Horses Spirits Healing, Inc. (HSHI) is a non-profit organization formed in 2014 to provide Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT) for area Veterans with service related injuries. It’s mission: “Heroes Achieving Results with Horses, Heart, Spirit and Respect” means participant-driven planning for equine activities that help them better integrate back into their communities and families. HSHI utilizes the abilities of the horse with the skills of certified instructors, community volunteers and counselors/therapists to achieve functional therapeutic goals in a natural environment. HSHI is housed at the Intermountain Equestrian Center (IEC), owned and operated by Paul Gatzemeier and Barb Skelton, located 7 miles northwest of Billings in Yellowstone County Montana.

Our History

Intermountain Equestrian Center, LLC (IEC) and Rocky Mountain College RMC) introduced an Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT) client program in 2010 which focused on troubled youth and special needs clients. Subsequently, IEC expanded the EAAT focus to helping military Veterans. HSHI was formed as a non-profit corporation in 2014 to fulfill the need identified by IEC. IEC had been a member center under the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH Intl.) and assisted HSHI in its receiving Premier Accredited Center status for its EAAT programs in October 2016.


HSHI currently employs a Program Director, PATH certified instructors and utilizes specialized consultants as needed. It also relies extensively on trained community volunteers to help with EAAT sessions and other program tasks. Many community partners, the VA Clinic and a federal VA Adaptive Sports grant help support program activities financially and/or through veteran and volunteer referral.

Yellowstone County has a high number of Veterans in relation to the rest of the state as a result of its urban population, access to superior medical facilities, and proximity to the VA Clinic. The Clinic works closely with HSHI through a Memorandum of Understanding; and provides referrals, clinical therapists as needed, and eligibility screening. All services are provided to Veterans at no charge.

The Intermountain Equestrian Center, the Billings VA Clinic, other Veterans programs, community partners, and renewable grants and donors support continued sustainability of the program. In addition, in 2018, participating Veterans will be included in programmatic research that is being headed by Montana State University.

Although Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT) has been utilized since the 1960’s in the rehabilitation of people with physical disabilities, recent national and Veterans Administration (VA) studies now testify to the success of EAAT in treating the mental health conditions of combat Veteran’s including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anger management and traumatic brain injury.

HSHI offers 3 areas of EAAT programming for Veterans based upon their individual needs. These include Therapeutic Riding, Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. 

The Process

Following a referral from a VA source, each individual participant meets with the Program Director in conjunction with VA therapy staff (and/or others as deemed appropriate) to develop a treatment plan based on their unique goals. They then begin their horsemanship journey with approximately three groundwork sessions. In these sessions, they work with their horse on the ground, building relationships and learning fundamental skills such as general care, grooming, tacking, and leading. HSHI’s PATH certified instructors also teach riding skills with the intention of beneficially contributing to an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. The training provides an opportunity for participants to develop a trusting bond with their horse, instructor and volunteers.

All sessions use a solution-oriented approach, encouraging clients to seek their own effective path when encountering unfamiliar tasks and develop insights based on their own reactions to the situations. It has been shown to improve concentration, patience, problem solving and sequential thought processing. Physical benefits include increased balance and posture, core muscle strength, coordination, and motor control. For individuals with impaired mobility, the movement of the horse simulates to a human walking gait.

Individual progress notes are recorded after each session according to each participant’s goals. This is a family-oriented program, so family members are encouraged to participate with the counselors and therapists as appropriate.


Join us in supporting our veterans. 

Join Us in Supporting Our Vets


  • Education: Since 1999, Rocky Mountain College has provided Equestrian Studies and Therapeutic Instruction at the Center.
  • Research: Rocky Mountain College and Montana State University will be sponsoring therapeutic research studies at the Center.
  • Therapy: The Center has been home to EAAT organizations since 2006; and is expanding its activities to our military veterans.