Friday, April 4, 2014

My Free Time Sets Me Free

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“It’s what you do in your free time that will set you free—or enslave you"

Getting smooches from Ella. I'm a lucky girl!

Most of the topics I write about are things that can easily consume me if I allow them to. I sit at my desk or on my bed and think for hours about my life, who I am, and who I want to be in regards to whatever I'm writing about. Once I've picked something I'm passionate about, I play devil's advocate with myself so I can view the topic from all angles before I decide to write...and it can just be exhausting. More often than not the topics I choose are very heavy, but today I wanted to take a break and write about one of my favorite things to do in my free time, something that brings me nothing but happiness.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Custer, Washington and I think that gave me the most badass childhood. I grew up "painting" the walls of the barn by flinging cow manure off of a stick, building hay forts in the barn with my dad and my siblings, shooting BB guns, and playing with the cows. When I was 7-years-old I started preparing for the Northwest Washington Fair with my first "show cows", Abigail and Pearl. I competed at the fair two months after I turned 8-years-old and won a second place trophy with Pearl...the proudest moment of my life at that point. As much as I loved showing cows, when I was 8 I bought my first horse for $500 and that was it for me. I was absolutely in love and spent the next 10-years of my life showing and training horses. I showed with multiple 4-H groups until I was 18 and also showed with an open group at fair one year. In high school I competed on the school's equestrian team and lettered each year. I have countless memories from all those years that I cherish. When I was a senior in high school I sold both of my horses because I thought I'd be moving away for college and it was the hardest decision of my life. What once was the biggest part of my life was now gone and ever since then there has definitely been an empty space in my heart.

By the time I contacted the local humane society to ask them if I could volunteer with the farm animals I was told that they had plenty of volunteers and all the spaces in the next few months of orientations were filled. I responded with my qualifications and told the volunteer coordinator how badly I wanted to help out and that I'd come in any time for an orientation. My "begging" must have worked because I've been volunteering on the farm for over two months now and I absolutely love it. Once a week I go to the farm to clean stalls, help with grooming and small projects. It's definitely a change of pace from what I'm used to doing with horses but I couldn't be more thrilled to just be around them. 

I think the best causes to be an advocate for are for those who don't have a voice, or a very faint one that can be ignored or lost in the chaos of daily life. And for me, those are animals and children. These animals have absolutely no control over what happens to them and sometimes when they come to shelters or rescues they're days or even hours from death. Even if we're able to step in and help out, we will never know their full story and we can only imagine all the suffering they've gone through. I love all animals and would volunteer for any branch of the humane society, but I chose the farm because it's much harder for animals like horses and cattle to be adopted out because of their needs (property, feed, etc.). It's just much more expensive to care for a farm animal than a small animal and realistically most people would rather have a cat or dog. It absolutely blows my mind to see some of the animals that are brought to us or that we have had to seize from their previous homes. It's heart breaking but at the same time it's necessary and I'm so glad that I can be a part of it. 
Writing about this aspect of my life also gives me an excuse to post some pictures I've taken of some of the cuties in my life and gush about them!

This gorgeous Appaloosa's name is Ella, and if I'm to be completely honest...she's the first one who really stole my heart. My first day at the farm I was trying to take pictures of all the horses so I could share them online in hopes to find them homes faster...but I couldn't get a picture of anybody but Ella. She's a total ham and she photo-bombed every single picture I tried to take of the other mares. I'd run a few feet away to try to get a picture of a different horse and her nose would end up in the frame or she'd follow me around constantly. Even now when I'm cleaning her stall it's nearly impossible to do it with her in there because she follows me everywhere...and tries to eat my hair. When Ella came to us she was sickly and with a nursing foal. Once she was de-wormed, cleaned up a bit and fed she became the most beautiful mare. I'll miss her when she finds a new home but she deserves it and I can't wait to see what's in her future!

Snowflake was the one who was camera shy at first, and pretty wary of me in general. When I first started volunteering her foal had just gotten adopted and she was pretty upset about it.  I was told to be a little cautious of her because she was an old grump but I've definitely grown on her and she's grown on me. She's still a little on the nervous side, I'm sure especially with people she's never seen, but she's incredibly sweet and would love to be rescued by somebody who would love her and help her to trust again. She is a doll.

Rachel Lynn is the third Appaloosa mare with us currently and she is so damn cute. Another volunteer and I took it upon ourselves to give Ella and Rachel Lynn their first baths one day and Rachel Lynn was very patient with us! The bath wasn't "perfect" (as expected) but we were very proud of how well she did even though I'm pretty sure she was terrified! Rachel's a sweet, mellow mare who loves to be groomed, loved on, and having her face rubbed. I think she'd make the perfect horse for an advanced 4-H rider with the proper training.

This handsome boy's name is Thunder, and like Ella...he immediately stole my heart. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love them all. But my very first horse that I bought when I was 8 was named Thunder and so I immediately had a soft spot for this guy. He's a 5-year old Appaloosa stallion and he's equally as sweet and full of character as he is gorgeous. We were on a pretty big time crunch to find Thunder a home when some local girls decided to take him for a few months and starting to train him (I'm very excited to see his progress!). Thunder was seized along with the three mares (eleven horses total) from a farm where they were left with no water, food or shelter. When we got him he had never had a halter on and by the time he left to work with the girls, we had him leading, standing for grooming, the vet, and working on standing perfect for the farrier. He is so eager to learn and wants nothing more than to please somebody someday!

Our newest mare at the farm is Sugar! I fell in love with her when she first came in because she's so adorable and timid. Her breed is unknown but we're guessing she has some Mustang in her. She's a little shy and has hardly been handled but she's a very fast learner and definitely curious. The other day we worked on getting her used to being brushed and were able to change her halter, which was a big step for her! She's leads well and is a sweet horse with a clean slate who needs a gentle, loving hand. I don't know much about her yet because she just came to us, but I do know that she was seized from people who are forbidden to have animals by law because of the unimaginably horrible things they have been caught doing in the past. Thankfully by the looks of her, Sugar probably wasn't with them for long and I'm so thankful she's safe with us now.

I don't always give the best advice, but I'd like to encourage everybody to volunteer during some of  your free time, even if it's just an hour a week. I work over 40 hours a week, but there are over 120 more hours each week that I'm not working and even though I'm busy with many other things, volunteering is something I always hope to find time for. The farm is an hour away from where I live, and I spend about two hours there each week. After the drive there and back that's four hours a week, and it does so much for not only the animals but for myself. Organizations like the Whatcom Humane Society run off of people volunteering their time, gas and energy and donations of food and other items for the animals. Some people have abused and neglected these animals and when I leave the farm everyday, I know that because of others and myself, these animals are given a second chance to be loved and to live healthy and happy lives. I selfishly think volunteering makes me happier than the horses! To be around horses and other farm animals again, and to spend my time with them brings me so much happiness. Whether you volunteer for animals, kids, disabled, homeless, or any group of beings experiencing adversity I promise you it will be the most rewarding thing you've ever done.

***If you're interested in enriching your life by adopting an animal or would like to learn more about the available animals, including the horses I wrote about, you can check out the WHS website here.

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