BILLINGS — What began as a facility for Rocky Mountain College equine students has morphed into a form of therapy to help veterans,
“ I’ve been raised around horses all my life, so I realized the value of horses in therapy,” Barbara Skelton, treasurer and co-founder of Horses Spirits Healing.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines stopped by to celebrate securing a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans.
“We’ve been working hard, and making requests for getting grants from the VA. And we were successful in getting a nice grant just this week,” the Montana Republican said.
The $75,000 grant will go toward mental health counseling, and assistance for those with physical disabilities or other war related injuries through equine therapy.
“This equine therapy has been proven to reduce PTSD, we also can help veterans who have spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, the science proves that equine therapy works,” Daines said.
Montana has the highest number of veterans per capita in the country, with 22,000. living in Yellowstone County alone.
“To see how this therapy is helping these veterans who sometimes feel disconnected… Think about our suicide rate here in Montana is the highest in the nation. Twenty-two veterans a day take their lives across this country. This is the way to help veterans in need by connecting with a horse,” Daines said.
So far, 277 veterans have been helped by equine therapy at Horses Spirits Healing.
Daines got to join in with a few for a game of horse frisbee.
Veterans and volunteers are involved in everything from grooming, to learning to ride the horses, gaining confidence, and building a bond.
“Colt and I, he was one of my teammates, Colt and Jeffrey, we walked out a strategy before we started hitting the huddle about short game playing ultimate Frisbee on the back of a horse, it demonstrates teamwork and connecting with one another,” Daines said.
Horses Spirit Healing is located northwest of Billings on Highway 3.