From Distressed to Dressage

Between torrential downpours, show goers to the ridden dressage portion of STRIDE’s Grand Oaks Resort show undoubtedly noticed two amazingly composed junior riders. Research revealed these two young ladies, Adrienne Karcher and Haylie Minnette, were riding a rescued horse, Princess Gulf, from DreamCatcher Horse Ranch and Rescue in Clermont, Florida.

DreamCatcher Horse Ranch and Rescue is the brainchild of STRIDE member Alison Wheatley. Actually, it’s more of a “heartchild.”

During an expedition to animal control to adopt a cat, Alison and her daughter Loran noticed an aged quarter horse who appeared kind enough, but who had clearly come to the end of the line. So much for the cat…they ended up with the horse! This was their first step on the way to establishing DreamCatcher.

Alison and her family ended up with other horses from animal control, typically ones that did not get a bid at the agency’s auction. A former owner of an ex-racehorse donated to the ranch suggested Alison pursue a non-profit status. She did, and in 2010 DreamCatcher Horse Ranch and Rescue was born.

One of the things that has made DreamCatcher a success is that the rescue, which currently houses about 50 horses, is run like a business. From trail rides to Mommy and Me events to a gift shop, the rescue stays focused on imaginative ways to generate donations for the operation. During the past year, they have added Carina Stewart, a classically trained dressage instructor and STRIDE member, to their staff for lessons.

Ultimately, DreamCatcher strives to find homes for horses.  Although the average stay of a horse ranges from six to twelve months, some are lifers. Horses identified as ridable by owners who have surrendered them are integrated into the lesson program as they regain condition and confidence. Some are drafted as trail horses and others as “lovables” in the Groom and Love a Rescue program. Once a horse is in good weight and healthy, he is a candidate for adoption. Often, prospective owners are already fans of the sanctuary who were introduced to the horses through one of the regular events, like the Thursday Trail Riding Club.

Much to her credit, the cases Alison enjoys rehabilitating most are those of a medical nature. She doesn’t shy away from ulcerated eyes or foundered horses. However, she says that she receives phone calls on a near daily basis from people who are looking to surrender a horse. Sometimes she connects the caller with someone who has made an inquiry about adoption. Most of the horses taken in by Alison have made the grim descent through animal control and have run out of options.

Her youngest daughter Loran, the same one who drug her to Animal Control to look for a cat, is now 25 years old and barn manager of the facility.  Like her mom, she specializes in the medical cases and works closely with Dr. Erin Denney Jones of Florida Equine in Clermont.

To see more of DreamCatcher Horse Ranch and Rescue, check out this lovely video snapshot filmed by WUCF.

Photo captions:
Righ Side::  The DreamCatcher Dressage Team gears up for fun at Grand Oaksshow.
Left to right are Carina Stewart, Julia Berry, Adrienne Karcher, Hayley Minette, and Alison Wheatley.
Main Image:  Trail riders embark on a leisurely stroll at DreamCatcher Ranch and Rescue.