“..with the help of police, Habitat for Horses removed Harley from his home and brought him to the organization’s ranch in Hitchcock to be nursed back to health.”
Ginger Barber was out birding with a friend on Galveston Island a few years ago when she came across the Clydesdale that changed her life.
“I slammed on the brakes and said, ‘Oh my God, Teddie, look at that horse,” recalled Barber, a Houston interior designer. The animal, tied to a post outside a house, was obviously neglected and starving. His ribs were visible, his tail had been cut off, and the yard he was tied in “was just a trough of dirt,” Barber said. “He’d walked in circles to try to get to the little bits of grass.”
Appalled, she called the Galveston police, who eventually connected her with Habitat for Horses. The nonprofit organization rescues horses that have been abused and neglected, then rehabilitates them with the goal of adopting them out to safe homes.
Barber worked with Habitat to help investigate the Clydesdale’s condition. The horse – whose name is Harley – was underfed; he had worms and his teeth were rotting. “He was a mess,” Barber said.
But with the help of police, Habitat for Horses removed Harley from his home and brought him to the organization’s ranch in Hitchcock to be nursed back to health. Soon after, Barber became deeply involved with the organization.
“Not only was it Harley’s lucky day – it was our lucky day,” said Rebecca Williams, Habitat’s executive director. She met with Barber and showed her the Hitchcock ranch, one of four properties Habitat operates. Barber saw “a lot of skinny, sad horses that had come there to get help,” and she knew she had to get involved. She wrote a check on the spot and vowed to keep helping.
“I can tell you,” Williams said, “when this lady says she’s going to do something, she does it.”
In 2012, Barber started underwriting and organizing the nonprofit’s annual fundraising dinner. She called on her friends in the design business for help and donations. The first event, a dinner at the home décor and lighting store Brown, raised about $200,000 and helped Habitat buy a 30-acre ranch in Manvel, where horses now go when they’re ready to be adopted.
“It was like nothing we’d ever seen – it was so well put together and thought out,” Williams said. Barber now organizes the event every year; the last one, in December, was a sell-out at Goode’s Armadillo Palace.
On any given Saturday or Sunday, Barber can be found at the Habitat ranch in Manvel, mucking stalls, cutting up carrots for horse snacks, cleaning the office or sweeping out the barn. “She’s not the type to write a check and walk away,” Williams said. “She’s hands-on.”
The volunteer work has benefited Barber, too. She grew up riding horses in Florida, but as an adult she got busy with her design business and let riding fall by the wayside. Getting involved with Habitat has pulled her back into that world; she’s now riding again and taking dressage lessons.
“I can’t explain the energy you get when you’re near a horse,” she said. “They’re healing.”
Today, Habitat for Horses has four ranches and more than 400 rescued animals. Harley’s no longer there; he was placed in a good home and today, Barber said, he’s “just an absolutely beautiful animal.” It was one of many happy endings she has helped make possible.