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Derek Knapp

Executive Director

About Derek Knapp

A 5th Generation Texan with a heritage of cattle ranching and horsemanship, Derek joined the Board of Directors in 2014 and has served as Vice President and Operations Manager since 2016. He was promoted in 2018 to Executive Director for the organization. Derek spent his formative years, prior to joining the military, working on family cattle ranches. Since returning from his last deployment to Afghanistan in 2013, Derek renewed his passion for natural horsemanship and the Cowboy way of life here in Texas. He continues to grow in his horsemanship journey, and has studied with Joe Wolter, Mike Beck, and other respected horseman.


Derek has served as both a combat arms enlisted service member and an Infantry Officer in the Army for over a decade. His experience with extreme combat conditions gives him the ability to share a first-hand perspective of the needs of veterans particularly in regard to sponsorship of the veteran’s program at Restoration Ranch. Derek is a driving force in shaping this distinctive horsemanship program that connects former combat veterans and their family members with horses on a level that is specific to rehabilitating both veterans and horse alike.


Since returning from Afghanistan, Derek transitioned from an Army leader and Airborne Ranger to a business professional. In March 2016 Derek left the corporate world to become Director of Operations of Restoration Ranch. Due to the tremendous growth and interest from veterans to participate in the RR community, Derek spends a majority of his time doing community outreach and speaking events to bring awareness to the incredible benefits that horse assisted therapy and peer to peer mentorship has on our veteran community. He is a certified Equine Specialist with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) and a Certified Peer Specialist through Via Hope.


Derek holds a BBA, with a minor in Marketing and Military History, and will graduate with his MBA in the fall of 2020. Some of his military awards include Two Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, other Valorous medals and numerous badges and citations. He is also a graduate of US Army Ranger School, earning the coveted Ranger Tab.

Professional Experience

  • Executive Director, Restoration Ranch — April 2018 – Present

  • Director of Operations, Restoration Ranch — March 2016 – March 2018

  • Vice President, The Joyful Horse Project/Restoration Ranch – June 2014 – March 2018

  • Senior Operations Manager, Flextronics International January 2014 – March 2016

  • Program Manager for Confidential Projects- Flextronics International September 2013 – January 2014

  • Retired Captain, U.S. Army (Airborne Ranger) August 2005 – October 2014

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