How did the barn get started? How have you grown so fast? These are common questions from just about everyone. It is actually quite a story. I feel like that is life though - a lot of really good stories when you stop to tell them. It doesn't mean they all have to be happy, but they all led somewhere, and usually that somewhere is a pretty darn good spot.
In January of 2018 my sister invited me over for our weekly Bachelor/Bachelorette Monday. My sister would cook us dinner and I would provide several wines for us to drink and to try to guess 'what' we were drinking. I was in the alcohol distribution business at the time, selling beer, wine and spirits into restaurants, bars, liquor stores - just about anywhere with a license. But, more than that my sister and I just loved wine. It is literally part of our family history and learning about the wineries stories, tasting their products, understanding the WHY behind the taste of THAT particular bottle - it is just something we geek out over.
On this particular night my sister was scrolling her phone on Instagram when she saw a fashion designer share a picture of a donkey in her stories asking if anyone could help .That he was shipping to slaughter the next day. Margaux immediately turned to me and said 'you need a donkey!' I casually laughed at her and explained to her that I did not need a donkey. I had never even met a donkey. Didn't know how to care for a donkey. WHAT would I do with a donkey?! Her response was, well, you're going to save the donkey and we will just love it! This was right around glass of wine number one. Mind you this was Chris Soules season so my attention to my sisters donkey pleading was not quite where my attention was. Right around glass number 2 I reached out to the stables where my two horses were being boarded asking what it would cost to board a donkey. Their response was literally a laughing face and would $50 sound fair a month. $50 was more then fair a month. Glass number 3 came around and after weighing the costs of buying him, quarantine, transport to California, monthly board and normal expenses that come with an equine, I looked at my sister and said - lets get the damn donkey!
45 days later Kevin arrived. I remember being out to lunch with my then boyfriend and getting the call from the hauler that he was around the corner. We quickly paid our bill and drove the 2 minutes down the road to the stables. There he stood. There stood this little donkey. He was so sad seeming. So lost and confused on where he was and why. I immediately approached him and gave him the biggest hug with tears coming down my face. He was everything I could have imagined him to be. He was Kevin.
It wasn't more then a few days before my friends, customers and family were asking about the new long eared family member. I was excited to show his picture from the kill pen lot, his photos now of him happy at the barn, his cute nose and face. He was all legs and ears. My grandpa LIT UP when he came out to meet him. He came to life with stories of being in WW2 in Germany with his pack donkeys and how they were some of his favorite memories as a teenager. (My gpa was 15 forced to fight with the German army at the boarder of Germany and France).
One friend in particular who wanted to come by, was a member of my wine group. I happened to run into him and his girlfriend at the restaurant down the street and, of course, they wanted to know all about the donkey I had recently brought into my family. COME AND MEET HIM! He wasps literally 2 minutes down the road! So, we paid our tabs and loaded ourselves up into our cars, and headed to the barn.
Once we got there, Jen, my friends girlfriend, started talking all about how she had grown up taking lessons and showing in the paint horse circuit. It completely caught me off guard because I had also shown in the paint horse circuit when I was younger. Come to find out, Jen was the red headed girl whose horse I was always obsessed with at the barn. Her horses name was Krebs for short. He was this big sweet BEAUTIFUL handsome horse. There were two love affairs for me at that time, my horse Mr. B, and Krebs. Anytime the red hair'd girl showed up to get him out, I was there watching her every move with him. I wanted to ride him SO BAD, but was always too nervous to ask. What a crazy small world! I couldn't believe THIS girl standing in front of me was from back HER!
That famous movie line ' Did we just become best friends?!' THAT was THAT moment between her and I. Once we got the shock of THAT out of the way, Jen mentioned how she had always wanted to rescue horses. Clearly, I was like me too! It was my dream! I started the Animal Rescue Club when I was 10. All I ever wanted was to help animals- it didn't matter what it was, insect, bird, cat, dog, I just wanted to help.
I mentioned to Jen that I worked full-time for an alcohol distribution company and that:
I didn't know the first thing about starting a non profit
We could do this and just do it part time. Even if we saved even just one horse or donkey at a time, it was still making a difference. What did we have to lose in that?!
Let's do it. That was the final consensus. I told her I would talk to my sister Margaux, she would talk to one of her best friends, who had also shown horses when she was younger, and if everyone agreed then we would start the process to form the non profit. This was in March of 2018. Within two weeks Jen and I had all of the paperwork completed and submitted, not it was just a waiting game to see if the IRS would accept everything and make it official.
Lets stop for a moment because this is a question I also get all of the time:' where did the name come from?'
WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM: In order to file the paperwork we needed a name for ourselves. I had explained how I absolutely loved the concept and vibe of Outstanding in a Field. It was and is this super neat organization that focuses on bringing people together to support local farmers and producers to celebrate hard work, love and passion. I loved THAT. Bringing people together. That's what I wanted it to be about. Bringing people together, regardless of walk of life, to support something GOOD. It took some brain storming and playing around with words. All Seated in the Barn. All Standing in the Barn. All Together under the Barn. All Seated in a Barn. It was perfect. We knew it the moment we said it. People coming together, seated at the same 'table', differences and opinions, income, ethnicity aside, under 'their roof', together FOR them.
So we did it. We started the Barn. By June of 2018 we had our letter from the IRS and were ready to save a horse or donkey! Excitedly we all got together at Jens house and started scrolling the Bowie page. That is after all where Kevin came from so for us, that must be how you did it. That must be how you save them. We added up what we could each afford to give for the save of one and we did it. A mare and her foal. Our first saves.
REALITY OF LIFE: Just like with any group project or assignment, there's always one or two people who end up doing most of the leg work. We all had full times jobs, some of us kids, and relationships. We also each had our own visions of what we 'saw' as being our non profits end goal. We all genuinely wanted to do this, to make it work, but life happens and at the end of the day the physical and mental labor has to be there or it won't work. Stalls need cleaned. Money needs raised. Horses need exercised. Board needs paid. Bills need taken care of. If there's no money coming in, then there's no money coming in and it has to come from somewhere or what is the point. You can't have a rescue with breathing, living animals and not have the ability to take care of them.
This is when I sort of had to make the choice to grab the bull by the horns. I had completely drained my bank account by this point. I felt like a one woman show running this barn while trying to take care of myself, as well. My income was now not just supporting my personal life, but the horses and donkeys we had saved as well. I had to shit or get off the pot. The rescue couldn't support itself so I needed to find a way to make it work. I needed people to notice the barn and believe in what it was about. I couldn't support this by myself. I needed help.
SIDE NOTE: This is when LeAnn started with the barn. God bless her. I was cleaning pens one day, we had no volunteers at the time (this is about August/September 2018) and up walks this lady with a big smile on her face asking who she needed to talk to to volunteer. I was so confused on how she even found the barn. I am sure it showed on my resting bitch confused face - Thank GOD she didn't walk out at that moment lol. I think we still are confused on how she found the barn! BUT, at the end of the day, God pointed her there. It saved me that day and it saved her that day in more ways than one. I looked around at all 5 animals and said, I guess grab a rake, I need help cleaning.
Now, back to the story. I started researching successful non profits on Instagram and the best role model for me was one of my good friends and his dog rescue. WHAT was he doing on social media that I could do better. I also followed several horse and animal sanctuaries and rescues (who I still follow and look up to today). What are they doing. What do I like about their social media, what's interesting, how are they presenting their rescue, what's their energy and their vibe. I just started making notes on what I thought was interesting - its always all about the stories. I took what I loved about all of them and just started to make ASIAB my own, from my eyes and my heart and my energy. I wanted people to feel the barn through the camera. That is after all what we are captivated by whether it be a beautiful picture or a movie. We can FEEL it through the lens.
It was a lot of slow and steady from there. Doing as much community involvement as I could to try to gain support. Yoga sessions at the barn, wine dinners, Open Barns monthly, Music Nights, pop-up wine tastings. standing on street corners with signs. YES, we panhandled. We didn't have a choice.- literally I was and would do doing anything I could to get support and help besides social media. I couldn't fail the horses and donkeys we rescued. It wasn't an option.
One at a time. Five horses, 10 horses, 30 horses. It always came together as scary as it was. It started with LeAnn and then there were 10, 15, 20 volunteers. A whole beautiful family WANTING to help. WANTING to see the barn be successful. We all worked together. We told our family and friends about the barn. We shared stories. We collected cans and bottles to raise money. I wasn't alone at all. We all believed and felt what the barn was about and together we made it work. It allowed me to continue to work and to also run the non profit. I am so grateful to these people who were such a massive part of the growth of the barn. Many of them are still volunteers to this day.
2020: This year started like any other except for one major thing, the outbreak. I remember sitting one January evening after feeding, under the Gazebo at 'Red Barn' as we called it, talking to some of the volunteers. They couldn't stop talking about this outbreak in China. The videos were all over the internet. It clearly didn't dawn on any of us at that moment or even enter our minds, that quite literally everything was about to change.
March 2020: By the end of March, almost all of the volunteers were staying home. A core group stayed dedicated to the barn, deciding that we would all do this together. If any of us tested positive, we would stay away but THIS was our sanctuary. This was our safe space. They needed us. We needed each other.
EARLY May 2020: My boss sends me a letter that I have to choose between my non profit or my job. I cannot do both. The following morning I quit my job scared out of my mind, but feeling it was the right thing to do. I didn't know it at the time, but I would have and was going to lose my job regardless once all the restaurants, bars etc were forced to close in July 2020.
EARLY May 2020: I decided to sign up for Hinge, the dating app. My friend Jen, who started the barn with me, was cleaning pens with me telling me all about the super neat guys she was meeting and chatting with. Socializing had come to a stop, so this had become 'the new thing' apparently with singles. WHY NOT. So, with much consideration and asking around, everyone agreed Hinge was not just a hook up scene and probably best for what I wanted. Hinge it was.
Within about a week, there was one guy who I was regularly messaging back and forth. He lived in Dallas, was super funny, smart, successful and bored at home. He was intrigued by our rescue, missed being outside and casually suggested flying to Bakersfield and helping at the barn for a few weeks. I remember that pit in my stomach of 'do I really want this guy here'. We had a barn meeting, because at this point this wasn't just about me - it was about all of us and how WE all felt, given what was going on in the world. The group agreed it would be nice to have a guy to help. So, I told him it was fine. Book your ticket, we would love to have you out and Id love to meet you in person. I was absolutely terrified.
Two days later we were all planning the great pick up of him at the local airport. Would I just go alone? Would we all go together? We decided we would all go together and catfish him. Since I am tall and blonde we decided it would be funny to have one of the volunteers who is short with brown hair, hold a sign with his name on it at the airport pretending to be me. The great catfish of Hinge 2020. So that's what we did. I smashed myself down to the floor of the car, she stood at the exit of the airport with her sign, and we waited.
It was hilarious. He was so confused. I was shaking I was so nervous. He handled it great. Luckily, that sense of humor I had gotten to know, stayed true. He handled the whole thing with a smile and grace and happily got into the car, excited to see 'this barn' I had spoke so highly of and the people I loved so much.
END OF MAY 2020: It was such a great help having him there at the barn. His personality was just as great in person as it had been on the dating app. He got along amazing with everyone, helped us fix anything that needed maintenance, learned how to ride, helped clean pens, he truly just fit in wherever we needed him. It was right around this time that he asked me if I had ever been to Dallas. I hadn't. The closest I had been was Wichita Falls, which is a whole other story in itself. He asked if I would want to fly back with him to see his home and hang out there for the week since he needed to check in with work. Why not, right? What did I have to loose.
June 2020: Tickets bought, we flew back to Dallas the last week of May. The flight was completely empty, the roads were empty, it was an eerie time to be traveling. One thing I will say, I remember it being hot and muggy. We spent the first several days just relaxing and swimming in his pool, he drove me around to show me some scenic areas around his area, I rode with him to check his job sites. It was honestly a nice change of pace. It was then that he asked me if I had ever been to Bowie, to see the Kill Pen or go to one of the auctions that they had. I said no, I always bid online for the auctions. Truthfully, I didn't think I wanted to 'see' all of THAT in person. The unknown of what THAT even was, was scary to me and if I would even be able to mentally or emotionally handle it. We talked it over and decided it was only an hour and a half away from where he lived. We would go and if it got to be too much we would just leave. The one thing we both agreed on was that it would be good to speak from experience of having seen it in person. It is one thing to read about something or hear about something, but to actually go and experience it is totally different.
The Auction June 2020: Where do I even start. We decided to pull over on our drive there so I could make a post talking about how I was going to the auction and wanted to help a couple horses and donkeys. That I would do whatever I could. I was hopeful we could at the very least raise the funds to help a few horses and donkeys before they were bought by the kill pen. I didn't realize then at that time that horse trading was such a massive industry. I didn't know a lot still about this industry then. There's no Horse Industry books to read. I thought they just went to the auction and if they were cheap, the kill pen would buy them and ship them to slaughter. I didn't know what I didn't know.
The weather that day was hot. SO HOT. I just remember walking around thinking how thick and humid and hot it was. There were horses everywhere. The place was massive. It was a lot of him and I just walking around taking pictures. Documenting. Taking it all in. This is when we met Fred and Barney, two massive percheron. Freds eyes stole not just my heart that day, but his as well. Even if we didn't raise enough to get them, we weren't leaving them behind, he would buy them and we would keep them at the barn. They deserved better.
It wasn't until Saturday afternoon that I checked in on social media and realized the post I had made was getting a lot of attention on social media. A couple of celebrity horse lovers had shared it, a first for me, for the barn, which had generated a lot of attention in our direction. I think people were stuck at home and this was interesting. Something they could find hope in and do some good. The donations came in and I realized I could do a lot of good. So, that's what I did. By the end of the weekend we had rescued A LOT of horses and donkeys. Over 80.
That next morning, the Monday after the auction, I remember waking up having a massive panic attack. WHAT had I just done. All we had was 'Red Barn' which could comfortably house 30 horses and donkeys - we were full. We didn't have the space for them. We didn't have anything. What in the hell was I going to do with this many horses and donkeys. I hadn't even fundraiser right for them. I didn't even know what 'right' fundraising was. Luckily he was the voice of reason and strength. Ive got this. Deep breaths. Solving things, thats what I am good at. This was just something that needed to be problem solved. Step 1, figure out what I need. A place to put them, feed, water and feed troughs, all the things. Once I had all of THAT figured out, I could then start a GoFundMe asking for help to make all of THAT possible. If people stepped up for me to save the, my hope was that they would step up to help me support them.
DONKEYVILLE IS BORN: I flew home that Tuesday with one mission, I needed to find space for them. I need to find somewhere to put them. The volunteers back home thought I had lost my mind, I had for sure, but the one thing they all had faith in, was my ability to make shit happen. I told them just trust me, Ive got this. If this is the path God put me on, then I am not going to fail. I just need to figure it out. The door WILL open, I just need to find the damn door.
This is when I happened to be riding a horse down the street, trying to think and get my thoughts together, a lot of praying, when a car came up on me from behind. The window slowly came down and shockingly, I KNEW the person. Not just knew, but this had been one of my good friends over 15 years ago that I had worked with. When the restaurant closed down, we had all gone our separate ways.
He had a massive smile and said 'I wondered when I was going to run into you! I heard you had some horses or a rescue or something on the same street he just moved onto'. I learned that his dad had, had to be moved to a retirement home so he moved into the house and was slowly trying to fit it up. It was literally three houses down from the barn, was sitting on close to 4 acres, and he had no use for the land. If we ever wanted to put horses on it just let him know, we could use it. HERE WAS THE DAMN DOOR!
This is when I filled him in on the auction, the animals, how I needed a place for them. He was excited to help. He told me, you clean it up and its yours. You better believe I was heading straight back to the barn to let everyone know, we have a spot for them! They were all just as excited as I was. We all had this strength and passion and excitement that we were going to make something really amazing happen. Thats exactly what we did. We all got together, we rented a Bobcat, we called trash haulers, and we quite literally spent two days cleaning up this property to make it useable. The GoFundMe allowed us to purchase literally every single panel from Home Depot, Lowes and Tractor Supply. We had shade sales strung up EVERYWHERE. To see it was to believe it. We quite literally erected an entire fenced in horse stables in a matter of 5 days. Where there's a will there's a way. There damn sure was Will - and we found the way.
What started out to be extremely scary - ended with it being so positive. Several sanctuaries reached out to take in groups of horses and donkeys, trainers reached out wanting to help, repeat Adoptors reached out willing to take in horses to help - it was a beautiful thing. We made it work. We decided to call it Donkeyville because most of what we had rescued was donkeys. You couldn't miss the braying when you drove in or walked between Red Barn and the property.
It was such a learning experience for me. Going from 30 to THAT number was terrifying. I am not a quitter and anyone who knows me, bosses, teachers, my family, friends, knows that I will work my ass off to not let people down. Thats the side effect of growing up under my father where nothing was ever good enough. The let down is crippling, so you just do whatever needs to be done not to let anyone down. This is that same mentality and situation.
JULY 2020: This is when I realize I am insane. A volunteer asked me if I wanted to go back for the July auction. I was going to be there in Dallas with the guy - would I be open to it. It took a lot of thinking on my end because we were just starting to have a grip on what June was. Trying to navigate and take care of everyone. We were all literally cleaning pens non stop day in and day out. It was a massive undertaking. Thats when an amazing couple who are like family to me, called and asked if I was going, they were going to be close to Dallas/Bowie in their RV and wanted to meet me there if we were going, to financially help. To do some good. They were so impacted by the videos, the saves, the coming together to put Donkeyville together, that they were there to help. Leave it to my impulse side, WHY NOT. Fuck it. Lets go.
So we went. It was even hotter then June. Horses didn't have water and were colic'ing what felt like everywhere. I feel like all we did was walk around filling water buckets the whole weekend and spraying off horses who were over heating. With it being during the Covis Pandemic, there weren't a lot of people there on the auction houses staff - the horses were suffering for it. It was extremely hard to watch and we sure as hell weren't going to sit around and watch them go down.
We ended up with around 50 donkeys and 30 horses by the end of the weekend. It was hard to watch as every single donkey that went through was being sold to the kill pen, to ship to slaughter the following day. I'll never forget getting there Monday morning and seeing the truck parked on the loading dock. We all looked at each other with this sense of we have to do something. What started with one being pulled from the group shipping turned into 5. Five horses that didn't have to ship. This pushed our number, once again, close to 85 total for that weekend.
NORD aka The Middle East as we called it: So here we were again. WHERE were they going to go. Well, I had been through this once before only a month before, so lets wait for the door to open. In the meantime, I got the GoFundMe going and knew at least on that end, either way, there was. ALOT to plan for. I felt a little bit better this time support wise knowing I had not just our amazing team, but a lot of bigger donors who genuinely wanted to help. To be apart of whatever THIS was that was growing. I truly believe that the barn was this beautiful idea that people could support during such a horrible time. Everyone was so supportive, people WANTED to help. To be apart of something that wasn't just making a difference but was such a GOOD thing. They couldn't go to the movies or out to dinner, but they could support something and watch the good that, that did. It was truly something really special.
This is when I found Nord. When I got back from Texas that week after the auction, a couple who were all about helping with the donkeys, mentioned they knew of a 10 acre parcel that a guy was trying to find someone to rent. It was next to his house and it was just land with some stalls, and a c-train. He had been renting it out to a local girl in town for horse boarding and lessons and since she moved out, it was now available. So we all piled into the truck and drove over to take a look. It was perfect. The moment he said we could use his arena it was a done deal. We had NEVER had an arena before so to have a place that we could ride and let the horses out to truly run, was the biggest bonus. We just had to build again. We had to build A LOT.
Thats what we did. We fundraised and we built. We bought, once again, all the panels we could find in Kern County, erected 70 shelters to go with 70 stalls, built two massive paddocks to house the male and female donkeys, and we made it happen. SO what started only months ago with Red Barn, had now very quickly become Red Barn, Donkeyville and now Nord. It was a lot. I didn't just dive out of the plane head first. I ran and jumped off the highest mountain I could find.
Another thing about me is I thrive under pressure or if someone tells me I can't do something. I quite literally don't understand what that means - the word 'CANT'. When people started bashing me not understanding HOW I was pulling this off - just because they CANT do what I did, doesn't mean I am not capable of it. Again, I don't know what can't is. I also don't know what half ass is. I also don't believe in failing. Failing is just giving up. You have to give it your all. You might not get it the first day, but by day 100 if you haven't stopped you aren't going to fail. You can't. SO yes, I did do it. I did pull it off. WE PULLED IT OFF. We all worked out asses off, we fundraised, we connected with local builders in town, we found a way to make it happen. To this day we all talk about 'those days'. Its almost like a damn movie. It blows my mind even that we did all of THAT.
SIDE NOTE: this is when one of our videos of the donkeys unloading at Nord went viral on TikTok. This is the inspiration behind Oscars Place, what is now, an incredible donkey sanctuary. Their now director, saw the video, and changed his life course completely. An amazing story in its own.
SIDE NOTE: This is when I also met Brian Lawson through a mutual party. He had worked wonders with their horse and she suggested if we ever had any horses that were tricky or needed some fine tuning to reach out to him and he could possibly help. We did have horses who needed some extra attention and since the trainers I was already using were full, it worked out perfect!
2021: Nord was a massive undertaking. We had around 70 horses and donkeys on the property. We all worked hard, cleaned pens, we were a tight nit group. Red Barn and Donkeyville were ran by another group of volunteers. No one wanted to come out to Nord, because it was hot. There was no landscaping, it was HOT. This only brought us all closer together. This heat and just how hard it was every day taking care of all the animals. Strength and unity.
It was around April of 2021 that the neighbors next door started complaining. They didn't like us next door to them, at all. They didn't like the donkeys, they didn't like the horses. They just didn't want there to be anything AT ALL next door to them. They had banked on the hope that since there was an abandoned oil well there, that no one could build there and they would have silence. Now that we were there, that changed that for them. So it came down to us staying and being in this constant negative energy or finding a place to move too. I mentally couldn't take the negative energy so made the decision to start looking for somewhere to move all the horses and donkeys too. The barn is all about good positive energy, this was such a massive damper on all of us that it wasn't worth it to stay.
SHAFTER MAY 2021: This is when Shafter happened. Everyone always asks me this question too, which I hope you are starting to understand the how's to the HOW did this all happen so fast in 5 years. I didn't have a choice. A LOT of obstacles were thrown at me but we made it happen.
SIDE NOTE: When the barn started in 2018, one of the first rescues we took in was a black and white paint filly. I didn't know it at the time of rescue, but a friend of mine had a weakness for black and white paints. He had also shown horses with Jen and I when we were growing up, an amazing home. When he reached out to adopt her from me, I didn't hesitate. He was quite literally one of our first adoptions! I remember getting with Jen to find a truck and trailer to rent so that we could drive her out to his 'stables' 'all the way out in Shafter'. The last time I had been to Shafter was for a non profit fundraiser at the airport. It was desolate and I couldn't fathom what kind of 'stables; this was all the way out there in that small town.
Pulling in that day with the rented truck and trailer, and the little black and white filly, I was blown away. I remember looking at Jen and saying, see THIS is what we need. We need this someday! I could only hope for something like that someday. I remember seeing him watering the grass and all the stalls and the trees - just being so blown away by the facility. The crazy thing is that he had just bought the property so what it was THEN compared to what it was then in 2021 when we moved in are so drastically different.
JUNE 2021: I was living with my mom and woke up that Saturday morning ready for my coffee before I got dressed and headed out to the barn. When I sat down, my mom immediately opened the paper up, held it up facing me, and said THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED. She knew the struggle I was having with the Nord neighbors so was trying to help me find a place we could move too. My jaw dropped. Front page of the newspaper was THE BARN! HIS BARN! He was selling it. I couldn't believe my friend was selling that property. I immediately called him that morning and asked if him and I could meet that next Monday. I needed to talk to him about his property. I didn't know the how, all I knew was I had to find a way.
Monday came and I drove out to meet him at the property. I explained how I was having to find a place because of the neighbors and I needed to somehow find a way to make this spot ours. We needed it. I had to find a way. He let me know that they had two offers that had already come in over the weekend since it had been in the newspaper so I would need to act fast. He couldn't hold it off the market for long.
I only had one option. I had to call a friend. I hate asking people for things, especially money, but in this case I didn't have a choice. Luckily, he said yes. Not only did he say yes, but he also asked for a 30 day escrow so we could get moved in as quick as possible. It officially went into escrow on July 2nd and closed escrow on August 2, 2021.
AUGUST 2021: Moving into Shafter was a dream. An amazing but terrifying dream. I don't think I have cried more tears of relief and scared out of my mind, gratitude, even typing this I'm completely choked up. Never in a million years did I ever think THIS would be our California home. Who would have thought that, that day driving up with the little black and white horse would turn into ASIAB's home. It has been the biggest learning and growing experience of my life. We, with the help of several amazing humans, moved everyone from Nord over to Shafter. It was a massive undertaking. We had to buddy up horses in stalls, set up extra stalls, transport our feed/grain shed which was a whole event in itself. It was ALOT. I'll say it over and over again, we literally have THE BEST team and group of humans that believe in this barn. We all came together and made it happen.
Shafter has been such a learning experience. From where irrigation is at, sprinkler lines, building pens, replacing fencing, the water well, having to hire staff because there is just no way that we will ever have enough volunteers to help to give the horses the best living conditions possible. We are 20-45 minutes away from Bakersfield depending on what part of the town you live in, and with gas prices being what they are, it isn't easy to find volunteers who are reliable who WANT to drive all the way out here. I am so grateful to the guys who work here. Rain, heat, flooding, shine, they are here. They give it their all and work their asses off to help make this place what is is.
2022: During 2022, it was A LOT of building. We worked on getting all of the horses and donkeys from Donkeyville transitioned over to Shafter and Red Barn, as space allowed. This required building more stalls in areas around the property that made sense. It became clear that having three locations (Donkeyville, Red Barn and Shafter) wasn't finanically feasible and in the best interest of the horses, we needed to make that change. We also realized that paying an outside quarantine facility to take care of our horses wasn't financially what was the smartest decision. $600/month for basic board without any additional feed or hands on care is not smart. If the feed and attention was there it would make sense. It wasn't, so it didn't. We also had the mustang herd to take into consideration. We were paying board for them as well. All of these came to head about mid 2022. I had a consultation with the accountants and they also agreed - if we could find a place to rent to keep our horses who needed to quarantine, PLUS the mustangs, this would be the smartest move. So, thats what we did.
October 2022: We started looking around at properties for rent and although we would find them with land, they wouldn't have a house. If they had a house, they didn't have the right layout for the mustangs. It wasn't until about October 2022 when we stumbled upon what is now our TXQT property. The layout was there, it had a house, and it had a barn, as well as a fenced in 30 acre parcel that would be PERFECT for the mustangs. There was already water built into different segments of the property. Did it need some TLC? Absolutely. Is that what we do best with properties? YES. Bring it on. We had to go through an extremely extensive interview process with the owners. They had a bad taste in their mouth with horse rescues, BUT they wanted to help. They did their research on us as an organization, interviewed several people within our organization, and decided that this would be a way they could help the horses and support us. We officially moved into the property in November 2022.
CURRENTLY | 2023: So here we are, 2023. The barn has grown so much since the start of the year. Its like this omega that just keeps stretching and shrinking and growing out in different directions. There are so many positive expansions coming in the pipeline for us that will allow us to help more and do more - and not just on the auction side. These expansions will allow us to take in more owner surrenders and to even try to stop them before they ever get to an auction. There's so much wrong with this industry and not a lot being done to try to help the horses, outside of the rescues screaming at the top of their lungs.
To put into words what five years has been, is hard. I have learned so much and only continue to learn. With criticism comes growth. No one sat me down and said THIS is how you run a rescue. I have just figured it out on my own. Ive seen what other people have done and are doing and it works, so I try to do the same thing. I ask for help when I need it. I have read books on 'owning horses' my whole life. Literally, as a 12 year old girl buying a Horse Ownership Book at the local book store so I would be prepared when that day came. What I have found though is that you can read all the books you want, nothing ever actually teaches you until you are in it. Even then, if no one points something out to you on how to do it better, feed better, notice things better, wrap a leg better, doctor better - you would never know. So I am grateful for those moments and to those people who took the time and take the time to show me.
I hope this timeline and story shows you the HOW it took shape so that you understand a little bit better. Everyone always asks HOW have you done this so fast in five years. This is how.
This has been anything but easy. There are so many layers to each year. So much good that has happened and taken shape. I have learned and continue to learn. The more I get beat down the more I grow and do better. The horse rescue world is line an onion with a lot of layers. It isn't just as simple as peeling off the outer layer - if it was, this industry would. be solved by now. Each layer comes with attachments. Those attachments come with attachments. There's no one right solution. As long as we continue forward doing our best and right by the horses, supporting one another, using our voices for good for them, we will create change. Theres already so much more support for the horses then there was when we started in 2018. I feel like change is coming, we just need to keep increasing the strength of our voices. Like I said, I don't believe in can't. It might take 10 years of yelling, but eventually the yelling gets annoying.