By Jen Russo
It’s feeding time for the horses at Kalee’s Retirement Stables, located in Lahaina just north and mauka of Puamana Park. It’s about the only time things get rowdy here. The horses follow Kalee around, jockeying for position and their preferred buckets.
“I have a pattern, and it keeps things calmer,” Kelee Farberow said. “Maka eats first. Then I put those two under the tree. This horse likes to eat slow, so I put him by himself so the other horses won’t rush his food. But Sparky can’t make up his mind–he thinks the food is different in all the buckets and will keep wandering.”
Farberow, a freshman at Lahainaluna High School, opened her stable for retired horses about five years ago.
Kalee and her dad Stuart Farberow (a Maui Police Officer) got the idea to create a refuge for horses that have spent on trail rides. Their first horse came from Ironwood Ranch in Napili, which agreed to give her one of their retired horses if they found the land to stable it.
“His name was Harrison,” Kalee said. “I just loved that horse. But unfortunately he got put down before I got him. But I told my dad this is what I want to do, and when I was nine we set up the stables.”
Kalee’s dad Stuart remembers Harrison as well.
“She was heartbroken about Harrison,” he said. “‘It just wasn’t fair,’ she said. ‘These horses work hard their whole lives and die in a stall. We have to fix this, Dad.’ I offered to buy her the best video gaming system, but she wanted a good place for these horses.”
Stuart said he really wasn’t sure what to do, so he contacted West Maui Land.
“I couldn’t have done it without help,” Stuart said. “I called Dave Minami, who works for West Maui Land and asked for help. He, in turn, asked the owners at West Maui Land if we could use some land. It was amazing. They got right back to me and offered these 15 acres to use and $200. If it wasn’t for West Maui Land I would not be here doing what we are doing.”
As the retired horse population increased, West Maui Land eventually gave Kalee’s Retirement Stables use of an additional 150 acres in Olowalu. Now the stables hold about 26 horses, plus lots of goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, dogs and turtles, which live in a pond.
Many of the animals show up injured or sick, donated without any funding for their care. Stuart said Peter Klein is the farrier that comes to help their horses and donates all of his time. Again, Stuart emphasized that he wouldn’t be able to care for these horses without such assistance. There are other angels, too, like a couple he knows as Mike and Angela who contribute a significant amount to the feed bill, one that routinely tops $3,000 a month.
Despite the fact that their stables need money, the Farberows have started raising money for the Kamehameha Elementary Special Education program. The reason is simple: Amanda Rake, a teacher in the program, called on the Farberows three years ago when she was looking into equestrian therapy for her students.
“I saw a TV show on horses working with autistic and special needs children,” Rake said.”There is lots of research and articles on the subject. Being around horses changes your brainwaves. Kids with autism have trouble speaking spontaneously, but the horses can bring on unrehearsed verbal behavior.”
Stuart and Kalee welcomed the students, and Rake brings them when she can. Rake said her kids love visiting the horses. What’s more, Rake said the students’ time at the stables have also taught them speaking skills that might not otherwise come out of a classroom.
See, the students know the drill: if they want to get on a horse, they have to tell Stuart what they want. That requires them to articulate what exactly they want. The horses make them happy and calm, Rake said, and that helps motivate them to express what they want, be it getting on a horse, feeding the pigs, chilling with the goats or just petting the dogs.
On a recent visit to the stables, I met Leo Rojas, one of Rake’s students. Rojas was trucking all over the stables to see the dogs he loves, pet the horses and feed the baby pigs. Jodi Mashino, who was assisting him, said the large size of the horses intimidate her, but she wanted to be there for Leo.
Rojas’s experience at the stables has apparently brought out a wealth of new words and coordination. In fact, Stuart said that, at first, Leo wasn’t confident stepping around the rocks and dirt at the stables, but now he ambles around like a pro.
Another student was experiencing his first time at the stables, and the minute a goat came up to sniff him out for treats he started screaming. But by the end of his visit he was peaceful, and chose to enjoy his new animal friends by staying under a shady tree some distance away, signing his thank you’s to Stuart.
Stuart and Kalee started fundraising for the special class three years ago when they had an opportunity to raise money at the local Lahaina Restoration Foundation Plantation Days. Rake said the money has been a great help. Last year they raised $900, which she used to buy sensory items, software and hopes to use the rest for future field trips.
“At Plantation Days we have to borrow trailers to bring the animals down to the site,” Kalee said. “Then I walk in a circle with the horses all night long. My friends come by and want me to come hang out at the event, but I stay with the animals. My feet hurt so bad but it’s worth it because the kids love it. Sometimes it’s their first experience with animals or their first time on a horse.”
So far the stables are dedicated to their pay it forward philosophy, and lots of folks have come forward to help. As we were standing in the stables, a truck came by to drop of wood chips. A little while later a young guy dropped off a bag of fresh veggies that Kalee brought over to the baby pigs.
There are chairs and tables outside the fence, where people are welcome to come by and say hi to the animals. Kalee and Stuart also encourage people to bring apples and carrots for the horses, and the animals love the interaction. She aid they also have an account at Central Pacific Bank under “Kalee’s Retirement Stables” for anyone who wants to make monetary donations.
Kalee added that some animals get dropped off in the night; there have also been instances of people climbing in and hurting the animals. At other times, wild dogs have snatched goats.
But Kalee and Stuart insisted that times are good now and the animals are doing well. Kalee said she’s gained tons of experience with the goats and pigs that are born there.
Despite all of her responsibility at the stables, Kalee is also still a normal high school student. Her education is very important to her.
“Usually my dad does the morning feeding and I do the afternoon or evening feeding,” she said. “I have to smell good at school, that is my one thing. I share a locker at band and my half of the locker is all perfume and stuff. I can’t miss school because I am an honor student, my education is crucial to me. I have gotten up at 2am to be with the horses during fire threats. Then I got to school and everyone is asking me why I smell like smoke”
Kalee is the only freshman student in the Lahainaluna High School animal science program, which will soon lose funding, along with the other agriculture department programs. Kalee said they will try to be self sustaining by perhaps selling eggs or raising chickens.
As expected of someone who loves spending so much time around animals, Kalee said she wants to be a zoologist, though she plans on specializing in wolves. It’s an unusual choice, considering that there aren’t any wolves in Hawaii.
But Kalee said she adores wolves, and loves the pack aspect of their socialization and mythologies surrounding them. When I asked her why, with all the animals at her stable she wants to focus on an animal that doesn’t even exist her, she said, simply, “Well, you can blame it on Twilight and the werewolves.”