Sunday, January 28, 2007


2006 Facts & Figures

As Ole’ Blue Eyes would croon, “It was a very good year!”

The 2006 State of THE FARM Annual Meeting has just concluded. We met Saturday at Keyes Chevytown for the annual disclosure of the 2006 numbers. And it was clear to all that attended that we are growing and growing fast! Let me share some of our numbers with you…

The increase in donations from The Friends of THE FARM was 58% over that same number in 2005. The increase in Event Net Income was significant as well, primarily because we hosted or participated in twenty-one events in 2006! No wonder it seemed like something was always going on! The Event Net Income increased by 34% over that same number in 2005.

The expenditures, however, increased by only 7% over 2005. In this economy, most organizations would be ecstatic to present that accomplishment! And let me be the first to tell you, it was difficult and sacrifices were made to hold expenses like we did! Especially in a year when fuel costs were doubled and the price of hay increased by leaps and bounds! But we did it and we did it without sacrificing the safety of any person or any cares of The Herd.

As a result, our deficit was reduced by 54% to $17,340. This may still seem significant to you and believe me, it is! The goal is obviously to not have a deficit at all. However, when I comprehend the growth that has occurred in order to achieve all of these numbers, it causes me to pause.

How and where have we grown? Suffice it to say, we’ve grown literally everywhere!

Our network of supporters, whom we call “Friends of THE FARM”, is growing with each event, with each public opening, and with each article in the Dunn County News. Thank you, to the owners and editors for the opportunity to tell our story. We have reached many and are accomplishing our stated goal – to make readers feel something. Whether it be laughter or tears, Refuge Farms encourages us to feel and let it show for all the world to see. And this opportunity to publish our story is a significant factor in our growth and ability to do just that.

Another key factor in our growth is the expansion of our volunteer network, which we call The ‘Other’ Herd. I continue to tell you the naked truth when I tell you that without the volunteers, there is no Refuge Farms. I cannot be more honest than that. One single number supports that statement: In 2006, these volunteers gave more than 6,800 hours of their time to Refuge Farms!

And this group of volunteers is attracting others who are willing to give and care and work hard at spreading the Missions. It is an absolute thrill to host a training class and see our new members become a part of the fold. It is a testimonial to the quality of our volunteers that I receive compliments on the their politeness and their cares from the visiting public. I feel like a mother hen with her chicks as I watch this assembly of people develop and grow. And I am proud of every single one!

Refuge Farms has also grown due to corporate support from local businesses. Whether it be the sponsorship of an event at THE FARM, the hosting of one of our fabulous breakfasts, financial support for a clothes or food drive, or the use of a warm, well-equipped room for a meeting, our ability to reach the public is improved and made a bit easier due to this corporate support. Thank you to Keyes Chevytown for the use of the community room for our annual meeting and to the Spring Valley Library for the space to hold our monthly new volunteer walk-thru's. Until we grow enough to build a new building, we are grateful for the use of these warm, comfortable facilities! And thank you to Jeff and his crew at the Menomonie Applebee’s®! The support of this neighborhood restaurant has been and continues to be significant to us!

And finally, Refuge Farms continues to growth due to faith. Plain and simple, we believe in what we do. We believe that it is a good thing to rescue the diers, the horses with no options, the horses that are sickly or old or too thin for anyone else to want. We find them in those desperate situations where anger and illness and cruelty exist. Taking them from these dark places, we believe that it is good to love them and heal them and care for them as best as we can. And then, we believe it is a good thing to open our doors to share them with anyone who will come. And to share them freely without an admission or membership fee.

We believe that in doing this, we become better people ourselves. And these horses, that out of sheer respect we call ministers, continue to show anyone who comes to see them what respect and forgiveness and trust and playfulness looks like. Each and every day they teach us how to protect one another. They show us how to freely play. They illustrate their trust and respect for a Human Being much like the one that hurt them just a short while ago. And they show us how to forgive and openly love. It is these life lessons, this connection, this magic, that all of our work is for. It is this – when “it” happens – that makes the numbers seem unimportant.

And it is this magic that causes me to rejoice! And to work so hard! For you see, this mission called Refuge Farms is why I was born. I know that. And so for this mission to grow as it has and to reach out as we do and to have the numbers support our growth gives me great affirmation and confidence that we are on the right path. It gives me energy to continue. And knowing that even though the struggle is long from over, I trust that soon we will attain a “black” business profile. And I know that needed doors will continue to open. And the hard work will pay off. And lives will be better because we were here. And a Human Being will heal after being here. How do I know that, you ask? Like I said, it’s that faith thing.

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

To view the 2006 Facts & Figures, press HERE.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


For your viewing...

Do you remember the day? It rained all morning! The farrier was 90 minutes late! The horses were cooperative but muddy, muddy, muddy! Do you remember the day?

Yes, I’m recalling the last remaining hours before the 5th Annual Open Barn Event – our premiere event of the year! And yes, it was raining….right up to 11:15am! And then the clouds broke and everything just happened!

The volunteers of Refuge Farms, true to their nature, just put their minds to “it” and “it” happened! Hay bleachers were uncovered, the auction tent was set up, vendor tables were set up, the beverages were unveiled, gates were taken down, wooden fence lines were disassembled…and all before the first guests arrived at 12 noon!

This was truly magic at it’s best! And to record the event, of course, was Jim D’Angelo of D’Angelo Photography. For the third consecutive year, Jim donated his talented eye and recorded our event with his lenses. And now, they are here for you to see!

Enjoy! Remember! Smell! Feel! And smile all over again! Look at each photo not only for the main subject, but look in the background and see what that holds! Hopefully, you’ll find as much joy in these photos as I do!

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

To view the 5th Annual Open Barn photos by D’Angelo, press HERE.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


The Healing Magic At Refuge Farms

Many say that there is no such thing as serendipity...things just don't happen by chance. If that is true, then my life has been mysteriously guided to a place of grace, and I can only feel how my heart will be forever changed because of it. I pause as I offer complete gratitude for this unexpected fork in the road called Refuge Farms.

When a friend of mine was explaining "this cool place" that I needed to check out, I immediately thought of my little soon to be eight year old friend, Jordan, who has been in love with horses since she was born. You only have to step foot into her bedroom, which is completely filled with horses, to appreciate the passion she has for them. Jordan had a birthday approaching and I emailed Sandy to ask if Refuge Farms would ever let me "sponsor" one of her horses for Jordan? My heart really wanted Jordan to "have" a horse that she could think of and feel was being cared for as "her own".

Sandy was very gracious in her accommodation of my request…even to the point of describing three or four of the horses that seemed like they might be a good match for Jordan. The day arrived when our van full of city folk arrived at Refuge Farms to see what this day would bring for Jordan.

Sandy embraced Jordan as if she had known her forever. She took the time to introduce Jordan to all of the horses; to share their life stories...and yet, it didn't seem as if there were any special connections being made. That is until Jordan met Unit. That was the one! Unit was clearly the one that was to be Jordan's special friend. The "one" that inexplicably spoke to her heart and soul in a way that none of the others had. I will always remember Jordan looking up at me, taking hold of my hand and saying, "Catpooh [her nickname for me], I like this horse...I like Unit. Can I have Unit?"

The rest is history as they say. Jordan then leapt into my arms and began squeezing the stuffing out of me as her lips pressed firmly into my cheek. She held me tightly within that place in her soul that had found a friend that appeared to know and understand her in a way that was obviously unique and necessary to her young and vibrant life. As Jordan squeezed me, I held back tears of joy for this little girl. In that moment, all that I could whisper in her ear was, "Good for you sweetheart...I'm so happy for you."

I left that day with a full heart and also with an awareness that "this cool place" somehow also had a place for me as well. That surprised me. I mean, I was quite taken with the mission of THE FARM, the gifts that had been offered to Jordan on that day, and by the spirit, soul, and utter passion that Sandy has for her "herd". Surprisingly though, I could feel something else that had to do with me as well here at Refuge Farms. I left wondering what it would all mean.

Sandy let me know of the Parelli™ Horsemanship sessions they have at THE FARM and I became eager to participate. By that time, I had developed a strong desire to better understand the heart and souls of these horses. Hence, the Parelli™ trainings were designed to help someone like me...even being the newbie that I am…learn how to think more like a horse and to begin to understand their needs based on their body language and movements. Perfect.

Kathy and Sandy taught me so many things during that first training session. I tend to be an over achiever, so I was quite intent on wanting to learn all that I could that day. At this juncture at Refuge Farms, I was very clear that I just wanted to help these horses offer them safety and love in whatever ways that worked for them. Even if that would only ever mean that I would get really good at shoveling their poop, then by golly that's what I would do to for them!

Honestly, being of the same "human" breed that had hurt them so deeply, there was nothing in me that felt like I wanted a thing from them except an opportunity to extend an eternal apology for what they had endured. So, at that point, I was feeling appreciative that the Parelli™ training would allow me a respectful pathway to fulfill my intention with the horses.

I believe it was that following week that I read in the Refuge Farms Bulletin Board how one of the horses, Big Guy, had come up lame one day and was only really able to walk on three legs. My heart sank. Even though I knew him really just by name, he was part of a family of hearts and souls that had quickly come to matter to me and I could not stand that he was hurting.

If Big Guy was hurting, then I knew Sandy was also hurting and I quickly found the combination of those realities intolerable. So, I found myself sending her an email. A huge part of who I am is an energy healer. Most people are a little more familiar with the language of healing touch. Energy healing is similar to that. The intention is to connect energetically with someone, and then offering oneself up as a channel for whatever is in that person's highest and deepest good for their healing, energetically helping their body release any blockages, pain, etc., and then filling them with the energy that would facilitate their return to balance.

Of course, I certainly had no equine energy healing experience but fully believe in the scientific theory that everything is energy (E=mc2). So, I felt that if energy healing can be so helpful to humans, then maybe it could somehow also help Big Guy. I offered the option to Sandy for her to consider as an "experiment" as I truly did not know if it could help him or not, but my heart was clear in wanting to try if given the opportunity.

Sandy welcomed the opportunity to try energy healing on his leg…hoof…ankle or whatever was the problem because she was worried about what could happen to him if he kept putting his 2,400 lbs. only on his good front leg and the vet was not to arrive for another day. So, I arrived later that night and Sandy let Big Guy's other horse mates out into the pasture and closed the big barn door. It was now just Sandy, Big Guy and myself who had come together in this experiment of love through energy healing.

Of course, being a newbie and a city girl, I naively asked Sandy if she had a bucket for me to sit on. However, the most basic healing tenet is that you meet the client where they are at. So, it became immediately clear to me that to meet Big Guy where he was at meant that I would be following him around as he moved about. It proved to be a different way of utilizing what I had learned in my Parelli™ class. So, that's what we did...I knelt down on his right side with my knees resting in the sawdust and untold "other gifts" doing energy healing with him as he would allow, and then move with him as he continued to search for his place of safety and comfort during this experience.

He found some solace for quite awhile over in the area of the barn where he is used to eating. It was there that the most effective energy releasing was allowed to occur. However, after awhile he became pretty restless. I remember Sandy saying to me that based on his movements, he seemed anxious to her. I shared with her that there had been a significant energy release in his ankle, and I wondered if his anxiousness was about him feeling better somehow? She responded that, "Yes, that could be true because he was now able to put pressure on his leg and was walking. And, she said that when I was over there working on him his left back leg was bent. That meant he was now able to put full weight on both of his front legs."

We decided that the best thing for Big Guy was to let him out into the pasture. As he was leaving, I said to Sandy that from an energy perspective his ankle was not yet in balance and that I wished I could have more time to work with him. Even though he was now able to walk on that leg, I knew that it was within that place of balance that I knew he would have the greatest opportunity to innately heal himself in a more sustainable way.

Big Guy indeed left for the pasture, only to quickly return… on his own. He walked back into the barn and stood by the side of the door with his big head looking out towards the pasture while the rest of his body remained in the barn. Sandy agreed that I could resume the energy work with him. He just stood there very calmly for the next 5-10 minutes while his ankle was able to come gently back into balance.

Once balance had been achieved, Sandy removed his halter and he was free to again leave the barn. But...he didn't. He just stood there in a very loving, patient and steadfast way. I was so intrigued that he wasn't leaving that I just leaned my body against the opposite door frame and just stood with looking at him...him looking at me...

Sandy was off to let the blind horses into the pasture and to do countless other chores. I remained with Big Guy in some sort of unspoken solidarity and gratitude for the opportunity he had given me to work with him. It wasn't too long before I became aware of this thought running through my head, "Really...You will let me hold you?" With some admitted trepidation, I walked over to this Big Guy and slowly leaned my body fully into him, laid my head on that huge barrel chest, and stretched both arms up as far and wide as I could reach on his back and just held him for several minutes. I remember patting him on his back with my left hand. I think I was trying to assure myself, as well as him, that all was well in these moments of what felt like sacred shared space with one another. Honestly, as I stood in this place of grace with him I wondered who was actually hugging whom? I could feel the love and gratitude he was extending to me and was completely humbled by the generosity of his heart...and his willingness to forgive a human...

Several minutes passed and I began to feel that it was time to part. I withdrew my arms from him. I once again thanked him, told him I loved him, kissed him on his neck and asked that his body hang onto the balance for as long as was possible. I then said to him, "Okay, you go eat now." And, he left…but, not without taking my heart with him.

That weekend I was able to offer him some additional energy healing after the Halloween Event. Energy healing isn't a common thing for most people, and there were a number of people observing us in the barn. Sandy was with them standing behind the railing. In the first energy healing session with Big Guy, he was very comfortable with me kneeling beside his sore right ankle to work on him. This day, however, he was very clear that that wasn't where he wanted me to be. He wanted me kneeling right in front of those huge legs and hunched underneath that big towering head of his.

I admitted to Sandy later on that I knew how potentially vulnerable I was in that position with him. But, energetically, I really felt like that was exactly where he was asking me to be with him. And, despite the uncertainty I felt, I also had the comfort of knowing Sandy was close by and would intervene at her first sense of any danger. But, I felt awkwardly safe because I was feeling such strong energy from him that that was exactly where he was asking me to be. I let myself just trust that energy...trusted his body language, and dismissed any other competing thoughts.

I later asked Sandy if horses ever test humans to trust them. She shared with me that, "Horses are simply too honest to play games. They either trust us or not. Every time we approach them. Any of them can be very dangerous and life threatening. As they feel we can be to them. It's a mutual respect thing," she said to me.

I am slowly learning how true her words are. Unbeknown to Sandy, however, there was a personal reason why I had asked that trust question of her. I was keenly aware that I was feeling something else about this experience with Big Guy. On the Refuge Farms website, Sandy has a Message link where she has written a poem called, At the End of the Day. The words of one of the paragraphs seem particularly profound to me now because of Big Guy:

So, while my sole intention was to just offer energy healing and love to this amazing horse called Big Guy, I feel as if I was the one who also received a gift of healing from him on that day. I do believe that he was testing me…challenging me...asking if he could teach me something. He patiently, but very intentionally, challenged me to step into a particularly deep storyline of my own life that makes trusting others so difficult. I felt like he was asking me to TRUST being that vulnerable with him…this huge giant…. and to TRUST in the unspoken lesson he was sharing with me energetically…Trusting that in those quiet moments together that he was somehow teaching me something anew about this old wound... Could it really be that in spite of his own deep wounds, both physically and emotionally...and in spite of the fact that my intention was to be of service to him, that his heart was simultaneously extending to me a pathway towards healing a part of my own heart as well?

How will I ever know for sure? I guess time will be the true test. I am keenly aware of how his energy felt and that he was trying to communicate something to me. I need more time to process and integrate the symbolism of that shared time with this Big Healer. Time to challenge myself, as he had challenged me, to take more risks and to trust the truths within the energy he shared with me...Time to sit in complete awe of the capacities that still exist within the heart and soul of this particular wounded healer named Big Guy…Time to appreciate the unintentional mission of Refuge Farms which creates opportunities for hearts to connect...even for a small girl from another member of the "herd".

Through my tears of gratitude, I offer my heartfelt respect and thanks to Sandy for offering me this unforeseen gift and for the fortitude it takes for her to daily live out her soul help others. And, I offer my unspeakable gratitude to Big Guy for his patience, determination of spirit, and for his heart. Gratitude for his willingness to let me be of service to him...his willingness to forgive...his ability to teach even this newbie, that forgiveness at deep levels is still possible. Gratitude for all the gifts of healing that had been mutually experienced...

Thanks to Sandy the horses come to Refuge Farms to heal, be cared for and to be loved for the rest of their lives. But, magically...mysteriously...and with complete grace...they also come with the understanding and wisdom of how to love and to heal even those wounds that lie within the human soul. How serendipitous...


Sunday, January 07, 2007



You know, I’ve told you before that I am a rich woman. I’ve told you before that I am blessed to be surrounded with like-souls who also treasure life and caring for all creatures. I’ve told you how lucky I am to simply be the caretaker of a herd of rejected horses and in that, countless people have been brought in to my life enriching it and me beyond any of my wildest hopes or expectations.

Yesterday, I saw that even I had underestimated my wealth.

It was to be just a quiet birthday lunch. Five of us women just taking the time to sit down and eat and laugh and talk and then go on our ways. Nothing fancy. Just some time “with people who care about you” she had said. Cathi had arranged it with me and I said sure. A quiet lunch would be nice. Okay.

Cathi and Sabra arrived and we chatted and then wandered out to the barns. When you aren’t here everyday, I know that just seeing them up close – even in your good clothes - is important. Every chance to touch them is still important for me and I see them twice a day, every single day! Knowing the peace such visits can bring, we spent the time to touch The Herd before leaving for lunch.

Where are we going? Pizza Hut®! Good! I feel like pizza! Good choice, whoever made the choice!

As we pulled in to the parking lot I - ever suspicious - checked out the cars to see if I could recognize any of them…I see Lynn’s van – was expecting that – but no other vehicles jump out at me. I don’t see LB’s taxi. Nope. Don’t see Toni’s car. Nope. I relaxed and meandered in to the restaurant. The hostess asked us, as we walked in, if we were “with the birthday party?”

I stopped. Cathi grabbed my sleeve and dragged me forward. AH HA!!! Around the corner we went and a whole herd of people were there surrounded by balloons and cupcakes with candles and they were standing and singing the Refuge Farms Birthday Song! And I was thrilled!

Deep down, you know, birthdays are a very special day to people and it is always a thrill when others take the time to recognize Your Special Day. Lately, though, I have shunned the day and just gone about my business. Almost trying to ignore The Day. Not because of the age thing. Heavens, no! I age every single day and I’m not an age kind of person. In fact, if you ask me my age, I have to stop and do the math. It’s just a number to me.

No, you see, the days around my birthday are those “anniversaries of life” days. My sister was buried on my birthday back in 1993. I can still smell the flowers. And it seems like just yesterday that Andy was buried on my birthday. I can still feel the bitter cold of that January. And so the days leading up to my birthday are usually ones where I tend to be quiet. And with a migraine. Usually, I tend to pull inside myself. Usually.

But not this year! This year we were going to have a party! And there would be plenty of noise!!! And I was thrilled!

Toni was there (where had she parked?). Luretta was there (didn’t see her car with custom plates, either!). Linda and Mike were there! Frannie and Heidi were there! Lynn and Kathy were there – those two I was expecting…. and LB was there (where was her taxi?). And of course, Cathi and Sabra sat there looking like they had just swallowed birds. These two with the task of getting me there without raising suspicions. Maybe that was why Cathi was a bit chatty, eh???

Tables had been pulled together and so this group of friends and I sat down to a lunch full of laughter and fun. And yes, I was thrilled!

Presents? Yup, there were presents. And it all started off with a bouquet of roses. Wait - I need to explain! These roses are almost three feet high! And their leafy stems are a lovely lime green and at least three inches around. And each rose is topped with a center of white or pink or red. And there’s a ladybug on the band holding the bouquet together. And this ladybug is at least three inches long and she’s fat! What, you say? How could this be?

You see Mike has a talent of creating things with his hands. My bouquet of roses is out of balloons – and I love it! It is standing in my kitchen in a pail (!) for a vase and these bobbing roses literally fill the room! And another benefit? The bouquet has the cats occupied and quiet as they sit and stare trying to figure out just what these things are!!! Now, I am really thrilled!

And there were cards. Even before yesterday, I was receiving electronic cards – beautiful ones! and emails with birthday wishes….And then yesterday there were funny cards and serious cards and even a card for me to “red pen”! There was a cedar, hand-turned pen and keybob – absolutely exquisite! There was a January angel complete with my birthstone, a gift card to the health food store, new shoes – Mama has new shoes! And there was a precious mouse pad made from a picture of Lady-the-Dog and me in the truck last summer, and a perfect Christmas ornament of a young girl with her horse. All this for a woman who says ‘no presents!” But I was thrilled!

We settled down a bit and then someone handed me a fancy new cell phone. “Just say hello”, Lynn said. Obediently, I say, “Hello?”

“Hey! Happy Birthday”, Vincent said from Louisiana. These people had thought of everything! Even Vincent was with us! Now, I won’t mention anything about V’s card and his reference to the aura in the night sky up here in Wisconsin and how, maybe, that aura was due to candle (birthday candle?) power!! Nope, we won’t mention that, now will we, V? No, we wouldn’t even think of putting it out on the bulletin board for the whole world to see, now would we, V?

We settled in a bit and ordered our lunch. And then in walked Deb! What a surprise! These people had truly thought of everything! And I was smiling and laughing and I was thrilled!

Dinner was great and the conversation was lively, to put it mildly. Plates of cupcakes were bundled together and I was asked to blow out all the candles. Made a really good effort, that's for sure! Was fodder for a good laugh, too!!! Aging has a way of changing your life actions a bit…. And I find that I can either laugh with it or worry about it. I choose to laugh at myself and my aging process…. and I try to bring a few others along with me. It gives me great pleasure to create laughter with these friends of mine.

And then, true to the spirit of Refuge Farms, LB took the remaining cupcakes and offered them to the children at the tables in the restaurant. This simple, unselfish gesture caused me to sit and reflect for a moment.

These people give of their hearts and their hands and their minds all year long. They give and they give and they give. And this surprise birthday party was fun for them. But people! It was them giving again! They gave of their time on a Saturday and of their hearts with their cards and their gifts. And they gave me hugs. That was the very best part of all. Warm, big, bear hugs. Their laughter was contagious! And I sat there and just soaked it all in…. And truly, I was thrilled!

Like I keep telling you – I am a rich woman, indeed. To be blessed and surrounded with caregivers like this. They care for the horses. They care for the barns and the yard. They care for each other. And they care for me. I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams! I am loved and I can feel it! Lucky, lucky me… And I sit here with my three-foot bouquet of roses and my cards taped to the clock and I smile. I am rich. Truly, honestly wealthy. And I am thrilled! Way down deep inside.

May you be so lucky and wealthy to have such people in your life. Trust me – if you just allow them, they will wrap their arms around you and hug you and hold you up when you need them the most. And they will surround you with their care and their safety will allow you to let the pain move on. You will realize that you can remember the event and respect the event, but not mourn the event every single year. You can allow yourself - with a free heart - to acknowledge that it is time to move on. That even these “life anniversary days” are days to celebrate! And that it is okay and totally good for you to not spend these days withdrawn or all alone. That remembering is good. But being happy every single day is better. Trust those that care for you and allow them to give to you. Celebrate with them! And you will be thrilled!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day – especially the “Life Anniversary Days”,
A Very Wealthy Sandy and The Herd

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