(To go to the beginning of the story, please click here…)
Dear Ms. Horse Lover,
This letter is a long time in coming…. And it is with a strange blend of joy and sadness that I write to you.
I know who you are. While you have lurked in the shadows of my life for the past two years, you have had significant impact on me as a woman, an animal lover myself, and on my family.
Your name is beautiful…. In fact, growing up, I would pretend when I was a little girl that my name was yours. I didn’t like my “weird” name… I would add “princess” to your name (of course), and I would pretend that I had a horse named “Silvery.” I didn’t know a thing about animals as a young girl. I grew up a military brat and my family used what little they had to pay for my private school education and food, as well as clothes from Goodwill. So, I would sit behind our military duplex and imagine the back yard to be a field where horses roamed, sheep baa-ed, and that I was rich and important.
You love to write, as do I, and you are impassioned about justice for horses. Odds are that if we had ever met face to face, we might have been friends. I, too, am impassioned about life…. All life. I’ve had the displeasure of visiting a farm where an ‘animal hoarder’ lived. She was a single mom in a trailer, and she collected animals like someone might collect cans for recycling. It was a dark section of Craigslist that I would discover. I remember the ribs on countless goats, countless horses, and I figured that maybe she was trying to compensate for a lack of human love in her life, or maybe she was trying to find a way (albeit not a good way) of making money so that she and her children could eat. I don’t know…. But it was a horrific vision.
As far as my childhood dream, one day, many years later, my dream would come true. I finally lived on my dream farm, with 80 acres, and I adopted my first horse. Her name was “Fudge.” She was a wonderful children’s horse, from a wealthy ranch where their children raced, and Fudgie (as I affectionately called her) had gotten too old for racing and had developed arthritis, and just needed to retire and be lavished on by a family. Fudgie taught me how to own horses. She taught me how to saddle her up, how to put on a gentle bridle…. She was less than 14 hands and could only be ridden for short periods of time by small children, which was perfect, because I had small children. And once in a while when I would put a young one on her back (bareback with a blanket, so as not to strain her knee), she would walk proudly, remembering her “glory days”… And she especially loved children.
Fudgie wasn’t fancy, she wasn’t expensive, she wasn’t young, she couldn’t lope anymore, and I could not ride her because I was too big for her… But when we brought her home that day, I felt like a princess. I felt like the richest girl on the planet. My young horse-loving daughter felt the same… A dream had come true for me and my daughter, and that is a precious day etched in my memory.
More years past…. We got to know sweet Oberhasli goats, and their even sweeter milk, and we adopted special sheep, and I learned to spin and weave…. We learned what farm fresh eggs tasted like from our free-range hens… And we got to experience the vast Colorado night sky, Milky Way clear and ablaze….
We acquired a beautiful black and white paint horse named Thunder and a wild and wonderful Mustang named Tigger. Both were rescues, and both to this day have good lives. We even offered the use of our farm and pastures to anyone in the Black Forest fires who needed a place for their horses to stay… We had plenty of hay, we had a round pen, and we had plenty of pasture…
Eventually, we moved to a smaller farm so that we could be closer to schools for our children. My family was growing, and because I believe in treating all life with dignity and kindness, I wanted to be sure that whichever animals we had in our family, I could provide optimum care for them…. So we downsized our farm, giving our prized dairy goats to a dear friend with a dairy, and bringing only our three lambs, several hens, and our 2 barn cats with us. We weren’t expecting to be blessed with another horse, but the house we purchased “came with” a rescue horse who had nowhere to go if we didn’t take her… She was green broke, had been previously left alone for long days to completely strip the back pasture (before we owned her); she was elderly, she hadn’t been trimmed by a ferrier in years, and she came with no vet records.
But I couldn’t turn her down. I looked into her eyes, and I fell in love. So did my daughter. Allow me to introduce to you, sweet Sugar:
Sugar was a beloved family horse… Not fancy, not broken in, had a little “habit” of kicking when we tried to clean out her back hooves before lunging her… But my daughter learned, as did I, how to work with a previously lonely horse and bring life back to her… Here is my daughter lunging her:
Sugar did wonderfully, and her training was coming along well… You CAN train an “old horse” new tricks, after all! Thankfully, at our last farm, we had lived across the road from our ferrier and his wife who was a horse trainer, so he helped us get her trimmed as we searched for a good vet for when it came time for her to have her yearly vaccines (which would be in early 2015.) Sugar ate well, and all seemed to be well.
Until, that fall, she simply died in the middle of the night. There was no warning… She just laid down, near her hay, and died… Right by the place she would wait for us to feed her each morning and night. There had been no sign…. No question from any neighbor, and no sign to us, who knew well what a healthy horse looks and acts like… She had been energetic and “normal” the day before.
We were devastated. As with anyone who knows what it is like to lose a beloved animal or pet, there is a void… The pasture was too empty, too quiet, and while we still had our sheep, no one could fill the void that Sugar left. My husband took on the unthinkable task of burying her. I couldn’t watch. I simply couldn’t. And neither could my daughter. A storm came up shortly after she died, and the ground froze solid… So we also had to wait until the ground thawed to completely bury her. The whole ordeal was terrible, and we grieved.
But this letter is about forgiveness.
I’ve given you some background about myself and our farm… Although I wish I could have introduced myself and my family and my farm to you in person before you made a random phone call to “authorities”….
But we never got to meet in person. And so, because it serves no purpose to let anger consume my heart at what transpired, I forgive you for never trying to contact me, or coming to my door, maybe even having a cup of coffee, and getting to know me and my farm. I forgive you for posing as somebody else and calling my husband at work, pretending you were interested in adopting Sugar and lying about your identity, which basically just confused us. I forgive you for making a judgment call about my horse’s health from acres away as you drove by… Even someone with 20/20 vision would need to get up close and personal to tell of an animal’s health. I forgive you for calling in “officers” based on a rumored phone call from a troubled lady… A lady who had trespassed randomly and unannounced many months earlier and onto our property with a bunch of needles and who-knows-what drugs or vaccines in a baggie, while not a veterinarian, and with my little children present (several crimes there, but being reasonable people, we didn’t call the police at the time)… I forgive you because I believe you truly care for horses, and animals, and because I give people the benefit of the doubt, I don’t believe you set out to “destroy a family.”
But because you are so driven in your passion for horses, you didn’t take the time to find out who you were accusing, and what effect it would have on us, who quite possibly love life more than you do. Still, I forgive you, because you could not have known that this is my gentle daughter who loves horses (and all our farm animals we had) and who’s heart was ripped apart both when Sugar died of natural causes, and when our remaining animals were stolen from us :
You could not have known that this was the first face I saw when re-entering my house after the surprise and unexplained farm raid of our healthy sheep and goat, and that his face was tear-stained and horrified:
You could not have known that the day they chose to raid our farm, it had been less than two days since I had major surgery which removed a deceased baby and a large tumor, that I was facing cancer, and that I was still bleeding and could barely stand. You could not have known these little girls of mine, who needed to be reconvinced that police officers are good people:
You could not have known that I would spend days and nights sobbing, that extended family relationships would be strained because of the stress, that we would be accused of the unthinkable and lied about on police reports by intimidated strangers; and that at each court appearance I would look for you… I wanted to look you in the eye… I wanted you to know that this is the last picture we have of Sugar shortly before she died…
We all get old (if we are blessed to live past our youth), and eventually, we all will die. Our next breath isn’t guaranteed. That goes for us, and our beloved animals. It’s a reality over which we have little to no control. Being accused in Sugar’s death was like being accused for a rain storm or a tornado.
And digging her up, having strangers “cut up pieces of her” that day, having perfectly healthy baby animals taken from the arms of my children… This is the stuff of a horror movie. What did anyone solve? What did anyone prove? What did anyone accomplish by attacking the very people who had saved the lives of six horses, many dairy goats, flocks of sheep, and who rescued even roosters and barn cats? Is this what you intended, my friend?
How does it help the horses you love by terrorizing HUMANS?
There were criminals that day, and they are the ones raiding innocent small farms across the country. They are the people from pro-kill animal shelters, who euthanize kittens and puppies for a living, all day long, and they want to preach to the rest of us about the health of our pets as well as their “opinions” of our livestock whom they eat in a sandwich without a second thought. They are the people who legislate for the arrest or death of innocent humans, while out of their same breath they advocate for animal life. They are the people who count the horse as a “person,” and my children (or myself) to not be a person (actual quote from the raid that day.)
But I forgive you. You could not know how many friends and farmers came forward to defend us, or how many attorneys I contacted across the country, discovering the growing movement of “small farm raids” as a politically-motivated stunt to keep big agriculture in business. You may not know that you are being used as a pawn in a political game, even though your mission to rescue neglected horses is a worthy cause, but that most politicians could care less about you and your horses and your horse mission… They only want your vote.
But I care.
I care because I not only forgive you, I thank you.
Each and every action we take has a ripple effect, one where most likely we have no idea how our lives and our actions impact others. Your action of a phone call had a massive ripple effect… It started out as a mysterious and horrifying effect, like a tidal wave… But then, the ripples continued… And you triggered something great. Something greater than you, or I, could have ever imagined. Because of your mission, and then your phone call based on a rumor, because of the “people cruelty” we endured, because we “lost” our animals who were stolen from us and our savings as we defended ourselves from lies, because of what seemed like a nightmare… one year later, my life has completely changed.
Right now as I write this blog, I am sitting in a place I never imagined existed, surrounded by friends and family I never knew existed, healed and open to the real mission I have set before me. In truth, I cannot thank you enough, Ms. Horse Lover.
Your actions meant for harm have turned to good, and should I ever have the pleasure of meeting you, and looking you in the eye, I would hug you.
I truly wish you the best life has to offer…
from my heart,
P.S. My dear readers, if you have someone you need to to forgive, and would like to tell your story in my Forgiveness Friday series, please contact me at my email or at my Facebook page. 🙂