WAYNE — The Randy and Laura Nelson family is holding nothing back in its efforts to give back to others.
The Nelsons — who recently moved from their home in rural Bertrand to a farm near Wayne — are establishing Dreamer’s Place Veterans Equestrian Ranch to offer veterans, first responders and community members an opportunity to relax, recharge and leave behind stress while interacting with horses and other equine animals.
Laura Nelson said she wants to provide a place where people who are dealing with mental health struggles, personal troubles, low self-esteem or intrusive thoughts can focus on living in the moment.
“We wanted to cater more toward the veterans and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). You can’t unsee things,” Nelson said. “... (But) if you can go and replace that memory or loud noise for just five minutes to do menial things, that’s five minutes you’re not thinking about what you’ve done. That’s five minutes that you’ll have a clear head.”
Nelson said the idea to establish Dreamer’s Place had been brewing for a long time. In her youth, she lived close to Offutt Air Force Base, where she had many “four-year friends” who came and went with military assignments. In that time, she also discovered the comfort that spending time with a horse could bring.
“The only place I could look after a bad test at school or in adolescence when you have a disagreement — when you’re 14 or 15, that’s the worse thing ever — was taking a walk to the horses,” she said. “Then I didn’t think about (the problem) anymore. You have a fresh perspective.”
When the Nelsons retired from farming, they decided to put their focus on what always had made them the happiest — horses. They worked with a real estate broker to find the “turn-key property” near Wayne, where they established the 5 Spurs Ranch, an equine-based business that features boarding, arena space, round pen usage and various events.
The space also provided the Nelsons the opportunity to combine Laura Nelson’s background in working with those who have struggled with abuse and substance issues with the lifelong dream of establishing Dreamer’s Place, she said.
The ranch is named, in part, after Randy Nelson’s father, whose nickname was Dreamer. “He didn’t care if you had two cents to your name or $2 million. He wanted to know where you were from, what you were doing and what your passions were, and he was proud of his service life,” Nelson said.
Nelson divides the animals at Dreamer’s Place between “littles” and “bigs.” The littles are the “movers and shakers” that will accompany the Nelsons on visits to veterans homes, nursing homes, schools or wherever they are invited. They include a mini Shetland pony named Sweet Pea, a mini donkey named Eeyore and a 3-year-old paint Shetland named Patches.
Nelson said those who use the ranch might find they can relate to some of the backgrounds or characteristics of the animals. Sweet Pea, for example, came to Dreamer’s Place malnourished and underweight and has trust issues with people and other animals. The ranch is now documenting her journey to recovery.
The “bigs” on the ranch are three larger horses that are long on both maturity and personality. They include Jesse, a 27-year-old quarter horse that was donated to the ranch from a military veteran.
“He’s earned his retirement,” Nelson said. “Jesse likes treats and food. He is one that will walk up to you. He’s kind of a nosy one, but he’s just a real mellow guy.”
The two other “bigs” are Bear, whose limp prevents him from farm and show use, and Honey, whom Nelson said is the “pot-stirrer” among the other horses but loves to be petted and groomed.
Nelson said the horses with whom Dreamer’s Place visitors will interact are retired — some from the cowboy life and some from shows — and are not for riding.
Liability issues prevent Dreamer’s Ranch from being able to offer riding options at this time, Nelson said. But, she added, that is an option they would like to offer in the future. She said the ranch also has office space they hope to rent to a psychologist or therapy specialist who would like a nonclinical area.
Nelson said Dreamer’s Ranch is a nonprofit that is overseen by a six-member board of directors. She said there is not a cost to utilize Dreamer’s Ranch or its mobile offering. Instead of fees, the ranch will operate through sponsorships and other funds, she said.
“If it’s meant to be funded, it will be funded. If it’s not meant to be, my husband and I will fund it,” Nelson said.
Nelson said she feels strongly about the mission they’ve established at Dreamer’s Place. She said her “love language” is spoken through acts of service, and she and her family are looking forward to seeing the community use the ranch.
“It’s time to give back to those who have served us, to our first responders, our teachers, our grocery store people. ... If we can give somebody 10 minutes of just moving forward at Dreamer’s Place, then it’s successful, and I will be happy.”