Monday, February 23, 2009


The Re-Re-Homing of Rosie!

A preface from Sandy: This is a very special story. Very special, of course, because it is the story of a re-homing of a very, very special little mare.  A mare from the backwoods of Iron County, WI.  A mare who had sustained neglect and borderline abandonment. A mare who came to THE FARM so emaciated that my hand could be placed -horizontally - between her flanks when she arrived. A mare who stole my heart from the very first meeting.

But this re-homing was very special for another reason. This re-homing was completed totally and completely by Gloria W. with the support of Tracy O. That, as many of you know, is something that just hasn't happened in the past. To absorb an animal at THE FARM and then allow her to be loaded, re-homed, and delivered without my very own eyes to see that she is safe at her new home was unheard of!

But it happened. And it happened with this very special little mare and two very special members of The 'Other' Herd.A big step in the story and growth of Refuge Farms. A big step for the Adoption process here at THE FARM. And a big step for little Rosie.

So read on for impressions of this adventure by the two trusted women who did what it took - who found and evaluated her adoptive owners, who then loaded, transported, and delivered Rosie to those owners. Thank you, Gloria and Tracy.  Thank you from me and of course, from Rosie!

Impressions from Tracy O.: We met a couple months ago as a committee at THE FARM.  Gloria had done a bunch of work already, seeing what other rescues do in their adoption process (‘benchmarking,’ as they say in the corporate world), and we wrangled with the need to know enough about people to make a good match, while not wanting to put them through a wringer, or requiring a ton of material we would then have to find time to read. 

What questions would tell us the most about their experience with horses, the appropriateness of their facility, their willingness to stand by the horse in sickness and in health?  We pounded out a draft application, Gloria polished it up, and Sandy divided up a stack of inquiries from potential horse adopters and horse owners with animals they could not keep, for us to interview.

My list got narrowed down real fast – some only provided an email address, and we never heard back from my contact effort.  Was my message in their spam file, never to be found?  Had they re-thought their interest and opted out?  One phone was disconnected; another couple had purchased horses and was no longer up for adoption.  All this in just a couple weeks. 

One grandmother had suggested her daughter’s family as adopters but the daughter was clearly not invested in the idea.  “She overstepped her bounds,” the grown daughter said firmly of her mom about five times in as many minutes.  Others had very specific needs – small, quiet, gentle, a horse we’d already met and could vouch for.  The daunting list of horse owners with animals to surrender was also whittled down – one man had already found a home for his two older geldings and was happy for the good match and appreciative for our follow-up.  SCORE! 

A woman with a show horse with mobility issues wanted a retirement home since she couldn’t afford a heated box stall at the trainer’s and couldn’t find another setting.  Euthanasia was the alternative if we couldn’t find a home in two weeks.  We talked by phone, she was happy we thought we could help.  Could we get access to the vet’s records, since she’d spent thousands of dollars trying to get the horse diagnosed?  Sure. 

Could we have a photo to put out to potential adopters?  Sure.We got the photo by email the next day, but then silence - phone calls were not answered, messages not returned, emails bounced back saying that she was on vacation, then stopped bouncing back, indicating she was back on the job.  Weeks went by and no word.  What had happened to this 12 year old quarter horse?  We don’t know.

I found a match meanwhile, with a couple willing to take on three, unhandled adult horses from the Trempealeau Rescue, whose first adoptive owner had lost his job and needed to re-home them.  As I write this, we've just completed making the pick-up and delivery, and the woman and her family are palpably thrilled. 

Meanwhile, Gloria W. found a match with a couple willing to adopt Rosie, a mare from the Iron County Rescue, who similarly had been adopted but needed to be re-homed because of job loss in the original adoption.

Impressions from Gloria W.: I just had a feeling,  call it a sixth sense, that this woman who I was talking to for the first time would provide a wonderful home to a needy horse.  She and her husband had seen the KARE-11 TV news piece about Refuge Farms.  They had one empty stall in their barn and sent an e-mail to Sandy expressing interest in adoption.  Sandy asked me to contact this woman, I did, and it was a very positive experience.

I sent our new adoption application form to her via e-mail and it was returned the same day along with pictures of the stable. I forwarded the completed application and pictures to Tracy and Sandy and we all agreed this sounded and looked like a great home.  This couple has five other horses, including a 37 year old gelding, which said something to me about the care the horses are given.  They also have cats and dogs; they adopt greyhounds. 

The applicant said a mare would work best in their quiet herd, and 26-year-old Rosie came to mind.  It turned out there was one little glitch to iron out first.  Sandy thought Rosie might be pregnant, having run with a stud colt in the home from which she was rescued, and based on her weight gain in the home of her initial adopter, so we needed to wait for the vet to come check her out.  Good news - she wasn’t. 

The prospective new family wanted to come to Refuge Farms to see Rosie before they committed to adopting her, but because of schedules and frigid temperatures, that didn’t work out and we were told we could just go ahead and bring her to them.  

So, on the Saturday of The State of THE FARM meeting, I hooked up my trailer and headed to Spring Valley.  After the meeting and lunch, Tracy and I loaded up Rosie and left for Rosie's new home.  It was a beautiful day and we had a fine trip.  We found the home and stable and met the husband and wife who were every bit as wonderful as I thought they would be. 

We unloaded Rosie and she walked into the corral with them, was turned loose, and laid down and rolled (as every good horse does after riding a ways in a trailer).  Tracy and I stayed and visited for a while, took some pictures and then hugged and said our goodbyes.  As we left, Rosie was contentedly eating hay while the rest of the herd stared at her over the fence wondering who the heck she was!

I felt completely satisfied, as we left, that we had made a very good match and that Rosie will now have the forever home that she so deserves.

An additional note from Gloria: A little over a week after having Rosie, the new owner says, “We’ve nicknamed Rosie ‘Scarlet’ – we have a family member by the name of Rosie and it was getting confusing!  So she’s ‘Scarlet Rose’ – she’s doing great.  She’s so gentle.  She’s totally settled in – she knows her stall, looks forward to her bedtime treat and gets along with everyone.  She’s not afraid to nudge her way into the lean-to when she wants to.  We’ve been brushing her once a week and she stands very patiently for it.  I can’t describe how ‘anti-climatic’ it is having her – she fits in great with everyone and we love having her.  Please tell Sandy that one of her babies is in great hands – ready for a visit at any time.”

We do plan to visit when the weather warms up to see how everyone is doing!

And finally, an email was just received today with another update on Scarlet:

"Hi Gloria! Just wanted to give you a Scarlet update - she got her new winter blanket this weekend and she looks adorable (of course now the weather is warming up!). Everyone who visits our farms thinks she's so cute. She's taken to my Thoroughbred and they hang out together. She was wormed on Saturday and we had no issues. We love having her!"

A final note from Sandy: The picture of Tracy up above is her riding her beloved Blaze out in California in the early 90's. And the picture of Gloria is a recent picture with her beloved Appaloosa gelding, Reno. Thanks, ladies! Job well done!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Keep Checking!

Tracy O. and I are on the road transporting three of the Eleven from Heaven from the Trempealeau Rescue - we call them The Trempealeau Trio! Three absolutely georgeous girls that needed a new home due to job layoffs and the economy.

So we drove all day yesterday and will be driving all day today to get them moved safely. All kinds of stories to tell! Nothing every quite goes according to plan, now does it!? Tracy has been an excellent companion and saved the day by being awake enough to drive last night - or I'd still be on Highway 29 somewhere trying to get to Spring Valley!

Keep checking! I'll be posting this week's blog created by Tracy O. and Gloria W. which will tell you the story of the rehoming of Rosie, an Iron County rescue that was rehomed, returned to THE FARM, and then rehomed again!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and Tracy and The Trempealeau Trio!

Friday, February 13, 2009


The Peace Keeper

In 1993, when unloading my very first load of hay here in Spring Valley, I discovered a little thrown away creature at the bottom of that load of hay.  It was a cat. Fighting her way out of the bales, this little cat was very pregnant, very skinny, and very determined. Her eyes were sealed shut with mucus and her nose bubbled as she exhaled. She tried to meow, but the voice was too weak to make any noise. Only her mouth moved.

Now I’m not a cat person. So, I wasn’t thrilled to find a needy cat at my feet. But there she was. Purring so loudly I could barely think. And rubbing against my ankles. Marking me as hers. And hers I was. Profoundly and completely, from that moment on, I was hers.

Babee IV came to live with me as a barn cat that summer. When it grew cool in the fall, I moved her in to the back porch. It wasn’t long until the cooler air became cold and she called to me. Then, of course, she moved in to the house with me. She had already established my left shoulder as her perch. We would walk down to the barn and she would hang on to me with that constant loud purring in my ear. The sound of her purring very quickly became like the music of a grand symphony to me.

Babee was a small little girl. Stunted from lack of care and having too many babies at her young age, she was barely the size of my work glove that first summer together. That changed, as she came in to the warm house and devoured the food I supplied. She grew to be a shiny plump little girl who hugged you – literally. She would place her front legs around your neck and hug you. Tucking her head under your chin. And purr. Always the purring.

When Earl the Deer lived with me for a few months, I worked hard to give him personal one-on-one attention and affection. He was such a lonely and frightened little guy. It was early in Earl’s time here when I came home from work one day at lunch to feed him and discovered that he was resting comfortably. Not chirping and squirming around and agitated like I typically found when I approached to feed him.  The reason for his contentment? None other than Babee.  This little girl had climbed in to the bathtub with him and snuggled right up next to him. Giving Earl the companionship that he so desperately needed and allowing herself to help another creature in her world. And purr. Yes, she purred extra loudly on her naps with Earl. Always the purring.

Kidd soon came to live with me as a little kitten. Tiny and full of energy. Tons of energy! When this little kitten would need to take a rest, he would crawl in to one of the flower pots and nap – all wrapped up in a little ball. And none other than Babee would be outside the flower pot to guard him. It was her self-ordained job to keep Moses and any of the others away from her sleeping little giant.

Once awake, Babee and Kidd would play by the hour! In the beginning, I would hear Kidd crying in protest as Babee wrestled him to the floor and pinned him there.  Many times I cautioned Babee that “someday he’s going to be bigger than you, Babee.” How true that was!

As he grew and Babee aged, the roles changed.  Kidd soon took care of Babee by throwing his big leg over her to keep her warm at night or by simply grooming her or allowing her to snuggle up close next to his large, heat generating tummy. Those two were a pair. The “mother and son” grew in to best play buddies and then soon became the ever doting son caring for the aging mother. Most recently, he spent time grooming her and relaxing her.  Grooming and relaxing her until she began to purr. Always the purring.

Keller was one of Babee’s latest charges. She took him on all by herself. When Keller arrived here in my house, cats were something to hunt and chase and grab by the back of the neck! Even in his blindness, Keller could sense those sneaky cats stealing by his kennel! And he never disappointed them in his attempt to just get at them just this once!

Babee watched from afar and as Keller became more fragile, she came to his rescue. She would approach him and smell him. He would smell her. And then she would begin to groom his face. This little cat who could be swallowed in one gulp by this big dog held no fear or concern of him. She just knew it was a fellow creature in need and so they spent hours together. Babee grooming him and Keller kissing her. And she would purr. She rattled so loudly with Keller that I could hear her in the other room as they spent their quality time together. Always the purring.

Guests to THE FARM all loved Babee. Everyone wanted to hold her so she could wrap her front legs around their necks and hug them. Babee greeted you at the door by trotting up to you with her little tail straight up in the air. “Hello!” she would say. “Welcome! Don’t you want to hug me?”

Babee moved to Oklahoma with me and met Andy. His very first impression of her was that she was an “extraordinarily beautiful cat.”  His comment was tendered with the clarification that “I’m not a cat lover, though, you know!” He held her once (that I saw) and lifted her up to look her in the eyes. Her markings on her face were perfectly symmetrical except for one grey spot on her left upper lip. “That’s her beauty mark,” Andy instructed me. And so it became. Her beauty mark.

Just this fall on a remarkably warm afternoon, Babee and I spent part of a day outside.  She was munching on some tasty grass and I was weeding and working very close to her. A car pulled in to the driveway and in the time it took me to respond, I lost eyesight of Babee.  I panicked! There were hawks and eagles around this neck of the woods! Babee!

I needn’t have worried. I soon found her right where I should have looked for her in the first place – out with the horses. She was just inside of the pasture totally enjoying herself with Babee Joy and Jeri-Ann.  They were most interested in this little furry ball that was in their space. And Babee was pleased with her new audience. She was rubbing against their noses, totally oblivious that one large inhale from either of them could suck her up one of their nostrils! No, Babee was safe and she knew it. She rubbed their faces and again, marked them as her own. All the while, purring so loudly she was drooling. Purring. Always the purring.

Now, I’m not a cat person. Have a ton of them that I care for but I’m not a cat person. Don’t like the litter boxes. And can’t seem to stay ahead of the cat hair in the house. But I never once complained about litter or hair for Babee.

This little creature was one remarkable peacekeeper. People who weren’t happy with themselves or their surroundings or me would always find acceptance and a smile while holding Babee. She often bridged the gap of that “uncomfortable air” by simply entering the room and bringing her total acceptance and love with her. And her purring. Always the purring.

My dearest friend, little Babee IV, has moved on to be with the others waiting for me on the other side of that big bridge. Oh, Babee, I love you so. And I miss you. I miss you horribly. I find it hard to walk around the house and not look for you. Make sure you are warm and safe. Bring you water and food. And hold you for the simple joy of hearing that purring of yours. And I am so terribly grateful that you chose me to find you. Oh, the joy you have brought me! The comfort you have given me when I needed to hug you and cry over the loss of another one. Oh, Babee, it is you that I cry for now.

But I’ll see you again. With all of the others. And you’ll come trotting up to me with your tail straight in the air, saying, “Mama! Welcome! Don’t you want to hug me?”

Babee was one of the most selfless creatures I have ever known. Even in her last moments, she cared for and comforted the creature around her that needed her.  This time it was me. Rubbing her face against mine to mark me as her own just one more time. Hugging me with her tiny little legs around my neck just once more. Her head tucked under my chin and the purring. Even during that final journey, she purred to me. Always the purring.

Listening for you, Babee....

Sunday, February 08, 2009


My First Rescue

“Wanna ride with?”

That was the subject of the email from Sandy....did I want to go with on a rescue? Absolutely! I was excited at the idea of it, rescuing an old horse left without hay, water or shelter. Saving a life. How often do you get that opportunity?

We left THE FARM around 11:30am with Little Man in the backseat and the empty horse trailer. On the drive we talked about upcoming events and other Refuge Farms items. We enjoyed the sun on a beautiful day, and listened to The Eagles. We talked a little about Buddy, the horse we were going to rescue. He is old, 32 the owner said. He was left behind when they moved, and the neighbors were no longer willing to take care of him. The owner sent an email to Sandy when Buddy’s partner died, asking Sandy to rescue him. Thank goodness they cared enough to do something...but why did they wait so long? How can you leave two horses behind? How can you stop caring about them? I just didn’t get it.

I had no idea what to expect. Yes, I was excited, but I was also afraid. Afraid of what we’d find... Would he be sick or injured? Would he be too weak to move? Would he break my heart? I knew better than to expect it to be easy...I’ve heard Sandy’s stories and seen the pictures. I knew that some of the horses she went to rescue didn’t make it. But, I wanted to go. I wanted to be a part of this mission. I wanted to help Sandy. And I wanted Sandy to know that she could count on me to be strong in the face of something terrible, to help her when she really needed it. I prepared for the worse...driving home in tears with an empty trailer, but I hoped he would be ok.

We turned onto the road where Buddy lived. On the left, a fenced in pasture with 4 -5 horses. Further down on the right, another nice horse pasture with more horses and hay. Nice barns. Nice houses. Why weren’t the horses left here? We pass the church and know that the house is coming up. There it is, on the left...with a car waiting for us. The owner and a friend of his walk out of the house as we pull over on the side of the road. I get out so Sandy can pull forward and off as far as possible. Before I can cross the road, a white pickup driving past stops, the man rolls down the window and asks, “Are you here to get the horses?” I nod. “It’s about time” and off he goes. I didn’t think to say that only one was left. I just wonder if he ever tried to help them.

We cross and the owner and his friend greet us, tell us Buddy is back in the wood, so we’ll have to hike through the snow to go get him. Sandy and the owner start out for the horse and I follow along, not really sure of what I should be doing. There he is across the ravine. “He knows he can jump that, he just doesn’t want to today” they tell us. The owner’s friend crosses the ravine, almost falling into the creek, and tries to lead the horse with a bag of feed. The owner and Sandy walk along the creek to where it is frozen over so they can cross and get the horse. I walk back to the gate we went through to see if it can open far enough for the horse, which it cannot.

I hear the friend calling Buddy, because Buddy has decided not to follow any longer and is back at the edge of the ravine. I walk up to the edge, talking to him in my head, telling him it’s ok, we’re going to take him someplace better, with food and water and shelter and other horses. I secretly wish that he’ll jump the ravine and want to come with us. But no, of course that won’t happen. He’s not sure about Sandy and I, he doesn’t understand what is going on, he misses his friend and these guys are trying to catch him. Sandy and the owner decide on a different tactic and he goes a different route to meet his friend and halter the horse and bring him to us by the barn.

While he’s gone, we look at the barn and wonder why the horses were left out in the open when the barn would have provided at least some shelter. The barn actually is the best looking building on the lot, why didn’t they just put up a gate and open the doors?

They are closer to us now, leading the horse with a rope around his neck. Sandy goes out to get the halter on so they can lead him better and hopefully stop him if he decides to bolt...the road is busy and we don’t need him running out there! We walk up to the road and across, they bring him up behind us and into the trailer he goes! No hesitation, straight for the hay. He rocks around in the trailer a bit while Sandy says her goodbye’s and we head off down the road. He’s scared, but we are relieved. He doesn’t look too bad, except for a tail and mane full of burrs. He appears to have a worm belly, and is thin, but his eyes look clear and he’s got spirit! He’s not the “old coot” Sandy expected...we are not even sure he’s as old as they told us.

We get to THE FARM and move Angel out of the corral so we can put him in. Then Sandy backs the trailer down closer to the corral and we get him out and get our first really good look at him. He’s adorable...a little Arab, beautiful red with a white mark on his forehead and one white sock. I can’t tell what color his mane and tail are with all the burrs, and he needs his hooves trimmed, but he is beautiful. He sniffs around the corral and goes to roll in the snow.

Then he checks out the hay. A little from this round bale, a little from that one. He walks up to Sandy...he understands. He knows that she has saved him. He walks past me to more round bales, and looks over the fence, smelling that other horses have been there, but no one is out to meet him. I take some pictures of him, while Sandy goes to get April and Cole out of the barn..”Make sure you get pictures of him when he see’s the other horses”.

He perks up then runs along the fence toward me when he sees the others...his tail up in true Arab fashion. He gets down by the gate and April slowly approaches him, then Cole. Then Addie rushes up. There is some snorting and sniffing and talking...his head is over the gate in the middle of all of theirs. Friends! New Friends! First all the hay I can eat and now this, he seems to say.

I know that we don’t know for sure yet how healthy he is...Dr. Brian will help with that this week. I also know that all rescues will not be this easy. I know how lucky we are that he appears to be relatively healthy and strong. I know that we were lucky the owner cooperated. I know that there will be other rescues, and some of them will not go well. I know that there will be horses we cannot save. But my first rescue went well and I will be eternally grateful to Sandy for asking me if I “wanna ride with?”, because I helped to save a life today.

Julie G.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Impressions from a Friend of THE FARM

Gary S. of Eden Prairie, MN is a long time friend of mine and also a long time Friend of THE FARM. In fact, Gary was present on the day that Ono and Sweet Lady Grey finally arrived home to Spring Valley from their boarding farm in Omaha, Nebraska way back in 1993. Gary knew Jerry, Jimmer, Ono, Lassie, and all of the original foundation creatures. So yes, there is history here.

Saturday, January 31st, was the Annual State of THE FARM for Refuge Farms. We reviewed the events and highlights as well as the numbers of 2008. And we set the goals and pinnacles for 2009. It was a great meeting and I am greatly encouraged by and appreciative of the wealth of talent and dedication in the room that day.

Gary attended the Annual State of THE FARM and participated with the rest of us. I have asked him, as a bit of an outsider, to record his observations and thoughts of the Annual State of THE FARM in a blog for all of us to enjoy. What follows is his message:


Thank you so much for the invitation to attend the Annual State of THE FARM meeting. You have wonderful, dedicated people involved with the missions of Refuge Farms. Looking around the room, I witnessed a mixture of strength, hope and excitement.

As you know, I have been and continue to be involved with a number of civic and non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations. I get the opportunity to attend a wide variety of meetings. This meeting was different. It had an intimate feel to it, if that makes any sense. It was a great idea having everyone sit in a circle versus the speaker/audience venue. More ideas and a greater willingness to share stories seemed to spring forth from this setting. I shed a few tears over the passionate stories.

Your volunteers who are so committed is what Refuge Farms is all about. Seeing a group of people with extraordinary talents covering such a wide variety of different areas, all of them working towards a common committed goal, was remarkable.

It was great when we arrived back at THE FARM. Tracy and Gloria had just returned after dropping off one of the rescued horses. I saw Gloria’s big smile and her thumbs up indicating she was successful on her first mission and ready for more. WOW!

Yes, those of us who work and volunteer with non-profit organizations will have difficult times ahead due to wide variety of issues that our country and local communities are facing. However, with the support of volunteers who are resilient and creative, we will find new and innovative ways to approach these challenges and persevere, having in place much stronger organizations as we move ahead.

“We are going to need to balance the passion and compassion that draws us to this work, with the competence, experience and expertise, and sheer hard work that we'll need to steer this ship out of the troubled waters,” was stated in a speech last month by Richard Male, a consultant that works with the non-profit sector. This reminds me of Refuge Farms.

Once again, thanks for sharing and allowing me the opportunity to be part of this much needed and passionate organization you have in Spring Valley.

Sandy, as I have heard you say so many times, “Enjoy the journey of each and every day.”


P.S. I thought you might enjoy adding this picture of one of my favorite pastimes - fishing for "the big one" up in Canada. I frequent the same lodge just about every year and thoroughly enjoy my time on the water. It is a time to relax, fish, and eat shore lunch. What more could a guy ask for?

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