Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Say "Yes!"; Creating A Volunteer Resume

Somewhere out in the Equine Community an adventure awaits!

It's been my experience that the more I put myself out there, the more I get to do, thus was the idea behind this blog originally; to document the horses and the fun I've had being around them. Think about the difference between standing on the perimeter with your arms folded across your chest. You may witness something but if you walk into it with your arms out & hands open, you'll get to touch it, feel it and experience it in a way your eyes alone may never fully comprehend.

I can't even say when I began to crave the "feeling" & it may surprise some to learn that I was once a quiet, shy, "Perimeter" kinda girl. I didn't know how to engage myself into the situation but took great joy in watching others having fun. At some point I figured out that I had to keep putting myself in the situation I wanted in order to start living my dreams.

At the age of seven I would get on my bike and discover my world. Perhaps the most important *find* was the local riding stable. For $2.50 I could buy myself an hour of freedom on a horse. I still don't understand what the harm would have been in doing this every day but my parents allowed me to do so once per week, typically on Saturday. Eventually I was asked to take other renters out with me and show them the trails so I unofficially became a trail guide very young...of course on a volunteer basis. That opened the door to allow me to come to the barn more often and volunteer to do other things like grooming, turning out, watering, etc. Of course they could have paid someone else to do that but I didn't care, I got to be around horses and that's all that mattered to me. It was quite a process getting to that position took many days, perhaps even weeks of just coming and hanging out, standing at the fence line and looking pathetic...until they gave me something to do. Eventually I mustered up the courage to actually ask what I could to help and at some point they gave me ride time in exchange. It was a long process but I'd say that relationship lasted four years until we moved to a less horse-friendly neighborhood. I kept riding as often as I could but the lack of easy access kept me from pursuing my passion until much later in my life.

When I got back into horses in my 40's, I started off in the middle of something I probably had no business getting into, rescue. I hadn't planned it that way, but thankfully I aligned myself with a great team and got the support I needed to get my horse and myself through the process. In my adult life, I've pretty much followed my childhood habit of asking what I can do to help and eventually found myself stepping up for horses in need.

With S.A.F.E. I started out by sponsoring Kokomo and that led to a party where I forced my friends to donate money and before I knew it, I was answering "YES!" too all kinds of calls for help and discovered that usually led to meeting some really incredible folks...and more horses!

As I made more and more contacts, I kept getting more and more invites to participate in various activities as a volunteer. I welcome these invites and these days I actually have to turn some down because there simply are not enough hours in a day to do all the things I would like to.

I gave up TV pretty much altogether a few years ago. I watch it from time to time (thank you On-Demand) but mostly I spend a lot of time sending emails, cultivating the ever-growing network and actually getting out there and doing the work, riding the horses and making a difference...and encouraging others to do so as well.

When S.A.F.E. asked me to be the Volunteer Coordinator two years ago, I will admit that I was both honored and frustrated. I am a fairly decent fund raiser. I like to call it FUNd raising as I've discovered it's always easier to extract people's money when they're having too much fun to notice their lighter wallet...or care!. But it hit me that I had to be prepared to do what needed to be done and for this organization, someone to wrangle volunteers was needed. I said "yes!" (note, that's with a small "y"...perhaps not as enthusiastic as a "YES!", but still a "yes!").

Turns out my duties would be to answer volunteer email inquiries and to schedule the daily chore volunteers at Jaime's farm where most of the horses are kept. I wasn't asked to, but I also self appointed myself to increase participation by volunteers at events like the Horse Show and other community relation opportunities. I kept telling myself that I'd do it until they found someone better. While I can think of better organized people and perhaps even people who might have more time, they seem to have out-smarted me by keeping busy with other commitments and here I remain, two years later, still SAFE's Volunteer Coordinator but I can still type that with a smile for many reasons.

I often get asked how I can stomach the rescue work when there are so many horses to help and so many ways to abuse and neglect a horse. I have two philosophies that get me through...

The first, and probably most important in terms of the rescue/volunteer community, is that for every individual I am exposed to who causes harm to a horse, I get to be in the unique position to meet (at least) a hundred other people who want to help in some way. That keeps my heart full and my commitment motivated. Yes, there are sick & ignorant people out there but I like to think they are a minority. The majority of the people I come into contact with personally are amazing people who want to make a positive difference and a lasting change.

The second and obviously the most significant is the subject of our efforts: The Horses!

These horses have no real reason to trust humans and yet beginning with the smallest act of kindness, perhaps a handful of hay, they do. I believe they sense & gauge your inner value early on. I also believe we become more than hay & treat dispensers to them. I think they understand that there's a chance at something better. The relationship starts when they learn to trust and it builds until they learn to give...or perhaps we should look at it like they give-back.

Even when times get tough in rescue, when organizations are struggling, mistakes are made, personalities clash, the horses are still there....innocents... and I'm going to quote myself again "It's times like this that both make me question and confirm WHY I do this work!" We get through the tough stuff to do the good work. The work that we sometimes do for no other reason than our hearts tell us we must.

So what do you get out of volunteering? For me, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I've helped but along the way some pretty amazing things have happened because I stopped being the girl on the rail, waiting to be called upon to follow my dreams.

Like I mentioned, this volunteering thing has been pretty much a life-long endeavor for me but it doesn't take long to build what I refer to as my Volunteer Resume. For me it's not always about the horses (although certain members of my family might be of a different opinion!), I actually spend a fair amount of time supporting other community service endeavors but regardless of the subject matter, I will say that having that experience has helped in ways I might not have expected many years ago.

Let's look at my son Corey for a moment: in MY household there is pretty much a non-stop running stream of volunteer opportunities and so my kids were roped into lots of them. Sometimes it started with a grumpy face but usually ended in a happy one. When it came time for Corey to go out and look for a job, with seemingly no experience, we built a full page resume based on his volunteer experience. While it's not a real job, I believe it did show a great deal of worth by showing there were things he would do for free, just because it was a good thing to do. I'm thinking hard right now, but I don't believe there is a job he interviewed for that he didn't get. I have to believe that makes an impression & a difference.

I think about all the volunteers who work with S.A.F.E. and how following their passion could, perhaps, lead to fantastic "paying" opportunities. Whether they're mucking stalls, organizing fund raising events or making public speaking appearances; they're all showing a work ethic and commitment. That translates well in the professional world & I would encourage anyone who performs volunteer work on a consistent basis to include that in your personal resume's. It's certainly worthwhile and you never know were it can lead you.

In my own little volunteer world, I just completed my second event with the Equestrian Institute last weekend as a Ring Steward for the Champagne Classic Dressage show. Again, I get as much out of it as I give. As part of my job, I'm watching the warm-up arena and get to hear all the trainers on the rail giving last minute tips to their riders. I'd like to think that some of that is sinking in for my own use. I certainly do take their tips to heart and see if I can apply them in my own riding.

I've also accepted a volunteer position for the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky this fall. It was actually quite a long process & I had to go through several interviews but I think my resume actually helped me land a dream position with them. I have been assigned to the Marketing/Sponsorship team and will get to participate in fun activities to promote the various sponsors of the event. I don't know that I could ask for a better role...and I get to go to the WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES....that alone is amazing!!

So....seriously your volunteer resume...IT WORKS!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dignity, Courage, Grace .... Jasmine

Wednesday, July 7th: The dreaded 7:30am call that comes up "KCJ Stables" on my caller ID. You know that can never be good ...

Ken said that Jasmine, the S.A.F.E. mare that has been fostered at our barn since April, along with 2 yr old Lola, the Appy/Arab filly, was down and when he brought food in she got up, came over, sniffed it, walked away and laid down again. He had been planning to move the two of them up to the front grass pasture that day anyway and he was going to take her up there to see if she would eat from the pasture but suggested that I needed to come & see if I thought she needed a vet.

I was actually almost to my shop and thankfully I had very little planned except a 10am appointment so I was able to fulfill my obligation to stay "available" there until 8am and then head over to the barn. When I pulled up Lola was happily eating hay in the pasture they'd been turned out just 20 minute before and Jasmine was off to the side, laying down in the wet grass. I went up to pet her head and she stood up, let me give her a couple of rubs and then she walked about 20 steps and laid down again, facing away from me.

I got the feeling she was not feeling well so I went up to the tack room and got my notebook/pen, thermometer & stethoscope so that I could give some facts to the next several people I was going to have to call. Jasmine was now saving up her breaths and exhaling with force, making sounds as she did so. I took that to mean that she was in pain. I called Kelli and she came out and gave her a dose of banamine.

I spoke to Bonnie & Jaime to tell them that something was up with Jasmine. She'd been having diarrhea issues for several weeks and we'd tried many different feeding options and probiotic but she would turn her nose up at anything soaked and with her weight dropping a bit I was getting concerned. We had already started discussing the options but I don't think any of us expected for her to take a big dive in her comfort level so quickly.

Just last weekend we were dressing up in party hats and taking funny photos...and had a nice field trip down to the lower open grass area to hang out while Basil was having a lesson on Monday. She seemed very happy that day although I was concerned about her weight, she didn't look dangerously thin or anything. I hoped adding more hay might help since she wouldn't accept any of the traditional weight gaining attempts. It turns out she really just wasn't interested in food in general, although it was a subtle change.

I called Dr. Kent Tooman at Tooman Equine and he said he could be there between 10 & 10:30. Maeve was on her way and we all were now focused on her and what we could do to make her comfortable. We tried walking her but she really just wanted to lay down. With a colic it's a good idea to keep them moving both to get their systems functioning so that they can pass the things that are causing them discomfort. But many horses, if allowed to lay down, will roll and thrash which can cause the intestines to become twisted. I have been told that few horses ever die from colic, but rather the complications of it...such as the "twisted gut" or from toxicity from fermenting bile that builds up behind a blockage. I knew from when Coconut had her big colic episode that she was ok to lay down after she was tubed and sedated as long as she was not rolling and trashing. So we walked Jasmine and then gave her time to rest peacefully as long as she was not distressed. There was no indication that she was actually having gut pains, none of the typical signs at first: looking at her belly and no rolling/trashing, really she just looked very tired in the beginning.

Maeve had arrived and could now take over the Jasmine Watch so I ran off for my appointment and hurried back as fast as I could. Most of the time I consider it just a little lazy that I rarely leave the six-mile corridor between my house and my shop & that it's sheer coincidence that my barn is just about half-way between them both on the same road but sometimes it feels more like a brilliant or, perhaps even, divine plan to make it so easy for me to bounce from one to another quickly. It's days like this that I thank my lucky stars that I am so lazy because I am truly able to juggle much of what I need to do fairly easy. It also helps that I've got such a great "life" team and that because Kelli works for me part time she is also able to jump in at the spur of the moment which came in handy later that day too.

When I returned to the barn, Dr. Tooman was already there, suspected colic and he & Maeve had moved Jasmine to Coconut's stall where they had already tubed her and began running mineral oil through her. As he palped her he felt and removed hard manure balls that bounced as they hit the stall mat. He felt sure that she had a blockage & we discussed the treatment plan for the day. He was going to return a little later in the afternoon to administer IV Fluids as she was very dehydrated. All reports from Ken & Kelli were that she'd actually drank quite a bit of water in the last several days but apparently the
diarrhea was apparently taking it all away from her. We were told to withhold food, encourage drinking and watch for an oily blob to come through her. Time was going to be what it would take as we had all done all we could at this point. She was comfortable but a big worry was ahead of us...we were about to have the first (and possibly record breaking) hot day in a very long time. The morning had been pleasant, temperature wise, but it could get extremely unpleasant later.

By noon the plans for the day were in place. We groomed her, which she has always loved, and Maeve gave her a beautiful braid. I added some daisies from the pasture. I know she appreciated the attention & it took the edge off of the sad look she had. We had a small window of opportunity to get out and grab some lunch & run to the feed store to pick up some electrolytes and get back to meet Dr. Tooman. Kelli had returned from my shop so she & Stephanie from our barn came up to join us as we all stood around her while she got her IV fluids and some more pain medication. She got 10 bags of fluid and a lot of love.

We talked about her and Dr. Tooman was surprised to learn that she actually had *Fans*. This was no ordinary horse. She was a strong horse with a tragic history but a forceful present. I explained how SAFE gives each horse it's own identity and people from all over the country log in to see updates on them. Jasmine was one of the most popular horses we had. Part of it could be that she was among the longest residents of SAFE at this point but also because of her story...

I first wrote about Jasmine in one of my January 2010 posts: Even a Mother's Love

Jasmine came from Coconut's herd & that gave me a special connection to her. They were, undoubtedly, on the same pasture at some point in their past neglect and I've always thought that if we moved to our own farm that Jasmine would come with me and I would give her a Forever Home. When Ken offered to foster a couple of the SAFE horses for 3 months I was thrilled that Jaime said she'd like to send Jasmine & Lola. We were all excited to have them at our barn and they quickly became quite popular amongst the other boarders, especially with Ken, Jan & Kelli who are the ones who care for the horses here. I think it was also very important that Jasmine and Lola have given a face to neglect for some of the folks. They've all been aware of what I do in the rescue world but I am not sure it hits home until you see a baby without a mother (although I think some of them still think Lola WAS Jasmine's foal & most had a hard time grasping that Lola is actually two years old because she's so small) and what was once a perfect Arabian face, now covered in scars & exaggerated body from multiple breedings.

By now most of the barn knew that she was having issues that day & everyone hoped for her full recovery. We all knew there wasn't much we could do but to check on her and keep her comfortable. Jasmine got to spend some time on Coconut's pasture and she somehow immediately was drawn to this place that I call Coconut's bed. it's a low spot on the pasture, under the shade of a big tree that has very soft dirt and further cushioned with pine needles. When Jasmine first found it she had her nose to the ground and kept walking in circles until she finally laid down there. Later, after she'd gotten her IV fluids & had been in the stall awhile she was doing ok I thought I'd let her out on the pasture as there really isn't much grass out there anyway. The moment I opened it up, she trotted directly out to that spot and laid down again. I realized she had been thinking about that spot and couldn't wait to get back was her new happy spot. Later that day I entertained how I might be able to keep Jasmine there with Coconut after she got better.

Ken, Kelli, Maeve & I all took turns checking on her through the night. She still was not interested in water and had not passed much more than a few small manure balls. She didn't seem in distress but we gave her a dose of Banamine just to get her through the night. Her last check was after midnight and Kelli said she seemed to be stable. The next check would be at 5:00am and if there were any concerns, Dr. Tooman said to call him then as he had a small window of opportunity come out to help her that morning if needed. When I woke up after 6:00am and checked my phone: thankfully no I headed to the barn. Jasmine was up and standing on the spot. She looked perkier than the day before but I didn't see any manure piles. Her flowers had dried out and so I took them out of her beautiful braid which was still in tact.

The lighting was so beautiful that morning that I felt compelled to go back to the car and grab my camera.

I gave her lots of love and hugs, whispering to her that she was very loved and that lots of people all over were hoping she'd get better soon...and to PLEASE start drinking water soon....and pooping....we needed her to poop too!

I left her for a few hours and got phone updates from Maeve that she had discovered several piles of manure in the pasture, including one very oily mess (YAY!) and that she was drinking water with a fair amount of gusto...even playing in it at times!

We felt she had turned a corner and we started updating the various threads, facebook pages and making some phone calls. My son Corey and I stopped in to visit with her, give her some love and encouragement and to snap a few more photos. She seemed calm but tired. I expected her to be tired after all she'd been through. Kelli, Maeve & Ken continued to check on her through the afternoon.

My husband & I had gone down to the track that evening and as we were waiting for the car, I told him I wanted to swing by the barn on the way home to check on her. She had been checked at feeding time around 5:00pm and then again at 7:00pm & there was nothing unusual at those times. We arrived at the barn about 9:00pm. There were several cars down at the main barn but things were quiet up at ours. I saw Jasmine standing on the little hill closest to the stall and I could see right away something was wrong. Even from the car I could see that her sides were contracting and expanding pretty rapidly. I went up and got her and noticed her face was wet. I first assumed that she'd been playing in the water tank but I noticed she was wet along her neck and girth line. As I touched these areas they were not cool, they were warm and turned to white foam when I touched her. I grabbed the thermometer and, dress, sandals and all, went in for the temp... 100.4 (which is acceptable) But I didn't need a stethoscope to take her heart rate, just my hand on her girthline...120 bpm. I knew she was in distress and called Kelli to get another dose of banamine in her but Kelli was not answering the phone (it turned out it had run out of power & she was on their boat at the moment). The air temp had dropped down quite a bit and none of the other horses were having heat issues. I then called Ken to come down and he agreed she was in distress so he grabbed the hose and we hosed her off completely, even offering it as a drink, which she did appear to take. I've seen this horse and a hose in a bath situation and she was pretty skiddish. That evening she stood perfectly still and I imagine the water must have felt pretty good right about then. For some reason everyone at the lower barn had decided to leave and the farm went from lively to very quiet and still...peaceful...even in the chaos that was unfolding with Jasmine.

I called Dr. Tooman and gave him the vitals and he agreed that we should give her another dose of banamine and check her vitals again in 30 minutes and then an hour to see if that bpm didn't go down. If not, he'd come out that night, if it did bring it under control, he'd plan to come out in the morning with IV Fluids in case they were needed. He also told me at that point that the blood he'd drawn while giving her the IV Fluids the day before didn't indicate anything we should be concerned with, they were actually pretty normal. He did say he thought this was a mild colic but admitted that the combination of her age, history of neglect (permanent damage due to lack of proper worming, feeding or vet care), the heat and the colic seemed to be making this very difficult on her. He also said there could be more going on and didn't know why the colic had occurred.

I made a decision to drive Les home and get some more mosquito appropriate clothes on. While at home, I checked to see if I could contact Kelli yet and while she was still not home, I did get in touch with Heather who also lives on the barn property hoping she might have some banamine on hand. Sadly she was out too but did suggest I pick up some rubbing alcohol in case we needed to hose her down again. I dashed out of the house, stopped at the store to grab that and some protein bars and a drink as I figured I could be out there all night & flew back to the barn.

At about 10:25pm Ken called me as I was pulling into the driveway and he said he was worried about her. He'd put his hand on her side and she seemed very tender. When I told him I was there, he returned to the house to keep trying to get Kelli on the phone. In the few moments since Ken left, she'd walked over to that soft spot in the pasture and had laid down. I crested the hill and called her name, she lifted her head but was quite weak. I decided that she was doing what she could to be comfortable and until we could get Kelli home to get the banamine the best I could do would be to leave her in peace.

Since I had been unable to get in touch with Jaime, I returned to the car to call Bonnie and informed her of the situation. I told her that I instructed Dr. Tooman that we would do everything we could for this mare, but heroic efforts were probably not in Jasmine's best interest and shared that I really felt at this point, Jasmine was giving up. The plan with Dr. Tooman would be that I would call him if things did not improve and he'd come out during the night to access the situation but that we'd let her go if it was obvious there wasn't much more we could do. Bonnie agreed...just about then, Jaime called so I switched over the call and brought her up to date, including my conversation with Bonnie about the possibility of letting her go peacefully.

About 30 minutes had passed since I'd last checked on Jasmine and while I had Jaime on the phone I walked back out to the pasture and called her name. This time she didn't lift her head....she was gone. Under the weight of my broken heart and the flood of tears that came I was pulled to the ground beside her. As I stroked her neck and her face I suddenly realized that this was how she wanted it. While it didn't make me stop crying, it did give me some relief to know that she chose this for herself.

Kelli called and said she was on her way with the banamine...I let her know that Jasmine was gone. She and Heather came to be with us...

As I sat there with her I came to terms with many beautiful truths about Jasmine...

In the moonlight she was laying there so perfect & beautiful & peaceful...a few years earlier her herdmates had passed in terror, captive within their starved and ravaged bodies. Jasmine once had a skinny body and diseased coat but now had a perfect body, a shiny coat and a beautiful face....the one that I remembered from our first meeting, that hung from her poor starved head had been replaced with that dishy Egyptian Arabian face and soft amber colored eyes that now looked up toward the sky. I turned my head upward and saw what she saw in her last moments looking up through the tree branches edging the clearing of sky... a clear summer sky filled with stars and the moon...a peaceful view from the soft earth she chose to make her final resting place.

I also realized that she wanted to be alone on this journey. In some ways I can look back over the two days and see that she sent many messages that she just wanted to be alone. I'm sure it may, to some extent, been that she wished to spare us the pain, but I think it was more her nature guiding her. She spent much of her life depending on her instinct for survival and in some way I think she was completely in tune to her nature that told her it was her time to go. Though she never appeared angry at us, I suspect that we humans may have actually gotten in the way as she tried to travel her natural path. I think she told us Wednesday morning as she moved away from us to go lay down somewhere else, quietly. I also think that she was waiting on that hill, watching the activity of the barn and when all the people left, she felt like she had her peace. When Ken finally walked away from her, she may have believed it was the right time and went over to her chosen spot to lay down...and just as she was getting comfortable, I walk over the hill and call her. I smile when I think of her lifting her head as if to say "What now people? Can you just give me a moment of peace please?" It turns out we, humans, were the ones with the lack of courage to let go.

There was a moment on Thursday morning where she stood in the sunlight and looked across the farm. I followed her gaze and discovered Lola in the pasture. Jasmine did not call her and Lola did not appear to be looking for her any longer either. The first day had been a little dramatic for Lola out there on the pasture alone but that following day was peaceful. Heather suggested that in the horse herds, especially the mares, feel an obligation to protect the babies...and wondered if Jasmine felt as if her job was done: Lola was peaceful now, no longer calling for her. Do you think they know when it's time to let go? Jaime and I talked about when Jasmine lost her filly, Ella....they were getting ready to take Ella to the hospital and they led Jasmine away and she didn't even look back at her. While at the time it seemed cold, we wondered if Jasmine didn't already know her baby was was Jasmine's job to care for her. It's nature, I suppose.

...and then there's the spot itself...the place she chose for her final rest. She'd only spent two days on that pasture but it seemed uncanny that she felt the most comfortable in the place that Coconut also found the most comfortable. That soft bed of soil beneath the shade of the big tree where the breeze came in to cool even the hottest of days. Every time I saw Jasmine there she had her nose to the ground, walking around, checking out every inch of it. It occurred to me yesterday that it must have smelled like Coconut. I wonder if there was something familiar about that smell that made her feel so at home...perhaps a smell from her old herd...a horse who seemed familiar to her. I regret not having them spend pasture time together now to see if there was a bond between them. I've always felt a sense of stewardship towards the horses from that herd so I guess it's fitting that the two closest beings to Jasmine as she passed were Coconut and myself.

The place between Jasmine & her shadow is where she chose to make her final resting place

Maeve and I had an early morning talk on Friday and I told her that among the sadness I felt was the regret that I had failed to be able to fulfill my fantasy of giving Jasmine her forever home...and Maeve suggested that in reality, I had...that Jasmine had no idea that she was in Foster Care, per se. One night she moved to a nice new farm with her friend, Lola and there they found nice people who had horses with "jobs" and lots of activity to watch and even some to participate in. Surely they had that at Jaime's farm but probably not with the number of people on a daily basis and certainly not the number of horses who all had their own people. For all she knew, she was a boarder with * Staff *! Ken fed, Jan Cleaned, Kelli, Maeve and I gave love, took them out on mini adventures and periodic grooming...they had people of their own. (ok, shared with a couple other horses!) But they did, in deed, have us ...and we enjoyed having them. I hope with all my heart that Jasmine felt like she had her own home and that she was happy with us. She certainly was loved and enjoyed while she was here.

In the years before her life with SAFE, she had been deprived of the very basic care a horse should have and none of the luxuries. Food was not a given in that life...but in her recovery, the mare once labeled as "aloof" began to form relationships with humans, learning there are some who bring you food, treats and love. In the end she had been offered everything she needed, anything she might want ...and a choice. With everything she could ever need offered to her, she got to choose to decline and travel the path her nature told her to go. I call that dignity. It was a better end than some of her herd mates had and really quite lovely when you get past the part where we are all still here and will miss her. She did not leave us...she went on, with purpose.

I called Dr. Tooman that night to tell him he would not need to come the next morning, that she was gone. He was shocked! He really thought she was going to pull through. While she was getting her IV Fluids, we had told him that although she was a rescue mare, she was anything but forgotten. This was not just some pathetic rescue horse that didn't mean anything except maybe to the people she ended up with. This horse had a following and at that very moment there were possibly 100's of people who were following her situation & waiting for updates. He was genuinely surprised. SAFE does an incredible job of giving each of it's horses it's own identity. While it serves many purposes, it does create an individuality to each horse. People choose particular horses for various reasons and that holds true in rescue. Sometimes it's a name, a color or a breed that makes them stand out to you, but it's really their story that captivates you. I hear time and time again that people follow this or that particular SAFE horse and they virtually add it to their family & check often for updates. I know there are people on the east coast, this weekend who are talking about Jasmine and her sudden and tragic loss. She really meant something to many of us. Her loss has brought tears to quite a few.

As Kelli, Heather & I sat beside her in the moonlight and talked about her life, Kelli pointed over my head and said "Look...a shooting star!" ...that has to mean something, doesn't it? Perhaps it was Jasmine crossing over to join Ella and her other herd mates who passed before her. Horses whom I sure she loved and belonged with. I hope she told them there were people here who would have helped them if we'd known & shares the stories of how we stood beside her and mourned for them...and continue to help horses in need.

Jasmine, I hope you forgive our intrusion but know that it was with the utmost love and respect that we acted in hopes of keeping you with us longer. No more pain, no more neglect...only happy times, running with Ella and your friends. I will miss you...we all will...but you will never be were a once in a lifetime horse. You possessed a courage that none of the rest of us did ... to let go and follow your path. I'm so happy that you got to do this on your own terms. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Great Paint Project: Part II

Where we left the Great Paint Project last (yes, I am aware some of you have been waiting since April!) Maeve had just put down the new shoes she was buying and returned to the barn with her rescue money...

We made a plan to meet Billie Jean, the owner, for lunch to talk and sign the sale documents. Over soup & salad she explained to us that she'd been going through a rough time emotionally and that her husband thought that having a horse might get her out more and perhaps her mood would improve. They bought Sugar who turned out to be "Spooks Sugar Bar None", a APHA Registered Paint mare who happened to be in foal & brought her directly to KCJ Stables.

It turned out that the barn did not have the appeal that her family had hoped for her and the longer the time between her visits grew, the more she felt even worse than before. It got so bad that even when we agreed to meet, she specified that it couldn't be at the barn because she could not face the horses. I assured her that the horses would be fine and all would be forgiven if she showed up with a cookie...but she insisted that we meet outside and after talking to her, I think I understand how much it all reminded her of how difficult this situation was for her. I got the sense that she did want what was best for the horses and was glad that she could get some peace of mind knowing that people like Maeve and I would do everything we could for them. She did understand that they could have gone into really bad situations and admitted that the people her husband had lined up to come pick them up were contacts of friends who were not even horse people and she honestly had no idea what their outcome would have been.

We signed a Bill of Sale on each horse and out of randomness, Maeve signed for Sugar and I signed for the colt. Billie Jean did tell us why she had meant to name him "Spirit" and it was because she felt like her mother's spirit was guiding her. At the time I had thought something with "Joker" or "Fool" in it was fun because of his April Fools Birthday (shared with my husband, by the way!). We left with a bit of sympathy for this owner who was in over her head emotionally and her guilt over abandoning them at the barn was, perhaps, coming to some closure that I feel she desperately needed. Clearly the rest of her life needed her attention...and these horses did too...and now they had NEW Mommies....and we had new projects.

Now that we had the actual written right to do so, we rushed back to the barn to tell the horses the good news...and yes, I do believe they sense things. Sugar clearly was starting to open up to us. I think some treats and grooming helped that. The wild colt, however, was going to need some expert handling so we brought in Chrissy to help us halter train him. This was needed if we were going to have any hope of taking him out of the pasture he'd spent all but the first 17 days of his life in. That was a bit daunting but ... it had to be done soon!

We decided that the colt needed to be gelded ASAP! Sugar needed her teeth done so we made an appointment with Dr. Tooman to do both on the same day. We had about two weeks to get the colt lead-able so that we could do his daily exercising for the two weeks following his procedure. Chrisy came out and started working with him to get him to move in directions and some basic ground manners. I believe it was down to the wire in terms of feeling "safe" with him before his appointment day, but I guess there's nothing like having to do something to make you just do it and come gelding day, we just got through it. That's all we could do, no choices. Gelding was the sanest thing I could think of to give this colt a chance at finding a forever home. Despite how cute and how pretty his coloring was, the last thing this world needed was another nearly homeless stud. So we made a decision to make it the first priority.

In the two weeks before the gelding/teeth appointment we were able to track down his previous owners to Billie Jean. The breeder who owned his sire had once owned Sugar as well. She informed me that this pair made such good looking & gentle spirited horses that they bred them a total of SIX times in as many years. She also told me that the owner she got Sugar from had paid for 30 days of professional training for Sugar but had been afraid to ride her because Sugar refused to take a bit & would toss her head violently. She thought it had been because someone in her past (not the breeder, from my impression) had tried to float her without sedation. It was thought, however, that the trainer who gave her 30 days came back and rode her fine, even on trails. She did confirm a story that Billie Jean had told us: that Sugar could be ridden in a halter or hackamore but would never take a bit.

So Sugar had been bred five times with the breeder I talked to and then sold to her daughter who bred her to the same stud, Macho Dee Bar (who has since been gelded when the horse economy forced them to shut down their breeding operation). Sugar was sold, infoal, to Billie Jean. They had no idea that the horses had ended up in the situation they were in, which I think speaks to the method in which SAFE rehomes it's horses using reference and site checks. I wonder how many straight sales go through any kind of appropriate match up of horse and human... my guess is that once the money passes hands it's no longer an issue to the most sellers. I do hear, with some regularity, that breeders often stand up for the get they produce and will sometimes take it back or help to rehome it when things go awry. That was my initial hope when I got in contact with the breeder.

Macho Dee Bar

I was told, however, that every single baby that Sugar produced got her easy going disposition and were easy to train. She went as far as to say that one person actually had two of the babies, liking one so much they purchased a second one. It was Cathy Atkinson, not the breeder, who informed me that their (former) stud, Macho Dee Bar, was the son of Barlink Macho Man, a multi-titled halter horse and Supreme Champion Sire. This colt was a grandson of this champion horse and was fortunate enough to get some of pattern genes ;-)

Interestingly enough, the breeder didn't seem to play up that breeding to any of the buyers who ended up with Sugars other babies. I've seen a few, perhaps three, on craigslist or Dream Horse and none have mentioned the amazing bloodlines their horses' have.

Barlink Macho Man

By the time the day came to start the horses on their way to recovery (and life as a gelding) the colt was showing his 'naughty' nature and Maeve started calling him Basil because his personality (or perhaps "horsenality") reminded her of her mischievous brother Basil (sounds like Razzle...not the herb). The idea of calling him anything with "Joker" or "Fool" in it now seemed inappropriate given the circumstances he came to us under.

When stories about free or abandoned horses circulate the crazies come out of the wood works. Early on in the process some 'friend of a friend' came out to see Basil and wanted to put him on an empty piece of property he owned in Gold Bar....but I had to wonder who would care for any horse(s) left there since this guy lived in Burien....and another former KCJ Boarder (who shall remain nameless) saw his photo and immediately wanted to take him to breed him to her mare. The overprotective mother in me thought "Good lord! he's not even a yearling yet!" and made me confirm his gelding appointment.

There was also a referral, a friend of the original breeder who was interested in taking the colt but when I informed them that I would want to do a site check, I never heard from them again. Even a fellow boarder was interested in him at one point but their other horse had some medical issues I wanted to see handled faster than I was seeing and I turned down that offer as well.

Maeve & I decided to test the waters, so to speak, with Sugar and see what she may/may not know. Maeve agreed to be the Crash Test Dummy but thankfully was neither! Sugar got saddled up and sat on with no indication of an issue. In fact, she was pretty agreeable!

The fist test of mutual trust was a Success!

So Basil's gelding/Sugar's teeth floating day came and Dr. Tooman breezed through the first half great! Basil left the stud world without a care but Sugar fought her floating and had to be given a (Tooman Equine) record FOUR doses of sedative to get her relaxed enough to complete the task.
Poor Sugar....after FOUR doses of sedative

It turned out that Sugar had probably NEVER had her teeth floated in her six year career as a broodmare and the story about the attempt at floating her teeth was probably more accurately a floating attempt with insufficient sedation. Two days later Chrissy came out to give us a hand with Basil's recovery exercise and to check Sugar out. When we told her that the last three owners all seemed to think that Sugar would never take a bit, Chrissy simply said "We'll see about that!" and with a minimal amount of fuss, got Sugar to take a snaffle bit. (have I mentioned that I think Chrissy's a horse-whisperer?) The following day Sugar took the bit with no issue at all and has never refused it since. I guess it's all in what you believe...the other owners believed she never would. Chrissy believed the opposite and my experience has always been to always trust Chrissy.

So I'm going to make this a stopping point with the hope that it won't be another 3 months before I pick it up again. I will, however, leave with a few photos we've collected of one of Sugar's Other babies....and Basil's Full-Sibling....


Home of the the Rain!

Again with the big lapse in me, it stares at me every day and says "When are you going to write again?"

The truth is that I've had quite a bit on my mind lately and, unfortunately, I feel much of it's just not best aired on my blog. I will say that there's quite a bit of turmoil in the local rescue world (in several areas) and it hurts my heart that the community is not united. I do have observations & opinions but I doubt that posting them would make anything better. All any of us want is to know the truth...what ever that truth is. I've found that empty spaces get filled with other people's creative version. The best policy is to tell the "whole" truth....and I'll leave it at that.

I have been finding time for fun despite the dark mood I've found myself in of late...

Dressage is still playing a front & center role and I'm kinda liking it! I captured myself a volunteer post for a couple of days at the Equestrian Institute's Chablis Sport Horse & Dressage Day and Beaujolais shows at Donida a few weekends ago. I got assigned Ring Steward at the warm-up arena and that was actually quite enlightening. Being a part of the inner-workings of the show and enteracting with people getting ready to ride their tests gave me some insight to what goes into it. Some folks were ready to go and if things were running fast, they were more than happy to start early. Other's wanted to get every moment possible to calm nerves or settle a horse they weren't 100% sure was ready.

The two days I was there was the weather was beyond challenging. We were supposed to be entering summer yet it was cold and rainy. What really impressed me most was the dedication of the riders. Here were these big fancy horses and the riders in their expensive show clothes out there in the sometimes pouring rain. There's no rain delay in this game! (take THAT Baseball!) The riders amazed me. While it wasn't exactly fun to stand out there stewarding them, that they were there, in spite of the weather, gave me the incentive to be there for them.

The show itself was run extremely well and it was easy to catch on to what needed to be done. They require you to sign up on the EI website as an official Equestrian Institute Volunteer. This way they can assign you tasks before the show and notify you of upcoming opportunities. The folks from EI were supportive, friendly and fun....and the bonus is that they give you gifts for helping!! Each day I got vouchers for food at the concession stand and the choice of a lovely gift based on the number of shifts worked. I walked away with a great folding chair with TWO cup holders and the Equestrian Institute Logo. I've already used it at another show and at my home barn watching Basil in training (more on that soon!). I liked it so much that I signed up for The Champagne Classic in two weeks.

Last weekend I was back at Donida again for their Dressage & Jumper schooling show. Ruth was there with Jack & Chrissy brought a whole crew from her barn. It was great fun to watch them all do their dressage tests and to see the girls do their jumper runs. In their height category, they took First, Second, Third & Fifth. The delight of the day was her Pony Bear with Lexi on board who took the Blue Ribbon!! He's one awesome little pony! I was so happy for everyone. They did such a great job!

Chrissy has challenge me to get Coconut out there & try a Dressage Test. At first I thought "no way!" it's hard enough to get her to listen to me sometimes, I could hardly imagine having her listen to me 100% for several minutes non-stop...but Chrissy has assured me that I can do this...and she has that way of knowing better than I do what I can do so I've downloaded Intro Test A & B and have been practicing at home on a smaller scale. In fact, today I walked her though both patterns just to get them into my head. I only had to refer to the copies I pinned to the arena rail once in between. I set up a much smaller dressage arena because we've had heavy rains the last two days (isn't it SUMMER???) so when it dries out a bit, I'll expand my pseudo arena and measure it out better. Maybe I'm being a wimp compared to the brave riders at the EI show, but our arena was not just wet, it was muddy and the footing makes me uncomfortable at anything above a walk (ok....we probably all know that's just a trot for the Nut & I). I did make her do some walking, standing & backing up in the puddles even though she's convinced it's not a place for the delicate hooves of the Arabian Princess!

I know some folks have been waiting on the next installment of the Great Paint Project...and that's something I REALLY need to catch up on because there's exciting stuff to tell about a certain two year old gelding...but I really need to get back to that story....

...and lastly...this weekend is FULL of birthdays....not only is it our Country's 234th but we're also celebrating SAFE Board Members Jenny (the 3rd) & Jaime (the 4th). So SAFE horses Lola & Jasmine got in the spirit of things and induldged me the following photo shoot....what good sports they were! The Birthday Party Pony Crew & I wish you, Jenny, Jaime & America, a very Happy Birthday!