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Gundersons

Ervin and Jan Gunderson watch the horses of the Britt Draft Horse Show Saturday afternoon with Jan's support dog, Zoe, resting on her lap.

People from Britt and all over Iowa gathered together to watch the gentle giants in the big Britt Draft Horse Show Saturday and Sunday afternoons of Labor Day weekend.

For Ervin and Jan Gunderson, who came from Underwood, the horse show helps them in the face of cancer.

“My wife is a 14-year breast cancer survivor, and the horses help her get through everything. We located this a year ago and it’s a really, really nice show, and we enjoy it,” Ervin said. “We’re happy to be here and appreciate the good show.”

Jan said they had horses in their neighborhood in Underwood, and 13 years ago when she started the treatment for her cancer, she would go down to visit the horses when she “was feeling blue.”

“We would go down, I would get out, and I would go to the horses and pet them and find great comfort, and they got to where they liked me better than [Ervin],” she said.

Their neighbor had percherons, and the horse would come up to the fence to visit Jan while Ervin stayed in the car, according to Ervin.

“So they were a real comfort to me in the very beginning,” Jan said.

Now Jan has a support dog named Zoe that sits on her lap while Jan is in her motorized chair everywhere she goes.

“It’s been very helpful,” Jan said. “Animals are great when battling things like this.”

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Jan said she remembers in particular they had a percheron they went to visit one night before going to the doctor.

“I thought I was going to get bad news and I went over there to see him. As we pulled away he just laughed the biggest neigh you ever wanted to see and my husband said, ‘It’s going to be all right,’” she said. “So they have been the biggest help to me with my cancer.”

Jan said she went nine years cancer free after treatment for her breast cancer and has had three reoccurrences that have moved to different areas of her body that were the same kind of cancer as her breast cancer.

“There’s just been a lot of new breakthroughs,” she said. “I’ve had several new medications that have worked for me for like a year and a half, and by the time I’m done with that one, there’s another new medicine out, so I just go with the new medicine, and they’re working for me.”

This year was their second year attending the show, and Ervin said he thinks they’ll make it an annual event for them.

“We liked it all, but the six-horse hitch is probably my favorite,” he said.

Ervin said they have a motor home they travel in and were camped in Clear Lake to attend the show.

“We enjoy camping and we enjoy the lake, all those little shops,” he said. “Fun things to do. It’s a nice area.”

Jan said amid the cancer and all the new medications, they’re still having a great time, especially at the Britt Draft Horse Show.

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