Monday, January 31, 2011


"She Speaks Through Me"

Many of you have met Sherri Anderson. Responding to my call for help, Sherri was here this summer to help us unload and stack donated hay bales. And Sherri has attended our Gala. Many of you will connect to Sherri, however, as the artist. The woman who created the vase of Laddee that was in this year's Gala Silent Auction. Or the woman who works with glass. Or the woman who is a part of the Fall Artist's Tour. And who creates a special piece of her art to raffle for Refuge Farms during that tour. Spreading the word. Understanding the heart of us. And the horses.

Sherri has created a blog for us. You might remember that she is a Parelli student. And a spiritual person. She is tiny but huge in heart. And I am ever so grateful for her presence in my life. It was a calendar . . a Refuge Farms calendar that brought her to us several years ago. How she found the calendar? I think it was a spot on a news program. Honestly, I cannot remember that detail, but I am grateful just the same.

The two of us have spoken of Laddee for a long time now. When she first arrived. As she went through her surgery. During her period of "blooming". And then after her crossing. Just a few days ago, I emailed Sherri. Said that Laddee had been close to me for a while now. And, surprisingly, that her presence had not brought the grief and the tears that I had expected. But instead, her presence had brought a sense of calm and peace. I was leaning on her as I tried my best to close 2010 and the struggles and losses of that year. And as I battled the cold and the fears of the severe temperatures.

I asked Sherri if she would consider creating a piece to adorn Laddee's Memory Bed. Something that reflected her lovely side. Something that had some pink in it. And maybe a rose or two. Something that was soft and loving and comical and warm and gentle. Something to place on her and that would create a smile.

My email was created so as to not create too much pressure. Hah! My mind has a picture of this Memory Bed for this girl. A water fountain. Roses. Star gazers. More roses. Pink apple trees. And this piece of art. How would Sherri respond? Was she busy with commission work? Preparing for another show? Busy with her own life? And healing after her own loss of their dear Helga?

I needn't have worried. Her email came back to me with a willing "yes". She would work on something to adorn Laddee. It was cold outside and this was the time of the year she enjoyed spending in her studio most. She would "do something" and then let me see what I thought.

Only a day or two later, I heard from Sherri again. And email with the subject line, "She speaks through me". I knew exactly what that title meant and was joyful to open the email and learn that Sherri had spent time creating Laddee. My tears ran freely as I saw her sketches. Oh, my! It was Laddee! It was her! Standing on that wall looking out at me! Sherri even said, "This is almost life-size in my studio and I'm enjoying having M'Laddee around!"

I had no idea what Sherri would create. Would it be a piece of glass with colorful shapes? Would it be a prism-like piece? Would it be something with wings? I had no idea. But what I saw was her. It was Laddee. Sherri had spent time with her that day and this was the result of her initial sketches.

Her email told me that she was going to blog about the experience on her blog. She felt the experience was "blog worthy". And so I watched for that blog and read how she had felt as she created her art. It is that blog - complete with the sketches - that I now share with you. (

What will adorn Laddee's Memory Bed? I'm not sure yet. And I don't care. You see, I trust Sherri. I trust her talent and her heart. She knows my heart and my love of this mare. And she will create what it is that my heart needs to say. I know that. And I am resting knowing that whatever Sherri's creation becomes, it will be what it is that my heart struggles so to express. Sherri knows. And I know, too, that Laddee is guiding her.

Thank you, Sherri. I am beyond thrilled. I am grateful for you. Again. Still. A piece is in place in my inner self knowing that Laddee will be as beautiful after as she was during. Bless your talented, knowing, and giving heart.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Creative Process at Work

It's my favorite time of year for working in the shop. Too cold to do much else!

I got an email from my friend, Sandy, at Refuge Farms. She would like some art to commemorate her dear Laddee who passed last fall. Laddee was a special lady, indeed! (As is Sandy!) We had talked about having something made in her image months ago and it has been in my mind-- settin' to gellin'! I had been thinking about Laddee a lot before Sandy's call and when I told her we were thinking similar thoughts, she set me straight---Laddee is the one sending these thoughts! OK, I can work with that!

Laddee, the big Belgian mare used to like to threaten people with death if they got close. She lived a life we would only dream of forgetting. But through her life others have learned to live.

So the drawing began. I took out a big sheet of newsprint and vine charcoal to lightly sketch out the form. I had been thinking of how to do this for a long time and the drawing came easy once it was time to put the lines on paper. I tend to draw big and this time was no exception.

The drawing above was the first draft. Then I got to thinking about the rose feature and decided I didn't know how to draw a decent rose, so after some research, I printed out a rose to replace my weak one.

So the bed of roses is more meaningful to me as a way to portray her as a Lady, and one who deserves roses--pink ones at that, since she really was full of love. She just had to experience it from Sandy first.

Now with that in place I am inspired! So much so that I am rethinking the whole design. I think this sketch is a work in itself, but I went on to add another feature.

I have added an eye clipped out of a magazine. The imagery is gaining momentum in the sense of her story. The rose over her right eye is to symbolize the tumor that was removed from that socket. Her left eye was also blinded but in this image her sight has been restored to reflect her stored strengths on the other side.

I have many ideas of how to proceed with this image.....and it might take several versions in varying styles to satisfy my desire to make it right. It could be an oil, a pastel. I would love to try a watercolor. If I knew what I was doing, a computerized collage could be cool, too. But at this point, I'm still committed to a solid drawing.

I get a lot of ideas from my subconscious before sleep and before I wake up and from what I have been given so far I am inspired to.....get to bed!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and Sherri's M'Laddee!

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

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Our Little Gracie - It Is What We Do

In these past few weeks, we have put 2010 behind us. We have each, in our own private ways, tucked the memories and the tears of that year away. We have stood tall, taken a deep breath, and exhaled long and slowly. We have lifted our faces to the skies and closed our eyes. To hope. To pray. To wish. To imagine the year ahead. Please, we prayed, let it be a year of good works. A year of smiles and hugs. And a year of healing. Please. Let 2011 be a good year.

With hesitation, fear, and hope, I dropped the horse trailer onto the truck early this past Wednesday morning. Everyone was hooked and enjoying their breakfast. The sun was rising and the air seemed as though it may actually be a decent today. Maybe in the teens today? What a grand relief that would be!

I began unhooking everyone and hugging them. I hadn't slept well and I was apprehensive and a bit on edge. Today I would take one of The Herd to see
Dr. Anne at the U of M Equine Center. And I was nervous. What would be the diagnosis? The prognosis? What decisions would need to be made today?
And where would the strength to make those decisions come from?

Gracie innocently stood in her stall. Grateful for the brushing I had given her
this morning and for the clean, winter blankets I had dressed her in. She soon
decided it was time to rest and so snuggled in the shavings. Oh well, so much
for a clean Gracie!

She obediently came with me as I took her out the front door of the barn and into the trailer. But once in the trailer, Unit called to her. Spirit called to her. Miss April called to her. And she called back! At the top of her lungs, Gracie called to all of them from the trailer. She may be little but her voice is mighty!

Our ride into the U of M was slow and gentle. And I know I was irritating to the people who had to pass me as I rode in the right lane. But I had Gracie in the back and I would not risk her. Not on those tender little feet of hers. And especially with her being so tiny in that big trailer.

Once inside the doors of the U of M, we dropped the winter blankets and tiny, thin little Gracie was oooh'd and aaah's over by the students. Exclamations of how cute she was flooded the air. Melissa came over and hugged me, making a comment that Gracie was not the typical patient that I brought to the U!

Her weight was 418. Gracie is down about 50 pounds since the Gala. A symptom, we now think, of her level of discomfort with her sore front feet and even possibly a response to the prolonged use of bute to help her manage that pain.
We moved her to a stall and the exam proceeded.

She was listened to, felt all over, her feet were lifted and all kinds of numbers were recorded. How as her manure? Was she wobbly on her feet? Did I see her falling? How long since her last seizure? Dr. Draper was there and, honestly, that made me nervous. Neurological ailments were Dr. Draper's specialty.

Dr. Vallberg came in and suggested a Vitamin B supplement. An eye pressure test was completed and it was decided that further neurological examination really wasn't possible with the tenderness of her feet.

X-rays of all four feet were taken with two x-rays of each front foot taken - one from the side and one from the back. (The x-rays are shown at the bottom of this blog.) I moved the truck and trailer while the x-rays were being taken. Afterward, I was once again standing in the hallway while a procedure was performed. Knowing my tendencies, some of Laddee's technicians appeared to talk with me and share their cheese lunch with me. Thank you. Very much.

It seems silly to be so worried about sore feet, but I also knew that sore feet can be so severe that there are no options. I also know that blood work can give us liver and kidney readings that mean a shortness to life. I also know that the feet cannot perform or legs cannot move because something is wrong in the brain.

And then there is the dementia thing to talk about. Why does Gracie "get stuck" next to the board fence in the summer? Why does she "get stuck" between the round bale and the gate? Why does she "get stuck" standing out in the open?
Why does she just not remember how to turn around?

There were no clear answers to these questions. Blood work has not yet been returned so we don't know if there are any readings to give us any clues. Many of us hope - and pray - her tendency to become lost and "stuck" is just an issue of lowered mobility.

Her x-rays showed us toes on both front feet that have rotated downward. Why? We don't know that answer. Could it have been the seizure? Probably not since that was several years ago and her tenderness seems to be only in the last 12 - 18 months. Toe rotation can come from moldy hay, from a reaction to stress, from a reaction to a fever or illness. None of these occurrences seem probable, but somehow Gracie sustained an insult to her system and that insult manifested itself in the rotation of her toes.

Can we treat Gracie and help her recover. Yes!

Nothing in the tests showed Dr. Anne that Gracie was far enough in trouble to even consider end-of-life. It would be a long journey, she told me, but then she smiled and reassured me that it could be managed and Gracie could return to the pasture with careful cares for the next few months.

So, what do we need to do?

We need to manage her pain with a non-steroidal pain medicine.
We have moved her to the Equioxx paste which is a once daily dosage. Every morning, before I present her with her hot mash, she receives her pain medicine.

We need to treat and then prevent further ulcers in the lining of her stomach.
We have added a product called UlcerGard to her routine. Once daily, she receives a dosage of medicine to help heal what we think are ulcers in her stomach and then, after those are healed, to prevent more ulcers for as long as she is on the Equioxx. Every evening, before I present her with her hot mash, she receives her ulcer medicine.

We need to have our Specialized Farrier work on her hooves.
The x-rays of her feet have been forwarded to him and he has said, "Looked at
x-rays and can see I have a lot of hoof to work with. GREAT ! Lots of heel to come off and not to worry about sole thickness. There appears to be some remodeling of the toe of the coffin bone but not bad. We need to get a warm day and maybe even soak her hooves in warm water for about 15 minutes to soften them up so she doesn't feel the pressure of me cutting on them so much. I think we can do a lot to help her."
How fortunate we are to have this talented man in our corner!

We need to cushion her feet until her hooves have been reformed to relieve the pressure of the rotated toe.
Right now, until her hooves are trimmed the first time, we have 2" styrofoam insulation duct taped to her front feet. Her feet will form the insulation to their shape and this will reduce the pressure of hard earth pressing on her sore toes.

We need to purchase Soft-Ride Orthotic Gel Comfort Boots for her to wear long term.
They are boots that will come off when she is in her box stall with the padded floor and then be put on again when she is ready to go out into the pasture. Why the boots? I believe the best way I can explain them to you is to ask you - wouldn't you want slippers on your feet before you were asked to walk barefoot on gravel? Gracie's feet will remain that sensitive, so asking her to walk "barefoot" isn't kind or humane. So, boots it is!

We need to purchase Cleantrax, a solution to soak her feet in immediately after her trims.
This product will work to reduce the bacteria in her feet and promote healing. Taking only thirty minutes per hoof, it is a small effort to help her feet remain healthy.

We need to find a Vitamin B/Thiamin paste additive to add to her diet.
Vitamin B is a great appetite stimulant and Gracie needs to add some weight
back on her frame. Now. Her spine is visible as are all of her ribs. Fifty pounds
off of a four hundred pound animal is excessive weight loss in only a little
over two months.

We need to find feeds that are high fat that she will eat.
Right now, I make a hot mash for her twice a day and she is starting to take a liking to it. The mash is soaked beet pulp, SafeChoice feed, Releve feed, and cut up apples topped off with a cup of apple juice. Regardless if she finds this appealing or not, if her stomach has ulcers she will eat a few bites and then stop. So we need to watch for symptoms of ulcers healing and her appetite increasing or of her continued lack of interest in food.

We need to keep Gracie in her stall until her pain level is reduced.
This means she has a floor of 8" of clean shavings on the floor for two reasons:
to keep the pressure off of her feet when she stands and to reduce the chances
of sores on her body from the blankets and the pressure from her lying down so much.

Every day, her blankets are removed and her body is brushed and checked for signs of pressure. Her blankets are replaced and she receives her daily dosage of hugs and kisses. And paste medicines. And hot mash. And every day her shavings are cleaned with her stall completely emptied and brand new shavings put down at least once every week.

We need to proceed with the neurological exam, when we can.
When Gracie is 2 to 3 trims into this process, she will return to the U of M for follow-up x-rays and the neurological exam. It is important, we feel, that we proceed with the neurological exam to try to understand her tendency to get "lost" and get "stuck". So when we are in the muddy season, we will bring her back to Dr. Anne and Dr. Draper and see if there is something misfiring in her little brain.

For now, though, we are focused on supporting her and allowing her to find a way to heal her body. Gracie seems content in her stall and is warm under her blankets. She eats maybe a cup of her mash each feeding and I watch eagerly to see if one of these times she will eat a bit more. Her leftovers are fed to Liz-Beth who appreciates the hot beet pulp flavored with apples. But Gracie needs to eat.

She receives fresh hay in a blue barrel twice daily in addition to the round bale in her stall. Her water is tracked and her bucket is refilled twice daily. I'm actually thinking of hanging another heated bucket in her stall with apple juice flavored water in it. Anything to get her water intake increased!

Once again, Refuge Farms is expending its resources in support of a Sanctuary Horse. Once again, we are investing money and time and energy into a horse that many would discard or refuse to treat. Gracie's feet will never be sound again. She will always have tender front feet. So, many would ask, why treat her?

We treat Gracie for the same reasons that we treated Laddee. And Handsome. And for the same reasons that we continue to treat Miss April. Because we can, through medicines and treatment and energy and time, give Gracie a good quality of life. She can eat grass this summer and sleep in the sun. She can feel the warm spring rains on her withers. And she can scratch with Handsome or Appaloosa Mare or whomever she pals with.

But mainly, we treat Gracie because we promised we would. Because it is what we do. Does it cost money? Yup. Does it take time? Yup. Will it be easy? Not necessarily. Will it work? Only time will tell us. Will it get to the point that Gracie will give up? Maybe. But until then, we will support her, help her, and treat her.

Very simply, we treat Gracie because it is what we do.

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

Right Front Side X-Ray

Left Front Side X-Ray

Right Rear Side X-Ray

Left Rear Side X-Ray

Right Front X-Ray - Back

Left Front X-Ray - Back

Sunday, January 09, 2011


The Refuge Farms Building Committee

Hello and Happy New Year! Many of us met yesterday for Blaise's Memory Meal and I must say, more than once we all agreed and vowed that 2011 would be a year of great healing. For us and for the horses. May it be so.

And so we look and work for the future. A future of taking in the "diers" and giving them shelter, love, care, and treatment. And, in order to continue doing just that, we must look at our resources - our buildings - and prepare.

Below, you will see a reprint of the article Tom Atsatt wrote for our 2010 Winter Newsletter. In it, Tom modestly told you that he had seen a need here at Refuge Farms. And so last fall, he stepped forward, asked to start a Building Committee, and assumed the leadership of that Building Committee.

This is a first for Refuge Farms and a much needed role to be filled! My focus is the horses. Always the horses. I stay focused and so put funds into the breathing components of our Missions – the horses. But Tom, in his wisdom, saw that we are in jeopardy of not being able to continue our Missions if we don’t have weather-worthy buildings!

Many of us have talked about barn needs, office needs, hay shelters, but it has been just that. Talk. It took Tom to step up and commit to getting something done! For instance, the old barn. Literally falling down around us, this barn must be dismantled before a disaster happens. And prior to dropping the old barn, we must make adjustments to our herds, we must move box stalls from the old barn to the new barn, and we must prepare electrical, telephone, and water supplies for the demolition. Then, we must dismantle and rid ourselves of the structure.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Don't let it fool you. There is a myriad of details to be thought through and a list of work to be completed. And Tom, with his experience and connections, will carry it to fruition. Refuge Farms is so very lucky to have Tom and have him willing to take on these responsibilities!

The wisdom and experience of this man make him an excellent leader for projects like the demolition of the old barn, the creation of a Hospital Facility in its place, the creation of a shelter for our round bales, and even the creation of an office outside of the residence (and yes, with an indoor potty!).

During our Annual Christmas Breakfast at Applebee’s just last month, Tom and Julie unveiled the first fundraiser for the Building Committee –
the raffle. We have asked our volunteers as supporters of Refuge Farms, to sell to these tickets to their friends, their co-workers, and even themselves! The prizes are fantastic! Just look at them! And thank you to our donors – Linda & Jim J. of Eau Claire, WI for the Super Bowl Basket and Tom & Julie for the beef. The drawing is January 31st – just in time for Super Bowl.

Tickets are $5 each or a packet of 3 for $10. The prizes are:
* Quarter side pasture raised beef - a $500 value
* Twenty 1 lb packages of pasture raised ground beef - a $50 value
* Tailgate basket of snacks including a 12 pack of Leinie's beer - a $50 value
* Applebee's gift certificate - a $50 value
* Ten 1 lb packages of pasture raised ground beef - a $25 value

Thank you to all of you for your efforts for the Building Committee by buying and selling these raffle tickets. And especially, thank you to Tom Atsatt for stepping up and helping this organization continue to save lives!

Happy New Year to each and every one of us!

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

Reprinted from the Refuge Farms 2010 Winter Newsletter:

Hello Fellow Friends of Refuge Farms,

With the wrapping up of the Refuge Farms Fall Gala, it means another year is coming to a close. Another busy year for Refuge Farms, with this year’s Fall Gala benchmarking the 10th Anniversary of the horse rescue and sanctuary. One more promise added to the original three. Promises that when stated sound so rational, promises that reflect the way that we ourselves would like to be treated, but sometimes, in the case of our equine friends, can take almost herculean efforts to achieve: to be treated with respect, not to feel hunger and thirst, to know a Forever Home, and to improve the quality of life.

Through Refuge Farms program called “Horses Helping . . .,” the horses give back to us, demonstrating the power to recover from neglect and abuse, and again open their hearts and minds to the world around them. Hundreds of horses have had their lives improved by the efforts of Refuge Farms, either by it becoming their Forever Home, or by becoming adopted or fostered horses. My wife and I have adopted two horses from Refuge Farms, and foster two others. We know firsthand blind trust as we lead and work with our sight-impaired mare, and have seen life renewed in aged horses by regular feed and care.

Refuge Farms has touched many lives, both equine and human, and with any non-profit organization, it takes work, dedication, time, and donations to keep it running. Unless specified otherwise, much of the donations go in to the care and feed for the horses. In the past ten years, only minor repairs have been done on the actual buildings at Refuge Farms. This year the Refuge Farms Building Fund has been initiated, the donations of which will go to the structures at Refuge Farms which are in dire need of repair and replacement, and which will continue to create protection and facilities for those horses that come in for rescue, and to also improve the conditions for the care takers.

Luckily most of us have never experienced having to set out pails in the attic, or climb into bed and find a pool of water soaking through the covers and mattress, because of a leaking roof. So the first item on the Building Committee’s agenda is to replace the house roof. Second on the list to tackle is the “Hospital Building”, the structure you see straight ahead as you drive into THE FARM, where the sick and injured horses are cared for.

This building is literally moving sideways and we are praying it will last through this coming winter. We need to replace it with a building that will allow Refuge Farms to continue to provide the care and safety needed for the charges we have promised to protect. The third project on the list is to provide a new run-in facility that would allow every horse inside shelter and storage of the hay helping prevent loss from the elements.

The Refuge Farms Building Fund has been established to start the process of repair and replacement. We are accepting donations specific to the building fund through various means. Donations can be made via direct mail, or in the near future on-line via the web site. We will have donation cans at upcoming events and we are also planning a raffle that has prizes, like a farm raised ¼ beef, ground burger gifts, a tailgate basket (including beer), and a $50 gift certificate for Applebee’s.

We believe the repair of the structures at Refuge Farms can and will be accomplished – just reflect on how much the volunteers and the caring friends of Refuge Farms’ has accomplished in its’ first decade. Please help us ensure it is around for decades to come.

Tom Atsatt
Chairman, Refuge Farms Building Committee

P.S. If you would like to be a part of our raffle by either selling tickets or by purchasing tickets, please email THE FARM at and we'll get you taken care of promptly! And good luck! May you win the prize you're hoping for!

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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