The Force of the Horse - Texas
Texas holds some good times and some sad times. I wouldn't change a thing.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Nov. 17, 2008
I was driving into the yard with a truck load of hay. All the horses were at the back of the yard. I jumped out of the truck and swung opened the gates. I jumped in the truck and all of a sudden Moose starts running toward the truck with Natasha and Noel in tow.
I jumped out of the truck and tried to be big. I couldn't close the gates because the truck was in the way. Moose pushed pasted me as the horse across the street started to whinny. Natasha went to visit him. Moose has his head in the hay and Noel has hobbled out of the gate too.
I had no lead ropes or halters, because they were all in the feed room. I have Natasha across the street, Moose eating hay out of the back of the truck and Noel standing right on top of the septic system.
I pull the truck into the yard and get the gate situated so I can chase them back in. Yeah, right!
So I run down to the barn and grab lead ropes and run across the street to get Natasha, who believe it or not was the easiest one to catch. I get her into the yard and have my eyes set on the boys. Cookies I'm yelling and Moose mossies over and I get him with some difficulty, because I don't actually have any cookies on me. Noel is still standing on the septic system and every time I approach him he does his spinning dance trying to get away. I finally get him and walked him into the yard.
By now Moose has his head in the truck picking through the Wal-Mart bags on the seat looking for the apples and carrots. Natasha is trying to get her head in too and I'm sure there is gonna be a fight and they are gonna dent the new truck. I get in the drivers seat and slowly start to move. Moose is keeping pace all the way to the barn with his head still in the window. I just kept saying, Thank you God that everyone is home, safe and sound.
Posted by Denise Hampton at 6:56 AM
Sunday, September 20, 2009
1964 - 1969
A long time ago, in a place called the Garden State, a little girl jumped out of the car, grabbed her father's hand and dragged him to where the horses were waiting to be auctioned off.
She ran from pen to pen touching the horses and wishing she could have one of her own some day.
League City, Texas
Forty-plus years later, that little girl was still waiting for her horse. She learned about Habitat for Horses in Galveston, Texas, sent in her volunteer paperwork and waited to hear from them. She wanted to help. Finally, the call came, and she was out the door and on her way to the ranch. There she found herself surrounded by horses that had stories of their own to tell. This is the story of three of those horses and a little girl’s wish coming true in an unexpected way.
I looked around the ranch at all the unwanted horses, unable to comprehend how or why their owners had thrown away such beautiful animals. More baffling was how someone could starve or neglect an animal on which Jesus himself would be returning to earth.
I had four teachers at the ranch. Beth, Vicki and Jamie. It was Tecs, however, who taught me the greatest lesson of all.
I reported to the feed room and introduced myself to Beth, who was busy filling feed bowls for more than 60 horses. She handed me a stack of feed bowls and told me to follow Jamie, who explained how the feed bowl system worked. Top bowl starts here and the last bowl ends there. Easy enough I thought, until I tried to enter my first pen. A large sorrel pushed his face down into the bowl with such force that I almost dropped it.
Food was distributed and bowls retrieved for cleaning as horses were set loose to roam the ranch. My next job was to fill water buckets. That was when I first met Tecs and Noel. Tecs walked up to the barrel I was filling and began licking the salt block beside it. He was skinny guy and not all that attractive. Noel was a much bigger horse that followed closely behind Tecs. His knees were knobby and he walked slowly as if in terrible pain. I reached out to Tecs, and he let me rub his neck. I reached out for Noel, but he immediately backed away.
It rained that day so I went home wrapped in a beach towel because my jeans were soaked and filthy. I was as happy as anyone one person could be. I had spent a day with horses.
On day two, I had my first horsemanship class with Beth. I was thrilled to be learning about these majestic creatures. Day two was also the day when Tecs started following me around. As I filled water buckets, he came up looking for cookies. Noel, following, would take a few, provided there was no touching.
As the days turned into weeks, I fell in love with Tecs. Noel would let me put cream on his knees, but any other touching was still a slow process. They were an inseparable pair in spite of their very different personalities. I learned that Noel was so depressed that his very survival was in question. His former best friend, a horse named Natasha, had been fostered out of the ranch. Tecs, who had been seized from a family that wasn’t feeding him, took Noel under his wing and provided the “stand-in” companionship he desperately needed.
I spent a little over two months at the ranch and then put in adoption papers for both Tecs and Noel. I wasn’t going to be responsible for breaking up their friendship.
My husband, Alfred, stopped by the ranch to meet the boys and look at the fence. We were going to have to put one up at our recently purchased property in Hopkins County before they arrived. That's when Moose came into the picture. He adopted Alfred, as Tecs had adopted me. More papers were filled out. I had gone from no horses to three!
Hopkins County, Texas
As our moving day approached, I had to deal with leaving the boys behind until a fence and barn could be built. Alfred and I worked on the fence for two weeks and the barn finally arrived on September 9. The boys arrived on September 11 and I was filled with joy as they walked off the trailer into their forever home with us.
Hurricane Ike was due to make landfall on September 13, and I was thankful that the boys would not have to endure the harsh weather that would hit the Habitat ranch. The trip north from Galveston County to Hopkins County had been a long one. Evacuation traffic had them on the road for more than 10 hours. Tecs stood close to weak-kneed Noel helping him stay on his feet.
Tecs, who was famous for eating anything, didn't eat his dinner that first night. Not to worry, I thought, it was a long trip. He'll eat in the morning. The morning came, but he was not my Tecs. I called the vet who was out on an emergency, but came over as soon as he could, around 9:00 a.m. He gave Tecs a shot and suggested I give him some time to settle in. Friday came and went with Tecs nibbling some grass, but eating no food. Saturday morning I call the vet again. He came and put a tube through Tecs nose and into his stomach to expel gas. Again, I was told, he would be fine.
Ike hit us that night and the rain flooded the barn. Alfred and I dug trenches around it, but nothing worked. I stayed with Tecs until 10:00 p.m., but I was exhausted from the previous nights of sitting in the barn and not sleeping. I prayed a mighty prayer before falling into a restless sleep in my bed.
At 5:00 a.m. Sunday, I ran to the barn to check on everyone. My beautiful boy was dead! I fell on my knees and grabbed his face hoping he would wake up. I ran to the house for Alfred. With tears streaming down my face, I tripped on the porch stairs and fell in a sobbing heap. Tecs was dead and I wasn't with him. “Oh God, what did I do wrong? Why did you do this? Why?”
I knew I had to pull myself together to feed Noel and Moose. I returned to the barn and with tears still falling, put out their food. I tried to console Noel, but he pulled away as always. Moose was comic relief as he ate and found busy work to do—checking pockets and chasing the dogs. Alfred came and we wrapped Tecs in two tarps. Grief engulfed me as the rain had engulfed our new home. I was drowning.
Tecs deserved a decent burial. I called Dr. Allen to see if he knew someone with a backhoe. He couldn't believe that Tecs had died, and only knew of the animal disposal company.
“Tecs was treated like garbage once before, he will never be treated like garbage again,” I replied.
I drove around the area looking for a backhoe in someone's backyard. In tears I waved down a man coming out of his driveway, “Do you know anyone with a backhoe?” He took my phone number so he could forward it to a friend.
We buried Tecs at 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, September 15, and that's when Noel started his vigil. Every sunrise and sunset, he stood at Tecs’ grave. It was the only time he would let me put my arm around his neck as I told him, “I will take care of you forever. Tecs loved you and I love you too.”
Poor Noel walked with his head down, nose dripping and tears running down his face. I called the vet and he came and gave Noel a shot of antibiotic. Nothing changed. He was depressed again, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Several days later Beth called. She and Vicki had been thinking about another horse for us, and Natasha, Noel’s old friend, came to mind. But how could we afford another horse—and would her foster family suddenly want to adopt her?
I e-mailed a prayer request on October 1 asking God to make a way. Could Habitat for Horses let us adopt Natasha and allow us to pay her fees over the next few months? Annie called me that night and said she sent the e-mail to everyone involved with Habitat for Horses.
I thought I could find a horse trailer for rent rather easily and go get her myself. I was wrong. No horse trailers could be found. When I opened my e-mail on Thursday morning, I couldn't believe what I was reading. E-mails were coming in from all over the place. A transport was being assembled and someone was paying her adoption fee. I sat and cried because so many people would put their hearts together for Noel and me.
I ran to the yard and approached Noel slowly so he wouldn't walk away from me. “Natasha is coming,” I said. He looked at me and I said it again. I gently took his face in my hands, kissed his nose and told him about all the people who were working to make this happen for him. He understood. That night he didn't stand at Tecs' grave.
Natasha arrived on Saturday and Noel was waiting for her as she backed out of the trailer. They knew each other immediately. They whinnied and touched noses. Once in the pasture, they ran around kicking their feet up and enjoying each other’s company.
Noel is a new horse. He actually has a sense of humor and shows it by sneaking up behind Natasha and nosing her behind. The boy’s knees must be killing him with all the running and prancing he is doing now.
Moose is still Moose. He likes to suck Alfred's bald head. I guess he can't find the salt block in the yard. He gives Natasha the cool guy look, but she only has eyes for Noel.
I silently thanked Jesus for the miracle that unfolded before my eyes and for giving me my childhood wish in such an incredible way. He silently reminded me there were many angels who worked to make this happen and to bring us such joy.
Noel and I would like to thank our angels:
Beth & Vicki – for thinking of Natasha
Toni & Kelli
and everyone else whose e-mail
names I couldn't figure out.
And most of all. . .Tecs
Posted by Denise Hampton at 11:02 AM
I was brushing Natasha's neck and telling her how happy Noel and I were that she was here. I thanked her for saving his life. While all this girly talk was going on.....out of nowhere she head butts me and bites me in the chest above by left boob. Thank God they aren't still perky. She would have bitten it right off. I am stunned and I stand there for a moment trying to figure out what just happened.
Alfred is sitting on the porch chatting on the cell phone watching the entire scene. I leave the yard, pull half my shirt down and show him. He's laughing so hard tears are running down his face and he can't catch his breath.
"IT HURTS!!!!!!!!!!!!" I say, grabbing my chest.
"I'm sure it does. I can see the teeth marks," he says.
I march back into the yard. I hook the lead rope to her halter and make her run around until she is good and tired. Then we walk around the yard, all the while I'm saying very nice things in a calm assertive voice. Then I gave her a treat before I release her.
She stands there, staring me down, as if to say, "I’m the head mare in this yard and don't you forget it."
I turn as the chain clanks against the fence and Alfred enters the yard. I turn to look at him with Natasha directly behind me. I'm wondering if she's going bite me again.
"Ahh, sweetie, its okay," Alfred says as he walks right passed me and gives Natasha a big neck hug. She nuzzles up to him, her eyes still fixed on me.
It's at this point I realize not only does she own the yard, but she also has Alfred wrapped around her little hoof.
While Alfred is in his office making another work call, I decide to give Natasha a haircut. Let's see what Dad thinks of his little girl now.
Posted by Denise Hampton at 10:58 AM
October 25, 2008
October 25, 2008
My three dogs are driving me to the edge. Max is running after cars on the road beside our yard. The Zap Collar is in his future. Wesley and Barney are now doing the same. This means two more Zap Collars. I would sit in my chair outside the barn and Zap away. I will have to color code them so I Zap the proper dog.
Horse poop in the morning is a banquet of culinary delight. They are in a frenzy over which pile they should pick first. Natasha does these little nugget poops and the boys think I have instituted portion control in bite size pieces that can be carried away to enjoy under a tree. I can’t push the wheel barrel around fast enough.
I have never been able to teach anyone to roll over. Now, however, they all roll over in poop and pee grass. I am about to pull my hair out. I even tried yelling roll over, but they don't seem to understand this command in the house.
Digging is another problem. Mud stuck under their nails and their coats are impossible to clean. I took a pair of scissors and clipped Max's butt hair.
Alfred asked, “What were you thinking? It’s crooked!”
I gave him the evil eye and explained, “We have a gun and scissors in the house. Which would you have preferred I used?”
Now you must be thinking why I don’t just leave them in the house in the morning. This is a very good question. Guilt. The boys were walked three and a half miles every day before we moved. Walking dogs in the new neighborhood is not possible. We have two acres that I think they should be allowed to enjoy. Provided they can keep their mouths shut. If Natasha the Mafia Princess would start disciplining the dogs, everything would be fine.
Posted by Denise Hampton at 10:40 AM
Feb. 28, 2009
Today I sat in the yard and looked at my horses. The peace and serenity I felt was overwhelming. (Moose was also overwhelmed with peace and serenity as he slept close to me.) The lives that some were willing to get rid of, were such comfort to me that I wept. I looked at Tecs' grave and at Noel and wept some more. Tomorrow I will be 51 years old and I have learned more this year, than any one person can imagine. I learned that Alfred and many others have hearts of gold when it comes to God’s creatures. I learned that some have the blackest hearts on the plant. I learned that God has an agenda that I will never understand until I cross over into the light. I learned that growing old is mandatory and growing up is optional. I learned that some will do what ever it takes to help and some will do just what they need to get by.
The two most important things I learned today were: “I love you more than even one more day.” Exactly what that means for me is……I would give up another day of life, for any one person to understand that God’s creatures are as important, if not more important than any human I know. For me it is no wonder that God spelled backwards is dog. The force of the horse is not just a saying. Rainbow Bridge is a place that animal lovers cross before they enter heaven. That the least among us, are not just the children, but the pets we call our own. The second thing I learned was, “Before we save ourselves we save each other.” May we all come to understand that everyone has a soul? If we are to look for a role model, we need look no further than our pets. Who else stands by our sides in moments of need, loneliness and depression? They never judge.
May the force of horse, dog, cat or any other animal that we bring into our lives, have the respect and love that they deserve. May we all take a moment to look at our loved ones and say thank you God for sharing your creatures with us.
Posted by Denise Hampton at 10:25 AM
March 5, 2009
Our three horses have started something that I hope turns into a Hampton Family Tradition. To be fair, Moose is the one who started this. He is our pasture clown and Barbie doll show horse.
We had a few days of really bad weather here in Brashear, TX and the horses were stalled, for just a few hours, here and there, until the bad weather would pass.
On these occasions Moose would poop in the corner opposite his hay bag and water bucket and he would not pee on his stall mats. We are talking tidiness to an extreme.
Noel on the other hand poops when ever the mood hits. He has no problem standing in any of it. Whether his stall door is opened or not he just goes.
Natasha will step out of her stall to do her business or she will head over to Moose’s stall when he isn’t looking (bless this ladies’ heart) and poop in there.
In the last two weeks Alfred and I have begun to notice less and less poop to scoop from the pasture. This job I do with a doggie scooper and I am very diligent about it. In the morning I know exactly how long it takes and how many trips with the wheel barrel I will have to make. I look like Christopher Columbus, palm of my hand shielding my eyes from the rising sun, as I search for poop. My world is flat and floods in heavy rain where there is no parting of any sea.
Moose has been walking over to the poop pile, gets as close as he can and goes poop. Now Natasha is doing it. This can be a bit scary since she runs the pasture like she owns the place. Noel has actually made this trip a few times himself. If someone has waited to the last minute they will poop by wheel barrel if it turns out to be closer.
Do I have potty trained horses? Does anyone out there have horses that do the same? Or have I entered the Twilight Zone?
Posted by Denise Hampton at 10:21 AM
March 10, 2009
It’s raining and cold here at the Hampton Homestead. Dogs are curled up on recliners and beds. Horses are sticking their noses out of their stalls and Alfred has actually put some heat on in the house. If we go below 60 degrees, I will run over to a floor vent and rub my hands together as the hot air rises. As of yet, I have not learned how to out smart the thermostat when it comes to getting heat.
Air conditioning I can work with. Alfred thinks 78 degrees is air conditioning. By putting my hands around the thermostat and blowing hot air from my mouth I can raise the temperature. “Walla”, we have air conditioning I announce to the dogs. We all run to the floor vents. I can almost hear them saying, “Way to go, Mom!!” Wesley rolls on his vent like its horse poop. Max stretches out, his belly covers the vent and Barney lies on his back staying on his vent long after air stops coming from it.
Now making the thermostat think it’s colder in the house is quite another thing. I have tried eating ice cream and blowing on the thermostat. Doesn’t work. Putting a piece of cloth in the freezer for a few minutes and laying it over the thermostat. Nope again. Frozen vegetables. “Yes!!!!!!!!!!!” I whisper to myself. The heat kicks on and I am so happy that I become delirious. I turn to run to a vent and bang right into Alfred. Frozen peas in my hands, I look up and smile. He looks down and suggests I should watch where I’m going. He continues walking to his office and I wipe sweat from my brow. “Thank you Lord,” I whisper. I put the peas back as quickly as I can and scurry over to the kitchen vent like a rat and begin rubbing my hands together. Peas will not work forever. I must come up with another plan if I expect to stay warm.
Posted by Denise Hampton at 10:16 AM