Monday, April 30, 2012


Refuge Farms is Published

I’m an amateur member of the Equine Photographers Network. Quite some time ago I discussed with Sandy an opportunity to enter their 2011 Horses in Need Documentary Project. Of course, I have the easiest part; I only have to tell the story with photos. Sandy has the much more difficult part, telling the story with text. And, once again she did a fabulous job.

Long story short, we got published for the Refuge Farms Laddee story. This is their lead:


Laddee, the Little Belgian Mare
by Sandy Gilbert, Spring Valley, Wisconsin

Sandy Gilbert is the Executive Director of Refuge Farms in Spring Valley, WI. Laddee is a Belgian mare that has just arrived at the sanctuary, and she is dying. Nothing can be done to change that. Laddee is suffering from a tumor on her eye and has cancer that can not be cured. The issue is quality of life. Sandy shares Laddee's story.


If anyone is interested, you can access their website and read more at:

I’m so proud of Sandy for her many abilities in continuing the mission of Refuge Farms. Congratulations my dear friend.

Gary Stevens

Sunday, April 08, 2012


The Resurrection of Ty

I just came in from hooking and feeding the horses that currently reside here at THE FARM. I'm working the Kill Pen Mare toward the big barn a few inches every day. Some days are better than others. Yesterday, she stood calmly and ate her entire meal. Today, the winds teased her and she became frightened only half way through her bucket and there was no getting her back. She needed the security of Helen, and so I unhooked Helen and we three went to the stock tank I've placed outside for these two ladies. Long drinks of water and then off to find more hay or grass or whatever is in front of them. Together, though. Together. Like two halves of a single being.

I spent a few moments with Beauty and Handsome and the impatient one, Jeri-Ann. Babee Joy snorted her dislike of being tied and so off they went! Thundering out of the old barn and away to the trees to scratch and shed some of their winter coats. And break a few more trees, too, I'm sure!

Everyone was in the mood of spring. Of shedding off the coats of winter. Of the renewal of the earth. Of starting again after the season when everything just endures. And waits. It is Spring. And today, it is Easter, as well. Truly the day to contemplate the resurrection.

My mind is totally absorbed with the works of this past week. The preparations for our Spring Breakfast at the Menomonie Applebee's. The hugs of gratitude from our guests as we all celebrated that we "wintered" another one and made it! That it is again time for green grass and flowers and the promise of the summer that lies ahead of us. Oh, the promise of this season!

In all the hay hauling, barn cleaning, panel moving, paperwork, and feedings, my efforts of this past week are consolidated into the memory of one solitary task: the re-homing of Ty.

Ty is the barn name for a 16.1 hand Arabian/Saddlebred cross gelding. Trained for the professional show ring, Ty is very intelligent and quick! Easily bored but thoughtful. A horse who truly takes your breath away as he plays in the pasture! Rarely do the grounds of Refuge Farms house a horse of this caliber. And when we do, we all are on full alert! A pedigree is among us! A horse with registration papers and history and the hope of a long and joyful life.

Ty's full name is New York Style. And it fits. The horse has style. It just oozes out of him! And yes, he reminds me of the New York attitude. A bit snooty. A bit hard to get to know. A bit self-absorbed. But then you call to him and isn't this something?! The horse turns to look at you and comes to you. Directly to you. When he arrives, you can see it in his eyes, "Yes? You called me?"

Ty's previous owner is a professional show person in the English Country style. Ty's career began in Arizona and just over a year ago, he was transported to southern Wisconsin to join the show circuit of the Midwest. This spring, however, for whatever reason, Ty began to not want to canter under saddle. And so a posting was made on our bulletin board to advertise Ty since cantering is a key component of the show ring.

After a few emails, my mind had a picture. A picture I did not tell a single soul. Not even Ty! A picture of what I dreamed of for this horse. And so, that Monday I moved around a few appointments and plans and drove to Madison to retrieve this horse. Oh, he was everything his pictures had shown him to be! Head high in the air! Tail up! Feet snapping! Lean but in perfect physical condition. Nothing jiggled on this horse! Sensitive, even in the halter. And curious. Alert. ALIVE!

Refuge Farms absorbed this horse without a destination for him. It was one of those intuitive surrenders. I knew I would be able to find a home for this horse but it was going to be difficult to find a home where I knew he would not be sold or traded or given away. This horse was of a caliber that many rescues would have accepted him and put a hefty adoption fee on him. And someone would have paid it. To me, in my own little corner of the world, that is just selling a horse. The selling price is just camouflaged as an adoption fee.

Refuge Farms does not sell horses. We find good, loving, caring homes for our horses and then we give them to the new owners. Free of charge. As I tell people, we are in this work to save the life. If we do a good job, the supports will come. It's that faith thing again. Many tell me I'm crazy but fine. So be it. Selling a horse is not the concept that Andy and I originally intended. And even a tempting, high-priced horse like New York Style will not cause us to sway from our convictions.

As I drove home from Madison, I allowed my mind to think of that picture again. Way back in my head, I had a picture. Now . . . I just needed to work to get that picture to become a reality.

I've known this woman for several years. She is a horse woman. An artist. I met her when somehow she found us and ordered one of our calendars online. Don't remember the exact year but it was a while ago. Throughout this time, this woman has shown me she is committed to Natural Horsemanship and doing her best to think like the horse she is standing with at the time. A little woman. Quick to smile. Dedicated to living a healthy and caring life. And saving a life along the way, when the opportunity presents itself.

My telephone call from the road told her I had "the boy" behind me and he was everything I had dreamed of! She decided to visit the following day and see if there was a connection between the two of them. I prayed there would be. My picture was becoming a bit less fuzzy . . .

The next day was horribly windy. We rescheduled for the following day. So, on that windy day, I went out and played with Ty by myself. After twenty minutes of pointing and watching him move, I scratched his neck and warned him, "You had better be adopted soon, Big Boy, or I'm going to fall in love with you!"

That Wednesday was spent with me outside, acting busy. But really, I was watching the work between this woman and Ty. You see, no matter what my mind wants, it is my job and responsibility to insure the match is a good one. No matter how much someone wants a horse, if I see fear or uneasiness or disregard in the horse to that person, I need to find another match. No matter how much I want this horse to go with this woman, I had to see that Ty wanted it to.

A little over an hour of play and touch and learning and listening, I saw the saddle was on Ty's back and up she went! Way up she went! This boy was tall! And around the corral they played with a western saddle, a rope halter, and a lead rope connected the two of them. Ty's ears and attentiveness to his rider told me the connection was there. A deep sigh out of the horse told me he was beginning to relax under her.
I had seen all I needed to see.

Tuesday of this week, I loaded Ty into the big trailer one more time. And none too soon. Spirit and Unit and Josephina and Helen were calling to him! Everyone loved this young, handsome boy! "Can't he stay???" they pleaded!

Once at his new home, we went about introducing Ty to his new girlfriends - Cerra and Cheyenne and Em. We were all prepared for horsey noises and movements and maybe even a bit of kicking. But there was only a bit of play and then everyone settled down to eat the hay. A "non-event", to be sure. Once again, the picture in my mind was becoming clearer and I was convinced this was a great match.

Ty has spent almost a full week with Sherri. He follows her like a puppy. And, interestingly enough, he takes the lead when they all go down the lane to the pasture. As if he's lived there forever! How does he know? He smells the air and rolls in the dirt. He sighs. He relaxes. And this horse that is named Ty is home. He knows that to be a fact, it's obvious to me.

This was a good match. I know the horse is safe and will be treated with respect and yet be challenged and ridden and have a purpose. And I know Sherri is crazy about him! It is a deep feeling of satisfaction and fulfilled purpose to see the two of them together.

This remarkable horse is alive and loved and safe because Refuge Farms exists. Because we acted on faith and absorbed a horse we didn't have a home for. Because we gave him away based upon a connection between the horse and his human, not on the amount of a check. Because we were there, Ty is alive and will have a long, happy life with Sherri and her chickens and geese and cats and dogs and other horses.

On this Easter Sunday, I think back over the week and my mind wanders to that picture in my mind. The picture that started out fuzzy and vague and almost black & white. The picture that is now clear and vibrant and in full, living color! The picture of the resurrection of Ty.

Ty sent me a thank you note, this week. Through Sherri. I've printed it and taped it to the kitchen cupboard. How appropriate. On this Easter Sunday, I know the peace and the contentment and the joy of living the purpose for why I was born. I know the satisfaction and the inner smile of saving a life.

Thank you, Sandy . . .

Thank you for saving me.
Love, Ty

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

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