Sunday, September 27, 2009


She Knows . . .

It was exactly one week ago today. Sunday morning at about 6:30AM. I was just leading Dude out of the corral into his box stall for the day. The sun was out. The air was heavy with moisture. And there was no wind. It was going to be another July day in mid-September.

My mind was completely absorbed with the tablet sitting on my desk. I had just spent a few minutes prioritizing tasks that needed to have my undivided attention. I ran out of space after two full pages of a legal tablet. The first page was entitled "NOW" meaning these tasks were in desperate need. Most of these tasks were overdue, in fact. So I needed to focus on them now. Then there was the second page of tasks entitled "LATER". Meaning after I was at a point where I could breath and sleep. To say I was feeling overwhelmed and underwater was a huge - enormously huge - understatement.

But I felt I needed the calm and serenity of the barns before I began my day. This was the final day of our Fall Antique & Garage Sale and I needed to be ready to receive customers while at the same time make use of the time I would be waiting for customers by getting a few things off of my "NOW" list!

So, at 6:30AM I found myself content. Ole' Man Cole was munching on his breakfast in his stall with the fan aimed right at his withers. The Helen Keller side was enjoying their breakfast, the big barn stock tanks had been filled, the big fans were on to move the air and hopefully reduce the flies in the barn. And now it was time to set Dude up for a day in his stall. I had already cleaned his stall and sprinkled barn lime to reduce the attraction of the flies. And I had his feed and hay and water ready for the day. Now all that remained for me this morning was the pleasure of walking Dude from the corral down the driveway to the barn.

It was the early morning. The dew was very heavy. And the sun was out. Maybe I should just breath, I told myself.

I heard the tires on the driveway gravel before I saw the car. It was a car with Minnesota license plates. A woman was driving and so I paused with Dude as the car circled the driveway. A kind-faced woman came out of the car and her first words were, "Who is this handsome one?"

The demeanor of this woman was calming to me immediately. She had a soft and gentle face. A soothing voice. And a southern drawl. Her name was Kathy. She lived in North Carolina. Her Grandmother had just passed away and so she had returned home for the funeral. The return flight South was mid-morning and so she had risen early to stop over at Refuge Farms before she went home.

How did she know of us? Her family that still lived up in "these parts of the woods" knew of THE FARM and so she had been advised that she should find the time to get over here. I had been too busy on Saturday, I had told her, for a tour so she took the time and spent the energy to visit early on a Sunday morning.

The short version of the story of Dude was told and she immediately looked for the signs of recovery. She felt his under jaw, felt his spine, his knees, and looked at his flanks. She smiled and said he was beautiful, just beautiful. And then she came around front and saw his eyes. "Oh, my . . ," as her voice trailed off. I knew she was pondering the same questions I had about Dude. How could someone be so cruel to such a creature? What could he have done wrong to deserve a broken jaw? And how, after breaking his jaw, do you just let him lie in pain to starve to death?

We toured the rest of the barns and we talked. We talked about volunteers and the struggle to compete for their time in a way-too-busy-world. We talked about adoptions and how they seem to be just disappearing. We talked about the paperwork and how that only seemed to be increasing. And we talked about the unwanted horses. We shared a few success stories and I trusted Kathy enough to share a few of my failures with her, too. She was quiet and understood. She knew the decisions that must be made and the costs associated with those decisions. She was a kindred spirit. A Sister in Rescue.

We spent an hour before she glanced at her watch. Her face showed me that she was late for her trip to the Twin Cities airport and so we wrapped up our hints to each other. Really, it was her hints to me. I had no hints to her. She had become my sounding board that morning. I gave nothing to her. But she offered herself and so I used her up. It helped my heart that morning by expressing my regrets and my fears. To someone who did more than listen. To someone who knew and understood. She is in there, too. She knows.

We hugged and I found myself refreshed as I watched Kathy walk back to her car. She had restated for me things I already knew. I must have help in the barns. I must have help with the publicity. And I must have help with my heart. She told me of a class that she had found most helpful. A class about avoiding this thing they call "compassionate burnout". Like I said, she knows.

Right before Kathy left, she told me one of her success stories. It confirmed for me the power and the spiritual impact of these unwanted horses. It confirmed for me why we do what we do. It's why we are in this business of rescue. Even though it exhausts and pains you.

I want to share the story with you. Maybe you'll know, then, too. In Kathy's words:

I got a call once for a big thoroughbred horse. Not fast enough to be on the tracks and so a woman had rescued him. But she now wanted him gone. In fact, she thought the horse should be put down. He wasn't safe, she said.

It seemed that every time you saddled him he had a seizure. He fainted and fell over. This current owner was convinced it was a personality thing and so it would be best to put him down. That's when I stepped in.

I brought this tall, lanky guy home to my farm and watched him for six months. No seizures. No fainting. Nothing appeared out of order. No big personality flaws. In fact, he was quite a nice horse.

So, I saddled him and then discovered the problem. When the saddle was tightened, it would pinch a nerve in his spine that would cause him to black out. Once the nerve pressure was relieved, he was fine. A few adjustments and the horse was sound again.

My next step was to find an adoptive owner for the thoroughbred. And a match was found. A young lady was going through gastric bypass surgery and it would be some time before she could ride him, but they would learn to trust each other and know each other as she worked with him from the ground. And so the adoption proceeded.

The old owner caused me quite a few problems. She fought the adoption and tried every tactic she could think of to have this horse euthanized. But I stuck to my convictions and he was soon safely moved to his new home.

Some time passed and the new owner was now taking riding lessons on her proud horse. Lessons were needed as the owner was new to riding and this horse was a thoroughbred, remember. He loved to run. Lessons progressed and some more time passed. The two fell in love with each other.

One day at riding lessons, this thoroughbred horse would not move. He was dragging his feet and would not respond to his owner's requests to step up and trot or even walk at a normal pace. He drug himself around and stayed a ways out from the rail the entire time. He seemed almost in slow motion. His owner became perplexed and the trainer was puzzled as well. What was wrong with the thoroughbred? Why wouldn't he move this morning???

Then it happened. His owner had a diabetic seizure and she fell off of the horse. This horse knew she wasn't well that morning. He could sense it or smell it or see it. Who knows how these creatures know? But he knew his owner was in trouble. And so he refused to put her in jeopardy by moving close to the rail and by picking up his feet and moving. He knew. Bless his heart, this horse knew.

I still cry everytime I tell that story . .

With that, this southern woman hugged me again and said, "Take care, Sandy. We'll keep in touch." And I smiled as she drove off. I was refreshed. Kathy and her story had rescued yet another of God's creatures that day . . Thank you, Kathy!

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

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