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.

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