People Of Peace - Jennifer Hansen


January 2017

 Jennifer Hansen

Co-Founder, Dreams on Horseback

 Dreams on Horseback
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In Jennifer's Words... 

How long have you been connected with Peace?

My family (David, Madeline, Lauren, and I) began attending Peace services in 2014, however Peace’s Camp Friendship began working with the Dreams on Horseback therapeutic riding programs before that time.  A number of our program participants attend Peace (Jesse Bickley is one of our Special Olympic athletes, Claire Smeck rides in our therapeutic lessons), two of our Board Members attend Peace (Cory LaCrosse and AmyJo Donohew), and many of our volunteers (e.g. Pat Tietz is helping with our adaptive equipment project) are members of the Peace community.

What have you been doing to make a difference in our community?

Since 2002, Dreams on Horseback has helped people who face daily challenges at home, in school, or the community through our therapeutic horse programs. Our clients include children and adults with development disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome. In 2016, our clients participated in more than 720 program events covering more than 3500+ hours, including:
•Training with award-winning Special Olympics equestrian athletes
•Vocational training for at-risk teens with developmental challenges
•Equine therapy for adults with dementia
We are supported by more than 125 volunteers who make these programs possible by contributing thousands of hours.

Most recently, Dreams on Horseback programs are featured in a groundbreaking documentary, Affinity, that will certainly spark a change in the national conversation about how we view autism. We are also currently collaborating with The Ohio State University Biomedical Engineering department in designing adaptive equipment for riders with physical challenges. 

In 2017 Dreams has been asked to host the second Ohio Special Olympics equestrian competition, as well as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) State Conference.

How does your community work reflect your faith in Jesus?

This entire adventure has been a complete leap of faith that I firmly believe was not my original idea!

I certainly wasn’t expecting this career path when I attended law school. I had never even owned a horse until then. I started providing educational programs at church with my first horse, Daisy, while working for the Ohio Secretary of State. This branched out to working with United Way agencies and other churches more as a hobby. As my husband and I started a family, I changed to a part-time law position and started the non-profit, Dreams on Horseback, wanting to reach more inner-city youth, challenging them to think outside the boundaries of their neighborhoods. I convinced my husband to purchase a run-down hog farm in Blacklick, Ohio to have a place to bring the inner city kids “to the country.” From there, the people with specialized professional backgrounds and children with special needs seemed to appear at just the right times for our programs to expand.  First education, then working with children diagnosed on the autism spectrum for early intervention, then Special Olympics, and finally, therapeutic riding. As someone who was “new” to the horse world, I could never have plotted this path without divine direction! Starting this non-profit, in itself, is amazing, as I like a life of structure, predictability, security (even if it is false security!)….I am not an entrepreneur nor a risk-taker by nature!

How can others connect with Dreams on Horseback?

Every single therapeutic riding lesson hour requires 10 volunteers. That totals 160 volunteer hours minimum each week, almost 8,000 hours each year. These volunteers are critical in providing affordable interventions for families already faced with costly therapies in order for their children to enjoy as robust of a life as possible. We ask our therapeutic riding lesson volunteers to commit to volunteering for a 2-hour shift once each week, for 12 weeks. That provides consistency for our participants. 

We also host regular farm work days where people can help clear trails on our wooded sensory trail, paint fence, or help keep the barn in good repair. Information about volunteering and making contributions is available on our website.

Jennifer Hansen: To Love...Neighbor