December 30, 2012

More from Willow's past

What a wonderful suprise!  I received an email and some photos from a girl named Hayley who worked at Leah's farm for the three months Willow was there...

Hello there! 

I have been wanting to get in contact with you and say how truly happy I am that this sweet sweet mare has gotten such a great home. My name is Hayley Smith, and I hate that I never got the opportunity to meet you. I work for Mark and Leah, and was with Willow (MG to me :) ) the entire time. 
Immediately had such a connection with this sweet horse. I don't think I have ever actually seen such emotion displayed through a horse. Even though you can tell she is struggling, she is truly a warrior. Her eyes speak such sorrow, yet hope at the same time. The days that she was perked up, and nickering at me walking down the aisleway, made it all worth it. I used to spend such lengthy periods of times just watching her on days like this. Especially with her adorable fuzzy ears that just stay pricked forward, longing for attention.   
Personally, I hadn't ever experienced a horse with the medical problem that she has, and it tore me up having to watch her. I always did my best trying to comfort her through it, even if all I could do was try soothing words at her stall gate....

 Photo 1: I spent one day at work researching how to do this braid because me & Leah LOVED the appearance of it, however didn't know anything about where to start. I brought a bucket and flipped it upside down while I worked on sweet Willow. She was the most patient horse and I think I had to try at least 5 or 6 times before getting it right. She would just look at me, as though she understood what I was doing and truly appreciated it. The heart on that horse can just leap out in my text as I type. I think she will always have a piece of my heart, just the same as every other horse from that ranch. 

 Photo 2:She used to always spend her time standing on the hill. Gazing out at the other horses. She never had a buddy that she really clung to out in the field, which broke my heart. Such a lonely soul. There was one day however, that she ran up this hill as Leah & Mark turned her out. And of course, I MISSED IT! I knew in that moment though, deep down inside, that she was going to be okay. That God was going to bless her and give her everything she deserved.

You are the answer to so many prayers that I sent up for these sweet horses. Just seeing the love and affection you have through your blog shows that all of my work was well worth it. Everyday in the heat, and the cold. I wish I could really show my happiness through this email. So many emotions are brought to life just thinking of the 3  months I was lucky enough to try and help. I know that all the rest of the horses are going to be okay because of great people such as yourself for proving that the world can always be a better place.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.

I have been so lucky to hear from so many people who have known and loved my sweet Willow.  Not even knowing her name or age when I bought her... or how sick she really was... it has been amazing to hear from people who knew her as Leona, and it's just as special to hear from sweet Hayley who clearly sees the same soulful, loving horse that I do.  Thank you so much, Hayley... and thank you for loving and caring for Willow as I know you and Leah did.  Please come visit her soon.   You can teach me how to make those braids, and  I know Willow would love to see you...

December 29, 2012

Vulnerable {Black Beauty & Me}

I don't know what has gotten into me.  I don't like to be sad, and I never watch sad movies.  So what made me think I could survive a sad horse movie marathon, I do not know.  First I watched Black Beauty.  I hadn't seen it in so long and had forgotten it almost entirely.  But since I started blogging about Willow, I've received many comments about our story being like the "Black Beauty" story, so I felt I needed to watch it again.  I think I cried through 90% of it.  The story was actually told by the horse, and one thing he said particularly affected me.  He said:

"We don't get to choose the people in our lives.  For us it's all chance..."

And as I watched Black Beauty being sold and resold, having no choice of his caretakers or responsibilities, being treated so poorly...  As I watched his life evolve from a life of beauty and glory to a life of suffering and shame, and then back to a life of beauty and love, I realized that Willow really is Black Beauty.  And that like him, she is so vulnerable.  It is true... she didn't get to choose me or any of the other people in her life.  But I'd like to think that she would choose me if she had a choice.  Would she choose me? 

I need to be the person for her.  I need to give her the life that she would choose...

And I realize that Willow and I are so much alike.  We are both vulnerable... and perhaps that's a good thing. ♥

 "It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us... discover our soul."     - Desmond Tutu 

(Michael took this shot of me with Willow last week... I was so ssurprised to see the similarities when I googled "Black Beauty" yesterday.!)

December 28, 2012

I believe in miracles...

I am documenting this story for me and for Willow... My hope is that what I gain from journaling my thoughts will help me learn and grow and heal... and in doing that, I will be better for Willow.  I long to be less fearful, more positive, more patient, more faithful, more trusting, and more present.   I know that is best for her...  as I am understanding more and more how sensitive and connected horses really are.  I know I have a lot to learn about horses.  I admit that I am not perfect, so sometimes along the way I might get discouraged (like I was yesterday).  I know, though, to try not to internalize or share those feelings with Willow.  I talk to her in a sweet, upbeat voice... I call her "Pretty Girl" or "Beauty" and my love for her is so strong, that I know she can feel it.  And when I am feeling discouraged, I know who to turn to to life my spirits.  The emails, letters, and comments I've received have  been so encouraging and supportive... they lift me up too.  Thank you so much for every single one...

I shared my feelings with Martha, Nancy (Willow's 1st owner), and Leah (who first rescued Willow)... and I was amazed at how beautiful and similar their responses were:

From Leah:
"Hey Shana, don't fret, everything will be okay. There's a huge difference between what usually happens and what happens when there's a miracle going on. Too much of this story points to the latter. Have faith, it WILL work for the best. And that's what I believe"

From Martha:
"This is a place of hope and healing. God has put people and horses in my life for a reason, and He has opened my eyes to see what they really need.  I have rehabbed horses that even the vets had given up on.  God has brought them to me and this farm.  Miracles do happen, and I truly believe Willow is going to be well..."

From Nancy:
"I do know what you mean dear friend. But I believe in miracles. Perhaps the Lord will not see fit to make Willow whole until she joins Him in heaven. BUT, perhaps in SPITE of the choices evil people made for her and because of the love of one good person that came to save her, He will make her whole while still on earth. There is only one thing I KNOW for CERTAIN and that is an angel came to save her and to love and care for her. Shana she knows the depth of your love....she can sense it with all her queenly being. You are the love of her life, even if her life is not going to be totally well. Her life is GOOD...because of YOU! I literally would give my own life to make her well. I feel so bad I ever sold her. But, all I can do is love her from afar.... YOU are her love, her life, her very being. You are the dearest of the dear and I so wish none of this has caused you pain.I stand beside you Shana in anyway I can. Sending you love and hugs, Nancy

And there have been so many beautiful comments that have touched my heart - here are just a couple...

From Eden:
"I have been where you are. The fear of what you'll find at the barn- the insecurity of not knowing if you'll know how to fix her...I know how hard it is. Take comfort in knowing that you've already saved her- if you lose her saved her. You'll be in my prayers."

 From Michelle:
"Thank you for sharing your story of Willow. The two of you are magic and you inspire me - Willow's courage and your devotion to her. Choose each moment you have together to be filled with love. If you are blessed with minutes, days or years make the most of them. She is a gift, her life full of lessons and her love pure ... bath yourself in her love. She is a gift from God and I would trust in a plan far greater than yourself."

Thank you, thank you all so much for warming my heart and renewing my faith....  I know I can do this.  I can believe in this miracle.  Afterall, it's happening before my eyes...

December 27, 2012


Like everyone else, I have loved and I have lost.  But it seems that the times I have loved the hardest- the times that I loved without reservation- were the times that I always lost.  And that has scared me. I think I am almost afraid to fully love... to give 100% of myself.  It's so risky, and it makes me too vulnerable.  So I protect myself by holding back... or by building a wall around my heart... or by burying myself in my work to distract me from any true depth of feeling.

How fast and hard I have fallen in love with Willow has surprised me.  I felt almost an instant connection with her... I feel like I know her soul and her heart.  She is the quiet and the gentle that I need.  And when I am with her, everything else fades away.  She makes me want to be better... more loving, more patient, more trusting, less fearful.... more faithful.  I have believed Martha when she has told me that Willow will get better... that she will be whole and healthy again one day. That she will feel better in the spring, and that I will start riding her in the summer...    I dream of putting blossoms in her mane and riding her on the trails along the river on sunny days...

Last night I spoke with someone who really knows Friesians... I was so happy to learn that she was able to rescue one of the others that was abandoned with Willow.  She told me that she visited that awful place about a year ago.  She said there were 70 horses there, and that there was one person left behind to try to care for them.  She, however, wasn't doing a good job.  The horses were fighting and breeding in the fields... they were thin and dirty.  There wasn't enough clean water... the situation was bad even back then.  She remembered seeing Willow there.  I think she told me what she did in hopes of protecting me somehow...  but she told me that she doubted that Willow would ever get her muscle back... that she had lost her stifles and would likely never be sound enough for me to ride again.  And she also told me that most Friesians don't live very long lives... even the healthy ones don't.  Was she trying to warn me that Willow didn't have much longer to live?  

And then I felt it.  I actually felt my heart starting to close up...   I am so so afraid of losing her.  Was I so caught up in all of this that I haven't yet realized that I could lose her?  Or that I will lose her one day... ? 

I recognize that I feel the desperate need to protect myself...  and I don't like it.

Willow's choking and swallowing problems seem to have gotten worse since we started her on the EPM medicine, and I have been hearing more and more stories of horses that haven't survived EPM... especially when they have had it as long as Willow has likely been affected.  The starvation, the EPM, and the paralysis that causes the choking... Is it just too much?  I don't know...  I don't know.  But I know I love her...

I am just feeling so discouraged.  Afraid... and so so sad... 

December 24, 2012

A New Friend

This is Abigail, one of the sweet barn cats at Martha's farm.  I've always thought there was something so special about cats and horses together.... I love that I was able to capture this moment, because honestly I think Abigail was actually listening to Willow.  I'm so glad Willow has a new friend. ♥

December 23, 2012

“God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.”

December 22, 2012

The most amazing gift...♥

After an emotional afternoon, I opened my email to find the most amazing gift... photos of Willow from long ago!  Dana Adams had promised to find some for me, but I hadn't expected them this soon...  and I certainly wasn't prepared for how emotional I would be... or how magnificent she really was.... 

Dana took this at one of her Keurings (shows).   From what I hear, she was the star of the show...  and the most beautiful by far.  To see her this way... round and healthy... gives me such hope. Though now she is a mere shell of what she once was, I still see the same beauty in her...  Thank you so much, Dana!  I was actually on the phone with Martha when I opened the email and saw this photo.  I lost my breath, and I couldn't speak.  I smiled and cried at the same time... you know that kind of cry that almost hurts because you are smiling so big.  I  forwarded the photo to Martha and told her to check her email.  And for the 2nd time today, I made Martha cry...

Martha cried...

While getting ready to go visit Willow, I got a call from Martha... "Shana, she's choking.  I'm out in the pasture with her...".  So I jumped in the car and headed out there.  My mind and heart were heavy already.... as I had just heard from Nancy (one of Willow's previous owners).  I didn't want Nancy to hear of Willow's EPM diagnosis elsewhere so I had written to inform her.  Upon hearing the news, she wrote back:

"That is what Aileen died of... she was the other mare that was with Leona, Stryder and Veritas. .... Thank God, you have her and are giving her such wonderful care...I just know this will be another hurdle, but your love, prayers and wonderful care will bring her through this. .... I just KNOW Willow is going to be fine...she has endured to much and now her guardian angel has saved her and she will be with you for a good long time. I do thank you for letting me know...God Bless you..."

Aileen?  Another mare?  EPM?  Died?  

Nancy shared the entire story she had heard from her old vet... and then Nancy told me more.   I just pray that God heals Nancy's broken heart.  None of this is her fault...

When I got to Martha's farm, I found her with Willow in her pasture.  She had a damp, white towel on her arm and she was working on Willow's throat...  trying to help her swallow the food she was choking on.  I always have to  remind myself that horses can still breathe when they are choking, and I have to try to make myself calm down because I still get so upset to see Willow struggling.  As Martha worked, I attempted to comfort Willow by rubbing her and telling her softly how much I love her. As she struggled, and coughed grass colored saliva, Martha carefully took the white towel from her right arm and sweetly wiped Willow's nose and mouth.  This touched me so much.  She did this in the same loving way you would wipe your fever stricken child's forehead...  I would have told Martha how much that meant to me (and how it will likely always stay with me) if I could have spoken without crying.  I was trying so hard not to cry for Willow...

Willow & Martha
Willow started feeling better sooner than normal.  I hope that her episodes continue that trend.  But we stayed with her for a while longer, and I told Martha about my conversation with Nancy.  I was still in shock myself, but when Martha heard there had been another starving mare with Willow abandoned at that old farm;  that sadly, she didn't make it... that she had EPM and that she had died before the horses were rescued, Martha looked up at me.  And she cried.

Martha is so strong, and I know it takes a lot to make her cry.  I think she was crying for Willow.  The other mare, Aileen, had probably been Willow's mate.  Martha told me that this may have had a profound impact on Willow...  and that because Willow couldn't speak, who knows the pain and sickness that manifested...  Then I remembered something Martha had told me weeks ago... "We are not bodies with souls.... We are souls with bodies.  Long ago, before Adam and Eve, I believe animals could speak to people...  but then their voices were taken away.  I believe animals go to heaven and that they have souls.  I believe Willow has something to say, and you need to learn to hear her..."   

How I wish I could hear her....

More from Willow's Past

Today I heard from Dana Adams... yet another person who knew Willow long ago.... her words brought me to tears:

"Shana, Leona (Willow) is a one of a kind....her beauty knows no bounds. I was horrified, heartsick, and angry beyond words when Nancy (I call her "Mom" even though she isn't really my mother she has treated me way better than the real thing) told me about the horses. I have worked with her and all her horses since she had Paints. Each and every horse to ever set foot on that farm was loved unconditionally. Leona was always especially so....she and Nanco were always my favorite photo subjects. I am so so happy she has you for a mom now, I just don't understand how anyone could hurt any of them (or really what kind of sick person hurts any animal really) but they especially have always been such sweet souls. And yes I meant what I said that woman had better never let me find her, she better pray the authorities find her first because I won't be so kind.

Shana thank you for taking care of her. I haven't had the courage to look at your site, my friend who also knew her, looked at it and told me about the details and what you had done for her. She didn't think I should see the photos of her quite yet either, but I will go through my old photos and find what I can for you. I did see her photo when I went to your FB page I did not click on her shot of the two of you fully, though I did see it. The photo of you two together brought tears to my eyes. But that is the beautiful face and soulful eye I always loved! The one of you hugging her neck is gorgeous as well. I would know that head, eye and ear anywhere!

Again Thanks so much! God Bless and Merry Christmas!
PS...she LOVES peppermints.... "

I love to hear that others can see in her what I do... her sweetness, her beauty, her soulfulness...   and of course, I had already figured out that Willow loved peppermings (shhh... don't tell Martha)! ♥

December 20, 2012

A Story from Willow's past ♥

Another surprise today... I got a message from one of Nancy's friends (Laura). Laura was actually with Nancy when she purchased Willow (Leona C) from Black Horse Valley Ranch in California in 1998. Here is what she wrote to me:

Dear Shana,

When I met Willow in 1998 in CA, it was during the Keuring, or judging, time. She was so beautiful and sweet, also a bit of a diva, so proud. She was stunning in her Keuring, with her flowing mane and wonderful gaits, and she got the highest rating, 1st Premium Ster. We met her sire, Lukas 324, an especially sweet stallion. Nancy and I bonded that weekend, and have been best friends ever since, even though we live far apart. We exchange a lot of horse stories and one of my favorites is the one of Willow and the clicker training. Friesians, are very expressive and tend to use their feet, (pawing) a lot, when they want something. Nancy had a friend who was a big clicker training fan, and said she could get Willow to stop pawing when tied in the aisle way. Nancy, smiling to herself, said to go ahead and try. So the friend had some treats ready, and when Willow stopped pawing for a moment, clicked the clicker, said "Good girl" and treated her. This went on for a couple of times and the friend thought she was really "training" Willow. But Willow was training the friend!! She would paw, then pause, and get her treat! When the friend turned to leave, Willow pawed really hard, paused when the friend turned to look at her, like "Well, where's the treat? !! 

I hope this little story and the visual it can conjure up, gives you a little smile today. I'm so glad you have her and are giving her a chance. You're a beautiful person inside and out and your love will nurture beautiful Velvet Willow. I also hope your little girl is doing better today.


Is that not the cutest story?  Well of course it made me smile, and laugh, and cry... because it is so her.  She still paws at the ground like that (though mostly out of frustration when she is struggling to swallow or choking)...  but it helps so much to have that visual.  Sweet Laura also offered to send me a VHS tape of Leona at one of her Keuring shows!  I will have it made into a DVD so Nancy, Laura and I can all have a copy... I can't wait!!   (Thank you Laura!)

December 19, 2012


Martha called today... she said she had just heard some news from Dr. Hawthorne.  Willow tested positive for EPM.  Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis is debilitating disease cause by a protozoal infection of the central nervous system of horses. This would explain Willow's severe muscle loss and atrophy (which was worsened by her neglect) and probably other issues she has as well... maybe even her choking.  She has already started treatment which will last for 3 months.  She will also be supplemented with Vitamin E and Selenium (in addition to everything else we have her on).  The accupuncture and Myofascial therapy should help too.  We are avoiding the most aggressive treatments at this time, simply because Willow is so frail, and her immune system so weak.  Martha, Dr. Hawthorne, and Dr. Kimmons all remain hopeful that Willow can recover from this... that next year, she will be a different horse (to which I always say, I don't want a different horse... just a healthy one). ♥

The good news is, though it appears she has had EPM for a long time, Willow has soft, kind, bright eyes. Miraculously, she isn't spooky or distant like so many affected horses are. Yes, she is a sweetheart, but she is also a fighter... ♥

December 17, 2012

A Package from Nancy

I knew it was coming, but I was still so happy to see the package from Nancy in my mailbox.  Expecting only a laminated registration paper, I was excited to find a beautiful horse calender and a handwritten three page letter along with Willow's pedigree.  I cried as I read her heartfelt words..."Dear, dear Shana... How I think God for you. I am so happy Leona / Willow has such a wonderful loving home now....."  She went on to explain how she is "so overwhelmed with grief at that this dear animal has had to endure" that she cannot stop crying and can't bear to even look at my blog...    Her daughter will be keeping up on the blog until Willow looks much better so Nancy can endure seeing her photos.  Even more proof that Willow was loved very much for at least 10 years of her life. Aside from the past three months when she being cared for by Leah, the 4 years before that are a mystery.  And honestly, I don't think I even want to know what happened to her and exactly how long she was left with a heard of other horses, starving and wasting away...   it really is heart breaking to imagine.

Willow's pedigree from the Netherlands was so fun to look at.  Since it was not written in English, I couldn't read all the words; but it was fun to look at the names and designations in her ancestry...  her Sire (father) is Lukas, and her Dam (mother) is Meike.   I like her Dam's Dam's name (her grandma lol)... "Fannie" and her great grandmother's name was "Happy". ♥   I don't know much about showing Friesians or anything about their Keurings (show tests) but Willow is designated "Ster" which means "Star" and has a 1e premie and a 2e premie (I think those are both very good).  Nancy told me she was the star of all the shows...  and in her letter, she offered to send me photos of her!  I really can't wait to see those.  To see a healthy, nourished Willow would be so good for me- I"d have an image to hold on to when I imagine her once she's healed.  I also know Willow's birthday.. it's April 20th. ♥

Thank you, sweet Nancy... not only for the beautiful letter and her pedigree... but thank you for loving Willow.  I look forward to the day you come to visit her, and I know she will be so happy to see you. ♥

December 15, 2012

Don't mess with her.

I have met so many loving, kind, beautiful people in the horse world... but I have been disappointed yet again. While out having a sweet visit with willow, I was told of a woman "big in the Friesian world" who was claiming it was well known in the Friesian community that Willow was a stolen horse. Of course, when I heard this, I went into panic mode.... I knew so very little of Willow's past. And although we trust and adore Leah and Mark, what if they had been lied to and the people who supposedly owned her had stolen her? We know they let her be neglected to the point of nearly starving to death, so could it be that they had stolen her and then lied to Leah and Mark? So I immediately called Leah. I was shaking and crying when I told her what I had just heard. She was so calm and assured me that she would find some way to prove that it wasn't the case. While waiting, I went and found the woman who said she had heard that Willow was stolen. She described many "red flags in the Friesian community" regarding how I came upon my new horse... I asked her who the woman with "connections" was and she pulled up their conversation on her cell phone. After reading the entire conversation, it was so obvious to me that these two women WERE the source of this new rumor. The main "red flag" it seemed was that "Mountain Girl" wasn't a legit Friesian name... and that her price of $5,000 was just WAY too low for a horse of her "Ster" designation. Well, as I explained to this nosy woman, "Mountain Girl" was the nickname Leah had for my horse... it wasn't her registered Friesian name. I also had to remind this woman that Willow was a VERY sick horse (and not a very young horse either)... and that many people wouldn't want her at any price given the thousands of dollars it would take to care for her (and that she likely would always be ill). By their conversation, I could tell that these two nosy, trouble making women had conjured up this whole thing and had convinced themselves that she must be a stolen horse. And then they proceeded to tell someone very close to me that she was!

After a while, I heard back from Leah. She was able to find out who Willow's first owner was (the one who sold her and the others to the people who neglected her). Her name is Nancy, and Leah called her to explain what was going on. Nancy cried when Leah described the state in which she found Willow and the other beautiful Friesians. Leah gave me her number, and I called her... Nancy was horrified and grief stricken. I was so grateful to talk to her as Willow was mostly a mystery to me. Aside from her having a cyst removed (under the care of Leah), a problem swallowing food & choking, a Friesian "Ster" brand of "F S" on her neck, and of course the fact that she had been neglected and abandoned to starve to death, I really knew NOTHING about her. Through her tears, Nancy told me that her name was Leona. She was born in California in 1995. And miraculously, Nancy still had her paperwork and would mail it to me. I assured Nancy that I was committed to loving and taking care of this sweet horse. Nancy was so sweet, so I told her that it was obvious Willow was so sweet because of her love. "No," answered Nancy, "... she was born that way. She is the sweetest horse in the world." Yes, she sure is.  And you know, maybe the Vulture story is right...  something good was born from this bad experience...  I got to talk to Nancy and learn more about Willow... what a gift...

I then went home and googled one of the women (the one "big" in the Friesian world)... turns out she is a Friesian breeder herself... well of course she doesn't like to see a Friesian sold for $5k.. even one who is sick and starved.  When I mentioned TK's name to Leah, she told me that this same woman actually contacted her about Willow. She posed as a potential buyer... Leah told her that she had gone to a loving home, and then TK wrote back demanding to know where this horse came from, etc. She totally harassed the very people that saved my horse's life!! What I don't get is why these women were investigating my horse (or trying to) when it is so clear that she is where she belongs... where she is being loved and completely cared for. She is under the care of Martha and her team, Dr. Hawthorne, Dr. Kimmons, and various others. She is being fed the best food for her and supplemented with vitamins and minerals. She is receiving numerous therapies, including Myofascial and Acupuncture. And mostly, she is being showered with love. Unless someone knew of a Friesian mare that was stolen, WHY would they cause me so much heart ache and trouble? Nothing better to do, ladies? How about praying for this sweet horse... or better yet, rescue a horse yourself as there are SO many that need rescuing. But leave MY horse alone.  Don't go causing trouble where there isn't any. I have enough heartache already.

December 13, 2012


As Martha and I chatted while spending time with Willow in the outer pasture, I noticed some large dark birds in the old barren tree branches above us.  As they came and went, I noticed that these were the same birds that were circling overhead as I wrote in my journal on the front barn steps waiting for Willow to arrive that first day.  I mentioned it to Martha and told her how there must have been 20 or 30 of them just circling overhead just moments before their trailer arrived. In my mind I came up with the pretty thought that they were eagles or hawks, but Martha said, "Vultures... they are vultures."   "Ohhhh..." I said, somewhat disappointed (picturing nasty vultures eating dead animals).  "No, that's good, Shana... vultures are good."  And Martha proceeded to tell me how the vulture symbolizes hope... death and rebirth.  Then she read from her cell phone about the vulture and what it means:

The vulture is a reminder that we must shed past negative thoughts before we can proceed with the birth of new ideas. ... Life is lived in stages and new ideas are often born out of old experiences....

The preoccupation of past sorrowful events can lead to a period of negativity and mental turmoil. If allowed to escalate, the emotional injuries can inhibit your ability to nurture new, fertile ideas. It can also prevent you from allowing yourself to open up to people, thus leaving you suspicious of those who attempt to enter your lives. But out of negative experiences, you can learn to become wiser and more intellectually astute. This is the time to rethink your situation and allow the negative burdens of your past to become a source of self-empowerment....

"If something from your past is hindering you; you may feel sad. Be careful not to let the past affect current relationships. There may be lack of communication, and possible relationship troubles. However, always see the good in the bad, as this may be the time that can inhibit your ability to nurture new and fertile ideas...

The vulture can help teach you how to accomplish this through patience and vision. Vultures teach you how to soar without using much energy, how to ride the thermal winds instead of flapping. Go with the flow. Use your own energy powerfully and efficiently. The Vulture promises us that no matter how difficult things are at the moment, rescue and change are imminent."******

******(I searched and found that these excerpts came from or are based on "Animals Divine Tarot" by Lisa Hunt.  Martha assures me as God is the creator of animals and all living things, he put them here for us to learn from...  I will write more on Martha's amazing faith in a later post.)

As Martha read to me, we both couldn't help but look at each other in awe... so many parallels, and this advice is so fitting for me at this point in my life.  I need to let go and be at peace with a very sad experience from my past; but I also need to find a way to be empowered by it.  I need to have more faith and less fear... And I need to find my way toward finding  "patience and vision".  I need to, and Willow needs to... we both need to learn to trust again.  

"... Rescue and change are imminent."   I love that part. Perhaps this new perspective will help.

Episode #3

Dr. Kimmons came out to meet Willow today.  While Dr. Hawthorne has examined her and has been testing and treating her, Dr. Kimmons is our normal vet and we adore him.  We really just wanted Willow under his care as well.  We all arrived at the same time.  It was still early morning, and Martha had kept Willow in her stall for us.  As I pulled her door open, she walked right toward us and coughed directly into poor Dr. Kimmon's face (he was such a good sport though.. and he still called her "sweetheart".  It was clear to me right away... was choking again. :(   Three times in her first week with us (could be more times that we weren't around to see).  Dr. Kimmons told me how sweet and beautiful she indeed was, but that she needed to gain at least 300 pounds.  He said that the therapies she was receiving were good, but that likely she would have this condition for the rest of her life....

December 11, 2012


Willow seemed so much better today.  She had eaten all her food and was happy to see me walk into her pasture.  She came right up to me and was extra sweet.  I love how she lowers her head to my eye level and just stands close to me and looks into my eyes.  I love her eyes...

Martha said I could let her out into the main area to eat some fresh, wet grass.  Must be like candy to her, because she really seemed to love munching on it. I took her halter off and just let her do what she wanted to do. Martha always tells me to "just trust" and so I did.  I scratched her neck and ears, gave her hugs, and just hung out with her while she grazed.  Then I remembered some advice from my dear and very wise friend Allison Kennedy:

"She really is lovely and it will take lots of time to bring her around, so don't be worried if she needs time to learn to trust her new home, new stall, new pasture friends .... it is something she has probably learned NOT to trust....give her all the time she needs - sit with her and don't always touch her..... sit and read a book near her but not looking or touching her want her to come begging for your interaction - makes them trust faster. Learning to trust again is huge - coming for food is survival - coming for love, touch and connection is emotional - much different and remember their brains are different - trust should not be confused with natural instinct to survive. I often bring my chair within reach and sit quietly doing my Ipad work but not connecting - they come to me to say HEY - you are ignoring me .... they come to me because they want to - rather than letting me be all over them because I can.  Touch is emotional not rational ... we have to earn it . That is how to really bond and gain trust. Then if she is and can get healthy again - she will recover faster... We always need to remember the psyche is different with a horse than we think it is."

So I told her I was going to go sit on the swing near the picnic table and that I would be there if she wanted me.  I watched her for a long time as she grazed and very occasionally looked up at me. 

After about 20 minutes, she picked up her head and slowly sauntered over.  By that time I was sitting at the picnic table, and I just watched hear and waited (resisting the urge to meet her half way).  When she got very close, she looked at me, glanced at the swing, and then looked at the barn and slowly walked past me toward the open barn doors.  I got up and followed her, as I felt she wanted me to.

Shen she got to the breezeway, I was still behind her but I could hear Martha cleaning the barn floors with the blower.  It was very loud, but Willow didn't spook... she just stood there looking down the breezeway toward her stall, as if she was waiting for Martha to turn off the noisy blower.  I walked past Willow, and opened her stall door.  Still, she stood there (Martha was not going to turn off that blower- I could tell - even though Willow and I both wished she would).  So I took a couple photos of her and then walked inside her stall to show her it was okay.  When I walked back out, she was already on her way toward me... and she walked right into her stall.

This might not seem amazing to others (I'm not sure)... but it was amazing to me.  I think everything she does is amazing. She is amazing.  She ate some hay, and I gave her some cut up carrots. And when she seemed ready, I walked back to her pasture, and she followed me.  ♥

December 10, 2012

Bad Day #2 & Team Willow

I drove with Michael this afternoon to spend some time with Willow at Martha's farm.  As we were pulling up to the barn, Martha called my cell phone. "Your girl is really struggling, Shana..."  I quickly interrupted her to tell her we were there.  It was raining and nearly dark inside the barn.  We walked toward her stall to find Martha and one of her boarders, Laurie, inside with Willow.  Laurie seemed to be assisting Martha, and they explained that Willow was again choking and struggling to swallow.  It had been 4 days since her last episode, and this one lasted even longer.  I tried so hard not to cry, and sweet Laurie left Willow for a minute to come give me a hug.  Though we had just met, she could tell I needed one...  I was just so disappointed and discouraged.  I remember our other vet Dr. Kimmons explaining that mnny horses with "choke" have bad episodes maybe 2 or 3 times a year.  This was two in less than a week. Although now we are all thinking that she doesn't have typical "choke"... that is may be something quite different. So much about Willow is a mystery...

Laurie looked at me intently and told me how much she loved Willow and then she thanked me for saving her. It always feels a bit strange to be thanked, as I feel I am the lucky one... and also, I am certainly not doing this alone.  There are so many wonderful people with me on "Team Willow" (as I like to call it)...  Michael, Martha, Dr. Hawthorne, Dr. Kimmons, Mascha, Laurie, Lynde, Leah & Mark, and all the others at the barn who stop by to say hi or hug her, and certainly everyone who is praying for her and supporting me with well wishes, advice, and encouragement.   Thank you. ♥ 

December 9, 2012

Sunday in her pasture...

I went by myself to see Willow today... everyone was still at church, so no one was at the farm.  It was so quiet there, rainy and peaceful. Willow was in her pasture with her new mates, a pair of very old Percheron mares named Alice an Aida.  I remember reading an article about how Martha had helped rescue them years ago.  They didn't look up as I opened the noisy gate, but Willow looked up and before I could finish calling, "Willow", she picked up her head and started strolling toward me.  So far, one of my favorite things about having a horse is the make that long, slow, but happy walk across the pasture to see you.  I just love that.

The only fun part about having a  horse that needs to put on weight is that I get to give her LOTS of treats.  I try not to hand feed her *too* much (although I love to), so she won't ever get nippy, but I brought her cut up apples and carrots and she loved them.  Always worrying that she won't be able to swallow or that she will begin to choke, I am very careful and apprehensive.  But Willow did great!  I spent a long while with her in the pasture... just hanging out with her.  Braiding her hair, scratching her neck, and looking in her eyes.  She gets eye level with me, and she just looks at me- and I see myself in those dark, soulful eyes of hers.  She is so deep- even Martha thinks she is.  And she is very wise.

After a while, I walked over to meet Aida and Alice.  Gosh they are HUGE!  Big, beefcake mares... almost like cows - so stalky and very sweet.  As I scratched their thick necks, I couldn't help but compare them too Willow and her tiny frame.  I wondered how long it will take until she is of normal horse weight.  I looked over at Willow who was happily grazing and enjoying the wet grass...  I smiled and tried so hard to stop myself from thinking too logically.  I mean, most horses eat 20 something hours a day just to maintain their weight.  Willow can't eat that many hours...  she has swallowing issues, she struggles and sometimes chokes.  She probably eats slower than most because of her fear of choking.  How will she gain weight... how will she even maintain it? 

I really need to find a way not to let this kind of worry and fret enter my mind. Today was such a good day.

Patience and faith (I need to keep reminding myself)...

December 8, 2012

Her name is Willow.

I have decided to name her "Velvet Willow".  And I will call her Willow.  Velvet, because she is beautiful, feminine, and soft... especially now in her winter coat.    And Willow because while she seems fragile and to be weeping on the outside, I know she is strong and resilient on the inside.  I received over a thousand name suggestions and so many beautiful thoughts on my Florabella Facebook page when I posted about her.  As her past is a mystery to us, so is her name; and I needed something beautiful and meaningful to call her.  Here are just a couple comments that spoke to my heart (there were so many)...  Thank you to everyone for such thoughtful words...

"She's pretty, and she looks like a Willow. And after the care and love she's going to be getting for you and the team, it won't be long before she looks like a real willow in the summer - standing in her pasture, strong, healthy, regal and beautiful!"  Joules Palmurak

"Willow is pretty, and her mane and tail remind me of the long flowing branches of the willow tree. And those trees have DEEP roots, they grow fast once they are planted..."  Julie Barnes Ferenzi

I just love the way it sounds when I say her name very softly, almost like "whisper"... and she seems to love it too.  ♥

December 7, 2012

Dr. Hawthorne's 2nd visit

Dr. Hawthorne came to treat her today.  He gave her an accupuncture treatment to help her liver and kidney functions...  He also sedated her so he could float her teeth.  He and Martha agreed I should not be there but reported that she did great.  "This is a nice mare, Martha," Dr. Hawthorne said with a smile, "They don't get any better than this. "    He said she was a good patient, and like I already knew- a sweet horse. ♥

As Dr. Hawthorne wrote his notes at the desk in Martha's barn, I couldn't help but notice the seemingly haphazard arrangement of items on the desk.... The horse figure and the clock especially.  I wondered about my sweet horse, just a shadow of the beautiful strong Friesian mare she must have been once.   Is she racing against time now?  Or aside from "love and groceries", is time all she needs?  I need to learn to be more patient- I know that.  But as the fear that perhaps she would continue to lose weight crept into my mind, I was reminded that I need to have more faith.  I need to let faith and love conquer my fear.  Patience and faith... I'm going to work on that. ♥

December 6, 2012

Day 2 (a rough day)

Upon our arrival, we were sad to find out that she didn't eat at all during the night in her stall. She was offered the same hay & food that she loved the day before, but she wouldn't eat. Nor did she drink but 1/4th a bucket of water. This made me cry, as I was so hopeful after Day 1. So we took her out to hand graze so we could bond while she got some sun and ate some grass. She seemed to really love it...
I love the way my husband Michael held his hand on her as they walked... He adores her.

Here I am trying to smile (when I feel like crying) with my pretty girl... I love how gentle and quiet she is.

When we took her back to the barn to groom her, I noticed how gorgeous the barn light was and took this of her. I love how it shows her sweet whiskers. But almost as soon as we got back, she started to struggle to swallow - technically she was choking (although it's not like a person choking and she could still breathe). It was awful... she was struggling so much, straining her neck, saliva coming out her mouth and nose, pawing at the barn floor with her hoof out of frustration. It was so upsetting, and I cried.  Martha was so calm though, and she treated her while she struggled. Martha is not only a wonderful trainer (and friend) but she is a specialist in Equine Myofascial Therapy. I will write more about that later, but what she does is amazing.  She told me not to worry, but to think positively.... she reassured me that her farm is a healing place (not a place to worry).

The episode lasted about 40 minutes. I just don't understand why it happened... we knew that if she ate regular grain too fast, it could swell in her throat and cause her to choke... but grazing on grass was supposed to be the safest thing for her? She had surgery up in Lexington two months ago to remove a cyst in her esophagus. We are wondering now if there is scar tissue or what could be causing this. Dr. Hawthorne will be back tomorrow.

December 5, 2012

Her first day with us ♥

As we walked her past the barn out to graze for a bit, all the geldings lined up at the fence to admirer our pretty girl. It was pretty cute. :)

Dr. Hawthorne is one of the amazing vets that will be caring for my sweet girl. He's quite a character... very charming, southern, a bit funny, and very wise. (He really is the cutest.) As he examined her, he asked me what my intentions were with her... I answered, "Love her...". He liked that and told me that she was a very sick "lil mare". He ordered no training, muscle building or anything until we could get her weight up. He worries for her immune system, as horses in her condition have weakened immune systems and that puts them at risk of contracting EPM (and we don't want that). He said all she really needs now is "love and groceries". ;) Then he sat down with Martha, and they carefully wrote out a plan...

And when  he began to tell me the plan, he started off by saying, "This lil mare has been abused..." My heart stopped for a minute thinking, not only neglected and abandoned but abused too? So I stopped him and asked him if he meant neglect or abuse? His answer: "Darlin, this kind of neglect IS abuse." He is so right.

She loved grazing... she seems to like it here already... but I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at this and not cry... :( We have a plan though... and I know at Martha's farm she is at the right place...

She arrives...

The sky was so ominous while I waited on the barn steps for the trailer to arrive... as I sat there, I journaled my thoughts, my questions, and my doubts... Would I be good enough for her? Would we really be able to help her? Why was I taking this on now when I am so overwhelmed and over committed already? What would the vets say when they saw her? Was she even more sick than we knew? What had she been through? And why would someone do this to her? Mostly though, how could I quiet my mind enough to really listen to my heart - to connect with this horse - to learn and grow from this experience?

And then they pulled up and opened the trailer door. When I saw her again, I knew that she was right where she belonged. And everything else would work itself out (like it always does). I cried when I saw how Leah braided her hair for her for her journey. There is something so very sweet and thoughtful about that...

I took this so we could document her rehabilitation... it's so hard for me to look at. :(

She is so so malnourished and thin though... she needs fat and muscle... and love. ♥

The Broken Fence

It's official... I have a new horse, and she is a rescue. A beautiful Friesian mare... she was neglected and abandoned. She was found starving and sick three months ago and has been cared for since then by some wonderful people... But she is still very thin and in poor condition. And she has a medical condition which makes it hard for her to put on weight. . She will be in rehab at my trainer's farm for two months until she comes to live with us. My husband and trainer picked her up this morning, and I took this on the way to the farm to welcome and settle her in. I was struck by the beauty of this broken fence and the vibrant leaves sprouting there - so much like this sweet, beautiful horse... from something broken can grow something beautiful. I am so looking forward to this journey....

 Leah told me how much she and Mark have loved this horse and their three months with her. They took very good care of her... she is thin now, but she was so much worse when they took her in. Because she is a Friesian and trained in Dressage, there were others that wanted to buy her; and Leah told me how happy she was that we decided to take her, because she knew that we wouldn't ask much of her. We only wanted to love her and do anything we could toward her recovery. Michael and Martha drove the trailer up to Springfield, and Michael took these photos of Leah and Mark saying goodbye to their "Mountain Girl"...

Mark & Leah Marie King... the lovely couple who cared for my horse for the first three months after she and the others were found abandoned and starving. I will always be thankful to them... they are true angels.

In her shipping boots walking to the trailer with Leah....

One last goodbye hug from Leah, and she's on her way to me. We will be good for each other- I just know it...