Heart of Horsemanship Program

International College of Holistic Studies & Rolling Horse Ranch

The Heart of Horsemanship (HOH) program focuses on veterans and first responders who are seeking a non-pharmaceutical approach to healing from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This evidence-based program encompasses working with horses to help heal broken, wounded, or numb hearts that have been traumatized by war, violence, and/or catastrophic events.  This course is offered at no cost to qualified veterans and first responders. 


The Heart of Horsemanship program is an equine therapy learning experience which serves as a complementary non-pharmaceutical approach to health and healing.  In partnership with horses, individuals who experience the anxiety and stress associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can re-build self trust, regain trust with others, gain awareness about their own energy, and understand the impact of their energy on others. Participants work with horses in a small ranch setting where they progress from learning how to connect wholeheartedly with horses and humans, working successfully on ground-work skills, to eventually riding their horse as a team in the western tradition. This 30-hour course is offered in ten distinct 3-hour sessions and the first & final sessions are completed in the classroom.  The remaining sessions are conducted at the ranch working in small groups and one-on-one with a highly trained wrangler/cowboy.  Each participant will select a gentle and experienced horse to partner with for the duration of the program. To provide evidence of efficacy for this program, a series of research studies were conducted, and the results showed the program improved and sustained the psycho-physiology of the participants progressively throughout the course and beyond.

The Approach

Each week builds on the connection from the heart with another sentient being, a horse.  Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to work as a community, with one another, and the faculty. While learning to ride a horse confidently, the participants will gain a satisfying awareness of the partnerships they create with their horses.

All faculty of Heart Of Horsemanship have extensive backgrounds in western horsemanship, and many are veterans and/or first responders. The horses are friendly, wise, and all have worked in therapeutic programs for several years.  All efforts are made for participants to feel safe and positive whether or not they have experience with horses. Most of the course takes place outdoors and requires some degree of stamina, strength, and balance to work safely & effectively around horses.The general application fee will also be waived for the prospective student.


This 30-hour course is offered in ten distinct 3-hour sessions, otherwise known as modules.  The first and final modules are completed in class at the International College of Holistic Studies (ICOHS). The remaining modules are completed at Rolling Horse Ranch. (Participants are eligible for 30 hours of continuing education credit and a transcript upon request.)

  • Module One:  Orientation. (Class is held at ICOHS)
  • Module Two:  Re-establishing a Feeling of Trust
  • Module Three: Recognizing and Building a Connection
  • Module Four: Sustaining a Connection Through Staying Present
  • Module Five: Going Together
  • Module Six: Healing the Heart Connection and Communicating with Confidence
  • Module Seven: Finding Aliveness in Your Body Together with Your Horse
  • Module Eight: Working Together in Confident Performance.
  • Module Nine: Feeling Wholehearted – Experiencing Pride, Joy and Confidence.
  • Module Ten:  Synthesis and Reflection (Class is held at ICOHS)

Program Dates

  • Start date: 04/07/2017
  • End date: 06/09/2017
  • Day and time: Fridays from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Maximum enrollment: 6 students

How to Apply

Please fill out the form on this page. The program coordinator will contact you to follow up with more information about the course.

Contact Information

Dr. Ellen Kaye Gehrke: 760-419-6768

Donations – ICoHS is a designated non-profit 501c3 school

Every effort is made to provide scholarships for the HOH program to veterans and first responders.  Tax deductible donations can be made to:

International Center of Holistic Studies (ICOHS) – Heart of the Horsemanship Program

1500 State Street, San Diego CA, 92101

Tax ID 2176329