Empowering Youth Through Hands-On Learning with Horses

aka Windhorse Equine Learning   |   Bozeman, MT   |


Our Mission By providing experiential and reflective learning opportunities with horses, Windhorse Equine Learning empowers individuals to discover and realize their full potential.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Darcy Minter

Main address

Po Box 11954

Bozeman, MT 59719 USA

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NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Animal Related Activities N.E.C. (D99)

Mental Health Treatment (F30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Young people today today are under an increasing amount of stress, which is more acute in economically disadvantaged families. Many kids experience a lack of self-confidence and identity, which often manifests as behavioral and social problems along with poor academic performance. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders of childhood and adolescence. Horses are uniquely effective in reaching youth who are anxious, and those who may not be connecting with others, opening them up to bond with this powerful animal, motivating them to focus and build confidence as they gain the horse’s trust and cooperation through hands-on learning exercises. Our programs build resilience and problem-solving skills, reduce anxiety and stress, and empower our students with intrinsic tools to navigate the challenges they face at school, and among their peers, and family relationships.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Classes and Summer Camps

Windhorse Equine Learning is a nonprofit organization that provides equine-assisted learning (EAL) experiences to Bozeman-area youth ages 8-17 in Gallatin and Park Counties. With the horse as partner, EAL encourages the development of critical social/emotional skills that increase self-confidence and self-awareness, including leadership, partnership, communication, empathy, responsibility and trust. There are many ways to teach these skills, but horses offer us a powerful model of genuine and natural leadership, and a loving and forgiving nature. They require us to be authentic in their presence and they act as a mirror, reflecting ourselves back to us.

The Windhorse curriculum teaches horse herd behavior and leadership structure, horse body language and communication, and how to safely approach, halter, groom and lead a horse. At the same time, it teaches the qualities of a good leader and partner, and helps participants assess their own strengths and where they can improve. Lessons connect horse behavior with human behavior, so participants can practice the life skills they learn from horses in their home, school and social lives. Each class includes time for discussion, self-reflection and journaling.

Windhorse lead facilitators are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International as therapeutic riding instructors and equine specialists in mental health and learning. PATH International promotes safety and optimal outcomes in equine-assisted activities and therapies.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder of childhood and adolescence. Nearly one in three adolescents (31.9%) will meet the criteria for any anxiety disorder by the age of 18. At Windhorse, we have seen first-hand how horses can help relieve anxiety in the youth we serve. Kids who come to us with anxiety find relief in the presence of our gentle horses. In this class, kids learn mindfulness techniques to alleviate anxiety that they can use outside of our classes, and they have positive experiences where they are able to face and overcome their fears in a safe and supportive environment.

Based on research conducted in this class by MSU faculty in 2020 and 2021, 81% of students expressed significant reductions in anxiety and 91% reported improvements in levels of depression. When cortisol levels were tested at the beginning and end of a 2-hour class, students showed a significant decrease in cortisol levels.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Windhorse seeks to serve as many youth as our capacity allows, and to provide scholarships to all who are in need. Since we started offering programs in 2013, we have served 353 kids and provided more than $24,000 in scholarships. The number of youth we serve has grown every year with more youth returning within the year. In 2019, we served 83 individual youth with 31 returning within the year to participate in more classes. Also in 2019, we moved into a permanent facility where we are able to expand our capacity by offering more classes and providing a stable and sustainable environment for youth, volunteers and our horse herd.

Our goal is to facilitate personal growth, help youth build confidence and self-esteem, enhance focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and foster self-development and awareness through the equine/human bond. By building social/emotional skills, competencies and confidence, we hope to create resilient youth who can successfully navigate their teenage years and become leaders among their peers and productive and contributing members of our community.

Windhorse Equine Learning provides youth ages 8-17 with experiential and reflective learning opportunities with horses, empowering them to discover and realize their full potential through their partnership with a horse. Horses are uniquely effective in these efforts because of their sheer size as well as their gentle and responsive natures. We must have their respect and be their leader or the consequences can be serious. Yet, they desire a leader and are social animals that want to be with people. Youth can be successful and feel a huge sense of accomplishment when they gain the respect of a thousand-pound animal and are able to direct their movements. The teaching opportunities are endless: horses teach us about trust, empathy, communication, responsibility, relationship, and so much more. The program also requires youth to be fully present, focused, and disconnected from all screen devices and distractions; an experience that fewer and fewer youth have in their daily lives.

Since our inception eight years ago, Windhorse has been a leader in forming partnerships for outreach and collaborations in programming. For the last five years, we have collaborated with Montana State University’s College of Agriculture to offer our summer camps at MSU, which provides a facility, horses and staff. In 2020, we are also partnering with faculty from the University’s College of Education, Health and Human Development, and Big Sky Youth Empowerment (BYEP) to conduct a research pilot program on the impact of our programs on feelings of self-efficacy among at-risk youth.

We began partnering with BYEP in 2017 to provide classes to its participants. In 2020, we will provide classes to 32 of BYEP’s 8th/9th graders in the summer and fall. We have also partnered with the Gallatin Valley YMCA to fill summer camp programs since 2014 . We have a PIF (Prevention Incentive Funds) contract with the State of Montana and Gallatin County Youth Probation Services to work with kids in the court system. We have received several referrals from Thrive, and have also collaborated in the past with Eagle Mount, where our staff was trained in therapeutic riding and which provided a facility and horses for Windhorse’s school-year programs. Two of Windhorse’s instructors continue to teach at Eagle Mount.

We believe that these partnerships are key to our organizational and programmatic success and have enabled us to have a stronger community impact. By working with partner programs that have already identified at-risk and low-income youth, we can help those in greatest need and serve more youth. These collaborations give youth access to a wider range of programs benefiting them in different and complementary ways and create a broader and stronger safety net. Support from our community partners has been crucial to our development and growth.

Windhorse Equine Learning moved into a permanent facility on 10.5 acres in southwest Bozeman in the fall of 2019. The facility includes an indoor and an outdoor arena, barn and horse pastures. Currently we have three horses that are dedicated to Windhorse programs, with plans to bring on more. The executive director is also the program director and is a registered therapeutic riding instructor and an equine specialist in mental health and learning with PATH International. She is supported by a dedicated group of 15-20 volunteers who mentor the students in each class and assist with teaching. Windhorse is also supported by a robust board of directors comprised of eight community members who are actively engaged in the governance of the organization. Windhorse also employs a part-time development manager who manages the organizations fundraising activities.

Windhorse began offering programs in 2013. In the seven years we have been in operation, Windhorse has accomplished the following:

● Grew the number of individual youth served annually from to 83 youth in 2019 with a 31% return rate. Windhorse provided 114 class spaces in 2019.
● Achieved outcomes whereby 85% of youth rated themselves higher in key indicators such as self-esteem and self-efficacy in post surveys.
● Built and maintained successful, ongoing partnerships with Gallatin County Youth Probation Services, Big Sky Youth Empowerment, the Gallatin Valley YMCA, and Montana State University.
● Served a total of 353 youth and provided 209 scholarships totaling $24,628.
● Built the annual budget to $153,000..
● In 2019, we leased our own facility, providing stability, sustainability and opportunities for program growth and earned income.
● Developed new earned-income streams to support overhead and build a sustainable financial base.
● Hired an Executive Director and a Development Manager.
● Partnered with close to 50 volunteers to support the program, fundraising and outreach efforts.

What's next?

The goals of the Windhorse Program in 2020 are:

• Increase number of classes provided by 50%.
• Increase number of youth served by 30%.
• Provide scholarships for half youth served.
• Provide research class and anxiety class for free to participants.
• Continue to work with community partners to serve youth in their programs. Find new community partners.
• Implement a new program for middle school youth with anxiety.
• Demonstrate improved levels of self-esteem, self-efficacy and horsemanship skills as reported in pre- and post-program surveys and by parents. Continue to show improvement in more than 75% of students participating.
• Conduct research with MSU and Big Sky Youth Empowerment on impact of programs for self-efficacy.
• Partner with Big Sky Youth Empowerment to serve 32 8th graders in summer and fall workshops.



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 06/06/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Krista Steudel

Bozeman School District

Term: 2021 - 2027

Dennis Aig

Montana State University

Patti Draude

Retired teacher

Mariel Butan

Morningstar Learning Center

Krista Steudel

Bozeman School District

Erin Allison

Yellowstone Club

Madison Cisiewski

Hon. Judge Andrew Breuner

Christina Riekenberg

Amatics CPA Group

Melody Justice

Retired HR professional

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/16/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data


No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data