Miss Bonita: the epitome of strength and endurance
At her arrival in 2001, Miss Bonita had been a dark and withdrawn and wrinkled mass. Sweating in the winter months from the pain, she endured all. A brief two years later, in her place, stood a magnificent, proud, shiny wonder.
This determined warrior graced my barns for over six wonderful years. And I loved her deeply. But more than that, I respected and admired Miss Bonita.
Ten days after her crossing this spring, my eyes still overflowed just at the thought of her: just at walking in the barn, just at feeling the southern breezes that she loved so very much, just at the sight of her halter, just looking at where she used to eat or where she used to lie in the pasture.
I was experiencing sincere and heart breaking grief - again - so soon after the crossing of Big Jim, I truly did not know if my heart could take the pain of yet another "Foundation Horse" crossing.
An omen in the hay
But The Herd needed hay and so the tractor was started and bales were moved - difficult with the equipment that we have. The bales are lifted only inches from the ground. Sometimes they drag the entire way to the pasture leaving parts of bale all along the route. Sometimes I need to haul them in reverse so they are "pushed" in to the pasture otherwise they will not stay on the bale mover. Usually, we use big logging chains to tie them on like big bungies - only much, much heavier.
Today, as I moved this particular bale, Kathy and Tara were walking behind the tractor ready to push the bale and hold it on the bale mover in case I hit a rut or something to cause the bale to start to slip off. And as I inched forward in the pasture, my eyes were glued to the bottom of the bale and the ground immediately behind the tractor. My eyes were like those of an eagle - just watching for any sign of slippage. And there it was - on top of the earth, in plain sight - Miss Bonita's shoe.
Last summer, Miss Bonita had thrown a shoe. We had walked the entire pasture twice in a big human chain with not 10 feet between us looking for that shoe. When we didn't find it, Cathi and Sabra bought THE FARM a metal detector.
Suzie the Gardener, Cathi and I spent hours searching the pasture for that shoe. And it was never found. We finally concluded it was buried somewhere in the wet under the round bales, because we knew that shoe sure wasn't in the pasture anywhere.
Then, there it was, right in plain view. And surprisingly, not all rusty and full of muck as it should have been after a summer and a fall and a winter out in the weather and with horses all over it.
No, in fact, it was clean - too clean. The carbide on it was still shiny. Huh. My conclusion was swift and intensely obvious to me: Miss Bonita had thrown her shoe out so that I would find it. Miss Bonita was trying to reach me and tell me, "It's okay. I'm okay. Please don't be wrapped up in regrets or sorrow. Celebrate my presence! And prepare! Prepare for a new one!"
I kept telling Tara and Kathy, "She's here! She's here! And they're all here if she's here!"
The shoe - Miss Bonita's shoe - now sits on my makeshift mantle. I see it every day, many times a day, on my many trips up or downstairs. And when I see it, now I smile.
Another joins the foal
She is here. I know it. And yes, we did prepare. And yes, a new one came. Within a matter of hours, our Addie-Girl joined us - with the eyes of wisdom, with the patience of Job and with needs that we can support. She's someone new to love, someone new to care for, and here with Miss Bonita's guidance, I know it.
You see, I didn't drop the trailer and go find Addie-Girl or even pick her up! A first for Refuge Farms! Addie-Girl came to us.
A most kind and caring family in Northern Wisconsin sent a simple email to Refuge Farms. A horse they knew and loved was looking poorly and the owner had agreed to let the family take it away if they could find someone to accept her. The owner just didn't want any calls from agencies or the police.
The horse was sickly and no money was available to invest in her to fix whatever it was that was starving her down. But how did that family find us way down here?
In her caring, Dianne went to the Internet and searched for Wisconsin horse rescues. There we were. That fact alone is MAGIC to me.
Our Web master, Vincent, way down in Louisiana, is saving horses - and healing humans. This Web site reaches people and because of this Web site, Dianne found us and sent a simple email.
Could we take the horse? She was a very good horse. Diane and her husband. Andrew, would even bring her to us. Could we take her?
With fingers that were not my own, I keyed a prompt response back. Yes. We would take her.
Who was that keying that response? Not me! I'm usually most hesitant and must validate the horse is out of options. But something told me this horse was. Something told me to move swiftly before the owner changed his mind.
Totally out of character, I accepted a horse by email. A mere few hours later, Dianne and Andrew pulled in the driveway on that March day full of heavy, cold rains. In the trailer was a horse, I thought, that I would foster - a Percheron, they said, a younger mare.
Andrew went in to the trailer to bring her out.
"Do you mind," I asked quietly, "if I come in the trailer with you before she comes out?"
My eyes saw the hip bones and the spine and the saggy skin and the evidence of lice and worms and those very dark, deep, sad eyes - Bonita eyes.
I began with, "Addie, I have a few things to tell you. They are 'The Three Promises…'"
Message is clear
So, some big doors have closed this Spring - a bit - not completely. I think it's better to say that chapters have been written. The book is still being created - for sure!
And in her way, Miss Bonita has told me - told all of us - that it's okay: "Smile and remember and continue the works because there are so many that we can support and help heal. Open your arms and hug them as they come to visit. Open the barns and shelter them for a while. Give - even through the tears. It always, always comes back to you - humans and horses. Love them all. And remember with smiles and celebration."
Thank you, my dear Miss Bonita.
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and now, Addie-Girl