You may not realize it but there really are angels among us. No, I haven’t gone religious on you. I’m talking about the regular men, women and children that step forward to help others facing adversity. In this case, I’m thinking of Hurricane Irene and the destructive path she left in the northeast. People and their animals were suddenly homeless and they’re considered the lucky ones. Amid the devastation I witnessed signs of hope. Small things that businesses or individuals thought could help relieve the burden. A place to spend the night, a dollar donation to buy paper for children attending school or selling a poster to help rebuild.

Today, I’d like to focus your attention on Claudia Tarlov, now known as The Hay Lady. She set up a hay donation area at the NEDA Fall Festival in New York and then drove her trailer to Vermont to those hardest hit by the storm. I’d like to share the photos and thank you note that Claudia received but before I do I’d like to thank all of you. In your own way you’re all angels.

Thank You

To those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ann Brown from Brookside Stables in Wilmington, Vermont. Our farm has been owned and operated by three generations on land that has been in the family for over 100 years. Our main goal is to provide solid instruction for youth from the very start of their horse career and to assist the everyday rider with practical common sense horsemanship, to create a better partnership with their horse. My daughter Melissa Elliot, Shelby Lawrence (ShelbyLoo’s Ponies), and I together have 21 horses here on our property and currently offer lessons, training, and boarding year round.

Like many others in Vermont, August 28th was a day we will never forget. We are in a low-lying area and though our barn has never before flooded, we had between 3-6 feet of water rise into our various buildings within an hour of the first trickle. When we realized the possible extent of what could be happening, we immediately started moving our horses to evacuate. With only a 3-horse trailer and water waist deep, we knew trailering to a nearby farm was not nearly quick enough. So several of us started taking two each in hand and running them up the road to safety. Amazingly, a neighboring farm had an empty horse barn with 12 standing stalls we could fill. With six others already trailered elsewhere, we had three left with no choice but to place them in the trailer up the hill from the barn while the water continued to rise. I have never appreciated the generosity and patience of every single one of our animals more than that Sunday. We lost hay, bedding, and all of our pasture fencing. We have soaked gritty tack and equipment in piles. But every single one of our animals is safe and sound. We are incredibly thankful that the flooding came on during the day, and have to actively stop saying ‘what if, what if’. I still can’t walk into my indoor ring without feeling the tears coming back. We had 7 horses temporarily stabled there during the storm and every time I see the 6 ft water mark I stress over what they would have went through if we were not able to get them out.

And then we have had angels appearing. We cannot give enough thanks to the volunteers who have shown up in droves to pitch in to get us back on our feet. Whether it is a strong back to help us clean, tractors to help scrape the sludge off the field, or donations of hay, such as the incredible and generous load of hay that Claudia from Turtle Hollow Dressage brought down for us this week.  Prior to the flood, we had a large amount of grazing space with all of our horses on fulltime grass. With the amount of contaminates floating through our fields they are off limits until at least spring, putting us far far over our estimated hay usage for the year. When Claudia, who has no ties to our barn, called to say she was organizing a hay drive at the dressage show, we were blown away by the generosity. To anyone who pitched in to contribute what amounted to be an incredible 160 bales of hay, several bags of shaving, and a sack of apples, we want to send out the biggest thank you we possibly can. If you are ever in the area, come visit us and let us pass on the hugs and thank you’s that you really deserve. And if you are ever in need, we are here to do our best to ‘pay it forward’. Check us out at and keep in touch!