By Emily Baker
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Nick, a chocolate-colored thoroughbred, is a curious, gentle horse who is quick to greet visitors with a gentle nudge of his nose.
Hes the pride of his owners, the Kehrer family.
Tracy Kehrers daughter has ridden Nick in show rings and wears a protective vest and helmet made from the desert camouflage uniform her father wore during an Afghanistan deployment.
When she drives up to Fort Hoods Hunt and Saddle Club, Kehrer fears what she might find in Nicks stall more skunks and rodents, portions of dilapidated construction strewn about or standing water housing mosquitoes.
Termites have chewed up boards in the stables built more than 30 years ago. Sharp edges of wire fences threaten to cut horses necks. Critters have left evidence of their presence throughout tack rooms.
The posts Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation, to which boarders pay a $50-per-month rent, agrees conditions need improvement and has proposed a renovation to the 78 stalls at the Hunt and Saddle Club and closing the 24 stalls at West Fort Hoods Montague Stables.
Boarders say the renovations are demotions, not improvements, and that closing one of the posts profitable entities doesnt make sense.
Some boarders have spent their own money to protect their horses from sharp fencing or the hot sun, to prevent rodents from burrowing through tack room floors to reach grain stores, to keep fences from falling down.
You make it as nice as you want to as long as you are willing to cough up the funds, said Sheryl Remick, chairwoman of the stables advisory committee, which acts as a liaison between boarders and MWR.
These personal improvements and the renovations wouldnt be needed if proper maintenance had been provided by MWR all along, Kehrer said.
The Hunt and Saddle Club used to be a private organization under MWR guidance. Boarders elected leaders to generate and appropriate money. MWR took over that role in 1988.
Thats when the maintenance on the stables stopped, Remick said.
When we were taken over in 1988, we had $21,000 in the bank we had raised ourselves, Remick said. That was sucked away in the first year.
Rent was increased by $10 per stall in January to meet the rising costs associated with the upkeep of the stables, reads a portion of a Nov. 22, 2004, letter from Dave Campbell, chief of the posts business division, to boarders announcing the increase.
The sole source of revenue for this stables comes from rental income, the letter reads. As all boarders are aware, due to the age of the facilities and equipment, there is an ever-increasing requirement for maintenance and repairs to meet safety and health guidelines.
The normal aging process and delays in maintenance, due to lack of funding, have further deteriorated the wooden structures, the letter reads. It is planned to reinvest as much of the newly generated revenue back into the facilities after meeting expenses and Army budgetary standards.
As of Friday night, Nicholas R. Johnsen, director of MWR, had not answered questions about where the extra money has been used.
Little information was made available about the desire to close Montague Stables, which was expected to happen Sept. 30 but hasnt yet occurred.
A June 9 letter to boarders from Michael C. Ernst, acting chief of the business division, explains that serious degradation and loss of the native plant cover has resulted in unacceptable erosion rates.
E. coli continues to be a concern in the waterway that drains the stable area, the letter reads. Contamination of the waterway reduces water quality flowing into the local water supply reservoirs.
The letter also states that improvements cannot be made if the area continues to be used as a horse facility.
A leaky water pump causes the water problems, said Jinette Campbell, who keeps three horses at the Montague Stables. She said requests to MWR to fix the pump have not been honored.
Funds are not available to upgrade the facility to appropriate standards, the letter reads. Even if funds were available, MWR could not continue to use the current site as a stabling facility.
The letter does not contain elaboration. Johnsen did not answer questions regarding the Montague Stables.
He did say renovations at the Hunt and Saddle Club will enhance Fort Hoods stables to a new level of quality.
The renovations, expected to cost $500,000, include 10-foot by 12-foot stalls with 30-foot by 40-foot paddocks, or runs, which boarders say are too small.
A lot of our horses wont fit in them, Remick said. Rather, 12-by-12 is the minimum for a boarding facility. We rarely ever have ponies or horses from seven hands [28 inches tall from the bottom of the hoof to the top of the withers] down.
Johnsen said the stall size is sufficient for the size of horse typically housed at the Hunt and Saddle Club and that the measurements meet with veterinary standards.
Boarders also are concerned the proposed construction material, cinder blocks, will break a horses leg if kicked.
The cinder block walls offers longevity and less maintenance, Johnsen stated in an e-mail.
The proposed fencing design is also unacceptable for boarders who say it poses a health hazard. Three-rail fences, which the renovations are expected to include, are not high enough and are too easy for horses to get caught in. Children could easily fit under the bottom rail and enter the paddock and stall of an unknown horse, Kehrer said.
Some of the proposed improvements are welcome by boarders. Tack rooms will have concrete floors, Johnsen said, which will help eliminate the rodent problem. As many shade trees as possible will also be saved during construction.
A construction contract will be released for bid by the end of the year, Johnsen said.
A meeting between boarders, Johnsen and Col. Victoria Bruzese, garrison commander, to discuss the renovations is scheduled for Tuesday evening.
Contact Emily Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org