Sunday, July 08, 2012


Setting Records at Refuge Farms

This summer is setting records of all types, it seems, all the time! The time is passing so fast I find it hard to find the time to sit at the desk. It is either the horses that need picking up, delivering, feeding, barns to be cleaned, or the storms to prepare for . . .  or the heat to deal with. Our work of rescue has been difficult but steady this summer. In the period of time beginning with Easter Sunday, April 22nd, through Sunday, June 24th, Refuge Farms averaged one horse rescued every 2.5 days. Two horses every five days. Twelve horses every month. Or, in that two month spread, little Refuge Farms rescued twenty-four horses.

Amazing. I am proud to be a part of an organization that gives its all when it is needed.

Yesterday late afternoon, Rescue Horse #834 was released from the corral into the small pasture with some of her new horse friends. Her name is Duchess. She is a Saddlebred mare and came to us as a "walking 1". By this, we mean her score on the Henneke Scoring System was a one. A level one is emaciated and usually down. Usually, a "1" is a horse that you seriously consider euthanizing. The chances of survival and being healthy are minimal. A "1" is a horse in the state of serious and life-sucking neglect and starvation.

They didn't know Duchess!

This little mare is about thirty years old. She is an elderly mare without an ounce of muscle or fat left on her body. Her head seems horribly too big for her frame and if you ever wanted to see the hooks of the hip bones or the placement and number of ribs on the equine frame, this is the horse to look at! Her spine sticks up out of her body by 6" at places. Her anus is receded into her body. There is nothing anywhere to jiggle on this horse when she moves. And brushing her is a gentle rub of the naked hand. Anything more and the hide of this horse literally peels off.

Duchess was found in the Madison area by the Humane Officers of Dane County. She was one of several that were seized but one of the few that survived. This mare was clearly scored a "1" in the Henneke System but she became obvious for one simple fact - she was standing. This wise mare was smart and knew if she went down she probably would not be getting up. So up she kept herself. On and with what, I don't really know. Her legs were weak and I believe she willed herself to stand and move. Determined, to say the least. A tiny version of our hero, Liz-Beth.

Once at Refuge Farms, we kicked in our recovery routine for the starved ones: soaked beet pulp every two hours round the clock, pelleted high-fat feed every two hours round the clock, soaked hay cubes every two hours round the clock, and fifteen minutes of fresh grass three times per day. Duchess showed us right away that she could put away the food! Her buckets were empty every time we went to feed her. And new buckets were attacked like I attack a bag of M&M's! The mare was eating and yes, she was pooping, too! And, I'm happy to say, once she saw the steady stream of feed coming at her she stopped consuming her own manure. No need to store extra calories just in case . . . there was new and constant food here for her and so she relaxed and spent her day eating and pooping.

In the wee hours of the day, I would sometimes catch her resting in the hay. She now trusted herself to rest her legs and spend some time in the hay. When those new buckets of feed appeared, however, she was up and nickering. Reminding me that 2am meant 2am . . .  NOT 2:10am!!!

Duchess is a fiesty character and I dare say that when she is healthy and strong again, she will be a handful! She loves to run and loves to socialize. Just don't come near her when she is eating! Duchess does not like to share! Not yet, at least. I'm hoping she learns just how serious we are about feeding her and some magical day she will allow another horse to share her portion. That will take time and I'm willing to wait her out. We'll see who wins that bet!

Her kidneys and liver functions are normal. Slightly anemic was all that her blood work showed us. And that is to be expected when you are a "1" on the scale! Her spirit is what is off the charts! Duchess is a fancy mare who is beautiful in her mind. And given her tendency to eat more than even Big Lanna can pack away, I'm betting that she will be glowing and beautiful and fancy to everyone else soon, too.

There are many stories to tell you of the past month. Stories of rescue and placement. Pictures of Big Bo and little Kindra. Pictures of those stalwart volunteers working in the heat to clean barns, clean stock tanks, and move hay bales. And pictures of Duchess as she becomes the picture that is in her mind.

I'll do my best to be more diligent and find the time - MAKE the time! - to write to you and tell you those stories. But for now, know that Duchess and Ella are coming along. That "The Ladies" are the most remarkable group of horses I think I have ever known! That their surgeries have healed and they are glamourous and stunningly beautiful! That Violet is in her new home and Victor will be adopted soon. That Vinnie (the "Mohawk") will stay in the fold of Refuge Farms. And that this week, horse # 835 will be retrieved and re-homed.

Know that we will continue to work and save lives. That our Mission of rescuing the "diers" is still alive and we are doing the very best humanly possible. That cleaning barns and feeding and rescuing consumes us and when time allows, we will share a story. Until then, please keep Refuge Farms in your prayers. Remember the horses with no shelters, no fly masks, without shade in this heat. Remember the ones left to fend for themselves. Please pray that their journey be swift and without misery.

Remember all creatures in need. And do your part to help another living creature along the way.

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

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