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

Right now there are three young women living on the farm and myself. I have been living with these young ladies for many months now and I have to say it is the easiest cohabitation experience I have ever had. They 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.

Brittany and Mingus came to live on the farm several months ago. Brittany came to learn and be a part of something good for the horses, humans and mother earth that she cares so deeply about.

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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

 

Make a donation for the Winter Hay Drive, we are behind and need to catch up fast or more drastic changes will have to be made but we have been here before and until we get the numbers of herd members we need we will be here again, lets do this and stand strong for the horses we love! http://www.equiculture.org/join-the-herd

Take a ride or give our work horses a job. We are happy to help  and so are they, they are made for it and you can see that for yourself when you meet them!

http://www.equiculture.org/node/115

 

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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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Stagecoach Mary Fields and thinking about hard work in the cold….

 

This past week-end while driving the teams on the Silver Bell Farm, giving rides in the cold, one was tempted to complain a bit. Whenever I feel like complaining I always try to remember the not so long ago past and our ancestors and the hard work they would do in all kinds of weather…no matter what…with their horses…and mules and oxen.

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Stagecoach Mary’s story is absolutely one of my favorites and one I like to remember when feeling a bit sorry for myself if I am working in the cold with a team never mind a hitch of six or eight on mountain passes with no real “roads…..perfect cure for those kinds of thoughts…I immediately collect myself, stop whinning and feel great gratitude to have such amazing teamsters to look up too….the likes of which we could hardly match in our modern times….or could we?

 

Stagecoach Mary Fields

 

First lets start with this…..

In 1895, although approximately 60 years old, Fields was hired as a mail carrier because she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. This made her the second woman and first African American woman to work for the U.S. Postal Service. She drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses. She never missed a day, and her reliability earned her the nickname “Stagecoach.”If the snow was too deep for her horses, Fields delivered the mail on, carrying the sacks on her shoulders.

Fields was a respected public figure in Cascade, and on her birthday each year the town closed its schools to celebrate. When Montana passed a law forbidding women to enter saloons, the mayor of Cascade granted her an exemption.

“Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.” Gary Cooper

*Born in 1832 a slave in Tennessee and owned by the Dunn family during the Andrew Jackson administration, gained her freedom in her twenties and headed out west in her fifties.

*Mary was 6ft tall, heavy, tough, short tempered: two-fisted:powerful and packed a pair six-shooters and an eight or ten-gauge shotgun. screenshot2015-10-28at2-31-11pm

*Well known for smoking bad homemade cigars and was known to get into altercations on a regular basis.

  • She prided herself on being an “Independent” politically.
  • After Mary became “free” in 1884 she made her way to Cascade County (west Central Montana) in search of work and adventure. She began working with the Ursuline nuns at their mission, called the St. Peter Mission, in the city of Cascade.

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  • Mary was hired to do the “heavy work” and to haul freight and supplies to keep the nuns operation functional and well fed.

 

  • A famous tale about Mary is during a night run her wagon was attacked by wolves. The terrified horses bolted and overturned the wagon and thereby dumping Mary and all her supplies.The legend is that she kept the wolves at bay with her revolvers and rifle. She did survive and at dawn got the load delivered. Her pay was docked for the molasses that leaked from a keg which was cracked on a rock in the overturn.
  • Mary was always heavily armed and ready for a fist fight at the drop of a hat. Certain ruffian men would occasionally attempt to trample on her rights and hard won privileges. Woe to them all.  She broke more noses than any other person in central Montana, so claimed the Great Falls Examiner, the only newspaper available in Cascade at the time.

 

  • At seventy-one, Mary Fields retired from star route mail carrier service in 1903. She continued to babysit many Cascade children and owned and operated a laundry service from her home.3[3]

    eight-stagecoachDeath and legacy

    Fields died in 1914 at Columbus Hospital in Great Falls of liver failure, but she was buried outside Cascade.

  •  In 1959, actor and Montana native Gary Cooper wrote an article for Ebony in which he said: “Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.”
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    St Peter’s Mission

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    92a7951c4afb04c8ff7fc03eaf32b54d Sources Wikipedia and Blackcowboys.com

What did she say about herself?:

I am Mary Fields. 
People call me “Black Mary.”
 
People call me “Stagecoach Mary.”
 
I live in Cascade, Tennessee.
 
I am six feet tall.
 
I weigh over two hundred pounds.
 
A woman of the 19th Century,
 
I do bold and exciting things.
 
I wear pants.
 
I smoke a big black cigar.
 
I drink whiskey.
 
I carry a pistol.
 
I love adventure.
 
I travel the country,
 
driving a stagecoach,
 
delivering the mail to distant towns.
 
Strong, I fight through rainstorms.
 
Tough, I fight through snowstorms.
 
I risk hurricanes and tornadoes.
 
I am independent.
 
No body tells me what to do.
 
No body tells me where to go.
 
When I’m not delivering mail,
 
I like to build buildings.
 
I like to smoke and drink in bars with the men.
 
I like to be rough.
I like to be rowdy.
 
I also like to be loving.
 
I like to be caring.
 
I like to baby sit.
 
I like to plant flowers and tend my garden.
 
I like to give away corsages and bouquets.
 
I like being me, Mary Fields.

 

 

 

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Blue Star Holiday Message

Why Help?

We are making the change we want to see in the world for horses in need.

For seven years now Blue Star Equiculture has existed to provide a sanctuary for retired, disabled and homeless horses.  Horses have valuable gifts to share with humanity and any community they are found in regardless of their breed, size, age, ability or health issue is a lucky community when they are provided space for and allowed to meet their community by way of visiting, volunteering for and learning from.

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The horses at Blue Star have helped so many young people decide the path they want to take into the future and it is with the horses alongside them, where they belong.

What happens to unwanted horses today when there is no safe place for them to land?

The horses abandonment, disregard, marginalization in modern culture, objectification and disposability and general disrespect stems from a profound disconnect from nature and each other that has worsened in the industrial age that the horses helped usher in. We see it in the way we treat each other and other life, a great disconnect from the essential spirit that binds us all together. The age old proverb “Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are..” stands true still today when we look at that epic numbers of unwanted, abandoned, neglected and suffering horses and people for that matter.

Regardless of what you believe about slaughter and the eating of the horses meat, the unnecessary and extreme suffering needs to end and we believe with consciousness and effort we can collectively make this happen, but the reality must be faced and not ignored or forgotten. Every five minutes an American horse is slaughtered in sometimes brutal circumstances. Our noble and ancient friends deserve a much more honorable treatment, that protects and comforts them from suffering. Temple Gradin has already made great advances in how to make this possible.

Book cover of Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin; for autism project. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Book cover of Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin; for autism project. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

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ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY JUNE 19 AND THEREAFTER - In a Thursday, May 12, 2016 photo, horses bound for Chihuahua, Mexico, to be slaughtered, are loaded into a trailer at J&R Stockyards in Presidio, Texas. Nearly a decade after the last three horse slaughterhouses closed in the United States the trafficking of American horses for slaughter continues and the controversy burns as fiercely as ever. (Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP) RUMBO DE SAN ANTONIO OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY JUNE 19 AND THEREAFTER – In a Thursday, May 12, 2016 photo, horses bound for Chihuahua, Mexico, to be slaughtered, are loaded into a trailer

 

What we can do more of?  Keep Your Culture!

By learning about the contribution horses have made to mankind and specifically America we can appreciate how much we still need them with us. Support Working Horses and their Humans, you are indeed saving many lives in the process.

Horse culture survives, in pockets all over the planet, especially here in America. There are people loving and caring for their horses in extraordinary and environmentally sensible ways. There are those that are breeding consciously for the future and protecting their horses from oblivion. There are families and communities and farms still depending on their horses and there are also great advances in communication thanks to all the gifted “whisperers” out in the world assisting others in communicating more clearly, compassionately, patiently with horses.

 

 

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Jason Rutledge keeping his culture alive, a modern man carrying forward the human skills and “toolkit” developed through the co-evolution with horses for our present environmental challenges and for our future generations.

There is a a great network of draft animal powered folks ready, willing and able to help others “remember” and improve an animal powered way of life at Draft Animal Power Network, with whom we work closely with.

There are our European friends seeking more and more ways to include the horses back into our urban and rural lives

L’Energie Cheval: (French society of working equines) is a new website sharing the many ways that draft power is making a return in France and beyond! Great information on the versatility and productivity and countless examples of the many ways communities all over the world are using horse power!

There is also the great Lynn Miller prolific writer, farmer, painter and social commentator whose handbook for draft driving we use at our class at the Stockbridge School of Ag. at UMass.

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When groups of 4-H kids, girl scouts, boy scouts, senior centers, veterans from the VA Hospital locally, disabled and special needs children and adults come and ordinary folks come to relieve stress and worry from their everyday lives we take the time to explain the extraordinary sensory gifts the horses share with us. You can feel the tension break in the air as people relax and remember that horses are nature and perfectly suited as ancient companions to remind us that we are too.

 

Therapeutically horses are now recognized as undisputed miracle workers at helping humans build confidence, find connection, learn tolerance, flexibility and build natural and healthy leadership skills. There are more and more studies revealing just how exceptionally gifted they are sensory wise and much more. On the farm, over 80% of the people working on it  are under thirty. Energetic, bold, self motivated young people wanting to be the change they want to see in the world, with natural abilities honed alongside the horses they work with each day.

 

 

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Josie and Remix have practically grown up together on this farm. They have both even attained amazing heights in winning the 2014 World Percheron Championship in Youth Riding. They are an amazing pair, bound to have an amazing future together.

 

The infinite field of possibilities for us all, Horses and Humans.

Happily horses know the way home to where our spirits soars, they know the way back to the great fields of possibilities in our imaginations, where new and better ideas are born. They know the way and all you have to do is show up to meet them where they are at. Any horse can help you reach that receptive and connected place inside where words are no longer necessary, just the understanding that we are all connected in a beautiful loving intelligent and abundant universe of potential where there is no way to be outside of the sacred, honoring the sacred, honoring life.

 

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Brianna youth manager of Birdsong Farm for foster children getting a blessing inside the circle by the horses that love her and vice versa.

This season please give generously to the horses that live on our farm. Help us do this work that brings so much good to so many and most especially the horses.

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Two of our Shire Ambassadors are ready for the challenge! They are coming to win your hearts and ask for your help too. Join the Herd! Merlin and Tommy do their part, we can do ours too.

We are embarking on a bold campaign for this Year End Giving Season so as to establish the security the farm needs in order to carry on into the future. Help us get the herd members we need and from there the sky is the limit in terms of the longstanding opportunity the farm offers to those that need and want to have horses in their lives, even if only to admire quietly and be among them in a shared space of mutual respect and love.

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Jasper in his retirement, loved and cared for until the very end.

Look for us out in the streets with our  Blue Star Hitch wagon, (on loan from Conkey Lumber) along with Tommy, Ben, Mario and Punch and the people that care for the horses at Blue Star.

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Hitch wagons were the distribution vehicles of their time, carrying important loads from one place to another. Every great company had a hitch wagon with a teams of horses of the breeds of their choice and they went out and did their job moving loads on city streets and beyond and built company recognition with their company names painted boldly on the sides.

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Very much like our own ancestors here in Massachusetts did for the working horse in Boston, lets give a gift to our retired, disabled and working horses in our community for this Holiday Season!

Our young  Shires and Percheron’s are going to be going out and representing the working class horses and humans still among us in America, whose wisdom, skill and power we  need now and will need more so going into the future. Our hitch of horses are also representing their dying breeds, the Shires, the Clydes and the Suffolks. They are also going out representing all the working horses in cities all over the world that carry the tradition and customs and stories for their cities history.

The Blue Star horses are going out representing our horse power culture.  America is rooted in REAL Horse Power!

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And most important of all they are going out representing the ones that are left behind, forgotten, thrown away, given up on, discarded, unfortunate and alone, unloved, sick and injured and scared to death ones too. They are representing their farm here in Palmer and all we stand for.

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Blind Sarge who lost his job as an Adirondack pack horse. Blue Star is his forever home now where he is loved and where he shares incredible gifts of immeasurable value. You can read all of their stories here….

 

Blue Star is a prophecy shared by many native peoples around the world, a time of new beginnings. New beginnings in the circle of life, where there is no beginning or end.

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Join the Herd!

Best holiday gift you can give to the horses here and most importantly for yourself. Try it you’ll see, there is an amazing amount of magic that happens when you reach out to share with a mystical and ancient creature like the Horse and the universe never fails to reward you in infinite ways, maybe even more in the season of giving. It will make you feel good and that in itself is a powerful medicine enough.

With Great Love and Appreciation! 

All of us at Blue Star! 

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The value of life, our own and others. At the crossroads.

 

I seem to always feel as though I am standing at a crossroads. A place  where a choice has to be made. To be or not to be. To live or not to live. To speak up, stand up for something or to look the other way.  Yet everywhere I look everyone seems to be doing some version of the same. Chief Arvol Looking Horse has been saying for over 20yrs that we are at a crossroads, where and when choices that will either honor or dishonor our ancestors, have to be made in order for natural balance to come back to the planet and into our hearts.

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We are a part of a oneness, whether our left brains permit the acknowledgement of that or not. We are a part of an electromagnetic field of energy that responds accordingly, records accordingly and holds us bound to one another. There is no lying or stealing or cheating the universe, nature, our mother earth. We are all living under the same natural law that governs all of life. What happens here, happens there. What happens inside, happens outside. There is no escaping it or hiding from it or covering your eyes like a child in hopes that you will not be seen or counted according to your own sense of self worth.

Today, or these days I should say,  my decisions are in the flow of the moment to moment that is this farm, this fluid living enterprise made up of noble equine residents that are cared for and their human helpers that stand by them no matter what.

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The life on this farm is not for everyone but interestingly it is perfectly suited for seekers, outcasts, veterans,  the marginalized, students and grandparents. Every professional occupation is counted for. The Blue Star herd has nurses, doctors, martial artists, opera singers, actors, horse men and women of all kinds of skill and talent from all over the world. On the farm working full time I am the only one over 50, most are 30 and under. They are on fire with passion about their possibilities as future horse powered farmers or loggers or in self invented and run commercial enterprises. They love the idea of having a horse as a partner to change the world with?

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In every creation story around the world, in all the languages, including in the Amazon where horses are not easily found…the horses are the ones that show up to help us make the critical choices to improve life on earth for the sake of who we are, where we come from and where we can potentially go.

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Old horses, young horses, skilled or disabled horses all have the same special “energy” that science is understanding and sharing more and more of. A powerful electromagnetic biorhythmic pulse 10x more powerful than our own. In their presence we come to our senses, regulate and calibrate to them bio- rythmically , our cortisol levels drop and we release endorphins of the most exquisite kind, we feel alive and well and excited in their presence. Even fear of them can reveal a need to attune more to nature, calm down and remember you are not alone and you are seen, witnessed and accepted. Horses also have the extraordinary ability to activate the “right brain”, our receptivity, imagination, visions and dreams. Horses help us feel bigger and better that we thought possible for ourselves. Maybe that is why so much has happened to culture, civilization , industry and development with their help.

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Maybe their work in this time of the “crossroads” is to remind us that we are more than we thought we are with mighty and far reaching opportunities to help make the world a better place for all mankind and the creatures that live with us.

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We are particularly feeling the extreme pressure of establishing and securing our farm financially and the very fastest and easiest way to do it is by inviting others to help with any amount they can, month to month, showing up for the horses in need in our community. In return we open our farm for their community to come to know and love them, celebrate and heal with them, include and love them. I know in our tiny town of Palmer countless miracles have already happened here, thanks to the horses and their quiet and powerful work of healing our broken hearts, over and over and over again.

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Help us help keep them with us, please Join the Herd. Now, this giving season and help us reach our 2000 member goal by the New Year, we can do it, we have proven what we are worth , come and see for yourself anytime and any day, you will always be welcome to stick your face in a big, soft, furry neck and take a big breath and remember who you are, connected to all of nature and each other and let the rest happen naturally. FullSizeRender-16

Draft Horses are Our National Treasure! Join the Herd!

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Jasper contemplating the day in his own way. Spending his last days in peace and comfort and extreme care. He is a bit disoriented and he has slowly broken off from the rhythm of our routine, asking to be turned out in different areas, forgetting where he is, turning around and quietly laying down. Somedays are good and he spends them minding the youngsters, he self appointed role that gives him great purpose. Jasper was a carriage horse, a dutiful friend and helper and he is greatly loved by many. We are going to miss him when he is not here but we are so grateful to have gotten to know him.

 

Draft Horses are Our National Treasure! Join the Herd!

For this Holiday Season please help make it extra hopeful for our equine friends in need.  America is Rooted in Horsepower! It is the least we can do!

 

 

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