My best straw hat drooped low on my head as a constant stream of rain flowed from the center front brim onto the mud that was building up on my equally good boots as I scurried to place each red bucket properly. The seemingly endless stacks of red buckets are filled every single day, rain or shine – winter, summer, spring and fall. The Red Bucket Brigade must go on! These red buckets symbolize hope for the horses at this unusual Texas rescue.
Red kettles are synonymous with the Salvation Army’s mission to feed and care for destitute and homeless people. Perhaps the red buckets of Happy Horse Haven Rescue (HHH) north of Goldthwaite TX will evoke the same response in horse lovers everywhere one day soon. Many horse rescues work feverishly across these fruited plains to provide safes place of recovery and peace for horses in need, but I doubt many have a more devoted and hard-working staff.
The Red Bucket Brigade feeds horses with practiced precision
The line of red buckets in the image above isn’t the entire story. This is only one pasture. Each bucket is filled with a quality feed, set up in a line, then with amazing speed and precision the red buckets go over the fence to the horses lined up on the other side. The staff at HHH is pretty savvy about horse behavior, so there is always an extra bucket or two ready for a horse who is pushed away from its bucket by a more dominant herd mate.
How many people does it take to steward 148 acres without a tractor, individually feed and personally interact with more than FIFTY HORSES every single day, know each horse by name and personality, keep up with new rescue demands, stay abreast of the welfare of horses already adopted (35 last year), maintain social media, and conduct meaningful fund raising activity? At Happy Horse Haven Rescue the answer is — ONE.
Sound impossible? The horses will be looked after, but what precious time remains may not be sufficient to do the executive work of raising awareness and funds.
Shari Frederick, founder and self-described “head pooper scooper”, recently invited Amazing Grays Ministry to visit the rescue and work with a few resident horses with bonding or trust issues. Before moving on to my round-pen meetings, Shari took me and my husband and I on a walking tour to meet the residents of HHH; dogs, donkeys, and horses – lots and lots of horses.
Every introduction included the horse’s name, story, and a brief overview of its personality and challenges.
Beauty dressed in plain Texas clothes
I don’t know if it was Plato or other social commentator of the day who first recognized need as a prime generator of creativity, but if it is true that necessity is indeed the mother of invention then Shari Frederick may be Mother Superior.
Some folks like to support causes that are classy, well-marketed, and the darlings of the media. Just ‘Think Pink’ and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Glossy wrappers don’t necessarily mean that what lies underneath the smooth layers isn’t worthy, but some challenges are so great there isn’t room in the budget for coordinated clothing, equipment, or back drops for pre-scheduled photo ops.
At HHH the only obvious coordination I saw were stacks of matching red buckets and the design of horse shelters. Shari is a master of re-purposing materials to make improvements at HHH without having to fork over funds that could be used to feed, care for, and sometimes train rescue residents. No longer needed storage containers have been modified and placed in a neat row to protect feed and provide shelter for horses.
If you look closely at the photo at the end of this article you’ll notice that the fence is not one simple line of pipe rails. Shari designed the alley where the Red Bucket Brigade musters daily with evenly spaced gates that create a long row of small pens when closed. The entire rescue is an ingenious work in progress designed to make caring for large numbers of horses safe and possible.
Seeking Connection, Safety, and Relationship
Coco, a beautiful gray quarter horse mare, had absolutely no history with humans before coming to HHH as an 8 or 9 year old. Shari believes it was divine intervention that made it possible for me to meet Coco in a large arena area used as a paddock without any other horses to distract her. Coco wouldn’t allow anyone to walk up to put a halter on her, so getting her into the round pen was our first goal.
While my husband and Shari chatted outside the arena I began the slow process of finding a beginning with Coco. She quickly learned that all she had to do was look in my direction. Then to stop and look. Then to turn and look. In less than 10 minutes Coco made her way through the open gate into the small pen next to the arena.
Coco is hungry for a meaningful relationship. She is open and searching for someone to bond with. Perhaps you know someone like that?
After the first of two or three planned sessions with Coco we gave her a bucket of water and left her grazing before moving on to another part of the rescue to work with a young paint filly at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from Coco.
And then it began to rain…
Calling the Red Bucket Brigade to Attention
The opportunity to work one-on-one with the horses ended, but under Shari’s direction I was privileged to work with the Red Bucket Brigade. Once every horse in the big pasture had a bucket (in addition to free choice hay) we carried buckets to several other paddocks with smaller groups of horses and then moved back up toward the house. Shari finished feeding everyone and we went in to lunch and thick towels to dry sopping hair and change shirts.
The rain was determined to win the day. Shari, Baber, and I enjoyed lunch and learned more about one another. There are far too many interesting notes and details about Shari Frederick, her experiences, and the horses than I can cover here. Please visit her websites, learn more about the rescue, and if you have the opportunity to support her efforts — make a small donation or drive on down to Goldthwaite and muster in with the Red Bucket Brigade yourself.
Saying Good-bye to another Amazing Gray horse
Before leaving to drive back up to Weatherford, Shari made a point of asking me to say good-bye to Coco. How many people do you know who are concerned about being polite to a horse? Well, there’s one just north of Goldthwaite. Coco was relaxed and made immediate eye contact with me when I entered the pen with her.
There’s a really good reason we only have six stalls – we have six horses. If there were an empty stall in my barn there was a good chance a beautiful gray mare named Coco might have moved to Weatherford.
Visit these websites for information, scads of photos, and to connect with Shari and the horses. Her Facebook wall is updated daily with horse, visitor, and volunteer activity. You can spend hours just looking at photos!