It was the year 2012 when the seed for this adventure was planted, in a hay field. It started with a simple phone call to the local Valley Feed Store. Deb and Jane gave Sam our number for his hay baling needs. (Here in the country, if you have a question about farming or animals, you might just call the feed store! Deb usually knows the answer, or knows someone who does.) During the course of what seemed to be an ordinary trip to view a hay meadow, my husband and I encountered an extraordinary man. Sam, the CEO of Runnin WJ Ranch in Texarkana, not only showed us a hay meadow that we could cut and bale, but he introduced us to the ranch and his passion. We talked about the kiddos, saw the ranch and the horses and felt Sam’s passion, first hand. I was instantly drawn to this amazing ministry. Sam told me right before we left, “You will do this someday”. I replied, “Absolutely not. I could never do anything like this”.
But the thought would not leave my mind for very long. I felt the Lord was leading me to use my 30 years of nursing (primarily pediatrics, specifically special needs) and my love of horses, to work for Him. I had helped with Handicapable Rodeos in the past and truly enjoyed the events. I would take my horse and help the kiddos with rides. It was the times that I held a little one, in my arms in the saddle, and let them ride around the arena, that convinced me to start Hooves and Halos. My heart would overflow with love for these special angels. Their smiles and giggles warmed my heart like no other experience in my life. They are fascinated with the feel of the horse moving across the arena with them on their back. Many of these children can’t walk, so, the horse walks for them. It is a thrill for the child that no wheelchair or any other mobile equipment can give them.
So, in the year 2014, I said yes to this adventure. We, the Hooves and Halos team, held our first event in the Spring. It was not a huge success, about 15 kiddos and 100 volunteers. Most of these people were from the church that we attended. I was so amazed at the incredible volunteers from the church and the community, and their willingness to try all this chaos again. We started planning for the Fall immediately, and have never looked back. I've found that once someone has been to an event, they either run or wouldn’t dare miss it!
Our adventure had grown and expanded to the point that we had to moved from a small church arena to the Mt. Pleasant Civic Center Ag Pavilion, and then to the City Park and Rodeo Arena in Winnsboro, TX. We utilize almost every area of the park. During the event, you will see horses in the arena, hayrides over the entire park, dining in the Civic Center or at the picnic tables under one of the pavilions or tents, mini horse cart rides in the mini’s arena, games, face painting... and so much more. The City of Winnsboro has so graciously opened up the entire beautiful park for us to use!! (We had over 70 groups at one playday, approximately 1700 total people). I have no idea how many buses that was. But, that’s a lot of parking space!)
Fast forward to 2020, covid shut everything down. We cancelled our March event. By the summer of 2020 a new plan was started. The Lord gave us a job and we intended to continue until HE told us to stop. People needed us more than ever, now.
We moved home. The woods in front of our home was perfect for a peaceful place to bring our guests. They could be free out here, away from the mandates that ruled our world at that time.
This is not a "dude" ranch, this is our farm/ranch where we live and work. Our guests don't seem to mind that they may step in some natural fertilizer left by the horses or cows. They don't seem to mind that there are some goatweeds, or that the landscape is not perfectly manicured. They notice the peace and quiet, the love of our Lord, all around us. That's our goal, to get them out here where they can feel the love of Jesus wrapped around them.
We had a trial run in the summer of 2020 and never looked back. That first event had about 50 people. It was very simple and we used what we had: the woods, ramps, borrowed picnic tables, my husbands smoker for cooking and welding machine for power for fans. It was amazing!!!
The building began. We (mainly Johnny) cleaned out the woods and we started building a place where we could hold our events.
Welcome to our work in progress!!!
Fast forward to Jan 2023: We have had seven events since that trial run in the summer of 2020, and each one is bigger than the last. We had around 700 people out for the Fall event! Check out the Gallery for some amazing pictures.
We keep on building as supplies and money come in. We have started on a REAL restroom and changing area ( Thanks to Wood County Roundup and all of you that donate your pennies on your electric bill, and to the Git-R-Done Foundation) !!! We appreciate the porta potties that have been loaned to us for 9 years ( Thank you Ford Septic and Jots Rentals) , but some of the kiddos will not use them. Don't tell anyone, but I brought a few in our house. I couldn't convince them to go behind a tree,lol.
Everything that we do, everything that we give, everything that we are, is made possible by someone's generosity. We operate solely on donations of time, supplies, love, and money of course. We have no big corporate sponsors. We have Mamas and Grandmas that make cookies and deserts. Small churches donate most of the Bibles, books and DVD’s. Stuffed animals are collected all year long by precious volunteers from thrift shops, dollar stores and anywhere that they can find them. Most of the food is donated by businesses, individuals, and a few of the guest’s group homes. You see, it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference. If you feel led to make some cookies or donate your time or resources, we appreciate all donations. We are a 501c3 non profit organization, public charity, so your donations are tax deductible. We have no paid employees. All donations go toward the Playdays, our guests, and what it takes to get this event organized.
Thank you for taking the time to read this adventure story. I do hope something in this has touched your heart and you come join us on this amazing ride.