Saturday, April 22, 2006


An Eagle has landed!

Have you ever had that feeling in your gut that you're just about to take a huge step forward? You know, that intuition that tells you to hang on! Things are really going to start moving? And soon?

Now, I'm not talking just about wishful thinking here. No, I'm talking about the knowledge, that sure feeling, that comes with preparedness and planning and hard work and the faith that your opportunity is just around the corner!

Well, that is exactly how I feel about Refuge Farms. And last Saturday, I got one of those direct spiritual affirmations that I'm heading down the right path....And I had better be ready! Because we are about to take off!

It was early Saturday afternoon and some of us were hanging around THE FARM after our Spring Breakfast at Applebee's®. We were all smiling because we had just had a great event at a great supporter, the Menomonie Applebee's®.

The manager of the store, Jeff, has extended his support to us in a most generous way. And we love the chance to serve breakfast and catch up with all of our friends! This time we even had a couple of our horse ministers and Lady-The-Dog at the front door to the restaurant stationed as official greeters!

Everyone - even the horses and LTD - were in their Easter Bonnets! What a sight! Even better, was the fact that "we got slammed"! People were standing waiting for tables! Wonderful! At least for me! (You see, I wasn't in the kitchen!!!)

So, back at THE FARM, we were all still happy and exclaiming over the success of our breakfast and yes, a couple of us were complaining that our feet hurt...but with smiles!

Walking to the barn, I was stopped in my tracks. At the top of my voice I hollered for Kathy and Suzie the Gardener to "Come! Quick!" Sensing something was wrong, Kathy came flying with Suzie right behind her.

"Look! In the pasture! An eagle!"

And yes, there in the pasture - not more than 100 feet in front of us - was a large, male bald eagle searching the hay pile for a snack. Glorious in his white head, golden beak, and white tail feathers! He seemed so calm. He seemed so "right".

My heritage came flooding back to me.... You see, the American Indian believes that an eagle landing on your teepee brings the person who lives in that teepee one year of good fortune. "Well", I told everyone, "I consider my pasture my teepee!"

That eagle sat there for the longest time. And when he did move, he simply lifted himself up and moved to a fence post. What ease he moved with! His wings were enormous! So confident! And so very graceful! I certainly wouldn't want to be a mouse in my pasture today!!

Once again, I took his visit to be a symbol of good fortune. He stayed with us for over an hour. I looked and talked to him. Asking him to return..Please! And finally, he said good-bye and with awesome ease, simply lifted himself in to the air and moved over the hill.

Now some of you are saying, "It's just a bird, Sandy! Really!"

Yup. Just a bird. A huge bird with majestic wings! With a snow white head! Purely golden beak! And eyes that can see for miles! Talons that could kill a decent sized animal! And this "bird" chose my pasture to rest!!!

Sorry. But I refuse to say this creature is just a bird. He is reward! He is optimism! He is confidence and faith! He is excitement and anticipation! He is the message that good fortune is coming to Refuge Farms!

Call it whatever you will call it. I choose to believe my ancestors and live my life having a connection with other living creatures. And to see such an animal so spectacular and so close! And to have him rest on your teepee! It just must be an omen. A symbol that our work is paying off. That yes, we are making a difference!

We are making a difference on a little hill in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. With a herd of rejected horses. And a team of volunteers that will tackle anything put in front of them! And the faith that what we do matters. That this little corner of this huge world is better off because we believe in what we do. And what we stand for. And what we have to offer.

So - an Eagle has landed on my teepee! I am blessed! And as ready as I can be!!!

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

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Run hard and run fast, Halima!

This is a recent picture of our Operations Manger, Kathy, and Halima, an elderly Arab mare who has been at THE FARM since the fall of 2001.

Halima came to us because her first and only baby was too large for her slender hips and so the baby's birth caused permanent damage to her hips. Also, the owners had started to notice "lumps" everywhere and so no longer had a need for her. Hence, her life at Refuge Farms began on a cold, drizzly day in October, 2001.

Once out of the trailer and in to a stall at THE FARM, I removed the blanket she had been wearing. What lay beneath that blanket was so very, very sad. Halima was just a little skeleton and, without that blanket, immediately shivering from the cold. With no body fat to keep her warm, the blanket had been a necessity.....Now I understood why a winter blanket on a horse in October.....!

Kathy loved Halima right from their first meeting. You see, Halima talked. Yes, I know that's a horse in the picture with Kathy, but that horse talked. All you had to do was walk in her general direction with a bucket - a bucket of any kind! - and that little mare talked and talked and talked! And the closer you got the louder she got!

Kids always, always laughed at the sound of her talking! And we many times would use Halima's talking talents to "break the ice" with someone who was a bit unsure of getting so close to a horse. Halima was a good ice breaker.

Grown-ups would smile at her talking, too. But you could see the faces of the adults register the concern at sight of those lumps. Almost a wince. Many of the lumps were growing and very obvious to an adult. Isn't it interesting that the innocence of children caused those lumps to not even be a part of the conversation? The children didn't even see those bumpy, ugly lumps. To children and to Halima herself, the lumps were just a part of her - nothing to wince or grimace about! Halima treated her lumps like she treated her nose - a most important lesson to teach all of us, don't you think?

Halima spent a glorious afternoon of sun and rest in the corral yesterday. And when it was time to go back to the barn for the evening, there was an even nicer walk with Kathy. Nibbling a bit of green grass here....a bit more over there....looking over here....looking a bit over there.... In no particular hurry, but instead enjoying the company of Kathy and the warmth at the close of a beautiful spring day. Halima was being spoiled and she was soaking every bit of it in... not wasting a morsel of it! She knew she was loved here. She was well cared for here. And she was told that she was very special, indeed.

Once in her stall, Halima laid down and crossed over. The entire act was peaceful and I know in my heart that Halima was ready to move on. And so she did. At her own time and at her own place. She chose when and where and she did so knowing that she was loved and well cared for.

And I know, too, that already she is running and kicking and using those hips that failed her so very long ago! She is whole again and chasing big DukeDuke like he's never been chased before! And both of them are smiling! Smiling at each other. Smiling down on The Herd here below. And smiling down on us.

Oh, Halima, the joy of knowing you! The comfort your voice brought to us for so long! The laughter you caused with your talking! And now, the peace that you give with such a gentle and calm crossing. Thank you, my little Halima, for all you gave and taught in your little bit of time with us. Run hard and run fast, Halima!

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

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