GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Can you imagine a business where long faces on the customers is a good thing?

Kelly Speidel can. That's why she opened the Paard Yard, a resort and motel near Cascade that offers short and long-term accommodations.

For horses.

Kelly and her husband Ken moved to their property just north of Cascade less than a year ago. Ken is a 25-year military veteran whose work brought the couple to Great Falls' Malmstrom Air Force Base for about three years in the 1990s.

As soon as they could, they came back.

"I wanted to live in the mountains," said Kelly. "I'm a mountains type person."

Since she was a girl, Kelly has also been a horse type person.

She first got into horses by accident. When she was in fourth grade, Kelly was trying to get a Girl Scout badge. She paid a visit to her neighbors, who had horses, and they helped her out.

"I was hooked after that," she said.

Kelly has a degree in biology and has been a schoolteacher in math and science. She also owns the Belgian Chocolatier, a home-based business that makes Belgian-style chocolate treats.

Her life's direction returned to her love of horses when she moved back to Montana, though.

"When I bought my horse, I knew that he needed some TLC, so I was looking for education on horses," Kelly said. "I found the University of Guelph in Ontario, and I took a class and absolutely loved it. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know, so I ended up getting a degree from them in equine studies."

Kelly had already noticed that the area had few options when it came to boarding horses, and the boarders she did find were often full. The Speidels' Cascade home overlooks Interstate 15, and the constant traffic up and down the highway gave Kelly an idea.

"Basically, I noticed that there was a lot of transit going up and down I-15 for horses, and I thought, where in the world do they stay?" said Kelly. "Everyone in Montana has a horse, but they're all on their own property, so finding a place to board a horse was extremely difficult."

The Speidels built a barn, and the Paard Yard was born. "Paard" is Dutch for "horse," a nod to Kelly's Flemish heritage.

Horses can stay at the Paard Yard for anything from one day to several months or more. Potential clients for the business include people buying horses in the lower 48 states and transporting them to Canada, snowbirds heading to warmer climes for the winter, rodeo folks looking for a place to stop and rest between cities and even owners whose mares need a night in a warm space to drop their foals.

"It would also help military," said Kelly, "because I know there is a big military population that loves to ride, and if they had to go on a deployment, I could also be that place that took care of their horse while they were away."

The stalls are clean and sheltered with electricity and indoor and outdoor enclosures that connect to pasture land with room for horses to run. There's even a warm-water bathing station for that spa-like feel. For humans, there is space to park a trailer or camper with power and water hookups.

Besides Kelly, the Paard Yard has two other "employees."

Ken Speidel calls himself the business' "fecal relocation manager." Basically, he moves horse poop from one place to another.

"That's my job here at the Paard Yard, and it pays zero dollars an hour," Ken said with a smile.

The real boss of the place is Bullet, or Mr. B, as he's affectionately called by the Speidels.

As visitors drive up the lane, Mr. B is there to greet them. He makes sure all the stalls are fit for a king. He even writes the Paard Yard's blog, detailing his discovery of carrots, his ladies' man tendencies and his friendship with a barnyard bunny trying to escape the Montana cold.

Kelly is encouraging Mr. B to make music the subject of his next blog because the sneaky steed knows how to turn on the iPod and can even take his own selfies.

"The other day, we were listening to music," said Kelly, "and he must not like Martina McBride because he turned it off."

As business picks up, Kelly is looking forward to meeting other horse people and seeing all the different breeds folks bring through.

Mr. B was in pretty rough shape when the Speidel family found him, and his condition has inspired Kelly to explore other uses for her boarding space.

"I think I can also be a place for horses that have been neglected," Kelly said. "That's still in the works right now with the county."

When abused or neglected horses are taken from their owners by the county, they need a place to stay until a judge determines where they will end up. Kelly has offered that service to the county and is waiting to hear back from them.

"It's kind of a niche thing," said Ken. "We're not expecting to go in there and make a million bucks."

"I really feel like I could make a difference for them," said Kelly. "That feeling inside to know that you made that horse better, that's good for your heart."

___

Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com