On April 28, 1992, a dark bay filly was born on Vancouver Island. “Genuine Misty Lass”, aka Ruby, was a registered Standardbred with an inherent pacer gait, and she was born for one purpose—harness racing. Her career began early on when around the age of two, she was shipped to Alberta and her training commenced.

Horses at that age aren’t fully developed; in particular, the bones in their legs haven’t fused to form strong limbs. A routine procedure was done, and Ruby’s hind legs were “pin-fired”. The procedure involves burning, freezing, or dousing lower leg tissue with acid or caustic chemicals so that “work-related” injuries can heal after massive (and painful) swelling forces the tissue and bones together. The white dot scars from this procedure are still visible on Ruby’s hind legs.

After track winnings of approximately $55,000 for her owners, Ruby was sold to a breeder and shipped to Langley, BC. She was skeletal when she arrived with an explained wound on her hip, and the new owner gave her a year to recuperate and gain weight before having her bred. The following year, Ruby had a foal that was in turn sent into the racing game, but the owner decided Ruby wasn’t a championship broodmare and rather than breed her again, she trained Ruby as a saddle horse. Ruby had her first bit of luck at this point—some breeders might simply have put her into auction to be sold for slaughter. But Ruby had a “fifth gear”, which meant she could not only walk, trot, pace, and canter, she also naturally possessed a pleasing gait known as the running walk, much like that of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

After saddle training, the owner allowed some local teens to ride Ruby on the nearby trails, in exchange for barn chores. But she eventually learned the teens ran Ruby hard, and hid returning her drenched in sweat by hosing her off behind the barn. Neighbours reported witnessing the abuse and Ruby herself showed signs of trouble by beginning to avoid humans entirely. This owner decided to sell Ruby, saying she had to run in the entire herd of mares just to get close enough to put a halter on her.

By now, Ruby was 15 years old. Her next owner was delighted to buy her, and Ruby was shipped up the coast of BC to live on a farm with another mare and an elderly mule. It took some time, but with treats and the obvious trust her pasture mates displayed for humans, Ruby began to relax and enjoy the company of people. For a while, she still showed great anxiety when being groomed and saddled, but eventually, the anxiety eased when she learned most grooming sessions were simply that, and rides were mostly easy walks through the forest. Almost five years of calm passed before once again, Ruby had to move on to a new home. Her humans sold their property and moved back to the city, leaving her behind with a kind new owner who was pleased to have her as an occasional riding partner and pasture mate for her gelding.

Ruby stayed there for only a year or two, and then once more, she was rehomed—sent to a friend on Vancouver Island, full circle it seemed, to a place that could be her forever home at last. She didn’t have equine company there, a situation most horses (being herd animals) would find lonesome, but she had a cow to share her pasture and, I’m told, she accepted this.

More years passed. In 2020, Ruby turned 28 years old. She was in good health, but her cow pal was gone, and her owner suffered an accident that left her with debilitating injuries. She loved Ruby but felt she could no longer care for her. Now what? Ruby’s future was uncertain.

Enter Kindred Community Farm Sanctuary. Dwell for a moment on the word “sanctuary”. It means a place of refuge, of safety. It is with great joy that I can share this wonderful farm has offered sanctuary to Ruby, a place that will surround her with love and care for the rest of her days and commit to never letting her down.

Ruby will still have work to do. No one will ever drive or ride her again, but she’ll join a small herd of two other horses in facilitating human healing. Kindred rescues and cares for farm animals, but the flip side of that coin is that they also bring damaged humans, large and small, into the company of animals that provide a healing presence. Horses like Ruby that have suffered trauma (both physically and mentally) are ideally suited to such work. A psychic connection, a mutual understanding, a wordless affinity can occur that bridges the gap between species and allows peace to enter.

Why am I sharing this? If you’ve read either of my books, Spiral or Coming Back, you might have guessed I’ve had horses in my life, but I was also one of Ruby’s owners along the way (can you guess which one?) and I’ve remained in love with her. Here’s a joyful old Cat Stevens song that plays in my head when I think of this sweet elder mare.

Ruby isn’t at home with Kindred quite yet, but plans are in the works to bring her there in the coming weeks. If you can, please donate to this wonderful sanctuary. A membership will bring you regular updates about the goings on at the farm. $5 a month as a “Coffee Club” patron provides ongoing care for their cows, chickens, ducks, bunnies, goat, sheep, and horses. And of course, donations also help the continuance of their programs for at risk children and traumatized humans. It’s a beautiful thing.

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