Sunday, April 18, 2010


The Circle of Life

I'm sitting here on this bright, sunny Sunday morning shaking my head. I've come to expect - almost anticipate - the imaginative side of life. I tend to see things as "meant to be" and "part of The Master Plan". When coincidences occur, I tend to look at them as just the pieces of The Plan unfolding in front of me. I really don't give "luck" much credit. I believe that if one is "lucky", they are prepared and open to opportunities. I believe in God. And that life here on earth has a purpose. And that our good works will bring great rewards.

Well, even I'm shaking my head this morning. I had intentions of writing a simple little story with a couple of old pictures to tie it all together, and now I'm sitting here wondering just what it is that is unfolding in front of me. I am re-struck with just how much our lives are so intertwined. Strangers are not strangers at all. This life is full, indeed, of miracles. And friends.

It all starts back in March when Kelly brought Mo and Taylor to Refuge Farms. Mo and Taylor were young - very young - adults that Kelly was working with to assist in the development of their characters. Providing positive influences in their lives. Giving them reinforcement for their good works and working to correct the not-so-good works.

Kelly reached out to Refuge Farms for a visit with the horses and I, totally confident in the abilities of these ministers in horse hair, said "See you Tuesday!". And so on Tuesday, March 23rd, the car pulled into the driveway and our ambassador, Little Man, did his usual, friendly job of greeting our guests.

We all spent some time in the driveway talking and just getting to know each other while Little Man looked up at these two children with those big, brown, adoring eyes of his. He leaned into their legs and he rolled onto his back. Love simply poured out of his little brown body. Little Man was quite the minister. He did an excellent job of putting all of us - a group of strangers - at ease with each other and in the mood for the trip into the barns.

Throughout the day, Little Man was never far from Mo and Taylor. In fact, when it was time for this group of newly found friends to depart, Little Man started to climb into the car with Taylor! Children were his very favorite humans. And these two were champions to him.

The next day, in a matter of moments, Little Man crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. In my grief, I wrote the blog to commemorate his life with us and then I emailed Kelly. I did not want Mo or Taylor to get onto the Refuge Farms website and discover that our greeter - and their new friend - had crossed. I wanted them to know how very special they had been to Little Man and how they had been instrumental in making his last day on this earth one filled with joy and love. I wanted Kelly to be the one to tell these two young hearts that their new friend had crossed.

Kelly and I emailed a bit in the following days and the size of Kelly's heart became evident to me. I appreciated her words and her kind messages. And then we had our Refuge Farms Easter Breakfast at Applebee's on April 3rd . . .

In the middle of the chaos, Kelly appeared. We hugged and we talked and I did my very best to stay composed. But then Kelly handed me a little gold box. In the box was a charm, she said. A St. Francis of Assisi charm. Kelly was giving me this charm because she believed that St. Francis was caring for Little Man until I could rejoin him again . . . So much for remaining composed.

Back home the next day in a moment of calm and privacy, I opened the box and examined the charm. It is delicate. It is small, actually, but when I open the box I find I need to move it away from me. This little charm seems to swell and fill the space around me. And I am deeply touched by the heart and compassion of Kelly.

Later that week, Kelly emailed me about business. I replied and I mentioned the charm to her and how deeply her gift had impacted me. Kelly then responded with an email and told me the story that was my intended blog for today. And in that story, Kelly mentioned her Grandfather. A special man to her. This man had horses - big horses - and yes, she would certainly send me a few pictures of her Grandfather that I could include in the blog.

So, earlier this morning, I innocently opened Kelly's envelope of photos. Old photos that have been handled and with color that is fading. I examined the pictures and began to shake my head. Grandfather's horses were big, for sure. The pictures of the horses standing in the paddock around the barn . . I pulled out my magnifier and immediately recognized those familiar roached manes and those trimmed legs and that big body conditioning . . . These were pulling horses! Kelly's Grandfather was a horse puller!

Other pictures in the packet confirmed my thoughts. Sure enough there was a picture of Grandfather with his team at a horse pulling event. This world is small, my friends. Very, very small. This man was a horse puller. His team was magnificent. The ivory decorations (called drops) were signs of pride in his horses. The team stood tall and solid. Their eyes and heads showed no concerns for their safety and I saw no sign of fear in their bodies whatsoever. This man loved his horses. And they loved him right back.

And so I will spend more time with Kelly and talk of her Grandfather with her. I will ask when and where he pulled. I will ask which league he competed in and I will ask if she knows any of the men I know about her Grandfather's age. And I will ask the name of her Grandfather. And then I will show her my books on Wisconsin horse pullers and see if this man is who I think he is. And then, bursting with pride, I will show her pictures of Jerry, The Roan Horse and Ruby and Duker. I'll tell her of my time pulling horses in competition. And maybe even bring out the picture from Glidden when Jerry and Duker set the Heavyweight record. And we'll see if this circle of life with these magnificent big horses will come right back to where it all began. Back to the world of horse pulling.

We are never far from each other. If we take the time, we will find our histories and our lives are so intermixed with each other's. We will find that we aren't really strangers. Just people who haven't taken the time to get to know one other and talk long enough to discover the ties.

And so, on this Sunday morning, I do indeed have a story to tell you. A story of Little Man. But I have a new respect for the purpose of this dog's life. Weeks after his crossing, his life has unveiled yet another tie to someone I would have called a stranger. Because of Little Man, I have found another Human with a huge, compassionate heart. All because of a little chocolate lab we called Little Man.

Huh. Maybe Kelly's Grandfather is watching right now, with Little Man leaning into his legs, as we find the time to talk and uncover our histories. Bless you, Little Man! And bless you Kelly for the St. Francis charm. It is because of your gift that I have looked at these pictures and can literally feel the circle of life engulfing me. Thank you for the comfort that the thought of the after life brings to me today.

Hi Sandy!!

Well, the dogs will be happy to hear that you liked the medal. There is a story behind it… I didn’t want to get into it at the breakfast since there was so much going on, so here goes:

When I was growing up, I had a German Shepherd named Sam. He was the best dog in the world. I lost Sam when I was 8. He had Cancer and actually went very fast. My grandfather (who raised Belgian Draft horses and totally got me hooked on horses) told me all about the Rainbow Bridge and how St. Francis is there taking care of all the animals until their person comes to get them. We made a St. Francis medal for Sam, and each dog I have ever taken in gets a St. Francis medal. The medal goes with the dogs if they ever have surgery for any reason, and when they decide to move on, they are buried with it. I also have one that hangs by the front door of my house, and one that I keep in the horses’ shed.

Anyway, on the Sunday before I brought the kids out to the farm, Paul and I acquired a female Chocolate Lab named Tyra. It was kind of a rescue . . . my brother’s wife insisted that he get rid of her, and there was really no place to go but to a shelter, so we took her in. On Wednesday after I got home from work, I told all the dogs about Little Man and cried a little. Tyra seemed to be uncomfortable with the emotions, and I saw her kind of drift away… she was new to the pack and learning our ways so I let her go.

A few minutes later she came over to me and dropped something on my foot. It was the box with her St. Francis medal in it. I have no idea how she got it down off of the computer desk, but there it was. She sat down in front of me and stared at me. My other 4 dogs (also girls) sat in a semi-circle around me and stared at me. It just honestly felt like they were telling me that this medal was for you and your charges. I guess I got their little hint!

So, the girls and I (and Paul) hope that you and the critters on THE FARM keep St. Francis close and let him take care of the ones that move on until you can see them again.

Take care, Sandy. My critters and I send hugs to you and yours! I hope to see you all again soon!!!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd, Sitting in The Circle of Life

Sunday, April 11, 2010


A Picture Speaks 1,000 Words

How many times have you had someone poke you in the ribs or nod their head your way and say, "A picture speaks a thousand words . . ."? Well, this morning you had better settle in, then. Refill your cup with fresh coffee. Make yourself another piece of toast. Settle in and get ready to enjoy, because I have pictures!

Thanks to Tom A. of Ellsworth, WI and Gary S. of Eden Prairie, MN we have pictures of our Annual Spring Easter Breakfast at Applebee's in Menomonie. It was a beautiful spring day after a day of much needed rain. Our crew was in spectacular form as were the Horse Ministers that we brought along.

Enjoy! Hear our stories! See our commitment to our Missions! And listen to the thousands of words that we have to say!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and BOTH Herds!

Sunday, April 04, 2010


"The Blessing"

Sherri Anderson is a dear Friend of THE FARM. On her initial visit here, I saw immediately in her eyes the connection and the recognition that she "got it". Sherri is a fellow Parelli student and sees through the big puff of personality that the horse often presents. She sees through to the instincts and constant awareness of surroundings. She sees their curiosity and often their fears. Sherri sees past the broken legs, the wounds filled with proud flesh, the blind eyes, the cancerous bumps, and the crippled feet. She sees the soul inside and, too, falls deeply in love.

Recently, I asked Sherri to share with us a bit of her spirit. She is such a gentle and easy person. Would she be willing to write a bit that we could present on this special Easter Sunday? And she did.

Thank you, Sherri. You can visit Sherri and read of her life's observations at And now, with great pleasure, I introduce to you my friend, Sherri Anderson.

I would like to share this little poem. I have kept it in my journal for a long time and it’s a pleasure to spend a few moments with it. After a long winter I think we all deserve to drink in the warmth and promise of nicer days ahead. I think it is a pleasant coincidence that it’s called “A Blessing” since spring blessings were mentioned in the Refuge Farms newsletter I recently received.

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.

They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.

At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.

She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.

Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

by James Wright

This poem is also reproduced on a Minnesota rest stop interpretive marker on westbound I-90. I had the job of transporting a friend's horses part of the way on her journey to work on at breeding facility in South Dakota this past week. Fran Latane is a talented Parelli student on her way to becoming an instructor and she is meeting up with her mentor instructor, Farrah Green, who is on staff at this ranch. I can only imagine her excitement of working her Parelli magic with the dozen or so young horses that are being started.

I am so heartened to see how the Parelli method of helping humans and horses has grown. It was even more inspiring to see your beauties, Sandy, at the Gala, all decked out in their Parelli halters. Seeing the distinctive string halter speaks volumes to those who know its meaning: Love, Language and Leadership -- in equal doses. To the casual observer it just a string halter. To the student of natural horsemanship it says -- I care about my horse, I learned to speak the horse’s language and I will be a kind and just leader for my horse.

The poem, “The Blessing”, speaks to me through that profound communication between horse and human. How fragile and special the glimmer of understanding is when the horse seeks communication with us. It is through the grace of God, Sandra Gilbert, volunteers and supporters, that the great and noble horses at Refuge Farms have received that blessing of being heard and protected.

Thank you, Sandy, for the opportunity to share.
I have received so much inspiration from your blog and your organization -- not to mention the wonderful horses whom you give a voice through your works. I hope to have a few more "thoughts" to share along the way.

Keeping it natural,
Sherri Anderson - "saddlebagsher"

photos by Frances Latane

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