Coe DolvenCoe Dolven
The Learning Center at Red Willow

Course taught:
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy Groups

Coe Dolven is a native Montanan. Although it took 51 Christmases to get her wish for her own horse, horses have always been a part of Coe's life. When she was younger, she babysat to earn money so she could rent a horse for a day. During graduate school, the horses (still rented) provided therapy for her following a divorce. Most recently, her herd of three got her through breast cancer and her desire to ride her newest horse, Roy, motivated her to do physical therapy and exercise religiously. The care and feeding of her horses kept her active and emotionally balanced.

As a psychotherapist with a specialty in trauma, her work became even more fascinating and fulfilling when she rescued a traumatized horse, Livvy, in 2002 and later completed intensive training with Dr. Anne Perkins in 2008 to use horses as her co-facilitators allowing her to combine her two passions: her work as a healer and horses.

Shortly after rescuing Livvy, Linda Kohanov's book, The Tao of Equus jumped off the shelf and planted the seeds of possibilities and guided her to alternative ways of interacting with her mare that built and grounded their relationship and challenged her old belief that horses' only purpose was riding. Coe is very grateful for Kohanov's books and for the wisdom and kindness of Livvy, who in turn rescued her. This experience informs her work with clients to this day. The work is primarily from the ground with the focus on the development of relationship.

Coe's education might have been at the school of hard knocks if she hadn't met Dr. Anne Perkins, the department head of the Human Animal Bonding Program at Carroll College. The intensive 8-day training Anne offered at Blacktail Ranch in 2008 was life changing for her and she uses that knowledge every day with both her horses and her clients. Coe's education continued with Leif Hallberg, who co-taught with Anne, and she still uses Leif's book Walking the Way of the Horse as a reference. Coe followed Leif to Prescott College where Leif taught with Barbara Rector, the grandmother of this profession.

Coe sat for and passed the exam to become a Certified Equine Interaction Mental Health Professional in 2009. She is a member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) and has attended their sponsored annual conferences. She continues to take clinics that allow her to build her relationship with her horses and she has received informal training from the Bitterroot Saddle Tramps every Wednesday for the past 6 years. This remarkable group of women has been organized since 1970's. They come from all different backgrounds but share their love of riding their horses in the backcountry of the Bitterroot Valley.

Horses inspire Coe with their beauty, wisdom and generous spirits. They remind her to be in the present moment, and require clarity of thought and intention. They teach profound lessons in cooperation and leadership. In the short time she has teamed up with horses, she has witnessed profound changes in her clients that may not have been possible sitting in her office. Folks with depression, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury report significant improvement. Coe wishes to thank Leigh Shambo and husband, David Young, for their research of how the work with horses changes the neurobiology of the brain.

Favorite Quote: GaWaNi Pony Boy, "Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf."

The horses are always listening..

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