It was a few years ago when Ginger Barber, renowned Houston Interior Designer, was driving the back roads of Galveston County on a beautiful Saturday to go birding when she came across a site that she will never forget. She stopped her car and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. A draft horse was tied by a rope to a pole in front of a house that couldn’t be called anything less than a ‘hell-hole’. The horse had become tangled around the pole and there was no grass around it to eat. The horse was starving, thin and looked like it was ready to drop at any moment. Ginger was appalled and saddened by what she saw. Not sure what to do, she called Animal Cruelty and reported it.
Animal Cruelty told Ginger to document what she saw and she did just that, and she drove away with a heavy heart and thoughts of this horse haunted her throughout the evening. Ginger had ridden horses her entire life and it touched her in ways she didn’t think were possible. The following morning she went back to where she saw the draft horse and saw that he had been moved to the back of the house. She now had no way to get to him.
Ginger thought about what to do, and she realized there was a small organization called Habitat for Horses, run by Jerry Finch and Rebecca Williams, and she was put in touch with her about this horse. Rebecca explained that there was a certain order that you have to follow to save a horse. It wasn’t like saving a dog or a cat. First you have to file a police report to have the horse legally removed from the premises and the owner. Then Habitat for Horses will go in with water and hay to feed the horse, since the horses are usually starving.
She was hooked on Habitat for Horses and knew it was going to be part of her mission to save as many horses as she could.
Rescue a Horse
The art of rescuing horses isn’t easy. We mentioned that there is an order that needs to be followed, and the laws are very specific about how to rescue a horse.
- If you see abuse or neglect with a horse, you must call the local sheriff’s department first
- The case is documented
- Civil charges are filed under the direction of the court so the horse can be removed immediately
- A hearing is held within 10 days, and the Judge makes a decision to return the horse to their owner, sell the horse at auction or give the horse to a nonprofit rescue.
- During these 10 days, the horse is held and the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System is used to rate the horse from 1 to 9 based on the amount of fat and muscle visible in several places on their body, with 1 being horrible shape and 9 being grossly overweight.
- During the 10 days, Habitat for Horses work closely with the DA to document the exact condition of each horse through photographs, drawings and medical examinations and provides equine expert testimony in court.
Habitat For Horses
Once the horse finds a home at Habitat for Horses, the first thing that happens is rehabilitation. The caring people take the horse in and the equine vet does an assessment on each horse and recommends certain actions, such as worming, hoof work, teeth and special feed. The vet does the work on open wounds or any other immediate medical needs. When the horse is well on the road to recovery they assess and re-train the physically capable horse through “positive” training methods. Those horses that can’t be ridden, due to injury, are still treated just as well and re-trained and stalled.
Then it’s time to adopt the horses out to loving homes. All the volunteers at Habitat for Horses care for these horses as if they are their own. Habitat for Horses has grown from being in a small building to now having two facilities and over 300 horses, and their main focus is on rescue and rehabilitation. But, Habitat for Horses also offers a Sanctuary in North Texas for the horses that are too old to be adopted out, where they can roam over 70 acres for the rest of their days in peace and tranquility.
The new facility that Habitat for Horses has recently opened in Manvel, Texas will offer Equine Assisted Therapy and Therapeutic Horseback Riding. Horseback riding provides therapeutic advantages for patients with neurological or other disabilities. Equine facilitated therapy programs performed under the strict supervision of a horse knowledgeable physical or occupational therapist, riding strengthens muscle tone and often negates abnormal posture. Both children and adults benefit from therapeutic riding, including those adults with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, head injury and stroke. Currently, Habitat for Horses is actively seeking licensed therapists that can offer Equine Assisted Therapy and Therapeutic Horseback Riding.
Equine-assisted Psychotherapy provides an opportunity to interact with a living, feeling being without risking or fearing human interaction. It has become an excellent therapeutic method when delving into a family and personal relationships, PTSD, trauma disorders, addiction and core personality development. Troubled teens, older adults, individuals, families and small groups can all benefit from controlled exercises aimed specifically to present and confront issues that will aid in personal development.
Just like humans, every horse has a story to tell, and when you look into their large expressive eyes, you can practically see into their souls. We love what Habitat for Horses is doing to save these gentle giants, and we hope that you will also lend your support to this #JustVibing cause.