“I wanted a pony,” says Kathleen Schurman, owner of Locket’s Meadow Farm on Litchfield Turnpike since 2000. She grew up in Milford on the beach where she’d cordoned off a small area and kept a few goats and other small animals. So, when she and her husband, David Melina, wanted to expand their little animal habitat, they looked north and a little to the east for acreage and found exactly what they were looking for in Bethany. “I was working for the New Haven Register at the time and climbed the hill in my heels to get the full [breadth] of the land we were thinking of buying. I knew I had to have it. It was magical,” Kathleen remembers.
The farm was named Locket’s Meadow after a burro they adopted from Mimi and Jim Niederman on Sperry Road. “I had seen her in their field on my travels to and from New Haven….Jim vetted us very closely to be sure we were going to provide Locket a good home.”
And then the hard work began. Turning Locket’s Meadow into an animal rescue began quickly, and since 2000 Kathleen and David have rescued hundreds of horses, sheep, goats, roosters (used in cock fights), hens, dogs, cats, veal calves and just about any furry or feathered creature in desperate need of medical care, rehabilitation and a safe place to live. Some of the animals who are nursed back to health are trained to do important work at the farm. Some are adopted after Kathleen and David are absolutely sure their ‘baby’ will be given a good, loving home. Others who are too badly injured or sick receive medical attention, regular meals, lots of love and a safe place to live out their lives. A place where its human occupants are dedicated solely to their health, comfort and wellbeing.
The work is hard and the workday very long; literally from dawn to dusk. Running a rescue farm is also very expensive. Kathleen said that at “any given time, they have between 130 and 150 rescues on the property, most of them with special needs, costing about $10,000 a month for hay and feed alone. Vet bills, farriers and other necessities add up to nearly another $10,000.”
Her stories about her rescues and the conditions under which these animals survived are heartbreaking and horrifying and one wonders how she is able to turn off the nightmarish memories in order to maintain her sanity. “I just keep working,” she says, explaining that keeping busy and saving the ones she can is the way she copes. Many of her rescues come from out of state. Her PMUs as she calls them…pregnant mares raised in Canada and cauterized to extract their urine from which Big Pharma makes hormone replacement therapy drugs such as Premarin. These mares live in horrendous conditions and are slaughtered once they are no longer pregnant. Their foals, if not rescued, are also destroyed.
But some of her rescues are local. A while back, she was called to a property in Bethany where someone discovered a horse was being kept in a makeshift shed. When she arrived, she found that the horse had been so neglected that she was knee deep in her own excrement and had to be carefully dug out. She was malnourished, dehydrated with abscesses under her hooves and a very bad skin infection. “She was so dirty that we couldn’t tell what color she was.” That horse, Cheyenne, required extensive medical care and because of the abscesses, had to be fitted for special shoes with gel inserts in order to walk even short distances for her exercise therapy. Today, Cheyenne is healthy and can even be ridden, but only occasionally and slowly in a walk/trot. Her feet have remarkably recovered.
The farm offers a series of activities which enable people to experience this ‘magical’ place. There are drum circles for kids. Some horses are trained to provided therapy (mounted and ground) for autistic and Down syndrome adults and special needs and underprivileged children. You’ll find goat yoga classes with adorable goats and other furry animals on Saturday mornings, weather permitting, riding lessons for every level of experience (including none at all), and horsemanship classes for those who want to understand and care for horses but are not yet ready to mount up.
Locket’s Meadow is a 501c(3) non-profit organization so donations are tax deductible. But until they pay off the mortgage, the farm cannot file under this tax code so they are responsible for municipal taxes totaling almost $25,000 and the security of the rescue farm is tenuous. But once the farm is able to file as 501c(3) Kathleen and David will rest easy knowing that it will remain a safe harbor long after they are able to continue their work. So to earn enough to keep all this going, both Kathleen and David also have jobs. David holds a BS degree from Yale University and does strategic analysis and financial planning for his clients. Kathleen, an author, has an MS in Journalism from Quinnipiac University. She wrote the Locket’s Meadow series set at the farm and prominently features her rescued “babies” as her characters. She is working on the fourth book in the series.
Kathleen’s love for her animals and the symbiosis that exits between them is palpable. She literally communicates with them heart to heart and understands their needs. The extent to which she is willing to go to rescue and care for an animal in need, places her on a higher plane of existence than most of us in modern society. And for that reason, the Bethany Democratic Town Committee is proud to announce that Kathleen Schurman is the 2019 Citizen of the Year. Please join us as we honor her life and work at the annual spaghetti supper on Saturday, March 30 at 6PM. Tickets are on sale for $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), $8 (children under 12) and $25 (Patrons). Tickets include all-you-can-eat spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, garlic bread, salad, dessert, coffee, tea and soft drinks. Wine and cheese will be served at 6PM with dinner following. For tickets, please call Carol Goldberg on 203-393-0350.