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No better place: Equestrian center north of Billings helps veterans with mental health

Posted at 5:06 PM, Oct 15, 2021

YELLOWSTONE COUNTY — Horses Spirits Healing is a nonprofit program that began in 2016 north of Billings with the goal to help veterans in whatever way they can.

“Everyone I meet and see I say: if you get a chance, come on out here,” said Newell Schaub, an Army veteran who has been in the program since March, on Friday.

The program aims to help veterans who may be dealing with mental or physical health problems.

“People can get such a huge benefit from being with horses. It’s great for your mental health, it helps reduce stress levels, just being around the horses increases people’s dopamine levels. Riding can also have a great impact as far as physical health helping people build muscles, core strength,” said lead trainer Amanda Ott.

The program works directly with the Veterans Administration and over the last year logged 1,800 veteran sessions. It aims to be inclusive, allowing veterans and their families of all genders, ages, and ability levels to take part.

“To see these veterans come, and they come sometimes in slumped shoulders and pretty unhappy, and then at the end of the day see them walk away standing straight up and saying, 'so, when can we come back?'” said Barb Skelton, the co-founder of Horses Spirits Healing.

Schaub served in the Army for 21 years and has suffered from mental health issues. Since getting involved with the program in March, he has been there five days a week volunteering, riding horses, and interacting with the crew.

“You can’t find a better place like this. If you need a little help it is great. Like I said, you can’t say enough about them,” said Schaub.

Since it began, the program has helped over 300 veterans and their families.