Update on Piper and her homecoming.

BIG LOVE and THANK YOU Message from Piper who has been supported and loved by her community throughout so much of her life and most especially recently in her journey to healing her broken tooth. Piper will be returning home on Friday ready to get back into life with this experience behind her now forevermore.

Piper is resting and eating and drinking lots of water and moving around just fine and markedly much more mellow.  She has stopped head butting everyone and doesn’t mind standing quietly while people touch and admire her. She is back to her old self, loving the attention and behaving like the smart and competent horse she is.

I am the most proud of her knowing her as well as I do I know this was not an easy experience for her to go through and I imagine it wouldn’t be for anybody.

I imagine she misses her brothers but that is a projection for sure. She is doing what her “kind” does, staying “in” time and not being anywhere else but where she is at. She has quite a few admirers in the barn but none as much as little Fred, he is completely smitten with her and watches her every move with great curiosity and admiration in his eyes and he cries when she goes out of his sight. She answers back every time. They have a “relationship” already of some kind….lucky Fred.

Little Red Fred as Kimmy likes to refer to him. Kimmy  also thinks that Fred may want Piper to be his mom more than he wants a mate. He couldn’t be cuter doing whatever it is that he is doing when he stares at her.

One of the last times we tried to put a bit in her mouth realizing that something is bothering her. Her fractured molar was discovered late Fall. Steadily it got worse as we considered what is best for her and how to go about making it happen. She has been living with it for at least 6mths.

Upon returning from the dentist she had dinner and went about cleaning all the corners of any grass she could get her lips on.

Piper is pretty much the queen of the farm or at least in the herd she lives in. I am not sure Feather would agree that she is more of a leader than herself, but I think they would be good friends and would share the power, they are respectful of each other when their heads are over the fence. In the herd she is in you will find her mostly hanging out alone, she is the only mare and prefers her own company more than her brothers and herd mates, she is always watching over them all though and us too.

 

We are going to be so happy to have her help again as we do our jobs around the community. You can meet her at the Annual Harriet Beecher Stowe Community Birthday Celebration in Hartford, CT. This year’s celebration will be held on Saturday, June 10th and will be an extra special affair as we will be unveiling the newly renovated Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Like last year the rides will be from 11:00 am-4:00 pm.

Piper is truly one of my best friends and seeing her go through this challenge has not been easy but it never is easy to see any of them deal with health crises or issues. Loving them so much also means understanding that while they are powerful beyond belief, they are also fragile and sometimes far too much so.

Maybe Pipers most important “job” that she does is in how she activates your imagination and blesses you with feeling like the luckiest person in the world to have such a friend like this. She is an amazing teacher to young men and women. letting them know that they are “seen” for all they are in her eyes and that it is enough to just be who they are, she never lies and she never judges.

BIG THANKS TO 76 Carriage Co. for all their help in making sure she makes it to where she was going and letting her heal amid their busy stable lives. We deeply appreciate the help and no one as much as Piper, she has made alot of friends and has grown accustomed to the routine all around her already, proving her “kind” are some of the most adaptable creatures on earth, kinda like us. Maybe we learned it from each other so we could keep up with each other!

 

“Please remember to Join the Herd if you haven’t! Your support helps us take good care of some important equine friends who share our history with us and deserve to make it into the future we all hope for! A connected and compassionate world for all!”  equiculture.org 

Thank you from ALL at Blue Star and most especially the Horses who call the farm home! 

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Opening of the ONLY Revolutionary War Museum in America!

“These are times that try men’s souls.” Thomas Paine

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” – Letter to Bushrod Washington, January 15, 1783
George Washington on Horseback Battle Painting at Mount Vernon
Nearly everything was faced with their horses at their sides. Washington has been painted with the white horse and he did have one but it was a bay that owned his heart. He would go into battle with the bay horse named “Nelson” and enter into towns and fields with his white horse where he would  address the people atop his white horse. George Washinton had stops all over the region I live in now and nearby at our local KMart. A simple stone sits under a tree that says here once stood George Washington who rested before moving onto take command of the Continental Army…or something along those lines. 
Statue of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene atop his horse.was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War.
They were with us in the fiercest of battles. The Cowpens, South Carolina, January 17, 1781
In upland South Carolina, at a place where local farmers penned their cows, an American force of 300 Continentals and 700 militia from North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, won a brilliant victory against the British.
The radical assumption that…” All men are created equal, that they are endowed y their Creator with certain unalienable rights: that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….”
Mike Engler and Roll of 76 Carriage Co. carrying George Washington and Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent of Independence National Historical Park, who both gave a hearty “Huzzah”! to the visitors and guests!

What a perfect day for a celebration of a long awaited moment, the grand opening of The Revolutionary War Museum in Philadelphia!  Celebrating the “shot that was heard round the world!” on April 19th 1775 and the revolution begins!

The midnight ride of William Dawes!

My  carriage driving friends and I who love the history in the “most historic mile in America” have all been watching this building be built, altogether it has been in the making for over a hundred years now, it is finally finished! When I left over eight yrs ago it was far from complete. How auspicious to be here when it officially opens.

I have been hanging out with this crew and many more like them, young and old, for the past eight years and I believe I am ready to face to world in bolder and bigger ways. It is all thanks to these mighty friends of mine, young and old, strong and fit and not so much and everywhere in between. Each and every one helping me grow and develop in all the ways that matter most for me to become the best version of the  person I know I am.

Although everyday is an auspicious day in regards to the history that lives here and you could spend your life visiting and getting to know it better. I have always loved the idea that no matter how much I learn about the people, places and things that make up the city, there is always more. A city made up of countless stories of heroes and heroines, pirates and Chiefs, scientists and medicine,  miracles, visionaries, bold and brave thinkers and doers.

You can get any sized tour around the National Park with 76 Carriage Co. and at the same time support working horses! Feels a bit like time traveling for those that like to use their imaginations! 

All of it all inspires me to live more fully, more gratefully and with a purpose. To think I came to feel this way as a tour guide in Philly.

The famous “Tree of Peace” that sheltered our early government.

 One special feature is then-General George Washington’s headquarters tent — considered one of the most important surviving artifacts from the war. amrevmuseum.orgA world with opportunity to explore the field of possibilities and potential, the horse knows the way there and has been bringing us towards it right along.

Emma Rickenbach sharing the road with Pete, learning history and honoring her ancestors by sharing it with others. Pete and horses like him have brought Emma to the field of possibilities and potential and she is making the very most of it, like her ancestors before her, with hard work and commitment,  responsibility, respect, compassion and love! Thanks to those that support equiculture.org  Young people  like Emma have a chance at creating the world they want to live in with the horses alongside them, as they should be. 

Working as a horse and carriage driver or alongside a horse in any kind of partnership is otherworldly yet  mundane and seriously good medicine for the soul of so many of us. They are worth taking good care of, they are our reflection and tell the world who we think we are.

 

We believe at Blue Star that by loving a draft horse you begin to embrace more intimately where we come from. Hopefully there is still time of the endangered Shire with critical numbers now. They do not have to be a causality of our disconnect from our history, they can help reconnect us to it!

 

While visiting Philly do yourself a favor and take a carriage ride with a horse and a human who are at your service. This is not a shameless plug for one of my favorite carriage companies, just a simple fact. By visiting the National Park with the horses you step outside of “time” and sync with the rhythm of how the city was built. You begin to “feel” how working horses and their loads and work influenced everything about life and how they helped the explosion of the industrial revolution.  It is our shared history with each other and the horses and the land that held and served us all.

Mike Engler and Roll from 76 Carriage Co.. A century in the making, the hotly-anticipated Museum of the American Revolution opens to the public on April 19 — the anniversary of “the shot heard ‘round the world” that kicked off the Revolutionary War.
George Washington greeting the crowd.
Pete was there too!

Celebrations will continue on through the year and include the Oneida Council Meetings that helped shape the constitution as we know it. Weapons, battle horns, George Washington’s tent that was used at Valley Forge and so much more…..

Former Vice President Joe Biden was there to commemorate the 242nd anniversary of the “shot heard ‘round the world” – the day that ignited the Revolutionary Way in 1775.

Our founding fathers knew that the revolution would live on to help change the world way into the future, our future and our future generations.

Former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendall and Governor Tom  Wolf  sharing their respect to our founding fathers. Carrying them to their auspicious appt is Dave Hebon and Chief of 76 Carriage Co. 

It is always so awesome to see the horses get invited to these kinds of events in Philly and beyond.  These magnificent cities have had their foundation laid with the help of our noble equine friends in unprecedented history making, surviving and becoming together, in an age that was been built with theirs and our  power combined and forged in hard won skill and mastery only to be massively dismissed and nearly  forgotten by most, but not all.

The historians at the National Park Service know that the horses add a dimension to “living history”  like no other.  Another powerful opportunity to connect to the “living” history this city is made of and the  nature and parks  that have been cultivated and loved for centuries. Like Fairmount Park…

Kimmy Hart carrying her share of dignitaries for the day. Kimmy is driving Pete of 76 Carriage Co. too!

 

Video of the festivities this morning!

 

 

Message from Piper who has been supported and loved by her community throughout so much of her life and most especially recently when she had to have her tooth removed.

“Please remember to Join the Herd if you haven’t! Your support helps us take good care of some important equine friends who share our history with us and deserve to make it into the future we all hope for! A connected and compassionate world for all!”  equiculture.org 

Thank you from ALL at Blue Star and most especially the Horses who call the farm home! 

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On the set of “The Greatest Showman” with Hugh Jackman, Michele Williams, a couple hundred extras and some really awesome working horses,drivers and wranglers.

 

One of the scenes we are in!

 

Rock and Roll and I playing our parts, they get to play their ancestors  but I get to be a man. 


Cassie escorting Pete, the horse, and Chip, the driver, out to their places on the set. There is nothing quite like driving a 19th century horse drawn vehicle, in the clothes that would have been worn, along the streets and amidst the buildings that were built with the horses ancestors that shared the set with us.

Kimmy Hart, one of my long time good friends and teachers of urban driving and living with horses. Kimmy has done this type of thing countless times before. She is a long time movie shoot veteran and loves playing the part of a man. She requested a mustache at wardrobe but everyone was too busy to hook her up, she was only a little disappointed.

We worked alongside another carriage company called Allegra Farm from East Haddam, Ct. The gentleman sitting up behind his coach is driving a Hansom Cab, with one of their beautiful white Standardbreds. This company of professional drivers are amazing and in lots of scenes throughout the movie. Behind him is Dave Hebdon and Vic, the Belgian of Philadelphia. Dave is a long time friend and fellow tour guide carriage driver at 76 Carriage Co. I recently met Vic on my last visit driving in Philly on Presidents’ Day week-end. He is an awesome little powerhouse who puts his head down and does his job just like he was plowing a field, most likely what he was doing before he found the job he has now. Mike Slocum, owner of 76 Carriage Co. has quite an extensive collection of antique driving vehicles . These two companies have worked in dozens of big budget movies through the years. A big part of the reason they are called on for these amazing period pieces. We loved working with such amazing professional horse people and made a lot of new friends who we hope we will see more of!

 

Me and the Landau, one of the most expensive pieces in Mike Slocum’s collection. I drove Rock and Roll and we were part of a scene where Hugh Jackman, Michele Williams and the little girls playing their daughters got in and out of the coach. We took countless takes, from every angle, giving a whole layer of meaning to tedious….for me anyway. Rock and Roll stood still and noble and barely shifted their weight, quietly settled down to wait….forever it seemed.

 

Chip being Chip and this picture is a keeper for sure. It might be that Chip is a combat veteran or that he is just naturally self disciplined but he has always been able to do new things and be right in the moment with it. None of us from Blue Star knew what working on a set like this would be, we now know and I think that through that long cold night of holding ourselves still helped us appreciate all kinds of things about the special lives the horses have brought to us. Chip didn’t complain, he didn’t suffer, he just sat there for all the hours it took and they were many and he still managed to strike a pose as though to say “I could do that again and again and again…..I am a natural.” I think Chip is a carriage driver at heart….

 

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-4372438/Hugh-Jackman-Michelle-Williams-don-hats-capes.html

 

Every one knew their place, their part, their purpose there. When the director yelled cut a whole new wave of plain clothed extras would come on the seen…fixing hair, make up, moving positions or equipment all like busy bees, highly organized and choreographed. Our own crew made up of the blue star girls and 76 carriage stable hands would also swoop in to check on us, check on the horses, do what was needed and then as fast as they all arrived they would leave when the loudspeaker would order everyone back to their designated places. We did this all night long, the final call being made at nearly 5am. Finally we were able to walk our horses back to their trailers, get down, move our legs, go to wardrobe and get our clothes and basically come back to earth little by little. The sun was rising and the magic was fading and we were all too tired to really comprehend just what an amazing time we had. It took a few days.

I thought every scene was shot perfectly but what do I know. This scene probably took about 30 takes. Then the whole family would get into the Landau I was driving. Over and over and over again. Our big 5 seconds of fame was very exciting. I had to remind myself a lot that Hugh is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He is even better in person. He is brilliantly bright and energetic with a happy demeanor and natural pride and self confidence that is very very attractive. I saw him the most that night, not so much the other stars but there were also a couple hundred extras that also did their part to transform the landscape in small takes measured in seconds at a time

 

Chip Pinder (Stockbridge driving class alum and Blue Star long time volunteer) and Dave Hebdon (76 Carriage Co. tour guide), two natural born carriage driving tour guides through time.

Below are the Blue Star girls. This is how they looked just before they became world class, movie star horse wranglers on the set of the “The Greatest Showman” They wanted to meet to Zac Efron or get an autograph from Hugh but I think they got way more than just meeting them would have. They share a part in helping make their movie really spectacular in their own unique way. Everyone that meets them wants to keep them…..for their horses and stables….Kimmy called Zoe a “world class wrangler” and I don’t think even getting a hug from the stars would have meant as much to her! 

 

Don’t forget to Join the Herd and help us take care of the horses that are in our care. Each and every one of them deserves the appreciation and care that even the most famous movie star horses get! While we can’t give them quite that we can show up and be there for them because we love them that much.

Or simply help with our Hay Drive, any amount helps especially now as we face a new season and our winter hay runs low.

 

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The dilemma of trying to make a difference for horses.

There have always been those that want to help the horses at risk of suffering. All of our animal welfare societies in America and abroad were founded with the motive of “helping” the working horses, in cities, at war or anywhere they are neglected and abused.

I have been doing this work, taking care of retired, disabled and homeless horses for over eight years now. I can say quite honestly that I have not seen any real progress in addressing some of the fundamental problems that exist for our working equine friends, even with the incredibly massive opportunity that the NYC carriage horse issue presented. I still cannot tell what, if anything, has changed for working horses in America. Animal activists still hate working horse people and working horse people still struggle day to day to articulate the value the horses have in their lives and the community. The whole issue is so loaded with so much confusing propaganda that it seems almost impossible to come to any real understanding of what is really “useful” for our horses in need. Socially and historically so much of what we have been “taught” about the actual value of our partnership with horses is mired in emotional and detached rhetoric that even attempting to describe our experience with them seems too hard, too daunting, too tiring.

Everyday for all the eight years I have lived on the farm doing this work I have been criticized and labeled (sometimes in extreme derogatory ways). My motives and credibility are questioned too, yet I am simply doing what I can to provide opportunities for all who care like me to get to know them better and help in creating useful solutions for the ones who need us.

The issue of homeless and unwanted horses has to be revisited from a new perspective, a fresh perspective from where we stand today, in modern and more enlightened times, a perspective that addresses the “heart” of the matter. At Blue Star we are trying to do our part, to do something useful for them.

The development of our pasture management system has been long and drawn out. The work with the design still has a long ways to go, this too has been criticized and demeaned by some visitors who do not bother to ask the important questions of how to help make things better, but rather write harsh and demeaning reviews, deterring those that might look closer from doing so. The horses help keep us inspired and motivated to keep moving forward. The horses are always the victims of these attacks in that by destroying our credibility, their opportunities are diminished. It is tiring, to say the least.

We can debate and even argue all we want about what is right for horses and what is not, but until we come to some common- ground, rooted in respect for each other’s differences, we will not be able to create any lasting solutions for our equine friends in need. The very idea of owning horses is so loaded with unconscious and unexamined ideas of who they are and who we concerning their welfare that it becomes nearly impossible to describe what they mean to us. There are those that want to see horses more and more marginalized, and there are those that want them among us, affordably existing and somehow co-existing in a world that is determined to isolate, marginalize and control nature in a dangerously detached way.

The biggest supporters on the farm all along have been the young people who have offered their time and energy, some for years now, to build a better life for themselves and the horses they learn so much from. So much could be learned from these innocent and loving young people who not only “talk” about making things better but actually “do” make things better.

Horses are nature. Horses are also excellent and masterful teachers of the kind of sensitivity required to live the mindful lives we are all seeking, especially in regards to the interconnectedness of all life. All of that gets lost when communicating from one horse person to the next, all with their very own ideas of what is suitable for horses. It seems to have become hard to even admire them without experiencing some anxiety for their welfare.

Horses like Sarge, who lost his eyesight a couple of years ago, lost his job as a pack horse in the Adirondacks. He was “rescued” from the kill buyer that bought him by a caring individual who saw that he didn’t deserve to given up on so easily. Today Sarge is the alpha of the herd he lives with, the retired and disabled herd who also are helping raise the young Clydesdales (that are bred to be meat)  and have come to live on the farm. Sarge proves that nature finds a way to adapt and adjust in miraculous ways when given the chance.

At Blue Star, we keep hoping that a new language emerges that can attempt to describe their significant role alongside us clearly.

Piper and I with Behnam and Tommy and Ben. Behnam is from Iran, our friend and excellent trainer and horseman helped the boys learn to ride for an event for Peace run by Chief Arvol Looking Horse. The common ground we all share in our diversity is that we love horses. Horses are the language we share with each other and we understand each other perfectly, we love them and with them learned to love each other.

I am not an academic, and I am not a scientific authority in equine related issues. I am simply a person that loves them. So much so that I have given over eight years of my life attempting to make a difference for them, for us all, in my own way doing the best that I can. For me, they have given me a life worth living, not so much in the work I do with them or in helping the unfortunate ones but more in the companionship and relationship I enjoy with each and every one that I meet. I have witnessed countless, literally countless encounters between horses and humans where a very profound and meaningful connection has sparked an elevated, and some would say mystical experience that has changed lives, some radically. They can modify, for the better, the course of our lives as much as any therapist or learning can. It is worth our best efforts to do what we can to take better care of them.

I have spoken to countless groups of all kinds and all ages and all backgrounds trying to find a language older than words to reach their hearts and help them see that what is happening to the horses, by discarding them and turning away from the serious issues that exist for them is what we are doing to each other. Throwing away, discarding, turning away from what we don’t understand in each other is causing a breakdown of the integrity of how we are made. We live in an interconnected matrix of life that affects all living things, there is no way to be outside of the sacred, the gift of life.

I know that what lives on this farm has a value that is not so easily measured in a material way yet is worthy of all the sacrifice and hardship it has required of me and the many others that have given to it. This farm and our attempt at creating solutions for the horses care and their role in our community deserve whatever we can spare to give to it.

Have you hugged you a horse today? If not, why not? Blue Star has all the free hugs you could want with all kinds of “working” horses just waiting to meet you….where you are at in the “now.”

 

Please Join the Herd! Visit the farm and ask the questions or share the solutions you have! We are all in this together, horses, humans and Mother Earth and you will always have friends that will meet you unconditionally for the good of all. There are no challenges in equine welfare or elsewhere that we cannot face with the help of each other.

 

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Synchronized Heart Rhythms at Blue Star

The young women that work and live on the farm are all hard working and passionate, creative, sensitive and strong. They all have great big lives planned and the Blue Star farm has given them amazing skills to build their lives with.

Zoe Milos has lived on and off the farm for all the eight years that the farm has been active. Her experience and wisdom about horses and humans is far more than she is yet able to express publicly but we all know that one day Zoe will write her story here and it will be life changing, not only for her, but for all that care to share in reading her story.

 

The girls can handle a whole herd of horses of all sizes and health issues. They can handle extreme weather and all kinds of other adversities they encounter in their day to day lives. Farm life is not an easy life. They have all sacrificed and given what they can to keep the farm alive during the hardest  times and they celebrate the simple pleasures of the unique lives they have and they do that everyday in all kinds of ways. The girls are humble and grateful and wise beyond their years.  They are a big part of the beating heart that keeps Blue Star alive.

Like the women before that took it upon themselves to help feed and care for their country when the world was at war, the young women living at Blue Star are working to help restore and build a way forward that honors where they come from by “actively” remembering who they are.

Blue Star needs these young women and all the other young volunteers that come to give what they can. There is so much hope alive in them for their community locally and globally and they will all tell you that the horses they care for have opened their eyes and hearts to just how important their contribution is.

Like the women who came before them they do their part with joy and laughter and a sense of style applied to the horses as much as themselves!

Please join them in keeping Blue Star strong.  There are all kinds of ways to support and perhaps the most important is the consistent month to month membership that carries us financially. We know that is the surest way to build the security we need month to month and year to year. For far too long Blue Star has operated with less than it needs.

Learning and sharing ancient and what we believe are also very “modern” and useful skills these girls are able to do what has to be done to keep their dreams alive, dreams of stronger and more connected physical tie to the earth they consider themselves stewards of.

Now is a perfect opportunity for more of us to commit, now when the future of everything we love about our local communities and the natural world and our place in it all is threatened with so much disconnect. It doesn’t have to be that way and it is not out of our hands.

Emma has always loved Elders, human elders and at Blue Star she has found that Elders of other species, like the Horse, also have profound wisdom to share. Jasper has helped Emma unravel the mysterious miracle and blessing her life really is and we are all better for it. Emma has already begun to express herself through different media and it is only just the beginning.
Supporting the youth at Blue Star is supporting an American tradition of being the change we want to see in the world.

Please Join the Herd and join the young women and young men on the farm, who are doing their best, who believe in a better interconnected future honoring their ancestors with the Spirit of the Horse.

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Activators and Enablers of Spirit

 

Chief Phillip Whiteman Jr of the Cheyenne Nation says that Horses are “Activators and Enablers of Spirit” and that they are “The Creator’s Universal Tool for stirring the Spirit of Mankind”

What if we lived as if it were true? Is it even possible to love them, protect them and honor them until we do so for ourselves? What if they truly are mirrors into who we are reflecting back everything we need to see in order to come into balance in our inner and outer worlds. What if  we lived as though we are connected to them to them in an ancient and sacred bond that has made us and them who we are collectively.

Is it possible for us to stop dumbing them down to our level of perception and except that they have gifts far beyond our wildest imagination, that they are not “dumb animals” but rather “angel helpers” as my Andean friends say. Chief Phillip also says that “they know what you know and they know what you don’t know”.

They are ancient survivors and super sensory masterpieces of evolution and adaptability and can we even put a material value on that?

It is hard to believe but our children and grandchildren very possibly might not get to meet a horse as magnificent as Foxy. His kind and their numbers are so low now that the genetic viability concerns are very very real and present dangers to them. Even with his fused hips he has done more to “activate and enable” spirits on this farm than any church or ceremony or movement I have ever been a part of and he didn’t need a single word to do it with. Just his presence, just in his willingness to show up and stand alongside us.

At Blue Star we are doing our best to make sure we ask these questions and do our best to honor in each and every moment in the very best ways we can. Foxy matters, his kind matters and our lives matter. The natural and universal laws that govern him and all of nature runs through our own humankind too. We are all connected.

In these uncertain times we are now forced to downsize to re-evaluate what we can do for our part, in our community. Like all other non-profits we are seeking creative and unique ways to bring the support the horses need .

At Blue Star we are asking that we continue to do what we can to explore their mysterious and powerful partnership and show some gratitude by helping provide them with what they deserve. A loving space that is theirs to be all that they are and ever have been for humanity, our great “spiritual” allies in finding our way home.

Please Join the Herd today, it is as good a day as any. Join us in providing those that live here with what they need so that they can do what they do for the world.

http://www.equiculture.org/join-the-herd

 

 

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Open Letter to Animal Rights Activists against Working Horses by Emma Rickenbach

Emma is a barn manager at Blue Star Equiculture, retirement sanctuary of carriage, logging, plough, police and pack horses from all over the northeast.

 

Dear Animal Rights activist,

To the ones who sped past our carriage, and screamed at us from doorways in a fit of rage yelling nonsense  “Horses don’t belong in the city asshole!” The sun was shining down brilliant and warm on a beautiful February morning in the city I am learning to drive horses, the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. With shocked smiles on our faces we said “have a nice day!”

You must truly know little which begs me to ask What do you know of your history? Maybe you call yourself “a progressive” Fighting what you believe to be the good fight, there are no good fights.

But lovingly I tell you, that to be progressive is to embrace that from which you came and seek common ground. To restore the ancient bond with some of our closet friends and helpers, the Horses.

Draft breeds are dwindling down with each passing year, of the five draft breeds that came to help build America, three are on the endangered list now. The mighty Shire, the great Clydesdale and the Suffolk Punch and that is because we deem them unimportant, or without use in these “modern” times.

You yell that you want these horses to be off the streets. You say horses belong somewhere running free.  Did you know that average life span of a wild horse is half that of a working horse at the very best.

In that hopeful, uneducated statement of “setting them free” Holds a weight unbearable to hold and too painful to bear if you are a Horse, who is more and more marginalized as we decide they are not fit to live in the world we created with their help.

Of the nine million horses in America, nearly one third of that population are homeless, neglected and at risk for a horrible three day ride to be brutally slaughtered without the compassionate concern for what they are experiencing. They are unable to get the care they deserve and badly need, the partnership, the commitment to their lives and well being.

Stripped of a connection that has been theirs for over six thousand years or more. Our shared history.

They need their purpose..

Just as we so badly need ours.

I have personally learned  from taking care of a retired, disabled and homeless work horses that without purpose they get depressed or become weak and unable to lift their great bodies off the ground when they grow older, not having the structural strength they need and develop doing the job they have been bred to do, pushing loads.

Without purpose or much to do they get depressed or develop neurotic behavior much like we do.

The work horses on our farm remain close to the barn, even with their acres of pastures because they want to be close to humans and that daily life of productive partnership. When the older horses watch the young horses go out to work they watch expectedly that maybe they will be chosen next, some kicking the fence begging to be chosen for a job.

Over one hundred thousand horses are sent to slaughter each year in Canada and Mexico and both destinations are merciless prospects for them as is the trip to those sites with no food or water, crammed in stock trailers not designed for them.

92.3% of them are in good condition, able to live long healthy, productive lives if given a chance.

Did you think or know this?

How can you consciously commit them to life of marginalization and boredom. How can you strip them of their purpose without knowing them at all?

These magnificent spirits wish to continue to work alongside us. They wait for us to wake up and see their strength and courage and ability and allow them to help build a new way of life, a better more connected future.

They are our future. A real sustainable lifestyle could be ours with their help.

So dear animal rights activist,

Please do your research and spend time with these beautiful beings.

Restore the sacred bond

Reconnect to the natural way with spirit and by peace and love.

 

Your Friend,

Emma Rickenbach

February 22, 2017 Palmer, Ma. Blue Star Equiculture

 

 

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On my way to the City of Brotherly Love!

The horse I drove in Philly, Tom, who came to retire here on the farm with a acute lymphedema. We could write a book on the experience of caring for Tom and a lot of the book would be the close relationship I had to him. He was one of my greatest teachers and inspirations for so much of what I do today. Here we are standing in front of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia. Tom left this world in 2010 loved and admired and held closely in countless hearts in the city and on the farm.

I am going back to work in the National Park in Philadelphia. I can hardly believe it, it is a dream come true in many ways. It has now become a reality. The time has come for me to explore ways to take care of myself while  keeping my commitment to the horses here on the farm. I intend on always doing what I can to facilitate a connection to the work horses and here on the farm we accomplish that in an extraordinary way and I am so proud of it all. I will build my new life all around it, with the farm at the center, for the rest of my life, god willing.

Tom and I in a picture found on Lonely Planet. This carriage would later come to be on the farm thanks to a generous donation from Jeff Polep of Polep Distribution. These days we keep it safely undercover in storage until it  can have the repairs and restoration it needs in order to be fully functional for many more years to come. The famous #4 has even been in feature movies!

 

#4 helping the Blue Star horses and Paul and I  do our  job of bringing Santa and Mrs. Clause to their appt in Chicopee of giving presents to the homeless. This awesome carriage came from 76 Carriage Co. BIG supporters of our work and close friends and colleagues these days.

Driving a carriage in Philadelphia is deeply personal. My years driving in Philadelphia were some of the best of my life and the reasons are simple. For the first time in my life every fiber of my being was joyfully present. I loved going out in different kinds of weather, through all kinds of seasons and holidays, through time and endless founding stories of our how our unique and important democracy came to life and how this great country came to be what it is.

Zoe and Tom in Philly in 2007. My daughter Zoe grew up around the work horses always helping  them in some way. These days she continues to be a big part of our work at Blue Star, the working horses are permanent friends alongside her, she doesn’t want or need to live without them. Zoe is studying massage and permaculture and we are sure she will design a life of independence and goodness and we are sure there will be a work horse  or two or more involved.

While I was working in Philly I felt wrapped up in stories that mattered, that changed the world and shaped who we have become. It is all there in Philadelphia, from the early Swede, Swiss and Dutch settlers (of whom my family was a part of as religiously persecuted Mennonite) to Chief Tamanend of the Lenape Indians to the arrival of William Penn to the secret meetings of our founding fathers at Carpenters Hall.

76 Carriage Co. carriage in front of Independence Hall.
Bud the horse, the reason we created Blue Star, former 76 Carriage Co. Philadelphia carriage horse and master teacher of life. Some of us believe Blue Star is Bud’s dream for his own kind, it sure feels like it! Bud lived out his retirement with us and left the earth in 2012.

I can’t wait to be there again, walking along those streets telling the stories of the lives that came before and buildings that housed it all. All of that history, drama, epic rising and falls, our American story. I wasn’t a patriotic person until I did that job and now I find I am deeply patriotic and proud to be American, proud to be born on this land and proud to be woven into the fabric of who we are, all of us. Who we were with horses throughout time is also recorded there and having a horse as a working partner while traveling through time and history is incomparable. I imagine I will have lots of blogs related to my experiences to come.

My friend Shane recently told me that the boldest thing to do right now in the world is to love yourself, love, love, love…….this is my way of deeply loving myself and for the first time in a long time has given me a new burst of life, something that I am grateful for. There is nothing like remembering where you come from to help direct where you are going.

Bud like so many great equines throughout history inspired a greatness in those of us that knew him. He lives on at Blue Star in the history and in the spirit shared here. We were all lucky to have known him. A former amish youngster bought at an auction who went on to have an epic life in an epic National Park where he worked happily for over a decade. Bud hated retirement, but he adjusted and in doing so taught us that the needs of these working partners are indeed unique and special and worthy of a home of their own.

There is an awesome crew on the farm who all have the drive, commitment and energy to continue to lay the foundation of what is important work to us all. I do not have to be on the farm all the time anymore, there are others that can look after it as I have done for over seven years now, with love and gratitude and openness to face the future with horses at their sides, where they belong.  Alot of what I do these days only requires that I can get on-line and I can do that from virtually anywhere.

 

Please join us as we venture into this new journey for the farm and those that call it home. The many retired, disabled and homeless work horses. Help us celebrate and include them again into our communities, where they belong.

Join the Herd!

 

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Frida, it’s not your job.

Working animals who have it in them to “work” will invent jobs all on their own if they are not clearly communicated with and even with the best communication it can take a lot to get the message through to them. Frida has appointed herself as the “enforcer” of rules we have for the horses. We ask the horses to not break, or lean or kick or chew or push the fences all day long. When we get tired of it we just put electric wire up. We do not need Frida to help us with this and we remind her all day long that it is not her job, yet she has made it hers. Last night Jay took a moment to ask her very politely to please stop barking at the horses on the fence. Merlin listened in attentively and maybe it was the way Jay asked or that Merlin witnessed it but Frida has not barked at any horses on the fence for over 24hrs now. Her feelings seem hurt but it is small price to pay for the peace we will all have now…..if it is really so.

 

Jay carefully explaining just why it is so darn annoying to us humans to keep repeating ourselves over and over about the same things.
Frida tucked her head in his lap and seemed to be profoundly sad that her job wasn’t having the desired effect of making us proud. She has spent a lot of the day today inside, feeling kind of sorry for herself, like German Shephards do when they feel their superiority isn’t acknowledged. Merlin seemed to love the whole encounter and who knows what he got out of it but I bet he likes having a quiet Frida around at dinner time.

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“The most Penetrating of Preachers.”

Arthur and Mario under the tree. A painting from the collaborative work of Suzanne Strempek Shea and Susan Tilton Pecora “A Year at Blue Star” coming this Spring 2017.

I know, you thought I was going to say Horses! Well, obviously they are too, but this blog is about a tree. A tree that lives on our farm and with whom I have personally lived with for nearly eight years now. Throughout my time on this farm, at least once a day, I ponder the great White Pine that lives in the hayfields all alone.

Chyna and Duchess lived out their lives with us on the farm. In 2010 they were fully retired and both crossed over within a year of each other. Chyna lived the longest, until the Fall of 2015.

Early on, when we opened in 2009, we named the tree the Belgian Pine after a pair of Belgian mares, Chyna and Duchess, who would rest under it in our first summer while helping us move compost and soil. One day the owner of the farm, Tommy Roberts, stopped to tell me the story of the tree during his time on the farm. Tommy made a decision when he bought the former dairy farm to keep the giant tree standing for his pair of working horses, so they could rest in the shade if needed. The day he told me he was pulled alongside the road in his farm truck watching the students from Pathfinder Voc  School working, they have worked during the summer every year since in the farm garden. He had a tear in his eye when he explained that he was witnessing a dream of his own, to see young people working under the tree with soil and to have a team of working horses resting under it. “I get it”, I thought, “this farm is special.” What makes it special are too many things to list but overall it could be described as an oasis really. An oasis of natural beauty with a vibe all of its own.

The Tree is a central figure in the story of this farm and no doubt has been standing before the first Scottish family settled here to cultivate the land.  In 1725, King George granted this land to a Scottish family who began a textile mill down the river from the farm, establish the early settlement of what is now known as Three Rivers. Since that time this farm has served to provide countless families and animals sustenance and security.

 

During that first year we put in two large spiral gardens attached as an infinity symbol, under the tree.  They were meant to be permaculture gardens with a diversity of plants but they mostly became gathering places and habitat for grasses, birds and other woodland creatures, a magnet for all the beneficial helpers a garden would want, still permaculture in a natural habitat kind of way. The spirals are living, breathing beautiful little eco-systems with worlds of their own, but this story is about the grand old tree that lives over them. The tree where the love of my life took his own life nearly two years ago.

 

Writing about the tree, pondering the tree, standing under the tree or with the tree are all heavy prospects for me. My head spins when I try to articulate it,  it feels like an ancient call in my body, “wake up” “stay awake” “you are needed, you are loved” “don’t even try to get out of it!” Nothing simple for me and many others that have a history on the farm too. We have all been moved by what this work has brought to our lives and much of it not at all what we expected when getting into it. Above all though, it has brought us the great beauty of getting to have a very strong and intimate connection with nature, with the horses and on the land.

Lenny Woodis and Mithra being with the tree in their own way.

The other day Deb took a picture of me driving Mario and Punch under the tree during a snow storm. I love this picture and it triggers powerful emotions and if I had to describe what they feel like they are most like what it feels like to survive, for me anyway, and I have fought for my life many times, I know that feeling well.

 

This survival story is the most bittersweet for me. Surviving suicide of your beloved in the midst of manifesting your life’s work and purpose intended to bring goodness and sustaining life for horses, humans and mother earth is no easy task for any spirit and mine most definitely did not feel up to the challenge.

Troy Phillips former Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Massachusetts, overseer of sacred sites and full blood Nipmuck, whose ancestors once had their summer encampment here once peacefully along the riverbanks.

After Paul’s death my native friends from every direction came to help steer us through the tragedy for the lands’ sake and the animals’ sakes and for our own sakes too. We heard from the Nipmuck people, the “People of the Pond”, the original peoples of this land and they shared that the tree was a grandfather tree and loves humans, it doesn’t mind standing alone because it doesn’t feel alone with the humans that admire him. They went on to say that tree was scared we would cut it down or that it would be forgotten and left alone. Upon hearing that a brave and wise student of ours from Stockbridge vowed to keep the tree company for the following months in order to give us time to adjust to what had become a new world for us all, with the tree at the center where it always had been. Mithra Kunlatunga spent the whole summer sleeping under the tree. Jon Katz has written wonderful pieces on him.

Mithra wrote to me the other day and proclaimed “I am coming in May, I bought my tickets!” This is great news to us all, really great news and I am sure the tree already knows and is happy too! I never doubt that Nature is way ahead of us in “knowing” important things.

Whether we believe that the trees have feelings or not we would have to acknowledge that our Tree is special. When I heard that the tree was sad I felt worse than I already did and that was pretty bad. Mithra told me to not worry that everyday he would tell the tree how much he loved him and never let him forget even for a minute that we were not going to forget or hurt him ever.

Mark and Iceman, the Belgian work horses that took the place of Chyna and Duchess seen doing one of their countless tours, with Paul and I on the farm in the earlier years.

Thanks to Mithra and time and seasons and friends and healing I can be with the tree and every time I am I feel I am a better version of myself, more what I want to be in the world and less of what doesn’t serve me. Our tree is truly like a loving pastor or spiritual elder holding us powerfully where we are at, unconditionally and lovingly. He radiates a powerful charm and is home to the hawks and eagles and crows that live on the farm too and he is the perfect gateway to our inner worlds upon whose gates the horses bring us and this tree is the place where my beloved left this world.

Mithra and his old friend, the tree. Photo credit: Jon Katz

This is the first of my commitment to write blogs, to finally tell the stories of the farm and the beings that find themselves on it. I have had a very long hiatus from writing and a breakdown in technical equipment, meaning two broken laptops and limited access to the only one we have. I am done with the excuses and I am going to find a way. I want to share the stories of the farm with a real desire now. The stories made here are amazing and miraculous and humbling and grounding and inspiring and sad and ridiculously funny too….and so much more.

Chyna and Duchess and I at Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s World Peace and Prayer Day 2012, the day I met the love of my life, Paul.

I read recently that trees are the world’s oldest living organism, our silent companions, permeating our most enduring tales, inspiring fantastical cosmogonies, teachers of good lessons. Our lushest metaphors and sense making frameworks for knowledge…..Yup all of that  and thank you Maria Popov for saying so in your awesome article “The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate”

Our stories need to be told and I hope this blog inspires you to tell yours in your own way too. What I have learned above all else in the past years on this farm is that we are each important pieces to a giant whole big tapestry of light and love made up of the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors as well as the love that holds it all together. Like Chief Arvol Looking Horse says “Did you think you were created for anything less than deciding the future of mankind?”

Please join us in our efforts to share some goodness and weave some more stories with our communities retired, disabled and homeless working horses! http://equiculture.org/join-the-herd

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