Since I was a child, I have been enamored with animals of all kinds. Like many children, I grew up with dogs and cats, always excited to discover the new babies from time to time, as that was before spaying and neutering was widely practiced. I lived in the country on a farm in western Kentucky where we also had horses for farm work with cattle herding and for riding. From the time I was four yrs. old I was put on the back of a horse and taught "to steer" and to hang on. Nothing fancy, no equestrian lessons, I'd just put a bridle on, maybe a blanket, sometimes a saddle, and take off on old Doc for hours at a time traversing the countryside. He was a retired racehorse my Dad got for a song, who would stop anytime I slipped off. Those were the days when parents gave you a lot of freedom because they knew you would be back when you got hungry. These imprints from an early age shaped me as someone who loves and appreciates 'the four legged's' and considers them best friends.
About 10 yrs. ago, economic times were hard in western NC, and I began to hear stories of people letting their horses go in the mountains to survive on their own. A heartbreaking tale came to my attention about a horse tied to a farmer's fence with a note attached saying "My name is Mary, I'm a good girl, please take care of me." This was just not acceptable, so I decided to do something about it. Horses have served humanity for thousands of years and these days, unless they are born into equestrian circles or of exclusive bloodlines, they are often neglected, mistreated, or sold for meat. Some farms keep mares who are impregnated, stalled for life, and their urine is collected for Premarin production, a hormonal drug for women. I even heard of horses who didn't win at the racetrack in Kentucky being left behind by their owners and released by the track to run down the highways. In the west, the wild mustangs are herded up each year by the Bureau of Land Management, thrown into large holding pens, freeze branded, separated from their herds, babies from mothers too, and either auctioned off or given a similar fate to other unwanted horses. So, essentially, these intelligent, beautiful animals are deeply traumatized and manhandled without much sensitivity. This is just unconscionable to me.
I don't have a lot of land, but I have about an acre in front of my house that I decided to fence off for at least one horse, plus a lower pasture. I had a shelter built by some talented young friends, hired a fence builder, and before it was complete, discovered a horse being abused just down the road. Long story short, I ended up with Sally, a 21 yr old pony mix, who unbeknownst to me, was pregnant. A month after I got her in April, the mustang auction came to the WNC fairgrounds, and I adopted Spirit, a yearling from the Nevada mustang herd. Nine years later, though she is less wild, she is still wild at heart and has a mind of her own. That same year I got Sally and Spirit, Mystery was born to Sally in late August, so I got an unexpected bonus horse when Sally came to live at my little farm. He is her pride and joy, and they are inseparable. Spirit has been adopted by Sally, too, so they are 'the three caballos'.
Prior to getting Sally, I already had two dogs and two cats, Banjo, Lulu, Peaches and Lucy Lou; all rescues. In addition, I had met a local woman who raised goats (for meat) and took two babies that one mother rejected at three days old. They were bottle fed for 2 months, so we are bonded big time! They are like big dogs, very affectionate and mostly sweet, though sometimes a bit stubborn. My housemate Rachel is a goat whisperer, and acquired two baby Nubian goats from another local farmer. So now we are one big happy family. Each critter has such a unique personality and each has a piece of my heart. Rain, snow, sleet, nor hail prevents the daily feeding routine, so they keep us closely in touch with the natural world and all the elements. They are immediate, present, and always in the moment, so they remind me of that and keep me grounded. Having all of them in my life is very rewarding, sometimes challenging, and always heart expanding. For the most part, they are really good kids !