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A Horse and a Steer

Just as Jon and I were drifting off to that safe and comfortable space right before dreams start we were startled awake by a thunderous banging noise. We both lie there in bed staring at each other trying to figure out what just jolted us awake. It was not thunder, it was so loud and hollow, like the base of a drum, but who would be playing drums outside our house at this hour? It came again and reverberated through our mattress like we were at one of Jon's heavy metal concerts. We jumped out of bed, the noise was not stopping, confused and concerned I hurried out to the back porch to get a better look at where that deep, earth shattering banging was coming from.

I looked out into the dark night and saw headlights shining on my neighbors horse trailer. They had moved out of their house with the animals this morning I thought to myself but no it was their trailer and I instantly saw the source of the noise, their horse Sunny. I swear the universe stopped moving and I met eyes with the white horse that lay there just beyond my fence with pure terror in his bright blue eyes. The image and that feeling of panic is burned into my soul forever and I will always remember the fright I saw on his face. I later realized this was the moment our connection began.

Sunny was upside down, hooves straight up, inside a tiny side by side horse trailer and he was coming out the small door meant for a person. He was violently thrashing, kicking and trying so hard to get himself out of the situation he was in.

The noise that we could feel in our bones was Sunny kicking his way out of the trailer and thrashing at anything that got in the way of his hooves. He was throwing himself, bouncing his back down the step of the trailer. One heaving push on his back, then another, legs kicking, back scraping against the trailer step over and over and over.

I ran. I ran straight to my neighbors in my nightgown and I can't even recall if I stopped to put shoes on. There were people standing all around, I heard yelling, I heard crying, I heard hooves and metal meeting. One last thrash on his back and Sunny threw himself to the ground with a loud thud and complete panic. Sunny ran, more yelling, I got out of the way and saw people throwing fencing up trying to contain the panicked horse.

Our neighbors were all packed up and ready to leave and so they went. Leaving us to take care of a horse and a cow that were just severely traumatized at best, injured at worst and we knew nothing about these animals. Especially the horse.

Morning arrived and we saw the severity of the cuts on Sunny, he was bleeding from gashes everywhere on his body. He was beyond sore and we were very worried he had

injuries we could not see. We called the vet but were unable to treat his wounds, he would not let anyone near him, understandably so. With the help of a friend we were able to get pain meds in him and then were able to put pain meds in his food. Sunny did not seem to have any severe injuries to his body but the trauma was certainly visible and his family was gone. He spent the next few days pacing his paddock and hiding in his stall.

I was scared of him and he was scared of me. Patrick the steer was uninjured and seemed to be stable but had the worst case of diarrhea I had ever seen in a cow.

I fed them and cleaned up after them and Sunny just watched me from afar not getting too close. He would only go near Patrick, he would not leave Patrick's side. We were told his bond with Patrick was intense and he could never be separated from him or all hell would break loose.

The neighbor came back several day's later to get the rest of their belongings and asked us if we could keep Sunny and Patrick at our farm until they could arrange transport. We agreed they could stay in our calf stall with paddock for two weeks. We were no longer going to be able to separate the calves which meant not getting milk to sell but figured we could handle it for a couple of weeks and were happy to help. So we agreed and opened up the back pasture to let our new guests onto our farm. Sunny and Patrick went through the fence onto our land and just pranced with joy, they kicked up their feet and ran and ran. I saw such a spark in them and realized this was probably the first time they had ever had that much space to move, it was beautiful!

We started getting to know Sunny and Patrick, they were still a little frightened of us but seemed to be very interested in all the commotion and liveliness of our farm. Sunny started gaining weight and his cuts were healing, he allowed us to touch him and then even groom him. They were starting to really thrive and show improvement in personality and health, they were interest in us, the other animals and our farm visitors. It was such an amazing transition and watching these two animals come out of their trauma is something I will never forget.

The two weeks passed and then a couple more and I won't get into all the details here because they don't really matter. In the end it was decided that Patrick and Sunny would not be transported and would stay here at our farm to live out the rest of their lives. Jon and I are completely green when it comes to horses and we knew it was going to be a challenge and we would have to dive into horse ownership head first! This is not like us, we are planners, researchers, detail oriented people who do not take on animals in the spur of the moment. But we knew it was what we needed to do even though we needed two very large non producing pets like we needed a hole in the head.

I wish I could tell you we are all living happily ever after and riding off into the sunset but I'm not one to pretty things up. I'm a truth teller, I don't shy away from the ugly and I'm getting better at sharing vulnerability even if it does leave me in a puddle of shame after my blog posts go out. The truth is life has been damn hard this year and now it just got even harder.

This year Jon's father died, we were extremely sick with covid, Jon was in the hospital and now Jon's sister just suddenly passed away. We lost beloved animals and have had more things break on our farm then tree limbs in an ice storm. We have been shrinking our farm, fretting over the rising feed costs, feeling the immense pressure from the cost of living going up. We just lost Jon's family home to his fathers ex-wife that he divorced 12 years ago, a home we were promised and banked our future on, his estate costs us several thousands of dollars from our very small savings account. We have felt like we were going to crack and closed the farm stand because we couldn't handle one more thing on our plate. We were exhausted, broken and hurting.

But then there was this old horse and steer that were more broken then us and it gave us a purpose and breathed something new into our life. It's going to be hard and it's going to be expensive, I know this and it scares the hell out of me. These animals have had minimum care, Sunny has never even had his hooves done in his 22 years. We can't even get a farrier here until we can teach him to be able to stand and trust a person enough to work on his hooves. I imagine once the farrier works on him it's going to be a long road. We are working with them daily and they are growing in leaps and bounds but it's going to take a lot of hard work and patience from all of us. Our farm is not horse friendly, we need to redo our muddy paddock, put up new fencing, improve the stall and build a new calf stall and paddock. We now have two more mouths to feed and two old animals that are going to need extensive care.

We need help. I want to bull through this and do it all alone and be stubborn and proud but I can't and I won't. We have friends teaching us about horses, a vet who answers all my questions and goes above and beyond, a friend gifted us a beautiful halter, another friend helping me train Sunny every Saturday, neighbors helping us in the barn and a friend who sent us a check to help with costs. A caring community that makes it so much easier for me to swallow my pride and ask for the help we desperately need.

We have decided to open the farm stand back up, without our customers we can't keep this farm running. Our new open to the public hours are a little more manageable now. I am working out the details of some fall workshops that will be listed on the website soon, There will be a chicken butchering workshop and a milking workshop and I'll see what else I can come up with.

Anyone who would like to donate to Sunny and Patrick's care can do so through our Paypal account below, Venmo or our farm stand. We GREATLY appreciate it!

We are so appreciative of all our Sweet River Farm community, you are the best!

Angie & Jon xo

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