Rosalyn W. Berne
Author, Scholar, Equine Empath
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Willow Oak Farm

Willow Oak Farm

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OUR JOURNEY TO WILLOW OAK FARM

As this year began, my husband and I were living happily in an “eco-community” on the Rivanna River in Charlottesville, Virginia. Had you told us then we’d be living on Willow Oak Farm, with three horses, we might have given you a blank look.  In town we had close neighbors, strolled to nearby restaurants or along the paved path winding by the river. It was a pleasant urban life; but without horses our daily chores were minimal. We’ve since learned what it’s like to wake early or work past dark for pasture-picking, or manure spreading, or checking to be sure the water in the stock tank is not frozen, or repairing fences and gates, or picking horse’s hoofs. It’s work—and we wouldn’t change a thing about this new life (well, a bigger tractor might help)! We now open the front door to gaze across a lush pasture at the sun setting behind the majestic Willow Oak at our farm’s entrance. The back porch receives sunrises over the run-in sheds and horses being themselves in the back paddocks. Near the barn we have a round pen where we work with humans and equines in support of journeys to wholeness. Finding and purchasing Willow Oak was a guided miracle that tells us this is the life meant for us. But that’s another story.


INTRODUCING THE HERD

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RAVEN

On a visit to the Virginia Equine Welfare Society (VEWS), a horse rescue facility in Ashland, Virginia, I used my Equine Empath abilities to help a traumatized horse. While in dialogue with another resident horse, I felt a mare named Raven come up right behind me, her head at my shoulder and the side of her body against my back. “I’m the horse you’ve been waiting for,” I heard Raven say.  "Take me with you and I will help you to deepen your work,” she continued. Two months later I returned to VEWS with a friend and her trailer. We were there so I could adopt Raven and bring her back with me. Raven was the horse I’d dreamed of having, way back when I was a girl of 12 years old. My husband and I were living in a house in the city, so I had to put Raven in a boarding facility, a distance of 45 minutes away by car. But over time, I longed to see her every day. So we sold our home in town and bought Willow Oak Farm. Now we all live together in the same place. 

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RUBY

Ruby is the "traumatized, struggling" horse I originally went at the VEWS. After learning from VEWS folks that Ruby's condition had since improved, we adopted Ruby to be Raven’s pasture mate. Ruby has shifted from a frightened, sometimes snippy and aggressive mare, to a gentle, sweet, happy companion for us all.

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NASH

Life at Willow Oak was going well for Ruby and Raven. But husband Bill thought we needed “more masculine energy” on the farm. I agree. We found Nash, a 16 hand quarter-horse appendix, living on the south side of the James River on the historic Belmead, a former plantation now horse boarding facility. It didn’t take long at all for Nash to establish himself as leader in our small herd. And within a day of his arrival, Raven, feeling relieved and safe with Nash nearby, laid herself down on the ground to rest.  She had never done that before!

Photography by Kaya Berne