In the past year, Loey Taylor's son, Jamison, and a donkey named Jack have formed an inseparable bond. Jack had been abused to the point of being permanently handicapped, but Dream Big Horse Club and Rescue's goal was to give him a safe place where he could learn to trust humans again.
“When he came here, he just fell in love,” Loey Taylor said about her son. “He says, ‘I don’t know where I would be without DBHC.’”
Taylor said she has seen an improvement in Jamison's overall responsibility since he started going to Dream Big Horse Club.
Jack has received the veterinary care he needed to mostly heal physically, and he is no longer afraid of people — especially his friend, Jamison.
“The kids help the animals, and the animals help the kids,” said Laurie Tueros, director of Dream Big Horse Club. “And it’s a program that’s teaching kids to be good citizens.”
Besides her heart for children, Tueros is passionate about caring for animals of all shapes and sizes. In addition to the donkeys, a number of horses, a cow, two sheep and a number of chickens — most of which were rescued from life-threatening situations and nursed back to health — currently reside on the farm. Just last week, she took in two cats from a shelter.
But this nonprofit organization has recently suffered from a lack of resources.
Tueros offers riding lessons, an animal-boarding facility, Saturday camps and summer camps that help raise funds for the barn. But one of the most life-changing programs — Horses With Halos — is offered to most of its participants for free, and Tueros isn’t sure she can continue to sustain it.
HORSES WITH HALOS
Horses With Halos is a weekly program that helps emotionally abused, socially challenged, at-risk and underprivileged children through animal care, agriculture, other farm management skills and Bible studies.
“They come here and they learn to be part of a group,” Tueros said. “It’s in a controlled environment, so the kids here get to be kids. And they all treat each other as equals, regardless of their backgrounds.”
Tueros has countless stories of how Horses With Halos has transformed the lives of children who have participated.
For example, Big Brothers Big Sisters sent two children who had come from rough family situations to Horses With Halos. One had almost been expelled from school because of his ADHD symptoms. Both were stubborn, and they didn’t know anything about the God of the Bible.
“Now, they basically teach the (Bible) class, and they are the most well-behaved,” Tueros said.
The boy who had almost been expelled has earned a perfect conduct record and is a straight-A student.
“It’s an amazing program that has helped so many kids, but there is no funding,” Tueros said.
She may have to discontinue the program in August unless she gets the help she needs, quickly. In addition to funding, Tueros needs manpower. With just two volunteers helping her run the barn and its daily programs, she is worn out.
The only requirement for new volunteers who want to work directly with the children is to pass a background check. Volunteers who want to work with just the animals only have to be willing to work hard — and not mind getting a little messy.
But there is one thing Tueros does not tolerate among her volunteers and the children who attend her programs: gossip. This is how she has lost some of her volunteers through the years.
To become a volunteer or donate to Dream Big Horse Club, contact Tueros at (352) 321-8604.
“Everybody wants to either give to kids or to animals — it’s either one or the other,” Tueros said. “These animals don’t have a second chance, and some of these kids don’t have a second chance. … It gives them a goal, and it gives them something to work for.”
Dream Big Horse Club & Rescue
ADDRESS: 17825 Terra Vista Court, Winter Garden
PHONE: (352) 321-8604
FACEBOOK: Dream Big Horse Club & Rescue Inc
Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].