Saturday, October 29, 2005


"...may you live long and prosper..."

Pastor Jean Gfall came in to my life about 2 years ago. I was working the part-time job of Parish Secretary when Pastor Jean became our Interim Pastor. She was kind, and gentle, and smiled a big, genuine smile. The Spirit obvioulsy filled her and she was immediately a friend to me.

Throughout our working together, we shared many stories of life's travels, our worries, our victories, and mostly our wonderings about "How" and "Why" and "What". Pastor Jean knew and loved horses, too, and so our relationship grew based upon common beliefs, goals, and the true and honest love of the horse.

Pastor Jean is moving on to a new Parish this week. She has a wonderful opportunity and I am thrilled for her. A bit sad for me, but thrilled for her. I truly trust that our friendship is bigger than just the convenience of being in church together and so I know she and I will continue to share and she will, from her perspective, continue to guide and listen to me about my plans and worries for THE FARM.

This past Wednesday, on the Wednesday of her final Confirmation Class for the Parish, Pastor Jean brought the class to Refuge Farms. And, I am pleased to say, the class came to THE FARM not at Jean's urging but at their own request. This same class had been to THE FARM a little over a year ago on the night they studied the "Thou shalt not kill" commandment. That night we talked about Slim and Ima and Jimmer and Jerry. And we discussed how killing could be not only of the body but also of the spirit and of the mind. I enjoyed these people and had hoped that these young adults had enjoyed what I had to offer - my backyard and my horses.

This year it was amazing for me to see how much each teenager had grown and had matured so in such few months. We spent time with Lanna and Jeri-Ann, and then we all moved in to the barn. Unit and Babee Joy were tied for the pettings and fun - the kind of noisy fun that teenagers will have with baby horses.

I was a bit cautious and doing my very best to observe the smallest clue the horses were giving off. These horses were young and the energy and noise of so many teens may cause tensions in the horses. Safety is paramount....

But I was soon to see that even these babies were in tune with their mission. These yearling horses were already full blown ministers of Refuge Farms. They stood calmly and allowed the touching and the noise and the closeness and the giggling....They seemed to understand! Already!
Pastor Jean then asked if we could bless the babies. Oh, please!

We blessed Unit first. Our little girl who had come to us with those huge cataracts and now, through the gifts of others, could see us and the other horses and was running and playing with the herd. Unit had been given the gift of sight by the Magic of THE FARM. But Unit's gifts to us had already far outweighted our gift to her.

Pastor Jean called the class over and everyone placed their hands on Unit while she blessed this ever-so-special creature. "May you see far more than us, Unit, and continue to show us what it is that you see....already so much more than us...". The blessing ended with "may you live long and prosper." Amen.

Next we moved over to Babee Joy. Now Babee Joy is the same age as Unit but easily twice the size of her pasture pal. And Babee Joy is so mellow that at times I will push on her to get her just to move. Completely at ease, Babee Joy stood watching this gathering around Unit. A bit curious, but really just kind of hangin' around....

Then the gathering moved to Babee Joy! Now alert, she positioned herself against the wall and remained calm until the touching....all those hands! all these people! Her eyes were wide open and she held her breath....but she stood while Pastor Jean proclaimed her to be The Joy that she truly is - a blessing of hope and health - "may you live long and prosper, Babee Joy." Amen.

Our latest baby - the first ever baby born on Refuge Farms - was last to be blessed. Jeri-Ann stood with her mama in the corral curious about all the commotion and smelling the bonfire and hearing the noise....Much to see! Much to smell! And much to hear!. Jeri-Ann did just what baby horses do with all of this newness - she ran and kicked the air and was truly air-borne at times! We all stood and just watched her. She showed us her power and agility and quickness and yes, a touch of clumsiness yet, too!

So with safety in mind, Pastor Jean and I entered the corral while the class stood just outside of the board fence. Once again Jean spoke of health and the gifts that this horse will bring to others. The gift of healing and hope and comfort. The gift of life. "...and so, Jeri-Ann, may you live long and prosper." Amen.

It was a small thing, these blessings. Didn't take much time and really was nothing fancy. No big ceremony and no announcements or planning. Just something Jean and I had talked about and we had wanted to do for quite a while now.

The sky was clear. The stars were out in abundance. The air was crisp and you could see your breathe. The fire was warm and smelled very good to me. I soaked it all in.... This was a first for me and for THE FARM. And inside, I felt the final piece of something slip in to place.

NOW I could freely use these 3 babies for the purpose of THE FARM.

NOW these special additions could be "put to work" healing and continuing their journey with us.

NOW there was no turning back. We had babies on THE FARM. And it was good. It was right. And it was part of The Plan!

Who will benefit from these 3 babies? Who will find comfort in them? Humor in them? Joy in them? Who and how many will come to love them? And return to see them? Who will they help when no human being can help? Who and how many indeed! Oh, what possibilities! What a precious gift each one is!

And just what is my job in all of this? My job is to watch over and to care for them. To keep them and to care for them and provide safety for them. To make them availble for whomever decides to come and spend time with them.

I am just the caretaker. These babies are the gifts. These babies are the blessings. And now they are blessed. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2005


"I got what I came for... the hugs."

To tell you that the past 2 weeks have been "normal" on THE FARM is true, whatever that would be. To be more specific, it would mean volunteers coming and going, horse cares of all types and energies, weather from 80 degrees to 32 degrees, and the never-ending work lists.

Oh, but do not for a moment think there is a shred of disillusionment! You see, last Saturday something ever so small happened which, once again, refreshed me and reaffirmed that yes, we do make a difference in people's lives.....

It was New Volunteer Saturday. What's that? Well, we ask those who express interest in volunteering to come and spend a Saturday with us and "try us on for size". Never do we want to put someone in a position of joining our mission and then finding out that we really aren't the personality or tenor that they might have been looking for.

So we pick a Saturday when we are not open to the public and do the normal thing - we greet each other, work on To Do Lists until lunch time, eat lunch and laugh together, and then close the afternoon by spending quality time with selected horse(s) doing whatever feels good. That means brushing, walking, picking burrs, maybe just standing close and getting that horse smell in your hair.

After that "normal" Saturday, we then leave it to the New Volunteer to decide if they would like to return. We don't follow-up or call or even email. We leave it totally in their hands to come back to us. No pressure - no matter how much we want them to join us!

Well anyhow, it was a New Volunteer Saturday and we were broken up in to about 3 groups - one group was working on stock tanks, another group was picking already eaten grass (manure), and I was with a small group working on the annual cleaning of the horse trailer.

We had the huge floor mats out and had just begun power washing the walls and floor down, when I heard tires on the gravel driveway. I lifted my head and there it was - Mechanical Mary's car was coming in the yard.

That was odd. Mechanical Mary was swamped with 2 children in high school, a new job, church obligations and an ill father-in-law. Funny she should just drop in during a Saturday...

We could always count on Mechanical Mary to be there for the events - she's a rock when we need her - but her "off" time spent at THE FARM lately had been limited due to her busy, busy life and so it struck me as unusual that she would just be pulling in unannounced....

"Mechanical Mary is here?" I said to Kathy, in a question kind of a way. Kathy came out of the trailer - power wash wand still in hand - and said "She's here?"

Mary stopped her vehicle and I could see that both of her children were with her. Out came the 3 of them - Mechanical Mary, Greta, and Andrew. I felt something in the air immediately - something that made me hold my breath.

"Mary!" I screamed and ran up to give the traditional Refuge Farms hug-of-a-welcome. Trying not to be too obvious, I blurted out, "Why are you here?" (Guess I can learn a bit about subtly???)

"Well", Mechanical Mary replied, "we were driving by the exit on the freeway and I said to the kids, 'Should we stop by THE FARM for some hugs?' They said yeah, and so here we are. We came for hugs."

Still sensing something was amiss, still feeling that uneasy feeling in my gut, I queried, "Heading east to visit grandpa?"

"No", Mechanical Mary replied, "we're going to bury him."

Oh my. Another loss for this family. It seemed only a short time ago that Grandma had passed. We talked about that very fact. Greta told me that Grandpa had, in fact, passed only one single day short of the year's anniversary of Grandma's passing. He had missed her so.

We spent time talking about his life and his military service. Greta had a button on which was a picture of her Grandpa Dale when he was in the military during the Big War .... handsome. Andrew is the spitting image of his Grandpa, by the way!

We talked for a bit and found out schedules and marveled over the miracle of the kids all being able to spend time with Grandpa within 24 hours of his passing - a passing, by the way, which came without notice. Isn't it sometimes just a marvel how pieces will fit together for the big picture?

Anyway, it was time for them to get back on the road and so Kathy and I gave a full round of hugs to all 3 of them....even Andrew. And then we talked a bit more and then another round of hugs.

While we hugged that last time, I asked Mechanical Mary if there was anything we could do for her or her family. She said "No. I got what I came for - hugs."

It was quite a while after they were out of sight that I was still standing in that driveway - standing in the same spot that Andy Durco had left me when he handed me the lead rope to Charity Case and said "Sandy, take this horse and make a difference in somebody's life." A calmness came about me. Mary had come for hugs and left behind affirmation.

You see, one of the things we do at THE FARM is we hug hello and we hug good-bye. And they are not "Hollywood hugs". We hug! Sometimes they are quicker than others, but they are just what we do. We care and we are not shy about showing you that we care for you.

Sometimes the hugs are quick, yes, but sometimes we hang on....we hang on to comfort you, to listen to your whisper of fear or worry, or to support you quietly. But always we hug. And Mechanical Mary had proven that what it is we are trying to do is oh so small of a corner of this vast and overwhelming world! We slow things down just a bit to take the time to hug.

Hug someone and enjoy the journey of each and evey day!

Friday, October 07, 2005


A "Typical" Week at Refuge Farms....

As I sit here on Friday, I realize that yes, in fact, this past week has truly been a typical week here at Refuge Farms - at least as typical as a week can get here on The Farm! Read on....

On Saturday, a young lady from the Spring Valley area, Taylor, held her 11th birthday party at The Farm and what fun! We brushed April and fed PONY! and Unit and Babee Joy and just enjoyed all of the horses as young girls do! The questions were remarkable! Special time was spent with Halima, a little Arabian mare who is in her final stages of life. The girls touched her so tenderly and just hugged her. What a sight it was....such emotion and empathy from these young hearts. Amazing, just how wise these young women are!

And then it was time to open birthday presents. This young lady had asked her friends to not buy her a present (yes, you read that correctly - not buy her a present) but instead, her friends were asked to make a donation to purchase hay for the horses! How do I explain the gratitude for such selfless gifts from such young souls?

The result was Taylor picking the weeks of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Easter to be the weeks where her birthday money purchased a round bale of hay for the herd. "Why Thanksgiving?" I asked. "So the horses can have a feast, too" was Taylor's simple but honest answer. Thank you, Taylor, from the entire herd.

While the birthday party was happening on one side of the barn, the other side of the barn had the opposite spectrum of life experiencing the Magic. You see one of our volunteers had brought her two sisters out to The Farm so they could all see just what their little sister, Luretta, has been up to! Grace and Betty listened to a few horse stories and then out came the carrots! April, of course, was forefront with her mouth searching everyone for her carrots...and what did she find? April found the carrot in Betty's hand....and the smile broke out on Betty's face big enough for all to see!

You should know that Betty is the oldest of the sisters and is currently residing at a local nursing home. Typically, Betty would have been in her wheelchair, but this day she stayed in the front seat of Luretta's car and we just pulled the car right in the barn and opened the door! April, seeing that carrot in Betty's hand, simply put her head right in to the car with Betty and said "Hi!". It was quite a sight and most enjoyable for Betty. A bit of horse hair in Luretta's car and a bit of carrot drool on Betty, but no one seemed to mind!

The week ended with Cole, our 35 year old gelding, deciding that he couldn't get his feed in to his mouth fast enough. And so he literally inhaled the feed and developed a choke. Now a choke for most horses is serious but not as panicking as with Cole. You see, Cole is most likely of all the horses to develop pneumonia and is old enough that any trauma stresses him to the point of fluid in his lungs, weak legs, etc. So this choke caused me to react swiftly and directly.

I unhooked Cole from his feeder and took my fists to his throat. Now I know that sounds cruel and inhumane, but it's intended to dislodge the clump of food that is stuck in his throat which was causing him to be unable to swallow and also causing his saliva to flow in to his lungs instead of his stomach.

If Cole had not wanted the treatment he would simply have walked away. But instead he lowered his head (to let gravity work on the choke) and positioned himself where I could best attempt to help him. When I needed a rest, Cole followed me and literally put his head over my shoulder and pressed in to me, saying, "Please....more." In a short 45 minutes - what seemed like hours - I had a horse who could swallow, albeit tentatively, and was moving with me around the barn. It was only at that time that I took the time to call the vet and release the other horses - in that order.

Dr. Lisa arrived and we successfully tubed Cole and administered some warm water. This told me the choke was truly gone. Cole was safe. The worst was over and now it's just the after care.

Due to his age and the fact that his throat is raw, I'm sure, I have him on antibiotics and have him on warm, wet, soggy feed for 5 days. His hay soaks in water overnight and is fed to him in his water barrel. This morning he seemed to be alert and actually a bit angry at being confined!
That's good!

And our dear healer, Babee Joy, spent the night standing next to Cole in the barn for support and company. That girl is a natural care giver. She is amazing. So protective of others - horse and human alike.

There you have it! A typical week at The Farm. Oh yeah, this week also saw the weather go from 84 degrees as the high on Tuesday to a high today of 42 degrees, if we're lucky! We won't go in to all of the cares and preparation for such a radical change with such fragile creatures....
some other time we'll talk about weather and it's impact....right now I need to get out and check on Cole!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,

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