Sunday, May 30, 2010


A Gentle Guest Returns

On Memorial Day Weekend of May of 2009, I introduced you to Dan Knutson. I met Dan back in the 70's while we both were working in the Gambles Corporate IS (Information Systems) Division. I was a consultant and Dan was the "techie" that I turned to in order to make "it" all happen. A friendship grew from that hectic time. A friendship that has lasted.

After Dan's initial visit to Refuge Farms, I asked that he write of his impressions. He did write and many of us talked of his observations. It did not surprise me to read Dan's words, but then I had come to know a bit of the man. His mind is surprisingly adaptive and deep. The little details do not pass him by. And he is a talented writer. And so since it is once again Memorial Day Weekend and so this morning, I am going to remind you of his words that were published one year ago today . . . .

A Note from Sandy: One of my long, lost friends reappeared in my life this week. And he brought with him a flood of memories. Memories of our good times, our laughs, and some of life's most unexpected moments.

I asked this friend, as he was pulling out of the driveway, if he would care to write a blog. And he did. Below is that blog. Enjoy. And thanks, Dan!


Happy Memorial Day! I long ago felt uncomfortable with that sentiment but finally decided that I was happy with the privileges that our heroes helped to protect over the history of this country. We honor their memory today.

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be wondering who this guy is intruding on their surroundings so let me introduce myself. About 30 years ago I was assigned to a project at a company in Minneapolis. A woman named Sandy would be the Business Analyst and I would be the Systems Analyst. We were both young, aggressive, and we were going to fix everything wrong with the entire world. It is possible that our expectations exceeded our reach.

Sandy and I remained friends for a decade and more but then lost track of each other after geography and other things changed. We found each other again last year and I found myself near to Spring Valley last week so that I could finally see Sandy and her charges in person.

On this day when we honor human heroes, I want to honor the volunteers and supporters of Refuge Farms. A hero is someone who ignores dangers to their well being and their very life to defend the defenseless. I know that horses are not helpless but they do not, in fact, have a defense against the evils and ignorant neglect of their human keepers. Those of you who defend them are indeed heroes in my book.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

By the way, some of you might not know that the original name for Memorial Day was Decoration Day when, once a year, graves of those fallen in battle were decorated. When you are next at THE FARM, look across the lawn from the house and you will see the decorated graves of our fallen heroes of The Original Herd. Remember them as well.

Be well, all of you, and do your work with a glad heart. You may not save the world by yourself but it cannot be saved without you.

Dan Knutson

Today, on Memorial Day Weekend of 2010, I have the pleasure of once again giving you the words of Dan Knutson. Dan spent the better part of last Wednesday with Isaac and I. He was a gentle soul while in the barn. Quietly standing and observing. Soaking it all in. Not getting himself or his noises in the way of the work that Isaac and I were so intent upon. Respecting our need for rhythm and quiet while we worked with these horses that carry so much baggage from their human handlers.

Not once did Dan seem "miffed" that my attentions were on Isaac and the horses and not on him. Not once did he give me a sense that I must juggle my energies. No, he allowed me to remain focused to insure safety of our dear Isaac and the calmness and system for the horses. Bless you, Dan, for understanding my heart.

That evening, Dan chose to leave as Isaac and the boys and I cleaned up for a bite to eat. But Dan returned the next afternoon to spoil me with a good meal, an air conditioned ride, and great conversation. Alas, I was poor company. Too tired to keep a good conversation going. And already too stressed with the list of things rattling around in my head that needed to be done in preparation for the events this weekend.

But, nonetheless, Dan was a gentle and kind man and understood. He quietly watched me as I cleaned my plate of every morsel and crumb. And then, I'm sure, saw my eyes begin to droop as the conversation waned. He understood and was gracious with me. Thanks, Dan.

So, on this Memorial Day Weekend, I am once again honored to give you the words of my friend, Dan Knutson. He will return again this time next year. And next year I will take us someplace to do something. We will create a new memory and we will spend time out of the barns. We will once again laugh over the pen and the waitress with her tray of dinner selections. And maybe, if he is willing, I will have more words to grace our pages.

Here are Dan's words for Memorial Day of 2010:


I returned to THE FARM after a difficult year badly in need of Magic. Luckily, this seems to be the fount. I got hugs from Sandy and bumps from the cats and missed Little Man terribly.

I had the distinct honor to meet Isaac and watch him work alongside Sandy (after being kicked in the head just a few days ago – yikes!). They are like a great doubles team or; since I suspect Isaac doesn’t play much tennis, maybe a great double-play combination. Both of them seem to be telepathic when it comes to horses. Sandy knows when they are stressed and Isaac knows when he can push a bit more and get done. It was magic just to watch.

I realized as Sandy told me the story of each horse in the shoeing bed that I finally understood an aspect of her work that had escaped me since we reconnected. I have known since I met Sandy that she loved horses. What I understand now is that she cannot do what she does now without accepting abuse.

Understand, I don’t mean that she condones abuse, but that she observes the presence of abuse and sees the results of that abuse in her charges (I won’t say the relationship is ownership). She is willing to confront the abuser and even negotiate the outcome that she must have.

Most people, me included, try and leave abuse behind at top speed. At most we may report it to the “proper authority”. Not Sandy, she grabs the proper authority by the arm and demands that something be done – not to punish the humans but to help the horses. I suspect that those of you who read this blog regularly are the same kind of people and I salute you all.

In a habit that I hope to develop, the last moments at THE FARM I stood by the Memorial Beds as seems appropriate at this time of year. It was glorious weather and I tried my best to memorize everything. The magical scene will have to last another difficult year. I think it will be enough.

Dan Knutson

Enjoy this day of memories. Make memories this holiday weekend for yourself. And do spend a moment, somewhere in there, for sitting quietly and being grateful. This weekend is a holiday for remembering. Remember them all.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy, Who is Remembering The Herd Waiting Over the Bridge

Friday, May 14, 2010


SherriStudio at Catfish Corner

Do you remember a few weeks ago . . . I introduced you to a "Sister in Rescue" and you read her guest blog? Sherri is a fellow horse lover and an artist. She is a Parelli student and understands the headset of "Love, Language, and Leadership" as illustrated by our simple rope halters. Sherri also has a way with words. Her guest blog contained a poem she had come across as she helped transport her friend's horse to a South Dakota ranch where they would continue their study of the Parelli horse handling technique. Do you remember?

Well, I was just checking emails before ending the day and I found an email from Sherri. Her farm is alive this weekend, as well, with the Fresh Art Tour - a three-day country tour of artist's studios and their works. Sherri's Studio is one of the destinations on this tour.

So, as I opened her email, I anticipated reading about the wind and her guests and how grateful she was (as was I!) that the rains had stopped and the sun had warmed our faces today.

Below is what I found. This woman's heart never ends. Her support of our Missions is constant. And I am so honored and proud to be a friend of this woman. Thank you, Sherri. Many thanks to you, dear heart!

BUT! You must read below and act quickly! Sheri's work is awesome and creative. See below and read of this woman's heart and her efforts to help us save a life! Thanks to all of you, too, for "taking a chance" with Sherri!

SherriStudio at Catfish Corner

This is the panel I have donated to Refuge Farms that I am raffling off this weekend at the Fresh Art Tour (Friday, May 14th through Sunday, May 16th).

Here's the deal---$1.00 per ticket gets you the chance to win this 9 x 15" stained glass panel. It it a combination of cobalt blue glass, clear bevels, smoke gray and various textured clear glass pieces. It is in a silver finish and would look stunning in your sunny window.

Here's how to get your chance to win it for as little as $1:

Go to

You will see this blog entry again and at the end of the blog, you will find a "BUY" button to purchase your raffle tickets.

Click on the "BUY" button for each denomination you choose - you can select either a $1 chance or $5 worth of chances. It's as easy as that!

This is only running for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the winner will be announced here (at Sherri's website) on Monday.

See what I mean? Isn't the glass piece just stunning? And it contains our royal blue color! Isn't it beautiful?

We'll keep you posted on this blog, as well, how the raffle comes out. Oh, how fun! How kind! And how generous and thoughtful! Just think . . . another life just waiting for us to come for him. Or her. Patiently enduring. And just waiting . . .

Thanks, Sherri - I'll see your smiling face very soon!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and A Whole Herd of Supporters!

MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010


What a beautiful weekend we had for the Tour! The weather was perfect and so many great people stopped in the visit the studio.

Thanks to the folks who entered the raffle this weekend which benefits Refuge Farms! We had 121 entries and 100% of the dollars go to the support of horses who have been rescued from very sad and abusive situations.

The judge finally arrived to draw the lucky number and.........

THE WINNER IS................ drum roll...............
Held by Lisa Johnson from Pepin, WI!................cheers!.........

Thank you, Lisa (you did STUFF the entry box) for your support and I hope you enjoy the panel for years to come!

The Fall Art Tour is going to be held the first weekend in October and I'll dream up another contest.

P.S. from Sandy:

I just "talked" with Sherri via email and her check has been received. Plus she added to the sum for her pledge to The Walk for Refuge. As a result, the full donation from this raffle with the added pledge from Sherri will go as one big pledge to help us meet our goal for care of the feet of The Herd.

Thank you, Sherri! And to all who purchased raffle tickets! Enjoy the panel, Lisa!

Sunday, May 09, 2010


We Promised That We Would

It only seems appropriate on this bright, sunny morning that we talk about flowers and tending to gardens. The frost last night was a bit hard on some of the plants here at Refuge Farms but the warmth of the sun is helping to revive them and repair the damage from the cold that surprised us all last night!

"What flowers at Refuge Farms?" you ask. Well, in order to understand our flower gardens you must first understand The Three Promises. These are promises given to the horses that will become the Sanctuary Herd. Horses that we consider "diers". Horses that, when we find them, are so forlorn and so deprived and so neglected that we know they must stay with us and become a part of the Ministry. Become a horse that we attach to and guard for the remainder of its days. And beyond its days.

There are three promises: one for safety, one for food, and one forever. It is the third promise that is key for today's blog:

3. You are home. You are here forever. No more fighting for a place in a herd. No more new water to get used to. No more trying to find the way in a new barn with a new caretaker. Even in death we will keep you at THE FARM. You can relax now. You are home.

It is at the very instant that the trailer doors are opened for the horse that the horse makes the decision to leave the trailer and begin the remainder of its life or to lie down and begin the very beginning of its next life. If the horse decides to exit the trailer, The Three Promises are in effect. And we take these promises as serious as any commitment given from one living creature to another living creature.

So what does all of this have to do with flower beds at Refuge Farms?

When a horse crosses over, the decision is made on where to bury the horse. It is an important decision and it is made with the utmost care and respect to the personality and preferences of the horse. We humans must put our desires aside. It is the horse's resting place and so the placement is for the horse.

If the horse is buried in the pasture or under its favorite tree, we plant a tree in the yard as a tribute to the life of the animal. If the horse is buried in the yard, we build a flower bed, called a Memory Bed, over the grave site. These are the flower beds of Refuge Farms.

This past season has seen several very important residents of Refuge Farms cross over. We lost Ole' Man Cole in December and Little Man in March. Both of these creatures had received The Three Promises - Cole in 2002 and Little Man in 2007. We promised to provide safety and respect, food and water, and a home forever - even in death, we promised these creatures that they would stay at THE FARM.

Now Ole' Man Cole was a very special minister. Cole was Andy's horse. You know the story. Cole arrived and was most perplexed by this white stuff that fell onto his nose that first winter. He spent the majority of that winter in the barn watching the ground turn white. Not sure what this stuff was and not sure if it was safe to venture out of the safety of the barn.

In later years, Cole grew to appreciate the winter season. The air was drier and his breathing made easier because of this. Blankets on his body kept him warm and soon this Texas Boy became a Wisconsin Boy. Always a character, Ole' Man Cole's grave was selected to be as close to the Andy Durco tree as possible. Right in the yard, in the shade of the big maple planted in Andy's honor. A new flower bed to tend to. In honor and out of respect to the character that was Ole' Man Cole.

Then, out of the blue, Little Man decided to move on, too. Leaving behind broken hearts and little children who cried for him. Adults who cried for him, too. And so many of us wanting to adorn his Memory Bed with flowers that relay his gentle ways. His friendly leanings. And those every present big, brown eyes that never looked away.

A much smaller Memory Bed than Cole's, but just as important. In Little Man's three short years with us, we won every one of us over! What a greeter he was! What a grand ambassador for Refuge Farms he became. As many of us have said numerous times, "This dog was meant to be here."

And so we will create two new Memory Beds this spring and plant their gardens. And one of our ways to accomplish this is the Annual Fundraiser to sell bulbs to any of you who feel the need to plant. The dirt under your fingernails. The softness of the earth in your hands. The pleasure to see the little green sprout poking up through the earth. And the joy of the blooms!

We select our partner in this event with care. Breck's is a worldwide known supplier of bulb and perennials. The quality is outstanding. And their products are warrantied for life. Not many bulb suppliers even attempt to match their commitments to quality.

"There's no risk when you order plants and bulbs from Flower Power Fundraising, Inc. Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you are dissatisfied in any way, just let us know and we will issue you a replacement, exchange or refund - whichever you prefer."

The Breck's program is called "Flower Power". It is very simple and a full 50% of the proceeds will come to Refuge Farms. A good sum to help in the creation and planting of the Memory Beds needed for Cole and Little Man. Quality plants in support of two creatures that deserve and warrant our cares after their crossing.

The Flower Power program is an online system. Access to the menu of selections is as simple as a screen brought up on your computer. Orders are taken online and the bulbs are shipped directly to you. No delivery or time spent picking up your bulbs from THE FARM. And upon shipment, the funds are mailed to Refuge Farms. And then we begin to build the Memory Beds.

If you would like to look at the plants offered in this program, we simply need to inform Flower Power of your email address and the rest "just happens". The plants include peony, lupine, purple coneflower, several varieties of iris, bleeding heart, and even hostas. Add to that strawberry plants in a pot, blueberries, and hanging tomato plants in the new upside-down hanging planter. Over twenty-six (yup, 26!) plants to meander through. A good selection and all fully warrantied.

If email is not your style, then simply call THE FARM or stop by during the Antique & Garage Sale next weekend and we'll have order forms and a catalogue of selections available for you to look at. Bulbs are still shipped directly to you. Products are still warrantied. And your purchase is 50% deductible on your personal income taxes as a donation to Refuge Farms.

This entire effort is a part of the grieving process for us. While we plant and tend to the Memory Beds of those we have loved, we talk of them. Tell their stories. Recall the times they fooled us or played tricks on us. And we talk about how much we loved them. We begin to heal by digging in the dirt. Sharing our hearts while we tend to them.

It's our Mission. To provide safety and food and a home forever. Whether they be in the barn or in a Memory Bed, we still care for them. It's because we promised that we would. And here, at Refuge Farms, we mean the promises we give.

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

If you would like to participate in this Fund Raiser for the Memory Beds of Refuge Farms, please email THE FARM at, call THE FARM at 715.772.3379, or stop by the Antique & Garage Sale next weekend. Times for the sale are on the poster found on our homepage. Thanks. From all of those that we will remember.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


A Day Among Friends

So, if I were to ask you to tell me what a friend is, what would you say? Some of you would say a friend is someone you can tell anything to - even the things you are hardly able to tell yourself. Some of you would say a friend is someone who listens and does not judge you - even when you cannot stop judging yourself. And some of you would say it is someone who likes what you like. In addition to all of this, some of us would say that a friend is someone you have history with. Someone that you share memories with. History.

Well, yesterday I drove to a place that I had never been before. I needed directions and my GPS! I parked my truck in a driveway that I had never parked in before. And I walked into a crowd of people I had never met before. But when I left, I left people I call friends.

Now these people and I have no history together. We have no memories together. But we have years of history and we shared our memories for hours. I was in the presence of horse people. I was in the presence of friends.

Amy and Tim own and operate "The Winning Edge Farm" in Mondovi, WI. Amy is the President of the Winning Edge Riders club. I met their lovely daughter and their joyous little dog. And I saw the pride they take in their profession and the horses that they train. Like I said, I was in the presence of friends.

The Winning Edge Riders club was hosting a tack sale. And I was drooling. I found myself several times throughout the day wandering through the racks of saddles for sale . . . touching this western one with all the tooling . . . . touching the roping saddle with the silver . . . . and imagining the feel of the seat of the older one that was smooth from wear. Yes, it was a horse girl's heaven to be standing among the saddles. Taking in their sights and the smell of all that horse leather.

"Now," you say, "What's so special about a tack sale? Why drive to Mondovi just to talk with some people about horses and look at their tack? You did this with everything on your "To Do List"? And especially since you don't even ride?"

I drove to Mondovi and spent the day with horse people because this tack sale was special. A silent auction was being held in addition to the tack sale and the proceeds from the silent auction will benefit Refuge Farms. Imagine that. These people who have never been to THE FARM and who compete in the show rings. These people who have horses with multiple names and paperwork. There people who love their horses.

To say I was honored is an understatement. And a bit nervous. As I walked in from the truck, I wondered what I would find to talk about for the next four hours . . .

But once again, I was taught to act on faith and trust The Master Plan. As I walked across the driveway, the day began with a warm hug from Amy. What a pleasant smile and what honest, true eyes. Immediately, I felt at home. We walked into the garage and I wandered the sale. Taking in my first dosage of all of those saddles.

My first conversation was with a couple who lived in Baldwin. Huh. We talked and we all agreed that they had probably driven by THE FARM dozens of time. Another young lady took me to show me her mare - oh, what a beautiful head on that mare! - and she commented that she loved our website. Loved to read the stories. Good to know that we are reaching people.

Then I met Carl. An elderly man all decked out in his AQHA jacket and hat. Carrying new bridle sets with him to sell. We talked and he said the most profound thing to me. I will never forget it. He said, "I'm glad you are there but so sad that we need you." And then we both cried.

What a wise man. Carl has been around, that is obvious. And his heart is firmly implanted in the horse. He loves his horses and is interested in why we rescue and care for blind horses. "Isn't it cruel to keep a blind horse alive?" he asked. Hopefully, someday, Carl will pull into the yard here at Refuge Farms and I will introduce him to PONY! and Laddee and Unit and Blaise. When we get into the barns he will see. I won't have to say a word. The blind horses will talk to Carl and he'll understand.

Carl asked about the horses and how we found new homes for them. He knew before I told him that the market was tough. That there were more horses than ever and fewer homes than ever. He told me before I could tell him. Carl was in the know. A wise man who loves horses.

Before he left, Carl hugged me and again, in tears, told me he was happy I was there for the unwanted horses but wished I could be run out of business. Then he handed me one of his bridle sets and advised me on it's worth and to use the money "to help a horse." Bless you, Carl.

I meandered over to another man, a man who's wife and daughter showed in the arena. And we began talking. And we shared our history. He growing up with his uncle who worked with the big horses. His uncle who built a reputation of being able to work with the horses that no one else could. This man grew up with this uncle. Learning to handle and love big horses.

And then, once again, I'm standing with someone I have never met before and we start talking about Lance and Loomis and Grass and Houston and Soppa and Schaaf and Zabel. All of them horse pullers. We had horse pulling and big horses in common. So, I spent a good part of the afternoon sharing history with this man. A man who had been a stranger but we parted as friends.

The afternoon drew to a close and I once again hugged Amy, thanking her for the afternoon and her efforts on behalf of the horses. I could see, however, that Amy lived for the horses. Yes, a friend, indeed.

Thanks were given to all and I departed from this place I now can find without directions. A place where I know the horses are cared for and loved. Treated with respect and challenged to be better than they were before. A place where I have friends.

And when I see these friends again, we will recognize each other and ask each other about our horses. Before we ask about each other, of course, we will ask each other about our horses. Friends do that, you know.

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

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