Sunday, September 30, 2007


That Blue Plastic Bucket

On this warm but cloudy Sunday morning, I spent an extraordinarily long time in the barns. I cleaned barns and swept around the shoeing bed. I pulled all of the sawdust away from the walls to the center of the barn. I emptied wheelbarrows and practiced walking on four feet with the new little filly. I cleaned buckets. And I sat for a while just watching The Herd as they dozed after their breakfast. I allowed the filly to wander around the yard and to continue her searching for every single blade of tasty grass that she could find to hoover.

The birds are flocking up and the geese and ducks are practicing overhead in their still uneven formations. Little Man waited patiently for me in the driveway as I putzed for hours. When the telephone rang, I answered it and found it to be one of The ‘Other’ Herd just checking on me and updating me on plans and accomplishments. I was feeling no hurry to leave the barns this morning. However, I had come to a very important conclusion as I finally did head up to the house.

Just as I was closing the door, I took a look up in to the rafters of the barn and said out loud, “How rich am I!

And I say this with all the sincerity and honesty of any other time I have expressed my wonder at what surrounds me. And even this week, the last week of September 2007. This week in particular, I am a bit uneasy unlike any uneasiness I have ever felt since Refuge Farms was formed. You see, Thursday of this week I was told that I was done. This was my last day at my job. Without warning, I was “downsized”. I am unemployed.

The economy all over the country is causing many people to experience the same feelings that I just felt and am still feeling. The panic and knots in your stomach. The question that keeps repeating itself in your head: “Why? I was doing my job and no one had told me I was doing it poorly or unsatisfactorily, so why?” The loss of purpose when on a weekday morning you awaken to realize you can take your time – you don’t have a desk waiting for you at work. The worry about the customers you left without begin able to explain. Wondering what they are being told and do they know you well enough to know you wouldn’t just walk out on your own? But more than anything, the worry about your dependents. How will I feed them? What if they get sick?

My banker is a most understanding man, thank heavens! I visited with him Friday afternoon and told him the news. We agreed on a plan and I am working that plan. My throbbing headache began to ease a bit after that meeting with my banker. I am blessed to have someone so understanding and willing to work with me as the representative of the company that holds the paper on this property. Now, it’s in my lap to work the plan and keep him posted.

Just earlier this week, I took a telephone call from a woman who had just lost her job, too. She was worried about winter coming and her ability to feed her two horses and herself. I explained our adoption program and told her Refuge Farms would do its best if it came to the point that she needed to surrender her horses. The thought of it hurt her deeply, I could hear that, but she loved them more than she loved owning them. And so we said good-bye with a plan in place. Now she just needs to work her plan and keep me posted. And even more now, I can relate to her anxiety and her tears.

Life is a challenge at times. Life has curves in the road that we can’t see around and we are afraid of boulders or trees in the road ahead. Life can be stressful and worrisome. Life can make you lose sleep and somehow take your drive to accomplish things away. For a while anyhow.

But as I told some guests at THE FARM yesterday afternoon, this is where I am supposed to be and here is where I will stay. Don’t know how just now. Can’t seem to find the answers yet, but I’m here. And I have faith.

Like that bucket in your barn, eh?” was the response from my guests. “Exactly like the blue bucket in the barn,” was my response.

That blue plastic feed bucket hanging in the barn from the center rafter has black electrical tape on the outside.
The tape makes big, block letters on the front of the bucket that say “F A I T H”. That bucket has hung in the barn for the crossing of Andy. For the crossing of Jerry, the Roan Horse. And directly over Big Guy as he crossed. That bucket has hung in the barn when I opened the feed bins praying that there would be enough feed left in the bottom for one more round of feedings - and not having a clue where the next bag of feed would come from. That bucket has hung in that barn on the freezing morning when I came in to find Big Jim just taking his last breath and my treasured time as I lay next to his face to feel his warm breath leave him. That bucket hung in the barn as I sang to ease Miss Bonita on her journey. A journey she did not want to take but knew, in her heart, that it was the journey destined for her and that when she was “there”, she would be whole and at peace.

And so now that very same Faith Bucket hangs in the barn as I stand under it wondering how, just how, I will manage to hold it together. No job. No health insurance. No paycheck. No house payment. Dear Lord! It is so easy to get overwhelmed and reduce yourself to a crying bundle. But that simple blue plastic bucket holds me together. That and our mission statement.

For in that mission statement it says, “I will watch over.” And usually, I explain that as me watching over them. Me being the caregiver and the guardian and protector and the healer of The Herd. Me watching over them.

But today, especially, I feel that some Power is watching over me. A Power much bigger and much more knowing than I. A Power that is encouraging me to have faith and trust in the things that I cannot see. A Power that says I am watching over you and them, Sandy. Work your plan. Have faith. Be true to your faith. Work your plan.

And so this Sunday morning, I am wealthy, indeed! I have friends who are like family. I have a support system that will catch me if I start to stumble. I have a Power watching over me. And I have a simple blue plastic bucket hanging in my barn that reminds me to have faith. To do good works and remember that those works do not go unnoticed. That what goes around comes around, just like the circle of our logo. And that faith will calm me and help me to work my plan. Have faith that what is on the other side of this curve in life’s road is good and solid and will be enough.

Scary times. And yes, I’m scared. I’m worried. And I’m not sleeping very well. And my head hurts. But you know what? I am safe. The Herd is safe. And with the arms of the Friends of THE FARM around us both, we will stay safe. Those arms and that blue plastic bucket hanging from the rafters of the barn.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The Gift IS Volunteering

"Back in the day", when I was younger and still loving the adrenaline rush that only competitive sports could fulfill in my soul, one of the activities I participated in was scuba diving. Besides all of its adventure, what I remember being most profoundly impacted by was an overwhelming awareness of, "I never knew..."

I never knew it was possible at those depths to see the colors of the rainbow in such splendor. Before experiencing it myself, no one would have been able to convince me of the unbelievable size of the animals that live in the ocean and the gentle way they maneuvered through their environment. Far below what is seen on the surface of the water, there existed a deep peacefulness, and at the same time such a tremendous sense of power that unpredictably awaited me in the depths of the ocean blue. For as dangerous as the sport can be, I was impacted by how that huge and powerful container of water could make me feel as if I was being held safely in a force much greater than myself.

Everything I experienced in the depths of the ocean felt very intentional and of tremendous value. I couldn't believe all of those amazing gifts existed without my having any prior knowledge of them. Without my personal challenge of wanting to learn something do something different, I would have missed this opportunity to learn so much and do something that ended up leaving such an important imprint on my life.

These are the same feelings that I find myself experiencing at Refuge Farms. From my very first visit to THE FARM, I could feel that there was this same elusive something for me to explore here. Since becoming a volunteer here, I have once again felt that old familiar awareness of, "I never knew..." And, without this volunteer opportunity, I would have never experienced the difference both Herds are making in my life.

The depths from which it is possible to learn and grow at Refuge Farms certainly mirrors and exceeds anything I experienced from my scuba diving exploits. I pray each day that I am given the opportunity to take ALL the gifts that are present at THE FARM, so that I may become a better person. I strive to take each lesson learned and integrate them so that I may make a difference in the life of another living creature. Although, I will admit that there are times when that intention feels overwhelming to me.

Yes, this is my personal daily prayer, but one that I believe is also possible for each person that experiences these huge animals, we call The Herd. Their innate wisdom reaches forward towards you from the depths of their soul...through their eyes to gently tap your heart as if to say, "I have been waiting for you...let me share my unconditional love with you...and let me teach you how simply you can share this gift with someone else."

I have found in these Ministers of Healing, a beauty...a splendor in the multitude of colors within each of their unique personalities that create in me a desire to participate in the world differently.

I have found an unforgettable peacefulness that resides within the spirits of these huge gentle giants. I watch as they gracefully maneuver their way into the hearts of many…in the same way they effortlessly share their wounds with one another in this place they now call home.

By volunteering at THE FARM, I have been able to experience a sense of their tremendous power and the sacred way they unpredictably wait to greet each one of us. I am in awe of how they could misuse their power, as humans are so prone to do, but in spite of all they have endured at the hands of humans, they don't... I am humbled by how they consistently choose to share the power of their love instead. "I never knew..."

And, for as dangerous as they certainly could be, I am deeply impacted by how they use that huge and powerful body to somehow create a sense of safety for us. And, in a similar way as I experienced in the ocean, they innately create a sense in me that I am being held within a force greater than myself.

Each moment shared with any of The Herd is a gift. Within each of those sacred moments, I can feel how intentionally they live their intentionally they try to share the huge capacity of their hearts with us.

If I had not become a volunteer at Refuge Farms, I would've missed all the gifts that are offered so freely and unconditionally from the ones we love so much...the ones we call The Herd. Yes, volunteers work really hard here at THE FARM. But, the gifts that are available to us all are many, and each is priceless and potentially life-changing. And, to learn of the individual healing journeys of the horses is both humbling and inspiring. The horses are truly teachers to us all.

Refuge Farms has been working very hard for the past few months on a new web page called The Current Herd. The stories of abuse, neglect, and starvation that bring the majority of horses here to THE FARM are tragic...but, it is in the understanding of their individual stories that you come to appreciate the Magic that occurs at THE FARM...the healing that truly happens here for equine and human alike.

We are all excited about the stories being shared in The Current Herd pages. After reading their individual healing journeys, I stand in complete awe of their endless capacities to love...and, to be loved... Their stories of healing are inspiring; each one of them has so much to teach us about making this world a better place. We hope that it will be through their stories that you may more fully experience the second Mission of Refuge Farms which is in how these once wounded horses become such Ministers of Healing for each one of us. That is the Magic, and those are their gifts being offered to each one of us... "I never knew..."

In addition to our sharing their stories with you, we have been given an unexpected gift of having their stories shared in a very significant and special way. The week of October 8th, 2007 Tony Stromberg is coming to Refuge Farms to photograph The Herd. He is a commercial photographer whose first book is entitled, Spirit Horses. Tony followed his own life journey away from a successful career as a commercial photographer in the fast-paced advertising world to a life that involved more space and stillness. He moved to New Mexico to pursue his true passion: fine art photography of his favorite subject, the horse.

Tony Stromberg is currently working on his second book. The focus of this book is on the issue of abused and neglected horses. Refuge Farms is one of the six horse rescue organizations that he has chosen to be photographed in his book. He will be spending most of the first week in October here with us, photographing The Herd. We are more than honored to be chosen and are grateful to be able to share their amazing lives, their healing journeys, and their Ministries of Healing with the world. The Magic of their healing and teachings will live on eternally.

As he expressed in the introduction of Spirit Horses, Tony Stromberg writes:

I thank God that I am able to volunteer at THE FARM so that I can be a part of the lives of The Herd. I am grateful to be a part of the important Missions of Refuge Farms, and for the opportunity to somehow give back something to the wounded equine healers that generously share so many of their gifts with us. And, I am unspeakably grateful to become friends with so many of the other volunteers...

I thank each one of The Herd for teaching me how to be a better person. And, I thank Refuge Farms for allowing me to be a volunteer. Without this opportunity to learn so much, I would not be doing the one thing that is leaving such an imprint on my life…and in my heart. May I be given the strength and courage to always walk as faithfully as each of the horses does each and every day. And, just as I experienced in scuba diving, when I am at Refuge Farms I truly do feel held safely in a force much greater than myself. "I just never knew..."


Friday, September 21, 2007


“…and I shall bind up the crippled…”

It was Thursday, September 20th, 2007. Four days after the 6th Annual Open Barn. I had worked the day and was now running errands. A quick stop at Culver’s® to chat with Gary and select the pictures for the upcoming “Halloween with THE FARM at Culver’s®” event. Then up to Jeff and his crew at Applebee’s® to drop off a thank you letter and Refuge Farms t-shirts for the crew that worked the Open Barn. Then to the grocery store for milk and some fresh fruit. I was hungry. Finally, I could take the time to listen to my body and it was craving two things – food and sleep.

The temperature was in the low 80’s and that was odd for late September. The winds were picking up and the radio was telling me that severe thunderstorms were on the way. Not paying much attention, I fueled up the truck and headed for home. But then I remembered that I needed to stop for dog food and dewormer for The Herd. It was bot season and I needed to stay ahead of that game!

As I was driving home, I was thrilled with the thought of “normalcy”. I can get back to a “normal” schedule and not feel the vise of pressure on my shoulders. The Open Barn had been a success and now we are busy, for sure!, but not frantic. I was eagerly anticipating a series of quiet evenings with paperwork and telephones calls to get caught up on. Aaahhhhh!

Getting home about 5:30pm, I noticed some clumps of gunk in the driveway. Probably from Kathy as she unloaded the lawn tractor or loaded the push mowers today. The observation came and went in the same breath.

Changing my clothes I listened as the news told me that severe weather was definitely on the way. I went out to the barn and fed Ole Cole and then I heard the sirens. The Ellsworth sirens were blaring and the weather report said rotations in the clouds had been noticed and I needed to take shelter immediately. The telephone rang and it was Gina and Neil – tornadoes! I needed to hurry!

But I had to close up the barns! Three of the five big doors in the new barn were closed and latched. I decided to leave Gracie and PONY! out in the pasture. They became much too nervous in a tin building with rain, wind, and probably hail. I could hear the first few huge drops hitting the roof as I closed and latched the service door. Just enough time, I figured, to close up the old barn and then head in to the house.

Not going in to the old barn, I started to slide the doors closed. But something caught my eye. Something had been touched in the barn. A box stall door was closed. Someone had been in here, I could tell. Some kind of a rope was on the box stall door panel. And two little ears were sticking up above the boards in the stall. “Who in the world put Gracie up here?” I muttered out loud. Going in to the barn in the semi-darkness, I opened the door and my mouth dropped. It wasn’t Gracie at all! It wasn’t one of The Herd at all! Who was this? Where had it come from? When did this little horse get here?

My mind immediately flashed back to the gunk in the driveway. A closer observation showed me that it wasn’t grass – it was manure. A trailer had been in the driveway. A trailer with this little one in it when it arrived. But the trailer left empty. The little one stayed behind. Someone came and delivered her purposely when I was sad.

Every door, every flat place, even the mailbox...I checked everywhere for a note. Nothing. Not a single word left to explain her presence or her age or even her name. I went back to the stall to survey this little creature. This time I turned on the lights.

As my eyes adjusted and the lights warmed up, I soon realized why this little one was here. Her right hind leg was suffering from scarring…or infection…or both. I touched the leg lightly and hide fell off. Thick, red meat was immediately exposed. Proud flesh. A wound untreated. Darn these people!

But then my eyes went to the front legs and my heart broke in pieces for her. This little filly had a left front knee the size of a cantaloupe. And a lower leg that just kind of hung there. This was a three-legged horse. Now I know why she’s here.

Her age? Well, one minute I look at her and think she was born just this spring. But then I look at her head from the side and I think she’s a yearling. Don’t really know. She’s young, I know that! I won’t look at her teeth quite yet. Too intrusive and rude. I’ll wait until we get to know each other a bit better. Age isn’t important to me anyhow.

Her breed? Quarter horse, for sure. A beautiful reddish brown with a black tail, black stockings, and a very short little black mane (another clue that she was born just this spring). Gorgeous head on her (a clue that she’s a yearling from the size of her beautiful head).

Her feet? I don’t think she’s ever had them trimmed (another clue that she was born this spring). And that I’m not too worried about. It’s that front leg...

I’ve since put the corral boards back on their posts from the Open Barn – I was planning on getting that done this weekend anyhow, but this morning it became very important to get it done very swiftly. I had the youngster on a long line and she was eating every blade of grass that she could find. And then she pulled the post right out of the ground and came hobbling down the driveway to see the other horses. She is very social. And likes to talk!

She spent the day in the corral and pretty much mowed it down to nothing. She knows how to drink from a stock tank and she poops frequently – very loose, as a matter of fact. So tonight, I dewormed her. And she took it with only a bit of polite smacking.

Her demeanor? She reminds me of Ima. Same gentleness. Same patience. Same willingness to do whatever you ask. Same politeness. An easy keeper. But that leg...

Dr. Brian is coming out tomorrow to give me an assessment of her condition. Don’t know if that leg is repairable. She seems not to know how to fling that foot out in front of her. When we walked to the barn tonight, I would lift that leg and put her foot on the ground. Her next step would be on the foot! Bravo! But if I left her alone, her following step would be on the top of the foot and very close to the bottom of her leg. On the hide, in fact.

Can she learn? I’m sure! How to teach her? Repetition, I’m sure! I think I’ll tie a lead around her ankle and then just pull the leg forward as she walks. Easier than bending over with each step and she will get used to me in front of her instead of under her belly.

The road sign has been changed. It was too soon, but I’m trying to reach the people who left this little creature here. The road sign now says:

The thing that has grabbed me about this little creature is her calmness. Her lack of fright or fear. She is so comfortable in herself that I’m jealous. She is Ima all over again.

The future for this little girl is very uncertain. Can her leg be repaired? Can she learn to walk, somewhat, but at least on the foot instead of her leg? The rear leg isn’t a concern for me. We can clean that and heal that up as best as we can. It’s that front leg…

But until we know those answers, she is here. No name as of yet – that will come in time. She is here and so comfortable. Like she knew she was coming and now she is home.

So, we have a new member of The Herd. Truly a Mission horse. Truly fitting of our Mission Statement. And truly teaching lessons of life on her very first day. Echoing the message of one who was as large as she is small...

Enjoy today! Be happy today! Don’t fret today! Enjoy today!

Sandy and The Herd

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Dear Lord

Dear Lord,

It’s pre-dawn and everything is still. The Herd is out grazing the new grass while the stars are visible in the dark sky. It is calm. It is peaceful. And I am grateful for this day.

It is an Open Barn day today. Our 6th here at Refuge Farms. And I have much to ask of you on this day...

Please bring the people to hear our stories and to share in our wealth! Bring people from The Cities, from Eau Claire, from Menomonie, and from all around. Bring people who have been here before and return to hug us once again. Bring people who have never been here and are curious to see what they find. May they find the peace and welcoming and healing gifts that we offer. And may they, too, return to hug us once again.

I thank you for this day of clear skies and promised sunshine! What a gift that is to all of us! Last year’s rain was a true test of our faith! Hopefully, we have passed and put that one behind us!!! Please keep the winds calm. And thanks for the clear skies!

I thank you, too, for all those who will arrive in a few hours with their willing hands to complete the final preparations. May they work in happiness and anticipation and may the leadership of THE FARM reward them with gratitude and sincere appreciation. May the small gifts we have for them reflect our feelings and may they know those feelings to be real and honest. Bless The ‘Other’ Herd and all of our Friends who come to us today to host this event. Give them a day of celebration and joy and allow them the chance to shine and reap the rewards of all of their hard work and dedication. Please give their hearts the ownership of these Missions! May they know it is theirs!

The businesses that support us are so vital to us! Bless Jeff Hines as he returns again to lead our auction. Give him a strong voice and a great talent today as we strive to support our missions! Bless the lenses of Jim D'Angelo as he captures those precious moments of our history. Bless Bob Link with Pete and Emma as they give wagon rides in the fall sunshine of today. Give him smooth grounds and strong horses. Bless Terry Brabos as he once again works to provide the gift of feed to The Herd. Bless Randy's Septic for the spare potty. Extra blessings to Jeff Jaeger and his crew from Applebee’s® as they once again set up and prepare their delicious food for all of us to enjoy today. May they reap the reward of their generosity and continued support of THE FARM. And bless all of the vendors who will set up in the yard. Please make this day worthwhile to them and also exciting for our guests.

I thank you for those who have worked so hard these past weeks in preparing the barns and the yard and the equipment. Please, give them a day of joy and celebration! May they feel the satisfaction of a handsome yard and clean, shiny barns! And may they know that without their works and dedication, this event and even the entire organization would be at risk! May you give me the way to express their significance and my gratitude. I think they probably know it all, in their hearts, but please give me the way to tell them to reaffirm it for them.

And The Herd, Lord. Give them a day of goodness, too, please. May they desire the touches of those who come to meet them. May they yearn for the human interaction that will be readily present today. Please grant them calm and grace today. Please allow them to share their gifts today with all of us Humans who are so in need. And please, allow every member of The Herd to realize today and every day, just how treasured and loved they are. We celebrate them today! Let them feel our pride and rejoicing in them!

We need a day of safety today, Lord. We need safe grounds and safe horses and safe handling when it’s time for the presentations. And we need safe drivers and safe walkers. Please provide yet another day of healing without accident.

Finally, Lord, I pray for the words and the heart today for me. I have much in my heart, you know, and I struggle to find ways to express it all. My heart rejoices today but at the same time my heart is breaking today! Please, today, give me the words to express what it is that we do here. Help me to express the joy and the grief and the work and the pleasure and the absolute thrill of being here in this very place at this very time. Give me the purpose of Andy Durco. Give me the strength of Jerry, the Roan Horse. Give me the kindness of Big Jim. Give me the determination of Miss Bonita. Give me the stamina of Richard. Give me the welcoming of Lady-the-Dog. And give me the heart of Big Guy. Keep them all close behind me today. I would give time off of my life to feel their breaths on my neck today! Please, give them to me just for today so I may feel their presence and their guidance on this day! Please, share them with me today so I know they are close.

I celebrate this day! I celebrate this year! With all its trials and griefs and with all its joys and rewards, I celebrate where you have taken me on my life’s journey. May today be another day of making a difference in people’s lives with a horse. A simple horse. A horse that nobody wanted.

I pray all of these things in your name, Lord. And I pray for peace in this world.


Sunday, September 09, 2007


6 Days Until…

Okay. I’ll admit it. My body is sore. My head is full of sawdust and I’m sneezing like mad. My feet feel good in my slippers but oohhh! when I put my barn boots on! It’s hard for my hands to make a fist today. And my legs? Well, let’s just say that they are voting for frequent rests today.

Huh! No time to sit! Only 6 days until the 6th Annual Open Barn and Auction and my list is still taped to the frig!!!

But the progress that has been made in the last week! I am in awe of Kathy M. and Cathi C. Their determination and will to “get ‘er done!” is visible not only by the progress around THE FARM, but their ‘can-do’ spirit every day when they arrive! Hats off to you two! And hugs of appreciation from all of us!!!

Yesterday, it was like a beehive around here. In fact, a neighbor stopped in to talk about some hay and he told me, “You’ve got quite a crew here!” That, my dear man, was an understatement!

Colleen B. was attacking the weeds around and in the Memory Beds. And I mean attacking. I chose that word on purpose. Her scissors were busy, busy, busy! And she chose scissors because the typical trimmers we all use were too slow for her… Get the idea? And upon her arrival Colleen attacked probably the least favorite job on the list – the cleaning of the trash barrels. Without hesitation or a wrinkled nose, she dove right in and jobs were done! With speed and topnotch work! Thanks, Colleen!

Sabra B. was here with her usual smile and walked around all day. Yup, that’s what she did. Only thing is that each walk was with a wheelbarrow from one barn to the other barn – we moved sawdust yesterday! It was me who said – foolishly! – that the pile wasn’t that big and shouldn’t take us long. Hah! That was not a correct assessment – even close! Sabra just kept hauling and hauling and hauling until we finally hit the dirt at the bottom of the pile! Hurray! Thank you, Sabra, for your muscle and your spirit! You truly will do whatever it takes to take care of the needs of The Herd. Much appreciation.

LB was here – and she brought chocolate. Love you, LB. But in addition to the chocolate, she brought her determination to get the dirty barn gates spotless and ready for the little hands and faces that will be up next to them. Can’t have anyone getting dirty in our barns, now can we? And that, my friends, is not an easy or a quick job. We have thirteen (13!) gates hanging in that barn. Some are twelve feet and some are eight feet, but each gate has 6 or 8 tubes that run horizontally and are perfect perches for our little feathered friends to sit on and chirp…and deposit. Not an easy job, but well done! Thanks, LB, for the gates (and the chocolate!)!

Professor came armed with her usual “What should I do?” smile. And in no time flat, the buckets of brushes and combs and the lead ropes and the halters and the radio and the clock and the telephone and a whole list of things were spotless and under a dust cloth in clean buckets awaiting their re-hanging. That is a job! That barn dust gets everywhere!!! Everything looks just great, Tracy! But then after finishing that, she took off her shoes and got in to the pond and cleaned that monster up so it is ready for refilling next weekend. Now that may not sound like an icky job, but don’t be fooled! Leaves and green twigs left floating in an inch of water will turn slimy and slippery and not very pleasant. But all of that is gone and the liner sits pristine awaiting its refill and fountain to be adorning it! Thanks, Professor!

Melody and Jess did a great job – again – of sanding the remaining Memory Benches. OSRose has painted eight benches for us and Kathy has built the benches purchased by all of you in memory of someone in your life or a horse here at THE FARM. These benches will be such an addition to the grounds and great seating for our guests next Sunday. But without the work of Melody and Jess, these benches may have given off slivers and some very sore fingers or legs. Not any more! S m o o t h ! Nice work, you two! And I could hear your laughter as the two of you enjoyed your time together. Nice to see Mother and daughter laughing as you two do. Thanks to both of you!

Most of the day, you didn’t even know that Lynn S. was here. She was invisible. For seven – yes, 7 – hours she was pretty much out of sight! Unless you were in the big barn and wondered who was up on the extension ladder power spraying those high peaks!! Yup! That was Lynn! There isn’t a cobbie or a bit of fly poop or a bit of bird deposit anywhere in that barn! Lynn made that ten-year-old barn look brand new! From the trusses to the walls to the bucket hangers – she washed everything! Including herself, it looked like! Wet and a bit dirty when completed, she never once complained and just kept at it. Thank you, Lynn. The barn looks so nice and both the horses and I appreciate the cleaning. Great job!

Cathi C. was hauling sawdust and coordinating the assembly of tools and rags and buckets and gloves and where to put the trash and all the things that need to be done behind the scenes to keep the work running smoothly! You did a nice job, CityGirl! And always with that smile…although, at times, I had to look through a ton of dirt on your face to see your smile!!! You are a great addition to THE FARM and we are all glad to have your gentle spirit amongst us!

Captain was her usual self – laughing and singing! Between walking the big wheelbarrow full of sawdust countless times and reaching the tall stuff for those of us that are height challenged and energizing all of us with her jovial spirit, the one main thing Kathy did in the day was round us up so we could sit and eat lunch and talk with each other. Rest a bit. But then, she was there to get us up and motivated again. A good leader she is! Glad and blessed to have you, Kathy!

So there you are – a snapshot of the work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for The Open Barn. The size of the list? It’s getting quite small, actually. In fact, it’s pretty much the stuff to do right before the event now – canopies, hay bleachers, gates down…. The tasks that Captain is so good at organizing so we are just ready. No panic and no mad dashing. We just get ready.

You must join us! Sunday, September 16th starting at 12noon. We will be ready! And the place will look marvelous!!! You must come and meet this crew and these horses and just soak in the place. I know all of us will be here ready to greet you and share with you what we have found here….

Friendship. Kinship. Acceptance. Caring. Support. Laughter. Hugs. Teasing. Family. Growth. Forgiveness. Respect. Trust. Ownership. Responsibility. Worth. Belonging.

All in a barn filled with horses that nobody wanted. Horses that needed us and now we need them. And each other. That’s the Magic! Come and experience it for yourself. We have great people to introduce you to The Herd and The Place. See you next Sunday!!!

Enjoy the Journey of Each and Every Day,
Sandy and The Herd in our Spotless Barn!!!

Sunday, September 02, 2007


The Lesson of Life

This has been a most difficult week. The sudden crossing of Big Guy on Monday stopped all of us in our tracks. Up to that point, we were focused and busy and driven with the lists of things to be done in preparation for the 6th Annual Open Barn and Auction. Then Big Guy unexpectedly moved on and we stopped. All activity stopped. We all just stopped.

We needed to grieve and cry and ask “Why?” and cry some more. We needed to adorn his grave and stand next to him and cry a bit more. And we needed to do our best to support each other and the dwindling herd of his companions. But we needed to just stop and do what we needed to do for ourselves to get through this week.

And then, unwanted, came the Public Hours of yesterday. No one wanted to prepare and put on a smiling face and greet our guests who knew nothing of Big Guy or his easy ways or of his crossing. We really didn’t want to be here but we were. And we hugged and visited him again and adorned him with wind chimes and butterflies and roses and we cried a bit more. But then we straightened our shoulders and carried on the job that was ours. We must tell people of the “Magic” and introduce them to The Herd and we must invite them to return. And do this with sincerity and a real smile and with the gift of genuine hugs.

And we did it. We made it through. Some of our laughter was a bit louder than usual and maybe even a bit odd in it’s timing. Some of our faces were not quite as “light” as they usually are and some of us were here but busy with tasks since talking with the public was a bit too much to ask of us so soon. But we came together and took strength from one another and we continued on.

I am so darn proud of these women of Refuge Farms!Farm Sisters”, as the Professor calls them. They were working so hard at being their best and they did a mighty fine job! They shared pictures and we all stood with the start of tears as we saw LB’s picture of Big Guy and the children with that shining light over his heart. What was that all about? Was that his heart-glow of love? Or the signal of his weakening heart? Regardless, look at his size and his face! And the smiles on everyone as they enjoy him! Wasn’t Big Guy just a gift? A true blessing?

This morning as I was feeding The Herd and getting all of us in the new routine of placement without yet another face at a feeder, Big Guy’s true message came to me. And I think I’ve truly stumbled on something here. Really, I think I’ve found something that I had overlooked. Stay with me...

I loved Big Guy from the moment I saw that huge head in that old barn. From the very second I walked around the corner and that enormous head came over that half-eaten wooden rail, those eyes jumped in to my heart and he said, “You’re here for me, right? You want me, right? You’re here for me, right?

As I haltered him - and was truly amazed that he dropped his head so I could reach him – I began to think of how this horse had a capacity to forgive. Here I was - a human - touching him and without any sign of fear on his part. When a human had just shot and beaten and starved him. Amazing. Such forgiveness.

As we walked down the driveway to the truck and trailer, I was singing. I had to. There were too many sounds around us that I just couldn’t bear. Tractors and chains and male voices and thumping sounds of bodies being moved. It was obscene to me and I silently gave thanks for the men who were willing and able to take on the humane task of cleaning up from another man’s transgressions.

I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ then, too. Don’t know why. I just sang until we got in to the trailer. Then I busied myself with absorbing this big horse next to me and giving him The Three Promises and talking. Don’t remember what I talked about but I needed to talk to him and get us both calm for the ride home.

But he was already calm. He was already eating the hay I had prepared for him. He was already calm. Big Guy had already moved on to this new day. He had already left his past behind him.

And that, my friends, is truly and remarkably the lesson of Big Guy: to move on - to take each day as a new beginning and to leave yesterday and its pains and torture and aches and hurtings behind you and not let them weigh you down today. To not limit today because of yesterday. To move on and start again with the sunrise. This is the lesson of Big Guy.

Just this morning, I recalled the calm of Big Guy as we walked down that driveway out of that icky old barn. He was strolling down the driveway with me with no hesitation. No jumping or anxious energy out of him. No problem. Big Guy never once looked back. Nope – his head was straight up and he was looking forward down the driveway. Looking to the future without as much as a glance to his past. And he wasn’t scared or shaking or hiding behind anything. Head up and chest out, he went down the driveway to his future. Accepting today as the new beginning that it was. And it was a new beginning because he let it be. He left the past behind him and did not allow it to come with him to lessen the joy of today.

That is Big Guy. Each morning, greeting me as if each day was the gift that he thought it truly was. Another big man told me the same thing – “Don’t waste a heartbeat, Sandy. Every one is a gift that you will never be able to reclaim. Don’t waste a one.

And just this morning I’m still piecing this new lesson together but I think I’ve got the idea, Big Guy. Yes, you amazed all of us with your capacity to forgive and to be open to the very species that had so severely abused you. But maybe that forgiveness was truly the result of your real lesson. You had to forgive in order to be able to live life as you chose – each day as a new beginning. Your lesson is to continue on. Your lesson is to forgive and leave yesterday there. Not keeping it tucked inside to take any tiny piece of today away from you.

And so I just stopped and had a chat with you, Big Guy. I told you how grateful I was that your lesson had finally broken through to me. That finally, I understood your gift – or was at least starting to understand your gift. Because I, too, am taking today as a new beginning. I’m leaving the yesterdays behind me and focusing on today. Making today a worthwhile and good day. Making a difference today.

I will, for sure, keep you in my heart, Big Guy! I’m not forgetting you or any of the others that have come before you! But I am leaving the sorrow behind me and focusing on the joy and happiness and humor and goodness that you brought to this place with your presence! And I am striving to get that happiness and humor and joy and goodness ringing again at this place! With and in honor of you, Big Guy!

Earlier this week, in a low spot, I was talking with Vincent about how to go on. Man, it was one hard day and I just didn’t want to deal with any of “it’ – let alone the upcoming Open Barn! Vincent quietly reminded me that I must go on. I must get through it to prepare for the Open Barn! And yes, we must have the Open Barn and we must celebrate! Not just Big Guy but Jerry, the Roan Horse and Big Jim and Bonita and Richard and Lady-the-Dog and the tens of others! We must celebrate and open people’s hearts! Why? So we may be here to prepare for the next Big Guy. Or the next Bonita. Or the next Richard. And the next Diane. We must celebrate and get our message of healing out there. We must heal ourselves! Because we must be here for all of the horses yet to come. And all of the Human Beings who need those horses yet to come.

So on this Sunday morning, two short weeks before the Open Barn, Big Guy’s true message has finally made it in to my heart. Almost like a revelation. Big Guy was one of The Great Ones. For sure! And his lessons are many. But I can see that his lessons of forgiveness and playfulness and caring and calmness were all the outcomes of his true and honest lesson for all of us. His lesson of going on. His Lesson of Life. His teachings of how to live life - not just exist in it. Leave yesterday there. Start today with a new open page not all marked up by things said or done or not said or not done from yesterday. Start today full of energy and excitement and joy and playfulness and anticipation!

Can’t you see it? His entrance in to the barn each morning was at a trot! He was so eager to begin the new day! What will happen today that we will treasure? Who will love me today? What exciting thing will I be a part of today? Throwing his huge head over the gate, his eyes would ask me again, each morning, “You’re here for me, right? You want me, right? You’re here for me, right?

So, Big Guy, I bless you and thank you. For your Lesson of Life. Because yes, it is time to smile! It is time to celebrate the joy of knowing you and all of the others! And it is time to spruce up the place and open our barns to share our “Magic” with all that come! It is time to smile from our hearts again!

This Open Barn may be the very best one yet! After all these years, I think the lesson of this last Minister has finally opened up a spot in me – and hopefully others – that has remained dark. I must live Big Guy’s Lesson of Life! We must adorn them all and treasure the time we had with them. But we must focus on those that are here and on the Human Beings that come for them and be prepared for all those yet to come – horse and Human alike!

Two weeks from today this place will be like a huge anthill! There will be a flurry in the Old Barn, a flurry in the New Barn, a flurry in the yard, a flurry in the pasture – there will be flurries everywhere! Blue shirted volunteers will be working so hard to prepare us for a day of celebration! And oh, how we need to celebrate!

We will eat and laugh and tell stories and get some horsehair on all of us. And we will have a lively auction with more laughter and good hearts supporting our Missions. And there will be plenty of hugging. And then, when we take our boots off of our sore feet, we will begin to remember the faces of those that came. And we will rub our feet and once again remember why we do what we do.

Isn’t life just an absolute gift? Don’t you just treasure every single day? Isn’t it exciting to wonder what today will bring and to be open and free of yesterday’s pains to accept today as the gift that it is? Isn’t it fun to be alive? And doesn’t it feel just wonderful to help someone and to accept his or her gifts of love?

Thanks, Big Guy. You came through again. Right when I needed you the most. And so now I’m on my way outside. First to hug The Herd. I need to restart today - the right way. Then to begin to prepare for our Open Barn. But my heart is in it now, thanks to you! Yes, my smile is once again from my heart. Big lesson learned from you today, Big Guy. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Bless you, my friend. And see you on the other side of the rainbow!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd – living for today!

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