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Ernie Purcelli, Instructor

   Ernie Purcelli   



Ernie began riding over twenty years ago and was a competitor in mounting shooting and a member of the PRCA for many years. The father of two girls, Ernie retired from his Chicago printing business in 2000 and moved to the Bitterroot in 2003.


Ernie has been generously giving of his time to Bitterroot Therapeutic Program since 2005 and with his expertise and guidance countless riders of have attained their personal goals which have carried over into their everyday lives. With Ernie’s encouragement and high expectations his riders attain levels of self-confidence, focus and self-worth.




  Mary Cline   


Mary Cline moved from Maryland to the Bitterroot Valley in 2009. A horse lover and rider all her life, she also has 35 years of experience with special needs children, specializing in those with hearing loss.

Mary graduated with a Masters degree in education of the deaf from Gallaudet University. She established the Cochlear Implant Rehabilitation Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She has lectured all over the world educating children in learning to listen and sign to meet their communication potential. She is combining her love of horses and children as an consultant at Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding and is delighted to be in Montana and working with BTR.

   Pat Busenbark    


Pat is a native of Montana and the Bitterroot Valley and has been riding since childhood. Pat and her husband Bob have a daughter and four wonderful grandchildren and run their 160 acre ranch in Hamilton, Montana. Pat’s specialty is working with the younger special needs students and her intuitive way of communicating with them relieves any fear and anxiety and creates an atmosphere of fun and trust. Her knowledge of horses and children is invaluable to the BTR program and her riders are always excited to come for their lessons.


   Linda Olson    

Program Director

Born in Seattle, Linda completed her education and moved to Los Angeles where she married and had two children, Dean and Griffin. She was a fashion model, and held business management and various office positions.

In 1974 Linda moved her family to Alaska and began working on the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Jobs with the Pipeliners, Labors, and Hotel/Restaurant Workers unions provided a drastic change and memorable eight year experience. On a visit to Montana she met her husband Donald and twenty years later the two founded Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding in Corvallis. They could not have imagined the impact their horses and facility could have on those with special needs.

Entering its14th year of operation BTR continues to grow and provide a much needed service to the people of the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys.

Joan Scheffer

   Joan Scheffer    


Joan is a fourth generation Montanan and has been married to her husband Scott for 34 years. They share their lives with two horses, two dogs and three cats. Joan competes in endurance riding and enjoys the many wilderness trails of Montana. Her love of horses  and a medical career as an orthopedic nurse spanning over 30 years has more than prepared Joan to guide our students.

Horses have always played an important role in Joan’s life and influenced her other passions which are teaching wilderness medicine and EMT classes for Aerie Backcountry Medicine. Joan is a Registered Nurse working as a Certified First Assistant in orthopedic surgery for Missoula Bone and Joint.

As well as teaching classes in this area, Joan is certified in Advanced Wilderness Life Support and by PATH as a therapeutic riding instructor. She recently completed a manual titled “Wilderness First Aid & Safety for Horse and Rider”, due to be published soon.

Sheere Irby   Sheere Irby    

Volunteer Coordinator



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MEDICAID accepted through Home and Community Based Waiver


Established 2000

Member Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International

BTR is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Charitable Organization


599 Popham Lane, Corvallis, Montana 59828 (406) 880-6599 btr@bitterrootriding.org