River Pines Horse Sanctuary Founder and Director


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. 


My 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 Master Herder Instructor

    • EAGALA Certified Horse Professional

    • Eponaquest Power of the Herd Instructor

  • Kids and Horses Protocol Training

  • QPR Certified in Suicide Prevention

    • Mandt system Training

  • Montana Conference on Suicide Prevention

  • Riding Lessons:  Western, Dressage and Jumping

  • Parelli Natural Horsemanship

  • I studied many of the “natural horsemanships” as they gained popularity, losing interest in most of them - filtering my way until I was made aware of research from the University of Edinburgh College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine in Scotland– a study that showed how most of those “horsemanships” did not come from the science of how horses learn – Horses learn from positive reinforcement – treats, praise, affirming touch = stroking, not patting; and they learn from negative reinforcement – to move away from pressure.  In that research it showed that of the 3 “horsemanships” studied, Monte Roberts method was the least effective, and Parelli was the best of the 3, but not good…At the sanctuary we train everyone in what we call Sentient Horsemanship, based on positive and negative reinforcement, Heart Breathingfrom the Heart Math Institute, Proximity Response, the body language of both horses and humans and compassionate awareness. 


  • Shari’s interests are horses, painting horses, sculpting horses, travel, reading, research, movies and grandchildren - not necessarily in that order…


CHRISTINA CARRUTHERS, Vice President/Director and Co-Facility Manager:  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!

MICHAEL KENNEDY, PE, Secretary-Treasurer and Co-Facility Manager:  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 – Volunteer Manager


Looking back, I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t completely fascinated by horses. Never having a horse of my own, I was always first to volunteer to help friends feed, groom, or just sit and watch their horses.  Upon graduating high school, I decided to invest in riding lessons, focusing primarily on the English discipline.  I was a few years into my lessons when my husband and I decided to move to Montana from our small childhood hometown in Southwest Michigan.  I am so excited to be joining the team at River Pines Horse Sanctuary to continue learning and have horses back in my life.  




  • Currently, I am a licensed Realtor at ERA Lambros in Missoula, Montana.  I work as an independent contractor as an assistant.

  • I also spend part of my week as an aide/caregiving through DSHS.

  • I studied Business at Grand Valley State University with an emphasis in Non-profit management.

  • I have several years work experience at the Allegan County Community Foundation working as an administrative assistant and Youth Advocacy Team Advisor.

  • In the past I have served as a board member of the TAG Youth Advisory Team and the ERA Lambros Community Foundaiton.

  • I currently serve as the volunteer coordinator for Zootown church’s Child Bridge Support Team.

  • I am a current Studio Technician intern at the Clay Studio of Missoula

  • First Aid/CPR certified




Most days you will find me outdoors.  I enjoy finding new trails to hike with my dog, mountain biking, and skiing whenever I have the chance.  If I’m not outside I am usually working with clay at the Clay Studio of Missoula. I enjoy making art, listening to music, reading, and occasionally trying out new recipes in the kitchen.   

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