The Stephens family agreed to share their story and photos of their barn apartments at North Dallas Equestrian Center to raise awareness of the Camp Rusk Foundation, a horse retirement sanctuary described below.  Here’s the tale, as told to Valerie Jarvie, along with inspiring photos of what can be done in a barn:

Curt Stephens entered the horse world on the back of a mule as a teenager on his uncle’s dairy ranch near Stephenville, Texas. You all know what I mean.

There were few horses, and being the odd man out, he always got the mule while the cousins got the horses. As you know, a mule can act like a horse at times, but at other times, not so much. This particular mule gave Curt memories of bailing off just before the mule reached a tree limb hoping to scrape Curt off his back.


Summers with cousins ended. Curt and Annabeth married. The kids grew up. A good life.

Fifty years pass. Curt retired to Florida and found a passion volunteering at Naples Equestrian Challenge, where he witnessed therapy horses connecting with humans some thought unreachable, restoring spirits and healing souls.

Derek, the oldest, calls Dad. Unknown to Curt, his oldest son had used his IBM community service time to volunteer with the Ronald McDonald summer camp for special need kids in their horse therapy program.  He later moved to North Texas, where a horse property in McKinney caught his eye.

Neither knew the other had an interest in horses. Derek simply thought it would be good for his dad to get involved.  The conversation continued.