Sunday, November 23, 2008


Life at Refuge Farms (In the Stetzer’s eyes)

When a sign up sheet was passed around at one of THE FARM meetings for us to sign up to be a guest blogger – I thought, "COOL! We can do that!"

Now as it comes time to write the blog I am at a loss for words. I am sure some of you who know me are thinking, “That is hard to believe!” LOL

I guess I should start off by explaining how Refuge Farms “found us”….

A friend of mine (neighbor at the time) came home from work and started telling my daughter and I about this place that one of her clients (Kathy M – gotta love her!) kept telling her about and kept trying to get her to come out to this wonderful place which happened to be holding an even that next weekend. My neighbor was telling us that this “horse place” has these horses that have been abused and or beaten and told us the website and we decided to go to “this horse place” on that next Saturday.

We arrived at Refuge Farms and Bri and I were hooked right away! I have always loved horses since I was a little girl and Bri has been following my footsteps. It was a chaotic day, everyone was getting ready for the Open Barn they were having the next day. Even with all the craziness, Famous Barb took time out of getting ready for the Open Barn to tell us all about the horses and their stories. We took lots of pictures and planned to come out the next day for the Open Barn.

We found it so peaceful – there on that hill.

Jeri-Ann loved Bri. We did bring carrots that day so the horses loved us but even after the carrots were gone Jeri-Ann still hung around and seemed to follow Bri wherever she went.

That night Brianna and I went to and signed up to become volunteers!! We have helped out at THE FARM and THE FARM’s events for a little over one year and have loved every minute of it! Even scooping the poop in the barn and pulling out the burrs! HA HA!

In May of ’08, my kids, Brianna, Brandon and Dale, decided to have a Penny Challenge at their school, Wakanda Elementary, to raise money for hay for The Herd. The kids prepared ice cream pails for each grade with pictures of all the horses (Little Man and Keller,too!!) at THE FARM and The Three Promises and presented the Challenge to the Student Council. Everyone was happy to help out the horses! The prize of a pizza party helped, too!

The challenge was for two weeks. Between all the students and staff, $450 was raised for the herd!! WOO HOO! We were able to bring PONY! and Gracie to the school grounds for all the kids to be able to meet at least two of the horses they helped to raise the money for. The kids were as grateful as the horses were!

We are in the process of getting another challenge going – hopefully the Menomonie Middle School.

We have learned a lot from everyone at THE FARM – two and four legged. We find ourselves at peace when we are at THE FARM, no matter what we are working on.

Thank you to all of our friends we have made at THE FARM and to you, Sandy, for all the wonderful things you do each and every day. We have learned a great deal from you! And we thank you very much!!

Live Life to the Fullest each and every day! For the love of horses! May Sweet Lady Grey Rest in Peace!

Kimmie, Brianna, Brandon and Dale

Sunday, November 16, 2008


A Night to Remember!

I have purposely given myself a span of a full week before I sat down and wrote to you about the Fall Gala Event and our evening with Tony Stromberg. I needed the time to “come back down to earth”. To say the event was a meaningful evening is truly the understatement of the year!

First and foremost, the Gala Committee must be recognized for their willingness to step up, take charge, and just “get ‘er done!” In a window of a mere sixty days, this group of eight women – all with full time jobs and families and responsibilities! – met and planned and emailed and broadcasted and created and did whatever it took to allow Refuge Farms to host an evening of glamour and truly heart-touching messages.

Hats off to Heather P., the Captain of the Committee for her energy and leadership! I am now thoroughly convinced that this woman never sleeps! Hats off to Julie G. for her technical support and her sole creation of the gift bags plus the collection of donated baskets! Hats off to Lauren E. for her printing and expertise that she so willingly brought to the table! Hats off the Colleen B. for continuing to share her artistic talents and for the generation of her framed prints for the auction that made us all smile and made one little girl very, very happy! Hats off to Mary K. who remains steady and constant and always brings her optimism and smiles to each gathering! Hats off to Tracy O. for her hours and hours and hours of media communications which led to our event even in the Regional Notes of the USA Today! And hats off to the Mother and Daughter team of Kim and Brianna S. for their humor and willingness to run – literally! – for the Missions!

Many of us have commented that by hosting this event and being so successful in our first gala that we have set the bar rather high for future events. And I couldn’t be prouder! This is the face of the reformed Refuge Farms. Reaching out to those who care and doing so in a formal environment. Saving lives without standing in a barn. Bravo! Job well done!

The evening was a joy, wasn’t it? Familiar faces and some new faces joined us. I was thrilled to walk amongst the people and hear snippets of conversation about horses in their lives, their visits to THE FARM, about hearing a radio interview on WLTE or seeing a spot on television. The message is consistent and has stood the test of time – Refuge Farms is a horse rescue of those horses most at risk. Tough work but with enormously high rewards.

Our auctions were record setting and once again, setting the bar high for future years. We were complimented repeatedly for the quality of items and the variety of items in both auctions. The legs and hands that gathered those baskets worked very hard and their works were rewarded greatly by the contributions that came in as a result.

Beth Kidd was as warm as I’ve come to know her. Relaxed and so familiar with us from reading literally everything on our website. How do I know this? Her comments and questions at dinner were from the very stories on the website. And when asked about it, she just calmly told me that of course she reads our website. Why wouldn’t she? She was supportive of our efforts and wanting the information and history in her head and heart to retrieve when the opportunities to spread the word presented themselves. Gotta love that woman’s heart…

Jeff Hines did his typically outstanding job of getting those arms up and intermixing his humor with his understanding of our Missions. We have years of history with Jeff and he reminded the entire dinner table of our first auction together at the second Open Barn Event. We had a total of seven items. Seven items! He still laughs when he tells how he walked over to the auction spot and started to look around for the items he was supposed to auction….looking….looking…and then realizing that the few items in front of him was all there was!

Jeff has offered his online bidding through the Hines Auction Service for our future auctions and we will take full advantage of it! In fact, Jeff told us that he has people calling his offices wondering “when is that Refuge Farms auction coming up?” Building history is a good thing…

But truly, for me, the highlight of the evening was to sit and attempt to absorb every single word of the mild mannered young man named Tony Stromberg. His presence put the frosting on the cake, didn’t it? So unassuming and so congenial. So kind in his perspective of the world and all of its craziness around him. And so committed to saving lives by getting his images – and now his words – of horses in danger out there. In front of people. Out there gently and beautifully but still pointedly and sharply.

His message on connection and being on the save level with all creatures was reinforced throughout the evening by his very mannerisms and conversations. I’ve strived to use the concepts this past week in the barns and with Little Man. I’ve worked to think as and behave as the creature I am asking something of. And I’ve even put the question out there and watched as, for some reason, the animal responded to my mind’s request. I believe I have much to learn from Tony Stromberg. Much to hear from him yet. And many of you have told me that very same thing.

Upon arriving home after the gala, I retrieved voice mail messages from people who just had to comment on the evening they had just been a part of. Words in those voice mail messages were words like “touching”, “meaningful”, “heart warming”, “honest”, “encouraging”, “thought provoking”, “enlightening”. Tony left a mark on us all. I thought it most interesting that this group of 120+ people who had dinner plates and chocolate and beverages in front of them stopped everything – everything! – when Tony stood up to speak. My Mom would have commented that “you could have heard a pin drop” in that room. Ears and hearts were open to the man and the man did not disappoint a single one of us!

Emails continue to arrive further discussing Tony’s perspective of disposable actions taken with horses and even people. Emails commenting that his message had been the topic over breakfast and Bible studies throughout the week. But my favorite of all was a rather short email that simply said “…and Tony was everything you said he would be and more!”

After the guests had departed, several of us just sat and chatted about the evening and made plans for a breakfast together the following morning. At the close of the evening, I stood in front of Tony with a heart so overfull of gratitude and compassion and humility and encouragement… I couldn’t find words to express my thanks and my connection to his mission of getting the horse’s plight out there for all to see…

I simply hugged him and clumsily said my thanks. Then I reassured him that the monies we raised at that Gala Event would save lives. We would save lives with that money, I restated. He smiled at me and replied, “That’s why we do it, Sandy. That’s why we do it, isn’t it?”

The man has the heart of the horse within him. You've heard me tell you that and now you know it, too. You’ve met him, talked with him, and you've heard his heart as he unfolded his stories with you. His heart that still breaks for the little mare, Mona Lisa. His heart that feels the need to use his enormous talents to show us that we are wasteful and greedy and selfish and cruel in our strivings for the “perfect horse”. That we need to develop loyalty and compassion and get on the same level with the horse. And there – and only there – will we have a connection, a true relationship, with the majestic creature. The power of the horse. Truly visible in the heart of the man we call Tony Stromberg.

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I just woke up from a dream. These past six weeks have seemed like a dream. The Gala Committee has done an exceptional job of organizing, planning, connecting, contacting, and communicating. I have been able to remain in “my dream” all this time while the Committee worried and worked out the details. Lucky me!

But just now – about fifteen minutes ago - four huge and heavy boxes arrived from Tennessee. From a company called New World Library. The invoice says that one hundred books just arrived. Books entitled “the forgotten horses” by none other than Tony Stromberg. And now I just woke up from my dream! Reality just came to my world!

It’s real! The Fall Gala is upon us! This Saturday evening, Refuge Farms will host the Fall Gala with Tony Stromberg at the Hudson Golf Club. White linen tablecloths. Walleye almandine. Sirloin with mushrooms. And of course, vegetarian plates as well. A Silent Auction of forty very attractive baskets. And the Live Auction with Jeff Hines of another thirty baskets for over forty-five items. Book signings by Tony Stromberg of the books that were just delivered. And all emceed by Beth Kidd, a loyal and true Friend of THE FARM.

It’s real! Holy Herd! The Fall Gala is upon us! Reservations are coming in via email and telephone. I’m encouraging people to register as a walk-in may be declined due to room capacity. Also in the room will be over a dozen product lines from vendors who have reserved space. These vendors bring artwork, jewelry, intelligent toys for children, metal creations for home decoration, animal-free cosmetics, and more. Quite an assortment of vendors to entice you further.

It’s real! The Fall Gala is upon us! Trempealeau rescue friends are traveling in from southeastern Wisconsin and even other rescues, both large and small animal, are attending. We all see the need and I am thrilled we are beginning to support each other. Our Board of Directors will be, for the most part, attending. We send our prayers and wishes for a continued recovery to Moira. Rest, my dear! Heal well and quickly but right now, you must rest! Many familiar faces and some new faces will be in the room this coming Saturday. How exciting!

It’s real! The auctions have some wonderful, absolutely wonderful items! Four Club Level tickets to the Minnesota Wild playing the Champion Detroit Red Wings. A complete golf package for four at a very nice private golf club. A signed print by Tony Stromberg. Coffee and tea baskets. Cooking baskets. Home décor baskets. Horse baskets. Dog baskets. Cat baskets. And even tool and fishing baskets! I am most pleased and very impressed with the quality and variety of baskets assembled for both the silent and live auctions. And yes, Mike Murach blessed us again with another original creation of one of The Herd here at THE FARM. Selling print #1 of 1 again. The only signed print of this original done in Mike’s incredulous style. A keeper piece, for sure!

It’s real! We have a great photographer donating his services to record the evening. And get this – after donating his time and talents he is also donating some of his high-speed work – framed and matted – to our auction! Wait until you see his abilities! It will make you do a double take, for sure! Thank you, Mike Hagberg, for your contributions!

It’s real! And now I begin to smile…. Beth Kidd will tell us the story of Refuge Farms in her own words. Tony Stromberg will speak to us about what is in his heart. Those two messages, alone, are worth the effort of the evening. The invitation says that you will be changed from attending this Refuge Farms Fall Gala. And I believe these two individuals will have the greatest impact on you of all. Beth’s heart is huge and so in tuned with the need for human connection for healing. And Tony? Well, all I need to do is look at “the forgotten horses” to only imagine what his message will be. This time with Tony may be life changing for some of us in the audience. My guts tell me that there will be silence as we all realize the plight of the horse and the might of the horse from these two eloquent and powerful speakers.

It’s real! Join us, won’t you? The Refuge Farms Fall Gala is this Saturday, November 8th at the Hudson Golf Club in Hudson, WI. Social hour begins at 4pm with dinner being served at 5:30pm. Silent auction begins at 4pm with the live auction beginning at 7:30pm. Tickets for the event are $50 per person with reservations made through email or voice mail to THE FARM requested.

It is going to be very real. Life-changing real. Heart moving real. It’s the conversation that will change you. Grab you. Make you feel the beating of your heart in your chest. Conversations with old friends and newly made friends. Beth's and Tony’s conversations will begin a little after 6pm. You really don’t want to miss this opportunity to hear Beth and Tony speak. Tony is part horse, you know. Why do I say this? Because you, too, will see it in him and hear it from him. The man truly carries the heart of the horse within him.

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

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