Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A Celebration Is Upon Us!!!!

It is a time of great turmoil and disaster. There is the upcoming election with all the mailings, the unsolicited telephone calls at all hours, the constant barrage of commercials and accusations, and the endless analysis by the "specialists". This election is overtaking our air waves and I, for one, will be happy when it is completed if only to get my music back!

Then there is Hurricane Sandy. They could have picked a better name, in my humble opinion. The devestation and lives lost are very painful to listen to and watch. I am amazed, however, at the efforts taken in preparation for the arrival of the storm. Many, many more lives could have been lost. Perhaps Katrina did teach us something, after all.

Here on the homefront, life continues to be full of lives saved, lives rescued, and lives re-homed. After working for several weeks, I believe we have found the absolutely perfect home for the two Clydesdale geldings, Andie and Turbo. This has been a challenge but last Sunday's tour was very productive and next Tuesday, it is my hope, that the deal will be sealed. I will rest much easier knowing we have re-homed these two gentle giants and have averted the sudden decision to "just be rid of them". The owner is a good man and a compassionate man but the time it has taken me to find the right home for his boys has been twice what I had estimated to him. That means more money out of his pocket but he is holding tight, bless his heart!

The kittens continue to grow and thrive. Now eating canned moist food for breakfast and using the big cat food bowl the rest of the day is a huge time saver from bottle feeding all five of them. Cuter than a bug's ear, they continue to grow, explore, and find the world a wonderfully fun place to be! This house is full of boxes to climb, furniture to hide under, and big cats to sleep on and with. Kidd seems to be a gentle one with them and even Victor snuggles and cleans them. Crooked Head is a great Mother to them and they seem to be learning all the things their real Mother would have taught them.

And tomorrow, we will accept two more horses originally destined for Saturday's sale barn in Marion, WI. An elderly Standardbred and an elderly Shire. Both horses have worked and performed for their owner in their younger years and, luckily, they fell into the hands of a man that doesn't "like to see a horse go to slaughter". This man has boarded the horses for us until Trish comes this way for the Gala so tomorrow, she will stop and retrieve our newest two horses. Believe it or not, they will be #859 and #860. We'll work hard to re-home them before the winter season sets in and I will be eternally grateful to this stranger who called one evening when we were sitting around the table stuffing Gala invitations.

Finally, there is the race going on around THE FARM in preparation for an event that we host once per year. We take a hunk of our barns and a few of The Herd and we head to the University of Minnesota Equine Center in St. Paul. We work hard and convert the horse arena into a Gala hall. And then, magically, people appear and we spend an evening together as we celebrate another year of saving lives!

The Fall Gala & Auction is this Saturday, November 3rd, with the doors opening at 6:30pm. The program begins at 7pm and you will not want to miss a moment of what we have planned!

Our welcome message will be a personal one and I look forward to expressing my gratitude. Then, a few moments later, we will celebrate our hard work with a video created of specifically selected photos and set to specifically selected songs. The video tells of twelve years of sweating and freezing and working until you thought your muscles would snap. But it shows the faces of the people and the horses whose lives are better off because Refuge Farms was there. I've watched the video each morning for the past week to remind me of why we are so frantic and crazy. Why we are working so dang hard and sleeping so little. It is to celebrate and reach people. To explain our Missions in pictures and yes, with live horses and humans, too.

Babee Joy and Jeri-Ann will be in the corral for all to marvel at. They are "The Babies of THE FARM"

and they will be there in all their spendor and grand size. Guaranteed to steal your heart, you will want to attend if only to witness perhaps the largest horse you will ever touch and see! 

And then, toward the end of the evening, our farrier, Isaac, will appear with Helen in full harness. What a thrill to see this mare who was destined to be euthanized on February 22nd come into that arena! She will have her head high and her feet coming straight out in front of her! She will be proud and Isaac will be beaming! He loves to drive her and she loves to be in harness! I can hardly wait to see that picture as it unfolds!
Finally, after that grand entrance, there will be "the surprise". Now, I can't tell you what it is but I can tell you that it will surprise you! In fact, it will surprise all of us since it is something we have never done before! Truly! We will make history Saturday evening at the conclusion of our Gala and you will NOT want to miss being a witness to the event! Trust me!

Tickets are $35 at the door and you are welcome from 6:30pm on throughout the evening. We will have finger foods for you and a cash bar. Our silent auction will entice you and help you with your holiday gift shopping . . . and maybe even spoil yourself a bit, too! And then there will be the horses. Ah, the horses.

Join us, won't you? In the midst of the hurricane, the election, and all of the "noise" of the world, come and spend an evening of celebration. An evening to recognize the work we volunteers do at Refuge Farms. Simply because we believe in it . . . we believe in working to save a life.

For directions or more information, simply email THE FARM at We'll be waiting for you!

I'll close with a poem written by one of the people working "behind the scenes" for The Gala, Jodi Giroux. She is an animal lover and recognizes the care and work we commit to in loving and rescuing these creatures. Her poem is a great observation and also kind, in its way. Transparent, it seems to me. Thank you, Jodi! Enjoy!

See you at The Gala!
Sandy and Jeri-Ann and Babee Joy and Helen and . . . .????????

      I feel tension in my ‘parent,’
   Not only her,
but others who help
“What could be going on?”

“Is everything in check?”
Sandy wonders
“ volunteers, music and food,
I hope it is a successful Gala”

I eat my grain,
Enjoying my treat,
But what’s going on with all
This hustle, bustle and Gala thing?

“The logos! Donations!
Will they be sent in time?”
I have to get volunteers lined
Up at the U!”

I know my ‘parent’ loves me
I sense her relaxing around me
I think this craziness is for me
And my friends
Does she realize how grateful
We already are?

“So many places!
So little time!”
A checklist here, and
A checklist there
“We need the money to carry on
To keep these horses living on.”

I whinny and give a stomp,
She’s too busy and refuses
To look
I whinny and shake my head and
Finally! She turns a glance!

“What’s going on my friend?”
Sandy asks
“Only if she can read my heart,”
He feels

They stand in silence
Looking at each other
Simultaneously expressing,
“Thank you and I love you!”

With a pat on the head from her
And a whinny from him
They go their ways
Knowing it’ll all be okay!

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Time to Share!

It becomes such an easy thing to do . . . or not to do. To become so buried in these "TO DO LISTS" that communicating is left for another day. A rainy day. A day when the sun isn't shining and I am forced to be inside. A day when my chest is about bursting with news and I can no longer ignore the need to share.

Today is such a day. Yes, the sun is shining and it will be warmer than it has been in days. Yes, I have desk work beyond belief! Yes, the Fall Gala is less then a month away. And yes, my list of outside tasks that must be done is still four pages long. Literally. However, there is just too much to tell you!

So grab a cup of coffee. Settle in. Meet a few new ones that now live with us. Share in a few minor but significant-to-us victories. And catch up with the news of THE FARM! I do, truly, have so much to share!

On August 29th, I drove a short distance to Eau Claire to retrieve a clydesdale mare that had a "bad case of the scratches". As I walked around the corner and saw her, I knew immediately that what she was carrying was not the scratches and was quite severe, whatever it was. The odor from her legs was that of oozing pus and decaying flesh. The flies were black on her swollen tissue. She was gentle but even so, touching her festered legs was something that she really did not want you to do. This mare did not kick at you, she just brought her leg up quickly away from you. Just the look and the smell of the legs caused the faces of all who met her to wrinkle in disdain.

She loaded fairly well and as I drove home, my shoulders felt the weight of what had just happened. I have come to call it "assisted abandonment". The owner of the unwanted horse will tell you anything - how they will sponsor the horse, hold fundraisers for the horse, volunteer in the cares of the horse. They tell you anything they can think of to help you move to the point of saying "yes" to them. Then once the horse is in the Refuge Farms trailer, the owner disappears. Relieved of the burden of the animal. The horse is out of sight. Abandoned. With assistance, but abandoned, none the same.

Such is the case with Clyde Mare, as we call her now. She is a thin, tall, black, registered clyde with a chronic condition in her legs that will be with her until she crosses. The condition arises from heat and lack of care and this mare came to us looking for a home and relief from her painful condition. Several of the volunteers and even students from UW-River Falls are stepping up to give her the much needed and appreciated relief. And she has a home where we feed her twice daily to help her gain the missing 400 pounds. But she is a handful.

And by that, I don't mean she is hard to handle. On the contrary! I have rarely seen such a compliant, trusting creature. The daily work to clean and treat her legs is the handful. Every day. Regardless of the lists or the weather or the day. Every day. Regardless of the work schedule, the tour schedule, or the event that day. Every day. A ninety minute process to clean, treat, and dry her legs.

We can already see progress in her legs and her personality and her body. She is still an easy 300 pounds too thin with those big hip bones sticking out and her neck nearly invisible. But she is starting to build a layer over her ribs and her bumps and welts are disappearing. She now allows me to clean her eyes which was not possible when she arrived. Touching her face at all was forbidden! Now, in a moment of pride I will - without thinking - kiss her nose. We both stand and - with all four of our eyes wide open in surprise! - we look at each other in total amazement! I touched her nose and she let me! BOTH of us are alarmed! And then we laugh. Touch is getting easier every day.

Her legs are better but far from healed. They will never be normal and she will never be healed. This will be a lifelong condition for her and I dread the thought of hot, humid summers. But by then, we'll have a routine and a handle on the treatments and both she and we will be better prepared to deal with the heat and the flies. Until then, we both learn. We learn how to treat her and she learns to trust us. It will be a long journey with this lovely mare but she is deserving. And we are willing.

RockMan has come to live with us. All the way from Illinois!

A foundation quarter horse gelding, this elderly man is quite a sweetie. Blind for quite some time, he is shy and unsure about being loose in a pasture. Each day, I take him into the big pasture, relieve him of his halter, and ask him to be a horse. Each day he does his best but is eager to have me put him in the small corral at the start of the evening. It is still too much to ask to have him be naked and free and mingle loose with the others. However, it will come in time.

The owner told me her vet had informed her that moving a blind horse was inhumane. That her horse should be put down instead of relocated. I wonder what RockMan would say to that if we were to ask him! He loves his feed and has just about demolished his first round bale. He wanders the yard and picks what remains of the lawn with Clyde Mare. The two are quite a couple and they kindly share the blades that still remain. His demeanor is a match for the big black mare - easy, soft mouthed, curious, slow to respond, and gentle. They have actually been very good for each other. Companionship is important to ease the fear of a new home and these two have both weathered the change very well. Thanks to each other.

The eyes of RockMan concern me. There is abnormal growth of his third eyelid in the socket and will require that we surgically remove that tissue. His teeth clank which tells me a floating is due. And his feet will be trimmed as soon as our Isaac appears on these grounds. But his flanks are not thin although his muscle tone is poor. Give him a few months wandering around the pasture and the yard and he will begin to build up his muscle again. His eyes water and that tells me they are uncomfortable. So the best thing we can do for this polite character is to resolve his eye situation. We'll be holding a fundraiser just for RockMan's eyes, so please stay tuned!

Our dear PONY! developed a touch of colic again last Wednesday evening. Looking back, I was focused on the lack of urine. However, I now realize that PONY! was positioning and extending simply to attempt to remove the pain he was experiencing. It was a long night of watching and checking and waiting. Afraid each time I put my hand on the door knob of the barn of what I would find when I went inside. Would PONY! be up or down? Eating or standing? In pain or resting?

"It" seems to have passed and the "normal" life has returned to him. He eats, follows Faith religiously, drinks, and licks us when we put on a blanket against the first of the winter north winds. As this horses ages, he is a sensitive creature and it is now our job to insure we maintain an even way of life for him. Keep him calm and without severe or sudden changes. Good rules for all of us as we all age!

And just this past week, the rescue side of this business has been kicked into high gear as well after going quiet for a short time. A very short time!

We have received calls for horses needing homes every single day of the week. A calm day was only one call that day. The busiest day was three calls with five horses. I believe the team of clydes has a home. The young Arab/Morgan gelding still is in need. He is healthy, trained, and beautiful! Please check our "Horses Needing Homes" bulletin board if you have room and an interest in a high caliber show horse who needs a home!  And, in conversations and visits to four homes, six lovely creatures were helped over the bridge this past week. Six in one week. Tears cannot find a way out of me any more this week. That's too many in too few days. There are just so many unwanted horses.

Every time this week became too much for me, I went back in time to just two weeks ago. Whenever I was too tired to move. Too cold to move. Too weary to clean Clyde Mare again tonight. Too afriad to answer the telephone's ring. And too sad for words. Any time this past week that the world of rescue became too much for me, I went back just two weeks ago.

You see, two weeks ago today, I attended a parade in Wayzata, MN. And two very, very special boys were in that parade - our very own Dude and Randy! How handsome they were! How calm and at ease they were! And how very proud and thrilled I was to witness them walk down that quaint little street in that fancy neighborhood! Little did I know that day that I was creating a memory that would hold me together on rougher days. Little did I know that I would tape a picture to my wall to remind me how good it can be. How what all this work and all these tears can create. How, in some cases, what we give is the greatest gift of all. We give the gift of life!

Both Dude and Randy jiggle when they walk. And I love it! They are poised and confident and truly adored by the Zuhrah's. They travel in style and are treated like kings. I am so grateful for how well both of those horses "have landed". The answer to many prayers. And these horses live after many nights of worry and days of hard work. And then to see them in a summer parade! Oh, it just heals the heart of this old woman!

Many times this week, I've simply taken a break and walked the pasture. Stood and looked at the pudgy, round bellied Duchess as she eats her way to the center of the round bale. Stood and watched as Roman grazes and sleeps in the big pasture. Still in need of Miss April not far away but no longer having to be so close that he is touching her. He is gaining weight at a very slow rate, but he loves his feed and can now eat it! His mouth is healed and you can visibly see that the horse is content and enjoys simply being a horse in the company of other horses.

I watch as Clyde Mare becomes buddies with Lanna. And I see how Lanna smells the big mare and realizes she has issues in her legs but that she, too, is a big girl. As Lanna stretches up to find the withers of Clyde Mare you see on her face the realization that she has a big sister in the pasture with her now. Oh, how much fun they will have in the snow! And I watch as Hollie and Helen and Alexius bond even tighter. How PONY! thrives on his life surrounded by women. And how Faith patiently waits for her husband to catch up to her.

Yes, the Wayzata parade was a good thing to do going into this winter season. To remember how we found Dude half dead and dying. How we found Randy so thin that he put himself down in the trailer so he wouldn't fall down. And to see them walk down that street so round and shining! My heart needed those pictures that day. And I'm so happy to have witnessed their new lives in full blossom.

Thanks for listening. I needed to share all of these stories. To get these names in front of you so the stories of RockMan and Clyde Mare can continue. So you'll know where they came from and what we are facing with each of them. And so you'll know that with everything else going on, we are still working to rescue those that are out of options. Quietly and steadily. Working many times in the silence. Coming to the aide of the ones no one wants.

And yes, at times the act of rescue means helping them cross. A tough, tough lesson to learn. And an even tougher reality to face and try to accept. I still struggle with it after all these years and all these lives. But to walk away and leave them there? To leave them in the field? Like that? It isn't an option. At least not for Refuge Farms.

Take care of yourselves. Keep us in your prayers. And visit us, if you can. We are here. Saving lives. And changing the world one horse at a time.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,

Sandy and The Herd with Clyde Mare and RockMan

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