Harvey Smith was moved to tears when several old friends of his visited the 87-year-old at the Kleberg County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center last week.

“This was a surprise beyond all surprises,” Harvey said.

For several years, Harvey raised a group of six miniature horses that his wife, Vonda, said were “his babies.”

“They had just the sweetest dispositions,” Vonda said. “And he loved them.”

Vonda said Harvey had taken to raising miniature horses following the death of his first wife, Virginia, who died of cancer in 2003.

“When we got married, he had them,” she said. “He did everything: wormed them, shoed them, gave them their shots, everything.”

While he loved raising his horses, Vonda said his advanced age and cancer treatments eventually led Harvey to a difficult decision in 2012.

“He came in one day and said, ‘I just can’t take care of all of them anymore,’” Vonda said.

Vonda said Harvey reached out to a friend to look for buyers for his horses, though he hated the idea of them being sold off individually. She said luckily, they were put in contact with Pamela Henry, a retired teacher in Pleasanton who had been looking into raising miniature horses.

“And she bought all of them to keep them together,” Vonda said. “We were so thankful, because we were afraid that we were going to have to sell them off one at a time.”

“They’re really, really good horses and we spoil them rotten,” Henry said.

Henry said Harvey had not seen the horses in at least seven years. She said she had been planning for some time to bring the horses down to visit their former owner, and decided doing so around the Thanksgiving holiday this year was “the perfect time.”

“He’s going to be very emotional when he sees them,” Vonda said.

To keep the reunion a surprise, Henry traveled to Kingsville with Jo Harp, who runs the Wings and Reins equine refuge in Devine, along with one of her miniature horse rescues, “Smidge.”

“(Harvey) doesn’t know a thing about this,” Henry said. “So while we set up out here, (Harp) will take ‘Smidge’ inside to visit everybody at the nursing home.”

Harvey saw “Smidge” as she made her way around the nursing center and reminisced with Harp about his own experiences raising miniature horses. Harp then told Harvey there was a surprise waiting for him outside, where he was reunited with his old friends.

At first, Harvey did not recognize the miniature horses as the ones he had raised, remarking to his wife that the one he was petting “looks just like ‘Thunder.’” When he realized that it actually was his favorite horse, he couldn’t hold back his tears.

“Oh my goodness gracious,” Harvey said as he pet his former horse. “I can’t believe this.”

One by one, Harvey was reunited with six of his miniature horses that day: “Thunder,” “Crystal,” “Lily,” “Pretty Boy,” “Whitey” and “Sunny.” He took his time petting each and talking to them, his smile never leaving his face.

“I can’t say how much this means to me,” Harvey said. “It’s so good to see those little horses.”

During the reunion, Henry also presented Harvey with two ribbons that “Thunder” won at horse competitions: the first place ribbon he won in 2016 and a second place ribbon that he received at an event in October this year.

“Harvey was the one who trained them to drive carts and wagons,” Henry said. “He did all the work, and we just picked up where he left off.”

Henry said the reunion between Harvey and his horses had exceeded her expectations.

“I’m just so happy that he got to see them,” she said.

Vonda said she was so appreciative that her husband got to see his horses again.

“This meant so much to him,” she said.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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