Interview with Melanie Monge:

what inspired you to create heartspace horse sanctuary?

Young Melanie on her first horse, Speck.

Young Melanie on her first horse, Speck.

 

It all started when…

“Ever since I saw my very first horse as a very young child I was in love with them. From that point forward I wanted a horse in my life. I wouldn’t let it go. No-one else in my family knew anything about horses and my father always had a good reason why I couldn’t have one. Not to mention the expense, and we didn’t have a place to keep one. He seemed to convince me we needed our own property to have one. When my brother, Tom, and his wife, Cindy, purchased a farm complete with a horse barn, again, I wouldn’t let it go. Fortunately, they thought it would be cool to have horses as well. My Dad talked to Ralph Stropes and he brought two “gentle” horses down from the barn further up the road from Tom’s. Ralph tacked Jake up, I got on(with no previous training and in my mind I didn’t need any) and went down the road with him. He proceeded to take off running really fast and I couldn’t stop him. Our brother, Randy, jumped on the other horse and ran down the road to “rescue” me. He pulled on the reins and we stopped. I’ll never forget that, I held on with good balance and it was like something out of a movie. I never really felt comfortable on Jake again but there were finally horses around and just being around them was fine with me.

Young Melanie with two of her first horses.

Young Melanie with two of her first horses.

While in Junior high school, and after trail riding out at Delshire Stables, I fell in love with a very skinny appaloosa name Speck. He wasn’t in the regular string because he loved to run and had a difficult time maintaining weight. I must have been born a rescuer because he needed rescuing and I was up to the task. After much persuasion my father let me get him along with a brand new saddle. On our first ride he also took off on me which I worked very hard at disguising, I already was in love with Speck and I wasn’t going to let something like that take him away from me. We became fast friends and partners and spent the next several years exploring every inch of the 700 acre McNaughton Park in Central Illinois. My friend Joellen and I grew up there; I know it saved us in so many ways. Our horses were our best friends. They listened, boosted our confidence, made hard times bearable and they always gave us a mane to cry into. They never judged or told us what we could or couldn’t do. The sky was always the limit!!

Young Melanie and Speck.

Young Melanie and Speck.

Later in high school I decided I wanted to train and raise a filly (young female horse). Eventually I found and purchased Polka, a one year old appaloosa. We became fast friends! So much so that Speck would no longer do anything for me or even look me in the eye. He quickly became my boyfriend’s (at the time) horse. Even though I didn’t ignore Speck or treat him any differently he wanted me all to himself. One time when I tried to ride him he wouldn’t move at all even with strong encouragement. Then “his guy” walked out in front of him and he followed him without even being coaxed. Ok, I get it, he’s not my horse anymore. Later, when I went to college my father sold him. I was heartbroken. Though I understand that my Dad didn’t want to pay for my boyfriend’s horse I always assumed I would care for him the rest of his life. What happened to him? Was he ok and in a good home? These questions still haunt me!

Melanie and Speck.

Melanie and Speck.

It seems the longterm fate of a horse has so many unknowns. Unless you care for them their entire lives or make sure they are placed into a forever home, many end up in the slaughter house or in some pasture without proper care and nutrition. Not to mention the loneliness they feel from being isolated from people they’ve grown to love as well as their other herd members. Horses, most generally, do not like to be alone. Some may get lucky but the majority end up in less than ideal circumstances. If you have the ability to care for your horse their entire lives, do so! They deserve it and they need someone to advocate for them. I know many people who has had a beloved horse whose parents sold them without even thinking about that horses’ fate. It haunts those people to this day. I know because I am one of them.

HeartSpace from the beginning.

HeartSpace from the beginning.

A few years later I bred Polka and 11 months later Honey was born. These two horses became my entire life. I love them still. Saving me from so much, as I grew into adulthood, they made my heart burst with love and affection.”

Polka and newborn Honey

Polka and newborn Honey

Heartbreak, that lead to healing…

“We (Polka, Honey and I) went through so much together and here is another sad story. When they were older they developed moon blindness. They were able to navigate the home they had always known. However, later when we decided to move our family (I was married with three children) to Colorado and we felt the best option was to leave them in the place they knew as home. The people who were renting agreed to care for them, a win-win, right? My father-in-law would check on them and each time when I asked about them he said they were good as far as he knew. I kept pressing and eventually he sent me a letter saying that he had given them away to some people he saw at a diner with an empty horse trailer. He had done this months before the letter and didn’t even get their contact info or know where they were going to. There was no way of knowing where they were or what their fate had been or was to be. One horse was in her 20’s and the other in her late teens, they had moon blindness. Were they scared? How could I have betrayed them? I became hysterical, feeling so horribly sad, helpless and angry, I felt like my heart had been ripped out. Actually, it had! I also felt I should make sure this did not happen ever again! It took me over a month to write a letter to my father-in-law explaining that they were my responsibility and not at all his. Why hadn’t he let me take charge and figure out the next step? He really felt he was doing us a favor. I knew right then and there that I would never ever let anything like that happen again! They did not deserve that fate, though I tried to imagine them going to a lush pasture somewhere, being loved and cared for until their last breath. This is how I made it through each day though I knew deep down that this, most likely, was not the case. I carried this guilt around for years and years. Even now, it haunts me and chokes me up. I never meant for that to happen to them, I loved them so incredibly much! I also realized that not everyone looks at horses the way I do. They are sentient beings, very loyal and faithful! Living, breathing beings who do more for people than anyone seems to realize. They do what the really don’t have to. They love their humans and their herd. If they do have issues it’s because of humans not in spite of them!

Melanie, with her young daughters, riding Polka.

Melanie, with her young daughters, riding Polka.

I vowed if I ever got another horse I would keep it for it’s entire life! I also really wanted to be able to help others that needed a good home to live out their lives. Elderly horses need special care. Often their teeth become less than ideal and need dentals by a veterinarian and special feed once they are unable to chew properly. I also began to realize (after losing a horse here at the Sanctuary from natural causes) that many people get rid of their aging horse because it’s too difficult for them to deal with their inevitable death. It is a big deal to take care of the logistics of a horse that has passed. In our society it is also something few are comfortable confronting and planning for, death. For many, it’s better to pretend death doesn’t exist. Get rid of the horse before I have to deal with that! Though they may not consciously realize this it is a big factor of why people get rid of their aging horse. They also have this great excuse of not being able to care for it anymore. In some cases, this may be true due to changing circumstances, but for the most part they’re off to buy another and care for it. Horses aren’t disposable pieces of machinery, they are living, breathing, feeling animals and deserve to be treated with respect and honor. Every horse, pony, donkey, mule(all living beings)have a right to live out their lives with plenty of food, shelter, water and love. Often they are trapped in circumstances beyond their control without the necessary resources available to them. Not having a voice they rely heavily on their humans to care for them. I aim to give them a voice and help others to learn to give them a voice too.

Young Melanie and Polka.

Young Melanie and Polka.

I have always desired to help “unwanted” horses. The thought of them being “unwanted” breaks my heart. Here they are all loved and cared for in the best and most natural way possible within our available resources. Though I am not an “expert” by any means, I draw on the expertise of veterinarians, holistic practitioners and professional farriers to take over where I’m limited. I do, however, have a connection and strong intuition regarding the animals here and am able to connect with them on a deep level. I am part of their herd, they are part of mine.

Young Melanie with Speck

Young Melanie with Speck

I’ve never met a horse I didn’t like. In fact, I love every single one of them. I wish I could save them all, though I am limited as to resources available to me. I hope to be able to expand that through building awareness in others and getting those who feel as strongly as I do about this to become involved. Because I love all animals it makes it challenging to put a limit as to how many I can have here. Realistically I am at capacity but willing to expand when possible. I have a limited number of equines here and see to it that each one is cared for as to their specific needs. This includes a special mash for Val who doesn’t have many molars to grind hay or grass. She still chews on grass but spits it out so she doesn’t choke. She needs this mash twice daily to sustain her and keep her healthy as she approaches her 30 year birthday. She’s incredibly healthy in all other ways though that was not the case when she came here. They all have good quality hay(low sugar for those who need that), fresh water and supplements designed to meet their individual needs. There are also two older equines(a gelding and a pony) who are on expensive Cushing’s medication. Since being prescribed this medication and taking it for several months now I notice great improvement in both horses. I try to work with supplements and natural remedies for the most part but sometimes western medicine is necessary, I trust my vet in these cases.”

Melanie and Prema in Sedona, Arizona.

Melanie and Prema in Sedona, Arizona.

Finding her Heart and her Sanctuary…

“The term “HeartSpace” came to me while doing my coaching work with the horses. When I took the year long course in 2009 we did a leading exercise in which you lead the horse while “being” in your head, then in your center or dahn tien, and next in your heart. After experiencing each you move on to working with all three together. The differences are amazing and quite enlightening to the horse work. I started to experiment with the being in your heart approach to my horses at home. Noticing a big difference in their reaction and connection to me when I was in a hurry or scattered and, in contrast, when I was in my heart. I tried it over and over and always found they were much more receptive to me on all levels when I was in my heart. When in my head, especially, and in a hurry they were not at all and often even grouchy and evasive. This fascinated me and brought me into my heartspace more and more often . The Institute of Heart Math has proven the physical health benefits of being in your heartspace as well as how it contributes to your overall well being. They even have an app for your phone that monitors the length of time you are able to stay within your heartspace. Prompting you to breathe into your heart and picture scenes/ memories that evoke happy feelings allowing you to be able to sustain a more heightened state of being. Having a daily practice of this creates an overall healthier state for the body, mind and spirit.

Melanie riding Prema in Oregon City, Oregon.

Melanie riding Prema in Oregon City, Oregon.

The idea of starting a Sanctuary has always been a dream of mine. Though I finally began to pursue it when I realized I needed more horses to do the horse guided education component. Working with clients can be taxing on just two horses, they all have their good days and bad days, just like humans. I learned this the hard way. After working with a client that had an eating disorder, Prema colicked. She recovered after a bit of a struggle and taught me a valuable lesson. Taking the time to do after care with the horses, assessing their needs and providing for them was essential. Colic can be fatal in horses and it really scared me, I didn’t want that to happen to her(or any other horse) again from doing this work. After that I learned how to better support the horses along with realizing how important it would be to grow my herd. That meant finding a larger property, I was maxed out at my small place in Oregon City.

Blue-eyes Scout.

Blue-eyes Scout.

A few months later I found my current property in Central Oregon. This is definitely horse country with a climate more conducive to horse’s well being; plenty of hay, irrigation and lots of places to ride. The last three years have been spent rehabilitating the horses I have rescued, helping them to be more sound in body, mind and spirit. I’ve also spent a substantial amount of time and money getting my property into a safe and more functional condition. New fencing, shelters, water and electric to the paddocks are just some of the improvements we have made here. It’s important to me that all of the horses feel like they are in a natural herd situation even though some are separated out for safety and health/feeding purposes. No one is ever alone unless injured or ill. Even then we have it set up so they can see the other horses and are more able to relax and feel safe.

HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon

HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon

A growing herd of healing…

After I bought the property I met a woman who knew herbs and holistic practices. She had 11 horses she needed to board. Knowing she was in a challenging situation financially I agreed to let her bring them here and help me put things in order as well as taking care of them physically. When I picked them up I was astounded as to their physical condition. They were in such poor condition I couldn’t sleep all night wondering how she could have let them get this way. She had them in her care for years and years. Putting all judgement aside I talked to her and she explained she wasn’t able to eat so they couldn’t either. That’s when I vowed to take care of these horses for the rest of their lives. They are such loving and beautiful souls, though it took awhile to see the glimmer in their eyes again. They had seen such hardship and had many a hungry and cold night. It took some time but, with the help of her father, she signed 8 of them over to me, the grateful 8. She moved on from there with her remaining three stallions. I wish I could have rescued them from her as well. I have not been able to locate them since.

The growing herd at HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary

The growing herd at HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary

The following year I found a donkey, Pedro, on craigslist who was badly in need of a home. When I first met him he put his big head in my arms. I told him I would be back in a few days to bring him home. Months later a photo of a gelding, Revel, from a rescue in the Portland area really called out to me. I went to see him and after a giant plea from him with his eyes, I made a promise to come back and bring him home. He was running out of time to find a home as a pasture companion. It turns out people tend to want a pasture pet to be flashy and “look good” out in their pasture. I never have acquired a horse because of the fact they would make me look good. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful animals but that’s never been my criterion for adopting one. Later in the year a woman contacting me about her niece’s welsh pony, Dakota, that was in dire need of a good home and proper nutrition. She was delivered in the fall. Another rescue organization in Hood River was dissolving because their owner, also a friend of mine, was moving to South America for health reasons. It was a no brainer to take her beloved Mother, Opal, and Opal’s daughter, Jewell. I also agreed to take Shadow, a Arab/Quarter gelding who has some neurological issues after mistreatment. She was really concerned about finding him a forever home as he was “un-adoptable”. He has since developed muscle and balance from living with other horses and running on grassy flat ground. I believe that rounds out our wonderful group of horses, ponies and lone donkey(though he is far from lonely, everyone loves Pedro). I must also mention that the first eight adopted(Val, Shekinah, Nehalem, Gracie, Poppy, Konah, Ali and Athena)are affectionately referred to as “The Grateful Eight”. Two of them, Ali and Konah, went to their forever home at my son and daughter-in-law’s place. They are loved and cared for to their heart’s content. They found their people and occasionally come here to visit their long time friends. Sadly, Athena crossed over the rainbow bridge naturally while living out on lush pasture and knowing she was loved and well cared for.”

Pedro with Melanie’s son and daughter-in-law at HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon

Pedro with Melanie’s son and daughter-in-law at HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon

The following year I found a donkey, Pedro, on craigslist who was badly in need of a home. When I first met him he put his big head in my arms. I told him I would be back in a few days to bring him home. Months later a photo of a gelding, Revel, from a rescue in the Portland area really called out to me. I went to see him and after a giant plea from him with his eyes, I made a promise to come back and bring him home. He was running out of time to find a home as a pasture companion. It turns out people tend to want a pasture pet to be flashy and “look good” out in their pasture. I never have acquired a horse because of the fact they would make me look good. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful animals but that’s never been my criterion for adopting one. Later in the year a woman contacting me about her niece’s welsh pony, Dakota, that was in dire need of a good home and proper nutrition. She was delivered in the fall. Another rescue organization in Hood River was dissolving because their owner, also a friend of mine, was moving to South America for health reasons. It was a no brainer to take her beloved Mother, Opal, and Opal’s daughter, Jewell. I also agreed to take Shadow, a Arab/Quarter gelding who has some neurological issues after mistreatment. She was really concerned about finding him a forever home as he was “un-adoptable”. He has since developed muscle and balance from living with other horses and running on grassy flat ground. I believe that rounds out our wonderful group of horses, ponies and lone donkey(though he is far from lonely, everyone loves Pedro). I must also mention that the first eight adopted(Val, Shekinah, Nehalem, Gracie, Poppy, Konah, Ali and Athena)are affectionately referred to as “The Grateful Eight”. Two of them, Ali and Konah, went to their forever home at my son and daughter-in-law’s place. They are loved and cared for to their heart’s content. They found their people and occasionally come here to visit their long time friends. Sadly, Athena crossed over the rainbow bridge naturally while living out on lush pasture and knowing she was loved and well cared for.”

Old gal, Val, with new “ranch hand”, Hansel the miniature dachshund.

Old gal, Val, with new “ranch hand”, Hansel the miniature dachshund.

love and care and so much more…

“The horses, ponies and donkey always have plenty of hay and water. They live outdoors in a herd setting with shelter and lots of room to roam on the 20 acres here. I group them together where they feel safe and relaxed with their companions. They can also see the other horses in neighboring paddocks. Some are grouped together because of their special feeding protocol. Many are required to be on dry lot because of their propensity to founder or gain too much weight while others may have continuous access to grass pastureland. Vitamins and minerals are given and tailored to their individual needs. Constantly monitored and ever changing depending on their needs. Two horses here are on medication for Cushing’s disease. I generally prefer to use natural ways to support illnesses but in this case, as it was recommended by our veterinarian, I chose to go the western medicine route. There have been positive changes in their condition and overall health as a result of taking it. The medicine is quite expensive but has proven to be quite effective.

Melanie working with Revel.

Melanie working with Revel.

Human contact is essential for their well being. They do not need to “have a job” or “be useful” they just need to be horses and know they can trust and feel safe around the humans who care for them. As prey animals, horses are constantly aware of their immediate surroundings and dangers. Striving to keep themselves and the other herd members safe, they take turns watching and alerting each other. It’s an instinctual way of being for them. This is how they have survived in the wild for all of these years. Though these horses aren’t wild they still have the same inner workings and genetic makeup. After all, wild horses were once domesticated.

Walking the “front” pasture HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon.

Walking the “front” pasture HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon.

Our farrier comes out on a regular basis to provide natural hoof care. They get trimmed every four to eight weeks depending on their individual needs. A veterinarian also gives regular dental exams and treatment as needed. Horses teeth continue to grow and with the differences in their diets, past nutrition or lack there of, and age they may develop points and waves in their teeth. This makes it uncomfortable to chew and sometimes even impossible because of the ulcers that ensue or because of loose and/or broken teeth. Elderly horses tend to suffer the most and simply do not get enough food and nutrition due to the condition of their teeth. When Val, our oldest horse who will be 30 in Feb., came here emaciated and would not eat. Her previous owner had not addressed this issue and she was grossly underweight. After having the vet out to look her over it was suggested her condition was solely due to the condition of her mouth and teeth. They extracted a few teeth and filed down all of the points. Her mouth was full of ulcers where the points had been digging in. No wonder she wouldn’t eat, she couldn’t because it was so painful. She is no longer in any pain and is back up to full weight and spunky as ever. She has run of the property when she wants to, so attentive and very cooperative, we love her here so much! However, if she ever stops eating again, which she has twice, I call the vet. There has always been another loose tooth to pull. After that she is right as rain again, eating to her heart’s content. Because she has lost most of her molars she is on a special diet of soaked and soupy alfalfa cubes(non gmo), beet pulp(non gmo)and some pelleted feed(also non gmo). She gets this twice daily which has been maintaining her weight perfectly. She also chews on hay and grass but will not swallow it because she can’t chew it up well enough. She has enough sense to spit it out and not choke. She’s been at this for a long time and knows how to survive. She’s one tough old Arab(plus a very sweet one at that).

Melanie and Savannah in the feed room, ensuring each horse gets their proper nutrition and supplements.

Melanie and Savannah in the feed room, ensuring each horse gets their proper nutrition and supplements.

A mobile veterinarian comes out here as needed for regular check ups and care as needed. We do what’s needed here without going overboard. They’ll live healthy and happy lives here but when it is time to say our goodbyes we will do so respectfully and gracefully. There are many alternative healing practices available to our horses as well. Reiki, essential oils, acupuncture, chiropractic, body work and the beemer treatment are to name a few that are used. Doing so on an as needed basis which may include a general tune-up to promote well being.

Ali strutting around HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon.

Ali strutting around HeartSpace Horse Sanctuary in Redmond, Oregon.

Natural horsemanship training methods are essential.I support trainers who follow Ray Hunt and Bill Dorrance, they were true pioneers of natural horsemanship.They care about the horses first noting that All horse “problems” originated from human problems. We’ve taken clinics from Buck Brannaman to further develop our “true feel” while working with and riding our horses. We have a few horses that are able to be ridden. We go on trail riding adventures to provide mental “therapy” to those who work here as well as for the horses. It’s good for the mind, body, spirit relationship.

Enjoying those magical Central Oregon sunsets.

Enjoying those magical Central Oregon sunsets.

Elsa Sinclair has been here many times working her magic on our most wary horses. Teaching us and demonstrating her freedom based training methods. It works quite well with horses of this nature and is done primarily “at liberty”. Her training requires patience and consistence, the horses need to feel safe and supported by the humans here. Trust is a key factor for both the horses and humans. Her methods go hand in hand with the coaching work I do with humans experiencing horses and horses experiencing humans. During the “boundary” work we explore each other’s boundaries, the horse sets the boundary when the human approaches the horse while the human sets the boundary as the horse approaches them. All boundaries must learn to be respected and not taken personally. This is a growth process for both human and horses. It’s quite amazing what may come up for either.

Melanie working with Athena.

Melanie working with Athena.

I would love for HeartSpace Sanctuary to be sustainable and live on for years to come. As a place for the horses to feel safe If there is no worry on the parts of the humans as to maintaining their optimal care. I’ve found worry from humans to be one of the most detrimental additions to their lives as horses. When we worry our horses truly feel it and take it on. As sentient beings they deserve to never have to worry where their next meal may be coming from. To be free from the abuse and neglect many humans either knowingly or unknowingly inflict on them is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Totally reliant on the humans that tend them they do not have other options. We are here to be sure they have the best possible options available. To live out the remainder of their lives in a safe and nurturing environment fills my heart with love and joy. Knowing I can help do this for them is the basis for starting this Sanctuary. I hope to spread the news further and help others to learn how to better care for their animals, teaching them the importance of making a lifetime commitment to the horse they adopt(purchase). To pay money for something doesn’t automatically make it a possession that’s disposable. Horses are living, breathing, feeling beings capable of great love, loyalty and trust. They deserve to be honored their entire lives.”

“They serve unconditionally, let us serve them unconditionally as well.”

Melanie, director at HeartSpace Horse Santuary, in Redmond, Oregon, with Prema and Scout

Melanie, director at HeartSpace Horse Santuary, in Redmond, Oregon, with Prema and Scout

The Story and Sanctuary continues, with help from You!