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

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