Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life cycle of equines...

From Jim: Equines are herd/prey herbivores. The evolutionary processes which shaped their successful behaviors also impacted their life cycle. When you look at a freshly born foal, their legs are hard to overlook. They have very small, but perfectly formed hooves, a brush of a tail, great big eyes, tiny little milk teeth in smallish head. They were packaged to be able to pass through the birth canal and still have the capacity to quickly stand, move with the herd, and reach the mare's udder. Within hours, they are ready to be with the herd as it seeks forage and water. When a young horse grows, it's kind of piecemeal. They high in rear, then leggy in the front, then thin-thin-thin, then more bulky, and so on and so on. They always able to stay with the herd as they grow. For our human purposes, they need at least 3 and better 4 years before starting to do our "work". This has to do with their total development. Their muscles, connective tissues, bones, nervous system, heart and lungs need to mature. So does their mind. A horse that is mentally immature will be much harder to train and manage. Oh sure, ground manners, and "imprinting" are beneficial, but real work needs to wait until the animal is grown. Think about this when you consider the racing industry's practices. Horses life span varies by breed, but generally, they enjoy a healthy adult life. Again, those animals that were prone to be sick or disabled by genetic issues didn't survive to reproduce. Unfortunately, our enlightened breeding practices-looking for a particular trait or characteristic, i.e., speed, has undone a lot of what nature had addressed. We now have fast horses with bad feet, pretty Appies that go blind, drafts with leg problems, and a myriad of other issues we've bred in. The horse ages well and by it's late teens is becoming a senior. Most would be eliminated from the herd as the consequences of aging made them more vulnerable to predation, injury, or exposure. In a natural setting, the healthier and younger animals would drive the older animals away from the best food and shelter. By their early 20's, a horse's teeth stop erupting. All further wear results in the teeth being worn to the gums. The gut thickens and becomes less efficient. Soles thin out and hoof walls weaken. The senses begin to fail. As connective tissues age and weaken, the conformation changes, down on the pasterns, a sway in the back, deep pockets over the eyes, a pronounced tail root all start to appear. They look like an old horse. Their teeth are worn down in the arcades, the front teeth long, round, no groove, and very "flat" with the jaw line. End of life for horses in a natural setting comes fairly swiftly. They fall prey, suffer a catastrophic injury, or become fatally ill with a disease. When they can't stay with the herd, they're done. Most of the time, this occurs well before their dental issues are a problem. We, with modern vet care, have extended the lifespan of our pets. We have also kept the quality of their lives at a better level. We can control and modify their diet. We can protect them from disease and intervene when they're sick or injured. We can shelter them from exposure. Having said that, horses are what they are. They are prey/herd animals that eat plants. They need time to grow when young, good care during their working adult years, and a safe supportive retirement. That's what we owe them when we take them from what nature shaped them for.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


From Jim: Oh Lord. Called an old dear friend, who has been our mechanic for the past 30 years, to get the Ford in for service and brakes. He wasn't in. His lead mechanic told me he was home, diagnosed with melanoma which had fully metastasized-lungs, liver, brain. He was in the care of hospice, but at home. We called, had a short talk. He's very weak. We're going over to see him this afternoon if his wife says he's up to it. Well, that sure gives you cause to stop and reflect. Because of our herd's age and history, we deal with end of life pretty much all of the time. It's still always a shock when a dear friend comes to that place. Our friend was an honest, hard working family man. He raised great kids. His marriage was the heart of his life. His business was based on his personal values of fairness and good work. He is a good man. He is a man of great faith, a devout Christian. I've said for a very long time, since Donna's bout with cancer, all of us are always one diagnosis away from a new agenda. The things we worried about, the 'big issues" we chewed on, fade away in a moment. Our place in the cosmos and the way we've lived and conducted our lives looms up before us. The people we have touched and how they respond to us takes on a very new meaning. We will hold our dear friend close in our hearts. We will offer up prayers and do what can be done to comfort and support him and his family. There's really nothing else we can do-any of us. Our kind finds our way to the rainbow bridge in a variety of ways and on many different paths. It is a something to contemplate as the holy holidays are upon us. When our time is near, how will we feel about the road we chose to take? Everyday is a blessing to be treasured and used to serve a cause greater than ourselves. Our friend sure knew this and the way he lived is a testament to his values and beliefs. We'll go see him today. We'll say Good Bye. Oh Lord.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Silence is Deadly...

From Jim: Our nation's equine population is and has been at a state of crisis for awhile now. Most folks in our land don't know this because horses and other equines are not a part of the content of their daily lives or thoughts. The new movie "War Horse" will bring a million tears to eyes over the holidays. The movie image of horses, of a bygone time, of melodrama will be furthered. The reality of the suffering and death of these great animals won't be noted and certainly, there will be no call to national action. The silence of this tragedy is profoundly sad-for us and the horses. The times find people confronted with so many challenges that adding one more critical need is tough to do. Well, "tough to do" is still no excuse for doing nothing. If you're reading this blog, you probably have and/or love horses. You are a member of small and getting smaller group. The urbanization of America has given fewer and fewer kids the chance to grow up around large animals. The closest a lot of them get is a coloring book or a movie or TV program. Those of us that know these wonderful animals must become their advocates. There isn't anyone else. The truth about what's happening to our equine population needs to become common knowledge for the general public. Don't expect our dysfunctional government to help. They're part of the problem. Nope, It's going to fall on us, the horse people and animal lovers to carry the message, to give a voice to the herds, the advocate for the abused critter. There's no excuse for the horrible behavior of our society regarding this issue. If it's due to ignorance, let's fix that. Help us make this issue loud, clear, and unmistakable. It's a good thing to do. You'll feel good about doing it!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Horsey Holidays!

From Jim: Do critters need gifts for the holidays? Of course not, they're not even aware that such a thing exists. We constantly put human feelings and thoughts on our animals and it's really not fair. When we buy something for our pets, we're actually buying it because we like how we feel when we do it. The blingy new halter/headstall/breast strap or do-dad is not going to mean nearly so much as some quality time spent loving on your horse. Their social agenda is about interaction and feelings-not stuff. They don't give each other gifts-never have, never will. Your good friend, who happens to be an equine, wants you to spend time with them. A treat is not a bad idea either. Special meals? Changing an equine's diet can be down right dangerous-colic and all. The day in and day out consistent care and feeding means everything. The regular gentle and appropriate interactions really count. Maybe the best "gift" is a new year's resolution to spend more time with your horse. They really do like to be groomed and petted. Hand grazing and quiet walks seem to be welcome. Becoming a better and more knowledgeable horse person can make a real difference to your animal. How about rescuing an unwanted animal and giving it it's life? Now there's a real gift. The battle to keep our humanness from getting in the way of our horse skills never seems to end. They will tolerate our inability to not try and humanize them, but I guarantee they don't like or understand it. Fancy gifts and "things" in general are for us not them. If we want to celebrate our human holidays, that's fine. But please, don't delude yourself about "critter holidays". They're too much into being the best animal they know how to be every single day to set aside special days to be "really good". Go out and love on your horse! You'll both enjoy it. Do it every day and they can all be 'holidays"!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Too Much? Too Many?

From Jim: The reality of operating a 75 horse/mule/donkey sanctuary with some goats and calves thrown in can be a cause to stop and question your sanity. The daily chores require about 6 hours apiece every day. The costs, with no unexpected expenses run into 4 or 5 thousand dollars a month. We always expect unexpected expenses and seldom get disappointed. The scale of managing the place sometimes seems overwhelming. Hay prices are up and will probably rise some more. Donations are down. The economy is not nice to unwanted animals. We are often asked, "Why so many"? Well, our answer is pretty much always the same. You choose who dies. Without Home At Last, these animals have no place to go-NO PLACE TO GO. That means literally leave the planet. If you spend even a day, let alone everyday, with these animals, you would understand that they deserve to live. Their stories of survival and recovery and endurance and resilience are powerful. Their love of life undeniable. I have said before that each of our residents is a beloved pet. Well, that's absolutely true. We have come to know all of our critters as individuals and as friends. It's as simple as this. Around here, things can be inconvenient for us two leggeds. For the four leggeds, it's a matter of life or death. Not much an equation is it? (Note: chickens and guineas have two legs, but don't wish to be counted with us) We have so many folks that help us financially, with volunteer work, with donations, with moral support. Our vet, hay grower, the worm farm, the thrift store, our board of directors, Tractor Supply in Oroville, the rendering plant, our neighbors and friends, our donors, our farrier, and so and so-without them, What would we do? We didn't set out to be a sanctuary. We were led it by the needs that we came to know. So, too much?, too many?, I don't think so.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday...

From Jim: This is a non-horse related blog. Our current failed economy was premised on rampant consumption of planned obsolescent items purchased with credit. The consumer economy model is a guaranteed disaster. We are deeply in debt, as individuals, as a nation, and as a global economy. Much of our nation's wealth is in the landfills or shipped off-shore. We have destroyed our housing industry with financial manipulations which created almost unimaginable debt. The fact that we're not even half way through the toxic mortgages ought to be a sobering thought. Our middle class is an endangered species. The lifetime work of building equity in their homes wiped out. The "too big to fail" financial speculators were bailed out by the very people they destroyed and are continuing to destroy. We have been on the wrong road for a long time and are scrambling to get back to it as a "path to recovery". Our poor capitalistic system has become corporate socialism of the worst sort. This has impacted our political system terribly and endangered the entire republic. When I hear that the retailers are hoping for an even bigger spending binge, I just shake my head. Pogo said long ago, "We have met the enemy and he is us"! I don't have a few "talking point" simple answers and neither does anyone else. The mess we're in will takes years to correct and demands a change in our national behaviors. If we continue to be driven by greed, acquisition, and self gratification, without any sense of a common purpose and real values, we're pretty much done-and ought to be. I hope the holidays will re inspire us to reflect on what really counts in life. Stuff ain't it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stuart, The Kiger Mustang

From Jim: Stuart is a beautiful red dun Kiger with all of the primitive markings you expect from these great horses. He has a dorsal stripe, jack stripes on his withers, and the distinctive tiger strips on his legs. His tail and mane are full and luxurious. What really makes Stuart so very special is his kind and gentle mind. We've had four Kigers here and everyone of them has a wonderful disposition. Stuart's eyes are soft, soft, soft. He is peaceful and calm and willing. We first met him at Horse Plus, formerly Norcal Equine Rescue. Tawnee has gotten him off of a feedlot. He had been ridden unshod on concrete until he road foundered. His sheath was so dirty he struggled to urinate. He was 200 pounds underweight. He was judged to be unadoptable, the picture of a Home At Last candidate. Dr. Gary Darling and Aaron Hamon, our farrier, went to work. We provided the ample food and daily care for this critter. He responded as is the nature of his kind by regaining his soundness and becoming a magnificent example of his breed. It took about two years, as his feet were very bad and needed to completed regrow. During that time, he was in shoes with pads-reset every four weeks. Because of his extremely gentle nature, Stuart is in with our upper herd, a quiet bunch. His best friend is Skittles, a little Quarterhorse mare. They spend their days hanging out, eating together, and napping. Life for them is very good. One of first residents was a Kiger named Sweet. If ever a horse got the right name, he sure did. When he got his wings it was a sad day on the sanctuary. Stuart reminds me so much of old Sweet. Our other Kigers are mares, Rosie and Tiger Lily. They are sweet too, but have marish days and that's just what it is. Love Kigers! If you ever have the good fortune to acquire one, I am certain you will too!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To Serve A Cause Beyond Yourself....

From Jim: We're in this together, like it or not. Life, I mean. Our ability to think and be self-aware and aware of others makes it impossible to live in isolation. We, each of us, can and should find a way to "be for others". I can't tell you what that might mean for you. It could be your commitment to your marriage or your family. It could be your participation in your church or a community organization. Perhaps it's in service to your country. You might have a part in the protection and care of our fellow living creatures. The point is that life is fuller and more meaningful if you can get past your self and serve a greater cause. Selflessness is a state of being. When we lose track of ourselves, we are at our greatest. That's something our kind has noted for a very long time. We extend our highest medals and honors for the most selfless acts. All of us are put off by egomaniacs and self inflated boors. I suppose true selflessness knows modesty is it's purest form. There is no thought about recognition or reward-anonymity is desired, protected. Quiet, deliberate, humble service makes for some very good times indeed. The days go by. The appreciation for what is accomplished is private and sweet and honest. There isn't a need for approval or praise-it is it's own reward. One of the nicest things you can do for yourself is the serve a cause beyond yourself. Sounds counter-intuitive, but I think most of us know it's true.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Sense of Humor...and Horse Sense...

From Jim: When you live and work on a ranch, you better have a good capacity for laughter. Around here, the constant state of "Murphy's Law" is about all that's constant. The list of "what now?" is a growing and amusing issue. You quickly learn that any celebration of any successful task will surely bring about retribution on a massive scale-epic even! This can either get you down or tickle your funny bone! I find the amusement of it all to be more comfortable. Does that mean that there are only smiles, giggles and good-natured comments-Oh No! The senseless outbursts of rancor and railing against the outrageous fortunes of cosmic injustice are all part of the fun-Unless you're Donna. Then there's the attempt to make it all good with the universe, which can be it's own delightful theater. You see, the moment is not where the humor lies, it's the end of the day, when the time to put it all to rest is near, that your own silliness can really be appreciated. The ebb and flow of problems and problem solving, breakage and repairs, successes and failures, frustration and laughter make for a very rich content of daily life. The "horse sense" of a sense of humor comes from years of finding out how important perspective is. In the very long run, most of the things that just drive us crazy really don't matter anyway. We are a funny species. We just don't always appreciate how funny we are!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving, For all these gifts we are grateful...

From Jim: Everyday on the sanctuary there are countless moments to reflect on the wonderful gifts life has given us. Some of newest arrivals had their teeth floated and, with plenty to eat, they are blossoming! Not only are they gaining weight and showing shiny coats, they are at peace. It's a joy to watch the critters fold into the herd, make friends, find their place, stand guard and be guarded at nap time, engage in some shedding and horseplay. We are thankful to be here to see and enjoy this daily. The soft comforting sounds of hay being chewed, the snuzzle and head rub, the quiet spiritual eye contacts are wonderful moments. We have the support and encouragement of so many friends. They make our journey through this life so much richer. We have the satisfaction of watching our senior equines at retirement. They have given so much and so deserve to live in security and rest. We see those that have healed from severe injuries and adapted to those wounds which will never return to normal and we are humbled by their dignity and grace. How could you not be thankful to be allowed to be a part of that. We are amazed at the trust and friendship given to us by those critters that were abused and mistreated and still find a way to love us. We are thankful for the opportunities we have been given to serve and care for our sanctuary's residents. To have our beautiful goats and calves look into your soul with the innocence and vulnerability that babies bring is a blessing beyond measuring-only thanks will do. We have the loyalty and love of our dogs, the affection and purring of the cats, and the joyful chaos that the chickens and guineas can provide over even the simplest event. Our days are filled with the celebration of life prevailing over great challenges, of knowing creatures that have so much to teach us, of drinking deeply from the cup of being here. Thanks at the sanctuary is regularly occurring theme-a state of mind. We hope everyone will have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and enjoy the giving of thanks everyday!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Horsey Boo Boos...

From Jim: If you've spent any time around horses, you know they can cut themselves on a marble, pull up sore from yawn, and get lumps and bruises in a rubber stall. They're big, powerful, robust animals, but can be very fragile. Some of them seem really accident prone. Your equine vet is always your first line of defense when something looks bad to you. Expensive, yep! Sometimes a little first-aid and home care can work out OK, but the animal's welfare and health is the primary issue. You need to have a few items on hand to make your efforts easier and more effective. We offer suggestions, not endorsements. Vet wrap-the stuff that sticks to itself, feminine napkins-Kotex, baby diapers, topical wound treatment-we like Vetricin or Accelerator, benedine, plain old bleach, epsom salts, ichthamol, duct tape, and assorted guasses, wraps, and cotton padding make up a short list. Tools include a good hoof pick-a hoof tester if you're up to it, a stethoscope, thermometer-rectal-yeh, I know, with a lanyard, clippers, and a good bright flashlight. You might add other tools as you skills and confidence grow. We give a lot of injections at Home At Last. We do this with the advise of our vet and under his informed supervision. If your vet is willing to take the time to teach the proper and safe techniques, being able to give a shot to a horse is a great skill to have. The wait for a ranch call can be more comfortable if your critter has some banimine on board. Follow ups on antibiotics or steroids and so on will be a lot easier and less expensive. The treatment you provide should never become do-it-yourself vet care. Experience will help you to identify severe emergencies from the regular stuff that horses do to themselves or have happen to them. Colic, surging blood loss, eye injuries, nasty nasal discharge, high fevers, choke, gaping wounds, respiratory distress, fractures, and anything you're really unsure about always need the vet's attention. One last word on this, if you have a really good vet, he or she will want to see your animal. Phone conversations are not enough to accurately prescribe a course of treatment. As Clint Eastwood said so eloquently, "A man's got to know his limitations". Oh, and go love on your horse, it's good for both of you!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Critters and Us...

From Jim: A recurring conversation around here has to do with our relationship with the critters. We have come to understand and appreciate that we share this world with them and that they seem to see that too. We don't feel like "owners" or "masters", just other critters. We respect their differences from us and believe it is really unfair to expect them to be like us-to be "human". They're not, can't be, never will be. We have the cognitive capacity to recognize this and, thus, the obligation to behave correspondingly. The very fact that we can be accepted into their "culture" is profound, and to us deeply spiritual. The sanctuary is populated with all manner of creatures. There's the equines, of course. There are also the calves and goats. We have cats and dogs and chickens and guineas. We also are visited by a number of members of the wildlife community. They're not so welcoming of us, but they are still a part of this place. We try to get along with them-except for flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and so on. I suppose we're not to gracious to equine parasites either. On the other hand, the visiting song birds, wild turkeys, chorus frogs, raccoons and squirrels, and the ravens sure are fun to have around. The point is we don't see ourselves as superior beings. We're privileged to have a seat at the table. This old world would be a sad place without the critters that share it with us.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Room...with a view! Horse space

From Jim: So how much room does a horse need? Really? We know that in a natural setting, horses cover around 10 miles a day. We know it is the horse's nature to move, to travel in several different gaits, to play, buck, rear and kick, and so on. An average sized horse requires an area 50' by 150' to perform all of the activities it is capable of doing. The dimensions are flexible, but a straight run which doesn't require a very sharp turn or quick stop is what's needed. Horses like to move about. They are healthier when they can give themselves exercise and, when with other horses, get in some social activity. There are those who argue for flat soft ground. I'm of the "slopes and slants" school, and a rougher terrain makes for better feet and balance-and more attention to what you're doing. I like horses that look around and make good choices in where they're going. I prefer that their hooves are unshod and as near natural as possible. Rougher ground helps this to happen. Slopes and slants build muscle and coordination. That said, obvious hazards that can cause injuries need to be removed from a horse's turn-out and it makes sense to check for anything new that might become a problem pretty often. It's surprising how much dirt horse's move around when they travel. Some of our turn-outs are starting to look terraced. We don't have ruts along the fence lines. I think it's because there's enough room that pacing the fences doesn't happen much. Another nice thing about slopy slanty ground is that it drains quickly. That means less mud and mire. (We still have more than we want!) Everyone of our turn-outs has enough flat ground to provide a good spot to roll. There's also access to shade, wind breaks and sunny spots for naps. We do not have white rail fences on lush pastures. We have allowed our ground to become pretty barren as a nod to our high fire danger in the foothills. Ladder fuel can be a real issue for us. The more our equines can live a "normal" life, the better. We have to feed hay as most of our herd couldn't maintain of pasture alone. We've taken in a number of senior horses that were "put out to pasture" and nearly starved to death. They just don't have the teeth and the pasture didn't have the nutritional value. So, I guess the take-away lesson here is to make sure horses have enough room to do what horses do. If that includes some grazing that's good. If there's a way to meet social and conditioning needs that's good. If the ground promotes healthier feet that's good. A 12'x12' stall with a 12'x12' run out is just not sufficient in my opinion. If your animal is boarded, make sure they get ample turn-out time. Be sure to spend some of with your critter. You'll both like it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Engarde! Fencing, sort of...

From Jim: Secure fences are an absolute necessity when you have horses. Their safety and your liability demand it. You want to keep them in and potential troubles out! Stray dogs and some wildlife can be a real problem. So can two-leggeds be up to no good or just do stupid stuff and cause grief. The issue is that to build a strong effective fence that is "horse friendly". That can be a real trick, since equines revel in destroying fences. Donna's big Appy is pretty sure rubbing your tail out on gates will be the next Olympic equine sport and he intends to be ready. Walking down field fencing, chewing on boards, pushing over posts, and, worst of all, getting injured and big vet bills, pain, and suffering and time out of service are all considerations and realities. We use combination fences of 48" field fence topped and centered with electric rope for perimeter fencing-double rowed wherever possible and three strands of electric rope for cross fencings, alley ways, and so forth. Gardens and people space also get field fence-usually no climb-which is another myth. I expect to repair fences all of the time. Daily, little repairs-Weekly, more serious work, and,every so often, a full day or two of putting the place back together. Fences wear out. Electric fencing has a service life of several years. Corrosion, UV degradation, Mechanical damage all take a toll. Field fencing gets brittle and bent and stretched. Wooded fences rot and fall apart. Barbed wire and high tension plain wire are absolute no-no's for horses. It cuts them to ribbons, causes terrible injuries, some permanent, and can cause fatalities. Just not worth it. So, We say "I'm fixing fences, I must own horses"! The best fencing is strong enough to keep the animals in and forgiving enough to not create awful injuries. Fences are just part of the deal!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tiny Horse, Big Heart!

From Jim: Gracie, AKA-Amazing Gracie, is currently our only miniature horse. We've had others, Drifter and Lower Case Jack. Minis are not ponies. They are proportioned like full sized horses, have a registry, and are among the most people oriented equines on the planet. They're little. Ours have been from 26" to 30"s-6 1/2 to 7 1/2 hands. They have all had really full manes and tails. Minis seem to come in all the standard horse colors. They are calm of mind and naturally gentle. They are not stuffed animals or pretend horses. They are very much real horses and need to be treated as such. Ground manners are really important and the usual knowledge of loading in trailers and getting foot care and so forth are necessary for them to have. They need the same standard of care by the vet, inoculations, worming, sheath cleaning, dental care and so on as full sized horses. They can be injured if asked to take on tasks inappropriate for their stature. Any that would "ride" a mini should never exceed 10% of the animal's weight, tack included. Very light draft work may be OK, again care should be taken in selecting equipment and tack. Showing at halter and performing in-hand seems to be the best bet for these animals. They are immense fun to be around-just full of personality. Gracie is a documented service animal. She will visit the house bound and infirm, the ill and recuperating. She will be an ambassador to schools, events, and groups. Her story of abuse, rescue, and recovery is wonderful. Her willingness to share her peace and joy of life inspiring. We have loved all of our minis, and when Drifter and Lower Case Jack got their wings, we felt a great loss. They were not a miniature part of our lives...neither is Gracie. She's amazing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pets, by law and by nature...

From Jim: Equines are defined by California law as pets. The federal tax statutes make the a hobby. They are not, by legal definition, livestock, food animals, or anything else agricultural. If you have an equine, you already know there's no tax benefit. I suppose if you're in the horse business you might find some business loopholes, but they're "business" not "horse" tax breaks. It seems that the government(s) are not so horse friendly. BLM practices, slowness to pass and enforce anti-slaughter laws both here and in the export market are even more of an indication of a negative attitude towards equines. The Texas park rangers shooting feral donkeys, to include babies-another marker. I wonder how well it would have gone down if they had limbered up their rifles to take out golden retrievers or poodles. Animal control officers are often not trained or equipped to handle equines and usually counties have few or no facilities for them. Most rescues and sanctuaries are private entities, usually 501C3's. They are public charities. Government funding or support? ZERO! Hassles with tax agencies, yeh-that can happen. We're a California Non-profit corporation. Does the state ever mess with us-Only whenever they can. We spend thousands of dollars for an accounting firm and endless hours of record/book keeping and documentation to be beyond clean and transparent. Our non-profit thrift store pays sales taxes and city fees. The tax exempt status is sort of conditional. If all of us who take on unhomed, unwanted, seized, or abandoned equines got out of the game, animal control would be overwhelmed. They would euthanize the animals and that would be that! No kill equine pounds-not so much. Do we believe equines are pets? Absolutely! And so do they. Should the government do more? Any positive action they would take would be an improvement over their current behaviors and policies. Our local animal control folks are great. They do as much as they can with the limited resources they're given. They're animal advocates and animal lovers. The county supervisors, state officials, federal politicos-equines don't have much of a chance with them. It's really too bad that our society has chosen to just hope the problem takes care of itself. It won't. The equines in our USofA are having a pretty hard time of it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Simple is Better...

From Jim: Donna and I run a sanctuary for equines. There's some goats and calves and dogs and cats and chickens and guineas, but it is a sanctuary for equines-donkeys, hinneys, mules, and horses. We have over 70 equines here. They're all ages, breeds, and have a variety of special needs. Every single one of our critters tries to be the very best they can be. They take life as it comes, keep their peace, and welcome each new day with all they have. They have come to understand that here they are safe, that there will be food and water, that their injuries will be cared for, that only gentle hands will touch them. They are expected to be safe to handle and cooperate with their care. If not, there are lessons-never punishment. Our ground rules are SIMPLE. This place exists for the resident animals. The folks that are here are part of the resident animals. Our kind and their kind have an equal right to be here. The quality of LIFE is critical for all that live here-except flies, mosquitoes, ticks and other rotten pests-they all get to die a lot. Our herd animals live in herds. No critter is the only one of his or her species-everyone has a friend or two. Friendships are respected. Animals that are bonded are never separated from each other. If one is ill or injured, his/her friend is stalled next door. Small turnouts keep less dominant sorted out from the too dominant. Every critter here is considered to be a treasured pet and worthy of love and attention. The most stand-offish are still spoken to gently and given treats-even at arm's length. Consideration for what is best for the animal(s) gets top priority. We check and double check to make sure we're staying on task. WE GET OFF TASK! And, then, we get back to the real work at hand. Our test is simple-is the sanctuary really and truly a sanctuary? Activities and attitudes that interfere with that banner question are avoided or eliminated. Behaviors and sentiments that answer in the affirmative are amplified and encouraged. Simple! Ya Think?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Lesson of Joe Paterno...Do the Right thing!...

From Jim: I think Joe Paterno is a good man that really screwed up. I believe he is extremely sorry for the awful events that occurred at Penn State in the showers of his locker room and the unspeakable behavior of his assistant coach. I believe him when he says he wishes he had done more at the time and that he deeply regrets the pain of the children and their families. Having said that, there is no doubt in my mind that he knows he should have called the police. He should have pressed the grad-intern for the details of what he saw. He didn't do the Right Thing and he knows it. Those above him are also to blame, but they're "administrators". They didn't have the close contact with Sandusky. They didn't have the "moment of truth" with the shaken intern. The real lesson is that the time to do the Right Thing is "time perishable". You have that window, when your values and core beliefs are on the line. It's brief and fleeting. Then you're locked into the forever of "Why Didn't You?" I've thought about how tragic this situation is. How the failings of proud men put little kids in harm's way. How they were sexually abused by a predator that should have been stopped years ago. How doe's Joe Paterno sleep at night, look in the mirror, greet his family? How doe's he answer "Why Didn't You?" The duty we owe to children is profound. They need all us to make sure they're safe and secure. They need us to protect them from evil. Joe Paterno knows that and he knows he failed when it really counted. That's got to be awful. I hope he can somehow find peace, but I don't how he'll do that. There are young people suffering to this day because he didn't do the Right Thing, and they didn't need to. Win/Loss? How about total loss.

Longears, Cont...

From Jim: Donkeys are thought to be the most often abused animal on the planet. They are overworked, underfed, brutally trained, equipped with the crudest ill-fitting draft tack, and almost never given proper medical treatment by their third world owners. Even the modern nations, ours included, mistreats them. The recent round-ups, if you can call what BLM does a "round-up", and the Texas park rangers' slaughter of them by rifle fire are the realities of our enlightened society. We have four wonderful donkeys at the sanctuary. Jenny was almost starved to death as a Jennet. Seized by a local animal control, she was dragged behind a truck. Her larynx was broken and a huge gaping hole was worn in her hip. It took months to heal. Her "hee haw" is only a "hee". She took two years of gentle care to overcome her fear of people. Jessie was a BLM round-up refugee. Her "adopters" wanted her for pack work. Their idea of training consisted of beating her. We had her at the sanctuary for four years before she could again trust our kind. Jonathan, a 45 year old, was used for roping. His neck and front leg were broken. He can't hold his head up or get arise without our help. His poor right front toes out at 45 degrees and he shuffles along, held down and twisted off to the side, peering up at the world. He is now a complete love. It took him over a year on the sanctuary to allow us to pet him. Dobbin is middle to late 30's. He is the gentlest guy you could ever meet. He has some health issues and it's hard to hold weight on him, but he endures and perseveres. He always up for a hug and a massage. These animals are profoundly dignified and spiritual. They come to life with a peace and patience and resilience we all can learn from. We love em to bits!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Flatbed Chronicles...

From Jim: The sanctuary needed a vehicle to haul hay-a lot of hay- 325 tons a year of hay. This chore fell to a 1986 F-350 flatbed truck. This magnificent machine is a "dually", has a 460 big block V-8, a Borg-Warner T18 trans, vacuum boosted brakes, about a billion miles on it. It has a few peculiarities. Actually, it has a lot of em. At some point in it's life, it was given a heater-ectomy, so I'll need to salvage the whole heater unit out of the 80 F-250 farm truck, which never leaves the ranch-not licensed or road worthy. The flatbed's starter motor gets too much heat from the header pipes and won't crank the engine over unless it's cooled with an old flyspray bottle full of water. I could replace the starter, but that would be giving in. The only thing that rattles is everything. It's probably not possible to put your hand on this beauty without touching a dent or scratch. There's a full length crack in the windshield, but it's pretty easy to see around. The seat has new "used saddleblanket" seat covers. The bed got new lumber. We're using the old wood in the stove to keep the chill off the house. Lyle welded some cut-off blocks onto the overload springs, so this baby will not carry a full block of hay-60 bales. At 130 to 140 pounds per bale, it's the perfect load for a one ton! Because the rearend is geared lower than Banjo the calf's belly, 50 miles per hour is all you're gonna get. I'm not real popular on the freeway. The joy of a truck like this is that it didn't use up a lot of money that can go to the care of the critters. Our artist friend, Sue, wants to paint the names of all the animals that have come to the sanctuary on the old girl. I like that. Maybe a picture or three as well. Sue writes children's books and illustrates them. I suspect there's a literary future for the flatbed. Thinking about a contest to name this fine piece of machinery. We'll have to see about that. You might want to ponder appropriate appellations. Well, there you have it, reflections on a flatbed.

Monday, November 7, 2011


From Jim: Equines live a long time by "pet" standards. They are "useful" for a limited time during their life-if unrestricted riding is the measure. They take years to mature, months and months to train, constant care all of the time, and additional care when asked to work rigorously. They age out of hard work, like all of us, and, eventually, need to be completely retired. The least committed owners want the best years of a horse's life, then that animal is discarded for another prime critter, and so on and so on. This applies to all the riding disciplines from racing, to eventing, to rodeo, to recreational, to breeding, to showing, to any equine activity. These owners, in my opinion, are completely irresponsible and are, in no way, horsemen or women. They are users and verge on being abusers. The true horse person knows they have assumed a life time obligation for the animal. They understand the realities and limitations that, as living things, horses have. Colts can't be hurried in their growth and development. Training is time and talent and money consuming. Responsible use always puts the animal's welfare first. Retirement, from lightened work to full "out to pasture" time is part of the deal. 25, 35, or more years is a long road. That's what having a horse is about. If you're not up for that, try gerbils!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


From Jim: We have quite a few longears-mules, hinneys, and donkeys-at the sanctuary. They're pretty amazing animals. Donkeys are fully a species of the equine family. They go by several names. Burros, asses, and donkeys are all the same animal. There are quite a few color variations and patterns. They can also vary a lot in size, from miniatures to mammoths. They are fertile and reproduce naturally. They have 46 chromosomes and are considered to be a more primitive animal than the horse, which has 48 chromosomes. Mules and hinneys are hybrids, half horse-half donkey. Because they have an odd number of chromosomes, they are considered sterile. They do not reproduce naturally. Donkey females are called Jennies, males are Jacks. Mule females are Mollies, males are Johns. There are other appellations, but these are the common ones. Baby donkeys are Jacks and Jennets. Mules, John colts and Molly fillies. A mule has a horse for a dam and donkey for a sire. Hinneys, the opposite, donkey dam and horse sire. This distinction was important early on because mules would grow bigger and stronger than hinneys. Seems equines take a lot of their characteristics from the dam side. The Bedouin tribesmen keep track of their breeding programs from the mare's side of things. For quite awhile, you could buy/obtain an Arabian stallion, but not a mare. Nothing to do with longears, but interesting. Mules and hinneys have what is known as hybrid vigor. They are tough, strong, durable animals. They are, pound for pound, much stronger than horses. Their hooves and teeth are stronger and harder. They tend to live longer and have a longer productive work life. They are calm, cool, and collected. They are not inherently stubborn, but are very much into preserving themselves. The training of longears is different that horse training and the old "mule skinners" knew it. The term mule skinners comes from the slang term to "outsmart" or "skin" someone. Kind of another name for a confidence man. I heard longears trainers speak or training the "horse" and the "donkey" will just come along. I don't know about that, but I know patience, trust, and more patience is sure a requirement. I also know, once a longears gets "it", they never forget. Longears don't tolerate abuse and can become very difficult-even dangerous if mistreated. The kick of a longears concentrates much greater force because of their small hoof. Many army farriers were killed by mule kicks. "Kicks like a mule" is no joke. Fortunately, once you make friends with a longear, you have a friend for life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sanctuary Days...

From Jim: A couple of weeks ago someone asked me how long I thought I would continue with the sanctuary, doing what we do? I said, without any real thought, well, until I die or physically can't do it anymore. You see, they thought of caring for the herd as work. I will agree it takes effort and there are days we get pretty tired and sometimes a little overwhelmed. For the most part though, we do what we really enjoy, take care of our wonderful animals and enjoy the days of life on the ranch. We've have met so many great people that we now call friends. We have a cycle of daily, weekly, monthly chores. There's excitement and joy and quiet times, and, yes, moments of tremendous sadness. Our life is filled with a sense of wonder and humility and purpose. There's never enough money. There's always too many needy critters. We seem to be on the losing side of a harsh equation and, then, we go back to the story of the boy with the starfish and it's all OK. We make a difference to our loving beasties. We get calf kisses and goatie tail wags, and horse and mule and donkey hugs. We greet spectacular sunrises and enjoy the brilliance of the sunsets. The crisp air and soft rain and raging storms and sweaty heat of all the seasons touch us. Our year is divided into straw hats or felt hats, T-shirts or slickers, leather boots or rubber boots. Everyday, twice a day, there's feeding and watering to do. Generally, there's a few fence or gate repairs, and most of the time, someone to doctor. We never have to worry about finding something to do. Getting older slows us down and there are some aches and pains, but that's alright. We figure if we hurt a little in the morning, it means we're not dead yet! This same someone asked why we save horses? Truth is, for all our critters, they saved us. We can't give to them nearly what they give to us. Love abides, love is why we're here-all of us.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Standard of Care...

From Jim: Our vet, Dr. Gary Darling, was here today. He generally calls on the sanctuary once or twice a month for regular stuff and as often as special issues require. He says with the size of our herd, every week is like a year for the average horse owner, more, if you take in all the special needs our residents have as a result of abuse, neglect, injury, and old age. Because we're committed to quality of life for each animal, the vet is a critical part of what we do. We give each incoming critter an intake exam, baseline immunizations, worming, dental exam, blood work, if necessary, and an overall assessment which will determine any special care or feeding needs. When we begin to see the signs of waning quality, Dr. Darling helps us place the animal on a graduated "watch list". These animals are seen every time the vet is here. When their time has come, the good Doc sedates and euthanizes them. We have never gotten used to providing the final act of kindness, but having the vet help with the decision is comforting. Our equines are lifetime residents. They aren't rehabbed and rehomed. They live here. Our level of care for each animal is continued year round without exception. When strangles went through the herd, we had 30 sick horses. They each got daily care and, when needed, medications or special diets. We lost 3. That's about average for the disease-10% morbidity. It was awful. Dr. Darling was here several times a week during that struggle. We face colic several times each year. Generally, it resolves with the usual pain meds and tubing with water and mineral oil. Sometimes we lose. We hate colic! One month Gary was here every Sunday night after 10pm. Wow, he puts in some long days with long weeks. What we like the most, what means the most, is that Dr. Darling treats everyone one of our animals with the highest standard of care. 45 year old Jonathan, donkey and 4 year old Chance, Thoroughbred get the same careful competent attention. Every animal's life is precious and is respected. For each animal, this is their personal sanctuary. They are home, at last. We can't thank Gary enough.

Several Issues...

From Jim: Well, there's just a bunch of stuff going on and none of it fits into one category. This will be an attempt to address most of it. So, with no particular order and not by degree of importance, here we go. We get the opportunity to work with, assist, and receive assistance from, other rescues and sanctuaries. It is humbling to share this "horse saving" task with such great people. We've had some of our friends take on some needy critters. These folks amplify our efforts and warm our hearts. Our little two mules and a mustang celebration of life has grown to a herd of 75 wonderful equines. Sometimes I'm amazed at what's happened. I"m always gratified by the help we've been given. The costs of this task, time, talent, and money can seem overwhelming. But somehow, we bumble along, getting it done, learning, meeting neat folks, and barely paying the bills. There are areas of equine concern beyond our simple capacities. Horse slaughter, mustang round-ups, racing industry abuses, the latest atrocity of shooting donkeys in Texas, are some examples. We add our voice and focus attention and participate in the political process. We feel inadequate and frustrated, but not defeated. We hope for broader and stronger support in our society. The economy has hammered so many good people and forced them into terrible circumstances and choices. We feel it everyday. Whether it's the increased number of calls for horse placements or the declining level of donations or the abandonment of sponsored horses here at the sanctuary, we feel it. We do everything we can to prevent the animals from feeling it. We're committed to the notion that a sanctuary is just that! It's a place of peace and safety and love and joy. The critters make their contributions every single day. They offer their best full measure without reservation because that's who they are. We can learn from that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


From Jim: One surprising thing about being on a sanctuary is the really great horses that we have here. Now all horses are wonderful and deserve to be loved and cared for, but some individuals just have unbelievable stories. Ruby, not her registered name is sure one. She's a Thoroughbred. The folks that breed them would call her a chestnut. To me, she's a sorrel. She's up there is years-20 something. During her racing career, she had enough success to stay off the slaughter truck. When she aged out, which for race horses is 4 or 5 anymore, she was retrained as a polo pony. She's registered with the polo association. She had the heart and courage and athletic ability for a very demanding sport. She aged out again, probably 10 or so and became a brood mare. As she got into her late teens, she could no longer produce colts, so she was sent to the auction and ended up in the killer/buyer pen. She was rescued by a gal, who eventually was just not able to afford to keep her and she ended up with us. She currently is fostered to Lyn and Derril who love her to bits. She is Sparkle's pasture mate. He's the Saddlebred that was nearly starved to death. Ruby personifies so much that is right and wrong in our horse world. She did everything asked of her. When she was "no longer useful", she was thrown away. She was saved by a caring person and found her way to a retirement that is appropriate. The racing industry provided nothing for her. The polo sport provided nothing. Her brood mare status gave her no protection. The auctions are certainly not a safe haven. A private person stepped in where organizations had so miserably failed and finally our sanctuary brought her home, at last. When you donate to Home At Last, or volunteer, or send us a good thought, think about Ruby and her 74 herd mates. Everyone of them has a remarkable story. I'll try to share as many as I can. If we can get our hands on another digital camera, I'll try to include some pictures.