DreamCatcher Horse Rescue | Clermont, Florida

There are numerous horse rescues all over the United States and unfortunately, they never cease to be without horses in need. DreamCatcher Ranch and Rescue, located in Clermont, Florida, can attest to that: to date, they have rescued well over a thousand horses and are still counting.

Founded in 2006 by Alison Wheatley and her family, they started out with two horses. After the financial crash in 2008 it became evident the need was greater than ever, so they officially became a 501 (C)3 in 2009. They specialize in horses with major medical issues. Originally from the UK, Alison settled in Lake County in 1999. Her real estate business The Wheatley Group, DreamCatcher Realty helps fund the rescue. It takes a lot of funds to support a rescue, especially a horse rescue and sanctuary. While a good number of horses are adopted out, many remain on the premises for the remainder of their lives. Fifty percent of real estate commissions of DreamCatcher Realty is funneled back into the rescue.

Alison Wheatley, DreamCatcher Horse Rescue Founder

Alison Wheatley, DreamCatcher Horse Rescue Founder

One of their more famous rescues and residents is Teddy Bear Highway, a horse that was rescued in 2019 on the side of I-75 in Alachua County. The horse took responsibility for his own destiny by either backing out of or falling out of a trailer bound for the kill pens and where ultimately he would have been sold for slaughter. (For a more in-depth telling of his amazing story, check out HRL’s “The Saga of “Teddy Bear Highway”, the I-75 Miracle Horse”!)

Highway, who suffered from extensive injuries and required surgery, was treated by Spring Hill Equine Clinic, who made the initial rescue (retold in Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband by Justin B. Long). He was then placed with DreamCatcher to live out his days and is an iconic symbol of the need for enhanced protections in the horse industry.

A visit to DreamCatcher Ranch also brings about awareness of a different kind of rescue – one of a more human variety. Speaking with volunteers made one thing abundantly clear. Among those who volunteered, many needed the horses at DreamCatcher as much as the horses needed them.

A volunteer that I spoke with related the loss she felt after the death of her sister and the hole in her life that has since been filled with horses and the responsibility of running a rescue. It is all hands on deck with duties to be filled seven days a week 24 hours a day. 

Another, a volunteer dealing with a spouse who had Alzheimer’s, found relief in the daily routine of caring for the numerous four-legged residents. As well as horses, residents include donkeys, mules, goats, llamas, chickens, cats and dogs.

But it’s not just the volunteers who benefit from the nuzzle of a horse. The rescue offers scheduled trail rides to those over 18 years of age, and there is a program for toddlers and their mothers as well. And of course, there are the petting zoo type days where all equines and their four-legged counterparts are offered treats from the small outstretched palms of children who are fascinated by the encounter.

For more information regarding DreamCatcher Ranch and Horse Rescue and all they offer, visit their website or follow them on Facebook!

Barb currently resides in Central Florida with her three horses; when she’s not writing or riding for HRL, she loves to read and travel. horseandriderliving@gmail.com