Sunday, January 02, 2011


Prayers for a New Year

It should be a really simple thing to do. Take one calendar down and hang a new one. After all, it is the Refuge Farms Tenth Anniversary 2011 Calendar so I should be eager to hang it in my office and gaze at it. But the simple act of hanging the new calendar is not the issue.
I hesitate because in order to hang the new calendar, I must take the Refuge Farms 2010 Calendar down. And that means removing the face of Blaise from
my left shoulder.

Our Blaise crossed in the month that she was featured. Blaise was our "Miss December 2010" and her crossing earlier this week was a shock and has really jarred me. From my very center. The impact of her crossing is far reaching for many. And to fold the pages of the 2010 calendar would mean to fold over the picture of her face.

It is purely symbolic. Am I ready to leave 2010 behind me? Am I ready to close the doors from so many crossings in such a short span of time?

Am I ready to leave Judy!Judy!Judy! behind me? The little Belgian mare with those big, brown, puppy-dog eyes that looked right into my very soul.

Am I ready to leave her twin sister, Sandy, behind me? Sandy, the headstrong, bullish little mare that showed no pain and was invisibly struggling with issues that most horses would have died from long before.

What about Gitanaa? Am I able to leave her behind? The beautiful, half-starved little Arabian mare that thrived so under the cares of her foster parents?

And then there is Little Man. How can I ever leave the year behind me that took him from us? Little Man, who covered tens of thousands of miles with me in that truck. Who rode with me everywhere. Who loved - no, adored - children. Who made tours to Refuge Farms a treat because even if our guests didn't 'take to the horses' they would invariably 'take' to Little Man. Those big brown eyes and that lovely little chocolate body. The pal and teacher to Keller. And my shadow. During chores, during rescues, and even during errands. There was always Little Man to greet me and be with me.

Ole' Man Cole would need to be left behind if I were to move forward from 2010. Andy's horse. "The Old Horse" as Andy called him. Headstrong, bossy, and a master at opening gates. Cole was a challenge to care for with his asthma-like summer conditions and his tendency to chill in the winter. And let's not forget that he had not one tooth in his entire head, either! So feeding the horse was time consuming and laden with care. But Cole was worth it. Andy loved that horse. And to hug Cole made me feel as though I was hugging Andy. To leave 2010 behind me would mean leaving Cole behind me. Can I do that?

And then, of course, there was the crossing of Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare. To leave 2010 I must leave behind a part of my heart. Many have told me that they saw nothing special in this horse. Many have told me that they have "a problem" with the spending of energy and resources on a horse that is terminally ill. Many have told me that "putting her down" upon her arrival was what they would have done. Many disagree with the treatment that we gave that mare. But none - not one! - is able to disagree with the gentle, comical, easy mare that appeared right before our eyes. The Killer Mare became The Princess. And in doing so, Laddee gave us tangible, measurable, absolute, and visible proof of the power of love. No more is "the magic" a dream that we talk of. We have proof. Real, honest, witnessed proof that love works. The power of true and honest love was visible through the life and the lessons of Laddee.

Will we treat the next terminally ill horse that appears in our barns? Yes. Because it is what we do. We rescue the diers. And in doing so, we will find the Laddee's and many others like her. We will find the joy of a hug from a horse who thirty days earlier flung you in the air like a beach ball. We will find the reward from just watching them eat. We will measure them and thrill in a quarter inch gained. And we will find the joy in watching them scratch with each other as we watched Laddee scratch the big gelding that she has chosen to replace her Kentucky Jack.

To leave 2010 means I must leave Laddee and move on without her. Close the chapter that rewrote The Three Promises and created Laddee's Promise. I must leave a piece of my heart in 2010 if I leave that year behind me. Knowing that her presence changed Refuge Farms forever. Knowing that for some of us, this little mare changed us forever, as well.

And then, in the final days of 2010, Blaise crossed, too. Yet another of our ministers decided it was time to move on. This was Andy's little mare. Andy admired the sturdiness of this horse. He liked how she just "did it without any fuss". Blaise was one of our key horses here in these barns. New guests, new volunteers, children of all ages were put with Blaise for their first lessons on what a horse feels like. On how to walk around a horse. On how to brush a horse. And on how to work with a blind horse. Blaise was my silent, dependable companion. And I loved her dearly.

To leave 2010 behind I must close many chapters. I must move forward without some that I have leaned on for years. Looked to for stability and strength. Some that I went to and hung on to when no one else was around. When I needed to weep or rest. Some of the most magnificent listeners were lost in 2010. So how, how do I close the year and take that simple calendar off of the wall? How?

It has taken me two entire days. With this blog I will fold the 2010 calendar and gently place it in an envelope to be stored with all of the details of the year. Hidden in a box with all of the receipts and newspaper articles and reports. With the minutes from Board meetings and from budgets created a year ago. I will take 2010 and put it away. In the simple act of taking a calendar off of the wall, I will move forward.

It is done.

And so how does one move forward when your heart is still grieving? Grieving from some wounds that are so large they seem bigger than you? From some wounds that are so fresh the blood hasn't stopped oozing from the wound yet. How does one more forward when grief is so present in your gut?

Today, I gave 2011 a chance. A friend came over this morning and we spent over two hours in the barns. Brushing horses. Teaching my friend how to walk behind a horse. Teaching my friend how to blanket a horse. How not to startle the horses considering their past experiences and fears. How to read when a horse is relaxed versus about to flee. And we did all of this with a variety of horses.

My first inclination was to retrieve Blaise. But I needed to look elsewhere and so we spent some time with Lanna. Josephina presented herself and more was learned. Liz-Beth became a part of the lesson and showed us fright in response to loud noises. Appaloosa Mare gave her lesson, as well. We found other horses in the absence of Blaise and Laddee and Ole' Man Cole.

We ventured in with The Big Three and brushed Beauty. Babee Joy joined us and asked - visibly asked - for attention. And then Jeri-Ann just pushed her way in, too. We played with the dogs. And watched as they wrestled. I found canine companionship in dogs other than Little Man.

I find myself searching for replacements to some of the very best creatures that will ever grace these barns. And I'm convinced I will not find replacements. But I will find substitutes. And these others will be able to learn and serve the same purposes as those we are missing. I'm finding that I now hug and lean on some that I haven't leaned on in the past. And I'm finding that they are curious and a bit puzzled, but they will learn and they will respond. I will find my soul mates in the barn again. In 2011 I will find my heart again. I pray I will find my heart again.

And so we begin a new year. Closing the book that was 2010. Filled with chapters. Each chapter a life that came to us along their journey. A life that moved on in 2010. The book is too full, in my opinion. But then, as a dear friend asked me once, "Who asked you if it was okay for them to die?"

I close 2010 and begin 2011 with hope for better days. And determination to survive. And with faith that others will show their strengths and become key players in our lives. That others, when given the opportunity, will step up and become the horse for the newbies. The horse with the story. The horse that transforms right in front of our eyes.

I close 2010 and begin 2011 with a prayer. A simple prayer to the God that I believe in. I try to ask very little of Him. But as we start 2011, I ask that we be tended to. That hands be placed around us and we be protected for a little while. That we know peace for a little while. I ask that we be given a bit of time to heal ourselves so that we may heal others. That we somehow be shown the joy again. And that out of our sorrows will come healing and lessons and new found faith. That we will soon smile at the mention of their names. That the stories of their lives will become the very basis of our Missions.

Albert Schweitzer wrote a prayer that I have pasted to my wall. It is a good prayer and I pray it often now. Looking for that strength and that perspective that is so needed in this world of rescuing the diers. May you find strength in this prayer, as well, as we all take down the 2010 calendar and begin again. Begin with a new calendar. Begin the brand new year of 2011.

May we find peace and healing in the coming year,
Sandy and The Herd

A Prayer for Animals by Albert Schweitzer

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for animals who are suffering; for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for
them all Thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them we ask a
heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves,
to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful.


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