Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Mother's Day at Refuge Farms

I'm the first one to recognize that this Mother's Day blog is being published on the Tuesday after Mother's Day. Believe me, I know! However, there has been such a flurry of activity and movement  around here that today is the first opportunity I've had to sit at this desk longer than for twenty seconds! And I must - absolutely must! - update you on Mother's Day here at Refuge Farms.

On the eve of Mother's Day, the best present ever appeared in the driveway - the white rig of Auntie Trish pulled in and out of that trailer came precious Little Gracie. Oh, what a sight for these old eyes! Auntie Trish has been an exceptional caregiver. That fact is visible by the condition of Gracie - sleek and shining and well muscled! She steps out and walks well on newly trimmed feet! And she announces her presence like the Queen that she is. All was right in the barns on Mother's Day eve as I checked on Grace and hugged her to say, "Welcome back, little girl. We've missed you and are thrilled to have you back with us."

Auntie Trish struggled with leaving her behind. You all know how easily that little hackney works her way into your heart. Grace seems to have trained Auntie Trish very well. That was my comment to Trish as I looked at the hay that Grace "refused". I told Trish that Gracie's wasted hay is more hay than some horses get in a week! But nothing was too good for Gracie and Trish saw to it that Gracie was well kept. Thank you, Auntie Trish. Thank you very much.

And, true to life here at THE FARM, Gracie had a job to do immediately upon her return. Gracie needed to be the companion to a rescue pony who arrived Saturday late afternoon. A little Shetland Mare without such good cares given to her. A little Shetland Mare with feet that hadn't seen a farrier in years. With a winter coat peeling off of her. And a thick, unbrushed mane and tail. A little Shetland Mare with ribs and spine and hips showing prominently. But with spirit abundant!

My first touch of her and she was off! Trying her best to shake off the human hanging on to that lead rope connected to her! Run, run, run! On those feet! Eventually, she gave up and realized I was suctioned to her. She walked calmly and easily into the trailer - a trick I hadn't expected. Her determination to survive is the stuff of stories. This little creature has been "dumped" by her previous owner who was being evicted from his property. A short stay at a family's barn who just couldn't let her die brought her to us. The woman of this family called me and pleaded for the life of this little one. I stopped to see her on Saturday afternoon and knew Refuge Farms had to get involved.

Is she in pain? I don't know. Dr. Brian is coming tomorrow to assess her. And the Specialized Farrier is coming on Friday to assess her as well. If we can recover her feet to the point of being even close-to-normal, then we will do that. Keep this little one in your thoughts this week. Her future depends on these assessments.

In the meantime, she is Gracie's pal. I moved them both from the corral to the Helen Keller pasture last evening. People - it took me over an hour to catch her in the corral! She can move! Fiesty and independent, not even the feed bucket would keep her standing still long enough for me to halter her. I finally cornered her and got a lead rope over her neck. And then, like they say, I just needed to hang on! Easier - much easier! - said than done! Once in the barn, however, tied next to Gracie, she stood and ate her fill of feed. Then I unhooked them both and they meandered out to meet PONY! and Faith.

Everytime I see Gracie and this little one together, I tell Gracie to love her and take care of her. I remind Gracie that it wasn't that long ago that she, too, looked and smelled like this one. And so, be kind, Gracie. Be patient. Be a teacher. And be her friend. She is frightened and worried. Teach her she is safe, Gracie.

Shortey, as I call her for now, is one strong horse. Tiny in a world of big ones here at Refuge Farms. But do not underestimate her! She is mighty! And I pray we can help her and give her the chance for a life.

Helen and Hollie returned to us on Monday, the day after Mother's Day. Another remarkable present! I brought two sensitive, jittery, hard-to-handle horses to the U of M Equine Center and our Dr. Anne. What I brought home was two content, calm, and willing horses. For the first time since arriving, Hollie ate her supper out of a bucket (!) and that bucket, my friends, was hanging on the wall IN the corral shelter! What a transformation!

Both horses have had their painful eyes removed and it has made a huge difference in the personality and disposition of each of them. Helen seems more content to just be. Hollie? Well, I hardly recognize the girl! She enjoys being brushed! She loves a deep hug. And she nibbles on me when I kiss her.

When I unloaded them last night, I was the piece of human walking between the two of them down the driveway. Neither one straggling behind or jumping around. No, I had two, calm mares quietly walking beside me. And we walked into the corral shelter like we had done it a hundred times before. It was all I could do not to jump and scream for joy! Hollie stood quietly while I hooked her and tapped on her feed bucket. Helen waited patiently while I attended to Hollie. And then, when their meal was done, they both waited quietly for me to unhook them. The only word for it is magic....pure magic.

Dr. Anne - I'm not going to work with the new horses anymore! Whenever I get a new one, I'm just going to give it to you and you work your magic on them. Deal? The special arrangements you made allowing them to "bunk together" was part of the magic. But your assignment of students to these horses was almost as great a gift as the surgical procedures themselves. Thank you! How lovely The Ladies have become!

Today I will bring them into the pasture with Faith and PONY! And twice daily, for a while, I will check their sutures and incisions. I have great hopes for these two lovely, lovely mares. Great hopes, indeed!

And lastly, over the weekend, the news of a rescue horse in another rescue in Minnesota came to my attention. A big, fleshy, sound Appaloosa mare with bad eyes. She was scheduled to be euthanized and in hearing of her and her story, it seemed a waste to me. I understand the position of these other rescues as in the case of Helen, but Refuge Farms is a bit different. We have the word "diers" in our vocabulary and this big, flashy girl was a dier.

Early yesterday morning, I began the drive way north to retrieve her. She loaded like a pro. Friendly and loving. Big and healthy. With one blind eye and another yet to be determined. We drove directly to the U of M and dear Dr. Anne and her crew where we examined her immediately to determine her fate.

Her one eye was blind and painful. Her other eye was partially blind, becoming more blind, and also painful. So, today, we will gift her the greatest gift of all - life and that life will be without pain. She will return here to heal and then we will find a loving home for this girl. She is gentle and kind and has great things ahead of her. I have selected Alexius as her name - a name of sophistication and class. A name fitting not only her appearance but her style. I'm expecting Alexius to be home with us later in the week when I will introduce her to others just like her. Thriving, healthy horses just like her. Living horses. Just like her.

And then, I will pause, take a deep breath, and survey the grounds. Looking at one pasture I will see Handsome calmly grazing and surrounded by "his women". That horse is playing it to the max! Miss April, Unit, and Josephina all stand in awe of his huge frame. And they battle for his attention. Handsome? He just stands there and gives each girl a bit of attention in rotation. Handsome is, to be sure, the consumate Ladies' Man!

In the next pasture I will see The Babies - Babee Joy and Jeri-Ann in their full girth. Their massive frames make me proud and relieved that they are safe at THE FARM. No competitive pulling for them. Only love and grass and sunshine for those two young girls.

And then I will turn to the corral and see Alexius while she becomes familiar with her new challenges and is surrounded by others who can teach her the ways of the blind. Good, solid teachers like Faith and Helen and now Hollie. Gracie will be in the background with Shortey not too far away. I will see them all and I will feel the weight of our Missions. The weight of each one of their lives. I will feel the need to be diligent and reliable. To be available and aware 24/7. And I will be grateful beyond words.

Mother's Day at Refuge Farms was hectic and busy and not without stress. But on that day, we saved lives. Worthy and beautiful lives! We saved creatures that now have a life because Refuge Farms was there! And that is the very best present any Mother could ask for.

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

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