Category Archives: Rescue Stories

Rest in Peace: Craspedia (2007-2015)

Craspedia, aka Speedy, aka Crass, aka Crispy, aka Crap Daddy, aka our friend
Craspedia, aka Speedy, aka Crass, aka Crispy, aka Crap Daddy, aka our friend

It took just a moment to fall in love with him, but it will take a lifetime to forget him.

We met Craspedia in a field, a tall handsome fellow with a kind eye who stood calmly and quietly while we said hello to him. His owner had contacted us a few days before, concerned that his new horse was getting thin. It had been two months, he told us, and he did not understand why his horse was not gaining weight from the grass in his field. This was not much of a mystery to us. It was one of the driest summer on records, there was hardly grass available in any local field, and the horse was a thoroughbred just off the track.

We were particularly concerned because his owner was an individual that SAFE had already declined as an adopter. For various reasons, this individual was not prepared for horse ownership. We agreed to go take a look at the horse and see what we could do to help. At first, we thought were looking at a horse that we could easily rehabilitate and rehome. Then we walked to the other side of him, and saw his left hock.

It was enormous, tightly swollen and painful looking. We asked the owner what had happened, and he seemed surprised to see it. He told us that when the horse arrived from the track, he was turned out in the small field and had run around like a maniac. He had also broken through the fencing and gotten into a tussle with another horse at one point. Or maybe he had been like that when he arrived? The owner was not sure.

With heavy hearts, we returned to SAFE and started researching. While Terry contacted our veterinarian to discuss the horse’s physical symptoms, I began piecing together his history. His name was Craspedia, a well bred 8 year old gelding, born in Kentucky, who spent five years as a racehorse, compiling a record of 4-3-6 in 19 starts. His racing career took him from Vancouver BC, to Southern California, to Arizona, and finally to Emerald Downs, where he raced 6 times in 2015 as an 8 year old. His last race was on July 12, 2015 and he finished a respectable 3rd, bringing his career earnings to almost $33,000. The next day, July 13, he was sold to his current owner. The trailer he brought was too small for a 17 hand thoroughbred, so Craspedia’s race trainer hauled him to his new home.

As the day went on, we grew more and more concerned about Craspedia’s leg. He needed vet care. So we hitched up the trailer that same afternoon and went back to get him. His owner signed him over to us and we brought him to Safe Harbor to await a visit from Dr. Fleck of Rainland Farm Equine.

Dr. Fleck only had to glance at Craspedia’s hock to know how grim the situation was. Radiographs confirmed that the hock was fractured. Several bone chips were evident from a fracture to the lateral malleolus and there was damage to the lateral collateral ligament as well. There was no question of letting it heal up on its own; the horse needed surgery if he was to have any reasonable quality of life. But there was no guarantee that surgery would be successful. The x-rays told us it was a bad injury, but without scoping it, it was impossible to know the extent of the damage.

We had an agonizing decision to make. With a hefty amount of pain medication on board, Craspedia settled happily into his stall at Safe Harbor and proceeded to charm everyone who came near him. For a horse so fresh off the track, he was remarkably calm and kind. As his intelligent and soulful eyes gazed at you through his long, lovely forelock, it was impossible not to fall in love. He liked to be petted and talked to, he ate his timothy hay with appreciation, and he followed his stall cleaners around like a big puppy. It was very hard to see him in such awful condition but it was easy to picture the horse he should have been had things gone differently for him.

Thankfully, our decision on whether or not to do surgery was not limited by finances. Dr. Fleck quoted us a discounted price that was reasonable for a surgery and donors had come forward offering to cover the expense. The decision rested on whether surgery was going to be the right choice for him.

We knew the best outcome we could expect would be some form of pasture soundness. He was a relatively young horse with many years in front of him. Portland, another former racehorse, had recently been responsibly euthanized by his owner following years of discomfort from arthritis and we were reluctant to risk putting a horse through years of pain out of a desire to save him.

Each year, SAFE intakes a number of horses suffering from neglect, some of which are quickly humanely euthanized to prevent any further suffering. While these decisions are never pleasant, making the decision is usually straightforward. We had collectively decided that the responsible choice was to let Craspedia go and had scheduled an appointment to euthanize him, but we struggled with the decision. Dr. Fleck, seeing how we were struggling, offered to take Craspedia into surgery and assess the joint at a minimal cost. If the hock seemed salvageable he would proceed with the surgery. If not, we would have our answer. SAFE has always been blessed with the support of amazing horse professionals but this act of kindness and compassion is something we will never forget.

Yesterday morning, Craspedia went into surgery. We waited anxiously all morning for news, hoping that it would be good. In the end, the hock was too badly injured. The damage to the lateral collateral ligament was extensive, the cartilage of joint capsule was thickened and damaged, and the fracture was more severe than the x-rays could show. Even with the bone chips removed, Craspedia would be in pain, and that pain would only increase as time went on. Had the injury been treated when it occurred, he might have been savable, but it was simply too late. Dr. Fleck grimly advised us not to proceed with surgery. We had our answer.

Craspedia is free from pain. We can take some comfort in knowing that we did everything we possibly could to save him. He will be missed terribly.

There is a lot to be learned from what happened here. This is a textbook case of what can go wrong when a retired racehorse is not properly transitioned to its new life away from the track. Craspedia was taken straight off the racetrack, sold to an individual with no experience or knowledge about Thoroughbreds, and thrown into a field full of hazards. We can only speculate about the cause of his injury, but it is likely that it happened because he was allowed to run out of control in a small field. This is a horse who spent the majority of his life having his day-to-day routine and movement controlled by humans, whether on the ground or on his back. Eventually he would be able to safely enjoy his freedom, but the day after his last race was too soon for him to be left on his own.

There are many skilled riders and trainers who understand how to transition a racehorse to another sport and how to keep good weight on them, and who can recognize a serious injury if it occurs and get it taken care of in a timely manner. Many people looking for an inexpensive horse do not have these skills and they need to take the risks that come with restarting a racehorse very seriously. In this case, the owner’s refusal to take the responsibilities of horse ownership seriously lead to the early death of an otherwise lovely horse. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Many racehorses end up in inappropriate homes when buyers are unrealistic about their own skillset.

Craspedia’s story caused a great deal of distress and heartache, both at SAFE and following conversations with individuals at the track. The big question that came out of those discussions was “How do we prevent horses going to buyers like this?” SAFE had been able to screen this prospective adopter out through our application process. While our application is long, it does a fairly good job of sorting through people who are prepared to be horse owners and unprepared individuals looking for a cheap horse.

As a result of these conversations, SAFE was given the opportunity to try to reduce the risk of selling a racehorse to an inappropriate buyer. We submitted a streamlined sample application with questions that a potential buyer could be asked, in hopes that this will help separate unsuitable owners from those who can give a thoroughbred what it needs to be successful off the track. That application was printed in the catalog for last weekend’s Thoroughbred Showcase at Emerald Downs and we sincerely hope that can be a useful tool for trainers in the future.

Craspedia, you deserved so much better than what happened to you. Still we are better for having known you and better for having had the chance to show you how deeply we cared. You will be missed. You will not be forgotten.

Justice for Bud & Brandy

Yesterday in King County Superior Court, a jury returned a guilty verdict on two counts of felony animal cruelty against the woman who starved and neglected Bud and Brandy. Here is their story.

The call came late on a Sunday afternoon in February…two elderly horses, starved…can SAFE help? Dr Hannah was on site with officers from King County Animal Control, and the horses were being surrendered by their owner. A quick decision was made — the two horses would go directly to NWESC for treatment, which would give SAFE some time to find a foster home to take them in. We hitched up a trailer and set off to meet Bud and Brandy.

The two horses were a mess…their long, scraggly starvation coats covered the worst of the damage, but underneath all that hair they were thin and bony. Brandy’s too-big blanket was removed to reveal a 4 cm long infected wound where it had rubbed against her withers, a wound that had gone untreated because her owner admitted she hadn’t removed the blanket in months. More evidence of severe neglect became evident upon looking into the horses’ mouths — their teeth, which had not been properly cared for, were not only incapable of chewing hay, but the long sharp points formed by uneven wear were carving sores and ulcers into the sides of their mouths. And an infected, loose tooth in Brandy’s mouth was causing her even more pain and discomfort. These two elderly horses — Bud was 32 and Brandy 37 — were living out their twilight years in pain and suffering.

They were too thin to sedate for normal dental work so Dr Hannah removed Brandy’s infected tooth as quickly as possible, and prescribed an all mash diet in order to get their weight back up. Slowly at first so as not to risk colic, their daily feed was increased over time until they were each receiving a giant bowl of alfalfa and grass pellets mixed with senior feed, beet pulp, and vegetable oil — soaked and watered down into a yummy, green porridge — twice a day. Slowly their weight started to increase, and their shaggy, starvation coats began to shed. It took months before they looked normal again, and poor Bud shed himself bald in places, but by late summer, the transformation was complete, and the two horses regained their health, their weight, and their spirits. Once they were stable enough to be sedated, they were both given dental care, but the damage done by their neglect was irreversible ..they would never be able to chew hay properly, so they would continue to be fed mush for the rest of their lives.

Having lived together for more than a decade, Bud and Brandy were very close…so close that any attempt to introduce other horses into their group met with Bud’s disapproval — he did not want anyone messing with his girlfriend! The two spent two months in Dr Hannah’s care and then were moved to a foster home together where they shared a large, grassy pasture — that they couldn’t eat but seemed to enjoy gumming on — and a cute barn where they could get out of the sun and enjoy their giant bowls of gooey green porridge. Later that year, they were moved together to a second foster home, where they became part of the KCJ Stables family. They spent their days under the trees in their sunny paddock, and nights sharing a shelter built for two. They were much loved by everyone at the farm, but probably no one loved them more than their Auntie Jet, who watched over them whenever she visited KCJ to ride and groom her beloved rescue horse Coconut.

In December 2011, Brandy had a severe and sudden onset colic. Surgery was not an option for this elderly mare, so she was quickly and humanely euthanized to stop her suffering. Bud was at her side when she passed, and seeing him standing over her was heartbreaking. But he seemed to make peace with her passing as he and the other nearby horses said their goodbyes. After she was gone, we worried about how Bud would adjust, but the brave and plucky old man made friends with his young neighbor Basil, and the two of them started a new friendship over their paddock fences, and Bud seemed quite content. Over the next six months, he continued to eat his mush and doze in the sun, and some days he’d even set off at a canter across his pasture, kicking up his heel a tiny bit just because he could. He got older, and creakier, and in June 2012 when his health truly started to fail, we made the decision to let him go. Bud passed away peacefully, surrounded by friends who truly loved him. We miss them both, but as winter sets in, it’s good to know that Bud & Brandy are together again in the great beyond, where it’s always warm and there’s always enough food to eat, and proper teeth to eat it with. And no more green mush, ever.

We are so grateful to the officers of Regional Animal Services of King County who stepped in and removed Bud & Brandy from their former home, and we commend the hard work and dedication shown by the King County Prosecutors who fought for and won this guilty verdict against the woman who starved these graceful old horses. It means a great deal to us to know that in the eyes of the law these two horses were not forgotten. They certainly won’t be forgotten in our hearts.

Rest in peace, Bud and Brandy. Justice has been served.

Photos of Bud and Brandy’s remarkable journey:

Link to all of Bud & Brandy’s updates & posts


A perfect gelding…a perfect gentleman

Oscar – Before

Oscar came to SAFE as a stallion, one of 16 horses seized from a breeding operation by Pierce County Animal Control in Dec 2011. Oscar had been starved and badly neglected, and as a breeding stallion, he’d lived a life of isolation and was aggressive and “studish” towards humans and horses. Oscar was gelded immediately after SAFE took possession of him, and for a period of a few weeks, he was only handled by Dr Hannah, who used his post-surgery exercise sessions to start teaching him ground manners. To everyone’s surprise, Oscar responded beautifully to his lessons, and showed a willingness to learn and to connect with his human handlers.

Recovered from his gelding surgery, we sent Oscar on to the next phase of his life: under-saddle training with Andrea Lucianna at Half Trak Farm. Andrea is an experienced stallion handler, and Oscar was treated very carefully in her care, but apart from some initial calling behavior (“talking” to other horses) he did not display any aggression — no striking, biting, or even ear pinning. Oscar took to training like a pro, and after 60 days under saddle, he looked like a real dressage prospect!


Upon graduating from training, Oscar was sent to White Birch Farm to continue his training with Melonie. Melonie admits that she was a bit nervous at first, taking on a horse that had only been gelded 90 days previously, but once again, Oscar proved to be a perfect gentleman. She never saw anything from him as far as talking to other horses, screaming for other horses or any other behavior one might expect with a late gelding. In fact, Oscar was so gentle and well-behaved that soon he was being used in lessons with beginner riders who’d never even sat on a horse before. At White Birch Stables, Oscar is such a good boy that Melonie’s neighbor girls can practice grooming on him. His size helps — he’s little — but he’s got great manners and he’s not at all intimidating. He’s a friendly guy with a great future ahead of him.

Becoming a gelding opened up a whole new world for Oscar. Instead of living in isolation with minimal handling, he now has friends, a job, and positive interactions with the people and horses he lives with. Here at SAFE we truly wish that more stallions could undergo the fairy-tale life transformation that Oscar has enjoyed. Overbreeding unwanted horses is a serious problem, so putting a stop to backyard breeding is the best reason to geld and to support gelding clinics, for sure. But the life improvements that go along with gelding are a gift to the horses themselves. We can’t wait to see what is in store for Oscar, a perfect gelding, a perfect gentleman!

Goodbye Dexter

This will not be an easy post to write. I’ve already made four or five attempts to get started, writing tired cliches…like “Letting a horse go is never easy” or “We know we can’t save them all” …and then hitting the delete key. Staring at an empty page. And finally putting the task off for another day.

But when you run an organization based on transparency, you have to be as forthcoming with the bad news as you are with the good. And sometimes the best way to tell bad news is to simply come out and say it.

We made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Dexter last week. As rescuers we’ve been in this position many times before, and it’s true that it’s never an easy decision to make, but this time was so very much harder. Dexter was young, healthy, and sound. We made the decision to let him go because after three years of working with him, handling him, riding him, and training him, we felt that he was too unpredictable and dangerous to ever be safely adopted out.

photo by Karen Wegehenkel

Dexter came to SAFE in late 2009, after being seized by Skagit County Animal Control due to neglect and starvation. Initially, he seemed pretty  solid under saddle, and we had high hopes that we’d be able to place him into a good home pretty easily. He was adopted for the first time in early 2010, but was returned to SAFE after two short months when his adopter could not keep him contained in her fencing. Having never had a similar problem with him at the SAFE farm, we put him back up for adoption, and again, he was placed into a new home. Again he was returned to SAFE, this time because he was behaving aggressively towards other horses and because he was displaying bad behavior on the ground — nipping, rearing, and striking. Again, we were somewhat baffled, having never seen such behavior from him ourselves.

Our trainer and key volunteers worked with Dexter regularly over the summer and he continued to behave well. He did have some bad moments, most notably at the 2010 SAFE show where he proved too anxious to be ridden safely in the show environment, but once he returned home, he was back to his usual self. Once again, he was offered for adoption to a suitable home with an experienced rider.

Unfortunately, Dexter’s third adoption fell through, again after just a couple months. This time, he displayed dangerous behavior under saddle when his adopter took him to an unfamiliar place to ride. We were beginning to get a clearer picture of this horse’s tendencies, but since his bad behavior was so unpredictable and hard to replicate, we were at a loss as to how to train him out of it. Most of this time, he was perfectly normal…but when he wasn’t, it was as if he was experiencing a meltdown — tuning his rider out completely, and behaving very dangerously.

We had no choice but to classify him as a project horse suitable for an experienced rider only, someone who understood that there would be a lot of work needed to get him through his issues. He continued to be ridden by one SAFE volunteer who took weekly lessons on Dexter from a visiting trainer. Dexter was typically well behaved at home, but even so, from time to time he would have his little meltdowns, which made us increasingly concerned about ever being able to find him a home.

About a year ago, we got a very generous offer from a long time SAFE supporter and experienced rider to take Dexter on as a foster horse at her boarding barn and continue to work him under saddle on a regular basis. I can say with absolutely certainty that this person went as far as humanly possible to work out a solution to Dexter’s problem. No stone was left unturned, his soundness was evaluated, his teeth re-checked, his saddle fit assessed, his hormone levels were checked — anything that could contribute to his behavior was explored, examined, and ruled out. His foster “mom” bankrolled most of this testing herself, and refused reimbursement from SAFE. She and Dexter had ups and downs, and we all rejoiced at his appearance at the 2012 SAFE Benefit Show in which he was a perfect gentleman and competed successfully in dressage, trails and english. Many times she told us that if only he were a taller horse, if only she could commit to a second horse, she would adopt him.

I also truly believe that during this year, Dexter thought that he’d been adopted, and that he finally had his own person. Which makes the end of this story all the more heartbreaking.

Dexter had been showing some signs of lameness and he was examined by a vet on Sept 1. During the exam, he was put on a lunge line and when asked to go forward, he suddenly and with no warning, reared straight up and flipped himself over. He hit the ground hard, and it is a wonder that he was not killed on impact. It is also a wonder that no one else was hurt. Had there been someone on his back, they would not have had time to react, and the result might have been tragic.

A horse that rears and flips displays a complete lack of regard for its own safety and is a dangerous animal that cannot be “fixed.” Upon hearing of this incident, the SAFE Board of Directors immediately and unanimously agreed that Dexter should be euthanized. All the time put into him, all the work and expense…it means nothing if someone gets hurt. We could not take that risk any longer. It was time to accept that we had done all that we could do for this poor horse.

And so last week, surrounded by people who cared for him and loved him, Dexter was set free. We are left behind to wonder if we failed him, to wonder if things could have been different for him…and we’ll never know the answer. But we do know that for three years, there was always enough food to eat, a dry place to stand, a warm blanket in the winter, and people near and far who cared a great deal for him. We do know that in that time, he was never treated roughly, never made to be afraid, never asked to do anything he couldn’t do. We had very high hopes for Dexter, and he will be missed greatly.

No, you can’t save them all. But it still hurts to fail.


Happy Trails, Scooter!

In February 2012, SAFE was contacted by Pierce County Animal Control about 16 horses seized from an Arabian breeder the previous November. SAFE rallied to the call for help, agreeing to take five of the horses, including two stallions. What we did not know at the time was just how difficult those two stallions would prove to be. We made arrangements to transport them directly to Northwest Equine Stewardship Center (NWESC) where they could be safely housed until they were stable enough for gelding. Upon their arrival, however, Dr. Hannah Evergreen immediately determined gelding these two absolutely could not wait. They were extremely aggressive and “studish” towards humans and horses, having lived out their lives in extreme isolation and handled only for breeding. So much so that it was initially only safe for Dr. Hannah to handle them. Hannah personally handled their daily post-gelding forced exercise and worked with them on basic ground manners.

SAFE takes the safety of our volunteers and potential adopters seriously. If we feel a horse is a danger to itself, other horses, or to people, we will opt to humanely euthanize the animal rather than risk injury. In this case, since Dr. Hannah felt confident handling Scooter and Oscar, we agreed to give Scooter and Oscar 30 days to see whether gelding them would turn them into manageable horses.

We shared Oscar’s incredible turnaround in May. At the time, many of you asked about Scooter. We weren’t sure what to say because the truth was that Scooter was a more challenging case and his path to rehabilitation was not nearly as clearly defined. Not only had his difficult behavior persisted, he wasn’t sound. Adding to that, his age (15), and lack of socialization made him a poor candidate as a companion horse. We felt we were running out of options for Scooter and that a difficult decision might have to be made soon. The board discussed and debated how to move forward with Scooter. As rescuers, we face a lot of difficult decisions but the decision to let a horse go is, by far, the most difficult.

It was about this time that we received a phone call from Lisa at NWESC. Their volunteer, Heather, had a friend with a lifetime of experience handling Arabians and Morgans, including difficult to handle stallions. Lorinda had heard about Scooter and wanted to meet him. After spending time handling him, Lorinda felt a great connection with this horse, who reminded her quite a lot of a stallion she trained in the past. Lorinda loves a challenge and she decided that she and Scooter could be a very good match. She came to us with several great ideas to combat his soundness issues and to establish his trust in order to improve his behavior. And best of all, Scooter seemed equally amenable to this new relationship, and responded very positively to Lorinda.

And so we began the adoption process, all the while marveling that we’d been so close to making the decision to euthanize this horse and now we were sending him off to a wonderful and safe new home. Lorinda has high hopes that she’ll be able to treat his soundness issues and give him a future as a saddle horse, but if that’s not possible, Scooter has a permanent place to live out his days on her beautiful farm.

We are so thankful for the amazing community of support we have, especially our partners at NWESC. The reality is that without their support horses like Scooter would be beyond our ability to help.  So please join us in wishing “happy trails” to Scooter and Lorinda as well as our deepest gratitude to our friends at NWESC for facilitating the perfect match for a very difficult-to-place horse.


Horse rescue has its highs and lows, and in order to keep going, we focus on the highs whenever we can: the before & after photos, the success stories, the happy adoptions. But today, we’re feeling pretty brokenhearted. We know that we can’t save them all. But that hardly eases the pain when we’re faced with a horse that we can’t save.

We didn’t know his name, so we called him Brio. He was a small bay stallion with a smudge of a star and two white socks, and our best guess was that he was a Peruvian Paso. He had been abandoned, found by a realtor locked in a stall alone in a barn on a property that was for sale. Picked up by King County, he was held as a stray for 5 days while they tried to figure out who he belonged to and when they couldn’t, he was released to SAFE. As soon as we got a good look at him, our hearts sunk. Brio was rail thin with a protruding spine and hipbones. His joints were all enlarged, especially his hind fetlocks which were enormous and painful-looking. His skin was weirdly elastic in several places, and could be lifted away like it was unattached to the muscles below. He was transferred to our vet who diagnosed him with Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (also known as DSLD/ESPA).

It was clear to everyone that Brio was uncomfortable and in pain. In light of his condition and his age (estimated at 25), the decision was made to let him go. So today, on a stunning Northwest fall day, with a belly full of grass and in the warm light of the sun, Brio was humanely euthanized. His suffering is over and for that, we are very grateful.

But now that it’s over, we’re all feeling especially heartbroken over Brio. We only knew him for a few days, but we liked his pretty face, his talkative nature, and the cute way he would peer through a crack in the back corner of his stall to watch the horses in the arena. We all feel very strongly that humane euthanization was the right choice for this horse, and we are relieved that his suffering is over. His death was dignified and humane…but his life, at least in the end, was a tragedy. This horse belonged to someone who cared so little for him that he was thrown away like garbage. And we will never have the chance to make it up to him. That makes us very sad. It also makes us very angry.

All we can do for Brio now is continue to fight to keep other horses from suffering the way he did. That is why SAFE is committed to supporting local Animal Control agencies whenever we possibly can, so that people who abuse and neglect horses can be found, stopped, and punished.

Godspeed, Brio. We will never forget you.


Sunny was 28 years old when he found himself unwanted, neglected, and homeless. When he was taken in by SAFE, he was pitifully thin, his hooves overgrown, his chestnut coat dull. His teeth had not been cared for in several years, making it hard for him to chew his hay. His right knee was terribly enlarged from an old untreated injury, and he couldn’t move too quickly on it. He was in sad shape.

Sunny’s recovery over the summer months was slow and steady. There were some setbacks— a loose tooth that needed to be pulled, a scary episode of choke — but he seemed to be regaining his strength.

Despite his neglect, Sunny was still a proud horse who tried his best to keep the upper hand over his much younger companions. I kept him safely in his own paddock where he could still believe he was the top dog without letting him come to any harm.

He was also very vocal, and he nickered loudly and often…whether asking for food or just saying hello. Some days, when he felt especially good, he’d transform into a beautiful Arab steed…head high, ears pricked, nostrils flared, and tail flagging. In those moments, I caught a glimpse of the magnificent horse he’d been in his youth.

But as winter crept closer, Sunny began to slow down. His bad knee seemed to bother him more, and I often saw him limping. Then his good knee started to fail him, making movement even more difficult. He began to seem distant. And it didn’t help that the weather was becoming miserable, wet and cold.

It was time to let Sunny go.

It rained that day, but when my vet arrived, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun shined down, as if to reassure us that we were doing the right thing. I held his head, told him not to be afraid and cried for him as he passed away. And although I’m glad I was there for him, I couldn’t help but feel that it shouldn’t have been me. Sunny spent his life serving someone, and that someone wasn’t there at the end to comfort him, to say goodbye. Sunny deserved to pass away in a comfortable, familiar setting, surrounded by the people who loved him best. But whoever had owned him had thrown him away, so in the end, there was only me.

So please, in memory of Sunny, think very hard before you decide to get rid of your senior horse because they’re no longer “useful” to you or they become unrideable. Think about this: whose face do you want your horse to see as he leaves this world? Whose voice should he hear? If the answer is yours, then do the right thing: don’t send an old horse off to live with strangers. Care for him the best you can until the end, and when the end comes, face it with him. It’s the last gift you can give to a horse that has given everything to you.


He was a show horse, used to the best of everything. Corona was a courageous jumper who won ribbon after ribbon for his owner. And when she had to sell him in order to go to college, she thought things would never change for him…but she was wrong. Corona’s new owner didn’t feed him enough and the once handsome bay Thoroughbred grew thin and unhealthy. He sustained an injury that went untreated and soon became infected. Corona was helpless…and wasting away. Luckily for him, a kind person saw his plight and convinced his owner to give him to SAFE. When he came to us, he was a wreck: skinny, dirty, and dejected. It took months of vet care before he fully recovered from his injury, and gained back the weight he had lost, but in time, we started to see glimpses of the show horse he was. At the 2011 SAFE Benefit Show, Corona was back in the spotlight, winning Champion Rescue Horse as well as Reserve Champion of the entire show. And now his future is bright again. He’s been adopted and his new owner — who plans to make him into an eventer — will never let him fall into neglect again. Corona’s story has a happy ending, the kind of happy ending we hope for every horse to have. Help us make that wish come true!


His life nearly ended before it really even began. An accidental breeding brought him into the world, and for Sinatra and the other horses where he lived, the world was a harsh, unfriendly place. There was not enough to eat, and horses were dying. When Animal Control agents raided the farm in February 2008, 6 month old Sinatra and another foal were found in a tiny pen with nothing to eat but blackberry vines, not 15 feet away from the body of a dead mare. Sinatra came to SAFE along with 10 other survivors from the farm, and like all of them, he was nothing but skin and bones, riddled with intestinal parasites, and covered in rain rot. For a week after his rescue, his body was unable to regulate its temperature, and we kept him alive using heat lamps and layers of blankets. But despite his condition, Sinatra was an absolute joy from day one — affectionate, curious, friendly and sweet — and as we watched this little colt survive and grow, we couldn’t help but adore him. Sinatra has come so far since being rescued. He’s won blue ribbons at horse shows; he’s been taught to carry a rider on the flat and over jumps. Someday soon he’ll find his forever home, and the world will always be kind to Sinatra. And the world is a much better place with Sinatra in it.

Thanksgiving: the Story of Sarah

We recently lost an old friend — at the grand old age of at least 30, former SAFE horse Sarah was humanely euthanized due to her declining health. Sarah left this world surrounded by the people who knew and loved her — her adoptive family at Bedlam Farms. In honor of this great mare’s passing, we’d like to share her amazing story with you again.

Sarah at the auction
This was our first look at Sara, abandoned in a dark, filthy stall at the auction

It was in a cold, dark cattle stall in the back of an auction barn where we first laid eyes on Sarah. She was a skeletal bay mare with filthy, matted fur, bald spots, burrs in her mane and tail, and a hugely enlarged front knee. She stood facing the back of the stall with her head down, and would not even look at us as we peered through the wooden slats at her. She seemed to have decided she was ready to die.

We soon learned that the mare had been abandoned at the auction, and had been living in that stall for nearly two months. At first the only comfort we could offer was to gently groom her and try to get her clean enough to be able to put a blanket on her. But as we brushed her and pet her and spoke quietly to her, a light slowly started to come on in her eyes. By showing her just the simplest kindness, we got to see this sad little mare come back to life just a little. And having brought her that far, we had no choice but to save her. While one SAFE volunteer persuaded the auction owner to give the horse to us, other members of SAFE were busy arranging transportation, vet care, and foster care. And when all the details were in place, Sarah left the auction barn on a windy Thanksgiving morning to start her new life.

sarah and oliver
Sarah captured the heart of fellow rescue Oliver Twist

Once in foster care, Sarah had a long road back to health but she was a sweet girl who seemed to appreciate everything that was done for her. She greeted her caretakers with a nicker, and everyone who met her fell in love with her, humans and geldings alike. Her knee was enlarged due to arthritis, and she was almost always stiff in the morning, but after a quick roll to shake things out, she could often be seen frolicking in the pasture, or at least doing a good impression of frolicking. Her newfound love of life was evident in everything she did.

In early February 2006, Sarah was moved to a new foster home at a small barn called Bedlam Farm in Bothell WA where the barns owners and some of their boarders had chipped in to offer Sarah two months of free board. It was less than two weeks later that SAFE received the following message from Melanie Baird at Bedlam: “Ok, so we didn’t really win the lotto, but we would like Sarah to spend the rest of her life here with us. So, business sense be damned, the farm will support her. Assuming y’all agree, she can retire here.”

Sarah transformed
Sarah transformed, at her home at Bedlam Farm

At Bedlam Farm,  Sarah’s transformation continued until she became a mare who looked nothing like the horse we first met in that auction barn. Her bright bay coat became dappled and her eyes shine. She became best friends with the mare in the stall next to hers, and they could often be found “chatting” late into the night. She spent her days as part of a band of mares, and she loved to take a swim in her water tank on hot days, just so long as she could blow bubbles.

Over the years, Bedlam Farms took tremendous care of Sarah, providing her with excellent vet care to make her bad knee more comfortable. Melanie sent us this update in late 2010, “Sarah is doing great…she’s at least 30 this year and looks PHENOMENAL!…She is a pretty happy pony; she’s on Adequan, Naroxin, MSM and gets touched up by our chiropractor & massage therapist. And she gets around just fine, thank you very much!”

In fact, Sarah’s health and condition was so exceptional that she was featured in an article written by Dr. Ron Colton DVM on managing quality of life in the older horse. The article, called Live Long, Live Well, was published in the December 2009 issue of Northwest Horse Source.

But several weeks ago, we received the sad news from Melanie that Sarah’s health and quality of life were in decline. Recurring bouts of cellulitis were causing her increasing pain, and her vet believed that her lymphatic system was failing. She started eating less, lying down more, and withdrawing from her friends. “We have loved her for 5 years,” Melanie told us, “and now it’s time to let her go.”

Sarah, rest in peace
Rest in Peace, Sarah

We are sad at Sarah’s passing, but there is no better end to an elderly horse’s life than for it to go peacefully surrounded by people it knows and trusts. Sarah’s story is truly a fairy tale, right up to and including its final chapter. She is a testament to the power of love and kindness, and we are all thankful that our paths crossed on that long ago Thanksgiving.


Click here to download a copy of Live Long, Live Well by Ron Colton DVM