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home : columns : columns May 24, 2016

6/17/2014 1:42:00 PM
Sisters steps up in time of need
Julie Hooks and her ultra-runner son hit the road at McKenzie Pass. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Julie Hooks and her ultra-runner son hit the road at McKenzie Pass. photo provided

By Julie Hooks

2006. I was sitting in my West Virginia cabin reading the most beautiful book, which had me gasping for air. The book was Hope Rising by Bend's very own Kim Meeder. Like Kim, I had a very rough childhood where horses were my only refuge.

Helping people through horses! The idea did not leave my mind as we put our home up for sale during the crash of 2008, nor did it leave as we handed over our keys to the mortgage company when the house would not sell.

An opportunity fell into my lap right away. The nonprofit Human Animal Bond had an 1895 log lodge, built by a horse-loving priest as a retreat for priests from all over the world. Neglected for several decades, it was due to be a community center for those in need. Our family resided there for almost three years, with me being able to indulge in my passions: Frugal rustic remodeling and volunteering.

"I can not repay you, Julie! I have no money, I have nothing to give! Thank you!" These desperate words came from a woman I was helping to re-home her beloved horses. Her peace of mind was more than enough for me. There were so very many other cases, thousands of hours were spent volunteering, and I loved this new way of living!

We moved to Oregon two years ago in order for our son to pursue his goal of becoming a professional runner. We have moved five times since arriving in Oregon, looking for the right fit for our family.

The plan was to spend the last two months on a Bend ranch in order for my son to train for the Smith Rock Ascent race while we trained our horses for their first endurance race. One month in, while we were away from the ranch, our horses were attacked several times by dogs. Although the ranch owners graciously paid for all expenses, we needed to find a safe place for our horses immediately.

Bend Equine Vet responded right away to heal the deep wounds. Roni Massingale-Keithcart and her son Connor, a gifted horse trainer, of Circle R Riders, cheerfully delivered my horses to their new home with unbelievable patience in the most nerve-wracking time of my life.

As for the new temporary home - I placed an ad on Craigslist and the responses from Sisters residents poured in within minutes of my posting! I called Mustangs to the Rescue and they were on the ball immediately. They did not know me, they did not know of the thousands of hours I had put in helping horses in need.

Mustangs to the Rescue highly recommended Shari Maguire's Rolling M Ranch in Sisters. We pulled into the ranch with the fading light of dusk, and our horses stepped off the trailer sporting thickly bandaged legs. Shari welcomed us with open arms and a teaching heart. This woman runs the delightful CardioStart Resale shop, which is a medical charity. Kurt, a farrier, kindly took days to trim my traumatized horses' feet.

I learned Shari knew Kim Meeder. Kim Meeder, who's book had moved me to years of action all the way on the other side of the country!

This giving circle had finally come to a close.

"How can I ever repay you? I have no way." Only now, I see that it is not a closed circle at all; this selfless giving is more akin to concentric ripples in a pond. They grow after a crash of something heavy enough to break through the calm peace of a water's surface. Although the initial crash, or splash, may be violent enough to disturb the peace, the multiplying circles spread a growing beauty, which affects the surroundings without an immediate end.

On Tuesday, June 10, we rode our horses through Sisters on an expedition ride to McKenzie Bridge. Smiling men working on the road immediately stopped their equipment when our horses spooked out of their skins at a loud sound. Jokes were shared with cyclists when we stopped at Sisters Coffee for lunch, and then the ladies at Richard's Produce were so full of joy to meet our horses - and our horses were happy to meet them.

One of the main reasons I love to go on expedition rides are the people whom have never been up close and personal with a horse before. Even though we had miles to go, I relaxed into a conversation with a lovely Sisters lady. White of hair, she had always wanted to ride, but she felt she was past that age now. Taking her time, she stroked my mare's neck and when she did step away, my mare turned her head and softly nickered to her. Perhaps this lady will answer the call when helping hands are needed.

I strongly feel that in order to care for something, you must have a connection. I want for people to care for seemingly unwanted horses.

Up the pass we trotted, my son running beside us. We could see our little dog could take the heat radiating off the pavement no more and he was lifted up to ride with my daughter. He repaid her horse with a good tongue grooming which sent us into uncontrollable laughter. The occasional cyclist stopped to speak and reach out a hand to pet our sweaty steeds; they now had a connection.

Tony, from the Highway 242 road crew, pulled his rig up and stepped out to chat horses for a spell. He clearly knew them, by his approach and his questions. He sure had kind eyes.

I want to continue to give without expectations of thanks. I want to live among those who feel the same. We have found our home, for after months of traveling the West yet again for my son's racing schedule, we shall settle among our people in Sisters. Thank you, dear residents for showing your kindness in our time of need!

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