If you want to know Ken Norman and understand him, you need to see him with a donkey or a horse. I’ve known Ken a long time, he is one of the first people I met when I came up to my farm, he has seen my life from the inside out, and stayed with me.
Ken, like many men, is not a natural talker. He can be grumpy, remote, distracted. He doesn’t talk very much about how he is feeling, like me he has little patience for foolishness, ignorance or cruelty, or the petty jealousies of humans. Yet there is love all around him.
He reminds us why it is that animals need to be with people, to live among us in our everyday lives. If you saw Ken’s face around Sarge, the blind horse heading to live at Blue-Star Equiculture Farm in Palmer, Mass., you can hear him talk, see the emotion inside of him, hear the beating of a big heart.
He was speaking clearly. It’s okay, he said to Sarge, you are going to a good place, you are going to be all right. I believe Sarge heard every word. All around us, animals are being taken away, forgotten by human beings, denied their work and history and connection to us.
They belong with us, Ken does not need to be told this, he sees it every day.
How do you make a horse or dog or any animal come home with you, trust you, even when they are frightened and can’t see?
You have a true and open heart.
You listen to them.
You give them time. And trust and patience.
Paul Moshimer had never met this blind horse until this morning, he calmed him, listened to him, earned his trust and walked him across his home for the past nine months and brought him home to a different place, where he will begin a new and perhaps lasting chapter in his life.
In order to communicate with an animal, you must learn to be a good human being, patient, open, authentic. Animals are alien creatures of another nation, they have powers beyond our imagination, they know us better than we know ourselves. We need them, they need us, we belong together on our journey through life.
Paul Moshimer has done this before, that was evident. He stood near the horse, and Sarge has his own way of locating people and things in his pasture. He is nearly blind. Paul let Sarge approach him, he stood near him, often still, letting Sarge approach him. He remained calm and steady, he projected confidence and trust. It was wrenching for the workers at Dorset Equine Rescue to see him go.
Paul exudes a steadiness that animals sense, and he knew what he was doing. Sarge is a big horse, he was anxious but went willingly. When I came I wondered how they could possibly get this horse on a trailer if he didn’t want to go. But he did want to go, their instincts are so much more powerful than ours.
Sarge is a 17-year-old discarded trail horse. He is completely blind in his right eye and 90 per cent blind in his left. The vets say he will soon be blind in both eyes. Last summer, Jennifer Straub and Connie Blatchford of Dorset, Vermont, Equine Rescue went to a horse auction in New York State. A kill (slaughterhouse) buyer was bidding on Sarge and the Dorset Rescue workers decided to try and save him. They outbid the kill buyer.
They bought Sarge for $525 and brought him to Vermont, they have been working with him, caring for him, searching for a home for him ever since. He is a sweet horse, gentle and playful, struggling to come to terms with the frightening experience of being blind. They have been looking for a home for him ever since, they contacted 10 difference horse rescue preserves and no one called them back for months, only two called back at all.
They called Blue-Star Equiculture and Pamela Rickenbach-Moshimer called them back instantly. Pam asked if Sarge still had his spirit, that was all she asked. She agreed with Connie and Jen that he had a lot of life to live and agreed to bring him to live at Blue-Star, that would be his new home.
This morning, Paul Moshimer, the co-director of Blue-Star, drove up to Vermont to pick up Sarge and take him to his new home in Palmer, Massachusetts. Ken Norman, our farrier and friend and a rescuer of many horses, came with his wife Eli Anita-Norman to help.
I was very touched by the grace and generosity of this animal, he uses his instincts to approach people and check them out, to run with the other horses, to navigate his world. It was fascinating to see how skillfully Paul and Ken and Eli approached Sarge, used their voices to let him know where they were, used food to calm him. Paul stood in the pasture while Sarge got used to him, talked to him gently, let the horse get to know him, and then he slipped a halter rope on him and led him out to the road and onto his trailer.
Sarge was anxious, but went willingly. Pamela and Paul have set up a special run for Sarge and another horse named Gulliver, who escaped from a stable, then lived in the woods and became feral until some children found him. Paul did not use a lot of words, he used his body and his presence, he seemed to speak to Sarge wordlessly, it seemed that whenever I looked, the horse was getting closer to his new person, getting to know him, start to trust him.
Blue-Star is committed to Sarge, they are already lining up a veterinary opthalmologist to examine and treat him. It is doubtful, Jen says, that he will ever regain his sight, but he will need special care.
Sarge is a lucky horse, his story touched my heart. It was powerful also to see how committed Jen and Connie were to saving him, bringing him to their stables, working with him to understand his new world, and working so hard to find him a new home. It was clearly sad for them to say goodbye. They were both in tears as he left. How good a thing it is to see that there are such good people in the world, and they will extend themselves in this way to help a helpless and handicapped animal live and find a home.
Human beings are good, given the opportunity. Pamela and Paul are working to figure out what it will take to care for Sarge and I hope they will permit me to help out. I will share those discussions. Maria and I may go down to Blue-Star this weekend to see how he is doing. I’ll post some more photos today and regularly from Sarge’s journey.