To celebrate the advent of autumn and to honor veterans, Intermountain Equestrian Center is inviting the public to attend the Western Rendezvous on Saturday, Sept. 23. The event will run from 1 to 4 p.m. and will feature food, music and family fun.
“It’s an opportunity to meet and thank our veterans, learn about the equine therapy program we have to help them, see some demonstrations and enjoy some great food by Bill Kennedy and music by Canyon Creek,” said Barb Skelton, with Horses Spirits Healing which operates the equine therapy program at the center.
Intermountain is located at 7256 Highway 3, west of the airport. RSVPs are appreciated by not required, Skelton said.
“We’re just hoping people feel welcome,” she said. “It will be a great event for families with children, to see the horses, and we’ll have raffles and plenty of good old-fashioned Montana fun.”
Horses Spirits Healing Inc. was established in 2014 as a nonprofit organization by Skelton and her husband, Paul Gatzemeier, to expand their scope of equine sports and education to include equestrian-assisted activities and therapy for returning military personnel.
The need for veteran assistive services is real and substantial, Skelton said. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, there were more than 27 million veterans in the United States in 2014, and 4 million of them had a service-connected disability.
In the region served by Horses Spirits Healing — Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas — there are nearly 300,000 veterans. Approximately 44,000 of those veterans have service-related disabilities including PTSD, amputations, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury.
Montana has over one-third of the region’s veterans, and Billings is home to a quarter of the state’s veterans. This translates to approximately 3,500 veterans in the Billings area having service related disabilities, Skelton noted.
“This day is all about neighbors helping neighbors, reaching out to our veterans, thanking them, and maybe along with a few tears, there will be some smiles,” she said.