Written by Dan Burkhart

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation (the Foundation) has awarded $7,000 this year for the Horses Spirits Healing Inc. (HSHI) equine therapy for veterans program, operated at the Intermountain Equestrian Center.

“We are extremely grateful for the support of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and its recognition for the importance of HSHI’s programs to help our hurting Veterans heal,” said HSHI Paul Gatzemeier, President. “The Foundation understands our veterans rendered a valuable service to our country and we need to be mindful of the injuries and disabilities many suffered in doing so.”

HSHI offers programs through trained instructors and VA counselors providing a variety of measured activities for veterans with service-related disabilities including PTSD, amputees, spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.

Montana alone has over 100,000 Veterans with Billings being home to one-quarter of them. Using Veteran Administration national statistics, this translates to approximately 3,500 veterans in the Billings area having service-related disabilities that could benefit from HSHI’s programs.

HSHI is located at the Intermountain Equestrian Center, 7256 Hwy 3, Billings, Mont. 59106. HSHI is a 501 C(3) nonprofit.



Written by Dan Burkhart

Horses Spirits Healing Inc., an equine therapy program for Veterans with service-related injuries or disabilities, has received a grant for $5,000 from the Fortin Family Foundation.

The award was provided to help with HSHI’s unique and successful program with Equestrian Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT), according to Paul Gatzemeier, HSHI president and CEO.

“The Fortin Family is one of Montana’s most philanthropic foundations and we’re grateful to be counted among the many charities it supports,” Gatzemeier said. “Recent national and Veterans Administration (VA) studies now testify to the success of EAAT in treating mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, traumatic brain injury and others, so funding goes a long way to helping those who are hurting heal.”

Nick Cladis of Cladis Investment Advisory LLC, presented the grant on behalf of the Fortin Family Foundation.

“This is the kind of program that benefits those who have served us all. Our Veterans are deserving of whatever we can do to make them well,” Cladis said. “The Fortin Family Foundation is proud to demonstrate a measure of its gratitude for Veteran service with this grant.”

HSHI was established in 2014 as a 501(c)3 by the Gatzemeier and his wife, Barb Skelton, owners of Intermountain Equestrian Center, to expand the scope of equine sports and education to include Equestrian Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT) for military personnel.

HSHI offers trained instructors and mental health counselors providing a variety of measured activities for veterans with service-related disabilities including PTSD, amputees, spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.


Written By Dan Burkhart

An effort to provide a van to help transport Veterans to equine therapy at Intermountain Equestrian Center west of Billings recently received a boost from several foundations, two local businesses and the Billings SD2 Career Center.

The first meeting of collaborators working to provide transportation for Veterans to and from the Intermountain Equestrian Center took place in November.

Intermountain Equestrian Center is home to Horses Spirit Healing Inc. (HSHI) equine therapy program for Veterans with service-related injuries and disabilities.

The Vet Van project received major support from the Sample Foundation, combined with a grant from Town Pump, a donation of a used Dodge Caravan from Jim Abel of Out in the Cold Productions a donation of signage for the van and services of students at the Career Center of Billings SD 2.

“We’re happy that we were able to draw on a wide range of community resources to partner to help Veterans,” said Paul Gatzemeier, HSHI president.

The van will be restored by students at the Career Center. The Sample Foundation grant will pay for that restoration. The Town Pump Foundation grant will help pay for fuel for the van. Sign Products is contributing part of the cost for signage on the van.

“This will be an important asset for Horses Spirits Healing since it will enable us to transport Veterans who have no other means to get here for their therapy sessions,” said Anvia Hampton, HSHI program director.

Hampton noted that arrangements for Veterans’ travel were often complicated to make the nine-mile trip from their homes to IEC, located on Hwy. 3, northwest of Billings International Airport.

Often HSHI staff were having to provide transportation with personal vehicles. The van remedies situations where the schedule did not fit being able to allocate someone to drive Veterans.

Meeting with Gatzemeier, and Hampton were Barb Skelton, HSHI vice president; Brenda Koch, SD executive director, Leadership Support; and Scott Anderson, executive director of SD 2 Career Center. Van donor Jim Abel presented the title and key to the van to Gatzemeier. (The Career Center offered to trade a for a van with fewer miles to serve Veteran use, but Abel’s donation still provided Career Center students a learning opportunity according to Anderson. And its parts could be used in other vehicle repair work.)

The collaboration with SD2 will also provide other opportunities for students to work with HSHI besides restoring the van. Anderson commented that he could see photography and video learning opportunities for students at HSHI.

The Sample grant, for $9,000, will be used to overhaul the  van which has 175,000 miles on it, but which is in relatively good condition. Town Pump donated $2,500 to help with fuel costs.

Half of the $1,200 cost for signage on the van will be donated by Sign Products when the overhaul is complete, according to Sign Products President Paul Cox.