What Scares Me the Most

March 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

What scares me the most isn’t the fact that I was almost killed on Monday.

Horses are unpredictable. If every volunteer I train at the ranch goes home every day with that fact engrained in their thoughts, then I’ve done my job for the day. Horses are huge, powerful, and they move fast. Our job as horsemen and women is to understand this and know how to avoid dangerous, potentially tragic situations.

Sometimes, though, as my boss who broke his leg two weeks ago will tell you, these situations can’t be avoided.

Or sometimes they’re avoided by about six inches.

nora

Nora and I, not too long after we rescued her.

On Monday, my volunteers and I were taking home five horses that had been in the arena for some time. One of them, Chance, is a gelding we keep the volunteers away from due to the severe abuse he went through during the first part of his life. He is comfortable around certain people, and I went in alone to get him first so the others could safely get into the arena to take the four other horses.

The only problem was that my mare, Nora, was completely wound up thanks to Bourbon, one of the other geldings who was chasing her around, and she wanted to go home right that very second, thankyouverymuch. She kept pushing into me (which is no small feat when you’re 130 pounds and dealing with a 1,200 pound horse), and bullying her way between Chance and me, pinning her ears when I gently shooed her away. And if it had been a simple solution to just take her home first, I would have done it. But Bourbon was still chasing her around right by the gate (of course), and she wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to halter her.

Over the course of about five seconds, I managed to get a hold of Chance, halter him, and make a move toward the gate to try to get the hell out. But Nora was having none of it, so I took the end of my lead rope and flicked it in her direction, sternly telling her to move along so I could get Chance out of the arena.

And my mare, thoroughly pissed that she wasn’t getting her way, promptly turned around at the speed of light and the next thing I knew, I was feeling two sudden gusts of wind on my face and hearing the whoosh! then whoosh! of two large objects moving through the air with ferocious speed in my ears.

I think my heart stopped. And as it stopped, so did time.

I heard gasps from my other ranch manager and volunteers, waiting by the arena, so I shouted, “I’m okay!” In my memory, a decade passed before Shana, my other ranch manager, charged forward. But I know she must have started running for the gate immediately.

“Go, go, go. Get out,” she yelled as she opened the gate and Chance and I ran forward, Nora ran after us, ears pinned, and Shana managed to shut the gate on her as my heart caught up to my thoughts and starting racing.

Nora had kicked both hind legs in the air, 1,200 pounds of force and thunder and lightning swinging upward at the speed of light, and both hooves had missed my head by inches.

If both or even one of her feet had made contact with my skull, I wouldn’t be here to write about it.

But truthfully, that isn’t what scares me the most.

Now, for those of you who will ask, a few of us will be working with Nora to get her ground manners in check. I chalk her behavior up to her being in heat that day and the fact that she was being chased around by a horny gelding. She’s on solitary arena time for a while.

Nora and I

Nora and I, working in the round pen!

My boss always says that getting hurt around horses is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. The only questions, he says, are how bad and how often. And given my job is to work with horses, I’ve had my fair share of injuries around them.

I’ve been given sweet little nips that left bruises and bitten hard enough for teeth to break my skin. I’ve gotten scrapes and gashes just from horses lovingly rubbing their faces against me and knocking me into wall. I’ve been stepped on more often than I could count (though I’ve never had my bones crushed thanks to my trusty Ariats).

I’ve been kicked by accident and kicked on purpose. I’ve been given bruises the size of my head and had my muscles strained to the point I couldn’t move without pain. I’ve been lunged at, charged at, and I’ve perfected the summersault roll out of a stall. I am constantly thankful that I fit in between the bars.

I’ve been pinned against fences and thrown into them. I’ve been dragged on the ground before I learned how stupid it was to hang onto ropes attached to horses that want to run. I’ve had my hands ripped open by lead ropes and been given rope burn so bad it was agony to touch anything for days. Just the other day our little filly, Sunny, kicked in the air as we were flipping her over (she’d cast herself) and took the skin off my middle finger by my nail.

I’ve had horses rear up and buck for all it’s worth when I’m walking them. One time, when one of my geldings was bucking, a hoof caught me in the hip/butt and shattered my phone in my back pocket, taking the brunt of the kick.

phone

But given everything that has ever happened since I started working with horses… those injuries aren’t what scare me the most.

What scares me the most is despite all of the wounds and scars and bruises, despite all of the close calls, despite the times I’ve faced a crazed horse thinking for sure I was living my last seconds on Earth, despite the fact that it defies all logic and reason….

…I will never choose to stop.

nora3

My baby girl. ❤

Horse Mommy

October 14, 2015 § 2 Comments

It was towards the end of my morning, perhaps 45 minutes before it was time to feed the horses, when I heard the words.

I had taken my oldest gelding up to the breezeway to take off the three-day-old wrappings I’d placed on his hoof to heal an abscess. One of my volunteers and her three children stood a little bit away, watching me struggle with the bootie and the wraps, sticky with ichthammol.

“What is she doing, momma?” I heard one of her daughters ask.

“It looks like she’s taking the bandage off his foot,” she replied. “How would you like to do what she’s doing? She’s a horse mommy. She takes care of all of the horses here.”

I smiled at her words. I’m still smiling at them.

I’ve often given thought to what it might be like to have kids – human kids – of my own someday, although admittedly I’ve stopped wondering whether or not I genuinely want them after adding a wild kitten to our household last week.

But sometimes it escapes me that I already am a mommy, and not just to two ornery cats.

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At the ranch, I make sure each of our herd of 33 has a clean stall and clean water and clean feeders. I know who’s allergic to alfalfa and who’s allergic to Bermuda and who should get less food at lunchtime and who should be getting a little bit more.

I make sure that they don’t get too many treats before mealtime. I make sure Sunny, the baby, gets next to none.

I know where each one likes to eat and where each one likes to be scratched and where I can find each one napping during the afternoon. I groom and bathe where necessary. I know who likes to be rinsed off and who just might attempt to run me over if I come near them with the hose.

I can be standing anywhere on the ranch and know which of the 33 just whinnied, and why.

Instead of scheduling soccer practice, I’m in charge of the turn out schedule so that each horse gets the proper amount of exercise depending on their age, medical problems, history, and stamina. I try to see that the ones who like to be stimulated are worked with on a regular basis.

I know their different personalities and who gets along and who would get along and who should never get within ten feet of each other under any circumstances.

I kiss boo boos. I doctor scrapes, sores, and blemishes. I try to make them better and get vets involved when I can’t. I have – for several summers now – regularly and casually and willingly picked maggots out of various spots on one of my geldings who gets summer sores for six months out of the year.

I put medicine in runny eyes and hurting hooves and protesting mouths. I know who won’t take a needle to the neck and who will fight to the death rather than take a syringe to the mouth and who will smell medicine in a mash a mile a way. I have taken handfuls of mash and hand fed it into stubborn mouths. Once I got mad and took handfuls of mash and just shoved it into one of my geldings’ face till he ate his supplements.

I know with a single glance when something is wrong. I have known the cold terror of watching a sick horse while the vet speeds to the ranch. I have known the helplessness of wanting to do more but being unable to fix a problem on my own.

Likewise, I know with a single glance who just stole Solo’s hay or who just knocked over the food cart or who just made Jazz squeal at the top of his lungs by biting him on the butt. I holler at bickering horses to knock it off without looking up but instantly break up fights when necessary. I do time-outs. I tell the troublemakers to think about their actions. (They tell me, in turn, that I need a straitjacket.)

I discipline, sometimes sternly. I can make a 1,200-pound Thoroughbred back up without stopping for 30 feet with nothing but a lead rope, my hand on his chest, and a ringing, commanding tone. I can make a similarly powerful ex racer mare do laps in the arena with a mere wave of my arm and a sudden “Cht!” Several of the people who come to the ranch can’t get our ornery Miniature horse – Min – to walk back to his stall after he’s been allowed to wander throughout the morning. One word from me and a firm poke on the butt for good measure, and he races off home without protest (usually).

I know when the horses misbehave for the hell of it or because they want – crave – more attention. And I’ve learned that reacting to the latter kind of misbehavior with love and tenderness goes a much, much farther way.

I bribe and scold and threaten, often all in one breath. I can tell the difference between stubbornness and pain and the varying degrees of uncertainty and downright fear. I soothe and comfort and console. I hug and pat and kiss worried foreheads.

I notice achievements and differences and strides in character and temperament. I reward and I praise and I am forever whispering the words, “I’m so proud of you.”

Every single day, I make mistakes. Every single day, I learn something new. And every single day, those horses never give up on me.

The 33 of them step on my feet, nip at my arms, aim kicks at my legs if they’re in a really foul mood, throw me into gates in their excitement, tear food out of my hands, dump out their water tubs after I’ve filled them, rip my clothing, dribble bran and slobber in my hair, knock over mashes I’ve made, and take every ounce of energy I have and then some. And through it all there is more laughter and joy and happiness than I could have ever asked for in my life.

Each and every one of them is a part of me. And I love each and every one of them with everything I have.

Horse mommy, I was called today.

I don’t think I want any other title as long as I live.

An Impossible Nuzzle

August 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Nearly every person that comes to our ranch has a connection with one particular horse. They fall in love with all of them, naturally, but there is usually one with whom they share a powerful bond.

Before I started volunteering at Tierra Madre, I used to think that everybody chose their “favorite” horse based on simple things, like something cute the horse did, the way the horse looked, or simply because it was the first horse that person happened to know.

Now I realize that they – the horses – are the ones who choose the people.

Even if neither party realizes it at the time.

I was 17 when I first started at Tierra Madre. At the time, I was coming out of a dark depression. I regularly confronted many, many mental and spiritual demons. And I dealt with these problems by pushing them deep, deep down into my subconscious and proceeding like nothing was wrong, by pushing everyone away from me as far as I could.

Jim – the owner and founder at the ranch and my current boss – took me around and introduced me to all the horses. Just like I now joyously watch visitors interacting with each one, he witnessed me falling in love with them all. The horses were so different. They had such personalities. I’d learned to ride at a place where horses were punished (not cruelly by any means, but punished nonetheless) for being different, for acting outside what was considered normal for a horse. Here, the ranch thrived on uniqueness.

To end our tour, Jim took me over to the very last horse at the end of the long row of stalls. He was a big, stunning palomino with light brown eyes. Something in the Earth shifted when I looked at him. I think my breath seriously caught in my throat as our eyes locked.

Picture taken a month after knowing Chance - June 2009

Picture taken after a month of knowing Chance – June 2009

“That’s Chance,” Jim told me as I gazed and gazed at the horse, “and he’s only been here three months. Don’t get anywhere near him. He’s been badly abused and he’ll nail you.”

He didn’t need to tell me twice. When I first laid eyes on Chance, his ears were pinned to his skull. He was pawing angrily at the ground. His eyes were burning. And he had his head thrown up over the bars of his stall, clearly ready to send anyone who got near him to their deathbed.

And all I ever wanted to do from that moment on for every day I was there was just be near him. To sit outside his stall – a safe distance away – and just look at him.

And every single day I was at the ranch for five straight years, that’s exactly what I did.

chance4

The summer I began at Tierra Madre, I was tasked with putting on all the horses’ NoFly every morning. I first interacted with Chance by spraying his face through the bars of his stall. Then I moved up to offering him my hand just close enough so that he could sniff it. Then I started offering him leaves. And all the while, I’d just talk to him.

I never went in his stall. I never touched him more than grazing his lip with my finger. I never attempted to go put a halter on him and walk him out to the arena. I never set out with anything to prove.

All I wanted to do was to play a small part in his healing process, to show Chance what love was. Because for the first four years of his life, he didn’t know what it was. He was kept in a prison of a stall with no windows, fed every three or four days, and through the bars of his stall some really awful, horrific abuse must have taken place, because six years after he walked through Tierra Madre’s gates, he still lunges at anybody on the other side of his gate.

Going inside the stall with him is a whole other story. He might be fearful and defensive with a gate in between himself and a human, but he’s come to understand that whenever someone he knows comes into his stall with a halter, it means he gets to go out to the arena to play.

And one day last year, when I was in the process of taking over the ranch when the amazing lady running it was about to go on maternity leave, I looked over at Chance and thought to myself, “I need to be able to walk him. If I’m going to be in charge, I can’t rely on my boss or our other worker to handle him.”

It’d been five years. He knew me. I knew him. It was time.

So I gathered every ounce of my courage, grabbed a halter, and walked into his stall.

He looked confused for only a second. Then, after hearing me talk cheerfully, just like I’d talked to him for five years, he came up to me, studied me, and turned his head.

“You’re doing this now? Okay,” was his response, and I could have sworn he almost shrugged. “Just be quick about it. I don’t have all day.”

November 2014 - figuring it out!

November 2014 – figuring it out!

And with hands trembling only slightly, I got his halter on and away we walked. I still remember the two of us being jumpy with each other as we learned how to walk together those first few weeks. But over the course of a year, we’ve figured out a system. And we do things the same way every single time. In fact, there are only two other people who can enter Chance’s stall, and all three of us do things the same way for him every time. Chance likes consistency. He likes knowing exactly what’s going to happen each time, and after living four years of hell when the unknown happened every day, I can’t say I blame him.

Six years after I laid eyes on him – a horse so badly abused he was completely unapproachable – we walk calmly together. And don’t get me wrong. I get nervous every now and then. But most of the time? It’s magic.

The other day though, it didn’t start out that way.

Chance is part of the ‘Chance Crew’ – a big group of horses obviously named for him that goes out into the arena together. There’s seven of them altogether, and they’re wild when they go out. They are so full of energy and have a great time, sometimes at our expense.

There’s one horse who’s apart of the gang called Cadence, except we never call her by her real name. To us, she’s Tater Tot, or Tater, because she’s a big, stocky Quarter horse. She likes to be taken home first, and she’s not afraid of letting us know.

Usually when the Chance crew goes home, I try to take Chance home first so the rest of the volunteers – who can’t get near him – can start taking the other horses home. And every time before we go home, we make a stop at the treat can. All part of consistency.

This past Wednesday, when I went to get Chance, Tater was not having any of it and went after him a few times as I tried to halter him first. At one point, Chance took off with the halter on and the lead rope flew behind him as Tater tore ass across the arena to get him away so she could go home first. And the more they ran, the higher my stress level became.

It is very, very important to me that things go smoothly when taking Chance out of his stall and putting him back home, because otherwise he has the potential to become nervous. And a nervous Chance always made me nervous. And the moment I wasn’t confident, he’d pick up on my anxiety and potentially make me his sixth victim to end up in the hospital.

So when Chance and I ran out of the arena at top speed just as the other horses were starting to get riled up and Tater proved to everyone once and for all she was pissed she hadn’t gotten her way, my nerves were up. It doesn’t help that I’m moving next week and at the time was thinking about packing while also thinking about, oh, ten million other things I had to do before leaving the ranch that day and planning the office work for that afternoon and why did Tater have to be so difficult and are Chance’s ears back? God, I hope not.

I let Chance eat at the treat can as per usual while I was silently running over the craziness of the past few minutes in my head and taking deep breaths. Getting nervous or mad while taking Chance home was a setup for disaster.

Eventually we started to walk back to his stall and I tried to calm myself down.

And then, as we walked, out of nowhere, I felt his nose gently – so gently – touch my side. And for a brief moment right after, he pressed his whole head up against me.

I almost dropped the lead rope in astonishment.

“Hey,” came his thoughts softly, merging with mine. “It’s okay, Lex. Don’t worry. That stuff that happened back there. Don’t worry about it. I trust you.”

I trust you.

I trust you.

Summer 2014

Summer 2014

I felt the words radiating from the depths of his soul. I had to close my eyes briefly as the tears rushed into them and all the anxiety that had stirred within me completely and utterly melted away.

And after he was back in his stall and I had taken his halter off and I moved to leave, I paused at his gate instead of latching it right away and just looked at him. Just as I had for all those years.

He was still munching quietly from the treats from the treat can, but he gave me a polite glance nonetheless.

“Oh, my brother,” I whispered to him and his ears perked to hear what I had to say, “I trust you, too.”

I meet people every now and then who come to our ranch, meet Chance, and loudly declare that they are going to win his trust. That they’ll fix them. They’ll save him. That they’ll turn him into a gentle beast in no time and you just watch – are you watching? Watch me cure him.

Their egos are bigger than the sky. And Chance and I both see through them each and every time.

They’re never in it for Chance. They’re in it to prove something to themselves or everyone else around them – usually the latter.

But to some degree, when I first interacted with Chance, maybe I, too, was trying to “save” him in a way.

I wanted him to know it was okay.

I wanted him to know that sometimes the world can chew you up and spit you out, but that doesn’t mean it only consists of horror and darkness.

I wanted him to know that sometimes it only feels natural and safe to put walls up and shut everyone out, but that in the end, there are far more people in life waiting to love you than hurt you.

I wanted him to know that it takes as much time as it takes to recover from abuse.

I wanted him to know that it was far better to live to see each day than end it all.

I wanted him to know that every baby step, every little bit of progress that he made, was something to be proud of.

I wanted him to know that no matter what he did and what he’d been through, his past did not reflect who he was. That he was a unique individual who deserved to love and to be loved in return.

And the more I spent time with him, the more I came to realize I wasn’t just telling him all these things.

I was telling every single word to myself.

When I laid eyes on him on that very first day, I truly believe that Chance chose me, even though neither of us realized it at the time, and not necessarily for his sake.

I don’t know how big of a part I’ve played in Chance’s recovery. I don’t know how much I have healed his heart.

But I do know that over the course of six years, from the day we met and he wanted nothing to do with me to the brief moment in time just the other day when he pressed his head up against me in absolute trust, he has completely and utterly healed mine.

My favorite picture of us

My favorite picture of us

**********

Pst…. while I have you here, you can help Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary celebrate its 11th birthday! That’s right, horse ranches can have birthdays, and this September we’re turning 11.

During our 11 years of operation, Tierra Madre has given health, happiness, and hope to over 50 horses. Horses that were abused or neglected or injured or abandoned found a forever home within our gates, Chance included.

Today we are able to continue our mission for 33 of the most incredible horses Mother Earth has ever seen.

Help us celebrate our 11th birthday by giving our horses what they like best: HAY! For our herd, we want to buy not one but TWO squeezes of alfalfa.

One squeeze of alfalfa (roughly 80 bales) is just shy of $1200. Two squeezes will total $2400. And because it is our birthday, after all, we want to spend another $100 on treats, apples, and carrots for our 33 kids.

So our birthday goal? $2500.

In honor of our 11th birthday, will you contribute $11 today toward our goal?

Remember, all donations to our 501(c)(3) organization are tax-deductible. Click HERE to donate. Under “I would like to designate this donation to a specific fund,” you will see the option “11th Birthday Hay Fund.”

From all of at here at Tierra Madre, thank you for 11 amazing years of support!

Love the two-leggeds AND Solo & Suze & Bentley & Kiss & the Min & M’Stor & River & Studley & Chance & Sweet Boy & Sedona & Nibzie & Rusty & Hollywood & Cadence & Guess & Bella & Hudson & Heighten & Jani & Buddy & the Iron Man & Slayer & Bourbon & Spencer & Wild Bill & Jazz & Chiquita & Sonora & Danny & Chianti & Rain & Sunny.happybirthdaytierramadre

That One Time I Had the Perfect Comeback Exactly When I Needed It

August 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tierra Madre’s benefit dinner and silent auction was a success on many different levels. The ranch raised just under $9,000 for the horses and everyone had a great time. And on top of this, I personally learned a valuable lesson in setting boundaries and standing my ground for well-earned respect.

Our event started at 6pm, and beginning at roughly 5:45pm, I had three or four volunteers manning the registration table just outside the room. These amazing ladies took down last names, handed out raffle tickets and bidding numbers, and made sure all the guests filled out and signed bidding registrations. They got people in rapidly, too.

By 7pm, the room was hopping and the resort wait staff was ready to serve dinner. No one had come up to the table for 10 minutes or so by that point, anyway. I went over to the registration table and sent my hungry volunteers into the room so they could eat, then asked our AV guy to hook up my mic and started releasing tables one by one to go through the buffet. By 7:15, nearly everyone had gone through the line, so I retreated to my table where my boyfriend had gotten me a plate and sunk gratefully into my chair.

Note: The time I sat down to eat was one of two times I’d sat down since about 5:30 in the morning. And just as I started to pick at my plate, one of the servers came over and tip-toed up to me.

“Sorry to bother you,” he said quietly, “But there’s a couple over there who just walked in and they said they’re supposed to be here. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to get food, or if they have tickets…?”

I bit my lip, got up, and went over and greeted the couple with a smile. “Hi, I take it you guys are here for the benefit?”

The man greeted me with, “Yeah, there wasn’t anyone at the check in table, so we just came right in.”

“That’s okay,” I said, still confused. “Are you guys….? So you guys have tickets, I take it?”

“Yeah, we have them here,” the wife responded, handing them to me. The man said again, “It wasn’t clear what we were supposed to do with them. No one was there outside to check us in.”

“Well, let’s get you over there now,” I said, starting to walk them towards the start of the room. At that point one of the people who had donated a few auction items came to ask me a question. I paused to answer it, and the man made an impatient noise and shuffled a bit. I ignored him. Not ten seconds later, after I’d answered the question, we were walking out to the check in, the man noticeably grumpy now.

“Okay,” I said when we got outside the room and I reached on the registration table for a guest list. “What’s your last name?”

They gave it. The man said again, “Yeah, this wasn’t clear at all. You should have had people out here to check us in. We had to come in to get answers.”

My patience started to evaporate. “Well, I sent my check in volunteers to eat at seven,” I said, fighting to keep my voice calm and shuffling through papers to find them on the guest list. “Registration started at six.”

“Yes, I know, I know, we’re late,” the guy said snappishly. “Deal with it.”

“Okay, you can lose the attitude, because I don’t want it,” I snarled at him.

The words flew out of my mouth before I even thought about them. The man looked as taken aback as I felt. But more so than taken aback, I was pissed.

I’d slaved over this event. I’d been working for 12 hours straight at that point and had worked for ten hours each of the two days before (which ironically were the two days I was supposed to have off for my weekend). I was beyond exhausted. I was hungry. My volunteers were tired and hungry and were taking well-deserved time to sit down and eat. And this man who’d come in an hour late had the balls to be snippy because no one had waited around to check him in whenever he felt like strolling in? No, my inner voice screamed in my head. HELL, no.

“I’m not giving you attitude—” the man replied meekly, and I cut him off.

“Good,” I snapped, loudly. “Because I don’t want it.”

He was dead silent as I finished checking them in and fished around for a raffle ticket and a bidding number. I heard his wife mumble to him under her breath, “You did sound like you had a bit of an attitude.”

In the end it worked out well, because he apologized profusely next time he saw me and we ended the night in smiles. He was one of the first customers to check out as soon as our auction ended, and during the time it took for us to get our check out system down to a science, he was nothing but polite and extremely patient with all of us. He’s not a nasty man by any means – I think he might have had a stressful a day as mine.

But I was proud of myself for setting my boundaries. I may be 23, but as the director of the nonprofit that guy and his wife were there to support and as the planner of the entire event – hell, as a human being, for God’s sake – I deserved politeness at the very least. And maybe an apology for being over an hour late.

In situations like these, everything usually happens so fast that I can’t think to say or do anything at all, and then I obsess about what I should have said or done for hours – if not days – afterwards. But not this time. And as far as I’m concerned, I don’t intend to have that problem ever again.

The Wonderful Madness of Putting Together a Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction

August 11, 2015 § 1 Comment

Some time in December of last year, I had the idea of putting together a Big Event for Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary. Something that would get the attention of potential corporate sponsors. Something we had never done before.

I vaguely thought about silent auctions. This Big Event needed to be a fundraiser, and those surely raised a good amount of funds, right? And, well, if people were going to be bidding on items, then maybe we should feed them, too? Amiright?

Hence, the brainstorming for Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary’s First Annual Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction began.

In high school I planned school fairs and ran student council meetings and was responsible for publishing the literary magazine. All small scale responsibilities. I’d never attempted anything this huge before.

But as I tell my new volunteers at the ranch, I believe in trial by fire. I believe the best way to learn anything is to just jump on it and DO it.

Thus this Big Event quickly turned into a Holy Crap I’ve Bitten Off Too Much Than I Can Chew Event and then right into an I Need A Committee Stat Event.

And so 90% of planning this event was me doing this:

and this

and especially this

And as I sit here, three days post-event, I am so in awe of how everything somehow came together.

At the end of January of this year, after brainstorming for a month or so, I started talking to venues. And when I say venues, I really only mean I decided within a matter of instants that the one and only place Tierra Madre would have its first benefit dinner and silent auction was the Carefree Resort and Conference Center. The place screams Wild West. Behind Black Mountain in Carefree and nestled among gorgeous Sonoran Desert scenery, the place is truly spectacular.

I made an appointment sometime during the beginning of February and headed up there to talk business. When I sat down with Emily, the event planner who was working at the Carefree Resort at the time, we were in their Opera House, which seats something like 500 people and has high ceilings, an enormous stage, pillars on the sides of the room, and an overall elegant atmosphere.

“For your first event, I would start small,” Emily gently told me back in February as we sat in the Opera House and I looked around with stars in my eyes. “You’d rather have a few extra people crammed in a small room than an enormous room with not enough people to fill it.”

She talked me into walking back through the main building into Mesquite South, a small banquet room, so we could look around. I somewhat reluctantly agreed upon the smaller room, and over the next week she worked out a deal with me so that we only had to pay a $100 deposit upfront, then pay the full balance on the night of the event. I picked out a date – August 8th – for no other reason other than the fact that I didn’t want to miss hanging out with my sister on her birthday on Saturday, July 25th and Saturday the 8th was the next available date after that.

I told all my staff and volunteers we’d saved a date. It felt like I’d just announced I was planning a wedding. But for all the work that put into this event, I honestly think I could have.

The rest of February and March and April and May and June brought everything. Creating flyers. Creating social media hype. Creating an Eventbrite account and signing up for ticket sales. Promoting ticket sales. Passing out flyers. Getting a committee together. Calling and emailing and pleading for donations. Sending donation receipts and thank-yous and follow up phone calls and emails. Figuring out our room setup. Figuring out if we’d have a band or not. Trying to get my favorite person in the history of ever Kenny Loggins to come perform for the event. (Yes, I actually tried this one and ended up getting an actual phone call from his manager who gently told me they couldn’t make our event without a significant fee.) Trying to get other entertainers. Working with our documentary crew to get a clip up and running for a brief showcasing.

By the end of June, we were gathering basket items. By July, we were putting baskets together. Gathering more items. Printing out certificates. Creating more hype over social media. Spreading more flyers. Meeting at the Carefree Resort every few weeks to go over room plans. Figuring out music. Figuring out AV equipment. Going back to Target for ribbon and plastic wrap and more cheap picture frames than I care to admit.

Sometime in July I decided to Google “How to run a silent auction,” because – as per my gif demonstration above, I walked into this without the slightest idea of what I was doing. You guys. Thank God for Google. I learned all about bidding sheets and fair market values and reserve amounts and bid increment minimums and minimum bid amounts and basket setup and bidding registration and bidding check out. Thus came many frustrating nights of creating spreadsheets that organized all the items and calculating start bids and making bidding sheets and trying to seem as though I knew what I was doing.

And during this ENTIRE process of muddling my way through planning, I had my committee to turn to for help. They were phenomenal. From getting donations from individuals to organizations to helping me put baskets together to keeping baskets at their house to simply texting on a weekly basis to ask if there was anything they could do, the four or five people who were there every step of the way – even if they couldn’t make the benefit itself – were simply amazing. Next year, I’m going to get better at delegating tasks (for the week leading up to the event I was working something like ten-hour days), because I know for a fact they would have helped in a heartbeat had I given them some of the work.

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Making the donor poster.

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Our apartment was a disaster for about two straight months as we put baskets together!

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Putting together the collage (photos taken by http://www.raysquared.net/)

Point is, without my crew, I couldn’t have gotten through the months of planning. No chance in hell.

And then came August. And then I realized The Holy Crap I’ve Bitten Off Too Much Than I Can Chew Event was a week away.

On August 1st, the weekend before the benefit, I spoke on the phone with a wonderful lady named Lanae who is a friend of a Carefree Resort staff member. She is an event planner and graphic designer, and she offered her assistance for the evening as a donation. Um, YES.

Lanae met my friend Amy, my partner-in-crime for the entire event planning process, and me at the Carefree Resort on Wednesday the 5th. We were to meet with Jennifer – our new event coordinator at the Resort – and go over final room setup. Jennifer and Amy and I had gone over room setup at least a thousand times before and we were hoping to confirm everything, including a final headcount.

I might mention at this point that the Mesquite South room at the Carefree Resort – the room we had agreed would be the best one for our first event – comfortably holds 75 people. On our contract and during all of our discussions with both Emily and Jennifer, we arranged to have between 50 and 75 guests.

Probably the best thing ever was when Amy and Lanae and I were chatting in the lobby at 1pm, waiting for Jennifer to join us, when the receptionist called me over saying Jennifer was on the phone. I stood up – trailing dirt and hay all over the lobby as I walked to the desk – and took the call.

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The TV screen at the Carefree Resort!

“Sorry I’m running a bit late, I’m just headed down now,” she said. “But tell me what our headcount is so I can get your bill and bring that down with me.”

“I just realized I never told you this morning,” I said, inwardly cringing as I realized about ten million other things I hadn’t done at that point. “Right now we’re up to a hundred and five.”

Ringing silence on the other end of the phone. Then…

“WHAT?!”

We had expected around fifty. Seventy-five at the very, very most.

But a hundred and five?

We were ALL astonished. Extremely, pleasantly astonished.

The four of us had some major discussions about whether or not that many people would fit in the room. After chatting a bit, we decided – as per what Emily told me back in February – it was far better to squeeze a few extra people in than have not enough to try to fill a larger room.

After our meeting, Lanae had some amazing props to show us. We went out to her car and went through all the things she used at events – fun, Western baskets and pails and burlap everything. She offered to make programs for us as well as table numbers. I was amazed. All the little details I’d been too busy to think about, and here she was offering to swoop in on a 72-hour notice to tackle these things for us.

The big day came, and after running the ranch in the morning, I got to the resort at noon to check into the room I’d reserved for the night so I a) wouldn’t have to drive an hour home and b) could store all the auction baskets safely before bringing them into the event room. Amy met me at the resort around 1pm and the two of us went over the game plan before she went back home to feed her dogs and get ready and I showered and tried to relax.

At 2pm Lanae arrived and started to set up her gorgeous decor. At 3pm, the rest of my setup crew – volunteers of the ranch – arrived on the scene and started laying out the auction baskets. Alec, our AV equipment guy for the evening, and I worked with our equipment for 30 minutes to try to get our documentary clip up and running, eventually getting success.

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The room as we were setting up!

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One of the many things Lanae made for us.

By 5pm, everything was mostly ready to go and the Carefree Resort staff stood by to get us anything we needed and probably started to make the food by then and then all of the sudden it was an hour later and it was go time and my plan for check in went smoothly and I had enough volunteers to man the registration table as people started to arrive and suddenly the cash bar was hopping and the room was filled with guests and laughter and waving and excited talking and hugs and craziness and awe-struck faces as they looked around at the gorgeous setup of the room.

It was absolutely perfect.

The auction went smoothly. The food – according to everyone – was fabulous (I couldn’t eat – I was too full of adrenaline!). After dinner, we had our presentation and the documentary clip went off without a hitch.

I started off the presentation with welcoming everyone and thanking those who had made the evening possible. After talking briefly about the ranch, I passed off the mic to Jim, my boss and the owner and founder of the ranch. He spoke beautifully about the mission of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary and drew both laughter and I’m sure a few tears from the crowd.

And then he thanked me for putting together the event.

And then he announced something that I still am not quite entirely sure is reality or just a really, really good dream.

Jim told the crowd how my dream is to go back to London some day. (My first time was during my study abroad trip in the summer of 2013.) His wonderful sister Jean donated two round-trip tickets to New York City as part of the auction, and I had joked with them earlier that morning about making them tickets to London instead. In fact, I’m always dreaming aloud about London.

And Jim proceeded to announce that as thanks for my hard work in putting together the benefit dinner and for running the ranch, Jim said, Tierra Madre will be sending me back to London. All I had to do was pick the dates.

Astonished doesn’t even begin to cover it. I don’t even know what my reaction was, I was so numb with shock to register a whole lot right then and there. But as the room burst into applause and Jim and Jean broke into huge smiles as they saw my face, I’m pretty sure I cried.

And then I laughed because Shana, who works with her wife Denise at the ranch with me as the manager and volunteer coordinator, respectively, shouted from the back of the room, “Well, we got you flowers!”

It was all too much.

The night ended with us hastily figuring out a system for the check out process, thanking people for being patient with us as we had them do donations through the website instead of putting their cards through our card reader, which was down (damn you, Square app, for being so confusing), and listening to the talented Josh Roy, who came to us last minute as our entertainer for the evening thanks to one of our awesome volunteers.

And at the end of the night, as Amy and I and a few others sat down to count what we’d earned, we realized that we had pulled in a whopping $8,726 dollars for the 33 horses of Tierra Madre.

Almost nine thousand dollars.

Let this just serve as inspiration for those of you out there who get overwhelmed by what seems to be the impossible.

I went from not having the slightest idea of what I was doing to striding around confidently during this benefit with a clipboard and giving out directions to the volunteers.

If I can pull something like this off and raise almost $9,000, you too, reader, can do absolutely anything.

Final thoughts about this benefit:

I have made so many wonderful friends and connections through Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary. The ranch truly brings together people of all walks of life. And that alone was a privilege to witness. Seeing everyone gathered together for a common cause was simply incredible.

Everyone wants to feel as though they are part of a team, like they are part of something bigger than themselves. And as I looked around the room on the night of August 8th at my ranch family and my new friends and then across the room to the collage of the 33 horses that make my world go round, I felt that way.

For someone who has spent her entire adulthood thus far worrying about what her calling should be, I think I have finally found it.

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My boyfriend and I at the benefit

Sunny

May 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

It’s 1 am on May 14th, and I can’t sleep.

I am floating. Celebrating. Rejoicing.

Tonight (technically it was yesterday, I suppose), at 9:20 pm, I watched this precious baby girl come into the world.

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We didn’t think it was going to happen then. In fact, around 8 I was preparing to get some sleep before midnight, which is when I thought the labor would start.

IMG_5792I want to quickly jolt down what is fresh in my memory before I force myself to sleep.

I left the ranch this morning at 11:30 and was back by 2:30. I set up camp in the trailer our ranch worker kindly put outside Rain’s stall in the breezeway and settled in for a long night. Around 6 I went and got a pizza for Jim and I but every other moment, I was waiting.

Around 8 or 8:15, when the ranch was dark and all the other horses still, I heard Rain pawing and groaning in her stall. Every five minutes I’d get out of my little bed to try to check on the momma. We had the baby cam, but about half the time it doesn’t work and won’t connect, and tonight was no exception. Every time she saw me she’d stop.

So rather than having her see me and get scared during the early stages of labor, I changed tacts and tried to watch her on my iPad using the baby cam app but that didn’t work out. So a little before 9 pm, after hearing her pawing and groaning for almost an hour, I went into the house where Jim was watching her on the one monitor we have that’s hooked up to the camera and actually works.

“She’s really restless,” I said as I walked in. Then I looked at the monitor. “She just went down!”

“Yeah, she’s been doing that for a while. Let’s stay in the house a while – right before is the time she needs to be alone.”

We pulled up chairs and watched. I called Bre, our ranch manager, and told her to book it down to the ranch. My mom called and asked how everything was going, and right as I started to answer that Rain was down and seemingly groaning, Jim jumped and pointed. A hoof. A foal hoof.

We both ran out to the stall – me abruptly hanging up on my mom (sorry, Mom!) and Jim flipping on the barn lights – and saw Rain on the ground, sides heaving. She stood up once and flopped the other way, groaning quietly. The hoof we’d seen on the monitor was still peaking out.

There I was thinking we were in the early stages of labor, that it would be another few hours before any real action happened.

And then.

Then.

There came the head.

There it was.

I gasped when I saw it – it absolutely knocked the wind out of me. Jim grabbed my hand as we watched it slowing, steadily sliding out, wrapped delicately in its milky sac. We stood there watching Rain in complete and total awe as she pushed and pushed and pushed until that tiny, perfect little head was followed by its tiny, perfect little body. Then that body met the earth and Rain groaned again and lay her head down and rested and that little body lay quivering in the straw.

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Out of nowhere.

Out of nothing.

There that baby was.

There she was.

Mere minutes after we’d run out of the house to make sure everything was okay.

After so much waiting. After so much excitement and anticipation.

There she was.

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I didn’t think to even touch my camera for a few minutes. I was in absolute shock. Not only at the abruptness of it all… but the indescribable, calm, natural beauty of the birth.

That little girl nibbled at the sac, the straw, the air within moments. Her nose quivered as she took her very first breaths.

Watching her attempt to take her first steps was unbelievable. Such a tiny, helpless little thing not even in the world an hour ago, to be thrusting herself upwards attempting to walk. I simply have no words.

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I have no words for the moment I touched her soft, soft neck and she looked at me with liquid brown eyes.

I have no words for the gentle – gentle – nickers Rain gave her baby as she encouraged her to suckle.

I have no words for the way that sweet little filly finally stood on her own and jumped, kicked, and bucked with the pure joy of being alive.

I never understood why everyone called it “the miracle of life”. To me, being born was the most ordinary thing in the world. Just another event that occurred on a daily basis.

I see now.

Our Sunny is a miracle.

As I watched her in amazement tonight, the song “With Arms Wide Open” kept playing in my head.

And to me, the words are perfect.

I sang them to little Sunny before I left at midnight. I will sing them to her for the rest of her life.

With arms wide open

Under the sunlight

Welcome to this place

I’ll show you everything

With arms wide open

Now everything has changed

I’ll show you love

I’ll show you everything

With arms wide open.

Oh, sweet girl.

Welcome to the world.

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Baby Watch

April 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

For those of you following along on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, you know that we saved a pregnant mare from slaughter two and a half months ago at my ranch. We have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of her foal for ten long weeks, and now – as of April 27th at 9 pm – we think we are mere days away.

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Rain: April 24, 2015

I can’t even describe what I’m feeling now.

I didn’t go through an excitement phase when we first got her. I don’t think most of us at the ranch did. When I found out about the mare – Rain – she was 36 hours away from slaughter. The owner of the ranch and I were so scared for her and desperate to get her out of the hands of her kill buyer that honestly, when we brought her through the gates, I couldn’t be excited for the new beginning we were going to witness. All I felt was relief. Baby? I constantly wondered as I’d look up and see her eating contentedly in her stall. What baby? All I could think about for a long time was how close we’d come to not being able to save her.

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Rain, the day we brought her home: February 13, 2015.

The vet came out to examine Rain a few days after we got her and said she hoped she wasn’t pregnant, as we had been told, on the grounds that Rain was too skinny. After an examination, however, the vet confirmed she was. I and one of the volunteers that had stayed for the visit actually jumped up and down and shrieked. But again – all I really felt in place of happy anticipation was relief.

Vet visit

Vet visit

Over the past few weeks, Rain gained a lot – a LOT – of weight. Soon it became pretty obvious that she was eating for two. Not to mention, she sure got comfortable in her new home considering she’s learned to yell at anyone passing for food!

A few weeks ago we had our former vet and one of our dearest friends come out to visit. He kindly looked over Rain for us and gave us more information about newborn foals and advice about what needs to be done when he/she gets here than we could have ever thought we needed. I took notes about what to do with the placenta, how to make sure the baby passes meconium and what to do if he/she doesn’t, and the type of Chlorhexidine we need to dip the baby’s navel.

And these past few days? I swear Rain got bigger whenever I turned around.

Rain: April 24, 2015

Rain: April 24, 2015

Last week we set up our baby camera that connects to our smartphones and tablets via a free app (head over to the Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary Facebook page if you want to access it, too!). The three of us that will be present for the birth (the owner, the other ranch manager, and me) are taking shifts waking up in the night to check the camera to see if anything’s happened since most mares give birth in the middle of the night.

Tonight I packed a little bag with a change of clothes and some food that I can grab at a moment’s notice and run to my car with should I get a call in the middle of the night or see something happening on the camera myself.

And now – finally – as I watch Rain on my iPad and look at the alarms on my phone for me to wake up and check the camera and look over to my packed bag, the excitement is kicking in.

Rain: April 24, 2015

Rain: April 24, 2015

In the last few days Rain’s udder has swollen up and the baby has really started to move downward. The time is coming soon.

I’ve felt that baby move around inside her for such a long time that it never really sunk in that he or she was eventually going to come out and join the world. I don’t think it will really sink in until I see that baby for the first time with my own eyes. But for now, I am finally feeling the excitement. It’s amazing how much we all already love this precious little foal, and we haven’t met him or her yet.

Rain has done an amazing job carrying this baby and I am in awe of her. I am in awe of her strength and her grace and the fact that she walked onto our ranch a miserable mare and has turned into the happiest, sweetest, most gentle spirit in the world. Her baby has no idea how lucky he/she is.

Hurry on out, little girl/guy. The world awaits you.

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Rain and I: February 2015

Slowing Down Time

April 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have absolutely no idea where this year is going. It sounds so cliché to keep insisting that I blinked and suddenly found myself four months into 2015, but that’s truly how I feel. With full time work (read: 31 horses to take care of) and then some, full time school, friends and family and a boyfriend and a kitty and an apartment that needs to be cleaned and a refrigerator that needs to be filled, the only time I can catch my breath a little is when I sit down to watch an episode of Game of Thrones. (I didn’t want to jump on that bandwagon, but after giving the first episode a chance now I can’t stop watching them.)

And so, I am very grateful for the moments that slow things down for me.

In my line of work, several of the horses I take care of have medical issues. One of my geldings, a gray Arabian named Studley, was found tied behind a dumpster as a baby, having been gelded by his previous owners with no tranquilizers and a knife. We suspect that he was weaned too early from his mother and didn’t get all the nutrients he needed from her milk, because his immune system is terrible, and as a result of this abuse, every single summer since he’s been at the ranch he gets horrible things called summer sores. Summer sores are essentially scratches or bits of nicked skin on horses where flies bite, enlarge, and use to lay their eggs. They become nasty, oozing, open sores filled with maggots.

Delicious, isn’t it? The hands-down grossest thing I’ve ever had to do at that ranch is pick maggots out of Studley’s shoulder.

Well, the sores come back every year when the heat begins and the flies return. A few weeks ago, the big sore on Studley’s shoulder returned and I picked a maggot out of one developing just under his right eye last week.

Long story short, we called our vet immediately to try and nail the sores as fast as we could, and she and her assistant came out on Monday to inject the sores with a steroid that would reduce inflammation.

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Normally during the morning I’m running around getting things done: Turning horses out, dolling out mashes, doing necessary medical care, cleaning and organizing, doing chores, etc. I spent most of Monday morning standing with the vet and her assistant by Studley’s side.

To backtrack, Studley is what our entire ranch calls a punk ass. He is a total pain to take out of his stall since he throws his head up and grabs the halter in his teeth when anyone – I or any of the volunteers – tries to put it on him. It often gets so bad that I have lightly smacked him in the face to get him to stop flinging the halter around on more than one occasion. I’ve yelled an exasperated, “Studs!” many, many a time when I’ve caught him misbehaving. He is a goofy boy – a loving, happy one, but very ornery, to say the least.

Knowing this, our vet sedated his punk ass so she’d be able to stick needles in his sores (including the one less than an inch from his right eye) without fear of hurting him or anyone else in the vicinity. Thirty seconds after the sedation, Studley was high as a kite. On a horse, that looks like a thousand-pound animal standing with his head hanging down, legs wobbling, and almost completely unmoving. And on a very energetic horse – albeit a punk ass one – well, it’s unnerving, to say the least. Let’s just say every time I see one of the horses sick, or in pain, or sedated the way Studley was on Monday, it is a sharp, almost painful reminder of the fathomless love I have for each of them.

IMG_5546The vet and her assistant stuck needles into the sores for the injections, and the one under his eye oozed blood all down his face. Poor Studley didn’t react, just stood miserably with his head down, blood dripping from his nose onto the ground. The vet and her assistant left when their work was done – the vet giving me some very helpful pointers to relay to the owner about ways to help control the flies this summer – then I left one of my employees in the pen to make sure Studley didn’t fall over while I ran to the tack room to get a bucket of water and a washcloth.

And then, as thousands of other stupid tasks called my name, I did what any other person on that ranch would have done – I sat on my heels (you NEVER fully sit down on the ground around a horse, even a sedated one), put my left arm around Studley’s face as best as I could, and slowly, lightly began to wipe the blood away with the washcloth in my right hand.

“I’m so sorry, baby boy,” I kept murmuring over and over. It wasn’t fair. None of this was Studley’s fault. He didn’t get a say in the neglect he had to go through as a baby, but for the rest of his life he’ll battle summer sores and all the medicine, injections, and vet visits that come with them. But Studley was so out of it that I’m pretty sure he didn’t even know I was there or that he was a horse or that he looked like he’d just gotten the shit beaten out of him at a bar. He blinked slowly and glumly as I dipped my washcloth in the water again and again, taking my time getting the blood off, being as gentle as I could.

It’s so easy to get caught up in how wild and crazy these horses can be – and in fact how wild and crazy life can be – and how I so often get pissed at everything for not going exactly the way I want it to go, dammit. It’s so easy to insist upon a strict schedule in order to accommodate everything, to get mad when things take up two and a half minutes more of my time because that just means something else I have to do later on has to suffer. That’s how I’ve felt lately, anyway. Like I have to keep moving in order to condense a 50 hour day into 12.

But as I stood there with one of my best friends under the sun who needed me on that Monday morning, it occurred to me that the world around me was still moving. And even if everything else I had to do that day had to be postponed until tomorrow, or next week, or next year, the world around me would keep on moving.

I knew before then that time never really stays still. But as I stood there with Studley for a long time, cleaning his face, kissing his nose, rubbing his neck as he slowly started to come back around, I realized that every now and then, if you know how to apply the brakes, it’s okay to make it slow down for a moment.

Whirlwind

April 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

You guys. Where is 2015 going?? I blinked and half of April went by. I think of blogposts I want to do each day but just don’t have time to write them!

I tend to focus too much on what I haven’t done as opposed to what I’ve accomplished in any given time frame. For example, over the past few weeks I still haven’t finished reading that book I said I was going to read, still haven’t done my grand cleaning/de-cluttering project, still haven’t completed a lot of schoolwork I need to get done before the semester ends (like finish field work, my signature case study and analysis, etc.), and I still haven’t ended world hunger. That last one was supposed to be a quick day project.

However, I did:

  • Watch the first three episodes of Game of Thrones and get hooked
  • Work
  • Agree to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding coming up soon and get my dress
  • Somehow worked with my horse enough so that she stood perfectly still for the farriers after she nearly killed them two months ago while they tried to do her feet
  • Work
  • Buy an iPad mini
  • Start planning Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary’s first annual benefit dinner and silent auction
  • Spend some time with my little bro after his accident (while hanging out with him I watched Forrest Gump for the first time. Amazing movie)
  • Work
  • Get awarded financial aid for the summer so I can take summer courses (Yay!)
  • Choose my classes for the summer
  • Work

Also, guys, my friend Leika at the ranch put music to this video of our resident terrorist, the Min – whose habits include rearing, kicking, bucking, nipping, and charging as well as he can (he has chronic laminitis in his front hooves) – and I can’t stop laughing over it. I’m too lazy to figure out how to embed it here so go over to Tierra Madre’s Facebook page and check it out.

Also, enjoy this random picture of quail eggs we found in our Timothy hay:

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Babies, babies everywhere in the springtime!

Thanks for the random updates, Alexis, you say sarcastically. I know. My next structured blogpost might not come until my little break between this semester and my summer courses. Bear with me, because life is just crazy. But then again, I’m the type of person that likes to have about four hundred things going on at once. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And now I gotta go watch Game of Thrones for a bit before I do homework and crash in bed. I’m on episode four and don’t think I’ll be able to watch just one!

Sonora

January 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Sonora is my 11-year-old sorrel paint mare that came into my life on December 16, 2014. I didn’t intend for her to become my horse at first, but she certainly did.

The Saturday before I met her, I was at work when the owner of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary came up to me with a concerned look on his face.

“There’s a lady on the phone asking if we can take her horse,” he said. “Apparently she’s out of control, and if this woman can’t find a home for her she’s going to have her put down.”

As full as we were, neither of us could allow that. I called the woman as soon as possible and arranged for the horse to be brought to Tierra Madre on the following Tuesday, December 16th. We both agreed that it would be the best thing for her as we figured out what was making the horse “crazy”.

That morning, the mare, named Missy, was supposed to arrive via her owner’s sister’s trailer at 10:30. At 10:45 I got a call from her owner. She was hysterical.

“She won’t go in the trailer. She’s completely out of control. It’s like she knows she’s going away for good this time, I know it. I’ve never been afraid of her before!” she cried into the phone. I asked where she was. Ten minutes later, I was on her property. And after I had calmed the woman and her sister down I walked over to take a look at the wild mare I was there to pick up. And I fell head over heels in love.

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I spent nearly an hour with her, walking her around, speaking to her gently and getting to know her. I walked her over to the trailer to let her sniff it and reassured her, over and over again, that I was taking her home to a place where she could be free and happy and rid of any anxiety or fear she might have had in her life. She kept looking at me anxiously, clearly asking why in the world she should trust me.

“You have no reason to trust me,” was my answer for her. “But I need you to trust me now. I promise – I promise you – that you’re safe with me. You have nothing to fear ever again.”

She looked intently into my eyes for a brief moment. With me leading her, into the trailer she went. Through the Tierra Madre gates she came. And the second I got her halter back on, I let her out into the huge arena on our property so she could stretch her legs in the first time in ages.

She flew. She galloped and bucked and reared and didn’t stop for a good 20 minutes. And when she finally did, it was to stop right in front of me and look at me with shining eyes.

I smiled at her. “I promised, didn’t I?”

The owner of the ranch watched us together as I led her back to the round pen where she was to stay during her first few days. He saw her rubbing her face against me in gratitude and watched her follow me around in the round pen. And he came over to us and pointed right at the beautiful sorrel mare that was happily nuzzling my hands.

“That’s your horse,” he said to me. “You saved her. She is yours.”

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I named the mare Sonora, or Nora for short, after the Sonoran Desert. The desert is beautiful, wild and completely untamed, just like my baby girl.

Nora is energetic and pushy at times and stubborn and spirited and we have a lot of learning to do. There is nothing wrong with her physically as was believed. Instead, her spirit needs some time to mend. Although I’ve worked with horses for years, I never could call any of them my own. And even though Nora is technically my horse now, I still can’t help but feel that instead, she owns me. 

I watched Hidalgo a few days after Nora came home. There is a line in the movie that I think completely sums up my horse and me. The main character, Frank Hopkins, is asked how he tamed his wild mustang Hidalgo. His reply?

“I didn’t.”

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