Capturing my life events with words helps.
Little Church Mini’s New Direction
By Karla Borglum Santoro
The Little Church Mini’s plan was to have two foals every other year to sell, to just help with the cost of the privilege of owning the most beautiful of God’s creatures. When the first foals arrived, what a miracle it was to witness the births and teach the young equine life was a wonderful place to be. The attachment grew stronger. Oh the celebration when the decision was made to keep first Blessing, then a few weeks later, Whisper. Happy dances in the pastures and barn were a common sight. But, with two mares, the new stallion, and two foals, of course, when the next two came, selling was a must. No options. Two years later, Rosie and Claire appeared. Claire, the second beautiful buckskin filly born here, sold within two weeks. My heart could more easily grasp the “I am the caretaker of this foal” idea, and care for that filly I did. Rosie had many come look at her, and one was sending a down payment, but she missed the date. Thank goodness. Rosie and I bonded like no other. Another keeper. It only made sense to offer another for sale. Space was not really a problem, money was not a problem, but it takes a lot of one’s time to care for seven horses. Collecting horses was not supposed to be the idea. I wanted each to have a job. Whisper had been for sale on and off for years, but her off bite necessitated I screen potential buyers for breeding intentions. She’d always been second fiddle to Blessing, and then Rosie, so all I hoped for her was to have her own girl, to be number one in someone’s life. After much thought, Blessing, the best therapy horse ever, was also offered for sale. She was 30” and I dared not breed her. Julie, the person who loved Blessing for months just from website photos, emailed many notes, then came, loaded Blessing up and took her to New Jersey. The tears surprisingly didn’t come until four days later. Then all was well. After all, there were more foals on the way. After all, I am a breeder and this is how it’s supposed to work.
But many months later, as I awaited the third round of foals, I’d decided the stress of foaling with working full time was too challenging. I’d begun to worry more about something happening to one of my precious mares. My knowledge of the foaling process was stronger, but the anxiety over “what ifs” took its toll. After so many healthy foals, I wondered if my luck would run out. Plus, in reading sale pages, it was obvious there were enough miniature horses in the world for now. More thinking. Breeding would stop for the next many years, at least until I retire. Jazz, the stallion, was gelded. Little Church minis would go another direction. I loved to share my love of miniature horses with others, so this was the direction I was going to give my attention. The path had begun three years ago when assisted living residents started piling into a bus to come to our farm for a horse show, muzzle kisses and lemonade. Blessing was going to make visits to the facility, but she’d been sold. I needed another small horse to start this idea again. Jazz had started ground driving and that brought us both great joy. I would train more horses to start. Rosie and I worked on our dance, with the help of clicker training. We’d continue progress in that area.
I needed to decide who would be in the permanent herd, but not until the last two foals arrived. They were due in April and May; the plan was to embrace the seven over a summer and decide who to keep, who to sell. Mazie arrived in April. Within ten minutes of her birth, I looked at my husband and said “She’s a keeper. Here’s my next therapy horse.” It was the first time a foal was deemed a keeper from the start; it made my heart sing. Tucker arrived May 1st, the first colt born to Little Church Minis. I had the summer, and if I really wanted, the rest of my life, to decide on a permanent herd.
It’s easy to decide to keep everyone while I’m home from the classroom for the summer. Embracing my herd of seven was a delight. There was always someone to work with, but there was always someone wanting or needing to be worked. The two hours minimum it took to care for the physical needs of my herd was enjoyed greatly, but I longed for more play time. The decision was made to have a herd of girls. But, my heart wasn’t ready to part with Tucker. Babies are so vulnerable and need their two-legged mamas, don’t you know. But if he sold with Jazz, I’d think about it. Jazz went up for sale; the ad included a warning that I would have many questions for those interested, for the boy would not go easily. Many inquiries were received. Some visits were made. Nothing clicked. Some came to see Jazz, but wanted someone else. NO! I was a rather unmotivated seller. My herd felt like family; they all got along well; I didn’t really want to disrupt their contentment. I could have sold Chloe, Rosie, Tucker and Mazie. NO! They are NOT for sale! I didn’t really want Jazz to go either. His personality creates so much laughter here.
Then Rhonda emailed. She was interested in Jazz. I liked her voice in emails, and later on the phone. I had a lot of questions; she had the answers I was looking for. Jazz was not worked, so I could work on detaching. That’s how it works with me. For several weeks, Rhonda worked at moving a barn, putting up fence, carefully placing some big horses. In those weeks, I sent every detail about Jazz I could think of and many photos. She said “I know I will love Jazz, now to see if he loves me.” Finally the Saturday she was coming arrived; she was bringing the trailer. My heart was ready. A nasty case of food poisoning kept her from coming. She didn’t want to wait an entire week, so I took a half day Thursday, and she drove the 4+ hours out. Five minutes after I arrived home, she pulled in. How wonderful to finally meet her! Jazz was watching her from the first moment. After chatting a bit, Rhonda walked into the pasture to meet everyone. Rosie and Gypsy were the first in line to welcome her. Jazz hung back watching. When she finally was with Jazz—it was amazing. I’ve never seen Jazz take to a visitor like he took to Rhonda. After some muzzle kisses, he didn’t want anyone near her, except him. We hooked him up to ground drive, and took him for a walk. He went perfectly for Rhonda. I think she was in love from the first touch, but I think the ground drive made it 100% he’d be getting on that trailer. We talked more, and after a few hours, were headed into the house to complete paperwork when she caught Whisper’s eye. She asked about her. I explained about her off bite, so she cannot be used as a broodmare. I explained how Whisper has always been second fiddle to Blessing, and then Rosie. I explained how all I ever have wanted for her, and have searched three years for, is a girl Whisper can call her own. I wanted Whisper to have a chance at being #1 in someone’s life. I worked with Whisper, but not as much as the others. The barn buddy who had come always worked with Whisper, so she’d learned much. I showed her how she backed at liberty, side passed, and jumped. Whisper put on a good show. Rhonda said her sister-in-law, an at home mother of twin three-year-old boys who lives right next door, wanted one more horse, and wanted a girl. She had a strong hunch Whisper would be exactly what she was looking for. My heart sang at the thought of two horses going to the same place, AND, if two horses sold, I’d be done selling! Tucker would stay! Rhonda made the decision to take Whisper home too, and to leave it a surprise for her sister-in-law. Whisper and Jazz would be stalled next to each other in the same barn! It just doesn’t get any better than that! Rhonda and I worked at all the paperwork—registrations, seller’s contracts. I bagged up feed, flax, treats, halters, fly masks, and leads for her to take. The wheelchair ramp was used to get the horses in the trailer. I snapped a few photos to record the moment. Rhonda hugged me up and promised to call when she arrived home. And off they went.
After checking horses, and explaining to them what had happened, I ran in to call my husband at work. He loves the horses in his own way, and I wanted him to know what had happened. He was excited because I was so excited at this turn of events—Jazz AND Whisper were headed to a fabulous new home! I’d been too…fill in whatever emotion you can expect me to be feeling since the morning… to eat before, so I grabbed some crackers and headed back to the barn.
What I found was Rosie, who was Whisper’s best buddy and stall mate, galloping from the back pastures to the front whinnying for her friend. My heart broke. “I just sold her friend” repeated in my head over and over and my excitement was lost. I talked to Rosie. I told her it’d be okay, that she had other horses who loved her just as much and I’d have lots more time to take her for walks. She kept looking for Whisper; so sure she was just behind the run-in, or in the other pasture. I grabbed the muck fork to clean pastures to be near her and keep talking. I sobbed as I watched her work through her grief. I wanted to give her Whisper back. The decision to tuck them in early was made. So at 5:00, everyone went to stalls for hay, lots and lots of hay. It made me feel better to feed them. I stayed in the barn. Rosie settled. When my husband arrived home, rather than an excited wife, he came to the barn to find me sobbing. But I’m not sure he was that surprised; he knows what they all mean to me. He never cared if I kept them all. He hugged me. I sobbed “I sold her friend/I will miss Jazz/ I’ll be okay/Just need some time.” Rosie recovered long before I did. I kept waiting for a stronger moment to call Kennedy, the barn buddy, to share the happenings with her. Her brother is a student in my classroom, so it was important to me she heard the news from me first. I sent her an email explaining everything that had happened, with photos, in case I’d not be able to talk. Four hours after Jazz and Whisper had left, I took a deep breath and dialed. Her father answered, but within a few sentences the tears returned and I asked him to have her check email.
Many trips were made to the barn. Rhonda called and told me they had made the trip beautifully. She had stopped to check them several times. They had some time to run about, but were tucked in their new stalls. Her sister-in-law went crazy over Whisper. In her joy, Rhonda kept thanking me. Happy sigh.
That night, at last tuck in, I told the babies to be extra nice to Rosie tomorrow because she was feeling this the most. I wanted them to “stick to her like glue” even bugging her if necessary. Normally, I might have taken the morning off from school to watch everyone and to let my swollen eyes rest, but the day was busy with a field placement student and filled with parent teacher conferences; I needed to be there. The next morning, I repeated my request. “Please look after Rosie. Stick to her like glue.” Chores took such a short time; I was able to groom Rosie thoroughly before heading in to prepare for school. Before I head to the van (Mazie mobile) to drive to work, I always peek at the horses one more time. I was startled to see just the mares in the front pasture eating hay. Where were Rosie and the foals? I walked to the back and saw them in a middle pasture. Rosie whinnied. There was a foal on both sides of her—sandwiching her between them. I told them “Good job, guys! Keep her company. Stick to her!” Right after I said that, Tucker lifted his hairy chin and gently placed it on Rosie’s rump. His question was clear “Like this, mom? Like this?” Yes, my dear Tucker, just like that. That small gesture helped me to leave and get through the day.
Rhonda has emailed, texted, and called again. She’s taking many photos this weekend and can’t wait to show me. I can’t wait to see them. She’s so happy. I’ve made another friend. Waiting for the perfect owner makes all the difference. Sometimes, it’s still not easy though.
Another friend says I now have my “heart herd.” I like how that sounds. It feels sweet. And to think I helped others to start theirs. But, Little Church Minis sells no more. We’re still in the smile-making business though, and God willing, will be for years to come.
Off to new adventures.