Musings of a Little Bay Thoroughbred


A Favorite Poem

Dancer and I were talking a few days ago, and we were discussing how much I used to love writing poetry when I was younger.  I am finding at different times, I told her, that forgotten passion is calling out to me to pick it back up again. It happens when I am out in the woods for an early morning walk with one of the dogs.  It comes from just being and letting go of trying to move ahead as the day begins.  I try to stop the thoughts in my head from hurtling forward as I focus on the task of looking up through the trees and the ceiling of their leaves to view the expanse of sky beyond.  I try to pick out the last of the stars and the moon as the sky is turning pink with the new day.

"You should pick it back up again,"she says, between mouthfuls of munching her hay. I know I will, but it is something that will just happen, without any effort.  It will be something like riding a bike, it will just come back to me and it will be like I never stopped.  Dancer understands the concept of living in the moment.  And my lovely mother.  I struggle with practicing that everyday.

While I wait, I turn to some of my favorite authors for inspiration. And I continue to try to rest in a peaceful place at least once a day.  

Besides Atticus, there is Wendell Berry.  I love them both for many reasons,and one of the main ones with Berry is he is a farmer and conservationist.  You can check him out here:

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

-Wendell Berry


It Is Up To You

I always know when I've had a bad day, I can come to the barn and get centered again.  That never changes.  It reminds me of all that is good and right in the world.  When I am with my horse I forget how certain things have gotten so complicated and confusing.  It's like time stands still.  If  I can just stand next to my mare for a while as she quietly munches on her hay my worries,concerns and fears melt away.

I've heard that there are only two things certain in the world: Death and taxes.  Here are some others that I have discovered along the way when I am at the barn.  Of course, these are specific to me and my horse, but I'm sure you can find some of your own in your relationship with someone you love, too.

  • She has allowed me to make so many mistakes, yet she still accepts me.
  • She depends on me.
  • She knows I am there for her.
  • She trusts me to not put her in a bad situation.
  • If she gets in a bad situation, she knows I will do my best to get her out of it.
  • She will always get a positive response from me either with a kiss, a hug or a treat.
  • I will get kissed to death until I give her a treat.
  • I will get crushed if I don't give her a butt rub.
And, another thing just occurred to me; my horse doesn't force me to see things her way.  She doesn't try to get in the last word, or say I told you so.  She is very patient and allows me to figure out things in my own way and make mistakes.  She knows when I mess up I will try very hard not to do it again.  A friend once told me that horses compensate for the stupidity of humans.

When I first got Dancer, I was advised to do many different things.  The trainers I worked with told me I needed to show her who was boss, and sadly there wasn't much patience or kindness involved.  I didn't know any better and allowed that to happen.  Truthfully, I always felt something wasn't right and I never felt comfortable with those approaches.  My primary goal was to have a partnership, but never out of fear.  I unknowingly tried to make her into something she could never be. Partly because of her breeding, and partly because of abuse and abandonment issues.  It's taken many years for her and I to get to the point where we understand and respect each other.  It sounds almost like a marriage, doesn't it? And in lots of ways, it is.  There is a lot of work involved and each day is different.  And you always have to remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day and when things don't go as planned, chalk it up to giving things your best effort.

There are times even now, just in general, when I try to do something , I realize maybe I'm going too fast and wanting things to happen in my time and not God's.  I have to remind myself that the things I want aren't always a good idea or meant to be  Those are basic lessons that have never changed in the course of humanity,  We humans are always trying to be in control, and have power.  We are so busy focusing on that and we forget to see all the beautiful things right in front of us.

"We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves." ~Lynn Hall

I was having a conversation with my father about how everything comes full circle.  We try new and different things, but always come back to the tried and true.  Everything old becomes new again.  Haven't you noticed?   It's taken years, but people are finally realizing it isn't about the stuff,  it's about the moments and the time spent with loved ones.  It's about simplifying  and making time for what matters.  We are all going to look back and feel sad about all the time we spent on meaningless things like our phones and computers instead of with our loved ones and truly appreciating all the beauty that is right in front of us.  That will never change.  That will always stay the same.

xoxo, Andi and Dancer


Big Red and Black Beauty

"Big Red" came to us from the Shippensburg kill pen, December 2015"

"I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.” -Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

I have this thing where I often look at people and animals and fancy them when they were babies; safe and warm with their mother, so young-so innocent and full of wonder with their whole lives ahead of them.  And then  I  fight back the tears, thinking about what has happened to alot of them from that point.  The pain.  The suffering.  The loss of innocence.  I look at them now and think, how on earth could this all have happened?  It has  been ingrained in my heart to try and make things better for everyone.  And I fail miserably at it most of the time-mostly because it really is out of my control.  

But I still try.  

 I have been reading alot about rescues lately-all the pros and cons, the ethics and the sad realities.  I just read an article asking if it is better for an animal to experience the terror and fear of being in an unfamiliar shelter or auction lot, alone, left to die, or to be adopted out into a possible situation that might be ultimately worse where the "rescuer" or adopter was possibly not properly vetted or prepared and might not honor the "right of refusal" contract if they came into a situation where they couldn't care for the animal anymore. 

 That animal could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and get passed around and around and essentially his pain and suffering would be prolonged for much, much longer than if it had just ended at that earlier time.  That's what happened to a Budweiser Clydesdale.

And this is Big Red's Story:

Big Red came to us at the end of last year, it seems, and literally at the end of the line.  His registered name is "Face of Trouble" but that name didn't seem to fit this kind-eyed chestnut.  
I first learned of his plight when I woke up one morning to a message in my inbox from a friend saying this boy's time had run out.  He was going to go to slaughter within the week if someone didn't step up to the plate. 

I sighed a heavy sigh; we already had our hands full with our horses and were not in a position to add anymore to the herd.  Watching his video, I could see he had such a kind eye as the rider trotted him past "the truck". This truck that would be transporting this unsuspecting, terrified horse and many others to a slaughter house shortly. I watched him being ridden past the pile of horse shoes and bridles that had been pulled off several unfortunate horses when they were loaded on that truck before him and for the last time.
I read he wasn't sound.  This sweet horse was trying so hard for the man who was riding him. He was wearing a severe bit and trying to answer the obligatory walk, trot and canter requests.  Fighting back the urge to judge whoever had let him end up in such a terrible place, I racked my mind for who might be able to take him in.......  

We learned later that his previous owner had had no idea her horse had ended up there.  She wrote to us and thanked us for saving her childhood friend.

 I believe every living being deserves a second chance.  We live in a throw away society.  If something doesn't suit us, or our lifestyle, we get rid of it.  It doesn't matter if its a car or a horse, dog, cat, hamster, whatever. We are programmed to think that something is replaceable and "out of sight, out of mind."  I realize it is easier said than done, but we need to take what we have and work to do right by it.   What if each of us was accountable for the animals in our life from beginning to end?

 It turns out, Big Red had an angel in the form of a lovely lady with a big heart who saw the same beautiful horse I did beneath the kick scars and bite marks.  It took some figuring out, but he arrived safely at our farm, thanks to Sue and her husband, Dave. it was Sue who named him Big Red, in honor of Secretariat.  
 It is her wish for him to be the mascot for her tack shop in Gettysburg,PA: The Horse You Rode In On.  
Red  will live out the rest of his days in peace.  He will have his mane and tail brushed and braided, his coat polished to a beautiful copper sparkle and all the hay he can eat.  Hopefully those wounds on the outside and inside will  heal.  He has been so forgiving.  He absolutely understands more than we will ever truly know.  And, like every horse should, he will be loved by a little girl.

“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.” 
-Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

 If you think I am over exaggerating or being too dramatic about the suffering of these unwanted animals, please educate yourself by reading some hard facts here.
I believe if an animal comes into your life, you become the steward of it.  Their life depends on you. You are in charge of their destiny, literally.  You get to decide if that living thing deserves a chance at a decent life. You get to make the call if that animal is worthy.  I realize every situation is different.  Things happen.  Life happens.  Just try hard not to get caught up in the moment when you see that cute fluffy baby at the start of things.  I know it can be very, very hard. 

And if that time ever comes when you are considering placing your beloved pet in a rescue, or with someone else, please do your research to make sure they are everything they say they are.  And remember to follow your gut feelings.  Please, don't take the out of sight, out of mind stance when an animal leaves your care.  There are many good souls out there, but don't assume.  Too much can happen. These animals are living, breathing creatures that deserve to be treated with dignity, care and respect.

 Keep informed. It all starts with education. This article focuses on horses specifically,but it's a good place to start and  it sheds light on a hard topic:  Familiarize yourself with resources in the area even before you might need them.  I've heard both sides of the topic regarding humane euthanasia and how some vets say it is unethical.  The best advice is to have a good relationship with your vet and make your wishes clear in the event that something happens to you.  

 Ask yourself those hard questions BEFORE you make the decision to bring an animal into your life.  It all has to start somewhere.  It starts with you and me.  While you might think what you do is small, like anything, it adds up to something much larger and can ultimately make a difference.
“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?... It is because people think only about their own business, and won't trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrong-doers to light... My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.” 
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

Have faith, have hope.  We CAN make a postive difference.
“It is good people who make good places.” 
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty


I Saved a Horse

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word ,a listening ear or an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around."-Martin Luther

It's a hard reality to deal with knowing you can't save every horse, but we try to do our part by giving the ones we have a loving, permanent home.

I suppose you could call us an unofficial sanctuary for an assortment of equines; from a one-eyed pony with cancer to a sweet senior citizen mare, an off the track thoroughbred rescued from the kill pen (me!), and two quarter horses: a gelding who  had a debilitating injury that took over a year to heal, and a mare who is slowly progressing to get over her major trust issues with lots of patience and love.  Each one has their own story like we all do.

I believe there are lots of us out there who save a horse everyday without really knowing it.  It might be by giving an ailing horse a good grooming; taking time to braid their mane and restoring their dignity in how things were when they used to be in their prime. It can be so simple,really. A treat, a hug or hand grazing in a really nice patch of grass for a few minutes.

"To the world you may be just one person, but to one horse, you are the whole world."  


Horse Haiku-Your ears are perfect

Your ears are perfect
They frame your beautiful face
Fur-rimmed spectacle.


Seven Years and Still Fighting

How many times I have thrown up my hands-beside myself, not knowing what to do.  After seven years, we are still fighting the same fights.  I'm tired and I want to go for a quick hack in the field.  "No," she tells me. "I just want to go hang out with my buddies and eat grass."  She begins grinding her teeth and rocking forward and back, forward and back; it's her way of dealing with things that make her anxious.   I sigh and decide to fight this battle another day. I return the saddle to the rack; hang the reins on the wall.  As I head home, I have a chance to collect my thoughts.

She and I are so much alike, it's uncanny.  Neither one of us expected the abuse we got.  And we've both spent our whole lives dealing with it, trying to make sense of it. I realize I am being very selfish, trying to force this beautiful creature into doing things that are completely out of her comfort zone.  At first, I thought I was trying to help her build her confidence, when all along it really was mine I was focused on.  "See? I have a thoroughbred-look how fantastic I look riding her!  She is so gorgeous!"

Was I thinking about how hard it was for her when I asked her to venture away from the herd for rides in the woods? Folks would scoff and tell me my horse should be obedient-no balking, no resistance.  I guess they weren't there the day she was being loaded in the trailer with six or seven others-headed to an auction that was know for it's share of meat buyers.  When she arrived, she had a better than fifty-fifty chance of ending up on someone's dinner plate.  Animals are smart-they sense things.  They know the difference between good and bad.  It's part of how they survive.

So, I have to remind myself that when someone comes across a living being that is damaged, it takes time to build trust again.  I need to show her that I love her, no matter how difficult she might be. No matter how long it takes.  It's been a long standing fact in our society that if something doesn't serve a purpose, it's time to get rid of it.  I had to show her that wasn't going to happen again.

There is this notion that race horses lead a pretty charmed life.  That is only true for a very small part of the population. And even then, it only lasts for a short time.  A lucky few will get to live out the rest of their days standing for sire at a farm or becoming a brood mare, but the rest, if they don't show promise, end up looking for homes. Thousands and thousands of them. They end up with well meaning folks who very quickly realize they are way in over the heads with this breed and they don't want to take the time necessary to retrain them or understand them. They are sold or end up at auctions.  Not many individuals consider how that must feel to the animals.  It's sort of like not wanting to know where that hamburger comes from that you are eating.  Out of sight, out of mind. No one wants to see the terror in their eyes or imagine how alone they must feel.

I used to get excited about the races, but now that I see how my girl is, and how I'm still picking up the pieces after seven years, I'm not so thrilled.  We humans are funny creatures; so selfish.

When I visit Dancer this evening, I will whisper in her ear how sorry I am and let her know how much I love her, no matter what.  I will let her know that it never mattered that she came in first when she raced because with me, she'll always be number one.



Beautiful Summer Breeze....

It was a magical evening.....the moon was full, and there was a soft breeze blowing out of the south.   As the sun was setting, the clouds were the most gorgeous mix of pinks, reds, yellows, purples and blues.  One of my daughters remarked that it almost felt like being at the beach at night-standing at the water's edge, feeling the delicious warm wind on her face.

I was just finishing up at the lovely little winery where I hold tastings and sell wine.  The girls had come up from the barn and kept me company up until closing time.  (I am so blessed that my boss lets us be together like this.)   The farm where I work  is nestled in between green rolling orchards that are filled with apple, peach and cherry trees intermingled with lush vineyards.  Our spectacular backdrop is Big Mountain, which looms up from the valley.  It is just breath taking and I can almost imagine being on the Tuscan hillside as I take in the view. 

Tonight is one of those nights where we realize it's not necessary to say much; each of us seems to understand and communicate perfectly without talking.   The fireflies dot the landscape and a couple bats are swooping for insects.

We decide to go see the horses for a quick visit on our way home.  As we pull up to the barn, we can see the herd is peacefully grazing on a hill, their outlines silhouetted by moonlight.  As I get out of truck, I can feel the warm breeze rush up to greet me again-filled with the smell of honeysuckle and mowed grass.  My mare hears the door as I shut it, and she nickers from the group. Curiosity fills her companions, and everyone raises their heads to see who the visitors are.  Snorting and breathing heavy, they cautiously approach us as we make our way to where they are.  It is light enough to make everything look like it is bathed in silver.  Dancer comes up to me and brushes her velvet nose against my cheek, releasing a sigh. She leans in to me and asks me to rub her withers.  Content, she drops her head and begins grazing again.  The girls and I are all standing with our horses, feeling the summer wind and enjoying the back lighting of the moon.  Stars dot the sky, and the trees that border the field softly swish their leaves with the breeze.  It's too early for crickets yet, but we hear a killdeer scolding us from a distance to stay away from her nest.  

What a beautiful evening to enjoy just for the sheer beauty of it all.  The herd is peaceful and in harmony, and inside each of us is a feeling of pure joy and contentment.  It is the feeling of knowing that nothing can ever buy this beautiful stitch in time and that God is giving this gift to us with infinite love and care.  It is a moment like this where you just know that no matter what, everything will be okay; it's a moment of glorious love and peace and clarity and assurance for whatever may come to us; it is a message to have no fear, because our Glorious One is always there.

Here's wishing you all many a peaceful summer night to share in similar revelations.  

XO Andi and Dancer