Sunday, October 18, 2009


A Typical Week

This week has been a fairly typical week here at THE FARM. Hectic. Snow in October. Horse antics. Tours. Meetings. And then of course, there is the little detail like readying ourselves for the Fall Gala! Eh, gad! The Gala is three weeks away!

The week began with snow, freezing rain, wind, and shivering horses. The rain has turned to cold water out of the skies and when it falls for hours the wetness and the cold penetrates their hides. Their skin cools and the weaker ones begin to shiver. PONY! came in for breakfast on Monday morning a shivering mass. Little Gracie's teeth were actually chattering! Josephina was having trouble standing still. And Big Lanna had shoulders that were twitching like she was doing muscle exercises! Even the sturdiest of them all - Miss April - had shivering flanks.

So, we began the winter process of hooking everyone, closing the doors to minimize the drafts, brushing off the standing water, feeding, and then letting them stand so that their body heat could dry their coats. They were fed and soon just about everyone was sleeping at their empty buckets. By mid-morning, they were warm again and so they ventured out once more into now what was the snow!

It has been a long time since I've had to blanket horses on October 12th. But this year, I did just that. Forget the calendar! The weather has turned and the horses are struggling to tolerate the extremes. These horses here are safe. My mind, of course, wanders to the thin and starving standing in a pasture with no shelter and no feed and no blankets. How many of those desperate creatures gave up and went down in that wet cold?

The desk work and emails this week were seemingly unending. Many details to coordinate and many plans to firm up. Julie, our Gala Coordinator, is doing a magnificent job. And with a smile, too! I just don't know how she does it! It is under this pressure that I tend to get "icky". But not Julie! Always patient. Always willing to explain to me - usually again - how it is all going to work. And always on top of the details. Amazing.

Squished in there was another task that I worked on with another team of talented women - the 2010 Refuge Farms Calendar. Now, two weeks ago, it was a skeleton with rows of xxxxxxxxxxxxx's on the pages. But in a matter of just a few days, this production came together. The proofing was done by Tracy, the Professor, and Linda, the Professional Proofer. Two people you would want on your team, I'm betting! These two missed nothing.

The artistic talent was once again given freely by Colleen. Her talents have exceeded my dreams! And the 2010 Refuge Farms Calendar is yet another example of her talents! Colleen has donated her creative abilities, but also her pictures and her own text this year. You will be impressed. I know I am! The calendar is at the printers (and on time, at that!) and will be available for you at the Fall Gala. It is beautiful, if I do say so myself!

Thursday evening found me in Chippewa Falls to present to the Rosebud and Friends group. Another non-profit in the Chippewa Valley with very similar values to Refuge Farms. Rosebud is a support and peer group for people with mental illness. And I went prepared with my PowerPoint presentation and my projector and I was ready! Only one thing - I had technical difficulties. Still can't figure it out but the project would only show one quarter of the screen. Couldn't use the presentation. So I told them I believed it was destiny or The Master Plan or whatever you wanted to call it. I told them I would have to paint them pictures with my words. And so I did.

We talked of Miss April and Charlie at Camp Quest. We talked of Blaise and her blindness. Of the Memory Beds and the hopes for Laddee. We talked of healing and faith and respect and hope. We talked for a long time and I went strictly from my heart. No script to follow. No presentation to follow. Only my heart to follow. I enjoyed them and they enjoyed the conversation. After all of the preparation, none of it was used. And the message was heard. Another lesson learned...

Also this week, the requests for tours continue to come in. Even in this weather. People are willing to brave the cold, the wet, and the mud to have a few minutes in the presence of these horses. I am honest with them and tell them of the cold and the mud, but they persist. And when they pull out of the driveway, I am pleased that they did not shy away. Their visits have put me back in touch with The Herd. And our Missions. Their visits have once again solidified for me what it is that we do. And why we do all of this hard work. We do it to save a life.

On Monday I went to fill the stock tanks and the water flow seemed very slow. I went to the hydrant in the barn and turned the water off and then on again. No change, so I left it to fill the tank. When I returned to check it about twenty minutes later I had a lake in the barn! Laddee's end stall was six inches deep with water! It seems the pressure was back and the hose had jumped out of the tank! I ran to the hydrant to turn the water off but pressing down on the handle did not change a thing! Water was still gushing out of the hose! I threw the hose outside and ran to the basement to turn off the water line. A call to a plumber and his diagnosis was what I had feared - the hydrant was shot. Worn out. No repairing. Must be replaced. His backhoe will be here in two weeks and we will dig the ground up and put in a new hydrant. Until then, it is hoses strung from the house.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Isaac and his wife, Betty, spent the night so that all of the hooves would be trimmed and prepared for the fall frozen grounds. Isaac and I are getting a bit older, we now admit. It has taken us years to admit that, but now we see that spreading 64 hooves over two days is a bit easier on our bodies than trying to accomplish their trimmings all in one day. Oh, the honesty of aging!

Those two days gave us time to reconnect. I've known these two Human Beings for over seventeen years now. Isaac has trimmed my horses all that time. Jerry, the Roan Horse. Slim. Ima. Miss Bonita. Randy. DukeDuke. He has known some of these horses before they came here, when they were pulling horses. Handsome, Big Jim, Jerry, Slim. Isaac is good at his craft and he amazes me.

We may be cold or sweating. Tired and near exhaustion. And the horse that is trimmed the very last is given the same care and time that the very first horse is given. Isaac treats each horse as if it were a prize horse. Because, as Isaac says, "They are all prizes."

Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare was trimmed this week. She was trusting as I walked her into the shoeing bed. Isaac even commented on her trust. We began with her right rear foot and she was troubled. She fought and resorted to her head swinging and front feet slashing. Isaac talked with her and she continued. But after that first foot, I witnessed this man's heart. He quietly walked to the head of Laddee and placed his open hand on her nose so she could smell him and her own hooves. He said to her, "We aren't punishing you, girl. We are trying to help you. You'll understand soon. I'll wait for you."

He then began the left rear foot and after a small attempt to fight, Laddee took a deep sign and settled in. Isaac turned to me and suggested that I reward her for her trust. And so she was given feed which she accepted. And it was a walk in the park after that.

Laddee's new feet were the final step in her recovery. Now she is as whole as we can make her. She is out with Handsome and Big Lanna and Miss Bette and Miss April and I look each day to see if Handsome is scratching her neck. Is Handsome finding her and helping her heal from her loss of Kentucky Jack? Not yet, but each day I look for it.

Jeri-Ann also received a full set of shoes this week. Her size is putting enormous pressure on her soft, white hooves and so the spreading and cracking needs to be stopped now or she will become another Miss Bonita with bad feet. So, huge shoes (read that as H U G E shoes!) were ordered and Isaac placed them onto her feet. I was concerned that when the hammering began she would struggle. But not that Jeri-Ann! She simply turned her head and looked back at Isaac to see what he was doing. Ho hum. No problem. No fear. No struggle.

Her first steps on her new feet were funny to see! Jeri-Ann backed out of the shoeing bed and when she was on the ground she looked down and sniffed her front feet. "What are these?" she asked. We took her down to the old barn and turned her out with Babee Joy and Spirit and off she went! Mud flying in the air, Jeri-Ann ran to her friends, talking the entire way. Isaac quietly said, "I guess the shoes work."

Yesterday was Saturday and the first nice weather in a week. We have standing water and I need to move round bales but I need a day or two for the pastures to dry before I venture out. So yesterday was destined to be a day to prepare for the coming cold. So many doors to close and pieces to get inside. Wind chimes to take down and pots to put away. Hoses to take in and ponds to cover. A busy day all around.

But in the morning, I was visited by someone I have come to know over this Internet of ours. She reads our blogs (Hello, Sherri!) and relates to the emotional side of this world of rescue. She is a horse lover and a horse handler. In fact, she studies Parelli. And she is an artist. Creative with glass etchings, oil, stained glass - I'm not even aware of all of her talents. But she has a heart and I am honored to know her.

This spring, Sherri planted pumpkin seeds. A single packet of seeds was placed in the ground to grow over the summer months. And then this fall, when she participated in the local Artist Tour, she and her friends sold those pumpkins and told the stories of Refuge Farms. They told the stories of the horses and the rescues. The losses and the victories. And the money from the pumpkins and the donations is sitting here on my desk. Such kindness from virtual strangers.

Sherri is a slight woman but the kindness that radiates out of her is enormous. She touched the horses and was in awe of the size of Babee Joy and Jeri-Ann. She knew Handsome when she met him and asked which one was the "drop-off" of this summer. Her vision saw the wisdom and the character of Ole' Man Cole instead of the worn out ankles and droopy lips. She loved little Gracie and marveled at the beauty of Appaloosa Mare. It was a pleasure to have Sherri in the barns.

And when she left, I felt a connection much like that of the connection from Kathy of North Carolina. Another Sister in Rescue. Someone who would listen and identify. Someone who knows and cares. I am blessed - so very blessed! - in my life! To have such friends around me. What a lucky, lucky woman I am!

The week came to a close last night with the arrival of the first of four semi-loads of round bales. Steve brought his wife, Marilyn, with him and we talked while Steve unloaded the bales. We talked about how disposable we have become. How irresponsible we have become. And how greedy we have become. Practical. Experienced. And like many of us, worried and concerned. I found Marilyn to be a dose of reality at the close of the week.

Just a typical week at Refuge Farms. Work and meetings and calls and experiences that meld together into a memory. Like I told the Rosebud group: This is my destiny. I would be no place else. I never dreamed it but now I cannot imagine not doing this. I am exactly where I am supposed to be and doing exactly what I was born to do.

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

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