Video: The True Spirit of Christmas Knows No Walls

“Over the years I have attempted not to broadcast when and where I was as I worked a career which centered on international travel.  Our book was born while I worked in Cabinda, Angola and even the book contains a story, a true one, written while I was in Nigeria.  Two years ago, this Christmas, I was in a rural mountain town in Sichuan Province, China called Nanba. 

It is somewhat heart-tugging being away for the holidays but over the years I gradually learned to make the best of where I was.  In 2015 my buddy, a few of my Chinese friends and a lone Phillappino with a saxophone launched a plan to mezmorize the children of the town.  Santa (me) would walk among the streets of Nanba on Christmas and pass out reflective bracelets, for safety, and little hair do-dads to the town’s children.  Most of the children had never seen a tall white haired and bearded westerner before let alone Santa Clause, so we set forth to walk among them as the slideshow documents.

Now before you say what does this have to do with equines I would like to point out the Terry and I have never had two legged children but have always had a house/ranch/farm full of the four legged type.  So certain nuances and perks of having mini-duplicates of ourselves have escaped us but two years ago today, I had the eye opening experience of looking into the eyes of these beautiful children and seeing the same innocence and curiosity that I view mirrored back to me in the eyes of our equine charges.  It has forever moved me and two years later still warms my soul and gives me hope that human, perhaps, are born with innocent dignity and a positive, loving spirit.  Perhaps if we can learn how to prevent the world from strangling and corrupting all that is good in us, we may have a chance to survive and, likewise, our fellow passengers on this Space Ship Earth.

Capture the purity of this day and keep the faith, my friends, I believe that out there, somewhere, there is goodness…this video points to that very hope.

Merry Christmas.” ~ R.T.


The Traditional Equine Christmas Story: “We Were There”

An excerpt from R.T. Fitch‘s book ~ Straight from the Horse’s Heart: A Spiritual Ride through Love, Loss and Hope

“Over the past, now almost 10, years we have dug into our bag of heartfelt stories and brought this particular tale out to share every Christmas.  The feelings penned here never grow old, for me, and perhaps are a little clearer, today, as I am home for the holiday for the first time in years. 

After a long absence from the farm  I returned to a very long “Honey-Do” list, yesterday.  First and foremost was fence repair and as I tapped and sawed my way across the multiple pastures I was never without a warm puff of equine breath in my ear, a gentle tug at the longer hair at the nape of my neck and a little boarder collie leaning against my legs, just to reassure herself that I was really home.

Yup, I can personally attest to the fact that a world without four legged beings is a very lonely world indeed.  God has truly blessed us with friends and companions who know no jealousy, hate or greed and in return they enjoy a smile, a loving hand and a simple wink of acknowledgement.  I truly love our critters, each and every one.  Celebrate with me, this day, those who helped bring, and keep, light into our world. 

Merry Christmas to you too, my two legged friends…our four legged companions need your voice.  Be safe.” ~ R.T. 

(Fire-up your imagination and cut loose reality before you move on; it will make for a more spectacular ride)


We Were There

Pele, Bart and our departed Harley. photo by Terry Fitch

It was like any other evening feeding of the horses, yet it was not; or not quite, as something was different.  The air was crisp and cool as Christmas was only a week away in South Louisiana, but the feeling had little to do with temperature or barometric pressure.  There was an electric buzz in the air; the feeling of white noise just outside the audible range of the human ear.  There was something tangible and moving in the barn that night.

I did not pick up on it at first.  Terry, my wife, was off having an early Christmas with her family in Florida, which means that the barn chores and the feeding of all our four-legged children rests upon me when I return home from my office in the evening.  And, at this time of year, it is already dark.  It’s a matter of rushing home, putting the vehicle up for the night, greeting and playing with Kenny, the white German Shepherd who is so excited to see you that he bounces three feet high, dashing into the house to turn on lights, checking messages, changing clothes, feeding the cat; then back outside to dribble the bouncing dog; and into the barn to cook dinner for the equine boys.   Oops, I missed that while in the house I might fix an industrial strength Wrangler Iced Tea to take out to the barn with me, not a requirement, but a nice reward for all the running around.

I scurried into the tack room, flipped on all of the lights and turned up the radio as Christmas music was the order of the day.  As I carefully measured varied degrees of hoof supplement and rice bran with their normal pelletized feed, the thought crossed my mind that my parents, especially my mother, never had the opportunity to see our equine kids nor experience this very special side to our otherwise very busy lives.  I paused from humming along with the radio and reflected on what a tremendous loss that was.  I resumed mixing and humming with a small pang of sadness in my heart.

I went from stall to stall filling up the appropriate feed bins with the proper amount of food.  Each time I exited a stall and went back to the tack room I asked Kenny how he was doing; he sat so attentively out in the driveway.  This simply inquiry would start the bouncing, again.  I’ll never figure out how a 100 lb dog could bounce so high and he made me laugh.  I was just about finished with the mix of the last meal when the traditional and expected three measured knocks came to the back door.  Terry and I have learned to keep the back “horse” door closed until ready to let the horses in as it is such a pleasure to hear those three distinct and perfectly timed and executed knocks.

We know who it is and he does such a good job at it.  It’s Ethan.  He is the King of Knocking, the Guardian of the Food Gate, and the funniest of them all at feeding time. ,

I hollered back through the closed doors that I was hurrying and would be right with him.  With that, I dumped the last bucket of feed in Apache’s stall, walked to the back, and carefully cracked the sliding doors.  Who was standing with his head pressed to the middle of the doors, Ethan, as always.

“Are you ready?” I asked and a part of me picked up on a gentle nod and smile.

The doors were slid open, the breezy gate was swung out and, as they do every night, they came in the barn in perfect order to eat the dinner that I had labored over in preparation for them.

First came Ethan, then Harley followed by Apache and bringing up the rear is the biggest, the youngest and the most fearful, Bart.  He feels more comfortable when they are all tucked away in their stalls with their doors closed so that no one can stick their head out and attempt to bite him as he walks down the aisle.  He actually stops and looks into each one of their stalls and you can almost hear him say, “Ha, Ha, you can’t get me now”.  Hopefully, one day, he will grow up.

Immediately the barn was full of the sound of relaxed munching and filled with the sweet odor of horses and feed.  I looked back at Kenny who only bounced two feet instead of three feet off the pavement hoping that I might sit down and enjoy this moment.  I went into the tack room to pull out a chair and sit in the center aisle of the barn to commune with the horses. My Brazilian hammock, however, caught my eye.

“Ah ha” I cried and snatched up the hammock with one hand while I grabbed the “tea” in the other.  This could be good!

Two quick slips of “S” hooks into the installed tie rings on to opposing stalls and I had the hammock swinging across the center aisle in a heartbeat.  Kenny lay down, as I eased into the hammock, because he knew that this could be awhile.  I sat down with my back propped up and began to swing while singing along with the Christmas music from the radio.

It did not take long to realize that my singing was not appreciated.  Bart began to pound on the stall wall with his right front hoof and Apache quit eating to urinate, on the clean shavings in the stall, in protest of my singing.  I actually was not too offended by Bart’s signal to quit but for Apache to pee in his stall was pushing the envelope a little too far.  I felt rather hurt so I just shut up, set my drink down on the aisle floor and listened to the sounds of the horses mixed with the sound of Christmas.

The music stirred emotions from seasons long past:  seasons of happiness, hope, disappointment and most recently, pain.  But I am the Captain of my ship and I had no intention to sail into dark and murky waters this night.  I simply wanted to let go and feel the companionship of my friends around me.  That’s when I heard the buzz.

At first I thought that the radio was slipping off from its frequency but the music was still there, clearly playing.  The buzz was overriding the music; the “white noise” was multidimensional and not strictly coming from the tack room.  I did not make a serious attempt to think about it as the sounds and smells were like candy to my senses and the buzz was only the canvas that the painting of the moment was applied to.  I relaxed.

I closed my eyes and continued to rock back and forth.  There was a feeling of warmth in the barn, while all of those equine souls were inside eating and enjoying.  The buzz, on the other hand, continued to grow.  In the beginning it really was not something that I was paying much attention to but now I attempted to tune into where it was coming from and what it was.  I continued to rock.  I could still hear the horses and the music but now the buzz was growing in volume.  As I continued to mentally identify its source, it was becoming ever more evident that the sound, itself, was coming from within.  It was coming from inside of my head and not related to anything outside of myself.  I was aware that I was humming “Away in the Manger”, along with the radio but it was becoming evident that the white noise was music also.  In that music there were whispers, words, phrases and thoughts being conveyed.  Without knowing it I gave in to the music from within and opened up to the whispers and words.  There were many voices with varied depths and pitches although different they all blended together in song and, it was soul stirring.  I listened and listened and listened until I finally made out the words that were being sung to me.  It came as abruptly and as clearly to me as if a sonic boom had just resonated throughout the barn.  In thousands of voices, from deep within my soul, the words being sung in perfect harmony were “We were there!”

I stopped rocking and the singing stopped; there was total silence.  My eyes popped open and I was looking straight up.  Once they focused I could see two small sparrows in the barn’s rafters looking straight down at me.  They were looking directly at me with calm assuredness.  The radio was silent, only my breathing could be heard.  I sat up and looked at the stalls; all of the horses were looking directly at me, calmly, with their heads bowed.  I then gazed out across the moonlit pasture and could see the little donkey and her herd of cows staring directly into the lighted barn.  Not one of them was moving.  I quickly swung around and looked out the other door for Kenny; he was laying calmly with his head between his paws and his big brown eyes starring right at me.

I went to stand and in the silence the words came again, “We were there!”  I froze.

“We were there that night”, the collective voices continued.

“Wait, what, who?” I started to ask.

“Just listen and absorb.  Do not ask, we will tell.” the voice said.  “We were there in the stable, that night.  All of us in one shape or form.  We were there long before human shepherds and nobles came to see.  We were there to see him take his first breath.  We were there.”

“It is important, at this time, for you to know that we were the selected witnesses, the guardians and the companions of the Son of the Light.  You need to understand that we are closer to the source of goodness and purity than all mankind.  You need to know that your fight for our lives is a just and noble one.  All of you humans who guard and protect us walk in a very special light.  You have now been there too; now you know and now you must continue the fight”, the voice ended.

“Wait!  What do you mean I was there too?” I called.  I stood up and turned around because I did not know who I was talking to.  I looked at the horses, the dog, the birds, the donkey, and the cattle.  ”What do you mean?”

Reality had yet to come to me as I stared into the horses’ eyes.

Again, the voice returned, “You were there, too.  When you opened your eyes, just a few moments ago, what did you see first?” it asked.

I stammered for a second and came up with, “The birds; the birds in the barn’s rafters.”

The voice asked, “What did you see next?”

“Well, I saw the horses looking at me from their stalls, the donkey, the cows and Kenny the bouncing dog, all looking at me.”

“Yes”, the voice said, “And what were the first impressions in the life of the Gifted One when he first opened up his eyes in that stable long, long, long ago”?

“I would imagine that when he first opened his eyes, lying in a manager, he saw the rafters in the barn ceiling with the birds looking down…” I stopped talking so quickly that I almost bit my tongue.  There was a warm sensation washing over me and it was more than just the tie-in and realization of what had just occurred.

I could not speak and was about to sit back down when the voice added;

“Yes, you see now.  You have been there too.  We all have been there yet, few humans can remember.  This is our gift to you.  Carry the light and chase the darkness; we love all of you for what you do.”

Hearing those words, there was something else, I could not then nor can I now describe it.  Perhaps a sigh, perhaps it was a catch as if emotion had welled up but there was something there, not spoken, that touched me more than the words.

In a dreamlike state of numbness I began the process of releasing the horses from their stalls to their pasture; this is done in the exact reverse of the entry process.  I moved like a robot as the power of the words and the moment were still within me.  I opened up Ethan’s stall and he walked out and stood in the middle of the back door as he often does.

Harley was next.  I stood at his stall door and allowed my hand to move down his furry side as he calmly walked by me and out past Ethan.

Apache usually flattens his ears when he sees Ethan in the doorway and chases him out; but not tonight.  When I opened up his stall he calmly walked past us both without any notice.

Finally, Bart was freed to return to the beloved round bale and as he exited I asked him to stop and I gave him a hug.  He gently kissed my bald spot and headed out past Ethan.

I then turned my attention to Ethan; I stood next to him in the doorway and gazed out upon what he was viewing.  The donkey and cows had gone back to grazing in the moonlight and the neighbor’s horses were tucked away in their barn with their heads hanging out.  Our three were all drinking from the trough, together, and the sky was fantastic with the moon and stars.  It was picture postcard perfect.

As he stood next to me I put my hand on Ethan’s withers.  He turned to me and put his left nostril right against my heart which placed his left eye at the same level with mine.  I said, “Merry Christmas, my friend.”  He blinked, turned and then stepped out into the night.  As I watched that big Appaloosa butt dwindle from the light of the barn he stopped and turned.  Regardless of what anyone says, he had the biggest smile on his face that any horse could have.

I lowered my head, pulled my glasses off to wipe the tears off the lenses, closed the back door, walked past the still full glass of tea sitting on the floor under the hammock, turned off the lights, walked out of the barn and stood over Kenny who had still not budged.

“Want to go inside, boy?”, I asked.

He bounced five feet high this time and we happily dribbled each other up the driveway to the house like we were two ten year old kids headed for a game of basketball.

The moon cast shadows of us dancing on our way as the horses continued to hum in the pasture; “We were there”.

Videos: Celebrated Comedic Equine Welfare Christmas Videos Reloaded

John Holland, president of the Equine Welfare Alliance and covert owner of Howling Ridge Film and Fertilizer Co., has been entertaining us with equine holiday videos over the years.  But once again this year we are going to be forced to sit back and enjoy the works of years gone by as John, like many others, has been up to his eyeballs in important issues and is making great strides forward for the horses and the donkeys in the real fight on the all too real battlefield; that fight has held precedence over the production of yet another annual Christmas video, as well it should.  Keep up the good works, John and EWA, we are all on the same page and fully support your efforts.  Have a very Merry and Jolly Christmas!” ~ R.T.

Appalachian Christmas Tail (2006)

Christmas Spirit (2006)

A Christmas Legend (2007)

It’s a Wonderful Life (2008)

How the Grinch Stole Equus (2009)

The Christmas List (2010)

All John’s videos can be viewed at the EWA Video Page

Wild Horses and Burros: Twas the Night before Christmas

by Vicki Tobin and R.T. Fitch, Illustration by Kerry Kelly of the Houston Chronicle

“First published on Christmas Day in 2009; the evil characters may have changed but the message still rings true to this very day.  The roundups must stop so that we can appropriately care for and manage, if needed, our national treasures on their rightful range.  At Wild Horse Freedom Federation we offer the gift of our continued fight in support of the Wild Horses and Burros to live free with their families on their promised public land.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good fight!” ~ R.T.

Twas the night before Christmas…

artwork by Kerry Kelly ~ Houston Chronicle

Twas the night before Christmas on our public land
not a Mustang was stirring, knowing what was at hand.
They huddled in fear hoping someone would care,
in hopes that the advocates soon would be there.

The foals hid in cover while Mom stood her ground
while stallions and bachelors, made sure Steed wasn’t around.
With Zinke lurking and Nedd so close by
the bands must stay quiet and not blink an eye.

When out on the range there arose such a clatter
The Mustangs all knew, what was the matter.
They ran to take cover, on wings they did fly
For surely they knew, that many would die.

The visions of million$ caused Cattoor a big grin
While Bolstad and Spencer high-fived a big win
More horses removed by ignoring the law
Hold on to your hats and stand back in awe.

The chopper did glisten on new fallen snow
Sealing the fate of the horses below.
When all of a sudden, the bands all stood still
And watched as the chopper came over the hill.

They stood in amazement, can it really be true
The advocates appeared right out of the blue
The horses retreated, not believing their eyes
For surely this is another, BLM guise.

Then leading the charge, lively and quick
were Kathy and Holland and Fitch with a stick
More rapid than lightening, Coffey followed in tow
with Simone close behind, directing which way they go.

Now Ginger and Paula and Ann times two,
Oh Marjorie and Dawn and Julie it’s you.
Now Vicki and Jerry and Susan and Daryl
with cameras in hand come Terry and Carol.

Down the hill they descended toward the horses with care
and watched as the chopper, fled into the air
The advocates came with injunction in hand
the decree shouted out, not on our public lands!

Enough is enough the judge did declare
the horses were saved by the breadth of a hair.
‘Our work here’s not done,’ the advocates cried
‘the choppers still flying, other herds could be spied’

It’s back to D.C. with a permanent plan
to ensure all the horses could live on their land.
So love was delivered to the horses with pride
but the warriors must leave so that no more would die.

They climbed up the hill and turned back to the band
who all now had gathered on what was their land.
‘We carry you with us,’ R.T. did say
‘as we go to the White House to show them your way.’

The horses all bowed with a sign of approval
as they all now knew that there was no removal.
They neighed and they nickered to the spirit above
‘Thanks for sending the people who give us their love.’

original artwork by Kerry Kelly of the Houston Chronicle

Wild Horse & Burro Updated 12 Days of Christmas

Reprint from 2009 by R.T. Fitch ~ Author/president Wild Horse Freedom Federation

(Characters have changed, content/intent same this year as yesteryear)

Through the Eyes of the Wild Ones

(to be sung to the tune of “The 12 days of Christmas”)

On the first day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
One rogue Federal agency.

On the second day of Christmas,
  Ryan Zinke gave to me
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the third day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Seven slaughter setups,
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Eight covert round-ups,
Seven slaughter setups,
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Nine laws a-breaking,
Eight covert round-ups,
Seven slaughter setups,
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Ten ranges barren,
Nine laws a-breaking,
Eight cover round-ups,
Seven slaughter setups,
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Eleven States now ruined,
Ten ranges barren,
Nine laws a-breaking,
Eight covert round-ups,
Seven slaughter setups,
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Ryan Zinke gave to me
Twelve million heartbreaks,
Eleven States now ruined,
Ten ranges barren,
Nine laws a-breaking,
Eight covert round-ups,
Seven slaughter setups,
Six agents lying,
Five bogus dates,
Four zeroed herds,
Three covert bait traps,
Two convict pilots,
And one rogue Federal agency.

Let’s Pray for a NEW version, Next Year!!!

The Advocate, the Guard and the Force of the Horse at Christmas

“I annually drag this excerpt out from our book, and this blog’s namesake, Straight from the Horse’s Heart  as it is one of my favorites…and I have never known why it has a special place in my heart…until now. 

In re-reading it I finally have realized that I wrote this short story about myself, me, I am truly both characters, Christmas present and Christmas past.  The revelation was somewhat shocking but this story is not fiction, it is my very essence and my being.

Again, I hope you enjoy as it is as relevant today as it was almost 10 years ago when I wrote it.  I am an open book to those I love.

Keep the faith my friends, the innocent lives of thousands are in our hands and hearts” ~ R.T.


A Christmas Story for the Wild Ones

Reprint from December 11, 2010:

He checked the time again.  Not an easy maneuver as he had to take his right glove off, shove up the left cuff of his parka, peel back the wrist band of his left glove and then hit the back-light button on his Casio $19.99 special.  (written prior to the iWatch)  Only bought the stupid thing because of the digital thermometer feature it offered and now he wished it didn’t have it as it chilled his insides just looking at the numbers, 33 degrees inside the protection of his parka.

The shivering cold almost kept him from observing the time, 2148 hrs; he thought that was what it said eons ago.  If it weren’t for the seconds blinking and counting down he would have sworn that the watch had frozen and no longer worked.  He tapped the crystal just for good measure and recoiled a bit as the tip of his index finger reverberated with pain from the simple move.  Almost frost bitten he readjusted his left sleeve and hurriedly put his right glove back on.

‘Rotten cold’ he thought; brought back memories of sleeping in ditches in Afghanistan in the dead of winter, thoughts he could have lived without.

He stomped the ground, gave himself a big bear hug and began walking towards the compound’s gate.

‘Maybe walking will generate some heat, besides, I wonder what that stranger is up to on top of the ridge.  Better check the gate to make sure everything is secure.’

His feet crunched on the thin layer of snow that blanked the darkened world.  One solitary utility light blazed above the cramped trailer office but with the snow it was bright enough to see down the drive to the compound’s gate some 75 yards away.  The drive was bordered on both sides by holding pens with extra tall fencing.  They were deathly quiet tonight but that would change in a few days when the “gather” started.

He picked up his pace towards the gate as he was anxious to put the glare of the light behind him so that he could see better in the dark.  Earlier in the evening he had seen headlights crest the hill to the north and head towards the compound.  The two lights slowed just a few hundred yards from the gate and then blinked out.  He could tell that the vehicle was a diesel as he could hear the rumble of the beast idling and smell the fuel but now all was silent.  He hadn’t seen it depart and knowing that someone or something was lurking in the dark, watching, unnerved him.

He shivered as he walked, not so much from the cold but from the deadly memories that overtook him.  In his mind images of darkness, glinting movement and the flash of a mortar rocket blast exploded in his head.  He shook himself, again, in a successful effort to bring himself back to the reality of the moment and found himself sweating in the cold.  He just could not shake Afghanistan from his life, not that he wasn’t trying.  He was now home with his wife, she wanted to start a family, his father wanted him to take over the family business and the VA had helped him find this job with the Bureau of Land Management but the gun on his hip and acting as a guard still conjured up demons that were best left in the dark.

He reached the gate and came to a stop.  All was quiet, he hadn’t realized how noisy the snow had been as it crunched under his boots but now while standing still he could hear absolutely nothing, except his own heart beating, nothing else.

Then he heard a sound, a click or a crack like someone stepping on a stick.  Instinctively, he dropped to a squat, pulled out his side arm and aimed in the direction of the sound.  It all happened so fast, so smooth, so finely orchestrated that he actually startled himself in his reaction more than from hearing the sound.

“Whoa now”, came a deep voice from beyond the gate, “I don’t think you will be needing any firearms, tonight”.

He slowly stood and lowered his hand gun but continued to stare into the darkness from where the voice had emerged.

“Who are you and what are you doing?” he demanded.

“My name is of no importance and I am simply observing, thinking, pondering and maybe even praying.” the voice replied.

“This is Federal property and you have no business being here, particularly at this time of night.”

There came a small chuckle from the darkness, “I beg to differ. This Federal land is public land and I am the public.  Secondly, I am not crossing any fence line nor am I within your compound so as I see it, I am out of your jurisdiction.”

“Fair enough,” the guard replied as he deftly holstered his fire arm on his right and reached for a holster on his left.

“I said no fire arms”, charged the voice with and obvious elevation in intensity.

“No gun, just a light” and with a smart click a beam of searing light tore across the cold Nevada night and lit up the snow covered desert.

His aim was good and true and if it had been a gun, instead of a torch, the stranger would have been shot dead through the heart as he was centered directly in the focused light beam.

The stranger quickly put one gloved hand up to shield his eyes.

“Alright already, kill the theater lights you are ruining my night vision”, the stranger exclaimed, “A little bit of a warning would have been nice.”

The guard’s trained eyes quickly accessed the stranger; relatively trim, tall, worn boots, jeans, parka, rancher gloves, scarf, black Tom Mix style hat with a colorful Indian beaded headband, glasses glinted from under the brim, white beard, a shock of white hair visible from behind the neck and a large thermos mug in the right hand.  His brain registered; ‘Minimal threat’.

He lowered the light so that it illuminated the snowy ground half way between them and in the diffused light from below they were both cast into a curious world of unnatural shadows.

The stranger had been leaning against the outside of the large hinge post for the galvanized gate.  He had straightened up when the light nearly blinded him so now he walked forward and stood directly opposite the guard at the center of the gate.

“What’s you name?” the guard asked with an edge in his tone.

The stranger took a sip from his covered mug, sighed and in so doing let out of cloud of steam.  He paused for a moment as if carefully considering his answer before he replied.

“My name is not important, but it is important for you know that I am an advocate, an advocate for the Wild Horses and Burros.  I am here to witness the atrocity that is about to befall this herd that deserves to be left alone.”

“So in a nutshell you are a nut case.”  the guard scoffed.  He was warned about these types, in fact that was why he was here, on Christmas Eve, to ensure that these horse hugging, weirdo liberals did not do any property damage to the horse holding compound.  He had been told by BLM management that they had creditable evidence that the gather was going to be disrupted by civil disobedience which could include property damage, protests, 4-wheelers, you name it.  These crazies were Eco-terrorists and as a decorated veteran, he was the perfect man to protect his country’s property.  Not that he bought all the hype but he sure could use the time and a half for Christmas Eve and the double time that he would receive once the clock clicked over to midnight.  He was trying to start a new life with a wife that he had not seen in two years and the added money would help to make her smile.  But on the other side of the coin, he had not been with her on Christmas since they were married  a little over two short years ago, before his deployment.  That thought stung his heart and he struggled to bring himself back to the moment.  He fought the urge to look at his watch again.

“If that’s what you want to call me, nutcase will work as I have been called worse.” the stranger countered, “In reality the horses call me Grey Mane so if you need a name you can call me G.M. for short.”

“Sure, so G.M. what’s your business here, in the middle of the night?”

“Just watching and listening”, the advocate mused.  “You know, one of the bands of wild horses is just over that ridge to the west, only about half a mile from where you are standing.  It’s a bright and thriving group.  Ten family members in all including the stallion, mares and foals.  I was sitting up there observing their serenity in the moonlight, thinking about how they only have a few hours left to live, to live free as a family, to live on the land that the U.S. Congress gave them before your agency will meanly drive them into a trap and rip their family apart and shatter their freedom forever.  That’s what I was doing.”

“What are you talking about?” asked the guard.  He was beginning to fidget a bit as the stranger’s words seemed to drill down to his soul and he did not know why but it made him very uncomfortable.  The confidence and sincerity in which the stranger spoke was extremely unnerving.

“Do you mean you do not know?”

“I don’t have a clue about what you are saying, besides you still have not answered my question.”

“How long have you worked for the BLM?”

“That’s not important nor is it any of your business, just tell me why you are here.”

“No problem there, I am here to witness for the horses.  I will log, photograph, document and note everything that occurs.  I will be a presence of compassion and resistance for all that is happening.  Perhaps I will stand alone as I do now or maybe I will be joined by others.  It doesn’t matter as long as someone is here.  So if you really don’t know what’s afoot, here, I gauge your employment to be under 90 days.”

That last observation caught the guard unprepared, so much so that he almost dropped the light as the stranger was spot on.  He hadn’t been back from the war more than 90 days and had only collected three pay checks from his new job.  He would hit 60 days after the first of the year, next week.

With a bit of a quiver in his voice the guard continued:

“That’s all nonsense, what the BLM is doing is good management.  If they did not capture all of these horses they would starve to death and die.  This is an act of humanity and a proper response from our government.  You can’t just leave all these horses out here to fend for themselves, they need proper care.”

There was an extended pause from the stranger, he lowered his head, put his right hand to his chin then looked straight ahead at the guard;

“I ask for the right to revise my earlier estimate, 60 days or less, that’s the amount of time that you have been exposed to the BLM, right?.”

“What the hell are you talking about, man?” snapped the guard.  Clear desperation could be heard in his voice and seen in his stance.

“No worries; let me ask you a question.  What are you doing for the next couple of hours?”  the stranger asked and through the low lighting a smile could be detected between the white beard and mustache.

“Guarding this place from the likes of you, I reckon.”  The guard answered but even though he was flustered the tone of the stranger had a calming and settling effect upon his jangled nerves. ‘How did he know’, he mused.

“How about a hot, maybe warm, cup of coffee?” the advocate asked.

“Not out of the same mug I hope.”

The stranger smiled, again, “No I have a full thermos.  Now I am going to reach into may parka very slowly for the thermos so don’t draw your gun.”, there was a bit of a giggle in his voice.

The advocate pulled out from under his coat a personal sized, stainless steel thermos and handed it across the gate to the guard.

“You don’t have any poison mixed in there do you?”

“Depends upon what your definition of poison is.  If you consider Bailey’s Irish Cream to be poison then consider that laced coffee to be extremely dangerous.  Otherwise, it might just warm up your innards.”

They both laughed a little and it became obvious that the chill between them was beginning to melt by a degree or two.

The guard poured a copious amount of hot coffee into the top of the thermos and went to hand it back to the advocate who quickly waved him off.

“No, that’s for you, my coffee mug’s meter is still pegged at full. Now, back to our discussion about horses, let me give you a little bit of background.  A little conversation will warm up my facial muscles while that coffee warms you up from the inside out.”

The advocate stepped forward, leaned on the gate and began to speak in low and gentle tones.  He took the guard back to Mustang Annie and the unanimous passage of the ROAM act which guaranteed the wild horses a place to live.  He told of the gradual erosion of the law perpetuated by the guard’s employer.  He talked of the grazing leases, of private cattle out numbering wild horses 400 to 1.  He pulled out his iPhone and showed pictures of fat, plump and happy wild horses.  He showed movies of the horror and brutality of helicopter driven gathers, the PZP, the injunctions and the failure of the BLM to follow the law and listen to the people.  He told him of the lies, of BLM Management speaking to the world of how transparent and open the BLM would be while horses were found shot to death as a secret gather was taking place.  He explained that the BLM’s former Director, Bob Abbey, spoke at a horse slaughter summit.  The guard learned that the hundreds of horses that would be pulled from his area would be the end of the herd, the end of hundreds of years of free life, the destruction of one of the most unique wild communities in the United States.

And the guard learned that the advocate was not very different from the likes of himself.  His late night mentor was a veteran of earlier conflicts, he had a life, a job, a family and aspirations just as the guard did.  But the advocate also had convictions and the drive to stand up for what he felt to be right and for that the guard respected him as he knew the value of conviction and duty.  He understood it well.

The spell of the advocate’s stories was broken by the electronic buzzing from the guard’s watch.

“What’s that?” the advocate asked.

“My alarm, I set it to notify me when I went into double time.”

“So it’s midnight?”

“Yup, midnight it is.”

“Then I would like to wish you a heartfelt Merry Christmas, my friend.”  said the advocate as he extended a gloved hand over the gate.

The guard quickly clasp his hand in his and used his left hand to grab the advocates wrist, they heartily pumped each others arms up and down.

Reluctantly they released the other’s hand and stared across the gate in a clumsy silence when a sound to the west caught both of their attention.  They spun around to look up at the ridge.

While they had talked the full moon had begun to rise and was now just cresting the top of the ridge and as they looked for the sound that had interrupted their respite the lone silhouette of a wild horse arose over the ridge and stood clearly against the light of the moon.

They both stared as the magnificent figure gazed down upon them as the wind danced through it’s mane and tail.  While they were held transfixed; small, miniature ice crystals began to fall and lent a twinkling surreal atmosphere to the scene.  The tiny flakes came not from the clouds but from mountain tops far away, carried by the wind to fall upon their vision.

Far to the right of moon and over the horse a star pulsated and twinkled like a beacon and without any forewarning the shadow horse disappeared leaving only the sound of falling stones and a brief whirlwind of snow.  It was gone.

Neither of the men knew how long they had stood there until the guard broke the silence without mentioning what had just happened.

“You going back to town, tonight?”

It took the advocate a moment to answer as he turned to the guard  who was still looking up the ridge at the moon.

“Yes, I want to catch a few winks at the motel and be back here by first light.  Want to ensure that no chopper takes of early.  I know the date is a few days away but time, date, month, year; it all means nothing to your employer.”

“Not my employer, not anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gun, badge and ID card are being left on the desk in the trailer.  If you will give me a ride I will pick up my backpack and hitch a lift with you back to town.  Don’t live too far from the motel.”

“Well certainly, but what about your job?”

“That’s just it; it’s a job and not my life.  As an American I cannot work for nor represent something that is so foul and corrupt.  I am a veteran and this agency shames me.”

“But what will your wife and family say?”

“Hopefully; Merry Christmas.  I will finally give my father the answer he has been waiting for, taking over the family feed store that he has wanted me to do for years.  And my wife, I will have Christmas dinner with her tomorrow, something I have not done since we were married in a rush prior to my deployment to Afghanistan.  That will be two Christmas presents in one.”

“I should think so”, smiled the advocate.

“But there is one more to give, to give to the horses.”  added the guard.  “I would like to come out here with you in the morning to help you watch and to listen to what you have to say.  I would like to witness for the horses if you would have me.”

The advocate slowly leaned over, set his now empty mug in the snow and reached across the gate, “It would be an honor, my friend, and absolute honor”, and the two men embraced each other across the cold, galvanized gate yet they only felt a burning warmth from within.

“I’ll go drop off my vitals and get my bag, it will only take a second.” said the guard as he spun around and started to walk away.

“Hey”, called the advocate, “Aren’t you the least bit worried about leaving this place unguarded.” there was a touch of laughter in his voice.

“Not if the terrorists are a bunch of Bailey’s drinking thugs like you.” laughed the guard as his shadow grew longer with each step towards the trailer.  “Just hold on.”

The advocate smiled to himself and stomped his feet to get the blood flowing back through his near frozen toes.

He stood there for a moment and allowed his spirit to bask in the warm afterglow of recent events.

He turned, again, to look up the ridge where the horse had stood only moments before.  In that short lapse of time the moon had moved higher in the sky dragging the shining star with it but there was no hint of the horse.

He looked at the star, listened to the wind and noted that the star was brighter and more active in it’s pulsing than it was earlier.  As he gazed upwards it came to him that another birth was being celebrated this clear, cold Christmas morning.  The impact of that realization pushed a warm tear from his eye, down his ruddy cheek and into his beard.

His internal realization manifested itself onto his lips in the form of a big smile and he whispered as much to the Spirit as he did to himself.

“Thank you for the goodness that was born this day and for a new birth, a new beginning for another kind and gentle spirit.  Thank you for an additional voice for the horses, another guardian of their spirit.  Thank you for the new advocate.”

The wind answered with a swirl of snow, a twinkle of a star and the call of a wild horse many miles away.

He sighed and with a frozen tear upon his cheek, nodded in return.

Still Time to Help the Horses and Burros for Christmas

Unabashedly I would like to remind all of you that the clock is ticking on ordering our Wild Horse Freedom Federation 2018 Calendars chock full of dozens and dozens of beautiful wild horses photos from our own Carol Walker:

Over 60 beautiful and moving photos by Carol of the wild horses living in the Sand Wash Basin Herd grace this 2018 calendar! From the small foals to the powerful, mature stallions, Carol’s images capture the spirit and beauty of these colorful wild horses in this northwestern Colorado herd.

http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/calendar-of-the-year/

50% of the proceeds are donated directly to Wild Horse Freedom Federation’s work to keep our wild horses and burros free and together on the range.


Carol also has a gorgeous book available for a last minute gift,

Galloping to Freedom: Saving the Adobe Town Appaloosas

During the infamously heartbreaking BLM 2014 Checkerboard Roundup in Wyoming, a chance encounter between a regal wild stallion and acclaimed photographer Carol Walker changes both of their lives forever. The new photo documentary book, Galloping to Freedom: Saving the Adobe Town Appaloosas, is the result of that encounter. In this, the third book for this multiple-award winning author and artist, Walker’s evocative photographs and poignant prose document the story of rescuing the stallion she named Bronze Warrior and his band of mares and offspring from different BLM holding facilities and reuniting them in a place where they could live out their lives together, safe and undisturbed. Like every satisfying animal story, the venture is not without difficulties and sorrows, but ultimately, this is a tale of triumph and joy. And even better: It is true.

Aged horses such as Bronze Warrior (22 when he is captured) usually are the last to be adopted and therefore are the most likely to spend their remaining years in cramped BLM pens without their families. Especially concerned for this gallant stallion and his band, Walker reaches out to Manda Kalimian of the Cana Projects for help; the two share Thoreau’s belief that “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” Together, these two staunch and vocal wild horse advocates win over even the BLM bureaucracy to the effort. Susan Watt, of the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, is the third “Reunion Team” member.

The story is, by turns, nerve-wracking and frustrating, thrilling and surprising, charming, heart-warming and delightful. The captivating photographs likewise offer a widely ranging emotional journey, from touching to powerful. In combination, the images and story build to a victorious resolution. By journey’s end, one is struck by the horses’ timeless elegance and dignity, whether enduring a brutal holding facility or soaring in spirited freedom. One is equally moved by the dogged perseverance of the humans in the story.

So, Reader, beware: This book might change your own life forever.

Galloping to Freedom: Saving the Adobe Town Appaloosas features over 200 of Carol’s full color photographs in perfect binding, equally suitable for coffee table browsers, fine art photography admirers, or the libraries of serious equine science students. Appendices offer information on wild horse advocacy efforts, Cana Projects, and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.

137 pages hard cover with dust jacket, large format full color book, including over two hundred of Carol’s incredibly moving wild horse photos. With Foreword by Steve Israel, Member of Congress.
Only $39.95 US + s&h

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/products/galloping-to-freedom


Our book is still in print around the world:

Straight from the Horse’s Heart: A Spiritual Ride through Love, Loss, and Hope by new author R. T. Fitch is an altogether special book that sows more than a few wild oats of goodness, inspiration, and heart. This thoughtful and endearing collection of thirty distinct and timeless vignettes is rich and wise. Whether it is the rescue of a missing pony after a hurricane near the Gulf of Mexico or the heartfelt whinny of an abused horse in Nigeria, the author composes beautiful and poetic images on life. While this book’s significance is universal, animal and horse lovers are especially in for a treat as loss, turmoil, and grief are intertwined with heroic tales of survival and human empathy. With titles such as “I Sit in Wonder,” “She Stole My Heart,” and “Whispers in the Night,” on these pages is love and symmetry. This collection showcases the contemplative places of the heart, which we are able to learn from his four-legged friends, if we take time to listen closely enough.


And our good friend Alex Brown has authored yet another book which I wrote a review for his behalf:

“Missionville ~ A Mission I was reluctant to accept…

Missionville was an extremely difficult, initial read for me. Knowing all too well the underbelly of horse racing and seeing my own fair share of backside tracks and auctions I was not motivated to delve into this story of a ‘sport’ I have little taste for; several survivors of said sport reside behind our home and bring us great joy just being horses and friends.

But with a twist of the tale and turn of the word Alex Brown brings life, love and humanity to his story as he artfully supplies the reader with a most important compelling vision that we rarely see, and that shared gift is one of hope.

A true must read for those who have both saved horses from the kill pen and those who love to experience the vision of those great Thoroughbreds thundering down the track to yet another victory. Missionville truly has a soul.” ~ R.T. Fitch


So there are plenty of equine related goodies that speak directly to the heart of every American and could make a significant difference is someone’s life.

Merry Christmas , Many Thanks and Happy Shopping.

Feel Good Sunday: Let the Equine Christmas Stories Began

Straight from the Horse's Heart

“Traditionally, at Straight from the Horse’s Heart, we have inserted Christmas stories into our normal December “Feel Good Sunday” additions as we march towards the 25th.  Historically most of those stories had been authored by me; recycled from previous years or excerpts from our books and magazine articles.  But this year we would like to do something a little different, perhaps generate a little more interest into the role of our beloved equines during this special time of the year.  This year we would like to highlight your submittles; either favorite horse/donkey stories that are near and dear to you or even your own original renditions of the Christmas Holiday.  Reach into the creative side of you and share with us your feelings on the interaction with our four legged companions during this magical time of year.  You shine the light and we will do our best to broadcast…

View original post 2,271 more words

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day and That Dapple Gray

by Marjorie Wilkinson as published on the HorseNetwork

““Over The River And Through The Wood” celebrates at time when your “horse [knew] the way to carry the sleigh…”

It’s almost unfathomable, but Thanksgiving is upon us once again. It’s time for equestrians, one and all, to sing their favorite carol, giving thanks for the great skill of a swift and fearless dapple gray. If you don’t have this tradition in your horsey household, perhaps you should!

Here’s the story:

The carol is (obviously, or more likely not-so-obviously) is “Over The River And Through The Wood,” by Lydia Maria Child. Many people associate this gem from 1844 with Christmas, but it was most certainly penned by Child in celebration of Thanksgiving. The poem from which the lyrics derive is in fact titled, “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.”

“Over The River And Through The Wood” celebrates at time when your “horse [knew] the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow,” as to grandmother or grandfather’s house you go. Back then most families were making a holiday mash for the horses on Thanksgiving morning so they could make the trip to see extended family at mealtime!

It’s author, Lydia Maria Child, is also quite an interesting character. In addition to being a prolific author, she was an abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and Native American rights activist. She frequently shocked audiences as she took on issues of male dominance and white supremacy in her stories.

So equestrians and advocates alike, lets sing along with thankfulness:

Video: “Maybe Next Year”

“We post this video, today, knowing that New Years was two days ago but this small slice of equine/human goodness just came across our desk yesterday and we could not help but want to share it with you, straight away.  Although produced to sell a commercial product, it touches upon on a nerve that many of us have lived and feel tightly bonded to as strongly today as we did yesterday.

To all those who fight the good fight; never give up!

Oh, tissue alert.” ~ R.T.