Taking care of abused or unwanted horses ties right in with Dream Catcher’s philosophy, but both nonprofits are struggling for funds in the down economy, she said.
Everyone is invited to support the efforts of the center and the sanctuary on Saturday, Nov. 13 for a “Denim and Diamonds” gala fundraising event at the Montrose Pavilion, 6-10:30 p.m.
The Hamms started Dream Catcher Therapy Center in 1999 and started doing horse rescue in 2006.
“We started horse rescue basically because the horses have healed our clients,” Kathy Hamm said. “They’ve given so much, we needed to give back to them. Animals are truly what makes us human.”
But humans benefit just as much as the horses, Hamm said, through hippotherapy, a controlled and supervised interaction with horses.
According to the website of the American Hippotherapy Association, the movement of the horse is a treatment strategy in physical, occupational and speech-language therapy sessions for people living with disabilities.
“Hippotherapy has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development as well as emotional well-being,” the website states at www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org.
The Hamms know firsthand how beneficial a therapeutic riding program is, which they researched after their daughter Ali was born with Down syndrome in 1996. Kathy was a life-long horsewoman, so she traveled to different centers around the state. The couple then bought 36 acres west of Olathe and started Dream Catchers, with two horses and an arena.
In the ensuing 11 years, the center has grown to a full-time operation with licensed therapists, counselors and “over 20 well-mannered horses” who have served more than 1,200 disabled children and adults, Hamm said.
The center is also a training center for the American Hippology Association and is approved as a Special Olympics training center.
“We are also in the process of being a nationally certified horse rescue,” she said. “We want to give people the understanding that we are a credible organization.”
Hamm said she hopes that the fundraiser, now in its ninth year, will help make up for shortfalls caused by the economy.
“With the economy the way it is, we’re in more need than ever,” she said. “Requests for services have increased both for people with disabilities and [abandoned] horses.”
Clients come from doctors and healthcare professionals, school districts and others, Hamm said.
“The Center for Mental Health works closely with us and refers a lot of clients to us,” she said.
Therapeutic horseback riding can help those of all ages, particularly those with disabilities, but also healthy seniors, she said, so the center started working with Sunrise Creek Living Facility to get seniors, some of whom grew up on ranches, to experience just being around horses again.
“They come out, brush the horses and have tea,” she said. “They need to get out of just going to their room and sitting in front of the TV.”
But some still want to get back in the saddle, like a recent 96-year-old who had grown up riding and insisted on taking the reins.
“She said she wouldn’t be led around like a little girl,” she said.
The economy has also been hard on horses, Hamm said.
“People are turning their backs on them, and it’s vital that somebody with understanding and compassion get in a position to help these animals,” she said. “This fundraiser is vital. It’s our biggest every year, and helps us to keep the horses fed through the winter.”
Festivities include games of chance – blackjack, craps, roulette and Texas hold ’em, as well as dinner, provided by The Red Barn will provide dinner, as well as silent and live auctions, a cash bar and dancing to the Anders Brothers Band.
Tickets are $15 and are available at Alpine Bank, the Red Barn, Nu Vista Credit Union or at the door. Order tickets by phone by calling 970/323-5400.