Beth, Laura and Grandma with Macaroni in the 70's
I lived and breathed horses as a youngster. I read about horses, thought about horses, pretended I was a horse. I had had lessons on a paint called Sam before my father left when I was seven. My great grandmother said I had an old soul. I was always very responsible and serious. As the oldest of four children, left with a mother who was a bit less than responsible, I stepped up into the adult rule to raise my brothers and sisters. I never thought that any one realized it. In middle school I had a scary health teacher. One day in class I could not stop coughing. She followed me into the hallway and talked to me about how I was missing school to care for my younger siblings but no one was caring for me. I was also painfully shy and very quiet. I found it hard to believe that she seemed to know what was going on. At 12 years old I became the only one in the family to work. I had a newspaper route, every morning before school I delivered papers. After school I delivered papers. Then I did my home work.
When I was 14 years old my 'Uncle' Danny' (My mother's best friend's husband) and my grandparents arranged for me to have a pony. Uncle Danny's sister had horses so I think maybe it had been theirs. My grandparents agreed to pay to board the pony. I had always been a favorite of my grandparents. I was blessed to have such thoughtful and kind people around me. My mother named the pony, Macaroni. She said the Kennedy's had had a pony named Macaroni. Also she recited the song, " Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a pony, stuck a feather in its cap and called it Macaroni", thusly. So the pony was called Macaroni. My favorite food is pasta so it was approriate. I was able to visit Macaroni over the next year or so. There are still songs that I hear that take me back to the drive to the barn where Macaroni was stabled. I was very blessed.
Before I was born my parents were stationed in Germany. They came back with a black German Shepard named Trixie. She was my big sister growing up and started my love of big dogs. From the start I was addicted to horses. To this day I tell directions by the horses along the route. I read everything I could get my hands on about horses and other animals. In Junior and Senior High School I spent my study halls reading about wildlife and then writing fictional stories based on the animals I had studied. In the early days before my father left I took riding lessons on a palomino pinto called Sam, Sam was great for a horse crazy child. I went back to that place once when I was a little older and although there were new owners Sam was still there.
At home there was always an assortment of dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and more. I had a penchant for collecting wild things, raising and releasing them. There was a myriad of baby and injured birds. I raised a litter of possums once, which had been rescued from their dead mothers pouch in a rain gutter. The possums were messy, homely little things. They did well though and were finally turned over to a nature center to be released. They said they had never seen such healthy looking possums. Later, soon before our move to NY there was a half grown racoon which must have been released but still craved attention. Rascal moved into the house with us. She was pretty awesome except that she did not like my stepfather. She would hide in his closet and then dive out and bite his ankles. She went her own way before we moved.
After I was married we worked a couple of years on a horse farm in PA. While there I raised a tiny featherless sparrow, which we called Fred. Although most of his diet consisted of bugs and bits of meat and meal, I do remember one time that I gave it a piece of spaghetti and we could track that though his digestive system. Despite the spaghetti Fred grew into an adult female sparrow. She learned to fly. I would take her out with me in the morning and let her go where she liked. If I called Fred would come, land on my arm and go back inside with me. This went on most of the summer. Then one day I saw a cat stalking her. I hollered and grabbed for the cat. Fred flew away but never came back to me after that.
"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." Henry David Thoreau How very true this statement is.
My name is Laura. I live in central New York State with my husband of 30 years, Kevin, our two boys Clay 21 and Austin 19, as well as a farm load of animals. I grew up in Pompton Lakes, NJ. I graduated from Pompton Lakes High School and then moved to the rural central New York region. Once in NY I graduated from Morrisville State College with an AAS degree in Equine Science. While still attending college I posted a job wanted ad and got two replies. The ad said that I was seeking to work with Standardbred horses. One of the replies was from a trainer at a county fair track. The other was from a breeding farm. That was my dream job and that is the one I took. I met my husband at this farm and we are still here 35 years later.
One of my great grandfathers had raced standardbreds in the streets on Paterson, NJ. I had always loved horses and had a special attraction for Standardbreds. I had a cousin who was born one month after me. We were close growing up. One of her first jobs was also on a standardbred farm. Standardbreds are amazing horses. They can and will do whatever you ask of them. They are very willing to please and easy to work around. There are exceptions to every rule, but in general I found standardbreds to be everything I dreamed they would be. They also can look like almost any other breed. I have seen the old stereotypical jughead standardbred, but I have also seen standardbreds which look like quarter horses, arabs, morgans, and throughbreds. I have rarely regretted my decision to work with standardbreds and to live and work on Southwind Farms. It was an honor to work with Connie and Allen Skolnick. Their loss is still keenly felt.
In addition to working with standardbreds we have always had beef cattle on the farm. In 1989 we added Jacob Sheep. The Skolnicks had seen them while traveling in Chesham, England and I was able to find some and gave them their first Jacob as a Hanukkah gift. We have had all manner of other animals and livestock since then. There have been peafowl, chickens, ducks, rabbits, chinchilla, quail, pheasants, chukkar, ducks, geese, swans, dogs, cats, llamas, alpaca, donkeys, ponies, mini horses, full size horses, a draft, pigs, goats and tortoises. In the late 90's the Skolnicks returned from another trip to England talking about Golden Guernsey Goats. It took a long time but we were finally able to get some pregnant reciients carrying these rare goats. To this day Southwind Farms is the only farm in North America where purebred Golden Guernsey Goats are raised.
I am a daughter of God. I am a wife and a mother. I am an animal lover. I have devoted my life to the care and well being of animals. Each one has taught me valuable lessons. Each loss tore a piece from my heart. You are welcome to share some of my experiences here on this page.