Colerain resident Harley Claypool has been selected as the individual to be highlighted as this month's "Hey! That's My Neighbor" honoree.
Like most of those selected for this monthly highlight, Claypool does not see herself as someone whose daily activities and interests are anything to be considered notable, but past recipient of this highlight award, Don Feenerty and his wife, Angela, would strongly disagree. They nominated her for the spotlight recognition.
They clearly count her as a good friend and also have great respect and appreciation for her lifetime of acquired practical skills relating to day-to-day life on a working farm. They also appreciate and respect her first-hand knowledge about large and small animal care and training she is willing share.
Harley Claypool of Colerain is June’s “Hey!?That’s my Neighbor” honoree, nominated by Don and Angela Feenerty of Martins Ferry.
Harley goes for a ride with “Delaney.”
Harley with her daughter, Raven Claypool (right), with 'Norman,' an 11th hour rescue that had been headed to the slaughter house. Harley first saw him while enroute to complete the purchase of another horse.
"To meet Harley is to know her instantly. She is the real deal cowgirl: one look and you know where you stand. She speaks the truth and sticks to it," reflected Don Feenerty.
Claypool and the Feenertys have elected to make their respective homes in rural corners of the Colerain area.
Don and Angela Feenerty grew up living in the city and some years ago decided they would start on a personal adventure that began with the purchase of property, moving to a farmhouse and beginning to seek out and put into practice life skills which have served residents of Ohio farms for generations.
Claypool's upbringing was spent on a working horse farm in West Virginia, and she is passing those life skills on to her daughter, Raven Claypool, as the two work side by side to care for and train the horses which have come to be a central point in their daily lives.
A certified veterinary assistant, Harley is often called on by both friends and strangers to offer practical advice when others are facing stressful or unfamiliar situations that can accompany life with horses of various ages, physical conditions and breeds.
According to Claypool, a large part of her life's energies have been spent "chasing land."
In a difficult economy, the search for land suitable as a place to build her horse-centered business has not been easy. But that is not putting a damper on her efforts to reach that goal, as she and her daughter take pride in their ongoing efforts to reshape a section of rural Belmont County property which has been home for a little more than a year.
It is the place where she is steadily bringing her lifelong dream of establishing a small horse farm to life.
At the center of this effort is a stunningly handsome 17-year old Andalusian stallion she calls "Auss."
How he came to her ownership, and the turnaround seen embodied in this majestic animal's physical presence and personality today, have been achieved through the kind of consistent effort Don and Angela Feenerty and others have come to see as the way Claypool routinely approaches life's day-to-day challenges for herself and others.
Her care of him through patience, gentle handling - not at all hurtful or intimidating approach to his care and training - has made all the difference.
When she first saw Auss, he had been labeled as untrainable, untrustworthy, and virtually impossible even to touch, much less care for properly. His pedigree takes his lineage back to the ancient horses of Spain which were very often the sole property of emperors, were highly prized gifts between international diplomatic ventures and have been among the most prized war horses ever fielded.
He is one of a very small number of these horses to be found in the U.S.
Her skills with animal care and training impressed the Feenertys even before they ever met face to face.
"We first met her when we placed an ad on Craig's List asking if anyone trained donkeys. Several people answered, but she sounded the most knowledgeable and the most professional," offered Feenerty in his nomination letter of Claypool for this monthly spotlight. "We have two Mediterranean Donkeys and wanted them trained to pull a cart. She and the donkeys got along great right from the start, and soon they were in a trailer on their way to Harley's house. She let us visit them, but it was clear to them that Harley was the boss. The first night, Harley sent us pictures of both donkeys side by side with her behind them driving them around her farm. Now they love to be driven."
"When we met her, she didn't have a barn on her new place. She does now. She built it herself, it's very impressive and very functional. She started taking in distressed horses, and after a period of rehabilitation, she would work to find them new homes.
One tale of triumph in particular caught Don and Angela's attention, but it was first seen in an unassuming Facebook posting.
"Harley posted that she had found a dog on the roadside, and she was looking for the owners. We later learned she found the dog lying on the road after it had been run over by a car. Instead of driving on, she stopped and managed to get the dog into her car. She and her daughter took the dog home, got it stabilized and successfully found the owners," shared Don Feenerty. "A happy ending!"
Claypool grew up in a rural environment working with her mother on the family horse farm in West Virginia, which gave rise to a passion that drives her to provide an intensely safe and nurturing environment for the various animals which she welcomes into her world.
Most have been in need of a caring home at the outset.
A quick check of the web and various social networking sites will provide access to her and several of her ongoing rescue and placement efforts. You can also email her at Kyaway@yahoo.com.
Those in the greatest need seem to somehow literally find themselves in the path her life is heading at a certain moment, and more often than not, these encounters prove life-altering for all involved.
The nature of a good neighbor is something which varies from person to person.
According to Don and Angela Feenerty, if you have a neighbor who is at all like Harley Claypool, then "consider yourself very fortunate."