For horses can educate through first hand, subjective, personal experiences, unlike human tutors, teachers and professors can ever do. Horses can build character, not merely encourage one to improve upon it. Horses forge the mind, the character, the emotions and inner lives of humans. People can talk to one another about all things and remain distanced and lonesome. In partnership with a horse, one is seldom lacking for thought, emotion and inspiration. One is always attended by a great companion.”    ~ Charles de Knuffy

Changing Our Lives Together!

An Equine Assisted Youth Enrichment Program

When Gwen Hilker met 10-year old Marla 40 years ago, she had no idea the groundwork was being laid for her “Pay-it-Forward” legacy. It was Gwen who introduced Marla to a world that promised- and delivered- unconditional love and unlimited growth. This world, in part, was the world of horses! Gwen’s patience and mentoring were the other critical ingredients this little girl needed to rise above the challenges the world would throw her way.


In 1997, with Gwen’s memory deeply rooted in her heart, armed with a passion second only to her love for her own children, and a direction only she understood at the time, Marla introduced Spokane, Washington to “Changing Our Lives Together”, (COLT). The Inland Empire’s first Equine Assisted Learning Program designed to enrich the lives of youth. COLT quickly grew from a grass-roots organization, to an established and proven equine assisted learning program, utilizing community members, all volunteers, to operate and facilitate the program.


With over ten years invested in changing the lives of youth, Marla is a recognized leader, facilitator and advocate for youth throughout Idaho and Washington.  COLT has been featured in numerous local and regional newspaper and equine magazines since 1997. In 2002, a Horse and Rider magazine article entitled “The Pony Pusher”, allowed people from all over the world to learn about the COLT program, and has since served as a model for other programs throughout the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.


Marla’s 2003 relocation to north-central Idaho ultimately resulted in bringing the COLT Program to rural communities, AND the restructuring of the program in 2008 to include a protocol to help others duplicate the COLT program. Part of this restructure included the founding of EASAP, (Equine Assisted Substance Abuse Prevention), and the building of an equine facility appropriately named the “Gwen Hilker Youth & Equestrian Center”.


Please visit our Link to EASAP for more information on the prevention principles utilized in COLT, and just how easy it is to duplicate this program model. Thank you for visiting our COLT website! PLEASE, return again!

COLT Program History

In Loving Memory

Gwen Hilker


COLT Program Founder

Marla Mortimer

Picture taken in summer of 1975

Marla Mortimer

COLT /  EASAP Founder



(208) 926-7240

“The COLT Program not only teaches alcohol & drug resistance skills, it also enhances academic skills & teaches positive social & life skills that will assist youth to make positive choices throughout their lives. The equine program adds a critical therapeutic value, inspiring & connecting youth in ways that traditional programs can’t. COLT creates long-term effects on our community by teaching youth the skills they need to become productive adults.”

~J. Michael Bundy, PhD; Former Kamiah School Dist. Superintendent.

March 10, 2010; Quoted from Letter of Support written for COLT.

“COLT has educational components and I see that stay over into schools. It’s a wonderful program. I’ve seen marked improvement in students’ grades & attendance, which tells me the program is successfully building responsibility. I’ve even observed students helping out others without being asked.”

~ Carrie Nygaard; Kamiah Middle School Principal

Oct. 1, 2009;  The Clearwater Progress: “Changing Lives With Horse Medicine.”

“COLT is important to me because it is a wonderful learning environment. You don’t only learn about horses, but also you learn about your BETTER self, how to be a better person. COLT does a lot for the community. COLT helps kids with trust, honesty & things the kids are going through. Ever since being in COLT I have been more helpful. I’ve helped little kids at KAP. I love being helpful. My favorite part of COLT is having something to look forward to. Thank you for everything COLT, I couldn't have gotten through 5th grade without you.”


~ Shaylee; 12 yrs old, 2nd Year COLT participant 

Click on paint horse thumbnail to view

Our YOUTUBE, “The Horse of Course

The COLT Program is working with youth in Kamiah, Kooskia, Harpster, Stites and Clearwater communities. Youth, ages 5th grade on up are eligible to apply, this includes home-schooled and private-schooled youth. To view an example of our annual program agenda , visit  our COLT Year At-a-Glance page for a rundown of our most recent program year. Families are asked to contribute $125.00 towards the cost of participant’s curriculum supplies, transportation and other program costs. (Can be split into 5 consecutive payments). For more info on these costs visit our Sponsorship page.

Enrollment for the COLT 2014 Program is full! Contact us in November for our 2015 program year!


and Memorial for Breezy.

 Ms. Q-Ton Breez Bar

a.k.a. “Breezy.”

1996 - 2013

3rd Annual

“Black Tie & Blue Jeans

Cowboy Ball


May 31, 2014

Asotin County

Fair Grounds

BTBJ Cowboy Ball


The Border Patrol Band