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What is the Pony Tales Trail?

We’ve been knee deep in prepping the trails for the upcoming 3rd Annual Pony Tales Trail. So many think of it as just another organized trail ride. And while that is true to some extent, it is so much more.

The Pony Tales Trail is a fundraiser held each Labor Day weekend to help us take in, care for, and find homes for as many equines as possible. But, it is carried on the shoulders of not just those of us doing the physical labor of planning, preparing, and holding the event, but on the shoulders of those whose land we are riding on. You see, this “just another organized trail ride” would not be possible without them. This ride exists solely because of the kindhearted, generous nature of the local farmers who are always doing whatever they can to help support the horses here. Many of them do not even like horses, but they DO love animals and they support what we are doing here. They allow us to go onto their land, unsupervised, and clear and mow and make trails almost anywhere we wish, just to show their support. When the idea of the trail ride first came up, we thought no way are we going to be able to find/build a trail of this magnitude around here. There were just SO many plots of land we would need to cross, so many people to ask permission from, and it seemed quite hopeless to be honest.In the end though, we were met with only one “no” the first year and one “no” the second. And oddly enough, the two that said no, are not from this area, they do not farm, they do not help or support their neighbors in any way. So, the no’s came as little surprise to anyone around here. And funny enough, it almost seemed to encourage the rest to be even more generous to us and we had little trouble finding a way around them. It was almost like the rest felt they needed to make up for the unkindness of another in their community. This is such an amazing community here and we sometimes wonder if the ride should instead be called the “Cooks Valley Trail” as that is where the majority of the ride takes place. This small, close-knit community of hard-working, honest, generous, kind, and supportive citizens, is truly what makes this ride a possibility. But, you only get one chance.These trails are located solely on private land, other than the small section of county forest that we ride through, but even that is land-locked by private owners and is only available to the public with those owner’s permission. Which they will give, if you are on the Pony Tales Trail. Once a year, each and every landowner opens up a piece of their land to you as they ask you too to help support the horses here. These are not rich owners, they cannot offer much in the way of funds, but what they can offer, they do. This ride takes you to places and lets you see sights that you will only ever be able to see during the ride. This is a once a year opportunity. And let me tell you, the scenery is amazing and you don’t want to miss it.If you can’t make it, you can still offer your support by making a donation. No amount is ever too small. The horses are counting on you and the landowners are hoping that what they are offering is not in vain. Thank you all and we hope to see you on the Trail!

 

 

 

 

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5 years from now…

I woke up this morning after a long weekend of driving, reflection, and hard work. Right away the mind goes to the tasks that are planned for the day and it was time to get to work. I busied myself with the usual, but my mind kept drifting off. I could not stay focused on what was in front of me. I kept feeling like I was forgetting something. I reviewed past emails, messages, notes, anything that would spark a reminder of what was missing. Then, as I drove to town to run errands, it hit me: I missed our official 5 year anniversary yesterday! And right away, my memory rewound to that trying, exciting, scary, yet joyous time when Pony Tales was officially born: August 18, 2014.

I thought about every single equine that has passed through our gates since that time. From the first surrenders, Indy and Archie, to the most recent, and everyone in between. I can still remember where each and every one of them came from, when they came here, their condition upon arrival, their fear, their transformations, and where each and every one of them is now. Past sadness and loss came rushing back, but it was tempered with the thoughts of the happy endings. And I thought to myself, will I still remember them all 5 years from now? Will the memories fade? Will the feelings I had for each of them drift away? It’s been 5 years. I could never have imagined we would be where we are today 5 years ago. So, where will we be 5 years from now?

It’s a scary thought for me. Especially as we are growing by leaps and bounds as I type. Just this year alone, we are on pace to find homes for more horses than the last 4 years combined. We have a goal of helping 200 horses by May of next year. And I worry, will I remember them all? And what’s worse, I don’t think I will….

If we reach our goals, if we grow how we are planning, there will be so many that we are able to help. SO many. And while we are all excited and looking forward to changing the lives of so many horses and people as well, it seems as though the emotion will have to take a back seat. And that is scary for me. If the emotion is gone, what is left? Do I become a robot just going through the motions to get the job done? Do I distance myself from them to focus on the many other aspects and tasks that this growing organization is going to require of me? And if I do, will the emotion disappear? If it does, what will become of me….

I was told once that there is always that “one horse” that drives people like me into this. And in fact, there was that one horse that started this whole thing. Pony Tales was born on the back of one horse, but now that horse is gone. All that’s left are memories. And those memories will not fade, of that I am sure, unless my mind begins to fail me some day. So, while it is scary for me to think that one day I may not be able to remember each and every beautiful soul that has passed through our gates or the details of each of them, for me, the emotion will never fade. I may not have the one on one connection with them all as I have had in the past, but the connection I will have with them all is that one horse that started it all. Without him, none of us would be here, not the horses, not our volunteers, not our supporters, not me. He lives on in each and every horse we help and I will never forget him. Which means…I will never forget them.

But, I wonder, 5 years from now, will today be nothing more than a distant memory? Will we look back at this time and reminisce about the “good ole days” like we do now? When Pony Tales was just a whisper in the wind and the work was easier, the days were shorter, and the heartache was less. Possibly. But, the thought of how many are out there that need us, that we will now be able to help, makes it all worth while. Growing pains are hard. They are painful indeed. But, we will get past this and our wings will spread and envelop and lift as many as possible to safety. We will no longer be a whisper in the wind, but we will be the wind ourselves. Just imagine where we will be…5 years from now….

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Boot Camp

We’ve been back from boot camp for a little over a week now and while I have been so excited to share everything with you all, I have really been struggling with putting it all into words.  Especially since we were thrown right into the beginning of the barn excavation the moment we returned, along with catching up with all the inquiries (emails, messages, etc), checking up on all the horses, making arrangements for the other horses on their way, meeting with adopters, implementing our new procedures, and preparing for the upcoming Pony Tales Trail.  So, having a few moments to quietly reflect on everything that happened August 2 – August 9, has been a huge hurdle.  Yesterday though, I inadvertently found myself with more than just a few moments to reflect and organize my thoughts and to actually truly be able to take in everything that happened in those 7 days.  We were invited to set up a booth yesterday during a celebratory event at another equine rescue organization, the first time they had ever invited another equine rescue organization, and we were happy to attend.  My GPS had other plans for me though…

What should have been around 4 hours one way, ended up being 6 1/2. Upon realizing that I had been taken to the wrong place (84 miles south of where I needed to be), I briefly pondered just throwing in the towel and going home. My phone car charger was MIA yesterday morning and I did not have much phone left (though I had already stopped twice to get chargers, but neither of them worked). Anyway…instead I decided I had gone this far and maybe going the 84 miles north would actually get me closer to home. Plus, I had said I would be there and I wanted to be and then I finally found myself a car charger that worked on my phone! In the end, I eventually made it there and was awed by the amazing turnout and support that this organization had and I was happy that we were a part of it, albeit a small part. Unable to stay long as the horses back home awaited me (and I was a little concerned about another 6 1/2 hour drive), I wandered around, ate some delicious food, saw some awesome animals, met some awesome people, packed my stuff up, and headed home.

By this point in the day, I was tired, my behind and my back were sore, and I really just wanted to get home. Focused on where my phone was telling me to go (and praying it was right), I didn’t even realize that the radio had been turned all the way down for…hours. With the window rolled down due to missing AC, it was hard enough to hear my phone giving me directions, so I just left the radio down. And as I drove, my mind eventually moved away from the trials of the day and the busyness of the last week to those 7 days in Tennessee. This accidental roundabout trip I went on yesterday, by myself, provided me the quiet time to really think and absorb and ultimately…form the words I’ve been searching so hard for. But, I still do not know where to start…

Do I start with the guy who ran over my foot with his suitcase at the MN airport and broke my toenail? Do I start with the anxiety and panic I was feeling before we even left that morning? Do I start with the anticipation and apprehension of what was to transpire that week? Or do I just dive right into the events and occurrences we experienced during boot camp? That…is one question I was not able to answer for myself yesterday. So, I think I will just start from the beginning, in summary fashion, before today gets away with me as well.

Other than my foot getting run over, the trip to Hohenwald, TN on Friday, August 2, was fairly uneventful. When we arrived, we met up with Tawnee and Jason from Horse Plus Humane Society and the film crew for Horse Rescue Heroes. We had been told that they had an “activity” for me and Nate on Saturday and we were very anxious to learn what it was. They took us to the bed and breakfast (I will refer to it as the cabin) where we would be staying for the week and we all just talked for a while as they showed us around. When we finally learned what the activity was, my thoughts, fears, apprehension, worry about everything back at home, melted away. While I knew deep down that everyone was in wonderful hands, leaving them for so long was terrifying. It always seemed after all, that whenever I was gone, tragedy would strike. So, to be gone for an entire week, had my stomach in knots and my anxiety level at maximum capacity. But, this activity, gave me something to focus on. There was someone there, in Hohenwald, TN, that needed me to be there that week…

On Saturday, Nate and I had most of the day to ourselves as we awaited Bryanna, Lea Anne, Tammi, and little Preston’s arrival later that evening. We drove around checking out the area, the sights, the history of this little “hole in the wall” town in the middle of Tennessee. We were greeted with the nicest, most welcoming people everywhere we went. Nate pointed out and laughed at all the big trucks with half a lift kit in them (apparently that’s a thing the guys talk about…idk) and there were a LOT of them! As we searched for “things to do” in the area, we learned that pretty much everything is 2 hours away from Hohenwald. I mean…like EVERYTHING! So, we stopped into a local bar and talked with the bartender. She told us about the Natchez Trace and mentioned Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark) and how he is buried up there. We went to check it out and sure enough…there it was. But, reading about his death at such a young age, is what really stuck with us. Google it. Please! Eventually we made our way back to the cabin and relaxed as we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. (Did I mention there is no cell service or internet there?! Oy!) Before they arrived though, our “activity” kicked into high gear and the excitement of what was happening became almost intoxicating!

But, boot camp was to start early the next day and soon we all had to call it quits and turn in for the night. Plus, Nate had to catch a plane the next day. As his time to leave approached, I struggled so hard to hold back the tears. By that time, we had already experienced so much and so much had happened that I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t been there. Not to mention the fact that I was about to spend the next 6 days with people that, while we all knew each other, we had never spent this amount of time together. My anxiety began creeping up again and the apprehension of being alone with them and Nate hundreds of miles away, had my emotions on overload. Unavoidably, the time came for him to leave, and I had a meltdown. We still had hours of work to do that day, but all I wanted to do was get back to the cabin and focus on the activity. So, I kept to myself and I watched. I observed. I cried. I took shelter from the storms that rolled through and worried how Nate was fairing driving through them. I looked at my phone constantly for the notification that he had arrived at the airport safe and sound. And then that he made it home. Hoping they would come before we went back to the cabin, because if not, I wouldn’t get them. And I would worry. When all the work was done, Tawnee and Jason took everyone out to dinner and there was much talking and introductions made. At one point, Jason said “I wish Nate was here” and without even meaning to, I said out loud “me too” and the tears came again. Sunday was a hard, long day and my eyes burned from the constant shedding of tears. But, thankfully, before we went back to the cabin, I got the text I had been waiting for: I’m home. My mind then quickly went back to the activity, where it needed to be, for my own sanity.

Without going into details, we spent the next week going through the gamut. I had lightheartedly referred to it as “boot camp” a while back, but I tell you what, that’s exactly what it was. Over the next 4 days, me and the fantastic ladies that I was so worried about being alone with, experienced it all. We saw the best in people, followed by the worst from others. We saw the ugliest that man has to offer and then the most beautiful offerings from others. We met people currently trying to overcome what to some would be insurmountable obstacles, along with others who already had. We witnessed the devastating effects of soring followed by the joy of freedom from their chains. We saw indescribable hate from some towards those who try to help these horses, but, we also saw the most generous acts of kindness from those who support those trying to help. We witnessed the end of an era in that little town, but possibly the beginning of another. We even…saw a tornado! That is not on my highlight list though….Lol

In the end, while I missed Nate terribly, the fantastic ladies who took time off of their jobs and away from their families to join me on this “adventure” of hard work and learning, were the best people I could even imagine having with me. They stepped up every time they were needed and displayed their true love and desire to see Pony Tales on its way. And they have not let up since. And while there is still so much to talk about and tell you all, yesterday I came to the conclusion that the only way to do it, is to let you all witness it yourself. This TV show, Horse Rescue Heroes, is going to be amazing. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be angry, you will be shocked. Everything. When you watch this show, you will run the gamut with us and you will get a rare, inside look, into the reality of horse rescue. The horse world itself is ugly. The horse rescue world…is even uglier. We have been blessed to meet some amazing people and don’t get me wrong, there are good people in both worlds. But, the good people are the quiet ones. The good people are those you don’t often hear from or about. This show is your opportunity to hear directly from them. Your opportunity to go through what they go through right along with them and realize why it is we do what we do.

And when you do watch it…you too will learn what that incredible week long “activity” was. And I promise…you don’t want to miss it… 😉

There is so much more work here yet to be done as this transition kicks into high gear and there is much planned. The barn building has began and we are hoping to have it up and functioning in October…as we will need it for something… 😉 But, we could still really use your help. Please consider even the smallest donation to help us reach our goal of being able to help 200 horses by next May. Every little bit helps! Click here to donate!