Sunday, January 23, 2011


An Update on Our Little Gracie

Gracie just kind of grabs you. She is so tiny and so ladylike. So alert and so fragile. You walk around the corner and she lifts up that little head of hers and you are a gonner. Gracie has you in her grip. It happens right from the start. Just ask me.

Gracie arrived in a large cattle hauling stock trailer. On a cold February day in 2006, Gracie appeared as a favor to a kill buyer that I knew. He needed a destination in order to drive his rig on the state highways and Refuge Farms ended up being that destination. "Just for the weekend!" I shrilled. "This horse is not staying!" I screamed to the air.

The story, according to the kill buyer, was that the horse was loaded and the owner had been paid. But the kill buyer was a bit perplexed. Why was this horse "bonging around" in the back of his trailer? Why didn't this little pony just stand? What was going on? "She's blind," the owner informed the kill buyer. "And she's in your trailer now", the owner flatly stated as he turned and walked into his house.

The kill buyer knew the laws of Wisconsin. It was illegal for a person with his market license to be hauling a blind horse without a specific, verifiable destination address. He ran the risk of losing his truck, his trailer, and his market license. His whole way of life was on the line for this one blind pony.

He called me. And I told him we were full. Overfull, in fact. I remember saying, "No room at the inn!" But we struck a deal: the horse would stay in a box stall for the weekend while the kill buyer found a new home for her.

I remember the Friday afternoon she walked off that trailer. Remember it like it happened just yesterday. One of our volunteers was here and led her off the trailer. The face and the eyes of that volunteer were pleading with me to change my mind. I shook my finger and warned, "Don't pet her. Don't brush her. Don't fall in love with her. This horse is not staying!"

Friday afternoon she spent in a strange box stall in a strange barn. Quietly eating hay. Drinking strange water. Never calling and never making a fuss. Just politely eating hay and listening for the humans who so frequently peeked in at her. And marveled at just how tiny and how cute she was!

Friday night I checked on her before going in for the night. She was curled up in the shavings and sleeping. I went in to her and went against my own rules - I pet her. She lifted her head and seemed so content. I was struck with just how "at home" she seemed to be. Warning her not to get too comfortable, I closed the door and tried to forget her for the night.

Early the next morning I stopped by her stall to check her water, give her fresh hay, and to say good-bye to her. I had to head into work that Saturday morning and I fully expected the kill buyer to stop and retrieve her. This little one would be easy to place, that was for sure. She was a cutie.

I fed everyone and then re-checked her. I went into her stall and she lifted that little tiny head up to me and her little velvet nose touched my face. I felt the warmth of her breath. She nuzzled me. And I was a goner.

She ate a bit and then settled down on the shavings for a nap. I sat down right next to her and, with my arms around her neck, I talked to her and gave her The Three Promises. We would respect her and never hurt her, we would feed her, and we would keep her on THE FARM forever. The little blind pony that came to us for a weekend in the back of a filthy cow hauling stock trailer was now a member of The Herd.

And I named her Grace.

So gentle. So trusting. So willing. And so petite. My heart was firmly implanted with hers and I promised her we would care for her. Whatever that meant.

Those promises are being tested now. Gracie has reacted to a stress in her life that has rotated her front toes. She has become very thin. Almost frail. And being so thin and frail, she cannot tolerate the cold of this Wisconsin Winter. After 24 hours in a warm stall, she has begun to eat and drink again. And she has won over the hearts of those who care for her.

I visited her yesterday and she recognized my voice. That same little velvet nose brushed my face. She accepted my hugs and touches as I examined her tiny little body. The ribs protruding. The spine visible. The tail head prominent. Her rapid weight loss greatly concerns me. The reason seems to be the cold.

Gracie has a bucket warmer in her Refuge Farms stall to keep open water in front of her. In her temporary stall, she now prefers warm water.

Gracie has a bucket in her Refuge Farms stall with SafeChoice in it at all times. In her temporary stall, she now prefers warm, soaked feed.

Gracie has blankets on at all times once the fall air turned brisk. In her temporary stall, she now stands without blankets and scratches herself.

So what do we do?

First, we will take it one day at a time. Gracie is an important part of our family and we will not just give up on her. That, my friends, is not our way. We will support her and find a way to get her through the remaining days of winter to the warm weather of spring. But it is that effort that may require all of us.

We will weigh Gracie before she leaves her temporary warm stall. And we will watch her like a hawk once she is in her Refuge Farms stall. Measuring her intakes and her outputs. The forecast will be an even more vital part of my day since, I fear, that cold fronts over us will require us to temporarily house her where it is warm. We will work hard to restore her full, round little body. And then we must consider all of the options and what is best for Gracie.

Do I know what we will do? Haven't got a clue.

What are our options? They are many! We can continue to jockey her from THE FARM to a warm facility. We could board her for the winter months. We could construct a spot here at THE FARM that we could maintain at 10 degrees and keep her safely at home. A warm nighttime stall seems to be the goal. Exercise and other horses to scratch and interact with during the day and then warmth and safety at night.

How we will get there? I don't know that either. I know the old barn will be taken down this summer to make room for "The Hospital" building. Is it realistic to think that building will be ready to house Gracie next winter? I'm not sure it is. So how do we keep our promises to this little bundle of magic? How do we support her and love her and present her with the warm feed that she eats so very delicately?

I don't know these answers. But I know we will keep our promises to this little creature. Big words, yes. But just watch. Big words that mean big actions. Watch for that, too.

This is more than just one can manage, however. So once again, it is time for 'The Other Herd' and The Friends of THE FARM to consider assisting in the cares of this little one. If you are willing to assist in the financial support of Gracie, I have listed below her expenditures this past week. Can you help to keep her stall clean and dry? Can you help with the constant supply of bedding she will require to rest on at night? Can you help with keeping her winter blankets clean and dry? Can you help in the cleaning of her feed bucket and her water bucket? Is there any way that you are willing to volunteer your support in our efforts to keep our promises to Gracie?

The future is unknown but we will go forward with our FAITH bucket hanging in our barns. And we will find ways to care for her as well as all of the others. Will it mean keeping her at the U of M Equine Center if another arctic blast comes to our doors this winter? Probably. Will it mean that Gracie becomes the focus of our conversations and my bulletin board postings? Probably. Along with Liz-Beth, Miss April, Handsome, and all of our other special needs members. But forward we will go. With Gracie.

This is uncharted waters that we are entering. The members of The Herd are hardy and tolerate cold weather remarkably well. Having one that is sensitive to the cold and stops eating when cold is new to us. And requires many heads coming together to solve the dilemas and create solutions.

So ponder our Little Gracie. Think of how delicate and sensitive she is. How darling she is. And then join us as we work to find ways to support her and give her a good quality of life - even if it is cold outside.

Thank you for considering.

And thank you from Gracie. Tiny, delicate, darling little Gracie.

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

From The Wish List:

Gracie is in need of support in the form of cares, medicines, and equipment to help her feet heal and her life be restored to as close to "normal" as possible. If you would like to help Gracie, here are the opportunities:

***** EQUIOXX pain reliever: 15 tubes ordered at $7.98 each
***** ULCERGARD ulcer medicine: 15 tubes at $34.95 each
***** U of M medical expenses for initial exam and x-rays: $287.50
***** Soft-Ride orthotic Gel Comfort Boots (2 boots needed): $184.69
***** Cleantrax solution for foot soaks after trimmings
***** Specialized Farrier work estimated at every 4 weeks for 6 months(?)
***** Vitamin B/Thiamin gel supplement: $103.26
***** Hospitalization 01/18/11 thru 01/24/11: $446.59

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