The emaciated horse Barber encountered in Galveston rooting around for food.

When Interior Designer Ginger Barber first spotted the horse that would change her life, she thought she was out for an entirely pleasant encounter with the local wildlife. She was birding with friends on Stewart Road in Galveston in March of 2012, enjoying the weather and the conversation, when she came upon an emaciated Draft Belgian horse. He was tied to a fence, his mane shorn, panicked, and looking for food. His ribs were visible and his hooves badly cared for.

Moved to action, Barber called the Galveston Police Department, and she and a lieutenant spent weeks documenting the horse's neglect. She also called Habitat for Horses, a Hitchcock-based nonprofit that takes in neglected horses. It turns out that there are horses like the one Barber found all over the country; horses subject to what Barber calls "plain old negligence, stupidity." Often owners will put a horse out to pasture, expecting that it will care for itself. The nonprofit is currently rehabilitating and caring for over 200 previously neglected horses on three properties. 

The horse Barber found tied up in Galveston, though, never saw the habitat the nonprofit provides. Instead, after surveying the evidence, a judge returned him to his previous owner. The horse's name was "Harley," it turned out, and its owner was a motorcycle enthusiast who had 14 acres on which Harley could roam. Months later, the owner agreed to a visit, and Barber got to see Harley restored to health. "I just lost it," she recalls. "I just sobbed. I wouldn't believe it was the same horse. He was magnificent."

Harley, restored to health.

Barber remains heavily involved with Habitat for Horses, which is throwing a fundraiser on Thursday, November 7th, to enable the nonprofit to expand its property in Manvel, and thus make it possible for the organization to take in even more neglected animals. "An Equine Evening for Greener Pastures" will include an intimate concert with Shake Russell and Michael Hearne, the auction of photographs of rescued horses taken by Kathy Oliver and Skeeter Hagler, as well as barbeque and an open bar at AREA (3735 Westheimer). The organization will also debut a book of prose and photography, The Horse at Home, celebrating Habitat's rescue horses. All proceeds will go to the nonprofit. Tickets are $150 and available here.

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