Greener Pastures – A Land-Fund for Habitat for Horses
It was about 15 years ago that a retired Galveston Police Officer and his wife offered Habitat for Horses a 15 acre place next to his home in Hitchcock. SInce it was covered with thick underbrush, I knew a lot of work faced us before we could even consider placing horses there. Volunteers seemed to come from everywhere – putting up fences, cutting tall brush, making roads, building a shelter, laying water pipe, installing electricity and hanging gates. When it finally started taking shape, I remember bringing in the first two horses and watching them attack the grass. Late that night I received a call from the Police Department – our two horses were leisurely walking down the rode, taking a stroll together. Would I mind coming by and leading them home?
We grew rapidly those first few years, adding an additional 15 acres adjoining the property. As the horse population grew, the infrastructure expanded. One massive volunteer undertaking involved installing lights in all the stalls in the back of the ranch, plus lights for the arena and along the road. Next came the water system – faucets everywhere instead of 200′ hoses. The feed room was another volunteer job, installed in a period of two weekends by around 50 people.
Then came the barn. In my dreams I wanted a 30 stall bran with offices, operating rooms, teaching rooms, but when the reality of money drew my focus out of the clouds, I happily settled for three stalls with one large operating room – air conditioned and heated. It’s strictly for ICU patients, those needing constant care.
The ranch finally became a fully functional operation. Add a couple of trucks and trailers, an office to handle the seemingly 30 tons of daily paperwork and a few very devoted and talented employees and at that point, I thought, we could settle in for the long ride.
Or maybe not.
Ages ago, I heard complaints when we had around 50 horses.”Thirty is ideal. Fifty is just too many!” Then it got up to eighty. “Why can’t we just keep it at fifty?” The economy didn’t tank in Texas until about 2010. That’s when the explosion occurred. We leased an additional 50 acres to handle the overflow, added more staff, made the office more efficient, did everything we could to increase adoptions, but law enforcement kept calling – two horses in Collins County, three in Austin, a seizure in Galveston – and finally the realization that every growing business eventually faces – increase in size or become stagnant. At 150 horses, 10 donkeys and 2 mules, the ranch just ain’t what it used to be.
We’ll always have the Hitchcock ranch. With the current infrastructure, it’s perfect for intake and adoption. We can do emergency runs for local law enforcement (and we do a lot of them) plus the vet is just a few miles away.
But what would it be like if we had 300 acres, plus a 30 stall barn? The idea is mind boggling, to say the least. What if it had big oak trees, room for cabins, a covered arena, hay storage? What if we could finally start bringing so many of our dream programs to reality – “Be a Real Cowboy or Cowgirl” for kids who are burn victims or for those with cancer? What if we had programs for horse trainers to teach their techniques, equine assisted therapy programs, seminars for teaching holistic horsemanship?
To that end, I want to ask you to read the “Cote De Texas” Blog. The devoted supporters are working to make it all a reality. I was going to repost what she wrote, but it’s far better for you to see the support we are receiving.
You are invited, of course. Each of you. I’ll be the old, gray-headed cowboy standing outside holding a horse and looking very out of place, but if you see a tear in my eyes, understand how much this means to me. I want these horses to have a home, to be loved and respected, and I want people to come out and show them what open hearts of a human really feel like.
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Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.