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Sharing the Road…Why do we drive on the right?

Do you walk down a hallway or a sidewalk and naturally pass on-coming fellow pedestrians by moving to the right? Why do we walk and drive on the right-hand side, anyway?

Right-side walking or driving is inherently unnatural to humans, if left to our own de- vices. Most people are right-handed, and from ancient times, the natural tendency when encountering passing foot traffic was to stay to the left. That way, your right side – your defensive arm – remains between yourself and potentially hostile others. The Romans travelled the Appian Way on the left, keeping their sword arms free to defend themselves. To this day, folks in Britain continue to gravitate to the left when walking and are required to drive on the left when driving.

So, why do we drive on the right? We didn’t just decide to do that to be different from the British, did we?

Farmer John Shreiner and his Conestoga Wagon, Lancaster County, PA, circa 1910

No, we did it because of our draft horses.

Swiss and German emigrants in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are generally given recognition for developing these wagons while the name, itself, is taken from the Conestoga River in that area. The river, in turn, received its name from the Native Americans of the region. As large freighters, there were thousands of these “big rigs” daily hauling everything from fruits, vegetables and grain to iron, equipment, clothing and weapons between Pittsburg and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The National Road – today’s U.S. 40 – included the route from Baltimore to Wheeling, West Virginia and saw equally substantial traffic.

Back in the late 18th century, Philadelphia was the largest city in North America, due not only to political and cultural factors, but also in no small part to the fact that southeastern Pennsylvania was – and remains – some of the finest farmland in the world, the kind of farmland necessary to support a growing urban population.

Farmers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, along the banks of the Conestoga River, designed a wagon, the Conestoga wagon, capable of hauling the large amount of produce and other materials down the Lancaster Turnpike and into Philadelphia to market on Market St, and they bred large horses capable of pulling the wagons, which could be up to 20 or 26 feet long and weigh 13,000 lbs fully loaded.

 

 

The Conestoga wagons required teams of 6 or 8 horses to haul them, and their design precluded a spot in the front for
a seat for the driver. Conestoga wagon drivers either rode the left wheel horse (because, being right handed, they would want to keep all the horses to their right or in front of them), walked beside and behind the left wheel horse, or rode on the “lazy board”, which again was located behind the near wheel horse, on the left side of the wagon.

 

Conestoga Horse. If the name Conestoga sounds familiar, that is because in Conestoga, Pennsyvania, large, sturdy wagons were constructed that hauled settlers out west. They also bred Conestoga horses to pull the wagons in teams of six or eight. This would be America’s very first horse breed. They arose in the early 1700s and by 1817 there were thousands. They are now extinct.

The driver, encountering other traffic on the road to Philadelphia, being located as he was on the left side of the wagon, would not have been able to even see the right-hand side of the wagon, and would have preferred all traffic to pass him on his left, so that he can see to make sure his horses and wagon stay clear of passing vehicles. How do you make someone pass you on the left? You drive on the right- hand side of the road; people have no choice but to pass you on the left.

There was just one problem with that – people were walking, riding and driving on the left, as they always had, and traffic in Philadelphia soon became a nightmare. In 1792, though, the state of Pennsylvania sided with the farmers and their working draft horses – they passed a law declaring that Market St. and the Lancaster Turnpike, everyone must drive like the farmers and drive on the right. This was the first law of its kind, anywhere, to decree what side of the road everyone had to drive on. The right-side rule quickly spread throughout the rest of the young United States, and we’ve been driving (and walking) on the right side of the road ever since.

 

 

 

This wagon is one of a few remaining ones in existence, built in 1834, kept at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. These wagons were built by German immigrants in the Lancaster, PA area from about 1750 until the railroad took over in 1850. They could hold up to 5 tons of cargo. They were the primary means of carrying heavy loads during this time.

 

They drive on the right in Europe for virtually the exact same reason. The farm- land of the Ile-de-France is very similar in its relationship to Paris as Lancaster County is to Philadelphia, and farmers in France were bringing their produce in big wagons into Paris via the right-hand side of the road. Paris passed a law requiring right-hand driving in 1794, and the custom was spread throughout Europe by the Napoleonic Wars. It was the British who were trying to be different from us Yankees AND the French… They didn’t pass a law saying you had to drive on the left there until the 1820s.

 

Thank you Christina Hansen for this great article written for Blue Star when we first began our work back in 2009.

Sharing the Road gets more serious all the time and not just in matters of traffic or laws. Sharing the Road with our horses means inviting them back to do jobs they can do, paying attention to what is happening to our work horses and their rightful place alongside us. We lost the Canestoga, the first American bred draft horse sometime back in the 1970’s while most were not paying attention. We are on our way to losing more of our working breeds  and very soon if we are not careful. The Clydesdales, Shires and Suffolk Punch’s are all now as rare and endangered as the Panda Bear in China. We have 5 Clydesdales, 4 Shires and a Suffolk Punch on the farm if you would like to meet some amazing equine ambassadors!

Please consider Joining the Herd and helping us address the misinformation about our working horses and the possibilities and opportunities they can easily have in our communities today.  Your membership helps to take good care of the retired, disabled and homeless ones on the farm so that they can do their part by becoming important members of their community as the teachers and healers they have always been.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memorial Day Everyday

Today  is kind of like Groundhog day for me ,waking up and remembering that I am alone without him and then going through the motions. The truth is that while somehow I have been able to stay the course and keep the farm going through all that has transpired after his death, I still feel like a failure in many ways. I am in therapy and I love and trust my therapist but we are only now getting to the deep grief and loss I feel. It will spill out every once in a while and  it still overwhelms and scares me. This year I set out to begin to build my personal life again and I am doing really good and feeling much better but there are still the heavy sad and even angry feelings living under the surface, always giving me the opportunity to grow and learn more.

This work  has shown me that I am not alone and that the spirit that lives in the horses can help carry you through anything if you stay open and honest with yourself. I am proud of this work and mission and what happened to Paul is a part of its story as much as any in the long eight years we have been open. I have learned that I prefer to live and roam in the field of possibilities and potential alongside the horses that have carried me so graciously throughout my whole life.

I am so grateful for the many that weathered the storms of emotion that overcame me and swept me away, sometimes for moments and sometimes for days. I am living and learning and I am so proud of so many and so much but today, this anniversary,  I am sad all over again.

My own groundhog day…at least I do not have to relive that terrible and awful morning when I learned that my whole world was shattered in a million pieces or more. I am carefully picking up the pieces that serve me and leaving the rest alone, I am doing the very best I can, every moment of every day and that is what I offer my friends that are alongside me. I have great hopes for us all and most especially what lives on this farm, the powerful spirit of love and connection that will always endure, no matter what.

 

 

 

 

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Billy not to be confused with Bill.

 

Time sure flies here on the farm and sometimes it seems impossible to retrace my steps to an event or moment gone by, yet some stories need and want to be told, no matter when we tell them.

I wanted to write about Billy the moment I met him. Billy is a rare beauty inside and out and while I love beautiful horses as much as any I felt I needed to know who Billy is to determine just how “beautiful” he really is.

Picking up NYC Billy. He had his once beautiful bejeweled halter on with red ruby hearts. A couple had rubbed off and his halter was a bit worn, all signaling that his time as a NYC carriage horse had come to an end.

His former owner loved him and was almost tearful telling me of Billy’s life and how not even an offer of over $5000 mattered to him as much as finding Billy the life he would love and deserve. Of course we knew we could help, we knew that Billy would easily find something because thanks to social media we are all so much better connected.  Billy is not only beautiful, he has perfect health, a quiet good manner and is friendly and easy going…even in a herd of not so friendly friends. Billy quickly and easily fit in here and as we handled him day to day we realized that whoever gets Billy will be so lucky, he really is all that his human Dad said he is…a really good boy. Billy is sound, strong, only 15yr, never been sick, willing, responsive and alert and while he has worked in NYC for a lot of his life, he likes farms better, his owner is sure of it.

Within a day or so he figured out where to hang out to stay cool and have a good view on things. He commanded his space and no one felt like pushing him around.
Billy doesn’t have a bad side. All his angles are beautiful.

Continue reading Billy not to be confused with Bill.

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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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