I have a friend whom I’ve never met. Her name is Lisa, like mine, and she runs Toby’s Legacy Equine Rescue. I found her like you are now, by word of mouth. Someone pointed and said this was an example of a “good” rescue and that was dang important to me at the time because we had just gotten off a roller coaster ride with what turned out to be a “not-so-good” rescue.
Following a rescue is like following a soap opera — you learn the characters and become attached to them as you go along. My first love was Homer, an elderly horse in a very bad situation. Animal Control had been called numerous times, but the owners did just enough to avoid having Homer seized. It tore Lisa up and — with gritted teeth, I am sure — she finally sought donations so that she could payoff those jerks and get Homer the hell out of there. This is a recent picture of the big, old guy. Like Filou, he has his better days and then the days where you can see the shadow cast by what is sure to come. It’s a tough thing to sign up for, being steward to a senior animal. You hold space for them to be well within the context of declining health, all the time wondering how you will know when it becomes too much. Every day you watch for signs. You hold your breath. You sigh in relief that it is not today. From the place in my heart that holds Homer, I am so grateful for Lisa for signing up to be his partner in that journey.
Right after Homer, I fell in love with Darby, the beautiful. Darby was being sold at auction. She was young, unbroken, and pregnant, all of which put her at high risk for falling into the hands of a killer buyer — someone who buys horses for the price they will bring on a slaughterhouse floor. I think another rescue was involved in bidding her to safety, but it was Lisa who committed to the space and time and expense of giving sweet Darby and her unborn baby a soft landing. Darby is my kind of girl, oh so pretty, and with a clear, intelligent air about her. She was also incredibly wary of people, given her lack of handling (or maybe because of the handling she was given) which made managing her through the remainder of her pregnancy a bit of a challenge.
Lisa set up a web-cam in Darby’s paddock so she and all of Darby’s fans, including me, could play the waiting-for-the-baby game together. Because Darby came pregnant, the vet could only best guess as to her due date. Lisa was abundantly cautious with Miss Darby, keeping her under watch for a wide window of time. So we waited. And we waited. During that slowly ticking watch period, Lisa gave to me an over-the-top gift — the privilege of getting to name Darby’s baby. That was hard. And then it was easy. I said — name her Jubilee, which just a handful of people in this world will understand was a beautiful and utterly gut wrenching thing to do. Here is what I wrote about it then:
An occasion of joyful celebration; a time for rejoicing
Sometimes it takes a long time to heal. Sometimes you don’t know that you are healed until you feel the joy of what you had come back to you through someone…or something… else. I lost my beloved horse, Jubilee, suddenly and too soon. I had promised him so much that I did not get to fully deliver. So I pay it forward. Because of the loss of him, I have rescued and I have supported others in rescuing. Lisa Bone is about as good as it gets on that front; a kindred spirit as, I think, are Toby and Jube somewhere in horsey heaven. Lisa gifted me the honor of naming Darby’s baby and I knew, in an instant, it would be — Jubilee. Because, after all, it is an occasion of joyful celebration, a time of great rejoicing that we can make a better future for those on earth with us now.
I wish I could tell you the story about the day Jubilee was born. I couldn’t do it justice. Lisa did, though, in a posting made on Jubilee’s first birthday. It is important to me that you see that in its entirety, so here it is.
I was on my way home from work when I got a PM. I had set up cameras in the paddock so everyone could be a part of Darby‘s journey to motherhood. Well, what the person thought was Darby laying down to roll on screen was actually Darby laying down to foal. It took me about an hour to get home. The longest drive ever. When I got home I raced to the paddock and she still wasn’t standing. This perfect little baby kind of had me worried. It had been well over an hour and she wasn’t standing. So, I went in to help. Darby was very agitated. She did not like me in there, but once she realized what I was doing she calmed down. I could actually see and feel her recognition. Once on her feet, I recognized the tell tale signs of visual impairment. The little pumpkin was walking the fence line, getting stuck in corners, not nursing. What was amazing was Darby‘s reaction. Darby began placing herself between the fence and her new baby. She was protecting her from bumping into things. I was in awe. I was in awe of this beautiful new life. I was in awe of Darby‘s love. I was in awe and in love. I knew she was blind. I didn’t need the doctor to tell me (although it was later confirmed). I didn’t care. I knew she would be just fine. Lisa Alexander named her Jubilee. It was a perfect name for a perfect soul. It took sedating Darby and working with Jubilee to get her to nurse. Darbyhad a retained placenta and required medical intervention. It was a very long, stressful, and joyous day. Jube is so remarkable and inspiring. I can’t believe it has been a year already. Happy Birthday my love. You are destined for great things.
Jubilee has her forever home, with Lisa. She may be blind, but, oh boy is she capable of being a horse! Click here to see some video of her running around. That little girl has radar! Lisa mixed and matched until she found the right combination of herd members for Jube to hang with, so important for her well-being. She is confident and cute and whip smart and, most of all, safe and loved. From the incredibly enormous place in my heart that held its breath when Jubie was born and celebrates each of her new successes, I am so, so grateful for Lisa.
There are dozens of other stories like this, dozens where Lisa has stepped in and provided sanctuary, pretty much single-handedly, to horses and donkeys and other critters with horrifying back stories and little to no chance of survival or salvation — if it weren’t for Lisa. I don’t know how she does it. I don’t know how she finds herself able to step into the face of the horridness and say “I will make a difference here”.
We have done that a few times — rescued. I can tell you, it changed our lives in a million ways, all for the better. The last horse we rescued, Papa — we called him Papa — was old and hard used and had suffered far too long without love or even basic human kindnesses. He lived the final 11 months of his life with us and he touched — no, created — a place in my heart I cannot even begin to fit my own two arms around. Papa. One horse. Lisa’s dozens … how very very big must be the place in her heart.
And there it is, the thing I want to talk about with you, with Lisa, except I don’t know how. You see, something happened this weekend on Lisa’s watch, something she shared on the Rescue’s Facebook page. In the end, a horse lost its life and, oh there is deep sadness in that, but my deeper grief comes from seeing the sheer size of the wound it left on her heart and I felt anxious that perhaps the heaviness would be too much, that holding such a big place in your heart for these vulnerable souls could consume you, until you cannot hold yourself up — alone.
Not one of us may be able to do what Lisa does, but any one of us can appreciate it, provide support for it, give a shoulder, give a damn, say the right words at the right time, show how very much it matters, how very much THEY matter. I know that Lisa fell down, but that she has dusted herself off and, right now, is probably feeding, or dragging, or doing one of the thousand daily things she knows needs to be done to keep her charges safe and cared for. I want Lisa to be safe and cared for. If you have read this far, please do something for me, whatever works for you, but please, acknowledge Lisa. Go to the Rescue’s website or Facebook page. Say kind words. Make a donation. From the place in your heart that you hold for such things, show her loving kindness and support. I will be eternally grateful.