At this cowgirls-only Montana retreat, horses help women on their path to healing.
Montana is big country. Big mountains, big landscapes, big animals, big ranches, big distances between neighbors, and, certainly, big sky. This is a place—like many lands of the West—that breeds people tough. The iconic embodiment of this toughness is found in the oft-perpetuated but largely mistaken cowboy stereotype, where strength equates to stoicism and looks like minding your own business, holding in the hurt, and pulling your hat low over your eyes when tears threaten to fall. However, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch—a 25,000-acre working cattle and guest ranch located in South Central Montana—strength looks a little different.
Here, for three days in July, 2017, 10 women have gathered to attend the annual Cowgirl Retreat facilitated by Melisa Pearce of Touched By A Horse, founder of a unique therapeutic approach called the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method.
In her program, Pearce—a lifelong horsewoman and veteran psychotherapist—taps into the innate spiritual and healing abilities of horses to help people achieve awareness, process pain, and move forward in their lives with greater peace and clarity.
“I feel that most of the world has pain,” explains Pearce, “and my goal is to have horses—with that essential gift they have inside them—help people finish up the unfinished business in their lives and move toward serenity and joy.”
Serenity and joy are clearly qualities the retreat’s participants are searching for. Some have suffered incredible loss, others are facing overwhelming challenges, and many are plagued by stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Though the women come from all over the country and from all walks of life—spanning career fields, ages, and horse experience— they all share a singular goal to enhance their lives through this experience of working with horses.