Sunday, June 28, 2009



It was the last Saturday in March of 2007. I was expecting a horse trailer to pull into the driveway about 3pm or so. In that trailer was a Percheron mare, 16 years old they said, that needed a home. My intentions were to re-home this mare. A Percheron should be easy to find a home for – everybody wants the big horses. They said nothing was wrong with her except she was thin. So I kept an eye on the driveway during the afternoon of our March 2007 Public Hours.

This mare came to my attention through an email I had received from a lady in northern Wisconsin – up by Superior. The story she told me was of a neighbor who had the horse and was willing to surrender the horse as long as no publicity or police or “do gooders” gave him a hard time for her condition. I agreed with his terms and accepted the mare to Refuge Farms through email. This was a first, but the description of the mare and her personality told me that adoption was the most likely route this time.

The trailer did, in fact, pull into the yard at just about 3pm straight up. A big steel trailer with one single mare in the rear compartment. After meeting the woman who had emailed me, Diane, and her husband, Andrew, the doors to the trailer were opened and I walked in to meet this little mare. All good intentions that I had were left behind me as my feet left the ground and I entered that trailer. This little mare was home.

I have seen thin before and this mare was one of the thinnest. And I have seen depressed before and this mare was deeply depressed. She turned her head to look at me as I came in beside her and her eyes were the same eyes I saw in Bonita when I found her standing in the kill buyer’s pen. Dead eyes. Unmoving eyes. Staring eyes. Checking out eyes.

Asking Andrew what they called her, he told me her name was “Addie”. Ever so gently placing my right hand on her withers and looking her straight in that dead left eye, I began. “Addie-Girl, I have a few things I want to tell you. They are The Three Promises. I am going to tell you what you can expect here. And I’m going to keep telling you these promises, Addie-Girl, for as long as you will stay with me here at this little patch of land. The first promise, Addie-Girl, is that you are safe here. . . .”

And so Addie-Girl came to become a part of The Herd on March 31, 2007. A day grey with a cold spring rain. A day when it felt more like winter was coming back than leaving. A day when the barns were already full but my heart just could not turn those sad, empty eyes away. A day when Addie-Girl heard The Three Promises in her left ear before her feet ever hit the dirt of the driveway.

It was quite some time later that the truth, or most of the truth, was disclosed to me. The story of Addie-Girl had not been represented to me exactly right. But I truly didn’t care. I just knew that Addie-Girl coming to Refuge Farms was the best thing for her. She needed the cares and the shelter and the medicines we gave her. She needed the love. And she needed to no longer be put in a harness and made to walk on pavement with that ring bone in her front joints. The forgiveness was not for me to give. The humans needed to forgive themselves.

We spent the first sixty days attacking the lice that covered every single solitary inch of her body. In her ears, under her tail, in her sides, under her belly, even in her hoof hairline. The horse literally had waves of movement on her sides as the lice attacked and sucked the blood and energy right out of her. How this creature tolerated the constant itching all over her was beyond me! I attacked those lice with everything I had. And spent hours scratching Addie-Girl!

It took sixty days, but at the end of those sixty days she was shiny and sleek and a bit of flesh was reappearing on her ribs. She had no lice and a good appetite. And every once in a while, I would catch her looking at another horse in the next pasture with a tad bit of interest. Huh. . . Maybe she was still in there and wanted to socialize a bit.

Indeed, Addie-Girl did attach to another horse for companionship and protection. She knew the pain of her bad feet well and so escape or normal horse movement was not hers any longer. And her demeanor was one of passive acceptance. Addie-Girl would not defend herself against a human or a horse, so she needed a protector who would do that for her. Someone she felt safe with. Someone who would stand up for her and get between her and the threatening creatures. Someone she could count on. Addie-Girl found Miss April.

The two were inseparable! When Miss April was brought in to the barn for her shoes to be reset, Addie-Girl would stand right next to the gate – not fifteen feet from Miss April! – and call to her and wait for her with a wrinkled, worried forehead. When Miss April was returned to the pasture, Addie-Girl would release this low rumble of joy from way, deep in her throat. And then the two-that-had-become-one would meander back out to the round bale again.

Humans were something that Addie-Girl tolerated but never received well. She had been abused and hurt and mistreated by these little creatures and so to openly trust them again would take more time than Addie-Girl’s body was willing to give us. But in those last weeks, Addie-Girl did allow me to clean her and touch her and sing to her. I bathed her and put Vaseline on her to keep her skin protected and the flies off of her. I wrapped her tail and she stood quietly allowing me the pleasure of cleaning and caring for her.

But I never asked her for a head hug or a big neck hug. That would have been too close and too much to ask this frightened little mare. She knew, deep in her heart, that she was loved her. She knew that. And knowing it was good enough for me. Getting that close to touch her head was more than I wanted to ask of this dark beauty of a horse. She needed that space to feel safe within herself.

Her eyes were as black as her coat. Deep, dark eyes that held pain in them. Not the physical type of pain, but pain from separation from one she loved. Miss April was good for her, yes, but Addie-Girl missed her partner. Inquiries in to her story unveiled the untruths of the original story but also unveiled Addie’s partner. A big grey dappled Percheron. A harness partner to Addie. A horse that would not be released to Refuge Farms, even though I pleaded to help Addie-Girl in her final weeks.

And for that, I am sorry for Addie-Girl. You longed deeply for the sight and touch of your partner. To have been together this spring would have given you great comfort and peace. I am sorry, Addie-Girl.

On Monday, June 22, 2009, Addie-Girl crossed with dignity and grace. True to her character and in strength, Miss April stood strongly by her side. Addie-Girl remained composed and was indeed a lady, right to the very end. Her loneliness and hesitancy were finally put to rest. As was that little vanishing body of hers that refused to respond to the medicine and cares.

It was time for Addie-Girl to cross over that bridge and wait for her long lost partner and all of us Human Beings that loved her. She is once again full bodied and shiny and standing with her head high in the air. She can run now and not have pain in her steps. She is joyful. Finally! Addie-Girl is at last truly singing from her heart.

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

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