Van donation

Students from the Career Center visited the Intermountain Equine Center on Wednesday to donate a van for transportation for a veterans therapy program. 

Gazette Staff

Veterans in the Intermountain Equestrian Center's equine therapy program will now be able to get a ride to their rides, thanks to Career Center students. 

Students in the Skills USA class donated a minivan to the program that helps veterans readjust to everyday life through equine therapy.

The van was donated to the school, and students replaced the brakes and suspension, gave the engine a full tuneup and did other work. 

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Van Donation

Dot the horse enjoys a belly scratch with Paul Gatzemeier, left, Joshua George and Anvia Hampton, right in front of a van donated by Career Center students to the Intermountain Equine Center. 

"I couldn't tell you how many hours the kids put into it," said automotive teacher Joshua George. 

Students were greeted by Paul Gatzemeier, board chair for the center; equine therapy counselor Anvia Hampton; and Dot, a horse with an affinity for belly scratches. 

"We're looking for money all the time," Gatzemeier said. "Part of that is the transportation piece."

Many veterans in the program don't have driver's licenses or vehicles, he said. 

"We get some veterans that worked on ranches as kids, and some that have never worked with a horse in their life," said Hampton. "We want to make it so anyone can ride a horse if they want to."

Horses like Dot are selected for their even temperaments and curious dispositions.

"They've got good hearts, they've got good heads," Hampton said. 

Often a rider has a preference for a horse based on personality, and vice versa, she said. That can help build a connection between horse and rider. 

The program is looking to expand, both in the number of veterans accommodated and in services offered, Gatzemeier said. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.