Equine program for vets gets dual financial boost


Bob Crandall, foreground, with a horse named MasterCard. Crandall, who is retired from Special Forces Airborne, is on the board of Horses Spirits Healing Inc.

An equine-therapy program that works with military veterans with disabilities has received two major grants to help expand the program in Montana.

Horses Spirits Healing Inc., which operates from the Intermountain Equestrian Center, said in a press release that it will benefit from a $52,500 Veterans Administration grant and a $20,000 Montana Healthcare Foundation grant.

“We’re absolutely delighted and grateful,” said Paul Gatzemeier, HSHI president and CEO, “because this means we can sustain our program of assisting our veterans, working in cooperation with mental health counselors, VA staff and our own professionally trained instructors.”

Gatzemeier credited Montana’s congressional delegation for working together to support the grant application submitted by HSHI.

“The testimonials we had from veterans who know how well this program works as well as the endorsements we got from Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke were critical for winning an award from VA,” he said in the release.

The VA grant, which comes from the VA Adaptive Sports Funding, was one of only two awarded to community-based organizations in Montana, and was part of $1.3 million awarded nationwide.

The grant from the Montana Healthcare Foundation came from the foundation’s Rapid Response program, which offers grants between $10,000 and $50,000 for projects with a 12- to 24-month time period. The program is intended to support proposals focused on planning, training and smaller-scale pilot projects.

Although equine therapy has been used since the 1960s to help rehabilitate people with physical disabilities, recent national and Veterans Administration studies now testify to the success of such therapy in treating mental health conditions, including post traumatic stress disorder, depression, traumatic brain injury and others. Horses Spirits Healing Inc. offers an effective treatment alternative in a natural and safe environment.

The organization is working closely with the VA Clinic in Billings, the Mental Health Center, St. Vincent Healthcare and others to identify area veterans who may benefit from its services. HSHI also is collaborating with Montana State University and Rocky Mountain College on research studies.

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