Sunday, May 24, 2009


We Walk So They Will Walk

It is a glorious morning in the springtime in west central Wisconsin. There is a slight chill in the air but you don't notice that since your ears are almost assaulted by the sounds of the birds calling to each other. They are so busy at this time of year - building and maintaining their nests, gathering food for themselves and their babies, and just using their wings to fly, fly, fly! Almost makes one jealous, doesn't it?

The sky is as clear as a bell. There is not a cloud to be seen. Our day today will be sunny. The air is filled with the fragrances of spring, as well. In the yard there are several lilac bushes in full bloom and the aroma is enough to make your head light! I have stood many times next to the bushes and filled my lungs to capacity. Trying to absorb the fragrance and pack it away in my brain someplace to pull out on a particularly bitter January morning.

The horses are all picking at grass or flat out on their sides loudly an unashamedly snoring in the hay. This, to me, is one of the very best parts of the day. They have picked all night and now find their legs may need a rest and so the hay is calling to them reminding them of its softness. "Come! And rest that big body for a little while!" Big and little bumps in the hay. I look for Spirit and do not see her! But not to worry, she is simply hidden in the hay by the size of the bodies that surround her - Babee Joy, Jeri-Ann, and Beauty.

When I begin to stir, they begin to rise. And then they do something that I stop to watch: they s t r e t c h. Oh, how adorable even the biggest of the big becomes when its sleepy eyes are opening and in the middle of a yawn, they stretch. How very human of them!

Today is a bit more special than most, though. Since today is the day of the Annual Walk for Refuge. Of course, it is a fundraiser. But it is a special fundraiser. It is on this day that we bring out pledge sheets and the pledges are accumulated for the purpose of caring for the feet of The Herd. I tell people that we use our feet to care for their feet.

This is our 5th Annual Walk for Refuge. And each year, as a result of the efforts of the volunteers and supporters, we raise the funds we need to care for those all important feet of the horses. For, you see, a horse with sore feet soon begins the downward spiral of deterioration. With sore feet, a horse stops eating and seldom drinks and begins to lay more than to stand. With sore feet, the exercise stops and the internal organs begin to malfunction. With sore feet, the will to live soon escapes them. Feet are everything to a horse!

I remember Miss Bonita when she arrived here on that cold, bone chilling November day. She was 500-600 pounds underweight and her coat was blotchy. Her head hung low and she spent her time going from minute to minute. Her manure was too loose and her urine told me of kidney failure. Even in that cold air, she was sweating with pain. All of this because this enormous mare was trying to stand on feet that were full of puss and pain.

It took three years, but Miss Bonita's feet recovered. The yearly abscesses that would come two or three at a time disappeared. The curvature of her hoof straightened out. And one fine day, I actually saw Miss Bonita trot up the hill to the barn for supper. The days of living in the softness of a round bale were behind her. Miss Bonita was a horse again!

Her coat turned silky blonde and her urine was clear. Her manure - all 80 pounds of it! - was normal and moist. The feet of this giant brood mare were the key to her survival as well as to her enjoyment and pleasure of the day.

It was when her feet recovered, that her heart soon followed. With good feet, Miss Bonita was able to lift her head and look around her. Her eyes fell upon the handsome horse that had always been standing just to her left flank. Big Jim. Patiently awaiting her, Big Jim adored Miss Bonita.

When Miss Bonita was free of the pain from her feet, she was able to see and foster the relationship that Big Jim had so dutifully been waiting for. "Two Peas in a Pod" is what I called them. And their love was solid and loyal. So loyal, in fact, that the very day that Big Jim crossed, Miss Bonita began refusing her feed. She simply stopped eating. Her heart was broken and her spirit died. And then, what would take her happened. Her feet went bad again.

A horse with bad feet is a horse in dire straits. And so we walk today - a simple one mile walk - to symbolize the use of our feet or wheels or wagons or bikes for the care of their feet. We bring our dogs and our friends. We walk and then we sit to eat and talk. But all the while, I will be seeing in my mind's eye, the feet of Miss Bonita.

Thank you to all of you who have pledged your support for this Annaul Walk for Refuge. Thank you for your help in maintaining those all important feet of our horse ministers.

And thank you to the walkers. We will enjoy each other and the day today. We will know that our efforts are for the very survival of those that have been promised respect and care and a final home here at THE FARM. We will eat and we will laugh. And today, of all days, I will bring the story of Miss Bonita with me. I will place her promptly on the table for all to see. The gigantic mare who showed us all that the feet of a horse - those often overlooked and neglected feet - are the very key to their survival.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd with Miss Bonita right behind us

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