As I lay in bed, listening to the sounds of the babies moving about, I could not stop the tears from falling. In the morning, for the very last time, we would be loading Annie & Lil Bit into the trailer to start their journey to their new home in Lompoc, at Return to Freedom. Slowly, I drifted into an uneasy sleep.
At about 2:00 a.m. I awoke with a vengeance. The sound of thundering hooves radiated all around us. In the front, where the babies were, and in the other two areas where the big guys were, you could hear them flying around. Every once in awhile you would hear them blowing and snorting. "Matt, something is out there". All of a sudden I heard a blood curdling scream. It was clearly an animal in the horrible throes of death. It was out on the highway side of the road and I raced out as fast as my knee would allow (which is not very fast at all). I had grabbed the huge spotlight and I was calling desperately for DaBubbles. I couldn't find him anywhere. All of a sudden the light went out, (of course - lol) and I could hear Matt calling me telling me not to be out there without a weapon. But I couldn't go back, I had to know he was ok. I finally heard him running around, and breathing a big sigh of relief, realized that the kill had been outside of our gate. Most likely the cat had taken down one of the deer that used to hang around. My adrenalin was up and my heart was racing. By then, realizing the danger was no longer, the horses and dogs had all settled down and were quiet, and we knew the danger was over. I kept hearing that scream over and over in my head, and my heart was aching for the little deer that was now dinner.
Matt and I went back to bed for a few minutes and then we decided, let's just load 'em up and head out. We had brought the babies into the inside nursery and they were all over the place. There was no way we would get any sleep, So for the last time ever, I walked Lil Bit and Lil Orphan Annie into the trailer that they had come to know so well. They just hopped in as if to say, where we goin' this time? We got them settled, rechecked everything on the trailer and off we went.
The drive down was uneventful for the most part. The babies traveled beautifully, and thoroughly enjoyed their little breaks and "milk stops". They ride standing up part of the time but like to just lay down and chill much of the time when we travel. We were about an hour from Return to Freedom when we noticed a large semi with a flatbed trailer who was all over the place. He would go from 35 - 65, and would often be completely on the side of the road and other times be about 3 feet into the oncoming traffic lane. Now I am pretty protective when we are pulling our little ones, and I sure didn't want to be in front of him. After 3 separate calls and a great deal of time, most of which we were having mini heart attacks as he came within inches of wiping folks out, including a large fuel tanker, the CHP finally showed up. He flashed on his lights and began to follow the truck. Seems like it took 10 - 15 minutes literally for the guy to finally pull over. We stopped in case they needed a statement, but the officer told us that they had seen enough. Once again, the angels were with all of us on that highway.
We pulled in to Neda's place, and were met by a bunch of beautiful women. However, when we opened the trailer door, the babies who could definitely tell that momma was being weird, decided that they would rather stay in the trailer. So we took a bit of time to let them figure it out. We had added a piece of wood just inside the back door so no little hoofers could get caught, and this was only the 2nd time they had seen it. I think that with that piece of wood, coupled with so many folks waiting to meet them and them knowing that "mommy was different", they had decided why not stay in our cozy little trailer that is like our second home. So we gave them a few minutes to settle in.
After they were unloaded, they went into a beautiful arena. Both of these babies are secure, confident and ready to take on life. They pranced around, showed off a bit and literally just soaked up the love. That night when we came back from dinner, both of them ran up whinnying when they heard "their" truck. It was really nice to be invited to stay there overnight. We got to wake up to some of the most beautiful scenery there is, and I think it was easier for the babies to settle in when we were there for breakfast like normal. I do have to say though, dropping off two babies that have bonded so well is so much less dramatic than dropping off one. These guys have each other and are so secure that this will be an easy transition for them, although not so much for mom.
We spent a good part of the day with Neda as she showed us around and explained what they do. Return to Freedom is an amazing place and a great one to support if y'all need a good tax write-off. Their operating costs are about $6,000 a day, and they have done studies with the PZP that prove you can manage the wild ones with it. As is the case with humans, not all mares respond to the PZP, so that core group of mares is with a stallion that has had a vasectomy. The other mares who respond positively to the treatment are banded up with the stallions. Life at Return to Freedom is very close to "nature" and the horses are living in their family bands. I cannot begin to imagine the kind of responsibility and stress that could come with taking such excellent care of so many horses. As she says, "these horses are yesterday's emergencies". We were talking about how everyone wants to "save" the horses during the emergency, but as soon as it is over, the day to day costs of feeding, veterinary care, hoof care and all the other expenses seem to fall on the rescues. We need folks to support these horses the rest of their lives.
You can sponsor one of their beautiful mustangs, and even if you cannot do a full sponsorship, anything helps. Shirley Allen at Lucky Horse Rescue & Rehab in Dayton, NV also has some babies and big horses that could use a sponsor. Honey Bandit & Donkey are also available for sponsorship at our place. There is no end to the amazing places that need sponsors for the "saved horses". Even $5 to any organization out there can make a huge difference for these animals and allow folks to provide the awesome care they deserve.
So Annie and Lil Bit are happily munching away at their new home. They are surrounded by awesome folks and I heard a little secret that the staff run out on their breaks and visit with them, so we know they are still getting that special treatment they love.
Remember, please visit the websites and help if you can. http://www.whmentors.org/lhp/orphan01.html (Shirley's foal rescue) & Return to Freedom, where Lil Bit & Annie live http://www.returntofreedom.org/about-us/ and of course www.chillypepper.weebly.com to see our latest.
During the year 2014, we had 10 babies here, Precious, Mikey & Ikey, Texas, Janie, Baby Boo McClellan & Luna, Lil Bit & Annie and Running Bucket. Running Bucket is still on a nurse mare, (whom has done pretty much all the work) and has a potential, but not for sure adopter. All of the others have found wonderful homes, with the exception of our beloved Janie, who is now in the arms of the angels. THANK YOU EVERYONE who made these babies' lives possible. Y'all are amazing and so very much appreciated.