I recently spent an afternoon warmed by sun beams in a horse pasture. This was a very special horse pasture tended by the Bonney’s, two New York city-ites transplanted to a lackadaisical pace nestled among the mountain peaks of Gunnison, Colorado. Timothy Bonney a warm-hearted, soulfelt man with a soothing voice, who upon encounter emanates a sense of calm and openness is professionally an OB-GYN doctor. Tim’s wife and partner is Terry a trained concert pianist, possessing a bright spirit and an intense energy in caring for animals. The two urban cowboys took to the slower pace of life and cultivated an awareness of their new digs and so began the, Safe Harbor Ranch. The ranch “exists for the sole purpose of providing rest, rehabilitation and retirement for Gunnison’s hard-working ranch animals.”
My cohorts and I arrived to Safe Harbor Ranch in the mid-afternoon and we were joyously greeted by two Australian Shepherds headed for us at full tilt, tongues lolling. Following behind, arrived Tim and Terry clad in Carhart plaid jackets and dusty work boots. Introductions and handshakes were exchanged and before we knew it each of us were donning the same plaid Carhart jackets and with buckets and brushes in our hands the jaunt to the pasture ensued.
Tim gave us a brief overview of the Ranch and our first horse encounter was with Chico, a richly hued chestnut. Chico was quite friendly and enjoyed rubbing is muzzle against Tim’s shoulder. Tim explained how the inhabitants of Safe Harbor are all rescue animals, saved from abuse, neglect and even death. In Chico’s case he suffers from brain injuries and is not quite ‘all there’. However, Chico enjoyed a good scratch behind the ear and plenty of alfalfa treats!
Our jaunt continued toward the main pasture in which a new horse (with vision issues) was released into the herd that day. There was an apparent energy abuzz, in the pasture, as the horses were re-evaluating their rank with this new introduction to the herd. Tim explained that we had to slowly make our presence known and if any issues arose to stand our ground with our arms raised above our heads (note taken.) Fortunately there were no stampedes or nervous action!
I have little to nil experience with horses other than observing them in fields and a one hour horse back ride on a local dude ranch in Michigan, this was a thrilling experience to be amongst an entire herd of horses! My first encounter was with a very tall and dark male, Ace and a beautifully gray dappled Arabian Jou (sp) (seen above)
I was struck with the Arabian’s dappled coat and prancy stance. Tim noted that Arabian’s will always hold their tails up when striding and are known for their flawless gait and good feet. I was able to brush her coat and attempt to untangle the silvery-blonde furls of her wind-whipped mane.
My next encounter led me to understand the difference between horses and mules, for those of you, who like myself, did not know this here you have it….mules are offspring of male donkey’s and female horses. I was able to tell the difference between mules and horses by their ears, mules’ ears are elongated and lengthen more from the side of the head, whereas horse’s ears are shorter and more triangular.
My mule of choice was Irene an older, bedraggled, pure white and oh so shedding lady. Irene was a former trick mule and not cared for very well. I noticed her scarring most likely from rough handling during her trick days. Irene was shy at first but I built up her trust in me and before long we felt like old friends, me brushing her coat, she nuzzling me with her fuzzy nose.
An interesting sensation overtook me in the middle of Safe Harbor pasture while brushing Irene. I felt myself in a state of pure calm while softly talking to a horse. I was there with Irene, eye to eye her’s encased with long white lashes, simply talking. It became an impromptu therapeutic experience as I felt the harmonious connection between human and horse. Almost as if we had a mutual understanding. I was there for her and she for me and in that moment that was all that existed, the calm and peace of just right then, nothing to worry about in the future and nothing to hang on to from the past.
A good three hours flew by while brushing and loving the horses that afternoon. I was covered in Irene’s white hairs, my fingers tainted brown from petting her dusty coat, made me smile. As I walked away she followed me, I was saddened to let her down by leaving, yet content in what I’d discovered today and how I felt.
I had a new-found respect for the Bonney’s and a feeling of…wow, what a meaningful life they are providing for these animals and a sense that the Bonney’s have it figured out for themselves. They’ve found content in simply extending a hand to help.
On our way out we met up with the two llamas Otis and Elvis, Elvis has a lame foot and Otis well, when you look it him you just want to laugh because he is ridiculous in a good way– a lopsided grin and floofed fur atop his head:
For those of you interested in learning more about Safe Harbor Ranch check out their website here, keep up with animal news and if the spirit leads make a donation to the animals.
“The Safe Harbor Ranch gratefully accept donations of hay, feed, medical care, or any financial contributions animal lovers can offer. All donations are tax-deductible. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about our work, the animals currently enjoying Safe Harbor Ranch, the environment and care we provide, or your needs. We are very thankful for your interest.”
I strongly suggest taking a moment to seek out an organization in your area like the Bonney’s or just go visit the Bonney’s! It is evident that each mule, horse, dog, goat and llama not only have a safe haven under the care of the Bonney’s but also a special place in their hearts.