Friday, July 12, 2013

"Feature Friday- Proud Sprit Horse Sanctuary – Melanie Sue Bowles"

Howdy Folks,
Sanctuary. Webster's dictionary defines sanctuary as, "A safe place. A place of refuge and protection." Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary in Lincolnton, GA is exactly that. Currently over fifty horses who have been rescued from all sorts of abuse, neglect and trauma can live out their lives, running free under the watchful eyes of Melanie Sue Bowles and her husband Jim. Never again to worry about hunger, abuse or abandonment they romp together as a family through pastures, streams and woods. Melanie expects nothing of them, except that they enjoy the peace and happiness here. Being one of the few true horse sanctuaries in the country no horse will ever be adopted out. "They've given enough." Melanie will tell you.
Proud Spirit horses relaxing by the pond
I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Melanie on Tuesday for a story to be published in my October Heartbeats column in Trail Blazer. They make a practice of saving horses other rescues turn down since they'll never adopt them out, they don't need to be able to be ridden. "Our horses will never see a bit, saddle or any tack again. They've given enough." Melanie said.
Dixie and the Mustangs soaking up the sun
All the horses at Proud Spirit come from one form or another of neglect or abuse. Melanie believes it's quite arrogant for humans to think they are the only species that deserve emotional well being. She and Jim believe and promote that it is just as important to place as much emphasis on the horse's emotional well being as we do on their physical needs. That thought became the cornerstone of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary's philosophy.
Melanie and Jim
Over the past 25 years Melanie and Jim have intervened on behalf of more than 300 hundred downtrodden horses, many of them coming to the sanctuary to live out their lives in peace and dignity, a life that most had never known before.

Melanie began to write down the stories of some of the horses they'd rescued and a friend urged her to publish those stories because they might help others understand how horses need and deserve our compassion. Her first book "The Horses of Proud Spirit" was published in 2003. Melanie has since released two more books, "Hoof Prints" and "The Dogs of Proud Spirit." Over the years the sanctuary has welcomed a number of unwanted dogs as well. The proceeds from all her books help to support the sanctuary. Visit their website to purchase these fine books.

Be sure to watch for my story about this wonderful place in my Heartbeats column of the  October issue of Trail Blazer, and thank you Melanie and Jim for all you do to help horses.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

 Check out Trail Blazer magazine here- 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"I Suppose She Knew – Pt 2"

Howdy Folks, 
Yesterday I took you to the edge of the big clear cut, where I sat Kessy wondering if we could even get to the old trail. I hope you enjoy Pt 2 of "I suppose She knew."

 I Suppose She Knew – Pt 2

I asked Kessy to see what she thought of the big clear cut area, and hesitantly she stepped on. Everything was a mess, it was even hard to get our bearings. Not a sign remained of our old trail. We couldn't travel in a direct line, but rather had to tiptoe around all the mud, rocks and broken trees. I kept Kessy headed in the general direction, but allowed her to pick her own way. She always amazes me on this trail, it's always been very hard to follow, and we only do it 2 or 3 times a year, but somehowshe always finds the way. As we crossed the debris covered expanse I watched as she chose safe footing, even taking backsteps sometimes. Finally I could see it, our old overgrown trail waiting for us. I suppose she knew it all along. Kessy had tiptoed across the clear cut, through mud and debris along the invisible path of our old trail to pick it up again on the other side in the forest.
Saturday likes to lead sometimes
We still had to step over a few logs to get there though, I left it up to Kessy with just a soft kiss to pick her way, and she did. Gosh the trail had really gotten thick, but I turned her loose and figured we'd just check it out. I was truly just along for the ride as she navigated through brush and bramble. Every now and then I recognized where we were and was again amazed at how she remembered a trail she'd only been on a few times. A barely visible trail at that. We went along to the point where the trail gets deep into the woods and opens up a bit, my legs told me they'd had enough, and knowing we had more than an hour back, I figured we'd better turn around.

Halfway back to the clear cut we stopped to have a look at what I thought was a Hairy Woodpecker and I realized we'd lost Saturday. I called and called. No Saturday. We waited and called more. Kessy wanted to keep heading for home, but I worried if Saturday was left behind here he might have a bad time getting home. We had seen more bear tracks in the mud at the clear cut, and coyotes run in this forest.

I thought it best to go back up the trail and look for him. He rarely gets this separated, but then I realized I hadn't seen him in a while. The undergrowth was just too thick. Kessy protested about going back, she wanted to go in the direction of home, but we had to find Saturday. As fast as we could, we moved down the thick trail again, I called over and over. No Saturday. We stopped at the point where we had turned around earlier, here I could see far across the forest floor. I called, no Saturday.

Not knowing what to do I turned for home again. I stopped another time at the spot where I first noticed Saturday missing. My legs were in no shape to get off and search, so I sat Kessy and hollered as loud as I could. Kessy kept trying to head for home. It didn't feel right, but after a while, I let her move on for home. I continued to call as she picked her way through thick brush at a quickened pace. I couldn't see more than a few feet ahead on the trail, or behind. I forged a plan to get home, gather Robbie and some friends and come back to find him. Visions of our sweet beagle stuck somewhere would not leave me alone. In all the miles we'd trailed together he'd never been gone this long.

Without warning, Kessy stopped. Ahead of us on the trail, ears flopping as he bounded toward us, came Saturday. Kessy had long ago wanted to head for home. I suppose she knew her little buddy was in that direction. All I can figure is he found the clear cut too interesting and he'd gotten sidetracked there and not followed us along the tick trail. Kessy must have known all along. I hope he never does that again!
Saturday - In this picture he's laying with Kessy in her woods
Gitty Up ~ Dutch

Monday, July 8, 2013

"I Suppose She Knew – Pt 1"

Howdy Folks,
Cooler air greeted us in the woods. Saturday, Kessy and I set out early Sunday, to try to beat the heat, and the bugs. As we saddled though, 7 AM seemed not quite early enough, and by the time we'd finished our pre-ride exercises my shirt was soaked with sweat. My legs and hands bother me more in the humidity, and as we readied I second guessed my decision to ride, but it had been a week, and well I needed the therapy to help those legs, and I felt like bird watching, too. I had talked it over with Kessy during Coffee Clutch and she was fine either way. Go or don't go. But I got the sense she really wanted to take me for a walk.
Saturday leading the way
A Towhee greeted us along the trail not 50 feet from the mounting platform. I patted Kessy's neck and told her it looks like a good sign for birding. Turning in the saddle I saw Saturday bouncing jubilantly behind. He loves his trail adventures, too. Before we reached the logging road we noticed several patches of big toadstools and a bunch of delicate bright yellow tiny asters. Stepping onto the logging road we were surprised by a momma turkey and her brood of at least a dozen exploding in a mad dash for cover. I wasn't really up to "sittin' a good spin," and was very pleased that Kessy kept her spook to a mild shutter step. I suppose she knew.

Kessy slipped into her, back massaging, running walk and we glided down the trail. Pure delight, but it does make Saturday hustle to keep up. I try to keep an eye on him and not get too far ahead. He loves it when we stop for prolonged bird spotting, uses it as a combination catch up time and checking out the surrounding territory. We stopped before long to marvel at an exceptional birding moment, a goldfinch, indigo bunting and chipping sparrow all in one tree and all singing at the same time! Later we saw a box turtle laying eggs!

It's two and a half miles to the double gates where the logging road forks. This morning even with frequent birding stops, and once to exam momma and baby bear tracks, we were there in 40 minutes. We usually go left, haven't gone right since February, while there is some beautiful riding over there a lot of trail is growing shut and we just don't go. But the county had done some logging back in there and I decided to go have a look at the damage.

It was about a mile along the deeply rutted logging road through tall pines until we came to the clear cut area. The last time we'd been here the way had been smooth, the logging road had been evenly covered in fallen pine needles. I always think it looks like war zone after a clear cut. Piles of debris, deep scars in the earth, and acres of bare ground, holes and mud. Had never seen anything like that in PA. Any logging I'd seen there had always been selective. 

A few summers as a youth on the farm where I grew up as a foster kid they'd, "leased me out" to a local sawmill. I never fell any trees but helped to drag out plenty of logs with the horses. I remember that being a much kinder way of treating the forest.

We sat at the edge of the clear cut unable to immediately see where our old trail continued. Saturday romped about happily exploring the puddles and piles. Kessy was reluctant to brave the debris scattered expanse, but since we were this far, I wanted to at least try to find the trail connection, as this trail goes through some of the prettiest forest in our area, much of it lined on both sides with mountain laurel and always offers great birding. Finally I spied what I thought might be our old trail, but it was far across the messy field and I saw no safe way around the outer edge as the loggers had shoved huge piles of broken trees and limbs all along the forest edge. If we were going to make it, it would be directly across the clear cut...

-- Be sure to watch for tomorrow's blog for the rest of this adventure ... Excerpt – "I realized we'd lost Saturday. I called and called. No Saturday."

Gitty Up~ Dutch