Sunday, December 30, 2012


As Ready As We Can Be

This Christmas Week has been one of the most pleasant weeks of this year! Refuge Farms has had visitors from across the country in our barns, our healthy Herd has sustained a week of dampness and snow, and ending the week, a family of helpers arrived and, with their talents and dedication, made Refuge Farms a safer place for the horses and us humans!

Christmas Day was a bit cold and the bite of the air was sharp in your face. If you weren't bundled like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, you were cold! Early afternoon brought a flurry of guests from Menomonie, WI, Woodbury, MN, Seattle, WA, and even Missouri! Some were very savvy horse people and some were knew to this world of equines. Some had been here ten years earlier and some had never set food on this soil. Some had been to a Fall Gala and some had not. But all were new to the world of horse rescue.

Hot chocolate kept our lips from freezing and encouraged us to venture out of the barn once again. Hay bales were stacked in the big barn in preparation for the inevitable coming storms and strong winds. Barns were cleaned and then we re-homed a horse. Yes, on this Christmas Day of 2012, we dropped the trailer and brought a rescue horse who had lived with us for several weeks to his forever home.

"Standard Bred" is a gelding who arrived the Thursday prior to our Gala - a mere eight weeks ago. He had been frightened and flighty. A bit thin but not emaciated. Hungry, though. He ate constantly for those first few weeks. His friend was the Shire mare that we now call Faline. Standing behind her was his favorite spot as the humans would invade his corral and attempt to touch him. Nope! No touching, he would scream as he darted away from us! No touching me!!!

His brandings and his legs told me the story of his life. At some point, this had been a track horse. And his legs had taken the beating. Three of his four legs had been "fired" to relieve the pain he was experiencing. One of those legs, in fact, had been fired on both the inside and outside. Ouch. Most likely small bone chips from pounding on a hard track were causing severe pains with every step. How to relieve the pain? Surgery could be performed, but there then would be extended time off the track and rehab to complete. A faster and considerably less expensive method was to simply insert an electrode and "fire" or electrocute the nerves so the pain sensations were not transmitted to the brain any longer. Hence the bleached white "dots" on his legs telling me of the firings.

His most recent years had been as a buggy horse. I'm sure he was excellent! Sturdy, strong, compact, and fast. All of the attributes of a solid buggy horse. For some reason, he had been given his "freedom" to be taken to the local sale barn. In his state of thinness and fear, he undoubtedly would have ended up in a stainless steel trailer heading North.

Enter a kind man. A stranger to Refuge Farms but a man who knew our Isaac from his church. A man who had heard of us and so called on us. A man who told me he did "not like to see hard working horses go to slaughter". This man's telephone call the night we were stuffing Gala invitations brought these two horses to us. Because of this kind man, on this Christmas Day of 2012, Refuge Farms loaded and placed horse # 861 - "Standard Bred" - who, by the way, is now "Ranger". A perfect present for everyone on a very special day! Merry Christmas, indeed!

Later in the week, Jeff and Jen and Reilly and Brody arrived early in the day to help hook and feed and complete a few items on the TO DO LIST. Bless their hearts! That night, for the first time this winter, I was able to hook and feed the Big Ones with light in the barn! No more listening and feeling to find the head of the 2,500 pound horses! No more praying that they are calm and realize just how tiny I am in that barn next to them! No more standing on tip toes to avoid being stepped on! Thank you, Jeff! Many, many thanks to you!

The spotlight in the back of the big barn was repaired and the interior light of the big barn was also working again when this family departed. And during their visit, we talked and laughed and hugged. In only two short visits, I feel a closeness with this small circle of people that I rarely allow myself to realize. The hugs are sincere and full. The words and questions are genuine. There is no polite chatter. There is much for us to talk about in a short half-day. I am already eager for spring when I will await the arrival of their big white truck again in this driveway!

Tonight, at the end of this Christmas Week, we sit awaiting the arrival of the bitterly cold air. And we are as ready as we can be. Ready to care for them so that they can endure the week of below zero temperatures. Ready to pray for those without someone to care for them. And ready to answer the telephone for the emergencies which will most certainly arise.

I have extra round bales placed behind the barns so that there is hay with buildings blocking the strong NW winds that are forecasted. The stock tanks are all filled but will require filling every day. Dehydration is dangerous in severe cold. And they will be cold if they have no water so the hose travels with me every night when I hook to feed.

Small, square hay bales are at the ready, thanks to the Christmas Day guests, to place on the floor to keep those weaker ones out of the winds and safely in the barn! And the feed tanks are filled. Before I came inside this evening, extra blankets were selected from our storage tubs and are now in the big barn for the doubling up that will occur tomorrow as the temps drop and the winds pick up.

Bags of shavings are out of the trailer and ready to provide Shortey a soft bed. She did not appreciate being kept in the barn this evening, but I told her that in a few hours she would be grateful to be out of the winds. No response from her other than a glare at me over her left shoulder. Gotta love that angry little girl!

And most importantly, I have the U of M on alert for Liz-Beth. That horse is amazing to me! I mean, in general, I admire the strength, the stamina, the determination, and the ability to endure that this mare seems to manufacture from that beat up, overused, abused, and weakened body. But this year, when I had fully expected to have long since transported her for winter boarding, she is doing so very well!

This morning, in the below zero temperatures, I found her scratching with Lanna while she awaited her breakfast. Her back showed me that she had, in fact, rested her legs again last night and somehow, with those crippled legs, she had risen up all by herself. Miraculous. Pure and simple. A miracle in our barns.

But this cold is the most severe we have faced yet this season. And so I have a blanket ready for her tomorrow when she shows me she needs it. I have beet pulp soaking so I can heat it and provide her with hot "oatmeal" in the morning. And I have the warm box stall in St. Paul ready to receive her on a moment's notice.

If Liz-Beth needs it, I will transport her. If Liz-Beth decides to tough it out with her BFF, I will support her. It is her life and she is now the decision-maker. A new role for her since she came to live with us and she loves being in charge of herself. She is strong and wants to stay home. That's evident. But if her body tells her she must take a "vacation", then we are ready for that, as well.

So, we are as ready as we can be on this eve of the New Year's Week and the bitter cold. We have had a full and exciting week. A week of caring and tenderness. A week of hard work and preparedness. And a week of sharing and appreciating all that come to our humble barns - human and horse.

We are as ready as we can be. And so I ask just one thing of each of you. Would you be so kind to help us? You see, all that remains is the support of Liz-Beth on this late night. If you would help, that would be great and, since we believe in the power of it, your support will make all the difference for that little mare we now call Liz-Beth.

You see, all that she needs now is prayer.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd with a Strong, Strong Liz-Beth!

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