Sunday, August 26, 2012


"Work is love made visible."

Kahlil Gibran is the person who said, "Work is love made visible." I read that line last night as I was wandering through some old books in the big bookcase in the parlour. What made me open that book? I can't answer that. The book has a salmon colored silk ribbon for a marker. Was it the feel of the smooth satin? The coolness of the cloth? The calm of the color? Or the good, solid feel of a book in my hands? I don't know what drew me to that book in particular. But once the book was in my hands, the pages fell open and there was the line, "Work is love made visible." After the past few days, the line drew my heart to the surface. I smiled. I paused. And I reflected. You see, there is plenty of love at this place.

Our farrier from the east side of the state had just finished the two-day task of trimming The Herd. This particular cycle of hoof trims was augmented with the brushing and dosage of the bug repellent down their spines as well as the administration of the deworming paste. We were a machine. Trim. Dose. Paste. Switch horses. Trim. Dose. Paste. Each horse took us about 45 minutes to complete and each horse was done to perfection. Each horse, too, behaved so well that I began to wonder if some of them were ill! But no, it was just the routine and the rhythm. We were good at what we were doing and the horses knew it. They responded to our rhythm and the two days passed without incident or harm. To neither horse or human.

Trimming a hind hoof on a "shoeing bed horse"

I make it sound simple. It is anything but simple. It is hard work. And dangerous work. The shoeing bed is a gift with the big horses and for those with sore hips and arthritic knees. But a finger in the wrong place at the wrong time could be lost. Not just hurt but lost. There are razor sharp trimming knives. The rasp is heavy and sharp and jagged. And the horses? Well, a kick from anyone of them could mean a broken bone or worse. We must communicate and work as a team. When we don't, it becomes dangerous.

Isaac trimming a hoof sole

And it is heavy work. Have you ever taken a rasp and tried to smooth a hoof so it is pretty to the human eye? Nice and smooth edges with a smooth face? Trust me. It's like trying to file cement on a rickety wheelbarrow. The foot moves. You need to pull in with one hand while you push forward with the other hand. And do that in a smooth movement while grasping a flat, wide, sharp piece of steel that is designed to cut into that hoof and take off a layer of it. Looks easy, but it is tough work.

The people that spent these past two days here at THE FARM assisting in the weekend were tired and dirty by the end of the day. They left their egos outside. They came in and responded when someone said, "I need a  . . . . ". Done. Nobody just stood. Everybody moved.

We trim "ground horses", as I call them, and "shoeing bed horses". The "ground horses" are the ones we trim on the ground. Those are the smaller horses or the ones that most people think of when they think of a horse. Running about 1,200 pounds, they are they typical riding horse. Faith, Alexius, Hollie, Duchess, Ella, Unit, Spirit . .  With the exception of Alexius, they all stood like champions. We brought Miss April in to stand with Roman and that big, tall, long-legged boy stood like the professional show horse that he is. No leaning on the farrier. No grabbing his foot back with a jerk. Not even a tail swish. Roman actually enjoyed getting his feet trimmed. Hollie was the winner that we know her to be. And even Unit and Spirit were cooperative.

Spirit talks to us when we trim her. She tells us when she needs to put her foot down because of her bad leg. She leans back like she is going to sit on the ground to tell us we need to give her a minute or so to get the weight off of her leg with the broken knee. Then she lifts the foot again and she cooperates until the pressure on that leg gets to be too much and then the squatting starts again. She talks to us and we listen. And because of that, we get through a trim for that horse with no damage to anyone.

Alexius was the only one that yanked and was a "little pistol", as we called her. She was swishing that tail and doing her best to be a handful. But only for two of the four feet. Once she saw she wasn't getting out of it, she dropped the act and stood quietly. Gotta love the girl for trying!

The shoeing bed horses did exceptionally well! Babee Joy became a bit excited when she was beginning her trim because her pal, Jeri-Ann, broke a gate and everyone of Babee Joy's pals ran out of the barn. Babee Joy didn't like being left alone AT ALL and she told us so! That shoeing bed was rocking and she was bellering her discontent! We named her right - a baby! So, we focused on retrieving Jeri-Ann, Beauty, and Handsome and once they were back in the barn, Babee Joy calmed down again. By the start of the second foot, she was calm and completely relaxed in that shoeing bed.

And Jeri-Ann! I kept checking to make sure she wasn't ill! Jeri-Ann actually slept through her time in the shoeing bed! And Jeri-Ann needed new shoes all the way around. And she slept!! Handsome went in the shoeing bed and then shot out when he was done. The memories of his abuse while trapped in one of those beds still follows that big giant and so we focus on getting him in and out as quickly as possible.

The only error of the weekend was mine. I haltered Beauty and then when I had her partway to the shoeing bed, I saw a volunteer in danger and I barked a command. We lost the calmness. Beauty sensed my worry and she shot past the shoeing bed. I got her back and held her while we made the adjustment and then we tried it again. This time successfully. I needed to survey the scene before I brought her out and I didn't do that this time. I got too casual and almost created a problem. Lesson learned the hard way. Let me tell you, the taste of that iron shoeing bed is not a good one first thing in the morning!

But no one had hurt feelings. Everyone understood. No one shook their finger at me and asked, "Why didn't you....?" Or looked at me and asked why did I holler so? Why not ask politely? They knew and they understood. Everyone just picked up and carried on. Hard workers. In love with this business of horse rescue. Their tolerance and forgiveness did not go unnoticed.

Isaac and I discussed what went wrong after Beauty was safely in the shoeing bed. Both of us recognized the failure to survey and adjust before bringing that monster horse out into such a small space. Both of us will be on the watch the next time. However, even after twenty years (yes, 20 years!) of trimming horses together, once in a while Isaac and I still "miss it". We just smile at each other and tell each other that we are glad that the other one made a mistake. We tell each other it is comforting to know that the other one is still human. And then we go on but not without filing a memory chip on what to do differently again in three months.

Twenty years have flown by!

The effort of these past two days was a team effort. Transportation and meals to take care of. Beverages and food when you were just wondering if you could make it the last two hours without something other than Mountain Dew in your belly. People to sweep so that the floor remained clear and level. Sawdust appearing when we needed to keep the floors from becoming slippery. Tools to be sharpened and handed to Isaac when he needed them. Big, strong horse legs to be held and anchored to the shoeing bed. Feet to be winched up for trimming. And halters to be put on and off and on again. Horses to be moved from pasture to pasture as we rotated everyone to keep it calm and take away the excitement of "getting out". Water and feed brought to horses to keep them calm while they stood tied for hours. Buckets to take down and gates to open and close and open again. It was an enormous team effort. And I must say, this team was well-oiled and one smooth group.

I am very tense the day before we begin this trimming process. The worry of a human getting hurt or a horse getting in trouble wears on me. By the time the first hoof is lifted, I'm nervous, edgy, short-tempered, and like a hawk watching every single move of every single person. This has nothing to do with trust. It is purely the worry of someone getting hurt. By the end of the first day, I'm tired but starting to see the group gel together and learn the process and routine. By the start of the second day, I'm starting to step back and let them do the work. Give them a chance to get "in there" and do it. But even yet, even with the very last foot, I'm still on guard and my eyes are still trying to see where anything can blow up and cause an injury. Only when the last car pulls out of the driveway will I allow myself to inhale and let it go. Relaxation comes with difficulty after one of these events.

And since we dewormed The Herd, I also took the time to do a head check last night about midnight. Looking for anyone who might be struggling with the effects of the dewormer. Is anyone lying down? Rolling? Kicking? Biting at their bellies? Is anyone removing themselves from The Herd? Anyone of them showing me signs of colic from the dewormer? Last night, I stopped and absolutely mortified PONY!. I kissed him on his nose. And in front of all the others! PONY! brought his head up and gave me the response of, "Not now! Not here! Not in front of them!!" He whinnied his disgust with my action and moved away from me. I laughed at him and hugged him once more. I just love you PONY! and am so glad you came home to be here with us again.

When I hugged Isaac and Betty good-bye and as I watched them drive away early yesterday evening, I said what was in my heart. I said out loud, "I have a brother. A brother my Mother never knew. I have a brother in Isaac."

I trust this man. For twenty years we have worked side by side and helped horses that others have thrown away. Starting with Francis Andrew and Ima and Jerry, the Roan Horse. From the ones before there even was a Refuge Farms. Isaac has trimmed and set shoes on all of these horse ministers. And every single foot he touches, he does well. Well enough that I trust him with any of them.

And, over the years, we have come to know and respect each other. He knows me well enough to suggest we sit down for a while together right when I think I need to do just that. I know him well enough to suggest we take a minute while I run up and get some bottled water just when he needs a break. And so we do. We exchange those glances of thanks to each other and then we sit for a minute. We smile at each other as we now use the sides of the shoeing bed to help get us up off our knees. We smile because we both remember when we thought that doing something like that was what "an old person did". Hah! Guess who is getting older now?

We all worked very hard these past two days. Sweating abundantly. Getting stepped on once in a while and being bounced around a bit once in a while. Strong, hard, dirty work. But work that is necessary if you want to rescue these horses. Work that teaches you even more about them and just how fragile the horse body really is. Work that gets you closer to them and they to you. Work that is good for you. That shows you the difference you made when you stand back and look. Work that is done completely and wholly out of love for them.

Yes, work is love made visible. If we didn't love them, we wouldn't care. We would save the money and we would spend the two days lounging instead. Not me. Not us! We love them too much. And because of that love, we willingly work. 

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

Hannah's feet after Isaac trimmed her

Hannah's feet before Isaac trimmed her



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