Monday, September 15, 2014

 

The Giant of Gentleness

It has been two full weeks. In my efforts to deal with life and the loss of Handsome, I managed to keep myself busy and not allow myself the time to sit and absorb what had happened on Labor Day after public hours. I simply could not find the strength to think it through, remember it, grieve over him, and communicate to the world. I dug deep and found that "it" was bigger than me. At least for these past two weeks.

For those days, I busied myself with supporting the horses through the heat and then the freezing rains. We had two busy weeks at THE STORE and I worked at the desk in the evenings rather than go outside except to care for them. Avoidance was my tactic.

Yesterday was a sunny day and our Blind Horse Parade Unit practice went well. It was mid-afternoon and I had a decision to make - continue avoiding Handsome or finally, finally go to him and think it through. I took myself to the west lawn and to Handsome and Babee Joy. And finally, I sat in the dirt and dealt with "it".

King, as he was called, was brought to my attention by a horse puller I knew. He had a horse "with a bad eye" and wondered if I would be willing to come and get him. On November 20th in 2007, I drove my trailer to the familiar farm and met Don and his neighbors, as arranged. His neighbors were there, they said, since "King didn't like to load much" and they would help me. "You just get him close to the trailer. We'll get him in for you." The "tools" in their hands told me what their plans were.

One man held a heavy duty cattle prod. Another had a chain and a whip with weights of some sort tied to the end of the stinging line. The third man held a 2x4 with nails and screws jutting out of the end. I thanked them for their help and smiled. I was literally vibrating I was so angry! But, I explained, this big horse needed to load for me from now on and so we would get it done together - just the horse and me.

They snickered. "We'll stick around. You just wave and we'll help ya."

Sitting in the dirt yesterday, I once again told King how very, very proud of him I was from that day! How he had dragged me through the burdocks, the weeds, the woods, and the brush! How he had almost killed me more than once and how I had used the trees to stop him so I could rest! How I had pleaded with him to come with me and how each time he turned and saw that trailer sitting there he would begin dragging me again.

When we finally did approach the trailer, I stopped him and hugged him. Kissed him. And promised him safety. I turned his head so he could not see the trailer or the men in the pickup. I put everything I had into my words and promised him safety, food, and care for that eye. Plus, I told him we had very good looking mares where he was going. That did it! In we went.

Both King and I were trembling when we stood in that trailer. He was cautiously eating some hay and I stood next to him with my right hand on his chest. We rested and then I heard Pat Parelli for the very first time once again. Pat was just a young kid in Norman, Oklahoma and his entire seminar was given with him standing on the roof of his trailer so we could hear him. Andy and I sat and listened and we liked this young rodeo kid. We liked his view of the horse and how to think like a horse. Pat was screaming at me in my head while I struggled to stand next to this infected horse in this trailer so many years and horses later.

And so, listening to Pat and praying to Andy, I asked King to come outside with me. Against everything my instincts told me, I took this horse outside to the grass and let him look around once more. A bit of the fear returned but I talked with him again. Rubbed again. Hugged again. And then I asked him to come with me again. And he did. Into the trailer we went.

Right than and there we were one. Right then and there, I loved him and he trusted me. Right then and there, I stood in that trailer with those three men gawking at the doors to the trailer as I cried and gave "Handsome" the three promises. Right then and there, this lanky, tall, stinking horse was mine. 

                                         

Handsome met Dr. Anne when we removed that cancerous eye. The cancer was deep and we took more than just the eye, but Dr. Anne thought she had it all. After that surgery, he struggled to get that big body off the mat but he finally did. Those big bodies, once they rest, just don't want to get up again. Dr. Anne told me years later that she warned Handsome that she wouldn't go out and tell me she couldn't get him up. She had warned him that she would harness him and lift him up if she had to but she wasn't going to lose him in recovery. He listened. He trusted her. And he got up for her.

In his life here, Handsome ventured with us to schools, to Wal-Mart, to Applebee's, to galas. Handsome was always the star of every tour - the horse I held for the end of the introductions. Everyone who met him loved him. No one ever just moved on. Everyone stood in awe of this huge Gentle Giant. Pictures were taken with him. Everyone wanted to touch him. The star was what he was.

After that first day, he never once hesitated to load for me and each time he did, I kissed him when we finally stood in the trailer. We left those men behind us. With the ooze and the hunger and the pain and the work. With those prods and those chains and that whip that lanced his eye. With that owner and with that name. We left all those things behind us that day in November of 2007. I told Handsome he was brand new that day and he was. And he liked living here.

During his years here, Handsome received new love from humans and from horses. His first horse love was Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare. Laddee adored and trusted Handsome and only under his careful watch would she lay in the hay - on her side and completely vulnerable - and snore in her deep sleep. Handsome would stand over her and doze and once in a while touch her with his nose. He loved the smell of her. He had recognized the smell of her bad eye and he was there to greet her when she returned home from her surgery. Again, Dr. Anne had taken all she could but we could not cure Laddee as we had Handsome. Only help her and Handsome somehow knew that. And so he stuck to her like glue for as long as we had.

                                   

When Laddee crossed, I worried that Handsome would follow. He fell off his feed, didn't drink, and really rarely moved. He stood in the corner with his head down. He missed his lovely Laddee. I had taken him to smell her but he refused to get close to her. And I understood. There is something about remembering them the way they were. Handsome began to sink and I called the vet to warn him that should I make that telephone call, he needed enough medicine with him. This was a big hearted horse.

Handsome recovered with the help of his next love - Gracie. One morning after breakfast, Gracie wandered over to Handsome. Not even touching his breakfast, he still stood in the corner getting ready to wait out the day. Gracie walked over to him and scratched his chest. He shook her off. She scratched again. He shook her off. She continued to scratch him as high up his chest as she could reach and finally, the big head reached down to scratch Gracie's back. He almost pushed her over but I stood in tears as I watched that little blind pony reach out to that giant and save his life. Gracie and Handsome soon became a pair.

"Kindred" an original by Mike Murach

 
She would stand under him in the rain to stay dry. Or she would stand under him in the sunshine to stay cool. Regardless of why, when she wanted out from under him she didn't move. Heck, no! She would simply bite his knees and get him to move! He did so with a bit of complaining but he did move. He loved that little peanut of a horse and he would comply with her wishes.

They spent time together and rested together. Handsome filled out again and Gracie was content. They were an odd couple but I was so pleased to see them both with a mate. Life was good for the giant horse again.

Gracie began experiencing seizures and so Handsome was moved to the pasture with the "big horses". In that pasture was a yearling already bigger than most full grown quarter horses. She was white and then black and then silver and then white again. We didn't know what she was but she was young and big and terrified of the world. And Handsome would protect her and was in love once again.

The two of them liked peace and quiet and so when the other babies would play and cause a ruckus, those two would wander off and stand off to the side. They didn't like to move much. Just stand and be together. They would scratch each other with vigor and finally Handsome had someone who could scratch his withers! This huge gelding taught this young mare the art of peacekeeping and she learned well.

You see, Handsome was never one to fight. If another horse bothered him, he didn't demand they move or change, he just moved away. If another horse came up to him and attacked him, he did not respond - he made noise and then just walked away. This little mare learned from him and she, too, became a protector and a peacekeeper in the pastures. Babee Joy learned from the best.

Last summer, when Babee Joy unexpectedly crossed over, once again I called the vet to warn him about bringing enough medicine. Once again, Handsome fell off of his feed, the water, and he withdrew. And honestly, he never came back from her loss. He never found another mate in the pastures and he never became content again. Babee Joy left and Handsome, I believe, just waited it out until he could join her.

His right front foot was working through a hoof wall abscess. This wet ground allows small stones to penetrate their hoof that otherwise would not bother them and this spring, his pasture was wet until mid-July. Only one month of decent weather and then we were back in the wet again. His right front foot bothered him and caused him to put his weight back onto his rear legs. And those hips. Those hips that were worn out before he came here from years of competitive pulling and field work. Hips that we had been treating with the same meds as Liz-Beth had been receiving. But his hips are different than her knee.

He spent time trying to wait it out but Monday late afternoon, those hips had to rest. They just had to rest. And so he was down and resting. I let him rest until he sounded like he wanted to right himself and so I prepared him to get up. We prayed and I asked for the wisdom to know what to do. In my mind, I already knew the answer but my heart would not give up. We would try but Handsome was tired.

Three times he had the chance to put his feet on the ground and three times he let his weight bend his legs over and go back down to his side. My prayers had been answered and I detested that answer. I hung onto his head and told him I understood his decision. I told him I truly did. But I also told him I didn't want to let him go! But I respected him and so I would help him go.

Amazing Grace was in his big left ear as he crossed. My arms were around his head. And I prayed he rest and be whole again. Only yesterday was I able to think it through and remember his life with us. Only yesterday was I able to acknowledge that Handsome had crossed. I still detest it but I am accepting it now.

How empty is that barn! The pasture just isn't the same - all the horses are dark and that huge blonde frame is missing. September 1st was the start of daily feedings for Handsome and Faline in preparation for the coming winter. And this coming winter, I will not be visiting the barn at 12, 2, and 4am to bring hot oatmeal to him. Bringing him hot, wet food in the freezing cold kept him in the barn and out of the trees. I will certainly miss those intimate times together this coning winter but I will treasure the months of feedings of last winter. I will miss them and his joy at hearing me coming. Always happy to see me with that bucket in my hands.

In all of this grief, I keep thinking that I want only to be more like Reilly. This young lady also loved big Handsome and she had hugged him Monday before she and her family headed home again. I had called her Mother late Monday evening to tell the family the news of his crossing and Reilly's response is how I want to think of Handsome. Upon hearing of his crossing, Reilly didn't cry for her grief. Nope. Her first response, instead, was one of compassion. She said, "Oh, how happy Babee Joy must be to see her Handsome again!"

                                                   

From the children we learn how we must be. From the children, the wisdom of dealing with this loss comes. From the children, we will remember how he won them all over. Every single one of them loved "the big horse".

For the children we will continue our Missions. We will fall back on our faith and remember the words of Andy. We will keep our eyes on the horses and remember to treasure each day we are given. Such huge lessons taught by horses that no one wants. And the children who love them.



Handsome - You were a giant among the big ones. You taught us about trust and forgiveness. And you were a living example of grace and tolerance. I desperately wanted to keep you with me but I loved you enough to hear your wishes and help you. But my dear Friend, I miss you so! Thank you for your patience in waiting for me to accept the loss of you. Stay close, Handsome. I desperately wait to feel your breath in my hair and on my neck again. It is with honest respect that I call you The Giant of Gentleness.


                                         

In awe and with respect and true love of this horse we called Handsome,
Sandy

Monday, June 16, 2014

 

Until We Meet Again

She came to us about as beat up as I've ever seen. Rejected from the slaughter trucks due to the infestation of maggots in her rear left leg. The homemade bit of two strands of barbed wire over her nose and under her tongue had done its damage in permanently marking her nose. Just so she could remember the pain of it all. And her disposition was one of pure survival. No human - NOT ONE! - could be trusted! They would hurt her, electrocute her, beat her, and make her work until she dropped. She came to us about as beat up as I've ever seen.

The wound was cleaned and the leg examined. The metal blade had cut clear down through the hoof and into the bone of the leg. There was no way to remove the proud flesh and allow the wound to heal over. This little mare would be living with this open wound the rest of her life.

The nose and the tongue would heal as best as they could. The nose would always be marked with bare tissue exposed to the sun to burn and blister. And her tongue would always be jagged and tender. But all of these were livable wounds. It was her shoulders and her neck that plagued her.

Being a rather small horse and asked to be in the harness with full-sized Belgians, she had to pull and be mighty fast in the fields. If she should fall behind the big horses, then the load would fall on her slender withers until she could manage to pull up next to or ahead of one of the bigger horses. Then she could carry her share of the load and not be asked to provide the constant, exceptional power. Her neck and her front shoulders were so sore and worn out that there was no cartilage left to treat. Her neck was bone on bone. And soon, with a bit of rest, was her right front knee - large, lumpy, and bone on bone.

Her wounds, however, seemed to strengthen her resolve. She fought me with everything she had! For her first three years here, I was unable to move her with a lead rope - she simply walked over, through, or away from me to the safety of her companion, Ole Man Cole. She would stand next to him and that lower lip would begin to flap. She was worried about my retaliation and so, in fear, she would stand behind Cole and that lip would flap. I would walk up to her and her eyes would be frantic! She was terrified I would strike her and, instead, I would reach out and touch her. That startled her more than anything and so she would leave me again.

For three years, we continued this routine until, finally, she believed that I was not going to beat her or whip her for running away from me. Instead, I brought her treats or feed or a brush. Or simply a gentle touch. Hugging was not her strength or to her liking and so I resisted the urges to hug her and sing to her. Instead I would stand three feet from her and talk while smiling. What to do with this crazy human was very perplexing to this horse. What to do with this crazy human . . .


The fourth year of her life here at Refuge Farms was a turning point for her. She lay under a blanket of deep snow in a major blizzard of heavy snow and 80+ mph winds. Finding her by dipping the fork handle into the snow every foot, I dug her out and laid down on her so I could massage her freezing body. I swam as fast and as deep as I could. Kicking my feet, flailing my arms, raising and lowering my head for air - I was in the Olympic pool! But I worked at it and her limbs began to move. That huge brown eye looked at me and pleaded for warmth.

Once in the barn, she struggled repeatedly to stand. With sheer determination alone, she raised that worn out body up onto her feet and focused on just standing. I scraped snow and ice off of her and layered her with electric blankets under insulated blankets and offered her hot mush and warm soaked hay cubes.

She did get pneumonia and she struggled, but by spring she was back to her full strength. The only reminder of that blizzard was in the minds of the two of us and her face. You see, the episode had turned her face and neck white. Her fright had been deep enough to change the color of her coat. But in that fright, somehow, we had become friends.


From that point, we grew to care more and more for each other. I won't say we loved each other - we still had our times when I wanted to go west and she took me east. We had plenty of those times. But I believe she began to see that, even though I might have asked her for things she did not want to give, I was asking because it was the best for her. Slowly, and with great concern and trepidation, this horse began to trust me. This human. Who never hit her or beat her but asked her simply to walk with her. To tolerate a bath and a brushing. To allow me to clean her leg wound. To give me her mouth to administer her bute meds. And to give in when I could no longer resist and I just had to hug her!

Elizabeth gave me examples daily of patience and endurance and faith. She looked at each day as a chance to live - not just survive. She had a boyfriend this spring in Big Boy! And I watched as she chased the other mares away from him!

My regret is that I separated her from Big Boy and her stall and put her over in the old barn pasture with Handsome. I was concerned with Big Boy's size and blindness and how he may bump her fragile skeleton. My regret is that I shortened her love life and asked her to stand in a barn that was not her home. Liz-Beth was not happy in the old barn. She loved and considered the big barn home and I took her out of that home for the greener grasses of the old barn pasture. I regret doing that very much and Elizabeth, please forgive me for doing that to you and not seeing your unhappiness. I tried to do what was best for you. I see now that I was wrong.

The mud was too deep and the wet ground was too cold. The storms were too strong and she had been down too long. Once again, out of sheer will and determination, she stood and walked to her usual stall in her home barn. There she tried to stand, but the internal damage had been done and she gave in. She did not cross alone and she heard the singing of "Amazing Grace' as she crossed. She was told of my love for her and I repeated it in case she didn't believe me the first time. She grew quiet and I hugged her. Hugged the life right out of her.


Bless you Liz-Beth for coming to us. Bless you for showing us what patience can give. Bless you for enduring my attempts and bless you for showing me, in your own way, that you, too, cared for me. I will tell your stories forever! I will carry your will and your strength in me and share them with anyone who will listen. Your picture hangs in my parlour and we will place a special picture of you in THE STORE. I will adorn your grave and stop to share a story or two with you. And yes, I will insulate you for the cold of the winters.

You were loyal and honest and true. You were strong when I was weak and you were determined when I was about to give up. You were waiting every single morning for your breakfast and you were gentle and forgiving with me when I was late. You were a living, breathing example of grace and I will carry your face with me until we meet again, Liz-Beth.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

 

T H A N K S G I V I N G

T - The bottom line to our existence is what we do with and how we spend our precious TIME. Never having enough time. Always running out of time. And wishing for more time. Maybe, just maybe, our lives would be richer and we would be happier if we simply made better use of our time. If we spent time enjoying our time. Treasuring and manifesting each second of time.

H - Once a HEARTBEAT begins, it arrives, does the job it was intended to do, and then moves on - never to return again. As Andy told me, "You can never get a heartbeat back, Sandy. Enjoy every one. Once a heartbeat is spent it is gone forever." Physically concentrating and feeling your heartbeat gives you a sense of living. Spend each heartbeat wisely for they are far more precious than gold.

A - We waste our time and our heartbeats on ANGER. Each and every day, I pray to be more like the horses who know nothing of anger. They know nothing of forgiveness since they hold no anger or grudge to anything or anyone and so have nothing in their hearts to forgive! They live today. Right now. In this very second. How remarkable and righteous to be a horse and live without anger. How much the world would improve if we could just be more like the horses.

N - One word, I was taught, that one does not want to use is NEVER since we do not know the future and so to say never is asking for the unexpected to occur. However, I can honestly say that at this age, I never expected to be working 2.5 full-time jobs with 22 horses as my family and entire herds needed the assistance of this organization. Never did I imagine that I would never retire. However, I am not complaining! Only marveling at how my life has transpired. Truly, I would have it no other way. I never planned my life to take these turns. Never planned to operate a horse rescue and sanctuary for the diers. But then . . . I guess I didn't ask God what He had planned, now did I?

K - Every morning I take the time to get a KISS. No matter the weather and no matter how behind I am and no matter how worried I am. I look for the horse that is waiting for me and I hug that horse. It seems they confer and take turns at who will be the giver on any particular morning. Just like clockwork, I get the kiss of that day's chosen horse. Sometimes with a hug, too! But it is the kiss that is my daily dose of medicine. My daily dose of endurance and encouragement. My very soul hungers for the kiss and these horses never fail me.

S - The world sometimes seems so tipsy and out of balance and just plain crazy! The news only causes worry and stress in my gut. I see people fighting themselves and each other only to see that the issue they were fighting over really are insignificant. My medicine and my remedy is found in the barns. Inside the walls of those barns stands my medicine. The horses. Those creatures that try so valiantly to teach us of acceptance and order and tolerance. Of peace and companionship and respect. Those SOLID and reliable horses. Oh, to be more like the horse every single day! To receive the compliment that I am a solid person!

G - It is the holiday season - the season of celebrations. We give gifts at this time of year. Sometimes the gifts are funny or prank. Sometimes they are plain because we are busy or dislike the crowds or just don't know what to give! My favorite gift is very simple - it is a hug. A genuine, heartfelt, arm-wrapping hug. Not a polite hug but an invading hug. A hug that invites you to hang on and rest for a second. Let someone else hold you up for just a few seconds. A hug that lets you know there is genuine caring involved. The best gift is not a gift at all because each time a hug like this happens, the gift giver gets just as much as the gift receiver. Give the GIFT of a hug today.

I - My insides are a barometer and after all these years, I am only now beginning to listen to my INSIDES. I used to fight them and ignore them. Go on with my plan regardless of what my insides were telling me. But life with the horses has taught me to listen to my insides. Respect my intuitions. And react to what my instincts are telling me regardless of what it may appear to be. Good lessons learned from these horses. Listening to the insides and your conscience. Your instincts. Your heart.

V - My passion is the horse. Rescuing and supporting and assisting the horses that others think are useless and simply not worth it. The diers. The horses that even the other rescues do not want. I become their VOICE and together we show you, if you are willing to look and listen, that even the worst of them all are the most beautiful. The potential in every living creature is limited only by what you are willing to learn from them. Their voice is strong and brilliant and clear and so vibrant! All it takes is for a moment of silence for you to hear it. The voice of the knowing ones.

I - In this world of rescue, there is no I. No one person can perform the acts of rescue alone. There are complete support systems in place and without those systems, not one creature is rescued. Theses systems sort paperwork. Empty a ton (literally!) of feed. Pick poop. Repair fence. Tape newsletters. Sell tickets. Wash donations. Move boxes again and again. Without these efforts, not one horse is rescued. But with them nothing is impossible! I am thankful for being a part of a remarkable machine called Refuge Farms, Inc.

N - We make meaningful promises to these horses when they come into our barns. Promises that mean hard work, financial sacrifice, and consistent energy. These promises require you to give of yourself and adopt them - not as a hobby but as a way of life. When all seems lost, NOTHING is allowed to prohibit us from keeping our promises to them. Not public opinion. Not the lack of funds. Not the tired bodies. And not the lack of hope. We find a way. We keep our promises. Nothing keeps us from what it is that we are intended to do - rescue the diers. Hard work. Tons of tears. Humans disagreeing. But the path shown clearly what it is that we must do and so we persevere. Letting nothing come between us and their needs.

G - As we quickly reach the 1,000th life saved, I will share my vision with you. It is a vision that I call upon when I am too tired to walk. Too tired to sleep. And too sore to move. I find the strength and the will to continue by imagining this:

It is a sunny spring day. There is a light breeze and I feel the sunshine on my face. I am walking - pain free! - in a meadow of knee high grasses sweet to the taste. I am alone but happy. Birds are singing all around me. There is joy in the air. I am smiling. And moving forward. In front of me is a big wooden bridge. It has an arch in it and so I trek up to the top of the bridge and then look forward. There, standing before me in the grassy meadow on the other side of the bridge are GIFTS. Over 1,000 of them. Jerry. Laddee. Ima. Halima. Ruby. Big Jim. Duker. Miss Bonita. RedMan. Richard. Addie-Girl. Lady-the-Dog. Hannah. Joseph. Judy!Judy!Judy!. Lassie. Blaise. Frannie. And my dear Andy. My Father, Mother, and Sister stand together over off to the side, smiling their satisfaction of my work. Over 1,000 gifts standing there with peace and love and appreciation in their hearts. They await me and I cross the bridge to be engulfed in the love of them.

From this I get my strength and my will to continue. Knowing that someday I will be surrounded by love and joy. May you find the source of your joy and true peace in your heart on this Thanksgiving Day.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herds - On This Earth and The Herd Already Over the Bridge

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

 

Hay Raffle Results!





Telephone calls are being made

     and telephone tag is being played

The results will be published

     as soon as all the calls are finished



A great response

     and a great result!

Refuge Farms will NOT come to a halt!!!!




Blessings to all and I will post as soon as all of the winners are notified!
Sandy and The Grateful Herd

Monday, August 26, 2013

 

Winter Hay Raffle on Labor Day at THE FARM!


August 25, 2013

SURPRISE!


 

That’s what we received when we opened the email from our hay supplier with prices for hay in 2013! The same round bale costing $65 in the fall of 2012 was now $110! OUCH!

Now, this is NOT the season to be searching for a new hay supplier. Everyone from the hay suppliers to livestock owners is hoarding hay! The Spring of 2012 taught us several lessons and the impact of those lessons is being felt by all of us as we head into the Winter of 2013-14.
 

Refuge Farms increased our hay budget for 2013 from $65 to $85 per bale. In our innocence, we believed a 30% increase would be sufficient. Hearing in July that our hay prices were increasing by over 70% was startling, to say the least!
 

In an attempt to meet the financial demand for this basic food for the horses, we are searching every corner for grant possibilities. The Store continues to bring in revenue and we’ve added this cash raffle for additional much needed support. All maintenance projects are on hold. Every ounce of every one of us is geared toward finding the funds to pay for our hay! Our goal is to bridge the financial gap of over $9,000 by Labor Day so we may begin the process of moving our winter hay supply home to our hay pad.
 

We need your help! Without hay, our horses will need to be re-homed or euthanized and our rescue efforts will come to a screeching halt! Many helpless and hungry horses will die needlessly! Grant applications are being submitted but those responses take months! We must buy our hay NOW and be prepared for the onslaught of unwanted horses that is just around the corner with the cold weather!

 Plus, you could be a BIG winner! How fun would that be!! All ticket sales will go directly to the Hay Fund for this season’s hay supply. Plan to drive out and join us on Labor Day Monday  here at The Farm where we will draw the winners and spend time in the barns with each other and the reasons we all work so hard – these marvelous horses!
 

Your support is remarkable and it allows us to continue our Missions – with horses #942 and #943 being rescued from Eastern Wisconsin on September 9th. Sadly there is no end to them, my friends. But our little corner of the world is better for those who cross our path. And without your continued support, we cannot continue our Missions of rescue.
 

Abundant blessings and thanks to each of you for your help with our hay! And hopefully, we’ll see you at The Farm on Labor Day Monday!
 
With Gratitude and Hope,
Sandy and The Herd


2013 Refuge Farms Hay Cash Raffle Details


   1.  Raffle License Number: R0025990A

2.  You need not be present to win

3.  Drawings held on Monday, 09/02/13, during Public Hours at Refuge Farms (10am-3pm) – please join us!

4.  Your donation is tax deductible with this letter as your receipt – simply print and complete the sections below and save with your tax receipts

5.  All proceeds will be used to support the purchase of hay round bales for the Winter of 2013-2014

6.  For every $55 you donate, you will have a $55 ticket created for you. These tickets will each give you a     1 in 18 chance at $500 cash! We will create "buckets" of $55 tickets of $1,000 totals and then a winner will be drawn from each "bucket". The more the tickets purchased, the more the "buckets" we will have and the more the lucky winners there will be!

7.  For every $110 you donate, you have a $110 ticket created for you. These tickets will give you a            1 in 18 chance at $1,000 cash! We will create "buckets" of $110 tickets of $2,000 totals and then a winner will be drawn from each "bucket". The more the tickets purchased, the more the "buckets" we will have and the more the lucky winners there will be!

8.  All winners will be contacted by Refuge Farms for the issuance of their winnings

9.  Your tickets and donations must be received at Refuge Farms on or before Saturday, August 31st to be included in the raffle drawings! And yes, PayPal donations from our website are included in these raffles!! So no need to worry about the mail reaching us in time!

I purchased ________ tickets at $55 each
 
I purchased ________ tickets at $110 each for a
total donation of $ ______________________








Sunday, June 16, 2013

 

The Magic That Was Babee Joy

Just about thirteen years ago, Frances Andrew broke the heart of his young, hopeful owner and crossed unexpectedly from a colic episode. I told those who were close to us that "I'll never know or love a horse like Frannie again". And I was right, unfortunately. Frances was only sixteen months and 1,600 pounds of energy and love and hope when he crossed. Gone forever from our barns but still living in our hearts and our Missions.


Then, a mere two years later in 2005, I told my friends through my sobs that "I'll never love a horse like I love Jerry, the Roan Horse. Never again." And I was right. Never have I met a more powerful and loyal and protective horse as Jerry. To his last breath, he protected me with his body and his power. That horse lives on in the heart of Jeri-Ann, who was named after Jerry, the Roan Horse. So it is no surprise to me that Jeri-Ann is large, just as her namesake was large. And beautiful, of course!


And then, just three years ago in 2010, I told you all that I would never know or love another horse as I had so totally and completely loved and been loved by Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare. And, unfortunately, I believe I am right once more. Laddee came into our lives through a devious act and consumed us. She transformed this organization and became the love of my life in a matter of moments, it seemed. Her crossing, we knew, was inevitable and would arrive rather soon. We knew that. Yet, when she did move on, we all cried huge tears and grieved until you could hear our hearts aching. This place and my heart will never be the same because of Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare.


Today, I'm telling you that I will never know or love another horse like I knew and loved Babee Joy. And, I'm so sad to tell you, I believe that to be a true statement, as well. Babee Joy was unusual in so many, many ways. But her impact on my heart and my life was greater than even I realized and knew. It will be some time and even perhaps to the end of my life on this earth before I appreciate fully the impact this single horse has had on me and my life and on the general personality of this rescue organization.

It was August of 2004 when a little moose-like baby horse stood next to a thin, nervous, pawing, bellering blonde mare at an auction in Sarona, WI. Attending this auction with a few friends of mine, we arrived in a car just to "look at horses and see the prices" of the big ones being sold. This mare and her ugly little baby were the last horses to be sold. The mare was frantic and looked a bit more than "hard to handle". The word "dangerous" came to my mind.

Her baby? Well, that was one horse that was easy to look right past. Her brown moose-like coat was curly and fuzzy and really not a coat but more like a pile of sheared wool. Her mane and tail were black and short and kinky. Her head was too big for her body. And her training had been exactly what the mare had taught her to do - dig and kick. Repeatedly.


I wanted nothing to do with that pair. Until I heard the man behind me bid on them and tell his friend that he would "leave the mare for shipment and see if the baby turned out worth anything". My hand went up without even thinking. To seperate these two animals would mean the mare would be killed. And the baby? I suspected the baby would end up in the same trailer due to her digging and kicking. Something told me that changing the personality of this little horse was going to be a painful experience for the human that took on the challenge.

Josephina and the baby came to live at Refuge Farms that very night. I had made a stall for them and the mare soon showed how efficient she was at her digging. A three-foot hole greeted me in the morning. And the baby? Well, she soon showed us all that her technique was beyond reproach since it worked every time!

Some innocent human would be sucked in by this moose-looking baby horse and walk into the corral to meet her. I would warn them but they would look at the baby and think I was just being overly cautious. Disregarding me and my warnings, the humans would approach the baby and bend over to look her in the eyes. The baby would watch. And wait. When the humans were three feet from her nose, she would execute her approach.

In the blink of an eye - literally! - the baby would whip around and, using both hind feet, mule-kick the humans as hard as her legs could manage! Then she would turn to watch the humans howl and retreat. Victory was sweet for this little horse. You see, to chase the humans away meant that she did not feel the sting of those sticks that had been used on her before arriving here - those cattle prods. This little horse had figured out how to protect herself and also how to amuse herself at the same time with these foolish, tender legged humans!

Several weeks passed and Josephina and "the baby" began the long process of learning that they were safe. The baby was becoming rather large rather quickly to all of our surprises! And the mare was learning to be a bit more calm although a leaf blowing in the wind would set her off on one of her snorting, digging, and head-tossing tangents!

MaKenna and I stood outside the corral one day (notice we are still OUTSIDE the corral) looking at the mare and her still rather ugly baby. "What have you named the baby?" MaKenna asked me. I hadn't really put too much thought into naming the horse since I was still wrapped up in trying to figure out how to stop the mule kicking! "I don't know yet, MaKenna", was my answer, "but it sure is a joy having a baby on THE FARM!"

In this young teenagers heart, the wisdom of the world was present as she stated simply, "Sounds like you've already named her, Sandy. Her name is Babee Joy."

So it was. The baby horse was a joy and so her name became Babee Joy. All was complete at Refuge Farms. We have a faith bucket. A horse named Grace. And now we have Joy. A deep sign of contentment came out of me as I stood at the corral and felt the pieces of my life's work come into alignment. I've never forgotten that moment nor have I ever forgotten the total calm and wisdom and sensibility that this young woman showed me. MaKenna left a mark on me and that horse that day. A mark much greater than just the name Babee Joy.

This horse grew so big so quickly that we all stood with open jaws! Her shoulders just shot upward and her hips just blew out to four feet, it seemed, in weeks! And her coat! No longer was she a brown, moose-like creature. Oh, heavens no! This little baby was becoming a blue roan! Rare and strikingly beautiful, our pastures were now graced with the sparkling color of a blue roan with the Fresian mane and tail. Black leggings and a black face completed the most striking look I've seen in a long, long time. Babee Joy was a beauty!


Isaac, our farrier, saw her for the first time and said to me, "Now here's a horse that's worth some money just because of her color. You need to protect her because people will want to buy her just to breed her." I took Isaac's words to heart and set myself to protect this young horse. She would be safe and no, she would not be bred. Even though people pleaded for the chance to buy her! It grew monotonous.

"How much is the big roan?"
"The horse is not for sale."
"No, really, how much is that horse?"
"The horse is not for sale."

How do I describe her personality? She was extremely large and well muscled in her body but her heart was timid and easily frightened. She had been pained by the cattle prods and moved around in packed steel trailers at a ripe age of 3 months . And she never forgot those fears. A sudden noise or a loud noise or just a new bucket would cause her concern and worry. She would snort and paw, just as her Mother had taught her. Never one to buck or bite, she would simply draw her head back and snort. Wrinkling her eyebrows together and worry, worry, worry that this new feed bucket was going to jump up and eat her!

Babee Joy became a lover. Really, I believe she was a lover all along it was just a defensive technique that she had learned that caused her to mule-kick. And so, in order to keep her here at Refuge Farms, we had to find a way to stop the kicking. A mule-kicking horse would not be safe for our volunteers or our guests and so, in order to keep this baby horse here and let her grow with us, we needed to stop the kicking. How, pray tell, would we do that?

It was late September - only a few weekss after her arrival - that I came into the house and "layered up", as I called it. I wrapped my legs in Ace bandages. Put on tights. A pair of long underwear. A pair of blue jeans. My snow pants over my blue jeans and then my coveralls over the snow pants. I created at least six thick, thick layers of cloth over my legs as a protection against those feet. And then I waddled out to the corral.

The mare I tied, against her better judgement. I would fill the hole she created a bit later, I thought. But right now, I needed to have a conversation with this baby horse. And so, together we meandered out into the general grounds of the corral. 

I had a few treats in my pocket and so I put two in my right hand. Showing them to the baby horse, I moved toward her. I saw her measure the ground between us with her eyes. I took another step. She measured and waited. I stepped and she measured. On my next step, she whipped around and kicked. And I stepped forward.

This little horse turned around and looked at me with bug-eyes wide open. You could see the amazement on her face that the human was still here and still approaching her! One more step forward and that little horse whipped herself around and kicked for all she was worth a second time! Then she turned to face me again.

I stepped forward and fed her a treat. Her entire head turned and she looked at me. Smelled me and then whipped around! I reached over her shoulder and fed her the second treat. This little horse turned gently and ate the treat from my hands. No more kicking. Thank heavens because I needed to get into the house and see how much blood she had drawn!

My legs were green and purple and black and swollen for days. But that little horse did not kick any longer! Why kick if those humans still came forward anyhow? And why kick if they were bringing treats anyhow? Her common sense won out and her life was spared. This little moose was now just a bit peculiar to look at - no longer a kicker, too. Babee Joy never kicked a human ever again in her life.


Just two weeks ago, our Babee Joy came up sore on a back foot with a common abcess. But in a matter of hours, we saw this was no ordinary abcess. And, unfortunately, we were right again. Her life was not to be spared from the abcess and the laminitis that resulted. It was Barbaro all over again.

In order to keep my promises to her, our dear Dr. Anne compassionately helped this little mare cross over to prevent a serious and very painful end-of-life that was imminent. Her foot would drop through her hoof and she would be in excruciating pain. Best to have her spend a few hours with Handsome in the tall grass and then help her cross while she was standing with the sun on her withers feeling rather safe and sound.

Sound, however, she was not nor would she ever be again. The horse that had the most beautiful and flawless feet became the horse that lost her life due to those feet. I'm still wrestling with what could have been done, what could have been noticed sooner, and what was missed when and why. I'm still in the examination of these past two weeks in trying to see how this precious, loving soul could have been spared. I'm still fighting The Master Plan because, right now, from my perspective, I see that The Plan is in serious error.

I have known many horses in my years. This horse had no flaws. She did not test the fence. She did not crib. She did not fight and she did not kick. She loaded into any trailer even though trailers frightened her. She was a peacekeeper in the pasture and she demanded order and quiet when she was in the barn. Just her presence created order as not one horse in the barn would challenge her!

Babee Joy was a sensitive and loving horse. Quick to learn and always looking for reassurement that she was loved and needed. Quick to become fearful but easy to comfort. You simply stood at the head of her and she buried that massive head into your chest to find her comfort and reassurance. Then she would breath and all would be calm again. Easy to comfort and a wonder to hold.

In the few days since her crossing, I find that, of course, I still look for that blue roan butt in the pasture. I still count and fearfully start counting again looking for the missing one! I still hook and standing longingly at her place. Wishing that she would somehow magically appear in the barn to eat her feed. And I still smell her. Feel her strong mane and stretch my arms as if I am about to hug that enormous butt again.

"The emptiness of that hill . . . . " 

One of you wrote that to me today and it so totally sums up the feelings here right now. The hill with The Big Ones is so empty without her. What a presence she commanded! What a sense of calm she bestowed! And what an enormous crevice there is in the hearts of all who loved her.

For a while, it will be quiet around here. Out of respect, we will be quiet because of the horses and the humans that loved her. Because we so desperately miss her. And partly, because some of us are still struggling to accept the fact that Babee Joy is no longer standing in these pastures. Until we can accept it and look at the pasture without crying, we will still count and look for her. Call for her. And wait to hug her. We will live somewhere between wishing and knowing. Not wanting to accept the truth. At least not yet.

Something tells me I will never know or love another horse like I knew and loved Babee Joy. I say that in deep and total grief. But I also say that in pure and honest respect and gratitude for the chance to have known her. And in the good fortune to have loved her. And in the magical grace of knowing she loved me, too.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and The Spirit of Babee Joy

Sunday, January 06, 2013

 

Remembering Andy

On this January 6th in the year 2005, my best friend decided to allow his spirit to move to the other side. He left this earth and moved to the spiritual side, that he often told me did not exist. On this date in 2005, Andy Durco, Jr. died.

I first met Andy over the telephone. It was my priority in that year, to sell vendor booths for the new Restaurant Technology Conference I was building for restaurant owners. We wanted this show to be a "one stop shopping" experience for the restaurant owner for all of their technology needs - time clocks, order entry, kitchen management, food orders, and even financial reporting. This was the first year of the conference and selling booths to vendors on a new concept was a tough sell. A very tough sell!

My first call on a particular Monday morning was to Chickasaw Technology Products in Oklahoma City, OK. The CEO's name was Andy Durco, Jr. And when he picked up the telephone, I introduced myself, asked if I could have a moment of his time to talk about CTP's presence at the show, and then I heard his response. His response was clear. Concise. Swift.

Click.

This CEO of Chickasaw Technology Products hung up on me! I laughed! Something about the guts of this man enticed me to call him right back. He took the call a second time and was equally as intrigued with the woman who would call him back. We often talked of that first telephone experience and we would laugh. That call would be the start of an exciting and mutually challenging relationship.

Several years later, this tall, serious, business man asked me to be his COO as he set about to rebuild the product and the staff needed to complete that task. It meant moving to OKC for a minimum of two years. My first visit to the town told me I could tolerate it for two years and I was straight up front with Andy - I would not relocate but I would commute. First class airline tickets. A three bedroom condo on a private lake in OKC. A town car for transportation. And I would work six days per week - Sunday's would be my day off for shopping and exploring the countryside.

The two years flew by. I was soon back in Spring Valley trying to get control of the yard, the fence, the pastures, and renew my relationship with my horses. My house plants were long since dead. My house was desperately neglected. But I had learned an enormous amount from this man and I had grown to respect and admire him tremendously. And, to my surprise, I found myself missing him and our early morning conversations over a danish and tea.

Andy Durco, Jr. was an excellent teacher. He would enter into a conversation with you to present a potential agreement to you - that's the way he would tell you he was giving you a new assigment. He would tell you the rules - not the guidelines but the rules. Any breaking of the rules would mean the agreement would be null and void. And, if you had lied or betrayed him, you no longer existed to him. Andy was tough. He was sincere. He was loyal. And he was demanding. But if you were loyal and honest with him, he would protect and watch out for you 24/7.

My greatest challenges in my management career came at CTP those two years in OKC. I hired from across the entire country and relocated entire families. We built a product from the ground up. I fired more people than I hired. And we sold our product to a 10,000 unit pizza group in Canada. Success was sweet. We celebrated with a steak dinner and one cocktail each. Work began early for both of us on Saturday mornings, you know!

The traits that I admired most in Andy were the traits that caused him to suffer the greatest after his spinal cord injury. His pride and his self-sufficiency no longer could be afforded. His care taking of others now spun around on him and others now needed to take care of him. His strong, bellering voice became mild and almost weak. And those strong handshakes turned into cool hands longing to be held . . . even though he could not feel my hand, but he could see us holding hands and so he was comforted.

I spent weeks with him and we would go to aquatic therapy. He floated and gave his thinning skin time without pressure points. He became buoyant and almost "walked" again in the pool. He would almost smile some days.

I cared for his dogs and horses. One of his horses, we agreed, was to be euthanized. The other two would come to Wisconsin with me to live out their lives. And I was honored and blessed to have Ole' Man Cole and Blaise with me for several years after Andy crossed. When Blaise crossed, I felt a closeness to Andy that I hadn't felt in quite some time. Andy had liked that horse. He told me she was a good horse the first time we loaded those two in that exclusive Tennessee Walker Breeding Ranch in North Dallas. He always wanted to ride Blaise. Unfortunately, he never did. Nor did I. I would have ridden her, I believe, had Andy ridden her first. However, I would not take the thrill from him to rider her first and so I never rode her.

His cat, Patches, also came to live with me when Andy was just about to be discharged from Baylor. Andy wanted Patches to stay with him, but his primary physician explained the need to have syringes, tubes, needles at the ready and a cat could jump up and disturb those supplies. The physician also warned Andy that he could run over the cat with his electric wheelchair and not be able to bend over and care for the cat. With tears in his eyes, Andy looked at me and needed not say the words. I simply nodded and when I headed north, I brought Patches home with me. She still lives with me today. In fact, as I key this, she is resting behind me in my office chair. Warming my lower back with her body.

It was the New Year's Eve for 2005 when a call came into work for me from Andy. The receptionist knew that if Andy called, I was to be disturbed - no matter what! She came into my office and said simply, "Andy's on line 2". I took the call immediately.

Our conversation was uncomfortably meaningless and light. I could feel a purpose for the call but we chatted. The idle type of chatter that both of us detested but somehow found ourselves staying in for far too long. Finally, the silence on the line brought the true reason to light.

Andy was having dreams of riding his Thunder. And he wished me a happy new year. And he told me he loved me. We both cried before we disconnected and when I hung up the receiver, I knew he was moving on. And, sadly, my guts were right.

The infection was so advanced before he finally called his doctor that no amount of IV antibiotics could stop it. It was fully systemic and all they could do was keep him resting with medicines. In the mid-morning hours of January 6, 2005, two big things happened in my life: Unit's cataracts were removed and Andy died. I drove home in silence. No supreme grief but a feeling of relief. Finally, this tall, proud, serious man could be himself again. Could move his arms again, wipe his face again, and walk again. Finally, Andy Durco, Jr. could boom out an order! And hopefully, finally he could be at ease again.

Andy left me with many words of wisdom. And he taught me many valuable life lessons.

He taught me to share when he commanded me to, "Take this horse, Sandy, and make a difference in somebody else's life with it." No hoarding or hiding the horse, Sandy. Share the horse with others and, in that sharing, you will find joy. Oh, he was so right! I did not want to hear it and I sure didn't want to share! But I was obligated and Andy was watching. And so I shared Frances Andrew with Diane that first Christmas. And the rest, as they say, is history. Andy taught me to share. To learn that we don't own these horses. We are just their caretakers for a little part of their journey.

He taught me to do what it takes to get the job done. I learned from Andy as he lectured our employees about nothing being above you - that everything that needed to be done was your job. And he backed me when I fired a young man who sat in a conference room and looked me right in the eye and denied a task because "that's not my job". Andy and I emptied the trash and cleaned the windows, when needed. Andy answered the telephones if the receptionist was talking with a guest. We both put paper in the printers or turned out the lights. Anything and everything that needed to be done, we did. He taught me that getting it done was the objective - not who did it.

He taught me to expect honesty and loyalty and to only withhold it if it was not given back. He taught me that honesty was to be expected - not anticipated, but expected. And that dishonesty would not be tolerated. From anyone for any reason. He taught me that telling the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it made me, was the ONLY way to live. He taught me that being loyal would surround me with true friends. He taught me that those who were honest and loyal with me would be the ones I "could go into a fox hole with." Now neither one of us had ever been in a fox hole, but we both had talked of it often enough. And both of us could count on one hand the people we would trust in a fox hole.

And he taught me to keep my eyes on the horse. Long before Refuge Farms became involved in this world of rescue, Andy pounded me with the advice to "keep your eyes on the horse, Sandy". Do not get caught up in the people. You will never change some people, he would say. Remember, you want them to call you again when their next horse is useless to them. If you upset them, criticize them, disregard them, holler at them, then that next horse will die. But if you shake their hand, look them right in the eye and thank them for the opportunity, then that next horse will at least have a chance. Keep your eye on the horse, Sandy.

And so on this Sunday evening, I am remembering Andy. As I am surrounded by people who will not allow me to euthanize their starving, freezing horses. People who have no hay but will not surrender their horses. People who believe that snow is sufficient moisture for a horse in the winter. And people who believe that horses who are on their sides for four days are just resting. Listening to Andy, I smile and I work with these people to gain their trust. I pray that I can get to their horses before the horses give up. And once I am to the horses, I may only hold their heads and sing to them as they cross over. But at least, they will not cross alone.

Andy was a tall man. A big man. A proud man. An extremely intelligent man. A loyal man. A strict man. A hard-shelled man. A demanding man. A teaching man but only if he sensed you wanted to learn. A decisive man. A skeptical man. And a stubborn man.

But Andy was a compassionate man. An articulate man. An insightful man.  A creative man. A loyal man. An honest man. A generous man. A giving man. A kind man. A shy man. A humorous and comical man. A thoughtful man. He became a spiritual man. A gentle man. And a big-hearted man.

My life changed because of this man. As I used to tell him after we formalized this thing called Refuge Farms, that "this is not my job, Andy. It's what I am. Saving these diers is what I am. And I would be no other place, thanks to you."

God speed, Andy. Stay close, Andy. Guide me, Andy. And wait for me. I've got chores yet to do and a few more lives to save, dear man. But some day we'll drive a herd of hundreds! And you'll be on Thunder and I'll be on Frances Andrew. And we will ride!!!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd with Andy Durco, Jr.

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