Eagle Mount horsemanship

Participants in the Eagle Mount horsemanship program learn how to handle and care for horses with the help of certified therapeutic riding instructors on Wednesday, April 26. 

Whether it’s skiing on the slopes or saddled up on horseback, Eagle Mount Bozeman offers locals a chance to combine their love for the outdoors with rewarding multipersonal relationships. The nonprofit organization focuses on providing adaptive recreation for the disabled, children with cancer and veterans. 

Eagle Mount Bozeman was established in 1982 by Robert and Greta Mathis. What began as a small ski program has since grown into a source of volunteering opportunities for recreationalists across the board. According to Kevin Sylvester, executive director of Eagle Mount, the organization began with around 100 participants their first year. They now provide adaptive recreation for 850 participants, as well as engaging 1000 annual volunteers, across all their programs.   

Patrick Quinn, the adaptive recreation director for Eagle Mount, explained that the organization now offers a variety of different programs where volunteers can engage alongside participants and their families to help reduce the mental or physical barriers associated with different forms of recreation. 

“That's why we're here. They're not going to fit in the mold of what is traditional recreation. We want to change what traditional recreation is, by adapting,” Quinn said.

Quinn’s program facilitates sports of all seasons. In the winter time, Eagle Mount Bozeman runs skiing and snowboarding programs at Bridger Bowl, Big Sky and The Yellowstone Club. They also have a nordic ski program at the Crosscut Mountain Sports Center.

During the spring and fall, the program hosts indoor rock climbing at Spire and ice skating at the fairgrounds.

In the summertime, the adaptive recreation program has multiple day camps for both school age groups and adult participants. Activities range from flat water boating and camping to group outings at hot springs and caverns.  

“They get to know each other. They build cohesion, develop our social skills, our friendships, our relationships and they learn some outdoor skills and the beauty of nature,” Quinn said. “They get all of those outcomes that we can't even understand that nature gives.” 

Eagle Mount Bozeman also offers a variety of other programs, including horseback riding, aquatics, art, theater and gardening. According to Quinn, all of these activities aim to accomplish the same goals. 

“Everyone deserves access to joy and community. It's a beautiful thing. We listed all those different programs, but those are all tools to the same thing. We're trying to get people to move their bodies, to feel connected, to experience nature and to build relationships,” Quinn said.

Quinn noted that different programs are designed to make different accommodations for the variety of disabilities the organization helps with. These disabilities range from physical to cognitive and intellectual. According to Quinn, all these disabilities are prioritized equally.

“It's all representative and it's all part of the beautiful diversity. There's no one that's highlighted over others,” Quinn said.

Outside of Bozeman, there are also Eagle Mount organizations in Billings and Great Falls. While all these groups are separate nonprofits, they align in their mission and will often collaborate for training and activities. 

“I would pitch it to anyone who's looking to find a deeper community and network of friends, to create more joy in Bozeman, if you're seeking community or if you're the type of person that understands that we can grow internally through serving the world, through getting outside of ourselves and helping people. That's for both participants and volunteers,” Quinn said.