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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.

FORT HOOD — Thursday will be the final day soldiers and other patrons of Fort Hood’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation will be able to stable their personally-owned horses at the installation’s Hunt and Saddle Club stables.

The community stables at Fort Hood, home to the 1st Cavalry Division, are closing permanently at 5 p.m. Thursday after decades of providing a place where soldiers, retirees, military families and disabled veterans can keep their personal horses. The Army’s 1st Cavalry Division horses are kept in a separate stable that remains in operation.

Located next to the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment, the community stables were originally formed by the late Tuke Shoemaker, wife of the late retired Gen. Robert Shoemaker. An avid horsewoman, Tuke made a habit of setting up riding clubs at any installation her husband was stationed at to instill a love of riding, especially in the youth.

She died at the age of 95 on Dec. 27.

Fort Hood Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation said there were several reasons for making the decision to shut down the stables.

“In May 2021, then Fort Hood garrison commander (Col. Jason Wesbrock) signed a Termination of Boarding Contracts and sent formal notice that announced that the Hunt & Saddle Stables will permanently close effective Sept. 30,” said Lance E. Pooler, chief of the Business Division at Family and MWR, in response to a Herald request. “The reasons behind the closing were based on recommendations from the Fort Hood veterinarian at the time who assessed the facility as ‘High Risk’ due to potential for injury or illness of the horses stabled there. The facility is in need of repairs that would exceed $750,000 to $1 million. It is not funded under government or non-appropriated funds. It was originally funded by the Fort Hood Riding Club who paid rent to off-set operating costs. In the late 1980’s DFMWR took over the stables because the Riding Club was not able to self-support it with funds generated from stall rental fees.”

Major concerns from the Fort Hood veterinarian included structural and general premises issues with the stalls and sheds, pest contamination, unenforced animal care, preventative services, and danger of harm to 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment animals due to the proximity of the stables to their operation.

“It was determined that the costs associated with a complete renovation would take more than 150 years to recoup, assuming the current rental rates are maintained,” Pooler said. “Given the price sensitivity of our existing renters coupled with comparable rental rates and facilities within the Fort Hood area, the likelihood that Hunt and Saddle could raise its rental rates and retain its customers is highly unlikely.”

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The Fort Hood Hunt and Saddle Club, a set of stables where soldiers and other authorized patrons of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation were able to stable personal horses, will be closed permanently after 5 p.m. Thursday.

One boarder, however, said the post never told them what the veterinarians had found, and that they were told they would need to file a Freedom of Information request to see the results.

“They said the stables had failed inspections conducted by the post veterinarian for three years in a row,” said retired Army 1st Sgt. Carl Arnold. “Why were the patrons not able to review the results? Where is the transparency? If we had known, we could have tried to fix the issues.”

Arnold said the stables had earned at least $5,000 in profit over expenses in 2020, and if that was normal, the profit should have been reinvested into maintaining the stables. The retiree said he specifically requested Fort Hood as a duty station in 2009 for the simple reason it had the stables for his horses, but the last time he had seen any actual maintenance done on the stables was in 2013.

“In fact, I found out that in 2005, MWR was going to give the stables $500,000 for full renovations, but the patrons at the time couldn’t agree on how the renovations should be done,” Arnold said. “The guy in charge at MWR at the time, a retired lieutenant colonel, instead of making a command decision and getting it done just turned the money back over to MWR.”

Arnold added he believed MWR had always wanted to close the stables, stating that the few maintenance men supposed to be taking care of the stables had told him they had been told not to do any other maintenance other than simple things such as mowing the grass.

“I only think they’re doing it now because Tuke is gone,” Arnold said. “She was our patron and they never could have closed it while she was alive. I said it several years before to several other stable patrons that she was the one force keeping the stables open. Sadly, it (the closure) seems to be of an interesting coincidence.”

Tuke’s last horse, Casey, was still stabled there until recently, he said.

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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.

Moving their horses to other stables has been a costly affair as well, Arnold added. Finding a stable with good enough amenities for his two horses has turned his once six-mile one-way trip to take care of his “babies” into a 25-mile one-way trip and added an estimated $4,000 to $6,000 in boarding costs annually.

“I think this whole affair was handled wrongly,” he said. “We were just told they were shutting the stables and were given no input in finding ways to keep them open. All the boarders I have spoken to would have been willing to pay higher boarding fees and even help repair the stalls with our own money.”

The May termination letter given to the boarders gave them until 5 p.m. Thursday to have their horses and all their gear off property. It also notified them that any horse, tack, feed, trailer or personal equipment still on the property after 30 days would be “deemed abandoned and disposed of in a manner determined appropriate by FMWR.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

(10) comments

Neeta

‘Cowboy’ has spent a huge amount of time researching the many regulations on management of MWR facilities. The one thing that cannot be regulated is the willingness to do the right thing, which is sometimes not the easy thing or even the popular thing. It does not make it any less right.

The garrison command and its business division look at those bottom lines, and maybe little else. The stables never failed to clear expenses, which the stable as a class C facility had to do. The hunting program I believe also made money, even during COVID lockdowns. The golf course is being reduced in size, due to its inability to turn a profit for an extended length of time. All other MWR programs were shut down. We get closed due to a seemingly hyper inflated renovation/replacement cost projection. Was sponsoring explored? Were cost cutting options explored? Public donations? Help from the museum fund? Support from anywhere, if all that mattered was helping reduce that bottom line? Was there any effort towards that ‘right thing’ of giving support to a beloved activity with known therapeutic benefits to its followers? I suspect the easy way was chosen, just because it was easy and it was to do nothing.

Dedication to something as intensive as horses is a labor of love and takes lots of doing something. It is walking a colicky horse for someone you hardly know while waiting for the vet to arrive, then staying there to help with treatment, or the 2 hour drive to a large animal surgical hospital in a borrowed truck and trailer, freely volunteered so the horse is taken care of. It is breaking ice out of water troughs for your horses and for other boarders so they can drink (remember the February freeze!? I sure do). It is loading 75 pound hay bales 6 layers high in August with your friends so everyone's horses can eat for the winter. It is sleeping in a freezing truck with your grandkids, who you watching over spring break, sleeping in the back seat because your pregnant mare is due to have her foal during the coldest weather the area has seen in 8 years- this does not win many ‘grandparent of the year’ points, no matter how much fun the kids had. It is sun burn and calluses and sweat and frost bite and stepped on feet and bruises. And soaring above it all for the time we spend in the saddle....... it is a labor of love.

We are not a large group, we are open to all who show interest, or just want to walk around, usually happy to help and advise, or lend a hand, or teach the safe way to feed treats to kids fascinated with these wondrous creatures. We offered a haven where friends are made, stress is put aside, trauma and terror and death fade from our personal landscapes, our personal inadequacies are gone, our inner demons are exorcised for the time we spend with our horses. Almost all who contact horses come away changed for the better. The mind set changes from ‘I can’t...’ to ‘ if I can do this, everything else can’t be that hard’. The gun comes out of the suicidal hand because we live for our horse. The bottle gets put down because if we cant drive, we can’t get to our horse. The horse doesn’t judge you, and you have to get out of your own head and pay attention to what you are doing with the horse, a highly therapeutic endeavor.

The right thing was to fight for our survival, even if it meant having to be creative and putting yourself on the line.

The easy thing was to let us fade away.

Cowboy 1SG

apwyvern

You are correct, in that it would be great training for the Engineers to use as a building project and the labor cost would be $0. It was done at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, the Stables there were built by the Engineers as a project. So only the materials cost would be necessary, and that could be funded by a Commercial Sponsorship (as authorized by AR 215-1, Chapter 11), if MWR would only pursue that avenue. But MWR is not interested or concerned and opted for the easy way out by just closing the Stables. So sad for Miss Tuke Shoemakers legacy to be just thrown away and forgotten.

I have proposed that a new Stables be built on West Ft. Hood, next to the Mohawk Gate and have it bare Miss Tuke's name. Fund it with Commercial Sponsorship for materials and Engineers for labor as a project. I would gladly volunteer my time as a consultant for the project with horse knowledge gained from 25 years of owning and riding horses as well as serving 25+ years in the military.

I am considering starting a Go Fund Me, as the Army apparently can not afford to build a Stables and serve 50+ Soldiers, Families and Retirees. But money can be spent on some other pretty interesting projects.

apwyvern

Those supposed "repair costs" are BS! Who figured them out?

I think it was in 1990 my platoon of Combat Engineers (A Company 17th Engineer Battalion 2 Armored Division) TOTALLY rebuilt all the corral fencing at both the 1 CAV stables and the Riding Club Stables - ON DUTY - for Engineer TRAINING!

So the labor cost was exactly $0! No idea what the materials cost was.

They couldn't get any more soldiers to do this again?

Cowboy 1SG

I have tried all the nice guy methods of keeping the Stables at Ft. Hood, since 07 Apr 2021 announcement of closing.

I have spoken with MWR Management,

I have utilized the Commanders Hotline, where I got 10 minutes with a Colonel on the phone, who only wanted to read me the Stables history and tell me the decision was already made and final. The Colonel told me that he had a meeting to go to, so I requested a call back when he had more time available, I didn't get a response, I got hung up on.

I have filed an IG Action Request trough III Corps IG and another through Department of the Army IG. Both with unsatisfactory results.

Several others have tried the Congressional Route only to have it bounced back to the Command's decision.

I've put in two IG Action Requests, the second through DA, who just bounced it right back down to the III Corp IG office, who assigned the exact same investigator to the case!. I just got told yesterday, 30 Sep 2021, by the III Corp IG's office that because Sustainment and Restoration is AUTHORIZED for the Stables, it is not REQUIRED to be done. This is apparently how they interpret Army Regulation AR 215-1, Table D-1, item 13 j Sustainment and restoration.

As per AR 215-1, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the following definitions are found in the Glossary:

Sustainment

Includes the maintenance and repair portion of sustainment, restoration, and modernization (SRM) necessary to keep an inventory of facilities in good working order. It includes the regularly scheduled adjustments and inspections, preventa-tive maintenance tasks, and emergency response and service calls for minor repairs. It also includes major repairs or re-placement of facility components (usually accomplished by contract) that are expected to occur periodically throughout the life cycle of facilities. This work includes regular roof replacement, refinishing of all surfaces, repairing and re-placement of heating and cooling systems, replacing tile and carpeting, and similar types of work. It does not include environmental compliance costs, facility leases, or other tasks associated with facilities operation (such as custodian services, grounds services, waste disposal, and the provision of central utilities).

Restoration

The repair or replacement work to restore facilities damaged by inadequate sustainment, excessive age, natural disaster, fire, accident, or other causes to a condition so that it can be used for its designated purpose.

Sustainment, restoration, and modernization

Applies to all real property regardless of appropriation. Generally, it replaces “real property maintenance, which normally only referred to work performed on real property using operations and maintenance funds. Sustainment maintains facilities in the current condition and includes regularly scheduled adjustment and inspections, preventative maintenance tasks, and emergency response for minor repair. It also includes major repairs or replacement of facility components that are expected to occur periodically throughout the life cycle of facilities (for example, roofs, heating/cooling systems, and so on). Restoration and modernization improve facilities and are accomplished primarily with military construction but can be done with operations and maintenance funding, depending on the amount of new construction work in the project (note: current work classification and funding constraints still apply). Restoration improves existing facilities to current standards while modernization adapts existing facilities to meet new standards, which support new missions or equipment.

I read this as a MWR failure and violation of the regulation. Failure to maintain. I don't know but in my day in the Army that was a punishable offense that negative consequences. It is clear and simple, MWR failed to sustain and maintain property and facilities in their charge. Now at the expense of the Soldiers, Families and Retirees, you are your horses are evicted.

With all that said MWR has not properly maintained the Stables since 2013. Between 2010-2013, approximately 12 of the stalls were refurbished and as of 30 Sep 2021 these were still in good overall condition. So over the last eight years minimal maintenance was conducted, pretty much only grass mowing and some Band-Aid type repairs. But there are 25 (16' x 5') Horse fence panels stored along side the maintenance barn that have sat there for quite some time but were never utilized to repair the fencing. Labor force told to stand down and not perform authorized maintenance. I think I smell a Fraud Waste and Abuse situation here!!!

So in letting the condition of the Stables deteriorate continuously for 8 years it was the obvious cause of the failed Veterinary Inspections.

I see the following:

1- Failure to maintain the Stables for 8 years allowing 75-80% of it to fall into rough and deplorable condition. There needs to an audit from GAO or another outside agency to determine why this occupied and utilized Government asset was allowed to decay to this point. Transparency please.

2- Veterinary Inspections whose results were not made known to those boarding at the Stables for three years. Transparency please. Can't fix a problem you don't know about!

3- The the money collected from the Horse Stables boarding patrons was not put back into materials to keep the Stables maintained since 2013. There needs to be an audit from GAO or another outside agency to determine where the money went. Transparency please.

4- The new Museum needing addition land for outdoor exhibits. The fact that the shabby looking and decaying Stables is an eyesore and only100 meters from the $30 million Museum. Transparency please,

5- The fact that Miss Tuke Shoemaker, the founder of the Stables and the voice of the Stables sadly passed away on 27 Dec 2021. Her legacy is now desecrated.

I have recommended the following possible solutions:

1- Replace the Stables at another location on Ft. Hood. With 216,000 acres of land there has got to be a 50- 75 acre plot of land to place a Stables that has accessibility, water and electricity. I have suggested the plot of land immediately adjacent north of the Mohawk gate on West Ft. Hood.

2- Rebuild the Stables using Army Engineers as the labor force, thereby reducing the cost to materials only. It would be good training for the Engineers. This is how the Stables at Ft. Rucker, Alabama was built, by the Engineers as a Engineering project. Ft. Rucker is one quarter the size of Ft. Hood and it can successfully maintain a MWR Horse Riding Stables, but the mighty Ft. Hood In Texas can't? Absolutely pathetic for Ft. Hood to be out done by a tiny in comparison installation in anything. Ft' Hood should be leading the way in everything, Period!

3- Utilize the Commercial Sponsorship provision as outlined in AR 215-1, Chapter 11, to have an organization or business sponsor the Stables, pay for the rebuild and receive publicity in exchange.

4- Start a Go-Fund me to replace the Stables.

MWR doesn't want to do anything that is 'too hard', not like its their job or anything.

So much for Soldier, Family, Retiree and Veteran, Morale, Welfare and Recreation!

This is just another stain on how Ft. Hood operates and conducts business.

Chajb

As the article stated the patrons were treated unjustifiably, meaning we were not given the opportunity to make changes. When we were addressed everything had been put in place. We were given the information in reference to us vacating the premises and nothing else. It is a horrible situation with many negative circumstances for the owners of the horses that were on the installation.

Neeta

Been at the Hunt and Saddle Club for 25 years. Raised my kids there as well as a few horses. Taught a small legion of Army kids, and a few soldiers, the transforming experience of learning to ride a horse. The boost in confidence I have seen in a generation of kids that frequently have issues due to the prolonged stress of military life still lets me know all the years of having taught riding was well worth the efforts. The stable was not perfect, it needed revisions, refurbishing and upgrades. It got those things as long as the management climate supported it. My areas did really well because I would supply my own things if I wanted it done. Sad but true. More recently, full on neglect and inaction has resulted in us finally being neglected to death. Many of our issues are cosmetic, and if we had known or been informed of what needed fixing, believe me- we would have taken care of it ourselves. Now, neglect has forced us to make unpleasant decisions. The current club was affordable, close in and safe for the horses. Now, we are faced with long drives, marginal stable conditions, lack of training needs or stall rents that rival the house payment. I apologize to all my would be future students, but I can only assume we became an inconvenience due to management issues. Hopefully you will find that confidence with another trainer, another horse and another post as Hood has made the easy decision and shut the book on riding at this post. Darned shame, because there are fewer and fewer places to have that wonderful experience of learning to work in unison with as unique and majestic as a horse. Confidence builder. You bet. Calming influence for the over stressed and soldiers with PTSD? Yup, lots of them, too, including two of my USMC combat veteran sons. Kids with medical and

developmental issues? Just seeing horses helped many, and learning to be around the horses, sometimes moms would be crying because of the interactions their kids would have just feeding a treat to a soft nosed pony. I will miss my stable, my friends, my students and I will miss a life that is the heart of me.

Cowboy 1SG

Horses a Texas tradition,

Horses a Third Corps tradition,

Horses a First Calvary Division tradition

Horses a 3rd Calvary Regiment tradition!

The Horse is historically what powered this country to be the great power it is.

Rebuild the stables on West Ft. Hood next to the Mohawk gate!

Ft. Hood has 216,000 acres, there has to be a place easily accessible, with water and electricity to build a horse Stables.

Name the Horse Stables after Miss Tuke Shoemaker, in honor of her fostering the human/horse relationship and her legacy.

I can see her smiling and chuckling about it right now.

Cowboy 1SG

These Stables have gradually deteriorated over the past 8 years due to minimum maintenance input from MWR. Now that there is a new $30 million Museum being built by the MOUNTED Warfare Museum Foundation, the closely located Stables is an absolute eyesore in its present condition. Ft. Hood cannot have that. That would be a blow to their public relations.

There are five factors contributing to the closure of the Stables:

1- MWR financial failure to efficiently utilize the available NAF collected from the Active Duty, Families and Retirees fees paid to use the facility. Failure, in 2005 of MWR leadership to use the $500,000 dedicated for to rebuild the Stables.

2- MWR management of maintenance failure to gradually refurbish the stables since 2013. Prior to 2013 the maintenance personnel refurbished approximately 12 of the stalls, built a farrier barn and a training round pen. That gradual refurbishment stopped around 2013.

3- The new Museum has already caused the Horse Calvary Detachment to relocate one training field and one grazing pasture to make room for their construction and exhibits. Those areas relocated to areas previously used by the Stables, but now exclusively only for the Calvary Detachment. The Museum has nine phases, which seems to indicate expansion and the need for more land. The two museums currently located on Ft. Hood will be closed and the exhibits moved to the new museum. Having the new museum outside the installation gates is a good idea, it alleviates the necessity of visitors to get a pass to get on post. But couldn't the museum have been built on other land and not squeeze in with the visitors center, the Cav Det and the MWR Stables? Couldn't the museum foundation donate money to rebuild the Horse Stables at another location, such as the large field next to the Mohawk Gate on West Ft. Hood???

4- The failed Veterinary inspections. Apparently the Stables have failed these inspections for three years. Why were the patrons of the Stables not notified until 07 Apr 2021 of these failures? They could have taken action to fix the problems if they had been notified three, two or one year ago. Now we are being told that there is fear of the closely boarded Horse Calvary Detachment Horses being contaminated by the MWR Boarded horses. All the horses, both those boarded and from the Detachment get the exact same annual shots for West Nile, Venezuelan, Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, Rhino Flu and Rabies. In addition the horses are all annually tested for Coggins and quarterly dewormed. It is far more likely that the Horse Calvary Detachment horses would be the Horses transmitting a disease or virus than the boarded horses. The Horse Calvary Detachment travels nation wide, they have been in the Rose Bowl parade in California and the Presidential Inaugurations in Washington, DC and dozens of Rodeos and demonstrations in between. While the boarded horses normally only travel within the state and only a few actually leave the stables on a regular basis. Supposedly the Horse Calvary Detachment doesn't allow their horses to come in contact with other horses while on tour. But unless the horses are quarantined a good distance from other horses at these events and the boarding facilities, barns, stalls, pastures, turnouts, manure dump sites, fencing, arenas, etc, etc are completely sterilized and decontaminated there is always a chance of disease or virus spread.

5- The sad and unfortunate passing of Miss Tuke Shoemaker, wife of the late General Robert Shoemaker. She was the one voice helping keep the Stables open. Sadly, closing the stables destroys her legacy!

I had proposed numerous possible solutions to keep the Stables open, rebuilt or relocated, to include the possibility of Commercial Sponsorship as allowed by the Morale, Welfare and Regulation, AR 215-1, Chapter 11. But I believe MWR didn't want to keep the Stables, as it was too much work and put into the too hard to do column. This has caused a lot of stress and financial issues for those that have boarded their horses at Ft. Hood. At least 5 horses were sold and one donated or given away too the best of my knowledge.

Ft. Hood, the home of the Phantom Warrior Corps, represented by a armored knight mounted on horseback, the famed 1st Calvary Division, whose patch depicts a horses head, the 2rd Cavalry Regiment, which historically fought horseback in wars from the Indian Wars to WW I and then into WW II before getting armored vehicles in 1942. So the personal owning of horses and the strong association of horses to Ft. Hood, Texas is being diminished by this closure.

The Army can supposedly fight wars and win them, but can't efficiently operate an MWR Horse Stables for its Soldiers, Families and Retirees.

Love Our Planet

These stables were in horrible shape, but they were convenient for those Soldiers who brought their horses along for the ride. Personally, I think they should've built new barns and included actual turn out paddocks. No horse owner is going to complain about paying boarder fees that are suitable to the amenities. Tuke Shoemaker is the only reason they kept them open. RIP sweet lady! ❤️

moczy123

Those expecting transparency from any part of the government will generally be disappointed.

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