Wednesday, December 28, 2005


A Message from Kathy...

I will, with the author's permission, only cut and paste an email message I received from Kathy, our Operations Manager, regarding Christmas day at THE FARM. The message is clear. Our purpose is in her heart. WE are the ones blessed to have her amongst us. Read on and enjoy...

From: Kathy
To: Tara,
Subject: Thank You
Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 01:17:15 AM

After I got home I started to do odd jobs about the house and all the time was thinking of my day and what a GREAT DAY it was. Who could ask for any more? I get to see a woman excited about barn clothes and even more excited about her side kick, Lady-The-Dog, getting new legs. Then I go to a family gathering and laugh and watch the kids have fun and feel whole. I then venture back to THE FARM and to my other
family made up of cats, a dog, horses and two wonderful people. Here, too, I laugh and watch the animals enjoy their life on THE FARM and I feel whole and at peace. I then get home and read a card from my great nephew - I know his mom wrote it but again I feel on top of the world. It reads, "You Love Horses and so do I, No wonder you're terrific in my eyes! You are a very special person and I'm blessed to call you my Great Aunt! Love Always, Cameron". So I cry but as I'm crying I think where would I be with out you, Sandy Gilbert? What would my life be like without Refuge Farms? Because then, too, I would not have met Tara who makes me feel young! Because with you, Tara, I don't feel my age emotionally. You both add much to my life. With you two I have a purpose. I thank Refuge Farms, "home of Horses Helping..." and God for leading me down this path.

Love You Both,

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd bringing in 2006 with Peace all around us!

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Out of pure and honest respect.....

When Vincent, our Webmaster, and I talked on the telephone last evening, I told him I would not enter a blog until after Christmas Day. It was my intention, I said, to not upset anyone's Christmas. That after Sunday would be soon enough to write.

This morning, I awakened a bit before 3am and knew in my heart that I must write today. I must tell you of the news. I must write out of true and honest respect for one of our greatest ministers. Ever. DukeDuke.

DukeDuke crossed over the Rainbow Bridge yesterday.

Now I could tell you of the colic and all of our attempts to help him through it, but what you really need to know is this:
It was a damp and chilly weekday in December. Christmas music is playing loudly in every little town's main street, including Spring Valley. Everyone is running their last minute errands. There's that aire of excitment around us all.

DukeDuke waited until the sunshine broke brilliantly through the clouds - so bright was the sunshine that I remember squinting in trying to adjust to the sudden change. It had been cloudy all day long and now, in an instant, the sun was at it's brightest and the white snow covering the ground was illuminated to the brightest I have seen, it seemed.

At that moment, when the skies opened and revealed the sun, our minister stepped across that bridge. He left behind many of us who cry for him but we already are talking of his gentleness, his patience, his trust, and his impact.

DukeDuke is a cornerstone to us. He is the front horse of our logo. DukeDuke is the one we take when there will be noise and traffic and children and wheelchairs and who knows what. DukeDuke is bomb-proof.

DukeDuke teaches us to slow down and enjoy the moment. In fact, when Tara and I were loading Jimmer and DukeDuke at 5am the morning of the Applebee's breakfast just a couple of days ago, I commented again to Tara that "DukeDuke forces me to slow down - that horse just does not hurry for anyone or anything! And that is a good thing, Tara. He's teaching us a good lesson."

And earlier today I had a conversation with Jimmer. I found him this morning standing at the fence line looking over at the pasture searching for DukeDuke. So I went out to Jimmer and told him of DukeDuke's crossing and that now Jimmer needed to be the cornerstone. And I told Jimmer it was okay to be sad and a bit scared.

And to try to remember that it's Christmas, Jimmer. We must be grateful for the gift that was DukeDuke. That skinny, wormy, blind horse that came to me just because I couldn't imagine being blind and going in to a kill pen. That horse who set the pace and the mood of the place.

DukeDuke, the gift, who was here to welcome him and Slim and Hannah and RedMan and Joseph and Bonita and Cole and Blaise and Lanna and Beauty and Josephina and all the others that have come since. DukeDuke, the rock. The foundation.

And I told Jimmer something else this morning. Through my tears I told Jimmer that we must be happy for DukeDuke - because now he can see! Now those scarred eyes were whole again and he can see the very sunshine that he traveled to.

Bless you, DukeDuke. I am so very grateful to have known you. And I will carry your story on. Forever.

Blessings on this day,
Sandy and a little bit smaller of a Herd

Saturday, December 17, 2005


And so this is Christmas....

As I sit here one full week before that big Christmas Day, I will try to tell you about least Christmas from my little corner of this big world.

The song that continues to run through my head is a George Harrison song. In this song, George says:

                   And so this is Christmas
                   Another year gone
                   The near and the dear ones
                   We've only begun
                   And so this is Christmas
                   And what have we done?

In my mind I remember and smile from the love of a good, solid family. The support of friends who care for me the whole year long - not just when the spirit moves them. The energy that comes with a purpose in my life. The peace that comes from giving even when I am feeling dog tired.

Privately, usually on Christmas Eve, I will spend time remembering Christmas as a child. I will remember watching Dad put the lights on the tree we had just cut from the back woods. The tree always had a bald spot. It was always just a bit too tall for our living room. And it was always just a bit too full so it forced you to walk around the tree to get to the kitchen. But that tree would be nailed in to the Christmas Tree stand and Dad would put the lights on and the transformation would begin. No one but Dad put the lights on the tree. That was his job. Except after he passed. Then Donna, my big sister, took over the priviledge.

Once the lights were on, it was the job of us two girls to get all of the bulbs and ornaments arranged just so. And with each ornament we would recall the "who" or "when" or "where" and so this part of the decorating could take quite a bit of time. But always, this ornament hanging created a sense of history. I have roots and they are founded in those ornaments and that family hanging those ornaments together.

Then the tinsel! Oh, the tinsel! We would seperate that aluminimum stuff for hours and hang it just perfectly! Never in half! Oh, heavens, no! Always by one end to get the most dramatic drop and reflection from those big colored lights! And we must hang the tinsel in the "empty" spots of the tree to make that lopsided, too tall, too big, balding pine become just the perfect tree again this year.

Tinsel would be hung all the way up to Christmas Eve. There was always a spot that needed a bit more...always an area to fill was calming and serene to hang the tinsel. We had Christmas music from Tennessee Ernie Ford playing on the Hi-Fi and I was happy. Hot chocolate would be served and maybe, just maybe, Rusty the dog could come in to the kitchen for a bit to share in the celebration!

Christmas Eve was difficult. The presents were arranged so neatly under the tree and my family was traditional in waiting until Christmas morning to open our gifts. So, as a young child, I would fidget on Christmas Eve - right through the worship service and the milktoast Mom would make when we got home...right through the entire night until i just couldn't stand it any longer! Then downstairs I would fly and awake Mom and Dad and scream "Merry Christmas!" at the top of my lungs! It may have only been 3am, but up we got and to the tree we went!

Glory be! There were more presents! I was jumping up and down with that young child excitement and eager to begin. But of course, I must first read the note that Santa had left me. He thanked me for the cookies and milk and told me that yes, I had been a good girl - he had expected nothing less from me. Then he told me to enjoy the gifts he had brought me and to "remember to share, Sandy".

Gift opening was another tradition in my household. Only one person would open a gift at a time. And we would also rotate the distribution of the gifts, so everyone had "equal stage time". Early on, you see, my Mom was teaching me patience....

If Rusty was lucky, he would end up on the kitchen floor again to open his present. Yup, Rusty got a rawhide bone that I had paritially opened so he could smell it and then I would most certainly take a half a roll of film of his opening that package! Poor dog!

Then after the gifts, Mom would fix this fantastic breakfast and most of us would fall asleep on the couch after eating. We would spend the afternoon cleaning up the bits of paper and tape and, of course, saving all of the bows for next year!

Then, when everything was ready, I was charged with going through my presents and selecting those that I would give to others who didn't have a pile of presents like I had. These presents found their way to neighbors, to hospital wards, to children's homes, and sometimes I wasn't sure where they went, but I knew that some other little girl would be thrilled with the present that I had selected for her.

Some years I would select a doll. Other years a warm pair of mittens. But each year I would fill a bag of gifts that I would pass on. Some years I was most resistant - but the bag would be filled.

On Christmas night, Dad would eat his traditional oyster stew and I would cringe just at the sight of it...butter and pepper in that milk with those things floating in it! But I sat right next to him as he savored his meal from a TV tray in the living room. Right next to the tree that now was perfect. Absolutely perfect. No bald spots. No lopsidedness. No excess width. It was always just perfect on Christmas night.

And so this was Christmas.....This is were my foundations were formed. I am blessed to have been raised in such a good and solid family that loved me and taught me to share. What a gift that has proved to be for me in my life's travels!

And so this is Christmas....and I wish for you the same feelings of love from those that love you. I wish you friends that care for you all the year long. And may you know the energy that comes from having and knowing a purpose to your life. But most of all, I wish you peace. True peace. The inner peace that comes only when you can reach outside of yourself and give...give when you are dog tired. And then give a bit more. You'll be amazed at how peaceful your soul will become.

May the true Christmas find you this year,
Sandy and The Herd

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


The real Mr. & Mrs. Claus!!!

Last Saturday, December 3rd, during our first snow storm of the season and in low teen temperatures (brrrr!), Refuge Farms was graced with the presence of Mr. & Mrs. Claus...the real Mr. & Mrs. Claus.

Now, these two were not just some neighbors dressed in red with fake beards and hair. No way! These two were right from the North Pole! In fact, when contacted by them earlier in the season to confirm their appearance, I received a voice mail message "from the North Pole..."! These two are the real Mr. & Mrs. Claus! Pulling the beard of Mr. Claus will get a holler of pain - it and he are real!!!

Throughout their time with us came children of all ages - from babies to seniors. All were given time with Mr. Claus to discuss their needs and wishes. Of course, Mr. Claus is a wise, wise man and many times he saw in to the visitor's eyes and hearts more than the guest ever suspected. It was a visit of fun but surprisingly touching for some of us older children....Oh, the power of the season...

Mrs. Claus was always close by and made sure everyone received a special candy cane right from her basket along with a special greeting for a "Merry Christmas!". We took pictures for the guests to take with them and we had hot chocolate and cookies - just tons of cheer for all to soak in!

And the event was in the barn - right where it should be, according to yours truly. You see, watching the entire "do" and learning how we care for one another at this place was none other than Big Guy, our newest minister. And I saw things in this creature that day that left me in total awe and respect of him.

Earlier in the morning, I had ventured out in to the pasture to retrieve Big Guy and once again, he lifted that enormous head of his and left the hay and the rest of the herd to walk toward me and meet me. He lowered that 8 foot high head and allowed me to halter him. We then walked quietly up to the barn.

Doesn't sound like much, I know, but I try to remember that only a few days ago this big horse was standing - trembling, I'm sure - in the woods with chaos all around him. A human came and "rescued" him then, too, and hurt him - body and heart alike.

When other humans finally appeared, he was whisked away from his home and brought to a strange place with new humans and new animals around him...different feed and different barn...! If that were me, I'd be scared and flighty and twitching and certainly wouldn't calmly do anything!!! The trust this horse gives off is remarkable! The gentleness was evident to all of us all day long.

We came up to the barn and I stopped Big Guy at the doorway so he could survey his new surroundings. The barn had been decked out with a Christmas tree, straw bales were lined up to make a sidewalk, there was music and colored lights hanging from gates and the shoeing rack....It really did not appear to be the barn although his sense of direction and habit told him it was..??

Once again, no bolting away.....instead he scanned the entire building and then I quietly took him in to a stall area to spend the day.

Big Guy spent the day looking around and every once in a while taking a mouth of hay. I had been expecting that the backside of his body would be the main thing we would see all day as it would be the hay that he would undoubtedly go after!!! But once again, I am proven wrong. Big Guy spent the day watching us. Absorbing us. Being pet and looked at by us. And looking right back.

At one point early in the morning, a child entered the barn. Big Guy caught sight of that "little person" and the large eyes of this horse were glued - literally fixed - on that child. When the child went to Mr. Claus, so did Big Guy's eyes. When the child went for hot chocolate, so did Big Guy's eyes. When the child went to pet Babee Joy, so did Big Guy's eyes.

Some of us were watching this and we all concluded that Big Guy was seeing his first child! Studying this "little person" to see just what "it" was. Total curiousity and interest...Amazing. Again.

So the real Mr. & Mrs. Claus once again brought the HO!HO!HO! of the season and the excitement of the holiday with them. And once again, they brought us together and caused us to stand quietly so we could observe something that's with us every day of the year - the life lessons found in the eyes and hearts of the children and these glorious animals, if only we stop long enough to look!

One lady, visiting us for the first time that day, said to me as she left, "Maybe here I can find my faith in humanity again. Here in the eyes of Big Guy." We hugged.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and the Herd

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