HITCHCOCK — All it took for Rebecca Williams of La Marque was a newspaper account of a horse rescue.
“I had had horses as a child and the description was horrific to me,” said Williams, who was working as an executive assistant at the time. “I had no idea that people didn’t feed their horses. That was just a foreign concept to me.”
That very day, Williams called Habitat for Horses, based in Hitchcock, and volunteered to help. Some nine years later, she is executive director of the nonprofit organization, with a small herd of foster and adopted horses of her own.
She oversees a staff of ranch hands and office workers, along with around 200 volunteers. The ranch cares for 163 animals, including horses, mules and donkeys, with an intensive care barn and operating room on site.
The habitat needs more land — larger pastures and an enclosed arena for rehabilitating horses. So, friends have organized the Greener Pastures fundraiser set for Nov. 8 in Houston.
The event at Brown, an antiques, home and lighting goods shop, will include singer/songwriters Shake Russell and Michael Hearne, a live auction, meal and photography exhibit. The goal is to raise a down payment and more for some 200 to 300 acres.
Helping host the event is interior designer Ginger Barber of Houston.
Last spring, she was out birding in Galveston County when she found a desolate draft horse tied to a pole in a mud hole.
The horse was eventually rescued, and Barber became a fervent volunteer for Habitat for Horses.
“I really wasn’t meaning to do more than just help a horse,” she said. “I didn’t have any idea I would get entangled with this group.”
Now she works at the ranch each Saturday, cleaning stalls and washing horses.
“It’s a wonderful place and a wonderful cause,” she said.
Jerry Finch of Santa Fe started the cause 15 years ago, helping with the rescue of a horse being starved. Land was provided by a retired Galveston police officer, and Finch set up a nonprofit organization to rescue and rehabilitate horses.
“Probably the greatest challenge is to get people to understand the care that horses need, that these are not throwaway animals like used cars or used toasters,” Finch said. “We get horses usually that are very, very thin, basically just half dead, on the last weeks of life.”
Finch acts as president of the organization. He helps in investigations, rescues, fundraising and blog-writing for the website. Retired from sales work, he draws no pay from the habitat.
“The pay I get is far more valuable to me than any money that could be given me,” he said. “It’s the happiness of seeing once-skinny, abused horses now fat and happy, getting in a trailer to go off to a new home.
“That’s my reward.”
At A Glance
WHAT: Greener Pastures fundraiser, featuring a concert with singer/songwriters Shake Russell and Michael Hearne, a live auction, photography by Pulitzer Prize-winner Skeeter Hagler and photographer Kathy Oliver and a meal to raise money for additional land for Habitat for Horses, a nonprofit organization based in Hitchcock.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Nov. 8
WHERE: Brown, an antiques, home and lighting goods shop, 2940 Ferndale at W. Alabama, in Houston, shopbybrown.com
TICKETS: $150, available online at habitatforhorses.org or by email at tickets(at)habitatforhorses.org. Sponsorships include Stallion at $25,000, Bronco at $10,000, Bareback at $5,000, Filly at $3,500, Tenderfoot at $2,500 or Ol’ Grey Mare at $1,500.
CALL: 409-935-0277 or 866-434-5737
How To Help
• Donate money online, habitatforhorses.org.
• Donate materials, including postcard stamps, general office supplies and paper towels. Call 866- 434-5737 or fill out the contact form online.
• Volunteer to help feed, clean, groom and care for horses or for construction or yard work. Apply online or email volunteer@habi
• Become a virtual foster parent of a rescue horse by giving money on a monthly basis and receiving regular updates on your particular horse. Apply online.
• Report neglect or abuse of horses to cruelty(at)habitatforhorses.org
• For application and details to adopt a horse, check online.
• The 200-300 acre spread envisioned for Habitat for Horses would be inland from the current ranch site in Hitchcock.
• Some of the property would be dedicated for hay production.
• The current ranch would remain an intake, surgery and intensive care treatment facility, transferring recovering horses to the larger ranch for rehabilitation.
• A covered, enclosed arena would allow horses to be test-ridden by those interested in adopting and allow for equine-assisted therapy programs for special-needs children, burn victims and others.