Refuge Farms home of "Horses Helping..."

The Dunn County News
July 30, 2006

   These past few months, the Refuge Farms Management Team has spent Friday evenings in its first ever, formalized, planned, complete-with-agenda staff meetings! Sounds exciting, doesn't it? (We'll talk more about that in a little bit.)
   And what have we accomplished so far? Well, I would say one of the most significant gains has been the development and documentation of the Refuge Farms Organizational Ethics. Sounds heavy, doesn't it? You know, it is, and it isn't...
   Just what do I mean by "Organizational Ethics?" They are the values or ethics that Refuge Farms is founded upon. We operate this venture on a day-to-day basis following some very simple principles that govern our actions, reactions, and interactions. In a way, these are written guidelines for how we live and work and play. I would like to tell you just what our ethics are:
   Honesty: Saying what is true. Being true to oneself. Being true to the Missions of Healing. Now, this is not intended to be an ethic that causes blunt and brutal communication between people or between people and animals. No, it brings with it the tenderness of caring and concern. Of acceptance and tolerance. But honesty is a must to the building or re-building of trust. So honesty is a foundation trait a very core ethic for all of us involved with Refuge Farms.
   Conformance to The Ways of The Farm: First you need to know that the Volunteer Handbook at Refuge Farms is called The Ways of The Farm. This document is centered around safety, consideration for all living creatures and reliable horse handling techniques. In order to insure that everyone volunteers, horses and guests are safe, we must know and conform to this handbook. Not easy for a free spirit! But obviously it's needed. And it is a constant challenge to remember The Ways of The Farm and to observe and tactfully remind those who may forget them from time to time.
   Leadership by Example: Oh, this one is so much easier to write about that to do! This ethic requires a person who is leading anyone or anything to remain positive, polite and patient. And that, dear reader, is a tough challenge in the heat of controversy or in the middle of a crisis or even when you feel like taking a short-cut "just this one time!" This ethic requires all of us to remember that everyone is a leader and everyone is a follower. That's another tough statement of fact for some to accept!
   Consistent Performance: I find this ethic most challenging of all. Personally, I am confident (usually) of my interaction with the horses and the public. But just when I'm getting a bit too big for my britches, one of the horses will do (or not do!) something that reminds me that without consistent
performance, only surprises will result. And a 2,500-pound surprise is not what I want on the end of a lead rope! That's for sure!
But this ethic of consistent performance also means that all of us are constantly aware of how our actions and words impact and affect others. Part of that leadership and honesty thing is mixed in here, too.
   Spiritual Base: I'm sure you've guessed by now, that a Greater Being is a large part of who we are. Is it God? Doesn't have to be. Could be the Great Spirit of the Native Americans. Could be Buddha. Could be Nature. Could be whatever it is that leads you and guides you and is your personal Greater Being.
And I've seen it happen...someone comes to The Farm without a firm spiritual belief and pretty soon they are referring to the "Faith Bucket" hanging in the barn- It kind of rubs off on you when you're around it enough.
   But the spiritual side of all this rescue and healing is the very driving force that helps us deal with illness and crossings and aging. Read our mission statement. It is truly a spiritual drive that mandates that this little nonprofit keep on plugging! It is the honest and true faith that we are making a difference in our little corner of this big and crazy world: Refuge Farms has a purpose! And life's journeys have been as they have been in order to prepare us for this very mission.
   It's taken me more than 50 years to get here, but I would be no other place. And that statement is founded totally on faith in a greater power and the master plan.
   So now you know of our discussions in these formalized staff meetings: ethics organizational ethics, at that! It's a big, big step for Refuge Farms to document such things and risk placing them on our Web site right in with the organizational chart and job descriptions.
   So why is my stomach in knots and my upper lip curling?
   My physical reaction is strictly because of my personal history in "corporate America." I never did like "level-of-service meetings," "staff meetings," or whatever you call them. They always seemed so trivial and unnecessary to me.
   In fact, many times I ran my meetings in a room with out chairs. You'd be surprised how quickly you can reach consensus when everyone is standing!
   But as the executive director of Refuge Farms, I find it necessary to take the time to meet and plan and discuss such things as ethics and policy. It cements the management team and identifies areas that need our priority.
   And so, this Friday night there will be another Refuge Farms Staff Meeting. And after the meeting I will venture out to the center of the pasture and await my medicine, the medicine to calm my stomach and uncurl my upper lip.
   And no, it's not a pill or ointment or an amaretto and coke. No, it's any horse at all that finds its way up to me and reminds me to be honest and consistent and spiritual and safe and a good, patient, kind leader.
   Oh, the medicine of those "horse ministers?" It sure is good stuff! Good enough to make me start staff meetings at Refuge Farms!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day!
Sandy and The Herd
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