"Dream Catchers helps my son succeed. The horses help his language, independence, and behavior. Dream Catchers is a place when special needs families have a place we feel welcome and understood. The Dream Rider Scholarship is the only opportunity for Ricky to participate in the program."
"Growing up I learned of the magic of therapeutic horseback riding through my Uncle, who co-founded a therapeutic program in Canton, Ohio. Stories of the tremendous impact the program had on riders, the volunteers that poured their hearts into the program, and the horses that were angels filled our family dinners. Decades later as my own daughter was diagnosed with several challenges, including dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder, nonverbal learning disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD, and selective mutism, I’ve kept the possibility of therapeutic riding in my mind. When she turned seven, my husband and I thought that she might be ready.
I knew that with Maya’s love for animals and especially horses, that this would be a tremendous fit for her. I hoped that riding would help improve gross motor challenges, improve strength, and help build self -esteem. It has done all of that for her and more. What I didn’t anticipate was the change in her. While riding she is focused, calm, and responsible. This attitude actually has carried over to other areas of her life. But most importantly, while riding she exudes happiness. She feels a deep connection to Mick Jagger, who couldn’t be sweeter to her. After just a few lessons, riding became her passion. She anxiously awaits Saturdays when she gets to see her cherished friend, Mick. We always try to arrive twenty minutes or so before her lesson; at first it was to give her time to transition. Now she requests that we arrive early so she can spend more time with Mick.
One Spring Saturday we left in plenty of time but mistakenly took Hwy 64, which ended up being a parking lot. I had to break it to Maya that we would most likely be a bit late, but I would do my best to get her there as soon as possible. She was distraught. I picked up the phone to leave a message for the Dream Catchers Team to explain that we were on our way, but would be a bit late. Maya screamed, "But who will tell Mick? How will he know? He’ll think I forgot him! He will be the only one without a rider!" She rolled down her window and screamed, "Micky I’m coming, I’m coming!!" for five minutes until I could convince her to stop.
The entire Dream Catchers Team has been incredible to Maya. Her Instructor, Brittney is encouraging, supportive and full of enthusiasm in her teaching. The volunteers....I’m just in awe of the number of people that it takes to make these lessons happen and to care for the horses. There is never a shortage of volunteers at Dream Catchers. The passion, love and energy they show at every lesson are tremendous. At Maya’s first lesson, I was more than a bit nervous. I was unsure how she would respond, if she would remain calm and focused, and if she could hold herself up on the horse for the whole lesson. All of the volunteers put me at ease, especially Curt. He took her under his protective care that first lesson and has watched out for her almost every lesson since.
Our family will forever be grateful to Dream Catchers – staff, volunteers and generous donors – for all that you do to make our little girl so happy."
"I wanted to take the time to give my appreciation for your organization, staff, counselors, and volunteers on behalf of my son, Joey "J Jedi" King. Horse-riding therapy has been an integral part of several therapies Joey goes through to help diminish the daily challenges he endures with autism. Your program especially tugs at a parent's heart-strings because positive results can be seen almost immediately across a broad range of challenge areas. Joey's riding sessions do so much more than just improve his core body strength, coordination, and stamina. They have improved his social interaction skills through his relationships with the counselors, volunteers, horses, and even the barnyard cat. The bond between Joey and the horses he has ridden, groomed, and fed is the most special of all. These connections, once made, become easier to apply with other animals and humans in his everyday life. For me, one of the most heart-warming contributions of horse-riding therapy is the confidence and sense of pride it instills in my son. I've seen his confidence soar because he has been accepted unconditionally and without judgment by the horses he has bonded with. I've also witnessed the pride he has in caring for the horses that care for him."
"Thank you so much for your donation to Dream Catchers! It has allowed Emma the ability to participate and continue with one of her true passions, horseback riding. As a one income family, financially we would not be able to afford Dream Catchers along with keeping up with other expenses and having a special needs child.
Emma was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome before her 4th birthday and started at Dream Catchers a few months later. Rett Syndrome has taken away Emma' s ability to communicate verbally with her family, peers and has taken away the ability of hand function, leaving her completely dependent on others. Dream Catchers has given back so much to Emma that Rett Syndrome has taken away from her. Horseback riding has given Emma the opportunity to have a hobby and be social with others. Emma has been horseback riding since 2008 and she loves every moment of it, especially her horse Blackie. Both Emma and Blackie have developed a true connection, Emma lights up every time she see Blackie!
Last Spring Emma underwent scoliosis surgery and this fall she was able to return to riding. We believe that horseback riding up until her surgery aided in her recovery and a quick return to riding. We truly believe that being a part of Dream Catchers has allowed Emma to maintain the ability to ambulate, as most Rett girls cannot at her age.
Thank you again for the gift of a scholarship and giving Emma the opportunity to continue with one of her true passions."
"I have always liked horses. Before we moved to Williamsburg, I rode at summer camps and knew I wanted to do more riding. I have been riding at Dream Catchers for about 7 years. Dream Catchers has taught me how to take care of a horse. You don’t just mount for your lesson and walk away when it is done. I have learned the names of the horse body parts. You have to groom, tack and exercise your horse before your lesson and remove the tack and secure him in his stall after your lesson. I talk to my horse as we ride and give him hugs. Before Dream Catchers, I was afraid of heights. I still don't like to climb a ladder, but can ride the tallest horses here.
My body is stronger. I sit very straight on the horse and can tell him what to do by how I move my body. Horses can have bad days just like people do. I have to let my horse know I am in control and get him to be good for the lesson. I learn to control him and he learns to follow directions. Everyone at Dream Catchers is very friendly and helpful."
"As if riding and volunteering at Dream Catchers weren't enough, they decided to ask me to write for the newsletter, too. Fortunately, I just happen to love this place enough that I decided to say yes. Why am I so infatuated with a barn? The answer: Dream Catchers is much more than just a barn and a couple of pastures.
Dream Catchers is a family to me. All of the devoted instructors, the committed volunteers, and the hardworking horses make up a community where everyone is accepted, and I feel at home. No matter what, I never have to worry about "fitting in" at Dream Catchers, because I know I belong. I cannot say enough about how wonderfully kind, accepting, and patient the people are. They always have a smile on their face and are genuinely happy to see you. All of the instructors and volunteers treat others with respect and compassion.
Personally, I have had an especially unique experience, having seen Dream Catchers from both sides of the fence (literally and figuratively). As a rider, I have learned so much from the instructors and the horses. Ever since I was little, I have loved horses, and Dream Catchers was the best place for me to ride safely. I have progressed from riding Blackie with the assistance of a horse leader and two sidewalkers to cantering around the arena on my own. The freedom that I have when I am out there and my horse and I are working as a team is incredible .
Just as rewarding is seeing other riders experience that same feeling. As a volunteer, I am able to give back to the place that I love so dearly and be a part of something bigger than myself. I have the opportunity to take part in a miracle every time I volunteer, because that lesson or moment on the back of a horse is changing the rider's life. They may be learning a crucial skill that will help them with everyday tasks, or they may simply be riding to gain self-esteem and confidence, but either way, what they take from that lesson is something irreplaceable. This is why our volunteers and staff do what they do; working with the students and horses is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.
None of this would be possible without the horses at Dream Catchers, who truly seem to enjoy their job. The requirements for a therapeutic riding horse are stringent, but each of the equines at Dream Catchers meets and exceeds these requirements. These horses are beautiful creatures, and they are generous enough to "lend us the wings we lack."
I can honestly say that Dream Catchers is a family and a second home to me and many others, and it is a place where dreams really do come true."
"Gigi had been learning to walk and ride a tricycle in physical therapy. Both are challenging activities for Gigi due to her weakness, and impairments with coordination, balance and vision. After little success on the tricycle, Gigi’s mom asked her to “trot like you do on Lark!”. Immediately they saw the biggest smile as Gig grabbed the handlebars (like the reins) and yelled “TROT”!" . Gigi propelled her tricycle for fifty feet riding independently, laughing and yelling “TROT! TROT! TROT!” all the way down the hall.
"What an amazing experience for my students! Riding at Dream Catchers has provided therapy, opportunities and experiences for my students with severe cognitive and physical disabilities. Improved posture due to inner core strengthening, verbal expressions, relaxation, and acceptance are all benefits I’ve noticed with my students. Not only do I see this while they are riding, but they are also carried over to the classroom. It is amazing to for the students who sit in wheelchairs sit up straight on horses, imitate Walk on with their voice and hands and ride the horses with little assistance from their side walkers. It is like they are in a different world. The strength they gain from their sessions is obvious in the classroom as they sit up straighter and taller, hold their head up longer, and show excitement when Dream Catchers is mentioned.
Dream Catchers has been an overwhelming opportunity for my students and a personal reward to me. In 2009, I contacted Kim and Nancy and inquired about the possibility for my students to take part in Dream Catchers. Through funds from the school division, scholarships from Dream Catchers, and independent fund raising, it quickly became a reality. At the time, two students participated in the program and now we have five students riding. If students are physically unable to ride, Dream Catchers encourages provide staff members to assist students in grooming, feeding snacks to the horses, and riding a mechanical horse. There is one student I felt could never get on a horse. After two sessions with a mechanical horse, I was proven wrong. The very next week, she rode a real horse and was more relaxed than I have ever seen her in the two years I’ve known this student. Our participation is a direct result of the generous scholarships from Dream Catchers.
If were not for the scholarships, we would not be able to afford such a worthwhile program. We are all rewarded with the benefits reaped from the students’ participation as they go beyond preconceived expectations!"
"Our daughter Tori was 2 ½ yrs. old when she was in a horrific car wreck caused by a car load of reckless teenagers. She sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, was in a coma, on life support, doctors didn’t think she’d make it, and therapists thought she may never be able to move. After months of being hospitalized she defied the odds and finally came home, though severely disabled in every capacity; we had entered into a new and challenging phase in our lives and had to think of everything differently. Reading the newspaper I found a very small story about Dream Catchers needing to find a new home, I thought ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if they moved closer to Williamsburg & maybe one day we could see Tori ride a horse’.
Dream Catchers did find a new home & we contacted them as soon as it they were settled. Tori was about 6 yrs. old when she started, she couldn’t support her head very well, her body strength was extremely weak, the volunteers had to hold on tightly, and at first she could only handle a 20 minute slow walk around the field. As our lessons continued Tori began to hold her head higher, and her core strength increased; all these changes were noticed by her therapists as it was positively affecting all her other therapies.
Today Tori is 15 yrs. old, the little girl who many thought wouldn’t survive or be able to do much, now holds her head high, sits tall on the horse with a smile on her face and loves to trot. Dream Catchers is a very unique place where everyone feels like they are part of a special family ~ here our daughter has the opportunity to have fun outdoors, in a caring setting while getting stronger physically & mentally. Seeing how our child thrived on a horse was also a catalyst for our daughters many other adventures; today you may find her on an adaptive tandem bike riding on the Virginia Capital Trail, adaptive surfing in Virginia Beach or adaptive skiing at Wintergreen."
We have much to be grateful for, and being part of the Dream Catchers family is one of them."