By Karen V. Contino
Ed Spikoski of Southwest Orange County has real horse sense. For the past year, the retired IBM administrator has dedicated every morning to DreamCatcher Horse Ranch Rescue Center in Clermont, helping feed and care for the non-profit organization’s 38 equine residents.
Founded three years ago, DreamCatcher’s mission is to help prevent cruelty and neglect to horses by rescuing, rehabilitating, adopting and retiring abused, unwanted and starving horses. “There is most definitely a sense of accomplishment,” Spikoski says of his volunteer work.
Spikoski, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, admits he’s always had a penchant for animal rescue work. He owned two rescue horses in Maryland and worked with a California wildlife rescue organization for 12 years. While in Sacramento, he helped save over 200 animals, including crows and other birds, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums.
Recently, when Jennifer, his wife of 35 years, passed away, he decided to relocate to Florida and revisit his love of animals once again. “I had experience before with horses, and I was looking for places to ride,” he says. “After some online research, I came across DreamCatcher. What really caught my eye is the word ‘rescue’ after ‘ranch’. I’ve been here ever since.”
“The day I received an email from Ed asking if he could volunteer at our horse rescue I never realized what a blessing he would turn out to be,” says owner Alison Wheatley. “He is truly an inspiration. He comes to the barn every morning without fail – even when he’s sick – to help feed and care for the horses. This enables me to spend more time with the horses that need rehabilitation and additional care to bring them back to health. He is not only a volunteer, team member and friend – he is a part of our family.” Spikoski also enjoys sharing his passion with his daughter, Susan, of Dr. Philips, his son, Steve, who lives in Connecticut, and his two young grandsons.
“My family is 100 percent behind my work here,” he says. “And they love coming out to the ranch. They are ‘animal nuts’ like me,” he jokes. In addition, Spikoski is now the proud owner of Max, a black Tennessee Walking Horse he rescued last spring. “It was a chance happening but it was love at first sight,” he says.
For Spikoski, helping rescue horses in need is a wonderful way to say thank you for a job well done. “If you think about it, horses have served us for centuries,” he says. “They have done everything we have asked them to do, and they don’t ask for much in return – a little TLC or something nice to eat. To me, helping them is just payback, if you will.”