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River Pines Horse Sanctuary | Missoula, Montana
River Pines Horse Sanctuary | Missoula, Montana

About River Pines Horse Sanctuary

Est. 1977


An organization dedicated to providing forever homes to abandoned, abused and neglected horses. We specialize in accepting horses with social and/or emotional rehabilitation issues. We provide a natural, herd-based living environment offering safety, health enhancement, companionship, and play for horses in need.


When appropriate, our horses then assist in teaching human development, social and emotional intelligence skills, nature immersion, and basic natural horsemanship for children and adults of all ages. Many of our horses also participate in providing community service opportunities for at-risk youths, assisting in developing knowledge and equine-based skills.


They assist in increasing community awareness through our service projects such as volunteer opportunities, equine skill-based internships and mentoring opportunities. We also provide opportunities for horse husbandry and equine management programs for disadvantaged and at-risk youth on an individual basis.


River Pines Horse Sanctuary offers mentoring programs for local high school Senior Projects.  Seniors may learn about the business-end of rescues and sanctuaries, rescued horses, equine care and management, natural horsemanship and equine science.


We accept donations such as hay, grain, grooming tools, winter blankets for small to extra-large horses, and cash, checks, visa, master-card and other gift cards for daily maintenance and feed, medical emergencies, humane euthanasia, shelter creation and maintenance, fencing materials and more in order to provide and care for these amazing animals.


Monetary donations and volunteer help are especially appreciated!

Meet the Herd: Our Residents - Click on a photo to read their story


Our Two-Fold Mission & Philosophy

Mission & Philisophy

First, to rescue any equine species from endangerment through neglect, abuse or abandonment. 


To provide sanctuary for horses and ponies, mules and burros from endangerment through neglect, physical and emotional abuse and/or abandonment and to provide permanent, end-of–life care for our residents; we are dedicated to providing a forever home to these horses.  We provide a natural, herd-based living environment offering safety, health enhancement, companionship and play.


We provide health care – maintenance and enhancement, training when appropriate, and safety in a herd-based environment for all animals in our care. 


We offer a volunteer program* to engage the local community to engage with the horses as we provide this horse sanctuary as a community service.  We have sponsorships, fostering and virtual adoption opportunities as additional choices for the community to help support the horses in our care. 


We will provide permanent residence, promote optimum physical health and emotional rehabilitation to the highest potential for each individual horse in our care.


We will offer optimum re-socialization skills for each horse based on their individual experiences and history.


To provide opportunities of mutual benefit through interaction with children and adults participating in Equine Facilitated Learning activities, natural horsemanship, equine husbandry and management skills, Community Service for at-risk youth and mentoring and internship programs when appropriate for each individual horse.


Second, to offer personal growth and education through equine guided activities - creating place and purpose for the horses we serve.


To offer Equine Facilitated Learning opportunities to anyone seeking resiliency skills, trauma remediation, leadership training, social and emotional fitness, inspiration, character development, suicide prevention and spiritual development.

We provide professionally developed workshops and programs to support the needs of the community.  Our professional instructors are highly skilled in the field of Equine Facilitated Learning through their training in the MontanaQuest Equine Guided Facilitator Training Program, an in-depth apprenticeship for educators and horse handlers.

Our execution of purpose will be based on a foundation of optimum health and safety for our rescued equines, staff, volunteers, interns and trainees while cultivating the highest possible outcome for the animals; providing educational and training opportunities for said equines, staff, volunteers, interns and trainees, to include raising community awareness through our many programs.


Our core values are:  optimal health, safety and socialization for the horses; to ensure dignity and respect for each individual animal; to use mindfulness in every interaction with each horse; and finally, to cultivate each horse’s potential through natural, respectful and sentient training methods.

Our Guiding Philosophy

Based on scientific research measuring brain activity, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and all other species (any creature with an amygdala) are now considered to be sentient beings similar to humans. Recent studies have shown neural transmitter responses similar to humans when they are exposed to experiences of attachment, fear, separation, play and more. We believe each individual deserves the same respect and dignity we offer our human companions.


Through mutual respect, appropriate training, and play we can educate and train consensual leadership skills, an attitude of mutual aid, community building, sustainable lifestyle skills, and optimal physical and emotional health for all who participate here.


Safety is a primary focus for all horses and humans.


Authenticity, individuality, authentic community, and consensual leadership are our core values.


All are welcome, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or challenges of body or mind unless appropriate safety measures cannot be addressed.


Nature and the environment are to be treated with respect, consideration, and sustainability.

Meet Our Team

Meet Our Team

Board of Directors

SHARI MONTANA – President/Director, Horse and Volunteer Manager

My first memory is being on the back of a black horse named Trigger – riding in front of my Uncle Jack at age 2!  It’s been a love affair/obsession with horses ever since.  We couldn’t afford a horse when I was growing up, so I begged and borrowed horses from friends, relatives and strangers to love on and ride – I was the kid in the pasture who hung out and played with the horses for hours on end without riding or grooming – just watching and being with…I always wanted to just be one of them – to be in a horse body – so elegant, peaceful and self-contained – casually grazing with a twinkle in my eye and always on alert…I smelled them, drew them, read about them…At 25, I rented a horse – for lessons and riding – we lived near Los Angeles at the time and when I realized I couldn’t afford to buy land to bring him home, I convinced my husband to move to the countryside in Washington state so I could finally have a horse to touch and smell every day!  It took a few years until I purchased my first horse, Timmy, when I was 29 years old.  He was a 2 year-old grade bay gelding and as gentle as a breeze – but  - he soon taught me how much I didn’t know about horses – about their feed needs, upkeep, exercise needs, training and guidance, appropriate equipment  – I bought my beautiful western saddle before I had the horse so of course it didn’t come close to fitting him – and as he matured it only got worse.  This was the beginning of my life-long search for the latest and greatest in horse husbandry, horsemanship and finally to the best in equine science I can find.  I began rescuing and rehabilitating horses that were abused and neglected – usually starving – and discovered the most profound satisfaction in bringing these horses not only back into their healthy bodies, but I began exploring what I could do to bring them to into that state of elegant contentment that I loved to see in them when hanging out in the pasture – and that is my ultimate goal for each of our sanctuary horses here at RPHS – peaceful contentment, elegant beauty and most important their physical and emotional well-being. 


Shari's Resume:

  • Director and Founder of River Pines Horse Sanctuary

  • Founder of MontanaQuest EGS

  • BS, Clinical Psychology EWU, Cheney

  • BFA Painting and Ceramic Sculpture, UM, Missoula

  • American School of Art, Perugia, Italia – Drawing and Painting

  • Advanced Eponaquest Instructor 

    • Eponaquest Instructor

    • Eponaquest AI; POH; MH; SC; CFT

    • EAGALA Certified Horse Professional

  • Kids and Horses Protocol Training

  • QPR Certified in Suicide Prevention

    • Mandt system Training

  • Montana Conference on Suicide Prevention

  • Riding Lessons: Basic Independent Seat

  • Parelli Natural Horsemanship


MICHAEL KENNEDY, PE - Vice President

Michael is a retired Civil Engineer and former Missoula County Commissioner.  Michael also grew up with a variety of animals and birds in Billings, Montana.  He has been supporting the sanctuary with his time, handy-man expertise, moral support and much more from the inception!  He has served on several non-profit boards over his professional life and provides invaluable advice and recommendations for us.  


  • Missoula County Commissioner, Retired

  • Owner Kennedy Engineers, Spokane, WA, Retired

  • BS, Gonzaga University, Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • QPR Suicide Prevention Training

Michael's interests are biking, reading, grand-parenting and traveling.  He helps maintain everything from vehicles, tractors and implements to fences and buildings – he has environmental knowledge, talents and skills for maintaining our growing needs at our facility at River Pines Horse Sanctuary, while keeping a strong focus on a positive influence on the environment!

HANNAH VASQUEZ - RPHS Board of Director’s Secretary and Equine Guided Learning Facilitator  Hannah has participated as a River Pines Horse Sanctuary volunteer for several years, and in 2020 she graduated the MontanaQuest Facilitator Training program under the tutelage of Shari Montana.  Hannah has held a life-long love for horses, and is grateful to be surrounded by kindred spirits at the farm. 



  • MontanaQuest EFL Instructor/Facilitator

  • Current Psychology student at the University of Montana 

  • Current CPR and First Aid Certification


Hannah’s interests include hiking, horse time, reading, and spending time with her family.  She enjoys numerous creative outlets in her free time, including beadwork, drawing, and ceramics.


Volunteer Staff




Tina grew up with horses and lots of critters in her life.  Tina was in both 4-H Horse Club and Pony Club as a youth.  She has been volunteering her expertise at the RPHS off and on since 1992.  She joined us permanently as Volunteer Facility Manager in 2018.  Tina also teaches Personal Growth and Development with MontanaQuest Equine Guided Services.



  • MontanaQuest EFL Instructor/Facilitator

  • EAGALA Certified Horse Professional

  • University of Montana, Missoula

  • QPR Suicide Prevention Training

  • Specializes in Heart Breathing with horses

  • Focus on LGBT, especially the Transgender Community and in support of Trans Youth coming out

  • Tina joined the MontanaQuest EGS Team as a Facilitator where she will specialize in Empowerment Workshops.

Tina’s interests are biking, canoeing and woodworking – she makes beautiful earrings, jewelry and functional and decorative wooden items.  She also does welding and can repair and maintain everything from vehicles, tractors and implements to fencing and buildings – she has the much needed talents and skills for maintaining our growing needs in our facility at River Pines Horse Sanctuary!

ERIKA KOSKELA, MontanaQuest Facilitator

Erika joined the MontanaQuest EGS Team in 2018 as a Facilitator where she specializes in Rites of Passage, Nature Immersion and Youth Programs.

  • BASW/Minor Psychology, UM, Missoula

  • Erika is an enrolled member of the Round Valley reservation of California, and has ancestry with the Wailaki, Chinook, and Quinault tribes.

  • QPR Suicide Prevention Training 2018

  • Worked to preserve the Salish language at Nkwusm Immersion School

  • Ceremonial Leader

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