Impressive Dogwood Horse Ranch Visited by Special Guests from East Central
Ron Brandes is a rather unassuming gentleman. He lives just outside of Milan. He has a 50-acre horse ranch with a camp ground, fire pit and a year-round indoor arena so those specially gifted and others can ride year-round.
The special guests that visit him annually are from East Central Special Education Department. The students must get parental permission and follow the guidelines.
These specially gifted students volunteer to assist with “general everyday barn work” as described by Brandes. They volunteer to assist with daily maintenance and enjoy visiting the horses and ranch!
Some students rake aisleways, others may pick-up hay, still others assist to clean the arena or stalls. One 2022 visiting student played with a very large and loving yellow “barn cat” on her day to visit.
At the end of the cleaning, after everyone is acclimated to being around each other, the students are allowed to pet the horses. One horse has one eye. He is a special needs animal and playful! The students are taught to only approach him from his sighted side.
Halie Worpert (the barn manager) and Ariana Watkins (a barn volunteer) teach them why. Because the horse would be startled if approached from the unsighted side. Brandes concludes “… no different than you or I. We would be startled if we couldn’t see and someone just walked up and touched us.”
Safety is stressed in all activities. Brandes explains, “We allow them to give the horses treats. But not from their hands.” They put the treats in a feed pan located to allow the children to reach in and drop the treats in them.
When asked why they train the horses in this manner, Brandes says “Horses that are hand fed will nibble on your arm. Or when you reach out to pet them, they may bite the hand reaching toward them thinking it is a treat.”
Safety is a priority and keeping these visitors, riders, and horses safe is the key function to all training and riding lessons.
Before the day is over, the children are taught about grooming, saddling and even how to clean a horse’s hooves. Brandes fondly recalls a riding lesson when a boisterous young man learned the details of the equipment, how to groom, saddle, and mount/dismount safely.
The young man climbed on, took the horse around the arena and came back to address Brandes saying “Mr. Brandes, your horn is broke! It don’t beep!” Perspective is everything.
Impressive Dogwood Horse Ranch is dedicated to facilitating specially gifted (disabled and special needs) individuals to enjoy the activity of horseback riding, learning about the animal’s care, and succeeding at this endeavor.
Assisted by his barn manager, Halie and his barn volunteer, Ariana, the ranch has been hosting these East Central visits for the past three years. However, Impressive Dogwood Ranch has been assisting specially gifted individuals to enjoy horses and horseback riding for the past 35 years.
As the day ends for the East Central visitors they are treated to some soft drinks and snacks. Brandes gave them to the children and then told them to put them in their pockets. A unified wail was sounded!
However, when he explained that now their teacher was taking them to Subway to eat, they were all glad to comply. Brandes has made a lifetime of serving our country (for 25 years) and now he serves our community.
We will look forward to more visits and more stories from Impressive Dogwood Horse Ranch.