Pony parade in Blacklick gives giddy-up to Dreams on Horseback riders

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Dreams on Horseback changed rein with its annual holiday party, instead holding a Holiday Pony Parade at its second facility, called Field of Dreams Equine Education Center, 1841 Unbridled Way in Blacklick, on Dec. 13.

Dreams on Horseback’s main facility is at 1416 Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road in Blacklick.

Ellen Lee, Dreams on Horseback development director, said the socially distanced holiday celebration brought joy to some participants who haven’t been able to ride or see the horses as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Blacklick resident Steve Reitz introduces his 4-year-old daughter, Riley, to Lark, one of the horses at the Field of Dreams Equine Education Center in Blacklick, on Dec. 13. The horses were dressed for the holidays and were in the Dreams on Horseback Holiday Pony Parade in lieu of a holiday party at the facility this year.

“It was an opportunity for our riders to get a Christmas treat and see the horses they love,” said Lee, a New Albany resident. “Many of our riders are riding weekly, but those who require side walkers have not been able to come to the barn because we can’t get that close to them (because of COVID-19).” 

The mission of Dreams on Horseback is to help people with challenges improve their lives through horse-partnered learning experiences and education, according to its website, dreamsonhoreback.org.

Karmen McCaslin, a Dreams on Horseback volunteer and mother of a therapeutic rider, said this has been a challenging year for her and her daughter, Hannah, because of missing the other riders, staff and volunteers.

“Dreams on Horseback has become an extended family for us, and we have missed everyone, including the horses,” McCaslin said. “We both loved the parade because we saw folks we have not seen in months.”

While waving to those in the parade, she said, she locked eyes with one of her riders, who said, "I miss you."

“It brought tears to my eyes,” McCaslin said. “All I wanted to do was go to her van and hug her, and I knew I couldn't.”

Gahanna resident Rian Gurvis dresses Lark with her daughter, Hope. They participate in the Military Connections program at Dreams on Horseback's Field of Dreams Equine Education Center, 1841 Unbridled Way in Blacklick.

Heidi Clous of Blacklick said her daughter, Ava, has been involved with Dreams for 10 years. 

“She’s 14 and in eighth grade,” she said. “She’s excited because she knew she would see the ponies. The whole year has been difficult for kids. Everyone here dressing up and waving at them makes them feel special.”

Bella Davis, a Gahanna Lincoln High School sophomore, started riding at Dreams when she was 12.

“When I turned 14, I got involved in the volunteer program,” Davis said. “These animals are my heart. I love the kids and horses. Daisy is my favorite. She’s best with traditional riders. Because of COVID, some in the therapeutic program haven’t been able to have lessens. This (pony parade) is great for them.”

Bella Davis, a Gahanna Lincoln High School sophomore, is a volunteer at Dreams on Horseback in Blacklick.

Pickerington resident Holly Prestileo, Dreams event coordinator, said the drive-by pony parade served as an alternative to the annual party and provided riders with something to celebrate. 

Dreams on Horseback executive director Jennifer Hansen said she wants people to know the nonprofit still is operating.

“We’re looking forward to ’21,” she said. “This was an attempt for them to see their horses and do something fun for the holidays. We haven’t been able to do a lot.”

Lee said it was a joy to create something that would work and reconnect riders with the horses and staff.

Dreams on Horseback’s programs include therapeutic riding lessons, equine-assisted learning, Alzheimer’s senior experiences, vocational training and Military Connections.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla