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I am humbled by you…

Yesterday, unexpectedly, we began baling the first crop of hay that we secured for the rescue when we leased 20+ plus acres from a local landowner.  It was unexpected because we had planned to wait until today.  Mother Nature, unfortunately, had other plans.  So Doug, Wade, Lenny, and Nate dropped everything to get out there and bale what had dried enough and the rest, well, it will have to sit and dry longer, especially after the storms today.  Nate and Wade got busy raking while Doug began small squares and Lenny began round bales.  Soon enough, it was time for me to get over there and start stacking the small squares in the barn (that the landowner is letting us use for storage…at no charge…).  The temperature was in the mid-80s.  The sun was beating down on everyone.  It was late afternoon/early evening.  Everyone had already had a long day.  The squares kept getting stuck on the hay elevator.  Nate was up and down that thing at least 10 times in the first half hour.  We were hot, sweaty, tired, and running out of options on how to get this hay in before the rain today.

All of a sudden a truck pulled in the driveway.  It was the landowner’s son.  He had just completed a long day at his job and he came by to see how things were going.  Seeing right away that we were having issues, he stepped right in, still wearing his work uniform, and began to help.  The bales were a bit too loose for the hay elevator that we were using (again, at no charge).  If we continued to try to put them in the barn with it, we would end up wrecking the elevator and/or losing more bales than we could even count as the twine got stuck and broke and the loose hay fell to the floor.  Without saying much (that I heard), he walked into another shed and emerged with a tractor.  He drove it up around the steep, narrow, rain-rutted drive that led to the back of the barn.  A couple of minutes later, he came around the corner with another hay elevator.  This one, he explained, could go into a different window and since it didn’t have a corner on it, the bales would not get hung up.  He put it in place, you could already see the sweat building up on him, then walked away again, only to return with the motor for the new elevator.  Then I heard him say “What the?” and I turned and looked.  The power cord had been chewed off and there was no longer a plug on the motor.  Expecting him to throw his hands in the air and walk away, as this was a whole lot of not his problem, instead he calmly called to his dad and asked if he had a plug somewhere as he busily began working with the wires in the cord.

I then watched as his dad walked down to the shed where the tractor had emerged from.  Every step he took, he limped.  His one leg and his back showing the obvious signs of a lifetime of hard labor as a farmer.  But, when he returned, he had a smile on his face and readily helped his son get the new elevator running.  His son then went back into the barn and I followed as he told me to stack the hay closer to the new elevator than I had been rather than walk clear across the barn where the other elevator had been dumping it.  Upon seeing that new elevator was working perfectly, again I expected him to be on his way home.  He doesn’t even live there after all.  Instead, he began stacking the hay right alongside me.  Once that first wagon was emptied and stacked, Nate and I took it back out to Doug and Wade, having completed the raking, went up to the far field to get the third full wagon and Nate and I unhooked the empty one and grabbed the second wagon.  Fully expecting father and son to have retired for the day, I was once again surprised to find them still there and continuing to help unload and stack the hay.

During the time that the motor for the new elevator was being repaired, I had the time to look around at where I was.  It was a place I have driven past many times, but you can’t see much of it from the road as it sits up and almost over a hill.  I looked around and the view from up there is stunning.  I looked at the old farmhouse that most likely has not been occupied for many years.  I looked at the old barn, the shed, the old pastures, the silos, all sitting for the most part…empty…  As the son stacked hay alongside me, I looked up and saw the remnants of an old basketball backboard hanging in the barn.  Almost reading my thoughts, he quietly said “it’s been a long time since there’s been hay stacked in this barn.”  And with that, the floodgates of my mind opened up.  I asked if they had been dairy farmers.  Yes.  How many cows did you have?  Around 60.  How long ago did you stop?  February.  But, there hasn’t been hay up here for a long time? No, it just hasn’t been stacked.  We just let it lay where it landed off the elevator, he laughed.  Had your dad been a farmer his whole life?  Yes.  Were his parents farmers?  Yes.  Is this where he grew up?  No, this is actually where my uncle lived.  It’s been in the family since 1892, at least that’s as far back as we can trace it.  Is your dad retired now?  No.  He’s working at Menards.  How old is he?  63.  Does he still have any cows?  4, but 3 of them are mine.  They’re beef cows.  Does he want to keep the farm?  I do.

And just like that, it really sunk in where I was.  What we were doing.  What was happening.  What is happening all around the heartland of America.  And we had found ourselves right in the middle of it.  The joy in “securing” our hay supply for the year was quickly tempered by the reality of how we were able to do so.  This once flourishing dairy farm with the incredible views was almost haunted by the memories of happier times.  The silos that stand so proud and tall on top of the hill, once filled with feed for the cows, now sit empty.  The stanchions below my feet no longer hold a single cow.  The pastures that once held 60 cattle, now house just 4.  The fields that we are cutting and baling are “ours” because this family farm, that had been operating for more than a century, has been forced to close its doors.  A 63 year old man who had been farming his entire life, is now just another number at a large corporation.  And his son, who so desperately wants to keep the farm, is still there.  Right by his dad’s side, helping people he doesn’t even really know, stack the hay that just one year ago, was for their cattle.  Their farm.  Their livelihood.

I am humbled by you.  Your help, your generosity, your courage and strength during such a tough time in your lives.  To step in and help the way you did yesterday when there was no reason you had to, other than the good, honest, hard-working upbringing you had.  We can only hope that one day you will be able to keep the farm and restore it to its former glory.  But, in the meantime, please know that your sacrifices are recognized here.  That your sadness will be met with happy nickers as we bring the beautiful souls here the hay that you are allowing us to crop.  That we will think of you and your family as the starved, neglected, abandoned, and thrown away horses are brought back to life with every bale we feed.  And we will pray that your dad will be able retire from farming when his body says so, rather than retire from a corporation when they say so.

I am humbled by you…

We have been able to make two payments towards the land that this family is so generously letting us crop.  Please consider a donation to help us pay them in full as soon as possible.  They deserve it.  They’ve earned it.  Thank you all so much and please support our dairy farmers.  They need you as much as the horses do.

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2019 Trainer’s Challenge results are in!!

When we began planning the fifth annual Pony Tales Refuge & Rehab Trainer’s Challenge, we decided to make it a big 5-year celebration.  Not just a celebration of the event itself, but of Pony Tales’ fifth year of saving as many equines that we could and finding them new, loving homes.  Originally planning on 20-25 teams to be competing this year, a record in itself, that number bumped up to 30 in the blink of an eye with the number of amazing people out there who wanted to take in one of the beautiful souls here and help them find that perfect home.  While ecstatic with the turnout of talented trainers, organizing and managing an event of this magnitude was no small task for our small organization.  As happens every year, there are mishaps, trainers who go MIA, horses who get injured, etc.  Just getting from that starting point of the horse going to its trainer to the final competition at the end is perhaps the most trying part.  We went from 30, down to 29, then back up to 30, then down to 28, then back up to 30.  Each time things started to fall apart for a horse, someone stepped up and offered to take them on.  In the end though, only 27 of the original 30 made it all the way through, and only 23 of those 27 were able to compete yesterday.  However, I use the term “only” very loosely.  23 is an incredible number of trainers, all coming together on one day, in one place, for one reason, with one goal: Help these horses find a home. And boy did they ever!!

Of the 23 teams competing yesterday, 14 of the horses were adopted, 3 others have adoptions pending, and 2 of them were placed or stayed with our STAR team.  Additionally, 3 of the horses that could not attend were adopted.  What does all this mean?  Well, it means that out of 27 horses that were once just one of many here at Pony Tales, only 5 of them came back to Pony Tales yesterday!  That is an amazing feat that took everyone involved to accomplish.  I do not even know where to begin to thank everyone who made it possible for 22 horses in one day to either have found their home or be well on their way to finding that home.  You all know who you are and if you were involved at all, even in the smallest way, we cannot even begin to express our gratitude and appreciation for everything you have done.  So many amazing people selflessly giving their time, their energy, their resources, and their hearts to help so many amazing horses.  AND. In addition to those adopted from the Trainer’s Challenge, 4 other horses were adopted this weekend, which makes it 18 horses adopted in just one weekend!!

While this 5 year celebration was the most successful Trainer’s Challenge to date, we are looking to the future and the new path that we are on, and we are happy (yet a bit sad) to announce that this was our final trainer’s challenge.  This new path has opened so many doors for not just us, but the horses we take in as well.  For those who have expressed that they would like to compete next year, don’t fret.  Just because there won’t be another trainer’s challenge does not mean that there will be no opportunity for you to work with and help the incredible number of horses that we will now be able to save.  For more details, please contact our STAR Team leader Bryanna Larson at bryanna@ponytaleswi.org.  And for those of you who were hoping to be able to compete in a show, don’t you fret either.  You can bet there will be fabulous shows highlighting our amazing team of STARs and the horses they are helping find homes!

We are gearing up for our free adoption event coming up this Sunday, June 30, 2019 and are preparing to get out to the auction once again to outbid those killbuyers and save some horses! Your continued support is necessary for us to be able to save as many as possible.  Don’t forget my personal goal of helping 200 horses by next May! Since I made the goal, we have helped 13 horses steer clear of the slaughter pipeline, so we have a long ways to go! Help us reach that goal by donating anything you can.  We cannot do it without you. Thank you all!

And now, the overall results of the 2019 Trainer’s Challenge 5-year Celebration!

Riding Division:

Grand Champion: Emma Jackson with Clifford (Adopted)

Reserve Champion: Jenna Wildner with Lacey (Adopted)

Third Place: Lilly Wisnefske with Kalaiya (Adopted)

Fourth Place: Lindsey Keil with Valentino (Adoption pending)

Fifth Place: Kenzi Brost with Elliott (Adopted)

In-Hand Division:

Grand Champion: Amanda and Liz Schultz with Lucky (Adoption pending)

Reserve Champion: Morgin Lawrence with Ginger (Adopted)

Third Place: Tess Johnson with Anya (Adopted)

Fourth Place: Lea Anne Diesberg with Rusty (Adopted)

Fifth Place: Kinzi Bale with Duke (STAR)

Adoption Results overall:

Adopted:

Nugget

Clifford

Aurora

Gidget

Lacey

Chey

Elliott

Slide

Rusty

Kalaiya

Shanti

Ginger

Anya

Boogie

Kat

Katherine

Hershey

Adoption pending:

BeeGee

Lucky

Valentino

STAR Team:

Joker

Duke

Available for Adoption or STARs:

Greta

Satin

Delaney

Wild Child

Tawny

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This boy just can’t catch a break! 

Raffles came to us in 2015. Unhandled, terrified, and scarred. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. It literally took months for us to gain his trust and make him understand that he had nothing to fear. Even once the trust was established, we had to be able to handle him. He had spent his young life running “wild” and knew nothing of halters, lead ropes, grooming, etc. The first few tries at leading, he bolted so quickly that no one could hold on to him. Once again though, over time, he learned that everything was going to be ok.

Raffles on arrival.

Never one to be the “boss”, but if no other horses wanted to be the leader, Raffles would take responsibility of the job. But, when challenged, he would back down quickly. The scars all over his body are a good indication of the past trials and stressful situations that he has been in. During his time here, we were careful not to put him in with very dominant horses as he would often cower, be kept away from the food, and just be stressed and chased around. As his confidence in himself and his herd mates grew, he blossomed into a breathtakingly beautiful flea-bitten grey with moves that would knock your socks off!

Raffles prior to leaving.

Raffles was competing in last year’s Trainer’s Challenge when he choked during feeding time: running while trying to eat. The trauma from that caused him to lose quite a bit of weight and it was determined best for him to come back here and rest while he gained his weight back. Sadly, he was doing really, really well in training and would have had a home easy!

In no time, Raffles had his weight and his zest for life back and was entered into the Trainer’s Challenge again this year. I will spare you all the gory details, though I am sure that some of you already know, but Raffles is once again, just 2 weeks from the completion of the Challenge, back with us. Only this time, I am so sad, angry, and completely disgusted with his condition. Only recently being told how wonderful he was doing and how so many people are interested in him, he came back to us yesterday looking almost exactly like he did the day he arrived back in 2015.

All his previous wounds had healed, though the scars remained, but he came back yesterday covered in new ones. Bite after bite mark that broke the skin. Dried up scabs from bleeding. Mane a snarly mess again. And his weight. Ugh! We vet our trainers and this one came with amazing references. We did not see this coming and I am beyond sickened that someone would allow him to be in a situation like that again. When we learned of what was going on there, we were able to contact a trusted person in that area to go get him out of there right away as we are so far away. And by the next day he was out of there. But, his wounds remain. His scars are now multiplied. And at this point, we can only hope that they are only skin deep this time.

  Raffles today.

Raffles is now comfortably relaxing and unwinding in a stall while we evaluate him further. His rehab has began, again, and we are confident he will get through it with flying colors. Further evaluation will tell us if he was even being worked with as we were told and if so, we are hopeful that he will be ready for that home that he has spent years trying to find. Raffles’ beauty, charisma, and movement is wasted on the trails. He belongs in the arena for all the world to see. He will be a wonderful, trusted partner for one lucky person, but in the meantime, he needs your help. Please consider a donation towards his rehab after being failed by humans….again…. And help us ensure that he will never be failed again. Thank you.

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Welcome to the new Pony Tales!

I am beyond excited to welcome you all to the new Pony Tales website! This beautiful website, designed by Tawnee as part of the Full Circle of Life grant, is just the beginning of the new and improved Pony Tales! It has been a whirlwind around here with all of the changes and preparing for what now appears to be a very bright future, not just for Pony Tales, but for all of the beautiful souls out there that this transformation will now allow us to help.

When we first started, we had just a couple of rescues. But, within the next few months, our pastures were over-flowing and the requests to take in more were constant. As happens with most every rescue out there, we have been “full” ever since. Only able to help one or two at a time every once in a while. It was heartbreaking saying no to so many, but we had no choice. Not knowing the fate of those we turned away would keep us up at night or cause restless sleep with dreams turning into nightmares. Now though, we will no longer have to say no. As a full circle of life shelter, we can, and will, take in any horse their owner wishes to surrender. Period. Age, condition, health, etc., doesn’t matter. They are all welcome here. Any time.

While we still will not be able to help them all, this new path will allow us to help so many more than ever before. Over the last 5 years, we have averaged 30-40 horses per year that we could help. I now have a personal goal of helping 200 by this time next year. It may sound like a lofty goal to many of you, but with your help, it will not be hard to achieve. Since the awarding of the $10k Full Circle of Life grant from Horse Plus Humane Society on May 1, 2019 and with the continued mentoring, we have already taken in 12 horses in need. This happened in just the first couple of weeks! Just imagine what we can do over the next year!

But, we didn’t do it alone. Your support and your donations made it happen. Because of all of you, we were able to save 12 horses from, at best – an uncertain future. So, we hope that you will all continue to support and encourage us on this new journey and stay tuned for the upcoming reality TV show “Horse Rescue Heroes” that will document this transformation. You will literally be able to see exactly where your donations went and how many lives you helped save.

In closing, we hope you all love the new website as much as we do and we hope you will all be by our side going forward. The horses need you. We need you. To help us achieve our goal of 200 horses by this time next year, please consider donating anything you can. It doesn’t have to be a lot. But, a little from all of you, will go a long way! Thank you all and stay tuned for so much more to come!!