Wednesday, February 29, 2012

School Days...

From Jim: I have the privilege to serve on a school board. After years as a school teacher and administrator, it's been nice to support education in this role. Today was spent meeting with all of the staff members and our principal as we move towards planning for next year. That meant Donna got to do all of the morning chores alone. She'll be leaving Friday to visit our new grand baby in Denver and I'll have all the chores for awhile. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Not sure about that, but chores sure do. Laz gets his cast off and his foot back tomorrow. He'll be one happy dog! Dr. Darling has worked his medical magic again for one our critters. Thanks Doc! The old flatbed just keeps on movin hay. It's a funny old truck and the recent weather has made me feel even more strongly about getting the heater back in it. With the rise of the cost of fuel I'll need to start moving 100 bales at a time to cut down the trips for the month. That means either the GM and the big trailer or the flatbed and the smaller trailer. Both choices are no fun to drive. but that's the way of it right now. A couple of the horses on our watch list have shown some real improvement. That's a real upper for us. We like to see some of our old critters have a chance at one more nice summer to doze and enjoy life. We've had a wonderful response to the article in the local paper. The donations we've received will help us so much. Thank You to everyone that has helped. We will always need donations to care for the herd and people have been so kind and generous. Who says there are no angels? Oh, and go love on your pets. It's a good thing to do!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wild Weather, Wild Critters....

From Jim: We had a pretty serious thunder cell make it's way over the sanctuary yesterday afternoon. Some rain and hail, but some big-time lightning and thunder. The horses were quite certain it was the END. They herded up and ran. It's what they do. None were injured. No one hit with a lightning bolt, but, boy howdy, they were on the move. We put out a whole bunch of feed and they, like always, gave into their "inner-horse needs", got their heads down and got down to business eating. It's amazing to have moments like that. Their power and speed is always so impressive. Being out with them at times like that really requires that you pay attention and stay out of the way. That said, it was pretty neat to watch them go at it. I'm going for hay today. It's what I do about every 5 days, sixty bales each time. Soon I'll need to get the big trailer back and start moving 100 bales at a time to save fuel. We can move hay for around 50 cents a bale-not bad. For everyone that sent a donation, Thank You. We hoping that a few more folks will join it. The local paper printed up a nice story about the needs of the sanctuary. We sure appreciated that. Some folks came up with some ideas for fund raising and I'm pretty sure you'll hear more about that. All in all, we going forward, a day at a time. We are deeply committed to what we do. We think these animals deserve to have a safe and caring place to live out their lives. What good does it do to rescue them, it they have nowhere to go and they're simply put down? It keeps the suffering down, no doubt about that, but, it doesn't allow for the joy that a quiet retirement brings. Hope we, as a people and society can do better with this issue. Judging by your wonderful responses, I'm thinking maybe we can! Hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy every moment of it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Equine Minds...

From Jim: We say we like to get to know our horse. That usually means knowing more than their color and conformation. It means we want to know who they are. We want to know their personality. We want to understand them. All of that drives toward knowing their mind. It's pretty easy to try and apply what we know about our own minds to the critter. That's a real mistake. It's not fair to the animal. It's dangerous and inappropriate. Many horse people have been killed or injured by a horse doing what horses do and the person expecting human behavior. We all get too comfortable around these big old guys, but we are really at risk when we lose sight of how different from us they are. They are not reasonable. They are not bound by a higher sense of morality. They translate emotion to action very quickly and without regard to consequences. We've all see how quickly they can injure themselves or us with their instinctive flight response. Our vet says they're not into self-preservation. When you think about it, that's true. They are evolved to the survival of the herd. The organic nature of herd behavior shapes their mind and actions. You can train them and modify that behavior, but it still underlies the way they process information. Forget that at your peril! I've had folks tell me of their "bomb proof" horse, that would never, ever hurt them. Boy, it that's your premise when you're around a thousand pounds of lightning quick horse, Good Luck! I figure they're not mean or violent, they're just big and fast and subject to reflex responses that can get me hurt. I respect that. The horse's brain structure tells us their limbic system is well developed. They have significant olfactory structure, including a Jacobson's organ. The relationship to sense of smell, emotion and memory is pretty well established in research. That combined with the evolutionary mandate to flee from threats is an equation to be reckoned with. Horses are the animals we have come to love because of who they are. Their emotion and spirit and personality are functions of their minds. We can't make them "human-like" and it would be wrong to try. They're just fine being who and what they are. It's up to us to understand that. Oh, and go love on your horse. They won't mind at all.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Here's to Ears...

From Jim: Equine ears are pretty special. Not only do they work really well for hearing, they convey a lot of information about the animal's thoughts and mood. Their ears swivel somewhere beyond 270 degrees. They can work together or independently. Horses hear frequencies that are both lower and higher than we humans can perceive. They are highly capable of determining the direction from which a sound came. They are expressive. Whether peaked in curiosity, wavering in confusion, or pinned in anger, ears tell the tale. When you're around equines, it's a good idea to attend to what their ears are saying. When training a critter, the ears are useful in ascertaining the animal's comfort and understanding. Since horses and donkeys and mules relate to one another and, since they're pretty much non-verbal, body language is important. The ears play a big role in that. Ears pinned down flat should not be ignored. There's not much notice left before some serious acting out is likely. One ear up, one back, back and forth, and uncomfortable confusion is the message. Ears peaked sharply forward, big eyes, head up all reflect fear and apprehension. Ears swiveling with no obvious reason suggest a state of calm alertness. As you can imagine, equine ears are sensitive. Headgear, whether halter or headstall, flymask or sunshade should be carefully fitted and made of a material that's not abrasive or irritating. Touching an animals ears should be gentle, but not ticklish. Fingers down an ear will usually get a brisk rise of the head and disapproving look. We sometimes stick a finger in an ear to see how the recovery from anesthesia is going. It's a pretty effective wake up call. Ground work or onboard, checking on ear messages is a good idea. Any real concern about an ear should get referred to the vet. It's almost impossible to really examine a horse's ear without sedation. Twisting ears as a make-do twitch is not a good practice. They can get head shy quickly and it can be hard to undo. I suppose one of the best lessons our equine friends have for us is to listen a lot and not say much. I like that.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Horse Angels

There are people in this great big world who lift our spirits and make us glad for what we do. Beautiful Chad is alive because so many of you care.

Frankie was able to have his two cancerous tumors removed because so many of you care.
Kim is able to be with his little herd, even though he is very lame. All these animals and many more are alive and well because you care. Thank you to our January and February Horse Angels- Barbara R, Barbara Z, Becky R, Carla G, Chris M, Christina F, Debra C, Dorothy J, Edie D, Eileen G, Evelyn A, Glennis R, Kate M, Linda G, Linda K, Linda W, Lisette L, Lorie H, Mary R, Maurya F, Naomi J, Rae M , Rebecca F, Ron W, Ruth C, Susan R, Stephanie I, Tim D, Ursula C, and Valerie D.

Your generosity and support is GREAT!!!!!!

Dancer's bunch...

From Jim: My morning almost always starts with a greeting from Dancer, one of our OTT Thoroughbreds. She's close to 30 now and still absolutely beautiful. She is the main mare to Star Man and Dunny. These boys are a part of the greeting crew. Nickers all around! It's the food, you know, but I like to kid myself that they're glad to see my smiling face. Yeh, Right. Anyway, these three and Chad, who shares a turnout, but has his own stall make up the front yard herd. Dancer was rescued from a slaughter pen. She had a fractured rear cannon bone from being crowded into a defective fence. She was severely underweight. This proud girl had won 10's of thousands of dollars, is permanently registered in the Breeder's Cup and had been a productive brood mare. When she could no longer be bred, she was tossed away. Wow, how could anyone do that? Talk about a mean spirited industry. Star Man is a fine old gentleman. He's a Tennessee Walking Horse, a gorgeous black with a white snip, flowing mane and tail, a real beauty in his own right. He has a congenital spinal stenosis that causes an occasional weakness in his hind quarters. There's nothing to do for this and his working days are over. When he came here from an auction where he was rescued from the Killer/Buyers, he was very lame in the rear. Our vet thought maybe he would have 3 or 4 months. That was over 3 years ago. He is a real love, likes to give kisses, and always enjoys a pet. Dunny, a stunning Quarterhorse, has congenital cataracts. His vision isn't all that great, but he does fine. He's a gentle and willing boy. He and Star often play together. Both are respectful of Dancer's authority. Chad hangs out in the general area of these three, but at his advanced age, dozing and quietly passing the time is more to his liking. The others generally go along with this, but, sometimes, Dunny can't resist giving Chad a little playtime. These friends are my morning faces. They stand and anxiously urge me to get on with the feeding. They welcome a pat on the nose or scratch behind the ear, if it doesn't take too long. If Donna has the grain bucket, not so much. Chad has to have sack feed as his teeth are worn out and the others need a token scoop as a gesture of fairness. I can't compete with that. I wish everyone could start their days with the same enjoyment these critters give me. As the rest of the feeding goes on, there's over 70 more to be fed, I have the smile that Dancer's bunch passed along. Take some time to love on your critters, It's good for you and them!

Friday, February 24, 2012

What to do with unwanted horses?

From Jim: There's a lot of "unwanteds" in our society. They're not all the same species. Some are dogs and cats, some horses and mules and donkeys, some people-old, young, and in-between. I'm not real sure how we came to be in this place. It seems the nature of who we are as a people may have changed. Maybe it has something to do with scale, there's just too many of us, or maybe our core values have changed. Whatever it is, we aren't what I remember when I was a kid. We worked very hard, but so did everyone else. We felt a big responsibility for others, for our friends and neighbors. We were more hooked together as a community. The social ills we suffered, bigotry and ignorance and such were terrible. There were economic problems and all. We had the war in Viet Nam and Watergate and recessions and savings and loan scandals. But, it felt like people worked together. The tone was one of shared responsibility and a notion that, if we worked together, we'd fix the problems. Seems that now all people do is take sides and fight and get angry and refuse to find any middle ground. The sanctuary gives a home to some unwanted equines and some other critters. We know it's just a drop in a huge bucket, but it's something. It makes a difference to the animals that are here. It doesn't stop the rampant overbreeding, the abuse and neglect, the bad practices of those that are using horses for gambling, abusive competitions, and so on. The solutions for those things will take a commitment from society. We'll need to work together to fix that stuff. I don't know if that's in us anymore. The pro-slaughter folks don't seem to get it. The BLM doesn't. A lot of our politicians who need welfare-rancher votes don't. What to do with unwanted horses? The answer for that lies with the answers to a lot of other things. Maybe the real question is, "What to do with us, as a society"? Are we just an unhappy, angry, selfish rabble, or are we something better? I imagine time will tell. Right now? I'd say the jury is out. We still have a bunch of really good folks in this country. We see them all time. Man, I hope there's enough. I hope they can help us get past the mess we're in.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


From Jim: We are working hard to find a way forward for the sanctuary and many of our supporters have been there with donations and suggestions for fundraising. We'll sure look into all of those and any others that we find. In the meantime, the work goes on and the herd lives their lives. Sometimes you just have to do things a day at a time. We still will need to see some of our very old residents off to a peaceful end. That's always been a part of our obligations and we accept that. The need for adoptive and foster homes for unwanted horses seems to grow all the time. Our dear friend, Tawnee at Horse Plus, recently rescued a whole bunch of yearlings, over 20 of em, 14 were in one trailer. I sure hope these babies get a chance to have a good life. They were from a situation of starvation and neglect. Dang it! What's wrong with some people? Irresponsible breeders are the source of a lot of suffering and there's not much that can be done to stop it right now. Wish we would find a way to regulate horse production and insure the lifetime care of critters that people put on the earth. Of course, that would offend some folks notion of freedom. Me? I was a soldier and and a cop and I'm not real sensitive to the freedom of bad people. You earn that by responsible behavior. Please keep us mind for a donation. We have a long ways to go to meet our critters' needs, but we're going to give it everything we've got. They're simply too precious to toss away. Thanks! I really mean that!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mia Culpa...

From Jim: The last few days around here have not been full of giggles. The hard realities of my failure to inspire enough support to keep our herd alive has been very hard to swallow. Several kind folks have responded and we truly appreciate it. We'll use the donations to keep as many of the critters alive as we can. The numbers are just not good. I have spent many hours thinking about how I might have done better. When your failure results in the death of others, it's a hard place to be. The response from those who offered their support and sent donations meant a lot. We will go forward from here, as best we can. Our old mule, Juan, who is a great soul and is always willing to share his peace with us came to see me yesterday while I was filling his watering tank. He placed his beautiful head on my chest, as he's done so often, and in his clearest voice said, "Please don't kill us". I know, you probably don't believe that an old mule can do that and that I'm simply projecting my own feelings. That's not who I am and that's not what I do. You come talk with Juan if you think I'm wrong about this. I suspect, it you're willing to listen, he'll share with you too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A very bad equation...

From Jim: The explosive rise in fuel costs and ever higher feed costs have already taken a very real toll on Home At Last. The future doesn't look good for the sanctuary. Without a much greater participation from our over 4000 FB friends, the general public, and other donors, we will not be able to continue keeping the herd alive. This is a hard, undeniable truth. Our current economy and the state of our society is what it is. There's not a possibility in the world of feeding 80 equines with good wishes and notes of moral support. That's the sad reality. Within a very few weeks, we will have to begin a significant herd reduction. Most of this will be by euthanasia. Too many of our sponsored animals have seen their sponsorships abandoned. Too many occasional donors are no longer there. We've only been able to add a very small number of new regular contributors. The thrift store has been great, but the economy makes it hard for them. The nature of the animals that are here means significant vet bills and the ever ongoing costs of lifetime care and upkeep. It is so hard to have to write this. These animals did nothing wrong. Their lives are precious to them and to us. They are the victims of a society that doesn't want them. We can keep them out of the slaughter pipeline and save them from starvation and neglect. We can't provide for their needs without the necessary funds. It's just that simple and just that awful. We'll keep you posted, but the uplifting messages of hope and redemption will soon be a thing of the past. This is not intended to be "Drama", it's just the truth. For those that have helped over the years, Thank you. We'll be in touch.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jake's Story...

From Jim: We've got a big ole Brabent Belgian named Jake. He's a PMU rescue from one of the Canadian farms that collected mare urine for a source of estrogen therapy for women. The poor mares that are used (abused) in this effort suffer terribly. Bred every year, tied in a stall, bagged or catheterized, denied water, year after year. Their colts are taken after a month and sold or slaughtered. What an awful industry. Well, anyway, Jake found his way to Animali Rescue and we got him and his brother, Elwood. We named them after the Blue's Brothers. Woody died very young from chronic colic. His intestines had been severely damaged by parasites. PMU colts get no vet care when they're born. They're just a by-product, after all. Jake has a very special relationship with Donna. He "talks" with her and has from the beginning. He wasn't even supposed to be rescued by us, but when we went for Woody, he asked Donna to "Please take me, too". She found him in a herd of colts and he told her that we really needed to take him. We didn't even know he and Woody were brothers. We chute loaded them, hauled them home and, then, thought about what it meant to have two yearling drafts with absolutely no training. That turned out not to be a problem. On the first day we halter trained them-took about two hours. The second day, their feet were trimmed for the first time in their lives. To this day, Jake will follow with no more than a piece of bailing twine. We've had a few of our interns on his back to see what he'd think about that. He doesn't care at all. They are "gentle giants", these draft horses. Jake is a great horse. He's friends with Smokey and Stoney and Liso. He has the softest eyes and calmest mind you could ever imagine. He thinks he's about Gracie's size. Maybe 7 hands and 300 pounds or so. Of course, he's really 17 hands and 1600 pounds, but he's still just a little boy. I really like draft horses. There's something about their power and size and gentle ways that is wonderful to be around. When he and the other youngsters are really on the move, in the midst of a wild rumpus, the ground shakes. That's fun to experience! What a boy! Sure glad he told Donna he needed to come home with us!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Looking, but not Seeing...

From Jim: Donna and I do the chores twice a day-everyday. We feel pretty strongly that we need to do them ourselves because it's when we can take some time to observe the critters. We try to keep a constant assessment of each animal's condition and status. Those on the "watch-list" get an extra long look. It is a regular topic of conversation to compare what we're each seeing. Sometimes, we'll walk back out to look over a concern together. When we have our doubts, we get the vet and the farrier involved in the process. We not only look, we really try to see how the individual animals are doing. So, What are we looking for? Well, any change in overall condition, behavior, or mannerisms. Lameness, appetite, demeanor with herd mates, chewing, quality of manure, frequency of urination, skin and coat condition, new wounds, hoof shape and quality, alertness and state of well being is part of it. Taking a few minutes to check out how well they travel, the brightness of their eyes, their personality count into it. If there are changes, How much?, How quickly did it occur?, Was it expected?, Is it part of the normal life cycle? In order to know the answers to these questions, you have to know the animal and have a frame of reference to work with. If the critter has an old injury and has always been short on the left hind or turned in on the right front, you know that and aren't worried. If this mare or that gelding is a little standoffish and always has been, well, OK then. We don't know of any shortcuts to gaining the kind of knowledge that lets you see, not just look. It just takes time and a willingness to pay attention. It becomes second nature to sum up what you're seeing. Most of the horse people I've known can tell in about a second if their horse is having an issue. It's the same here, we just have 80 of em to get to know. Next time you're around your horse, make yourself think about what you're seeing. Make a few mental notes. Look, because that's always nice to do when we're with these beautiful animals, but make it a point to see, as well!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teddy and the "Horse-Getter"...

From Jim: There's a story that the American Indians believed that horse's could see things that men couldn't. A while back, I wrote a series of blogs on the sensory perceptions and capabilities of equines and there's no doubt that they can see, hear, smell, taste, and sense things that we can't. That's not what this blog is about. This blog is about a "genuine, for real, scary horse-getter". Teddy is a very senior Thoroughbred. Big ole guy-17-2. He's a great horse with a super personality. He's found a corner of his backyard turnout that lets him get close to the herd in the upper turnout. He likes that. The problem is there's a horse-getter that lives there. Well, it doesn't actually "live" there, because it's a dead tree branch. At least that's what us twoleggeds see. For Teddy this is a transmogrifying getter. It's an OK dead branch going into the corner, but becomes an object of pure terror if any attempt is made to come out of the corner. We've had to lead our old friend out of the corner several times so that he can eat and get a drink. The first time we saw him standing there, in the corner, we thought he was missing someone from the upper herd. Not so. He was unwilling to face up to the getter reaching out from the tree, ready to grab him and do the worst. This is exactly the same branch that beckons him into the corner with a friendly wave and happy greeting-I guess? Anyway, Teddy sees it for what it is and without a reassuring hand and the protection we offer up, there's no way out of the corner. I suppose the getter will be chainsawed into submission this weekend. There will be other getters. I'm sure of it. Teddy points out, quite clearly, that just because we can't see it, that doesn't mean there's nothing there. I try to remember that horses, like us, can have real fears that others don't understand. Times like that, you need a friend. You sure don't need someone telling you you're being silly or getting harsh. I think I'll take care of that getter sometime tomorrow-not wait for the weekend. Wouldn't want to take a chance with Teddy's safety.

An Old Arabian...

From Jim: We have a bunch of Arabians. There was a time that we couldn't imagine having even one. They were exotic and expensive and not well known by western pleasure and ranch folks. Going to Cal Poly gave us a real introduction to these great creatures, but having one of our own-out of the question. Well, the times have changed in many ways and most have not been so good for horses of any breed. Arabians were overbred by those that would get rich from raising horses. That is a mistake we've observed over the years as breeds come into and out of favor and fad. The Gypsy Vanner seems to be the latest to rise and then wane in popularity as the economy falters. A while back, our local animal control officers asked if we could take in an old Arabian. I think he was around our twentieth Arabian. He was sound, just older. No one was interested in adopting him after he was seized from a neglectful owner. This old guy was everything we've come to expect. He was sweet and friendly and full of life. He glides along, tail over his back and head up, feet seeming to float over the ground. Arabians seem to get prettier with age. They are special that way. The breed is noted for great feet, good conformations, and endurance like no other. That seems to translate into longevity and good health. They are tough. I can't give you this old boy's name. We're careful with that information when an animal is here from animal control. I can tell you that, with probably 5 to 10 good years left, he would have made someone a wonderful trail horse. The notion that he was too old was really wrong and reflects a basic misunderstanding about Arabians. They can often work well into their 30's. He's home now. We'll enjoy his kind and pleasant ways and his bright personality and his beauty. If you ever have the opportunity to adopt an "older" Arabian, you might want to really consider it. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day...Baldy

From Jim: Do you remember when you first realized that you loved horses? That moment when it was clear that these big ole critters were going to be a part of your life? I was lucky in this regard, as I was around horses from the time I was very young. They "just" were a part of my life. Riding was often simply a matter of getting on some horse out in the pasture and letting them continue their day with you aboard. Hand full of mane, foot on an elbow, or better yet a fence rail, up and over, Tack? not so much. Sometimes an adult would pull you on up with them and away you'd go-to do a chore or just take a ride. I remember when it was OK to actually go off on your own. The freedom to be gone from the enclosures and explore what was "out there". My first horse-one that was really mine-was Baldy. He had a Ball face, a blaze that went out past his eyes and over his nose, was probably 37 hands(really about 15)-or so it seemed- and was old enough to vote. He was a plain old grade ranch horse. Now days, he would have been called a school horse. Back then, he was a kid's horse. Safe and gentle and less than enthusiastic about racing around and being silly. There have been many others since Baldy, but he was the first. I still, after sixty years, think of him. I remember the smell of him and the tack when, early in the morning, we would get ready to go for a ride. I remember laying in the grass while he grazed a little mid-morning. Headstall hung on the saddle horn and quietly quietly grinding sweet grass with teeth that had to be worn to gum. He was a sorrel. I've always been partial to them. Good old Baldy! What a boy! Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday, Monday...

From Jim: This promises to be a very busy week and that's OK. Laz will get the pins removed from his foot. We should get another computer. There's a lot of just plain running around to do to get the errands done and none of them seem to fit together on the same day. It's nice to have the GMC going again-used it and the trailer to haul some hay yesterday. I really don't know what we would do without Lyle. It rained again. We're so grateful for the blessed water and for what it does for next years crop of hay. This weather pattern of a few days of rain followed by several warm days is just about perfect. We attended Steve's funeral Saturday. He was a remarkable man. Several hundred people took the time to pay their respects. The herd is doing fine so far. This gentle winter has been a gift for our aging seniors. We must, very soon, have Dr. Darling here to give several their wings. It's hard to do. We've faced it so many times and it never gets easier. Part of the nobility of the equine tribe is their stoic and quiet strength and peace. They are truly a wonderful creature to behold. The future of the sanctuary is an issue that we will begin to address in earnest this spring. We need to insure that, no matter what, the herd will be cared for in the years to come. We're also actively looking for appropriate foster homes for some our younger healthy animals. They will be happier in a setting where they can be a working partner with someone. They're not ready for retirement. Some are just getting started. They have so much to offer to the right person or family. They can always come home when they reach retirement. They have a lot to share and, I guess we need to respect that. Well, enough rambling. It's time to get on with the week! Think I'll get ready for morning chores.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Farrier Day for some...

From Jim: Early this AM, with luck, our shoer will be here and some of our critters will have their feet done. We have shoes on only a very few horses and, of course, Juan, the mule. These animals have special needs and, without shoes, would be lame. Smokie, our Rocky Mountain Horse, was severely foundered as a colt-twice! He was the victim of an ignorant owner/caretaker that didn't know how to feed a horse. Free access to COB-corn, oats, and barley was the cause. Even after the vet admonished this foolish person to stop the graining, the error was repeated. Smokie almost lost his front feet. The shell of his hooves were actually loose. The coffin bones had fully rotated and penetrated the soles of his feet. It took us about two years of very careful trimming, padding, and shoeing to get him sorted out. He'll always have some issues, some seedy toe, stretched white line, and so forth, but he's comfortable and is OK for light trail work. He'll need shoes for the rest of his life. He's a real love. Rosie, a senior Kiger mare, has fronts that are "low". The soles of her feet have thinned out until the coffin bone lacks sufficient cushioning. This happens to some horses as they get to be really old. The result is lameness and bruising-sometimes abscesses. So Rosie has shoes and pads. She gets along fine. Juan has his orthopaedic shoe for his broken flexor tendon issue. The rest of the herd gets by with trims as needed. We feel barefooted is the best for equines, if everything allows for it. We are not, however, devout about it and do what seems to make sense for the well being and comfort of the animal. We hear, from time to time, that shoeing should never be done. That, with enough time, you can get an animal's feet OK naturally. Well, that may be true, but we don't like the idea of months and months of discomfort for the critter, just to make a point. Likewise, we're not proponents of "shoe em all". A horse's foot works better in its natural state, where it can flex and absorb impact. If there's one variable that makes all the difference, it's the skill and knowledge of your shoer. They're not all the same in that regard and you need to find one that knows his or her business. There's an old saying, "No foot, No horse". It's just as true today as it always was. Proper foot care for our equine friends is critical to their health. We want them all to have "happy feet".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

For Everything, There is a season...

From Jim: I generally don't do funerals. There have been a few exceptions and Steve's service will be one. It's not that I don't feel great respect for others and their families, it's a weakness of mine that keeps me away from most of these occasions. With Steve, the connections were so deep, lots of years and kids that were friends, it just really seems important to be there. Our beliefs tell us that he is no longer here and today will be for his family and the others that will miss him so much. We will be there for them. Steve's deep religious faith tells us he is home, at last. He has found his peace. We are all too familiar with the cycle of life and death here at the sanctuary and acceptance is our response to this reality. That sure doesn't mean we claim to understand the eternal questions of Why and Why Now? That's for a much higher authority to know. I'm glad Steve was my friend. I'm glad I told him often how much I enjoyed our times together. A trip to his shop was a lot more that a business transaction. There were always laughes and updates on families and some time to remember when our kids were young and so were we. Our horses are a constant reminder of what being a social critter is all about. We need each other and all less complete without one another. The herd knows that and so should we. Like them, we'll acknowledge the loss, mourn for our friend, and, holding the memories close, get on with it. For all of our friends, Thanks for being a part of this journey. You make a difference to us. It's still the season to let you know that.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Toby and other mules I've known...

From Jim: A while back, we took in three wildy mules, two Molleys and a John. Tawny and Tango, the Molleys, haven't warmed up to people quite yet and it will probably take several more months for them to settle. Toby, on the other hand, decided that he was a natural born pet. He got in with the Backyard Bunch and let it be known that petting the mule was OK. I don't know why this happened, but I'm glad that it did. Toby seems able to move through fences effortlessly. Yesterday he was in the barnyard. He's now spending a little time in the donkey pen. Next? Who Knows? He's easy to catch and, so far, his antics have been good fun. Our other wildy John mule, Wild Bill, has captured our neighbor's heart. Art spends pleasant times hand feeding Bill grass and petting his nose. Bill is even getting friendlier with us. I shared earlier that Reba, one of newest Molleys, is settling in and letting me touch her. Molly, one of our longer resident mules, is by now a complete love. She'll even wander over and ask for a pet. Juan, our most senior mule, is one the nicest animals you could ever know. What a boy! Jackson, the spotted John, is in with his little herd, led by Bow (Gumba) and is a happy, friendly boy. Tucker, our Appy mule, is one of the most charismatic animals I've ever seen. He is really something else. Lady Bug and Posey, two little Molleys, were so badly abused that they haven't been able to trust us-even after years. Mules are very intelligent and sensitive animals and can really be ruined when mishandled and abused. We're glad Lady Bug and Posey are here at the sanctuary. They can enjoy the herds they're with and don't have to interact with twoleggeds. It's been neat to have the opportunity to come to know about mules. They're pretty special creatures. Hope you'll get a chance to know them too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


From Jim: This is a bunch of updates on a bunch of things in no particular order. Laz continues to heal up from his "mule episode" and will have the pins taken out of his foot next Thursday. He's been a patient good boy with his clunky cast and limited freedom to move about. We're all hoping for a good outcome, but it was a very severe injury and only time will tell if his foot will function properly. Kitty has made some real progress with her poor eyes. Her allergy to UV light has really taken a toll. Irene has washed and treated her sore eyes and the winter sun is not as harsh. Also, the absence of flies has helped. She's a sweet old horse and it's hard to see her struggle with this lifelong problem. Spring should tell us a lot. Tiger, Sugar, Rosie, Cricket, Cash and Maggie are all at the very end of their life cycle and we know we'll have to face the inevitable pretty soon. There are several others that will be placed on a watch list. It's one of the hardest parts of having the sanctuary, but one of the most important. Quality of life and the assurance of a peaceful and pain free end is one of our primary responsibilities. The wells have made a reasonable comeback, but without more rain, this will be a tough and long summer. We are not amused by the projections of $5.00 gasoline and diesel. Rats! Some of our newest residents are making good progress towards trusting us and being comfortable with our kind. They are always a happy challenge and we feel privileged to work with them. As we get ready for the end of winter and beginning of spring, the miracles of rebirth and renewal are awaiting us. It's hard to believe we're already into February. Time to get ready for morning chores now. Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Touch on the Nose...

From Jim: Yesterday was GREAT! As we worked our way through the watering and afternoon feeding, a couple of neat things happened. And, before that, Donna and I got away for a few hours to have a picnic at the Oroville Dam Visitors Center. Really nice folks there and a fun little museum and covered picnic area to boot. We even had a Snickers for dessert-Wowsers! Well, after that it was time to return to reality of sanctuary chores. My morning had started with a love-in with Juan. He's really a sweet mule and is very affectionate. Nice way to start the day. So, when the afternoon got underway, it was already a pretty good day. Donna was watering the Backyard Bunch when Cal decided he truly was in need of some attention. If you've never come to know Arabians, I hope you will. They can be the most people-oriented horses in the world. We sometimes call them "pocket Arabs" because they want to be so close to you. Donna would pet Cal, and pet Cal, and pet Cal, and then he'd want more pets. Every time she'd move, he would follow along with his nose on her shoulder. This was the guy that was described as hard to catch and not very friendly. Well, that was then and this is now. What a nice boy! I went to turn off the upper well, and there was Reba, one of our newest mules. She's a beautiful sorrel Q-horse mule. She came here absolutely not wanting to be caught or touched. The recent rains had fired up some new grass and I pulled a handful and offered it to Reba. She took it and then let me pet her nose. First time since she's been here that she's let me touch her. I've shared with you before that we believe animals should be at liberty when they decide that we're OK. If they're penned or tied or cornered you can't really say they made the choice. We think they need to have the option. It's part of forming their minds about us and usually really pays off as their training and education continues. The few months it takes to get there seem like a small price for the benefit of having animals that trust you. If forced, their anxiety gets in the way of what you're trying to teach them. If their mind is at peace, it's more open to learning. Besides that, we want to enjoy our time with them and that means they need to enjoy it too. So, a morning pet with Juan, a picnic with my wonderful wife, a chance to watch Cal get loved on, and a break through with Reba. Not a bad day, not bad at all!

Monday, February 6, 2012

In Memorium...

From Jim: We lost Ann-A-Belle Sunday. She took a fall, hit her head and died in an instant. Donna and I will miss her a lot. She was a brave pony that coped with her disabilities quite well and had a very nice way about her. We had recently lost Jonathan and Dobbin, our two very senior donkeys. Reaching back, we remember the over 70 wonderful animals that have gotten their wings here at the sanctuary. The population we work with, very old, injured, diseased, starved and so on pretty much guarantees that we'll have to accept losses. It isn't easy. Our critters are pets and part of the sanctuary family. When they pass away, they are missed. It is the hardest part of what we do. We know that on any given day, we may have to face the death of one or more of our animals. We've had some for years. We've lost others after only a few months. They all touched us. We hope that their time here with us was good and that they had the peace of being home, at last. Ann-A-Belle was special, because they're all special. Her "defects", a severely cleft palate and a fractured knee that had become arthritic were not her defining characteristics. Her sassy personality and intelligent eyes, her friendly ways with Juan and Bucky, her sweet face, that's who she was. This borrowed computer does not have the ability to let us post pictures. Too bad, she was a beautiful paint pony. We'll have to wait for another computer to do that. We want everyone that helped us with Ann-A-Belle to know how much it was appreciated and that she left this world quickly and without suffering. Thank You! You should never miss an opportunity to express your love and appreciation for those in your life. Life is a fleeting thing and the moments dwindle down. Take some time to love on your pets. It's nice to have the chances to do that!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sanctuary? Why?

From Jim: We are often asked why we do what we do. Why would anyone spend all of their time and money caring for 80 or so equines? Aren't you too old for this? Don't you get tired of all the hassles? Are you crazy? Boy, how to answer? We started Home At Last because there was a great need and we could do something about it. Yep, we're getting older and we are already working on plans for the future of the sanctuary when we're dead and gone. I don't think "tired" even gets close to how frustrating it can be to run a sanctuary. I guess we try to check out our sanity as often as most folks and, so far, we may be committed, but we haven't been "committed", not even for the 72 hour evaluation. Donna and I have lived our lives with a core value that one should serve a cause beyond themselves. We believe that making a difference is not optional, that life should have a purpose. So many of our supporters seem to feel the same way. It is humbling to have so many others pitch in and help. If they feel half as good as we do about caring for the critters, they know they've done good. Swirling around us are so many issues, so many problems and causes. We centered up on one that seemed to need a voice and an answer. There just aren't enough homes for our society's equines. They don't have the options that other smaller critters find. The number of folks that have the skill and resources to care for them is declining. Fewer and fewer kids grow up with a horse or pony in the backyard. Economic forces are not working in favor of equines, whether horse, donkey, or mule. The real solutions are at a scale well beyond what we can do. Controlling breeding, requiring provisions for lifetime care of new critters, expansion of opportunities for "new" owners and enthusiasts, and clinics for the humane euthanasia of aging and injured critters that have lost their quality of life are all "big" ideas that need to happen. We need to eliminate the need for sanctuaries by managing the population of equines before the unwanteds are even born. Industries that use horses for competition need to be held accountable for all of the critters they produce while looking for a "winner". Owners need to get a grasp on the reality of just how long equines live and what a lifetime responsibility really means. These are big ideas and they'll need a lot of folks working together to make them a reality. We, on the other hand, will help the animals that we can and work with and support other rescues and sanctuaries for as long as we can because that's what we do. Why do we do it? I guess the best way to answer that is to extend an invitation to you to visit Home At Last and let the critters explain it. They are better at it than me. Please take the time to love on your pets. It's a great way to spend some time!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chad and Teddy...Two Great Old Guys!

From Jim: The sanctuary has a number of senior horses. They are often here for their well earned retirement after a lifetime of service to our kind. Two of these are Chad and Teddy. Chad is a buckskin Q-horse about 30 years old. He was a therapy horse for years and years and finally his back just couldn't take anymore work. He's in a stall by himself at night, but spends his days with Dancer's bunch in the front turnout. He's really full of personality. We feed him sack feed twice a day as his teeth are worn to the gum. He spends a lot of time dozing in the warm sun and plays a little with Dunny and Star Man. His handler sent him here and sees to it that his sponsorship is paid regularly. We really enjoy having him as part of our sanctuary family. Teddy is a big ole Thoroughbred!-like 17 hands big. He's also full of personality. He was a school horse and probably taught a billion kids to ride. He's in his late 20's and has a partially ruptured stifle joint. He still trots, canters, bucks and rears a little. You just have to love T-breds for their great spirit! He was placed by someone who promised to sponsor him and then abandoned him. This happens to us all too often. We are determined to never let the animals suffer because of irresponsible and sorry behavior by humans. But when this "place and abandon" behavior occurs, we have to ask for donations or sponsorships to replace the lost support we were promised. I get a little irked by the way some folks act. Hope they sleep OK. When we take a critter, it's for their lifetime. We'll see to their needs and take good care of them everyday. When someone bails out on their commitment, it's just that much harder for us to keep up with the demands of the herd. Sure hope one or more of you will step up and help us with Teddy. He's a big lover and deserves to live out his life with dignity and peace. For everyone that has kept their commitment or donated, Thank you so very much. You make a huge difference and are truly Horse Angels! We always need more sponsors and have many wonderful equines to choose from. Give us a call at 530-514-1439 or drop us a note at Home At Last, PO Box 4129, Yankee Hill, Ca 95965. Again, Thank you!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Staying Aware...

From Jim: This is a serious blog. It relates to safety and staying safe. The simple truth is that being around large animals is dangerous. There is no such thing as a totally safe equine, unless it's dead. They are big, quick, and impulsive. If you have lulled yourself into the false sense of security that your beloved animal(s) would never ever hurt you, under any circumstances, you are courting disaster. That's the reality. Injuries that happen to horse owners all over this land are the consequences. I will acknowledge that some accidents are truly unavoidable, but most of the time it's the human's behavior led to the mishap. I've had too many experiences with getting banged up by these critters and I can say that every single one of them was my fault. Most were the result of my over-confidence and inattentiveness. The second I was hurt, I said, "I knew better than that". I've learned that my best protection is to be constantly aware of what is going on around me and to attend to what I'm doing. Horses are not sneaky. They'll generally let you know what's going on with them. Their sudden bolting should be accepted as a potential all of the time. It's hard wired genetic behavior. There are too many stories of folks that have been seriously injured or killed by the animal that has never acted out before. Ten years of perfect behavior is no guarantee of ten years plus one day of the same. Add more animals into the mix and it becomes even more important to stay tuned in. Situational awareness is described as relaxed alertness. It is not a state of fear or anxiety. It is not being complacent and unfocused. It is a habit of the mind that can really make a difference to being safe. I catch myself slipping into concentrating so much on what's in front of me that I ignore what's around me. That's not OK and will get me hurt. I know that from experience. Spending several months in a cast or waiting for the stitches to come out is no fun. I think I can say without any doubt in my mind, if you're around horses enough, you'll get hurt. The idea is to keep that to a minimum and keep the injuries small and manageable. That will always be on us, never on the animals. They can never be expected to be the safety factor. If you've been doing that, it's really at your own peril. I love equines. I have 80 of them. I have great respect for each and every one of them. I urge every horse person to practice situational awareness as part of good horsemanship.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Home Again, Home Again...

From Jim: Picked Linda up this early morning from the train station in Chico. Got there ten minutes early, the train was 40 minutes late. It was due at 3:50 AM. At 4:00, the security guard called Amtrac central command, or someone like that, and was told the train was on time. When he said that the train wasn't there, with lightening light speed, the train official said, "well, then it's not on time". I was profoundly impressed with the precision that was brought to bear by this highly professional operation. I am pretty certain Amtrac is division of Amway and is sold door to door. They probably have openings even in this poor economy. You could build your own train business and recruit other train people. The training of train people often makes me stop and think, but I'm getting off track. (Groan) Anyway, it's nice to have Linda home safe and sound. Brian is back at it in his new position in Washington. It rained a little last night, just enough to preserve the mud for another day. That's OK, we really need the water. Today will turn back to sunshine and warmer weather. The nappers will abound! I am always happy when they don't even take notice of us doing chores and snooze peacefully. I'm going to write a blog on situational awareness one of these days as I believe it's a behavior horse people should develop. Keeping track of what's going on around you can be a real safety factor. Horses can cover a lot of ground quickly and without much notice. If you're in the way, they figure that's on you. They have that "herd thing" going for them and assume you do too. Getting run down by a 900 to 1000 pound critter moving 35mph is not recommended. More on this later! Love on your critters today as a favor to yourself and to them! It's free and you'll both enjoy it!