FORT HOOD — On Sept. 30, the community stables at Fort Hood, known as the Hunt and Saddle Club, closed permanently after decades of providing a place where soldiers, retirees, military families and disabled veterans could keep their personal horses.

The reasons were many, according to Fort Hood’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the entity responsible for the stables. Some of the reasons included that the facility was assessed as “High Risk” due to potential for injury or illness of the horses stabled there, primarily because of structural and general premises issues with the stalls and sheds. The facility was in need of repairs that would exceed $750,000 to $1 million to renovate.

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David A. Bryant | Herald A sign near the visitors center near Fort Hood’s T.J. Mills gate proudly proclaims that the post had a set of stables called the Hunt and Saddle Club where soldiers and authorized patrons of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation could stable their personal horses.

Many prior boarders at the stables, however, say that is because FMWR neglected to do any actual maintenance work on the facility since taking over the Hunt and Saddle Club in the 1980s from the former private club started by the late Tuke Shoemaker, a horse enthusiast and wife of the late retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker, in 1972.

In 2005, however, FMWR committed $506,000 to renovating the Hunt and Saddle Club. A meeting in January 2006 between the boarders and FMWR was held to figure out how those funds were to be used.

According to Lance E. Pooler, the current FMWR business division chief, the funds were never executed due to disagreements between boarders and FMWR, although he admitted he did not have the details of the disagreement.

Sheryl Remick, a retired Department of the Army civilian and Killeen resident who kept horses at the stables between 1983 and 2009, was at that meeting, however, and said that the only disagreement had been about the size of the stalls. FMWR wanted to build 10-foot by 12-foot stalls while the boarders wanted 12-foot by 12-foot stalls for better horse safety.

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David A. Bryant | Herald The disrepair of the stables is one of the primary reasons given by Fort Hood Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation gave to permanently close the stables where authorized patrons could stable their horses on post. Costs to repair the stables were estimated at up to $1 million or more.

“They agreed to it at the end, because we had some strong advocates at that meeting,” Remick said. “I walked out of there thinking that they were going to keep that promise. I guess they were counting on people that were there at the time, like myself, wouldn’t be around anymore to challenge what they were saying. Certainly, the current MWR and garrison staff weren’t there at the time.”

A March 30, 2006 story printed by the Herald backs up that assertion. The director of FMWR at the time, Nicholas Johnsen, was on the record as saying a good compromise had been made and that the stalls would be built to the size the boarders were asking for. He said at the time that he did not expect the $506,000 to be enough for 88 new stalls, so when as many stalls as possible could be built, a decision will be made about what to do with the existing stalls to make 88 stalls total.

Johnsen also said in the article that he expected to break ground on the stall construction by the end of 2006.

That never happened.

“MWR didn’t live up to a lot of things they said they would do. I had a lot of meetings with MWR back in the ‘90s, and we were supposed to get X-amount of wood to repair the tack rooms and so forth,” said retired Army Sgt. Maj. Dallas Olson, a former Fort Hood soldier who lives in Plasterville, Calif., during a phone interview. “MWR did some things, but we still had a monthly maintenance gathering, a work day, and all us folks boarding horses took care of everything. There was a large trailer of supplies we would have to beg, borrow and steal to get, or we got the supplies ourselves and we had to take care of all of it. We’d get the wood, we’d work on people’s stalls, and MWR wasn’t there.”

“We became really de facto employees of MWR for half a day, one Saturday of every month,” added Remick.

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David A. Bryant | Herald A sign posted on the bulletin board of the Fort Hood Hunt and Saddle Club, a set of stables where soldiers and authorized patrons of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation could stable their personal horses, invites the boarders to a meeting with then Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Jason Wesbrock. At that meeting, the garrison commander served all boarders with an eviction notice informing them the stables would be permanently closed on Sept. 30.

Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Della St. Louis, a Copperas Cove resident, said they even had to provide their own equipment, such as lawn mowers, chain saws and gas.

“We were there half a day and we tried to make the best of it, and nobody griped,” she said. “The only thing they really did was take our money and give us the land. They were nickeling and diming us to death and not giving anything back to us.”

Pooler said that on average, FMWR invested between $9,000 to $12,000 yearly, labor not included, into the stables for facility and equipment maintenance and repair.

The former boarders, however, said they never saw those funds used for maintenance and repair.

“We had to buy our own ant and weed killer … We had to do all that stuff ourselves,” St. Louis said.

“I was there two different times — in 1988 to 1990, and then again in 1992 to 1996 that I had a horse there,” Stevenson said. “The first time was nice. Yeah, we had to fight to get stuff. The second time, it was getting more and more difficult to get anything from MWR to do anything, and we were still doing the once a month maintenance. We’d go out, weed-eat, cut the limbs off trees and make stuff look pretty again.”

“Even though MWR was supposed to be doing the maintaining, they put everything on the boarders,” Remick said. “They didn’t do a thing for us except raise the fees.”

The former boarders agree that the current state of the stables is unacceptable and it is unlikely they could be easily fixed. However, with Fort Hood being “Cav Country,” the post should be looking into ways to stay being a horse-friendly installation.

“They need to invest in a nice chunk of land, whether it be on West Fort Hood or somewhere on post, and put a nice facility up,” St. Louis said. “Say you’ve got a family with one or two kids, and maybe one of them is using the horse for a therapy program, and now you’ve got to go find a place off post — and there’s not a lot of places off post that have facilities that are close by or are family-oriented like ours was.”

And horse therapy isn’t just good for kids and families — it is also used to treat post-traumatic stress in active-duty troops and veterans, said Remick.

“Fort Hood has their claim to fame as being ‘Welcome to the Great Place,’ but if you’re so great, why have you let this place become as dilapidated as a third-world country?” St. Louis asked. “If they really want to make it the Great Place, let’s build a nice facility for horses so more people would want to come be stationed here.”

“And definitely name it after Tuke Shoemaker. She’s no longer here to argue with us about that,” Remick added. “She advocated for the stables for so long. I would hate to see her legacy die like this.’

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David A. Bryant | Herald Yvonne Magee calms Casey, Mary Alice "Tuke" Shoemaker's horse, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. Shoemaker, the wife of the late retired Gen. Robert M. "Bob" Shoemaker, died at 95 on Dec. 27, 2020. Magee was Tuke's caretaker and also cared for Casey, who was stabled on Fort Hood until recently before the Hunt and Saddle Club on post was closed Sept. 30.

The closed stables, adjacent to the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment stables near Fort Hood’s visitors center, were still standing as of Oct. 28.

FMWR is currently in the process of turning over the former Hunt and Saddle Club to Fort Hood’s Department of Public Works, Pooler said. There has not been any information available yet as to what will be done to the property in the future.

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

(3) comments

Cowboy 1SG

First off, Thank You David Bryant and KDH for writing and posting this article.

Also many thanks to Sheryl Remick, SGM Olson and SGM St. Louis for their insightful input on the history of the MWR Stables and contribution to this article.

Ft. Hood has purposefully caused these stables to be closed and the following facts support that statement.

- Failure to utilize the $506,000 to rebuild the Stables back in 2005-2006.

- Failure to properly maintain the facility since 2013, as authorized by Army Regulation 215-1.

- Failure to notify boarders of failed Veterinary inspections for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

- Building of the new Mobile Warfare Museum on the grounds adjacent to the Stables. The Museum wants the land for exhibits and doesn't want a poorly maintained facility, an eyesore, such as the Stables nearby. Basically a land grab, they have already pushed the Horse Cavalry Detachment further east by taking a pasture and training area from them. The Museum wanted all the land for exhibits, but the Detachment requires training and turnout areas foe its 40 horses, 4 mules and Soldiers.

- The passing of Miss Tuke Shoemaker on 27 Dec 2020 at age 95. She was the founder of the Stables and the unofficial spokesperson. Her passing clinched the Stables closing in that she was no longer able to speak up on behave of the Boarders.

- MWR Management failure to utilize resources at their disposal. There are 25 brand new, 16' x 5' horse fence panels sitting atop a conex next to the maintenance barn unused for their intended purpose. That is 400' of unused fencing material that could have replaced deteriorated fencing.

- Commercial Sponsorship of MWR activities is authorized by AR 215-1, it was never even attempted.

- The failure of the Army to even discuss the state of the Stables and without compromise just close it down with a totally one sided decision as the boarders were not even involved in the decision making process.

When the announcement was made to the Boarders on 07 Apr 2021 by the Garrison Commander, COL Jason Wesbrock, his approach was this;

'I'm COL Jason Wesbrock the Ft. Hood Garrison Commander. I've had my Covid 19 vaccinations, I will be taking my mask off and maintaining social distancing. We are closing the Stables.'

That was his approach, decision made, decision final. No options, no compromise no input from the Boarding Patrons. Not, we have a problem, I need your help, to help me, help you to keep the Stables open.

The decision was made before the meeting with the patrons. With zero allowance for input from the patrons of the Stables. Not a very, 'Welcome to the Great Place", method of doing business.

Why was there never an official news release or public statement about the Stables closing?

I had to go the the KDH and the reporter went to the Ft. Hood PAO, who knew nothing about the Stables closing! Why was that? Because Ft. Hood doesn't want any more bad publicity, doesn't want any more egg on their face. Just quietly close the Stables and everything will go away. Such BS!

I tried being nice and inquiring through the Inspector General twice, with a 5 page Inspector General Action Request and through the Commanding Generals Hotline. I got 10 minutes on the phone with a Colonel from the Garrison Commanders office who wouldn't even respond to my request for him to call me back when he had more time, he just rudely hung up on me. He said he had a meeting to go to. So for nearly 27 years of service I get a whole 10 minutes?

So much for 'Welcome to the Great Place', 'Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier" and 'You are Always a Part of the Army Family'. Is that how you treat Family?

Heidileeb19

I boarded several horses there and the condition of the stables were unbelievable. Getting them to fix anything was a nightmare. We invested hundreds of $$ just fixing our stalls and tack rooms just to be functional and safe for our horses.

Noneofyourbiz

It is not just Ft.Hood MWR.

Hawaii MWR that takes in animals when you bring them with you is really bad. They also charge a fortune even after you get all the shots. They send you a paper with shots listed and than say they need more or that a vet on the mainland don't count, and so on. Big money and half the kennels are nasty and should not be used. They refuse dog breeds, and some of the staff should not be around animals.

Many of the stables across many bases are just poorly up kept, and so on.

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