Community Builder: Dream Riders helps special needs children through horseback riding

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - More than 16 years ago, one Lexington family made it their purpose to offer therapeutic horseback riding to special needs children through a program called Dream Riders.

"It's just our passion and it's really strange, it's the whole family's passion," Corky Dyer said.

Corky and Lewis Dyer had a love for horses and a passion to help people with special needs long before they got married 43 years ago, and long before they had their son, Lou, who has special needs.

"When Lou was born, we wondered why. Well, as things progressed, we know why," Lewis said.

"I think God has a plan, I think He always had a plan," Corky added. "I think He gave us Lou to make sure we got to that plan."

That plan included a Lexington farm, and the more than 30 families with special needs children who come to ride weekly.

Their instructor? Corky and Lewis' daughter, Jennifer.

"Horses is something I've done all of my life, since before I could walk," Jennifer Stoudemire, head instructor and only paid employee at Dream Riders, said. "Having a special needs brother who had ridden all of his life, it was something I was accustomed to."

Jennifer said she saw the difference horseback riding made for her brother. So, wanting others to experience the same, she helped start Dream Riders with her parents in 1998. 

"We charge just enough to pay for [Jennifer's] salary and the insurance, and everything else has to be fundraised," Corky said, explaining how they want to make the experience affordable for families.

Corky and Lewis are among the many volunteers who make Dream Riders possible. They say from children with Autism and Down Syndrome to those with Cerebral Palsy, therapeutic horseback riding makes a difference.

"For those that can't walk that have Cerebral Palsy, the natural movement and rhythm of the horse moves the hips just like walking," Lewis added.

Moms like Phyllis Wooten say their children's lives have been changed because of Dream Riders. That's where the Community Builders nomination comes in. Wooten says her 7 year-old son Chase, who has Down Syndrome, has been riding for nearly 4 years.

"It's been such a blessing. It's so good for these kids," Wooten said. "The focus is not on their disabilities and what they can't do, it's all about what they can do."

Making the possibilities on the Lexington Farm endless for the Dream Riders, thanks to a family who has watched their dream come true.

Mungo Homes and WIS presented the Dyers with the Community Builder award earlier this week. As a Community Builder the Dyers will receive a $1,000 donation to Dream Riders from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation.

If you would like more information about Dream Riders or to make a donation, visit

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