have been put to good use over the past 17 years that she’s been volunteering at Mane Stream. We hope you enjoy her story where you’ll learn about her passion for her dogs and the participants and horses of Mane Stream.
Karen never rode a horse until she moved to Hunterdon County. She took lessons at Fairwin Farm in Annandale with Nanci Urban. (For those who remember Lily the pony, it was Nanci who donated her to Mane Stream). Karen loved her lessons and even leased a pony and horse at one time.
Karen never had the desire to show and took lessons purely for pleasure. While she is not currently taking lessons and misses it at times, she fills her time with agility training and competing with her 3 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels…and, of course, volunteering at Mane Stream.
Before all this though, Karen graduated from Montclair State College with a BA in Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design. She continued her education with interior design and accounting classes. Now, she and her husband of 28 years, Steve, enjoy spending weekends and a lot time during the summer at their lake house in White Lake, NY which is in the southern part of the Catskills.
Karen says, “Our cabin is a great place to relax. I love to snowshoe in the winter and kayak in the summer on the lake. We also enjoy hiking and taking long walks with our dogs.”
She got her first Cavalier in October of 2004, a 16-week old puppy they named Emma. They were looking for a companion dog for their Golden Retriever, Slim and chose a Cavalier for its affectionate, playful, active and sporting traits.
Soon after completing puppy obedience classes at Top Dog Obedience School, Karen and Emma starting training in agility. Two years later they competed in the Novice Jumpers course where Emma performed perfectly with a score of 100 and took home the first place ribbon. After two more trials where Emma qualified and placed, she received her Novice Jumpers with Weaves Preferred title. After that Karen was hooked on the sport for the bonding experience with her dog and how much fun they had together.
Since 2007, Karen and her dogs have won several titles, with the highest title earned with Gracie. Gracie got her MJPB which is a Master Bronze Jumper with Weaves Preferred title in AKC. You must first complete Novice, Open, Excellent, before moving into Masters level and the highest achievement is a Championship MACH or PACH title in AKC.
Karen’s ultimate agility goal: “I am working to achieve a MACH title with one of my dogs and also to go to the Westminster agility trial. Gracie had enough qualifying points to enter Westminster in 2016 but, unfortunately, she hurt her leg and back, and in 2017 she succumbed to congestive heart failure.”
Currently, Karen trains at Top Dog once a week with all three dogs -Reggie (Tri-color) and Rue (Blenheim) both 5 years old and litter mates, and Willie (Ruby), 1-year-old. Karen has jumps and weave poles at home and trains on the flat. In October of 2016, she and Reggie competed at the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA Agility National Specialty where they were awarded the Evening Star Open Agility Award. This is given to those who have achieved the Highest Combined Score in the four trials in the Open Class.
Are you wondering how she has time for Mane Stream? Well, we did say she has a limitless supply of energy! Karen has been volunteering at Mane Stream for 17 years which makes her one of our longest volunteers tallying several thousand hours over the years. She says her favorite part is seeing the participants' progress, whether it is becoming a better rider in adaptive by learning new riding skills or just seeing the joy in their faces as they have the experience of riding on top of the horse. In therapy it is seeing the improvements our clients make in their therapy goals and being able to be a part of the team to help improve their quality of life. She has been able to volunteer for years with the same clients and seeing all the progress they have made over time is so special.
Karen’s also loves witnessing the bond that develops between the client and the horse. Often clients will give their horses a loving hug or pat when they finish their session or lesson.
Karen fondly recalled, “I remember when, each week, a particular therapy client would get back into his wheelchair, Beyra would turn her head and put it in his lap for him to pet her goodbye, it always brought tears to my eyes.”
After several years of dedicated service, Karen was invited to join the EQUUS Committee. She helps with the silent auction creating all of the certificates which allows her to use her creative training. She says she has always enjoyed setting up the auction with Marianne Saladino, former Mane Stream Board Member and silent auction queen.
Karen finds volunteering very fulfilling. She likes meeting new people and has formed great friendships over the years, but most of all she enjoys giving back to the community. Not only does Karen volunteer in a variety of ways, she is always looking to get more people involved. Karen knew her husband, Steve’s finance knowledge, and expertise would be helpful to the organization, so she recommended him for a position on Mane Stream’s Finance Committee 6 years ago.
Soon after getting involved with the fundraising side of the organization Karen was asked to join the Board of Directors. Karen has now served on the Board of Directors for 10 years, giving her time each month helping to ensure the administrative and fiscal health of Mane Stream continues.
Karen wants everyone to know, “I am so passionate about the organization and am happy to be able to give my time to program, to the fundraising committees, and be on the Board.”
Thank you, Karen, for taking the reins at Mane Stream!