Henryโ€™s Home History

The history of Henry’s Home actually began in 1994.  Our founder, Donna Stedman, walked away from what she believed was a ‘conversation with God’, in shock.  There was no question in her mind that she had been shown her primary purpose for being on this earth.  She will tell you that this ‘conversation’ showed her a future that would be the culmination of all of her life experiences and everything she believed in and dreamed of.

What she was shown was a retreat center on a large piece of land with big barns filled with all sorts of animals, beautiful gardens and flowers everywhere.  She found herself walking through a trail in the woods to a large lake.  She felt a healing, enveloping sense of peace.  As she looked around. A big rustic lodge had a centerpiece kitchen with dining tables and chairs scattered throughout the main floor.  Massive stone fireplaces, high timbered ceilings, comfy  but simple bedrooms, and bathrooms with big soaking tubs reflected an eclectic theme of comfort and simplicity.  Nestled about the grounds were fire pits and cozy seating arrangements.  Included in the main lodge was a uniquely square auditorium with large descending sections going down to a stage.  These sections of wide floors were filled with comfortable, obviously donated, couches, lounge chairs and recliners.  The intimate design was meant to feel like the speakers or performers were in a warm and inviting home.

More sleeping arrangements were nestled into creative yet functional buildings, all reflecting the unspoiled nature around them.  A bunkhouse, connected to one of the barns; a greenhouse creatively incorporated more bedrooms next to a greenhouse; a boathouse which housed more bedrooms next to the canoe storage.

There were no electronics in the bedrooms. Guests had an opportunity to disconnect from the world and step back into the peace of nature.  Incumbent upon visitors was the expectation of an extended quiet time while there – be that in a canoe, with a horse, on a walk, with a book, in the gardens, or whatever was healing and calming for that person. Two of the main messages that she got during this conversation was that folks would come here to heal their souls, and that if she just kept seeking Him, that when the time was right, He would bring together all the money, land and people needed to build this place.

Over the next twenty-some years, while she raised her family and continued to grow in life experiences, that original vision of a retreat never left her mind.  She took as many human footsteps as she could to prepare for this, including becoming a Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. After a few years of waiting, rather impatiently, she put it on the back burner while she worked on building her faith in all that is good, love and life.  Never forgetting.

Unbeknownst to her, this ‘purpose for her life’ started to take shape as a sanctuary for donated and rescued horses in February of 2012 with the adoption of her first two rescued horses, Henry and Lexi. After having a dream that lasted two nights, laying out all the details, she opened a small trail riding business she named Just Us Gals and Our Horses, to help pay for the costs of the horses as she adopted more. It became apparent to her, and those who rode with her, that spending time with these horses and out in nature heals people. 

Finally, in the fall of 2014 while sitting around a campfire with some of her regular riders, “it” clicked in her mind.  This was the ‘retreat’, the purpose she had been waiting for.  He was in the process of building it, even if in a completely unexpected way.  A sanctuary for horses, yes, but even more important, a sanctuary, a place for healing, for people.  So she incorporated it into a 501c3 non-profit and named it Henry’s Home Horse and Human Sanctuary after her beloved horse Henry, who continued to be such a loving soul to all who met him, rescued from the brink of death for an obviously very important purpose.

In July, 2015, the Houston Chronicle ran an article about a neighborhood dispute that was occurring due to this non-profit in their neighborhood.  One of the leaders of a large development company, Johnson Development, saw that article and Donna was asked if she would like to move the sanctuary to the land that they had just purchased, soon to be called Grand Central Park.  It had been Camp Strake boy scout property, and was located just a few miles away from where they kept the horses.  After almost a year of keeping the horses at the private home of one of their executives, the horses were moved in October, 2016, onto their new land with only a perimeter fence and a hay shed [both Eagle Scout projects put in quickly], a couple of old sleeping pavilions as shelters for the horses, and a working bathroom.  It was very primitive, in fact Donna was sleeping in a small tent under the hay shed for months, but it was in the middle of 1,200 acres of woods and very peaceful, costing them nothing as Johnson Development paid for all their utilities and land management needs. There was no question in Donna’s mind that this was a God thing.

Remembering His promise to take care of the land, money and people, Donna knew Henry’s Home was on a right path.  Leadership Montgomery County, another 501c3, chose Henry’s Home as their project for the Class of 2017.  They built out the arena, got a large portable office building donated, got plumbing and electrical put in throughout, helped with marketing and put on the ribbon cutting for the whole community, getting over $120,000 in in-kind donations.  Numerous local corporations contributed both time, work and money to quickly move along the growth of the sanctuary, along with a number of boy scouts doing their Eagle Scout projects, and other non-profits who supported this group with grants and donations.  And Johnson Development continued to support the sanctuary with help, as needs arose.

While there over the next three years, Henry’s Home took in a dozen more horses/mules/donkey’s, as well as two pigs, a dog, a half dozen cats, and a family of ducks, all of whom made it feel more like a family home.  And all of whom had been surrenders from rescue or unwanted situations. Besides the Horse Sanctuary Program, a Herdmate Program continued to offer anyone who needed healing time with the horses and other animals an opportunity to volunteer at the sanctuary. And since it’s move in 2016, the sanctuary had been offering EAGALA equine psychotherapy [run by a team of equine specialist and therapist] for veterans and their family members, always at no cost to them, in a program called Horses & Heroes Equine Therapy Program. When it was discovered, after running these sessions for several years, through conversations with the veterans, that they wanted more horse time, less talk time, and the opportunity to volunteer at the ranch, in 2019 another program was added called Horses & Heroes Equine Learning Program [HHELP], [run by an EAGALA equine specialist and PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor]. That program offered as much time at the sanctuary for veterans and first responders and their families as they wanted, helping to care for the horses and the property, including therapeutic riding and training lessons, and when they were ready, the opportunity to join the herdmates in trail riding, always at no cost to them.

Over 2019, the Herdmate Program grew from a couple dozen civilian volunteers, to over 100, and the Horses & Heroes Equine Learning Program brought over 100 veterans, and a few first responders, into the Henry’s Home family. In fact, with the veterans having the choice between the two programs, in every case they chose more horse time, so the EAGALA psychotherapy program was put on the back burner for future possible use. As the year came to an end, it was becoming obvious that God was closing the door to the property they had built out in Grand Central Park.

In God’s perfect timing, one of the Herdmates just happened to have a very neglected 21-acre horse farm that they could afford to donate to Henry’s Home. So they moved all the animals over on January 4, 2020, and started the build out of what would be the final retreat center Donna had been shown over 25 years ago.

In January, 2012, Donna’s sister Diane got a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Doctors told her to wrap up her life, which she did, giving each of her siblings a $13,000 goodbye gift.
side note: her sister, Diane, here on Miss Lexi, is still alive and doing just fine with no treatment for the cancer, just lifestyle changes that brought her joy.
Another of Donna’s sister, Maureen [pictured here], lived with her in Texas. She went horseback riding with one of their brothers in Michigan in January, 2012. She came back and stated that she would like to get a horse. So after some discussion, and having the money from sister Diane, Donna decided that the time was right to get a horse also. She went down to the Houston SPCA and picked out Big Bertha for her sister, who renamed her Miss Lexi.
Leo was one of the worst cases of starvation that survived at the SPCA . . . they put him in slings until he could stand up on his own. The day that Donna went to pick out two horses, he was in fairly good health, although still thin. He followed her around for four hours asking to go home with her. She finally gave in, renaming him Henry after the nickname her sister Maureen had always called the brother she went horseback riding with that started this whole thing.

Henry’s funny personality and his persistence in getting all the attention paid off, and he became beloved by all who got to know him. He likes to remind us all that Henry’s Home is all about him. Here is Donna, and her beloved boy, out learning to ride again after almost 30 years since owning a horse.

July 13, 2013, here is Donna with her daughter Dani, out on a trail ride on the Spring Creek Greenway. She boarded Henry and Lexi at Loveland Ranch in Spring, Texas, for a year and a half, learning about natural horsemanship. Due to health issues, her sister had to step down from involvement with the horses. But Donna made some good friends and really wanted to stay in this riding area when she decided it was time to move her horses away from Loveland Ranch.

Donna found a family just down the road from Loveland Ranch who had 13 horses. She moved her horses to board in one of their paddocks, and used the last of her sister’s money to build a couple of shelters for the horses. They also let her use a 10’x 8′ shed to keep all her stuff in. She had a dream a week after she moved here that told her to start a trail riding business called Just Us Gals and Our Horses, to help pay for the upkeep of the horses. She started adopting more horses, getting Wall-E and Sunny from the SPCA in the summer of 2013.

Within that first year she also adopted Tavi and Miss Jinx from the family she was boarding at, Melissa and Bernie Eskins. She had promised the family that she would figure out a way to help them exercise and pay for the other horses they had if they would let her board there, so she also used them for her trail rides, paying them for their horses use. Just us Gals grew quickly, and she made enough money to pay her board and bills every month, just barely. It was hard work, and the pasture was boot-sucking mud about six months of the year, for two and a half years, but the trails were glorious!

Donna incorporated Henry’s Home Horse and Human Sanctuary into a 501c3 at the end of 2014. The owners of Loveland Ranch did not like that Donna had started a competing trail riding business just down the road. So they instigated a neighborhood lawsuit against the Eskins, siting deed restrictions, which did not affect Loveland Ranch’s part of the neighborhood. This lawsuit resulted in a newspaper article in the Houston Chronicle
on July 19, 2015. An executive at Johnson Development, who had just bought the Camp Strake property close by, saw that article and called to offer Henry’s Home a home in this new development they were calling Grand Central Park.

On January 1, 2015, Chandler arrived into the herd. As he was stepping off the trailer, his owner told us that he would be low in the pecking order because he was so submissive. We had just taken the alpha gelding and mare out of the pasture because they belonged to the Eskin family, so the small herd were feeling worried that they did not have a leader.

When he walked in to meet them, they all elected him as their alpha leader.

We received a call from Everett Coverdell, the Construction Manager for Grand Central Park, offering to have us move our horses to his private home in Conroe, since Johnson Development wasn’t quite ready for us to move in yet. He and his wife Jeanette had always dreamed of having a couple rescued horses some day. So off to work this dedicated group of volunteers went, on Christmas Eve of 2015 to start building fences and preparing to move our horses over. By now we had also taken Chandler as a donation, so we were moving 8 horses over, including one we were keeping for a board member.

This generous family, not allowing us to pitch in any money for our stay, were like family almost immediately. We were expecting to stay just a month or two, so put up some temporary fencing. They already had a nice big loafing shed that would be plenty big enough for a hundred bales of hay, all our saddles and supplies, with enough room for a couple portable stalls if we needed them. We also brought over all our portable corral panels to make an arena for us to use for training and riding.

We got settled in quickly and got the horses moved over right after Christmas. What planned to be a month or two ended up being about a year that we were there. Our herd grew with Willie Nelson almost immediately after we moved in. And Gerrie Barnes started teaching horsemanship classes for our volunteers, including ground work and riding. We also let the public come in for arena riding to help pay for some of our horse care expenses.

On February 2, 2016, we got a visit from a neighbor that said he had a horse that was probably dying, would we take her? We said no, because we were not on our own land yet, so could not accept any more horses. But Jeanette said yes, so we went to walk her down the road to her new home. She was about 300 pounds underweight, and had already given up on life. Jeanette, with our help, took her right to our veterinary for a check up, and we discovered she had a 5 out of 6 heart murmur, one inch points on her teeth in front and back from neglect that were making it too painful to eat, and her feet were in terrible shape.

Jeanette was also fighting her own battle with breast cancer, so she needed something to take her mind off that. She was a natural healer, spending her life as a pediatric nurse. She went out every cold day, three times, to make and feed Bella a bucket of warm mash, full of calories and nutrients to get her weight back up, before the doctors could even sedate her to do her teeth. These two bonded and they both flourished. .

After just a couple months and several veterinary visits, this is what happened to Bella with so much love. The only thing left to try to fix was her feet, which from x-rays, showed signs of having foundered. The farrier and vet were not hopeful, but Jeanette was not willing to give up on her.

Shortly after we moved to Everett and Jeanette’s home, another neighbor brought this mini horse down to us, asking if we would adopt him. His name was Willie and he was a little stallion. We agreed and took him right to the veterinary to get gelded. Once he could get into the herd, he found a safe place of protection from the others standing under Chandler. He spent a good portion of the first two weeks taking advantage of Chandlers kind nature. But then, being the little Casanova he still thought he was, he decided to try to steal one of Chandler’s sister wives, Miss Jinx. He succeeded and they were a couple after that. Rather a Mutt and Jeff couple, but he was delighted to have a woman, and she put up with him.

On April 29, 2016, Art Jansen brought out a horse trailer that he had purchased and updated for us. He was a friend of one of our volunteers, Pam Grabsky, and a truly generous animal lover.

We got the call that Johnson Development was ready for us to move onto their land in Grand Central Park in early July, 2016. The chosen land was partially cleared with a number of sleeping pavilions that had sat doormat for several years, so was pretty overgrown.
There was an old but working bathroom which felt like pure luxury to us after the porta potty we had used for years. And there was another bathroom on the far side of the property, but it would not be used till later.
Each pavilion had a water pump close to it.  Ours worked, although they leaked even with some repairs.  We were happy to have water.
Johnson Development donated the hundreds of sleeping pallets to us if we wanted to pull the boards off them for fence boards.
It took a grueling month to pull all those boards off in the hundred degree days of August, but we felt blessed to be able to re-use the original boy scout wood for our fences and building sidings.
Next all the huge bay and hardwood trees had to be pruned to make them perfect shade trees for the horses.  That work, as well as starting to cut the brush out, took the month of September.
Post holes dug for the perimeter fence of the pastures.  That and the hay shed were the prerequisites for moving the horses here.
Thank God that Johnson Development was willing to help with so much of the land clearing and brush removal for us.
Their equipment and the staff who were used to doing work like this were invaluable. And everything they did was a donation. Sigh!
All our herdmates pitched in with all the jobs. They were invaluable.
Completely exhausted! But invaluable.
Each 9′ board was filled with about 16 old rusted nails or screws that had to be removed and then both ends cut off to fit into an 8′ post space.  We didn’t get far before we figured out that this was going to take us months to get done.  We needed help.
The land manger at GCP, just happened to have a son who needed to complete his Eagle Scout project.
Over two long weekends, they got all the boards up for us.
Thank God for boy scouts!
The other thing we had to have up was a place to store hay.
We have noticed dads are the hardest working members of the Eagle Scout team. Every time.
It took this scout and his dad just a couple weekends to get up the primary structure of our shed.
Then our hard working herdmates got it ready for the hay.
How is that for smart sweat control?
Our herdmates completed the siding of the hay shed enough to get our first load of hay delivered.  We were ready for the horses!
OK, first we have to set up a tent for our crazy leader Donna to sleep in every night out here, before we can bring the horses out.
Horses moved in October, 2016. They are so happy!
Donna ended up getting a much smaller tent to sleep in, which made it a lot easier for us to get out the hay every day.
Next project for the herdmates were building feeding stalls.  The portable stalls were good, but we were needing something a bit more solid.
Every old screw and nail had to be painstakingly removed before we could use the board. But boy were we grateful for the thousands of boards we had gotten from the boy scout sleeping pallets.
Of course there has to be a supervisor on every job.  Willie Nelson was happy to volunteer for this one cause it meant food for him.
We were so grateful for a covered area to keep our tack and supplies.  But boy did we need some type of building to keep stuff in.
Our dear friends, Bob and Susan Graves, asked us what our greatest need was.  We said a tack shed.  They wrote us a check.
So much room!
We ordered the tack shed in October, 2016, and got it delivered and set up in December, 2016. Starting to feel like a real place.
Same day we got our tack shed, the Montgomery County Constables dropped off a mini mule they had found along the side of Highway 105 in Conroe earlier.
The constable’s deputy told us that he also brought her roommate [in jail for the last six weeks] who she would be unhappy without.  Augustus McRae!  We knew absolutely nothing about pigs.  But we all fell in love with him that first day.  He was the perfect meet and greet pig!  So ugly that he was adorable.
Say what?!!!
“This one we get . . . small but more like us.”
It was on December 14, 2016, that we got the email from Johnson Development giving us permission to have our herdmates take the horses off our sanctuary grounds for trail rides around the Grand Lake. It would be so great to get them out again, for their mental health as well as their physical health. Here we are taking them out just for a walk to start getting them familiar with the area in a really relaxed way.
The trails around the Grand Lake were very overgrown in parts, so we enjoyed taking our clippers and hand saws out with us to help cut back those trails while we rode out. It was so peaceful and therapeutic.
Even though it was very nice to be back out giving the horses some real exercise, with all that was going on with the build-out, and trying to grow our EAGALA project, we did not have much time for riding. So these trail rides and our work on maintaining the trails around the Grand Lake pretty much got put on hold after just a few months in 2017.
We had put in our application to Leadership Montgomery County’s Class of 2017 non-profit project in July, 2016. We were one of the three finalist and came in to do a 10 min presentation for the whole class on September 1st. We were chosen the next day almost unanimously. 44 out of the class of 45. They spent the next couple months planning and getting local in-kind donations to help us with our build out. This was their first one . . . a 12’x55′ office trailer, donated by ARCH -CON Corporation and Mobile Modular Management Corp for $1 for a 5 year lease, to be extended or sold to us after that time. Here it comes . . .
It was not easy to get this huge trailer into this tight spot. We had chosen one with no bathroom since we already had a bathroom and felt that we could use the extra office/living space instead.
The fact that the one they had available was brown and fit into our sanctuary was an amazing surprise. In the four years before our move here to Grand Central Park, we had never had air conditioning, or heating in the winter. And thanks to a great donation from Consolidated Communication, we also had a fiber-optics internet line now. So spoiled.
Next step for the LMC Class of 2017 was to get the office trailer hooked up to electricity. They brought out the best who not only connected the trailer, but also installed everything we needed into our box in the bathroom to basically run electricity throughout this whole side of the sanctuary.
GJ Boring Services donated the work and equipment to get lines laid underground to the trailer and across the road to the feeding stall pavilion, working with Miam Electric Co.
It would have taken us days just to bury the lines, and it would definitely not been done so professionally. With the electricity set up in the trailer, in moved Donna. Out of a tent and into an actual bedroom, kind of. Spoiled. She felt so spoiled to be able to get dressed standing up.
Gus was in desperate need of his own pen. We had tried everything, including tying telephone poles to his corral panels so that he could not just push them out. And he needed a shelter of his own. It was beginning February and he needed a warm nest since pigs can’t warm themselves by shivering like the rest of us. And shade for the hot summer cause he also doesn’t sweat.
Knowing that he loved his role as Meet and Greet Pig, we decided to put his home as the first thing you see when you walk in. That way he is always in the middle of the action.
We buried the hog panels about two feet in the ground cause we know he is an expert digger. Gave him a nice shaded spot.
And built him a perfectly comfortable covered shed to sleep in. That’s one spoiled pig. Should have called him Wilbur.
Time for some sleeping mates, now that Donna had an actual bed in the office trailer. Miss Tessa came to us through a friend whose husband had found her scared and crying in a Walmart parking lot during a thunderstorm. Yes, we will take her.
Miss Tilly was found by a friend of that friend. Yes, we’ll take her too.
Greenbean’s mama died of cancer, but before she did she asked her friend to find a loving home for her baby. Yep, we’ll take her. A house is not a home without cats, so having these guys hanging with us started to make this sanctuary feel more like a home in the country.
Later in February, as a donation through our LMC Class of 2017, JM Smith Construction came in to grade our arena and round pen area. Their equipment and transport was donated by Son-Way Agri Products.
It was quite a job that took a long weekend. Even though it looked already pretty good with the stumps already ground down by Johnson Development, the crew really got into getting every single thing out that could hurt our horses if stepped on. They went way above what they had originally come in to do, getting every tree root out, digging eight to ten feet down to totally remove the stumps.
Such great workmanship as they went above and beyond. Our horses will be so safe.
Time to build the arena fencing. Without taking out any large trees, we managed to get a 120’x150′ perfectly shaped riding area. Donated by Texas Fence thru LMC. Digging the post holes was easy work with the grading and sand that were already in place.
These guys, again, did an outstanding job, working with us on just where to put the gates and how to size the fences.
“So interesting to see what is happening with our pasture . . . hmmmm, wonder when we can get in there for a good romp and roll.”
Early March, Berkeley Services donated an entire sprinkler system that watered our arena and surrounding pasture. With the heat and sand, dust on dry days was a real problem. Solved!
They took the time to explain everything to us . . . so easy to use.
A perfect way to keep the horses cool in the hot summer. They can stand under the sprinklers and get a shower any time during the afternoons when it’s set to go off.
Right before the arena fence and sprinkler went in, Conroe Wood Products brought us over four light poles.
Right afterwards, Entergy donated the labor to install those light poles so eventually we could have a lit arena.
Another wonderful donation thru the LMC Class of 2017.
Now to build out a couple regular stalls in the other half of the feeding pavilion. It would be nice to have a seperate place for horses that needed some extra quiet time or safe separation.
We are so very grateful for the skilled carpenters who are part of our Herdmate team. They not only bring needed muscle and tools, but the know-how to figure out how to build anything.
We just tell them what we want and they figure out how to do it.

Early in February, 2017, we received a call from a friend at the Lone Survivor Foundation asking if we could take a horse from the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department. He had sustained an injury a year before and the department felt he was healed enough to be fine with some very easy work. They were going to drive him over in a two horse trailer, but one of our generous volunteers paid for him to have a much more comfortable transport.

He loved loved loved to roll!

Such a beautiful, sweet big boy.

He was too sore to run with the herd, so they became known as Mick and the Minis.

Even though we had plumbing in our old bathroom, Bradbury Brothers/Thornton Plumbing came and replaced it all so that it would be updated and in much better working order. A new water heater that actually worked, new toilets and sinks, and new working sink in the tool room, and updated plumbing throughout. WooHoo! Warm water now for showers.
They were like a swarm of bees that just came in and redid our whole bathroom, working hard for the whole day. What a great family who gives back!
We would have a choice of two bathrooms, a nice working shower, and a functional break room. So spoiled!
We needed to transform an old multi-shower room into a break room and tool storage room. We believe it was the DL Meacham Company the came and spent the day taking out the old walls and repairing the damage, and building new doors onto that building. Another donation that happened so fast we did not really get their info.
These couple months that the LMC Class of 2017 basically took over transforming our sanctuary into a working business happened so fast and so efficiently, with most of the work done behind the scenes in planning and scheduling meetings. They also put on strategy planning meetings with our board of directors every month, and basically helped us learn more about how to be a non-profit.
We were ready to move in our refrigerator and shelves and tables and turn this into a working room.
Another donation through the LMC Class of 2017, a handicap ramp for our office trailer. A couple weekends of work and thousands of dollars of supplies donated by Martinez Construction.
This foreman basically came and asked us what our dream deck and ramp would look like. We knew working with disabled veterans might mean we would need access by a wheelchair some day. Not knowing anything about how to build something like this, we asked him to use his imagination and build it anyway he could envision.
We could not have done a better job if we were professional architects, engineers and contractors.
We had the LMC Class of 2017 break up into two work days with us to get some of the last minute projects done. The first one was on March 25th, and one project was these portable pens connecting to the stalls.
Posts had to be put in to start the process of fences.
Stacks of the old sleeping pallet fence boards had to have the rusted nails and screws removed so that they could be used for these projects.
This terrible-looking pump right in front of our office trailer really needed to be hidden, but what to do? We decided a natural looking fence might be just the right thing. Future signage area?
These folks did it right, taking no short cuts.
And the trailer and deck being sided would make it look so much better. But this took some real engineering.
In the meantime, the bathroom was getting a good coating of stain which it desperately needed.
Wow! That does look so much better.
Well done gang. Part of the Best Class Ever!
Day two for the LMC Class of 2017 on April 2nd. That new deck sure does need a good coat of stain.
Another perfect day for this great group of gals.
So many last minute details with the ribbon cutting coming up in less than two weeks.
On this second day, pen fences needed to be completed for our two side stalls.
More nails to be removed for these boards. No one is going to have to go to the gym today.
Getting those fences and gates just right. Maybe even perfect.
Taking the portable corral panels that we used for the pen down to make a portable round pen.
We are so glad we have enough room on the well-graded area to make a 60′ round pen to work on training and exercising the horses.
Another part of the Best Class Ever! You all really got er done!
Another wonderful donation from Johnson Development . . . the use of their Hydroax and operator for the day to help us grind out all the stumps and the rest of the brush in front of our bathroom area. What an amazing machine.
When we asked Johnson Development if we could get a load of mulch, little did we know they were gonna donate a semi-truck full. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was dropped off five days before our ribbon cutting. You can just imagine how quickly we had to work on getting this spread.
We were tickled to get three of these hay feeders for out in our pen. Another wonderfully useful Eagle Scout project.
The class got almost everything done in time to put on an incredible ribbon-cutting ceremony for us on April 19, 2017.
So so so many generous people and companies to thank for providing over $120,000 of in-kind donations, including computers and marketing materials and an incredible video helping us to spread the word of our equine therapy program for veterans.
Not to mention all the incredible sponsors in support of this incredible Class of 2017.
The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce came out to help with our ribbon-cutting. So much support!
And the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce came out to help as well. Teamwork at it’s best.
But there is no doubt that this year, and the unbelievable growth of this sanctuary, has been made possible primarily with the combination of all the hard work of the Henry’s Home’s herdmates, the LMC Class of 2017, and Johnson Development.
The graduating Class of 2017 for Leadership Montgomery County . . . no question, the Bessssssst Class Ever!!!!!
Four of us volunteers had gotten certified as Equine Specialists through the EAGALA [Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association] back in March of 2016. Knowing that as a young non-profit we had to stay focused on one thing to get started with, we decided that we were gonna use that training to help veterans with PTSD since two of us had direct family members who were veterans. With most of our build-out completed, now was the time to really start building that program which had been in the works for about a year.
We had been told that we needed to get this certification if we were to be taken seriously by the veteran community. It was a weekend of learning and bonding.
With the donation [through the class] of brochures about our EAGALA Horses & Heroes program, we now could get out to help spread the word. We knew that time with horses was healing, we just needed to find veterans who would give it a chance.
We really love it when we have an engineering firm like BGE ask if we have any volunteer opportunities for their local [in this case, The Woodlands] offices. We always pick the harder one cause we know we are gonna get the experts. In this case, we chose to have them build an awning on our hay shed.
Another job where we suggest what we want and then sit back and watch them perform thier magic. Materials and everything.
In just a couple of weekends they got this incredible job finished.
In our hot summers, shade is so very important. Every bit of it we can get is so appreciated. Thanks for a job well done BGE The Woodlands. With the work you guys put into this we know it will withstand anything, including horses and hurricanes.
Miam Electric came back to finish this job, even after the LMC class had graduated and they had no further obligation for their donation. They put up the arena lights which took two days cause they got the big truck stuck in the sand and had to spend hours getting it out the first day.
But they got the job done.
And we are thrilled to have a lit arena.
Then they put up wiring throughout our feeding pavilion for lights and fans.
And while they were working on getting the arena lights up, they were also getting an electrical box, lights, switches, and everything we needed up in our feeding pavilion. Ready to plug in the fans for the summer. They went way over what they had been asked to do by the class. Just like every company who made in-kind donations.
And we are thrilled to be able to work after dark now with the horses.
Another wonderful group of mostly engineers to build out our round pen. CB&I . . . we were lucky to have them out at the beginning of June, 2017. They brought a few of their kids and turned this day of volunteering into a fun family event.
Starting to warm up, but still a beautiful day.
Using boards that were 16′ long made it perfect for forming a circle.
But it took a lot of pushing and pulling to get those boards to bend just right.
In the meantime, another group of the volunteers moved sand into the feeding stalls. Not an easy job.
Some of our herdmates enjoyed working with the kids . . . showing them some horse care skills.
A great job accomplished with some real teamwork.
As well as a lot of fun had by all!
The horses always get super excited when anyone new shows up at their home, especially if they come in a horse trailer.
This day on July 2nd, they got two new family members. This little girl was named Nell at TMR Rescue, but she got renamed Patsy Nell Kline when she was adopted into our mini family.
Awwwwww, what an adorable little girl!
And this beautiful big boy was named Tyson, but we wanted to name him after the founder and dad at TMR, so we renamed him Johnny Tyson Cash, or Big John.
Just so exciting to make a new friend.
For the horses and the herdmates. Welcome home Big John and Patsy Kline.
August 28th we had been going through Hurricane Harvey for several days, coming and going and staying. With the rising water, they finally decided to open the Lake Conroe Dam. We had been told by the land manager that our land would not flood, but we had set up a portable pasture with some hay for a few days on some higher ground just down the road from our sanctuary, just in case. These were the photos Donna took at 7 a.m. when she stepped out of the trailer.
The horses were acting very nervous. She did not have a phone because hers had died in the rain the day before. So she had no way to call anyone to ask for help. But she did still have working internet, so she sent out a couple posts on FB asking if anyone could come help move animals out as she could see the water rising by the minute. She then turned off all the breakers and electrical stuff, put all the cats in the trailer with food and water for a few days just in case, and started putting halters on all the horses.
By 9 a.m. this is how high the water had gotten . . . in two hours. Donna left to go walk up the road to the portable pasture to see how high that water was. When she walked to the pasture, she walked through water that was just past her shoulders. She knew she wasn’t gonna get the horses out the way she had planned unless she swam them through. Fortunately, when she got up to the portable pasture, a couple of the herdmates had already gotten there, with the help of the land manager, and they had the fire department. It was a good thing because a large tree had come down blocking the backup road that they needed to bring the horses up. Very quickly more herdmates showed up with trucks high enough to get through the roads. Donna originally wanted to bring all the horses up to the pasture, keeping them here, but a couple of the folks thought it wise to move them to a totally new location, just in case. The Executive Director of Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch had called [flood pros. and friends of HH] and they agreed to bring over enough trailers to transport all the horses to one of their employees homes in Magnolia.
So the horses started getting walked out one at a time, taking them the back way, up to the portable pasture.
Thank God we had set up this portable pasture, just in case. It was next to the Lake House just down the road from us. With our last trip out before it was getting too dangerous with the water rising and flowing, all the animals were secure except Gus, our pig. We had been able to lure him down the road with food, but not far enough. We had had to leave without him and our hearts were broken.
This was the view from the porch of the Lake House as they left. They had no idea how high the water was going to go.
When we drove back a couple days later, after the water allowed us through the roads, guess who was waiting at the gate for us? Donna will tell you that other than giving birth to her kids, this was one of the happiest days of her life.
Because it was rising water, not flowing, we were so blessed that most of the fencing was still in place, as well as the buildings. We had no idea what we would find when we could get back in. The water had just gone up over the deck, but not into the trailer, and the cats were all fine. We were unbelievably relieved.
We lost all our hay and grain and supplements, but most of our supplies and tack were salvageable.
Flood water had gotten into all the buildings [other than the office trailer] about 3-5 feet.
Our first day back the crew from Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch came out to teach us how to recover from a flood. They showed us how to clean everything out, remove all the spoiled hay and feed, figure out what is salvageable and what needs to be thrown away and how to clean and then bleach everything to make it safe for all our family again.
We felt so blessed that most of our stuff was still here.
We had a wonderful veteran friend bring over his tractor to donate a couple days of work for us. That made it go so much faster.
They helped us move all the portable panels back from our emergency evacuation pasture, which was a big job.
The friends from PCIR kept coming back until they got this whole tack shed cleaned out and bleached. Now our volunteers were gonna need to make new shelving boards cause these were too rotted to keep on the bottom two shelves. But we got it cleaned out and fans set up to dry fast enough to keep the shed.
On the third or fourth day after we got started on the clean up we continued to have wonderful volunteers show up from within the community to help. Cleaning out the moldy [by now] hay shed was a terrible job, but they did it anyways.
Every surface, including the wood boards, had to be sprayed with a half bleach solution. Poor Gus ended up with a bacterial pneumonia and was pretty sick for a couple days after the flood, but he healed up beautifully.
A week or so after we got back a bunch of the LMC Class of 2017 came out and helped to clean out our bathroom and breakroom which had had about four feet of flood water throughout.
Our tractor had not started during the hurricane so we were unable to move it to higher ground. It had been totally under water and appeared to be totaled. So sad cause we loved our Little Blue. Donna’s truck also had to be left, but it was pretty much at the end of it’s life anyways so no big deal and it ended up still running which was great.
Well another miracle happened for us. The same folks who donated our tack shed asked what we really needed the most after our flood and we said a pickup truck so that we can have it available all the time for everything. We had counted on our volunteers for help with moving supplies, trailers, etc. So he wrote us out a check for $10,000 towards a pickup on September 4th. We asked one of our herdmates for help because her son owned the Mercedes Benz of The Woodlands dealership. We figured he might have some contacts or ideas for what to do with this down-payment. He called back the next day and said he had a truck on his lot, a 2013 Dodge Ram with a towing package. He said he would make up the difference personally, and we came home with this miracle the next day. We will never be able to say thank you enough to our friend Joe Agresti.
One of our problems was that we needed hay for the horses when we brought them back but had no place to store it until we got the hay shed totally cleaned and aired out. So we got a load of 250 bales put up in the building at our high ground area, and just drove up every day to bring some back.
Shortly after we came back and got ready, we had a new arrival. A good friend of Henry’s Home asked if we would take this gelding who’s mama had died and he had promised her he would always make sure Dusty had a good home. We get calls every week from someone who wants to donate a horse or several to us, but we say no because we have to be careful not to take on more than we can take excellent care of. We could not say no to this friend.
We had to keep him in a separate pen away from the other horses until he had a vet visit to get his blood pulled for a Coggins test as well as vaccinations.
And along with Dusty came his friend Frank. Donna had always felt we would eventually get a dog for the sanctuary and trusted that God would bring us the perfect one. When we went to get Dusty the man who had him told us they did not want this two year old Black Mouth Cur. So when we asked if he wanted to come home with us, he jumped in the truck. We got a dog!
On October 1, Miss Bella came to live with us. Jeanette and Everett asked if we would take her because the grass in their pastures was making her metabolic syndrome and her foundered feet worse. It broke their hearts to send her to us, but they were good enough parents to want what was best for her. You can see her video on our YouTube site.
Bella and Dusty became inseparable from the start, probably because they were the newcomers to the herd.
A couple weeks later Mr. Dusty got to join the herd. Everyone was interested in him, but they had had the chance to talk to him from across the road, so it was no big deal.
Let the shenanigans begin! Two left-brained smart and creative horses that needed a job.
Poor Frank had some complications after he pulled off his bandage and pulled out the stitches after he was castrated. The vets office renamed him Houdini after he got out of everything. So he had to have another surgery and this time everything was removed and a pressure bandage put on. They decided he would be much happier recovering at home as he was miserable being away from home.
Frank and Dusty settled into being a part of this family very quickly.
Around the same time, and knowing that we desperately needed a working tractor, Investment Advisory Services donated this beauty to our sanctuary. It arrived on December 12, 2017. The perfect Christmas present, right?
Another obvious God thing. With every attachment we didn’t even know we needed.
A stranger named Lewis Walker who owned a marina repair business in East Houston, and who rebuilds old tractors as a hobby found out about our loss of Little Blue after the flood. He called volunteering his services to try to fix her and came to pick her up a couple weeks afterwards. Here he is bringing her home, fixed enough to run.
Honestly we thought she was a goner, so this was a wonderful surprise to have a backup for our new tractor. WooHoo! Thanks so much Lewis.
Another creative boy scout project . . . a chicken coop.
We would love love love some day to have some healthy happy egg-laying chickens to run around and eat bugs and entertain us. Thanks guys for the job very well done. Enough laying boxes for about 30 chickens.
These three four-week-old kittens were next in line at the shelter to be euthanized, after there mama went. But in the nick of time a rescue got there and Donna’s daughter agreed to foster them. She told her that if she could keep them alive for a couple months that Henry’s Home would adopt them.
Miss Silly, Miss Sally and Mr. Sam-I-Am came to live with us and became beloved members of our family immediately. Now you can’t sit down for a minute around here without having a cat on your lap.
On December 30th, 2017, Miss Cookie joined our family. Her mama, who was one of our beloved herdmates six months of the year [six months living in New Jersey], thought she would be much happier with this family than living in a paddock by herself. She was right. And fortunately her mama could still come spend time with her when she was in town.
She made friends right away.
But somehow, she and Big John found each other right away, and became a couple within weeks. How do they know they look alike?
On March 9, 2018, DaVita Corporation brought out about 70 of their employees from all over the country as part of the Veterans to Village Program.
These veterans knew how to work, and work as a team to get the job done.
They had split into three groups: one was working on reinforcing our perimeter fence line, one was moving sand into the feeding stalls, and one was spending time working with our EAGALA team, experiencing horses as therapists and teachers.
You can’t make a thousand pound prey animal do anything it does not want to do. The question is, then, is how do you make it want to do what you want it to do? By learning to control your energy, emotions, thinking, body language. All good skills to have in life, right?
They got a lot of our hard work done in just hours.
They started out this morning not knowing each other, but ended the day friends and colleagues.
After a delicious dinner catered by Cody Spence of All Star Catering, one of the graduates of the LMC Class of 2017, everyone relaxed around campfires. If it’s not too hot out, we believe bonding happens in a special way around a campfire. We got letters from this group after this day saying they wished they had a place like ours in their neck of the woods. We agree . . . it is special. Healing. Happy.
June, 2018, another Eagle Scout project was born . . . an awning on our feeding pavilion with a water collection system put up on the whole pavilion. We are starting on our journey of being totally off the grid someday.
WooHoo! Our horses prefer rain water in their troughs over city water any day. Now every time it rains, they get all filled up with deliciousness. And more shade? Well, you know how we feel about that during our hot summers.
This little kitten showed up on our deck crying and crying at 9 pm on June 28, 2018. We tried to go near him with a food bowl but he was too afraid of us and ran away. It took a couple weeks of wooing him to get close enough to find out he was a little boy. One of our volunteers said that a week or so prior to his arrival she had seen a small black kitten near a cardboard box by the side of the feeder road off I-45. She had tried to catch it but it had run into the woods. We think this little guy must have been from the throw-away box, and somehow made it a mile or so back to us.
We named him Hank Williams, and he became a best friend to our boy Frank.
August, 2018 . . . our infinity track [or paddock paradise] was finally ready to move the horses onto. It had only taken us two years to build, but we had had the vision for it from the beginning, using the land we were given.
It looped around about 3/4ths of our property. The horses spent most of their time out on it with the goal in mind to keep them walking more as they moved from feed area to water area to napping and shelter areas. More like what it would be if they were out in the wild.
We don’t have a large property, less than ten acres, so this took some real creativity and a lot of hard work cutting back brush and stumps to make it safe for the horses. It provides feeding stations scattered throughout, water on two ends, a small pond to splash and lay down in to cool off, and room to play and nap. It’s enough.
October 9, 2018. You know that chicken coop the boy scouts built for us? Well, we got baby ducks donated, so at least for now, it’s gonna be a duck coop. Gotta be a flexible people, right?
Didn’t take long for them to grow up. So beautiful. Muscovy Ducks, full of color, and they have the ability to balance in trees and on fences with their clawed feet. We are having so much fun being entertained by them as they get used to people and other animals being around.
We started out with 16 babies. After just a couple months they learned to fly and three of them flew away. Eventually four more found the Deer Lake next door and live their happily. The rest mostly stay with us, enjoying all the deliciousness to be found in horse manure, as well as regular meals. They started laying eggs in the spring of 2019, and we collect and eat them cause we don’t want to end up with hundreds of ducks. Nothing personal feathered folks.
On October 12, 2018, our beloved Frank disappeared. Later one of our volunteers said they had seen a car in our close-by parking lot with all four doors open and folks milling around. We figure those folks took him home. He was so friendly and loved loved loved his job as the Meet and Greet Dog for Grand Central Park. And being a young black mouth cur, he needed to run and explore. If we would have kept him in he would have been miserable. We looked for weeks in all the shelters and posted him everywhere. Our hope is that whoever has him is giving him a happy life. He sure added to ours.
The weeks before he left Frank had brought this stray that he had befriended to our sanctuary a couple times. But every time this dog saw a person he would run away. After Frank left, this dog came around a couple times looking for his friend. We started putting out food and slowly moved it in closer until he would not run away as quickly. After a few weeks of this, he started to hang around. But November he was an official part of the HH family. Our vet found that he was chipped [had no success reaching his family] and that he was age 12 and named Bo. Welcome home, Bo! We are tickled you came to spend your last years with us. We miss him as much as you do . . . ๐Ÿ™
December 2, 2018, we got a new family member, Miss Lucy. We adopted this two year old pot belly pig from a vet tech at our veterinary’s office. She was moving so had to rehome her . . . not an easy task. But since she was close to the size and type as Gus we thought it was time to get him a wife. OK, so it’s an arranged marriage since we assume he is a much older husband, but since we don’t know his age, that a guess Being the two newest family members, she and Bo bonded immediately.
Within a few days she was sleeping in Gus’s house with him and they were hanging out together. So glad that went so smooth.
They remain close friends. She has the deformed front legs that apparently are typical with pot bellies, so she can’t walk very fast without landing on her face. But Bo is very patient with her and goes on explorations around the sanctuary every day.
We got the approval of Johnson Development to let the Sheriff’s Department Mounted Patrol and Constable’s Posse come to start doing their training in Grand Central Park. Knowing that sooner or later we would incorporate a couple of the horses from the Sheriff’s Dept into our herd, we decided that it was time to finish out six more feeding stalls where the larger stalls had been. So with the help of Dr. Dan, our very own incredible carpenter herdmate, we got those built during the weekend of January 5, 2019. Ask and you shall receive around here.
Our veterans just love working with Dan, our carpenter. He comes up with the best solutions to our needs. Everyone who works with this quiet kind veteran learn so much from him. And working with our horses is giving him a real sense of accomplishment and connection . . . he has another family here and is an encourager for those who spend time with him.
During all of 2017 and 2018, and into 2019, we continued to attend every veteran meeting, join every local organization, we could, helping to spread the word of our EAGALA psychotherapy program. It was very difficult to get them to come out for help. But the ones that did come told us they loved the time with the horses.
We were getting support from the local community to help fund our professional costs for these sessions. Assistance League of Montgomery County sent out their Scholarship Committee to see our place and meet our leadership team prior to making their first donation in the summer of 2017.
We continued to talk about our Horses & Heroes program, but we did also notice a rise in veterans who just wanted to join our herdmate program, to volunteer and eventually ride the horses. It was frustrating for us because they could do one or the other, but not both, with the EAGALA rules of ethics. But it was all good . . . ideas were planted and growing.
We have had a growing number of wonderful volunteers days with Exxon out at HH. Thanks for all the work done today gang.
On February 6, 2019, we all had so much fun when this group of Lifestyle Directors and Directors of Fun came for a team building experience from NFC Amenity Management. Everyone got some quality horse time, learning and sharing.
March 2nd, 2019, another great group from Exxon Mobil. We always have so much fun when a new group comes out to spend time with us, helping on building projects and giving the horses a spa day.
When we were swamped with our build-out we did not have much time for trail riding. But in 2019 we were starting to go out again around the beautiful lakes and old trails in Grand Central Park.
It was good for the mental and physical health of the horses, and the humans.
We enjoyed exploring all the new construction, walking through the new neighborhoods to meet the neighbors.
We held a team building afternoon for HP on March 6, 2019. It was our first time doing an event that was not just a volunteer day.
This was a group of 30 leaders from within the company, coming from all over the world. For most, it was the first time they had ever spent time with a horse.
We used a bit of EAGALA equine learning, worked on teamwork not just leadership which was a goal.
There were several opportunities for discussion and dissection.
Everyone had fun, and there was no question new friendships were seeded.
We all learned a lot about how to put on a team building day, and we look forward to doing it a lot better next time. We think doing it like we do the Exxon days will be more effective and meaningful.
March 30th, a great group of veterans came for a volunteer day from Exxon.
Cutting out brush, helping to clear an expansion to our infinity track, takes a lot of effort.
Precision . . . perfection . . . all the things we try to leave behind when you come to work here at HH. We believe Good Enough is good enough.
And we always make sure everyone gets plenty of horse care and learning time.
Making a connection with an animal that is 1,500 pounds is a powerful confidence builder. We are delighted for the opportunity to put these days on for such deserving folks. In fact, so many more wonderful Exxon days coming that we won’t keep showing them here.
In the spring of 2019, Johnson Development had to turn off our water due to their continued construction. We got creative about how to provide water for our animals and our humans.
Every day we spent a couple hours pumping water out of the nearby lake to fill up the trough on the back of our truck, and then pumed it back into the water troughs in our pasture. We also brought water from home whenever possible. We were a bit worried about cooling off our horses with the hot summer months coming up.
In God’s perfect timing, we had a group come to tour our sanctuary from North Shore Republican Women’s organization, and when we mentioned our water worry, they made a call to our City Councilman Duane Ham who moved on it immediately. He had the city roads manager start brining out water to fill our big tank as often as we needed it. That extra water helped us get thru the summer.
In the spring of 2019 we received a call from the Montgomery County Welcoming Neighbors organization, asking us to join them for lunch. We had never heard of them. We went and they presented us with a donation check which was a complete surprise. We were tickled to have them come on as partners with us here at Henry’s Home.
Another great visit with our partners at Assistance League of Montgomery County, as they presented us with a donation check to help fund our veteran scholarship program.
When our herdmate, Miss Kristi, lost her son, her family wanted to make a donation in his name. That is how we finally got a much needed ATV that would be strong enough to pull our harrow on our infinity track, to spread manure. That’s how Matthew got his name.
In the beginning of April, 2019, Shannon Novak, our Horses & Heroes Equine Therapy Program Director and EAGALA Equine Specialist, resigned to start her own program at her home, Sunny Creek Ranch. She had been a hard-working and dedicated volunteer since she and her husband had come out on their first trail ride with Just Us Gals, just days prior to Donna incorporating Henry’s Home into a nonprofit. We hated to lose her, but she was ready to branch off on her own, and we were ready to grow our program in a different direction. It was time to put our full effort into starting and growing our new Horses & Heroes Equine Learning Program.
Krista Carroll-Venezia had been volunteering with us for several months, and had known Donna for several years. She was a highly qualified equine professional. She was a PATH [Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship] Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, and Equine Specialist, as well as an EAGALA Certified Equine Specialist. She was also an ARIA [American Riding Instructor Association] Certified Riding Instructor, with 40 years of experience in the equine industry. And her education was in Human Development and Family Studies, as well as Social Work. When the opportunity came up to ask Krista to come on board as our Volunteer Equine Director, and give our Horses & Heroes Equine Learning Program professional lessons, well, she said yes. It was a God thing, for us all.
Early May, 2019, is when Krista started in earnest teaching our veterans not just equine care and training, but also riding, with the opportunity for trail riding. They loved it! And heading in this unique direction of allowing them as much time out here with the horses as they wanted, one that had not been done before, turned out to be just what we needed to draw veterans, as well as finally first responders, to our sanctuary in much bigger numbers. We all knew that time with the horses was therapy for those dealing with anxiety, depression, anger, addiction, loneliness, etc. But starting something that did not have a label was scary. Stepping out of your comfort zone takes real courage.
June 17, 2019, Cisco joined our family.
We get calls and emails almost every day from horse owner who ask if we could take their horse. In 95% of the cases we have to say no, even though it breaks our hearts. We just can’t take on more than we can afford. Occasionally the horse is so special that we just can’t say no.
It usually takes a couple days before we put new horses into the herd, giving them face time to get to know each other safely.
Willie Nelson considers it his job to be the mentor to each new equine family member. Eventually, they get tired of having him hanging around and go find a friend of their choice. Poor Willie Nelson. His goal is to be alpha of the herd someday. Here’s to big dreams!
If we have time, we love to turn our new arrivals into a party. This time, it just had to be a big one.
This one took two nights to pull off. The first night they did not arrive, but we enjoyed ourselves anyways.
Success! The evening of July 12, two new rather large ladies joined our equine family. Coming from different backgrounds, they were pasture mates at TMR Rescue in Plantersville, where we love to adopt from, just to help them out.
We loved that Johnny Straitz, the Founder of TMR Rescue, came with Marjorie Farabee, the Equine Manager, to deliver our new girls. And took the time to tell us a bit of their life-changing story of how they started rescuing donkeys.
We needed a couple gentle giants for our larger veterans to be able to ride. Now, our job is to teach them how to have a human on their back.
We are getting a couple more minis, so it’s obviously time to build out some stalls for just them.
How’s this for the littles? Mini Pearl thinks its the bomb.
Ducks loved to sleep on top of the office trailer. It’s a safe place that they can keep on eye on everything.
Our beloved herdmate Becky asked if we would consider letting her move her sponsored donkey, Miss Precious, to our property, so she did not have to make the long drive to spend time with her in Plantersville. How could we say no? But the stipulation for her adoption, by Marjorie, was that Mama JoJo comes too, as they had never been separated.
So, on July 27th, they made a quiet arrival here to Henry’s Home. We all loved having them in the herd as Becky took such great care of them, and all our family.
It did not take long to get the big girls used to us on their backs. Course we have the most incredible Equine Director in Miss Krista.
In July we started having Lone Star Legal Aid hold not just open houses, but veteran clinics out at Henry’s Home.
Everyone has a ball when these lovely ladies come out to serve veterans with us.
This was earlier in the spring when they first started coming out. Our friends from North Shore Republican Women served lunch during this open house day. Love these groups of ladies who have partnered up with us.
On September 27th, HP came out to help us build another hay feeding station for our infinity track,
We are so grateful for the organizations who partner up with us to keep this place growing.
Making slow progress . . . we want this to be a great experience for them both.
In November, Tri-County Veteran Service leaders did an open house with us, meeting some of our veterans and their families.
And we loved getting to know a couple of the psychologists from our Conroe VA clinic. Thank you so much for the referrals ladies.
And of course, with the help of food from the North Shore Republican Women, we have to turn it into a party.
On November 10th, Channel 13 came out again, this time to interview and record the arrival of our newest equine family member. We gathered together to welcome him to his new home.
Admiral was a mounted patrol horse with the Houston Police Department, working in the riot squad at night. He lost his vision in one eye which made it impossible for him to work any longer, so he changed jobs to new-officer trainer. He has come to live out his life with us, still serving those who serve us. Just in a different capacity.
Mini Pearl was happy to meet her new friend. He is a Gypsy Vanner. Even though he is only 15 hands tall, he weighs about as much as our big percheron girls, making him a draft horse. Bet he will have a blast out on the trails with us.
He got settled in quickly, and became one of our veterans favorite mounts.
Right away he loved getting lots of attention. That’s a lot of tail to keep brushed.
He took in on himself to be the protector of the two big percheron mares, and he takes that job very seriously, a bit to their irritation. He is a happy boy, getting well loved by all.
A couple guys from Vaughn Construction guys stopped by to see our place. They were building the SHSU medical school in Grand Central Park. They liked what we were doing enough to ask what they could do to help.
Two days later this crew came and spent the day building us an ADA ramp on our arena, so that we could get wheelchairs up to allow our chair-bound veterans the opportunity to mount a horse.
How’s that for giving back to their community?
As we were coming closer to Thanksgiving of 2019, we had been cared for by Johnson Development for about four years now, but had always known this was a temporary place for us to grow. The space was not ours to own, and was not large enough to build the retreat center that we knew was the purpose of Henry’s Home in the long run. In early November, we also had our electricity turned off as the electric poles were coming down around us, and our road was being used for heavy construction equipment, making it unsafe for our vehicles. The doors were obviously closing here as construction was coming closer to our sanctuary.

In His perfect timing, two big things happened that moved us along our path towards our final property, along with this door gently closing. One of our recent volunteers learned of our situation and went home to talk to her husband. They had purchased a property eight years before with a friend who wanted to start an equine breeding and boarding facility. They knew with its location in the heart of Montgomery County that it was a good investment. As it turned out, unfortunately, the woman who they partnered with did not keep up her end of the deal, which resulted in a constant money drain for our volunteers, as well as eight years of neglect for the property, leaving it in terrible shape. They approached us and offered us the opportunity to assume their remaining mortgage, while they donated their equity in the property. Seeing it, we realized that it was going to take a lot of work and money to build up just the horse sanctuary, with the retreat center coming down the road. It was perfect . . . obviously a God thing.

The 21 acres was located just five minutes from our place in south Conroe, had never flooded, had a sustainable source of great well water, was on a quiet dead-end road surrounded by woods, already had utilities [all of which seriously needed updating], a big barn with tack and feeding supply rooms, and enough outbuildings and pastures [with ponds] to be basically ready for us to move in. On December 1, 2019, we were able to get on the property to start preparing one of the pastures for our horses, and on December 26, we were given the deed, and got started in earnest preparing to move.

Being a small young nonprofit, dependent on local donations, our biggest problem at this point was affording this move. But God had that taken care of as well. Donna’s good friend, Bob Graves, died on June 23, 2019, totally unexpectedly. They met when Bob started bringing his granddaughter out to trail ride with Donna when she was still Just Us Gals, before incorporating Henry’s Home. He loved and supported her vision of where God was taking this thing over the years, being an important and generous part of the journey. She was devastated, but knew he was fine and there to still guide and protect the place they had grown together, in spirit. That became even more obvious when she had a visit with Bob’s son Lee, and the executor of his estate, Jason. They knew that Bob would have wanted to continue to support Henry’s Home, so ended up making a donation large enough to cover a good portion of the next years operating and moving costs.

Thanks to Bob and Lee Graves and Jason Petrie, as well as John and Linda Harrington who donated the property, Henry’s Home would keep growing . . .

On November 26, 2019, Donna went to evaluate a horse they wanted gone, thinking he may be good for some of our mounted patrol friends. The problem was, that she fell in love with him and went back that afternoon to bring him home for us. We seriously did not need any more horses, but love at first sight sometimes can’t be denied.
Charlie was a Dutch Warm Blood/Hanovarian mix who had a history of dressage and stadium jumping. Unfortunately, he had a reputation of being too hot to handle, too much horse for pleasure so had been put out to pasture. After Donna spent just an hour with him on the ground and riding, she saw the potential of a quick eager learner who needed some gentle handling to calm down and trust humans.
She was right . . . he turned out to be a wonderful, intelligent, kind horse that just needed some consistent, gentle handling.
On December 1st, we went to see the new property.
The barn is beautiful and spacious with ten large stalls, that we will use for storage at first, as we figure out where we want to put things. There is a lot of repairs to make, new electrical and plumbing throughout needed, and lots of stuff to clean out.
Horses were kept in small dry-lot pens, which we are gonna have to take out as our horses will all be together in a single herd.
When this double-wide trailer was installed for the family who initially built out this property in 1987, it was a top-of-the-line home. The neighbors and friends of the family enjoyed many wonderful parties here. Unfortunately, by the time we got it, it was completely unlivable. Full of mold, pet feces, junk, with the roof and floors caving in. We were pretty sure it would not stay together long enough to move it out. So sad!
The shop building was being used as a small engine repair shop, with most of the equipment obviously having never been repaired. It was a hoarders paradise.
So much junk. We couldn’t get inside with all the junk.
The whole property was fenced with old rusty and broken metal pipe fencing, and wire or cable.
While we were busy planning our work at the new land, Lucy got busy giving birth to five adorable babies on December 8th. She had had a one week adventure in the woods about three and a half months earlier. When you hear someone say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, don’t believe it. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Midwife Regina stayed all night, in the cold, helping Lucy give birth. Actually, she had no problem giving birth to these little ones, but they needed to be cleaned off and shown where mama’s teats were. She had her first one at about 1:30 a.m. and the last one about 7:30 a.m, after Regina had covered her up, thinking she was all finished. Surprise!
Our very own Warren [named after Robert Warren Graves] was the first one out, and twice the size of all the others. Did you know pigs are one of the few mammals born with teeth and open eyes? Technically they can survive from birth without mama. And Regina discovered that they also instinctively squeal if held. And fight with each other over who gets the prime teat position. Learning more every day here at Henry’s Home.
The amount of work this place would need just in demolition was mind-boggling. We decided to start with the front pasture just so we would have a place to move the horses while we worked on the rest later.
We started by removing all the old metal fencing, cutting back the fence line brush first, taking out dead trees and other hazards, knowing that if a horse can find a way to get cut or hurt, it will.
There is nothing like good old-fashioned hard physical work on the land to help you sleep at night. We were grateful so much of this could be done in the beautiful winter months, before our brutal heat comes.
We built a friendship with the metal recycling owner, taking load after load of scrape metal in.
We sure did build some monster-sized burn piles with all out brush cutting.
We basically spent the whole month of December preparing the pasture for the horses.
Tearing down all the old wire fencing, and putting in new posts and horse panel fencing along the tree line, on the outside of the pasture.
So many good hard workers enjoyed some volunteer time with us on this initial project.
The final thing before we would bring over the horses was to put up a portable fence line in the front of the pasture, and some portable feeding stalls.
Time to move over some of the hay feeding stations for placement in the pasture.
Every trip we made with a load from the old place to the new, we were reminded what a blessing it was to have this property only five minutes away.
The horses are finally going to have a real pond to drink from and play in. WooHoo!
OK, the real final thing to move over, on the day we receive the deed. Merry Christmas indeed!
Henry’s New Home was now ready for Henry.
January, 4, 2020 . . . Henry’s New Home!
So many wonderful friends came to help us move 22 horses this day.
They could not have been more excited to see their new home.
Pure Bliss.
How often do you get the chance to watch a whole herd of horses run around exploring their new home. What a treat.
So rewarding to see them enjoy their first pasture day after all the hard work we had put into making it safe for them.
Now how to get the rest of the animals over . . .
Now we had most of our animals at our new place, and some of them still at our old, and an awful lot of infrastructure to get down and moved asap. Yikes! Load after load of things brought over and set up.
As soon as all the animals were moved, it started to feel pretty lonely working at take down at the old place.
There were so many of our folks that just quietly and consistently worked at removal of everything over the next months.
Not just taking down the boards for transport, but taking out all the screws so that we could be ready to use them again.
We were especially thankful for those who worked on demolition, with no chance of any fun horse time.
We were able to get photos when we had more than one person working on a project. But the vast majority of this move over was done quietly by a couple of our dedicated guys on their own.
Our tractor and trailer were kept pretty busy between the two places.
The same company, WM Martinez, who installed our trailer deck took it off for us, so that we could move it over to our new place.
So much to get done, where to start? Building an enclosure for the pigs was a priority so we could get them moved.
We put up a pen of hog panels for Augustus McRae, Lucy and her five babies, so that they could be kept confined for now, but have somewhere to run around a bit.
And we did a lot of plumbing repairs as we continued the demolition, since we had no idea where any of the pipes ran. Pretty much everytime we dug anywhere we broke a pipe.
A group of very hard workers came out from BP to help us clear the front drive line, and put up fence.
They also had some horse time fun.
They were scheduled to work from 8 – 12 in the morning, but they ended up staying until dark to get the whole job finished. Rock Stars!
Metal fences posts have a mind of their own it seems. Thank God for the skidsteer that one of our volunteers lent us for weeks.
Day after day of taking out old metal fencing, cutting it up, and hauling it away to the recycle dump. Thank God our veterans had the right tools.
Over these months, with all the time spent there, we became pretty good friends with the owner and operators at the recycling place. ๐Ÿ˜‰
We figured this must have been a slab put in for a hot walker. It had to go.
Honestly, load after load.
We were a bit floored that someone would actually pay us, even if a tiny bit, for this stuff that we would have paid others to haul away.
While all this work was going on, we were also grieving. One of our volunteers, Becky Robertson, who had brought us Precious and JoJo, died of her cancer, at peace in the arms of her beloved family.
When we were invited to her life celebration memorial, we just knew her two girls had to attend as well.
Precious and JoJo were glad the whole family came out to spend some time with them. We know Becky will be watching out over us with love and unlimited guidance.
We continued to be blessed with Bob’s gift as the months of demolition and moving cost a fortune.
We received a visit and donation check from the Jane Phillips Society, part of Chevron Phillips.
And we enjoyed a visit by members of the Perfection Ranch, who made us the recipients of their neighborhood 5K run fundraiser.
It took a couple days, and thank God for this tractor, to remove all of the old deck around the double-wide trailer, in the hopes that we could get it moved out.
We brought in a large dumpster to help us haul away some of the tons of moldy furniture, rooms full of junk, and smelly who-knows-what that had been left when the family living there had moved out. A lot of the wooden furniture went into the burn piles. We actually brought in a couple of day labor workers to help us empty out this trailer.
John, who donated this land to us, actually found a family who wanted to renovate this trailer. WooHoo! We were hoping someone would want it and pay for the moving costs, cause we could not burn it with all the trees, and knew it would be a huge expense to demolish and haul it away.
We watched in fear, thinking it was going to fall apart at any minute, but the company who took it out did a wonderous job.
They did not even do this transport for us, but we have to give them a shout out. They did an incredible, safe, complete job getting these two sections separated and moved out. We would imagine it was no big deal to them, but it felt like a miracle to us. Whew!
With the old trailer gone, now we could move the office trailer over.
Took two days, and lot’s of money, to get it moved. But we finally got it in place.
Just a few days after it arrived, the same great company who had donated and removed our deck built steps for us.
Our great crew from Classic Quality Electric came in to hook up the trailer to electricity.
We love Jessy, so friendly and a hard worker.
We know Sam is keeping us safe with his expertise.
He makes our crew bury the cables at least two feet down.
With all the work going on at the sanctuary, Donna was also participating in the Leadership Montgomery County Class of 2020. She is doing everything she can to help us spread the word of our work here.
This gang spent the day at the rodeo, on Veterans Appreciation Day, spreading the word of our work. Made a lot of important contacts.
While we had crews working on outdoor land and building projects, we also had crews working on organizing our supplies and routines in the barn and with the horses.
Hours have been spent in making sure the saddles and bridles fit at least one of the horses.
And each horse has to have it’s own cleaning and grooming supplies so as not to spread skin problems.
We are so grateful to John and Linda for including this ATV with the property . . . we use all our equipment every day for chores.
One of the hardest daily chores is putting bales of hay into bags, and distributing them out into the pasture hay bins.
Every horse gets fed at least once a day to make sure they get the correct supplements and meds.
So much to do.
Baby Warren, named after Robert Warren Graves, would probably have been happy to skip this job. It wasn’t the snipping that he was screaming about, it was the being held part. We found a wonderful farm family to adopt his four sisters for pets for their kids, but we decided to keep this growing boy.
Everyone else was having a ball in their new home, with the big pastures to play and run in.
And a couple more family members added, Mr. Otis, and behind him, Miss Sansa. Didn’t take them long to join the herd.
But it wasn’t all play. Everyone was also working, giving lessons to our veterans and volunteers. Krista, our incredibly passionate and talented equine director and professional instructor, was busy keeping them all safe and healthy and well trained, along with our humans.
Group lessons were held regularly, as well as family and private lessons. Everyone was learning from our incredible equine therapists and teachers.
So glad to have Exxon back. On February 29, 2020, they came to spend a morning helping us on land projects.
And of course, experience some equine team building.
Yet another line of old fence to take out.
Portable fences up, till we can get up the permantent fence line.
Thank God for our vets that don’t just start a job, but come back again and again till it’s finished.
Some posts were easier to get in and some harder.
On April 29th, this same crew spent two days rewiring all the barn electrical, setting up new breaker boxes and new outdoor pole boxes.
Our volunteers spent a couple days digging the 48″ or deeper ditch across the road to drop the conduit lines. Brutal work as the ground was like concrete.
Bill Neyland owned a horse named Fleur, and he boarded her with John for years before John donated this land to us. We agreed to let them stay. Several times a week he came out and took her for an hour to an hour and half trail ride, just the two of them. Here was this 80 year old man going out on a 26 year old horse [80 in people years], and it was the highlight of both their lives. He was an inspiration to us all of what our later years could look like. But on this day, after a lovely ride with his girl, he took a fall which he never woke up from. He died peacefully in his sleep several days later. What a perfect way to head home, right? We had promised him if anything ever happened to him, we would continue to take care of her until she could join him again. And we will.
Repairing and rebuilding the shop building is an ongoing project.
On June 12th, we finally got the three loafing sheds in the back pasture safe enough to open that area up to the horses.
June 20, 2020, we started getting groups of boys and their parents out every weekend for volunteer days. The organization is called National Charity Roundtable. They are always hard workers, eager to learn new skills or practice some they are already good at. They were always willing to tackle whatever we had on the schedule for that day.
From early in January, we have had a couple groups of missionaries from the Mormon Church come weekly, to help out with whatever project we are working on. This is a dedicated and friendly group of young people who we look forward to working with every time.
On June 26th, we hosted our first event with the Wounded Warrior Project.
We had been taking out trail rides over these months, when we could find the time.
Since they are so good for the horses physical and mental health, we got them out more often. Sometimes planned, and sometimes spontaneous. But always enjoyed by all.
Bill Deihl from Cactus Builders is one of our most creative and industrious volunteers. We know why he comes to work so hard, cause he loves his wife Rachelle, and she loves Henry’s Home. But how he talked his good friend into taking on the move of our metal covers from our old place, and setting them up again . . . well, we just owe them more than we could ever say.
These two worked for days in the hot July sun to get them moved and set up, having never done it before.
What a blessing this man has been to us all.
Thanks, Rachelle, for sharing him with us. With all the work you put in out here in every area, you two have turned into a power couple at Henry’s Home.
On June 29th, our last things to get off the old property got moved. WooHoo!
Our Eagle Scout chicken coop was just too cool to leave there. And our tack shed was going to get converted into a cabin for our volunteers. Hopefully ๐Ÿ˜‰
Our new land came with a nice chicken coop if we ever decide to have chickens. So we decided to turn this little building into a gardening tool shed. Perfect.
And the tack shed was going under a beautiful big laurel tree behind the office trailer. Privacy, shade . . . yep, a good spot.
This guy did an incredible job, for practically a donation. Hug!

It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. - Paulo Coelho