Meet The Team

Eagala Certified Equine Specialist

Marie LaRock, Co-Founder 
Eagala Certified Equine Specialist, MS- SLP

Marie's vision for providing quality horsemanship training & life skills in a nature filled environment is the driving force behind Rock Ranch. Marie earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Speech- Language Pathology from Minnesota State University - Moorhead.


Her lifelong love of horses and working with children was the spark igniting the formation of Rock Ranch. Marie is a member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) and certified as an Equine Specialist under Eagala (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association).


Marie has worked with children on horseback at Rock Ranch for 6 years, volunteered with HorsePower in Sioux Falls for over 10 years, and has provided speech therapy and instruction in school systems all over the region since 2001. All lessons at Rock Ranch are led by Marie.

Eagala Certified Equine Specialist

Carissa Palmberg

MS, LPC, LAC, Eagala Certified Mental Health Practitioner

Carissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a minor in counseling from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO and her Master of Science degree in community agency counseling from Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. After graduating with her undergraduate degree, Carissa worked at New Hope Wilderness Camp in Ava, MO. It was there that she was introduced to equine assisted psychotherapy.


For her internship in graduate school, Carissa was able to continue pursuing equine assisted psychotherapy at Healing Reigns in Waddell, AZ. Now Carissa is happy to be helping bring equine assisted psychotherapy to the greater Sioux Falls, SD area.


Carissa is a licensed professional counselor and licensed addiction counselor. She is certified in equine-assisted psychotherapy through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala). 


Carissa’s husband serves in the South Dakota Air National Guard full-time and together they farm in Iowa. They have five young children who share their love for adventure and the outdoors.

Eagala Certified Equine Specialist

Jill Jonnes-Kuca, MC, MACL, FFT
Eagala Certified Mental Health Practitioner, Pastoral Counselor

Jill received her Master of Counseling (MC) and Master of Christian Leadership (MACL) at Sioux Falls Seminary. She also received a Master of Divinity equivalency through the National Association of Veteran’s Affairs Chaplains. She did her counseling internship providing clinical care at Sioux Falls Psychological Services. Jill also did a one year residency as a chaplain providing clinical pastoral counseling at the Sioux Falls Veterans Hospital. She is currently working toward state licensure under a board approved plan of supervision. She currently works at Lutheran Social Services as a family therapist working with troubled teens and their family communication deficiencies. 


Jill was drawn to the Eagala model of therapy because of its systematic and experiential approach of looking at a problem. She likes to call herself a “Spiritually Integrated Counselor” because she takes an integrated approach to counseling, including both psychological truth and Christian truth. 


She is certified in Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT), Suicide Prevention, Hypnotherapy, Equine Growth and Assisted Learning Association, and a member of the Association of Clinical Pastoral Educators. 


Jill was born and raised in the Sioux Falls area and currently lives on an acreage east of Sioux Falls with her husband, two children, and a handful of horses and other critters!

Patti Swenson, RN, BAN, BMTCN


Patti received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Nursing from Augustana University. She has worked as a Registered Nurse in Oncology and Hematology, as well as Hospice.


She has special certification in providing physical and emotional support to patients and families while undergoing intense and stressful bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy. She also has experience in caring for patients in hospice offering spiritual support by walking alongside them as they come to the end of their life’s journey.

Patti recently retired from her position as Bone Marrow Transplant Coordinator at Avera Transplant Institute and is excited to join the team at Rock Ranch as an Equine Specialist. She will maintain her licensure in MN and SD to provide nursing support as needed during therapy sessions and believes the role as a nurse, combined with an Equine Specialist, will be beneficial to the clients we serve. 

Patti has long recognized the healing power of horses with her own horses, Tommy, Zeuss and Rambo. Patti enjoys spending time with her husband on their acreage and doing outdoor activities.

Lynne Hunter, MSW, CSW-PIP, QMHP 


Lynne received her Bachelor of Psychology and Social Work degree from University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD and her Master of Social Work degree from University of Nebraska-Omaha. She worked at Avera McKennan Hospital for 32 years in areas of mental health, oncology, palliative care and hospice. Lynne is currently a Program Coordinator for Mental Health at the Sioux Falls VA Healthcare Center. 
Lynne is one of the newest members of the equine assisted therapy team. She attended an Arenas for Change Retreat recently held at Rock Ranch. Lynne enjoys a wide variety of outdoor activities: particularly walking, hiking and biking in the many nature venues in the Sioux Falls area.  She is looking forward to incorporating her passion for the serenity of nature into the therapy sessions with the equines at Rock Ranch.

Natasha Kellenberger, LMFT

Brain Health Coach, Certified in Prepare and Enrich 


Natasha is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Minnesota. Certified in Prepare and Enrich, Brain Health Coach and trained in ARCH Therapy Model. She received her Bachelors in Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin and was a teacher for ten years. Then began her journey into therapy by getting her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Argosy University Twin Cities. 

Natasha's areas of interest are: Adolescents, Women Health, Parenting and Family, Grief and Loss, Trust and Infidelity Issues, Family of Origin Issues, Pregnancy and Fertility Issues, Communication and Conflict Issues, Life Transitions, Pre-Marital Counseling and Marriages. 

Natasha and her husband are excited to be a part of the community and working on an acreage to live in the area with their four beautiful children. 

Staci Bundesen, Office and Operations Manager


Staci received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services with an emphasis is Leisure Planning and Management, and a minor in Business Administration from Mankato State University. She has worked as the Youth Recreation Director for the YWCA and as an Administrative Assistant with the Luverne School District.

She feels very blessed to be a part of the Rock Ranch team and is looking forward to helping keep Rock Ranch organized and running smoothly. She is also excited to learn more about horses and to be able to help out in that area when needed.

Staci and her husband live in Hills and have two children. She enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, fishing, and relaxing at the lake.

Jessica Richters, Assistant Barn Manager

Jessica received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Science: Business and Production with a double minor in Business and Equine Science from South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD.  During school she worked in the swine industry for Pipestone Systems and at the SDSU Equestrian Team Barn.

While at SDSU, Jessica volunteered and interned with the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Training and Riding Skills) therapy program.  She also interned for Bonde's Bouncin' B Acres Miniature and Shetland horse farm, and continued to help them out with chores after her internship ended.

Jessica has always had a love and passion for animals, especially horses, and is excited to be a part of the Rock Ranch team to support and help the organization grow.

Jessica lives on a farm outside of Luverne, MN and enjoys spending time with family, friends and her cattle dog, Lady.  In her spare time, she also enjoys riding horses, traveling, and being outdoors.