Tlaxcala, Mexico October 2012 -  FullBucket

The moment "IT" hit me...

It happened on the fourth working day of our Equitarian giving trip where we provide veterinary care and nutritional support to extremely poor villagers.

I was standing 9,000 feet above sea level in a small village called San Juan Tepulco, deep in the interior of the central highlands of Mexico when "It" came.

It wasn’t as abrupt as a slap in the face or the shock of sudden realization.

It was more like a springtime thaw of the snow that reveals new life below – an awakening.

It was akin to learning how to read or grasping the bigness of our Universe when you see the stars at night in the Midwest.

It happened to me while the veterinarians, students and other volunteers were bustling around checking the poor body condition, wounds and sickness of hundreds of burros, horses and mules that the villagers had brought for care.

Care that the poor villagers could not provide because of their severe economic condition, lack of resources and ignorance.

The day was much like the first few; bustling activity and semi-organized chaos. Dogs and people everywhere.

Lack of communication was overcome by a common objective – to help working animals that, in turn, will help these people.

Although you didn’t know exactly what was going on it was OK because you knew why you were here.

You were here because you’ve spent your life helping animals, it’s your passion, and you were here to learn, to teach or to just help.

However, I got the feeling that many of the volunteers may have felt like me - waiting for something to happen.

The people of the village, though obviously poor, held a quiet pride.

None were desperate but many were way too thin, shoeless and lived in very rough conditions. Many of the animals were desperate.

The working equids here are not for pleasure. They are an important part of this life, yet most are in bad condition.

They haul food, plow fields, deliver wood and spend too much time shouldering the support mechanism of their masters and not enough time at rest and with proper food energy.

High-energy food such as maize (corn) or oats goes to food generating animals like chickens, turkeys, milk cows and pigs.

If you are a business person, you may know the term - non-revenue generating assets. These working donkeys, mules and horses we call Working Equids, are non-revenue generating assets and therefore are the first to get the cuts – no matter how important the role.

A volcano looms in the background, coming alive several times a day to belch out a cloud of ash upon the villages and fields. Every step you take produces a small belch of fine dust around your feet.

The volcano ash deprives the soil of essential nutrients and elements needed for health.

My role was to hand out the nutritional supplement FullBucket supplies for these animals. It's not the probiotic digestive aid products we sell in the US. It's a mixture of minerals, vitamin and amino acids we have specially formulated for these regions that have volcanic ash covering the nutrients.

There is an irony, in that, our FullBucket products here in America are a premium product used on some of the most expensive equine athletes in the world. And those celebrated and loved horses are the catalyst for helping their emaciated, working brethren.

This trip for me was the culmination of our original idea...

Sell a supplement and then give a supplement to animals in need - and here it was... in a bag... in my hand.

"Yet, it still didn’t seem real."

I was watching it all buzz around me in the middle of the soccer field, when two young boys and a small girl with a baby in her arms walked in from a cornfield.

The oldest, being around the same size as my 5-year old daughter back home, held a small, emaciated burro at the end of rotten rope.

They were layered in homemade clothes but only one had shoes.

All three were very thin and faces were dirty. Not the kind of dirt we see on children’s faces at home from eating ice cream but a dirt that is so deep it is almost part of them.

They were scared, confused and unsure which direction to walk. With wide, searching eyes, the oldest pulled the donkey. It had sores on the back and legs and ribs protruded like ripples.

I could tell they were pushing through the fear of being around strangers - just so their donkey could receive some help.

Their eyes held a mixture of excitement and trepidation as we approached to guide them.

Their mother was not present for unknown reasons and they had no idea of their father.

The small burro was their only animal and they hoped we could help.

When I handed them a breakfast bar from my pocket it looked like Christmas on their little faces.

That’s when "IT" happened.

That’s the moment I came to the mountains of Mexico.

My body has been here for several days but my mind is not.

I had bumped the dusty, winding roads in a van, viewing their world through a windshield.

I was looking at these people and the surroundings as if I were seeing them in photos of a magazine or watching a documentary.


The intense need of those children was the warmth that thawed my winter of misunderstanding and caused me to awaken.

Rob and Keith knew this would happen to me.

They told me that I would see it, no… feel "IT" and all would become clear as to why we need to do this. Why we need to make sacrifices of our profits and our time and our skills. 

I had seen hundreds of photos and read all of the stories of prior trips FullBucket has made since our inception.

I knew when I got involved, that it was good and it gave me purpose.

But it took two, full working days and four, small, frightened, starving children to finally be in the moment and understand that we are ALL human and there are so many who suffer.

These animals are truly a direct link to the families and that we can all be a part in helping those who simply have no way out.

Help a horse, help a family.

After returning home to Texas I am not the same.

I met up with my wife and two daughters at a big event in the Stock Yards of Fort Worth.

We had a tearful reunion and my girls could not hug me enough.

The friends around were interested in the story and thought well of what we are doing.

And I do not blame them for turning back to their crowds to eat their BBQ and laugh with their friends instead of trying to get involved.

They were not on that Mountain. 

I watched the buzz all around me.

Although I could see it, I did not... could not, be a part of it.

I love these people, my country and the ability to be whomever I want to be.

But I sat as a spectator to the festival and felt a sadness.

My wife commented on how quiet I was… distracted.

I didn’t tell her that I have changed.

I didn’t tell her that my body is here - but my mind is not.

I didn’t tell her that, in truth, I have not yet come down from that Mountain.