Category Archives: Volunteer of the Month

January Volunteer of the Month: Dave Shepherdson

Dave Shepherdson of Kenmore is SAFE’s January Volunteer of the Month in recognition of his willingness to serve tirelessly on multiple chore shifts and with the Facilities crew.

Dave came to SAFE initially because he wanted to spend time with his wife Colleen, who was volunteering on Friday evenings. He asked if he could come and help and soon became a regular. But even before signing on as a regular shift volunteer, Dave was instrumental in building new fencing and shelters for our horses.

Colleen Shepherdson and their daughter Bianca owned horses and a “cheeky” pony in their native South Africa. Dave says the pony would jump a five-foot railing to get into dog food stored in the garage. The family immigrated to Minnesota in 2001 and later moved to Kenmore. They became U.S. citizens in 2012.

Dave has enjoyed getting to be around horses for the first time and getting to know most of them. “They are really cool animals and, treated right, are like big puppies. I now can sense if they want to be left alone or would like a scratch.”

Asked if he has a favorite, he says, “I guess it is a reciprocal relationship. I really like Emmy and she likes me, so we tend to have lots of interaction when mucking out her stall.”

When not helping out at SAFE, Dave enjoys going to the gym and practicing 3D Archery.

SAFE is an amazing haven for horses because of people like Dave. Thank you, Dave!

December Volunteer of the Month: Megan Wilson

Megan with her mom and her mom’s horse, Atlanta

December’s Volunteer of the Month, Megan Wilson,started volunteering at SAFE in 2013 and now leads the Saturday morning chores team. Megan was nominated for this recognition by her peers and is admired for her upbeat, positive attitude that embodies the spirit of volunteerism.

Originally from Virginia, Megan and her husband Carlton (who also fills in at SAFE when needed) now call West Seattle home. She grew up riding horses and competed in hunter/jumpers and eventing during high school and college. She also volunteered with a therapeutic riding program while a college student.

Megan was looking for a way to get involved with horses after settling in Seattle when she came across the SAFE website. “SAFE has become such a special part of my life,” she says. “I feel so lucky to be part of such a dedicated, wonderful, supportive, caring group of volunteers!”

Since losing her mare Julep to colic last year, Megan is part-leasing a mare from a good friend. She enjoys the SAFE horses, and while she doesn’t admit to a favorite, she likes working with Cameo because “she challenges me to be better. She’s so sweet, but also sensitive, and even just hand-walking her is an opportunity for me to improve my communication with her. I can’t wait for her to find her forever home so she can really bond with her person.”

Megan is a family medicine physician at the UW Family Medicine residency program. “When I’m not working or at a barn, I’m usually hanging out with my wonderful and very supportive husband.”

November Volunteers of the Month: Ian and Bran Lefae

SAFE Names Ian and Bran Lefae as November Volunteers of the Month

9Ian and Bran Lefae jumped right in to the Save A Forgotten Equine family this year and immediately started showing their willingness to work hard and play hard. They not only took on training Shasta and Sunny D, but also turn out to help at special events and work parties. With thanks for all that they do and for sharing their passion for learning and teaching new things, SAFE honors Ian and Bran as Volunteers of the Month for November.

A Seattle native, Ian discovered SAFE when he left a stressful job and decided it was time to get back in touch with horses. Bran, having lived in upstate New York and Minnesota before moving to Seattle, joined Ian to work with the minis because she loves and is a champion for tiny things. The couple now lives in Mountlake Terrace.

“We both really love the SAFE community,” Bran says. “Ian loves all the sweet horses and working with the excellent horsemen and women he has met when volunteering there. I enjoy learning about natural horsemanship and spending time around all of the horses, especially the minis,” she continues.

While both have special affection for Shasta and Sunny D, Ian says he loves Bridgit because she’s playful, intelligent and loving, while Bran likes Stella because of her funny “sniff the hand – no, don’t touch me” game.

When not horsing around at SAFE, Ian is an artist and Bran is a medical writer for Seattle Genetics, a cancer research company.

October Volunteer of the Month: Lexee Navarre

Lexee Welcomes guests with a smile!
Lexee Welcomes guests with a smile!

Lexee Navarre is one of the best neighbors, friends and volunteers SAFE has ever had. Selected as October’s Volunteer of the Month, Lexee regularly pitches in to do nightcheck, pinch hits on short shifts, and on Day of Caring in September, led a team of adult engineers from Allytics on a construction project, prompting the Allytics CEO to describe her as “amazing.” She has been on our official volunteer roll for four years, although she and her family, who live next door to SAFE, have been helping out since SAFE moved to our current site.

Lexee says that when she and her family moved in next door to Safe Harbor Stables, then a for-profit riding stable, she knew she wanted to do something with the horses. “And so, for my seventh birthday, my Mom had me start riding lessons, and horses and I have been inseparable ever since.”

Lexee now owns Duke, a chestnut Anglo-Arabian, and Hunter, a half Thoroughbred, half Appaloosa. She shows Duke in English pleasure classes and rides Hunter on trails, because “he gets quite bored in an arena but take him out on the trail, he’ll climb any hill, cross through rivers, and jump over logs.”

She says she loves volunteering for SAFE because, “I know I’m helping good people and horses who need all the help they can get. I love to help others and I love horses so being involved with a rescue is a no-brainer.

“It’s hard for me to pick a favorite SAFE horse, but a horse I have always loved is Ben. He’s such a wonderful horse and seeing the progress he’s been making with Lisa has been incredible to watch. I can’t wait for him to find his forever home and transform into the fantastic horse he’s meant to be.”

When she’s not spending time with friends and family, riding or helping out at SAFE, Lexee is a fulltime college student working toward a degree in civil engineering.

Thanks, Lexee, for all you do for SAFE rescue horses.

Emmy & Molly
Emmy & Molly

September Volunteer of the Month: Dave Wesche

One of Dave's favorites, Oscar.
One of Dave’s favorites, Oscar.


SAFE’s history is full of inspiring horse stories and the horses inspire volunteers in different ways. What is not always apparent is how volunteers inspire other volunteers. Our September Volunteer of the month, Dave Wesche, has found inspiration and community here at SAFE. He writes about what brought him to us and what keeps him coming back in a genuinely touching way:

“I primarily grew up in Portland OR and moved to various places throughout Oregon over the last 20 years, mostly following career opportunities. I moved to WA almost 3 years ago, and have lived in Woodinville for the past year and a half. I’ve always preferred the country, but my career seems to pull towards the city. Woodinville is a great compromise that allows easy access to the mountains as well as my job. I’ve loved animals and the outdoors all my life, and when my latest companion passed away, my lab Roscoe of 14 years, I started looking into ways to help with animals since my apartment isn’t a good place to start with a puppy.

I stumbled over SAFE online and a huge love interest was rekindled that I had long thought burned out. I’ve always loved horses, but realized I was a neophyte on any sort of horsemanship. The prospect always seemed so out of reach for my life path so I didn’t really pursue it. I rode all I could at summer camps as a kid, and trail rides since, but never really learned to care for them or work with them. SAFE seemed it could provide a means to do that for an incredibly good cause. Rescuing animals is a huge passion and I was enthralled to have the chance to learn about horses from the ground up (literally) – willing to start anywhere. What a great cause!

The more I got involved and got to know others with the same passion I realized I had found a community affiliation that fulfilled a long overlooked passion for helping others, as well as animals. Without so much experience with horses, I found that I had other skills to contribute to the same cause while still spending time learning about horses.  The facilities assistant position offered me a way to do this. I love working around the stables and just being in the rural environment. Being around the horses and all the volunteers is so uplifting that it’s now one of the main aspects of my life.

I always make rounds to say hi to all the horses every time I set foot at SAFE stables.  It’s incredible to see the horses come in ragged, then grow into beautiful healthy animals. Getting to know the horses as they come and go can be bitter sweet, but ultimately feels amazing since I know they’re in good hands. In my time there, I miss Phoenix the most. I stopped by to see him along the road two or three times a week as I rambled around the area. I also loved seeing Anakin each week, he was the ultimate “gentleman” of a horse, especially with his incredible story. Of the newbies, I love Stevie. He always seems to have something to say. Another that stands out in particular, Oscar, who I caught impatiently waiting for breakfast when I showed up early one morning – (see the video). He reminded me of my dog with his chew toys.  However, I love to see them all as they get better and move on. And, I love working with so many other enthusiastic people for such a great cause.”

Thank you Dave, for sharing your skills and passion with us. We are grateful for your time and efforts, lucky to have your talents, and honored to be your community.

August Volunteer of the Month: Kris Hoglan

Sophie Selfie!
Sophie Selfie!

You might think filling the grain bags to feed our horses is a small or trivial task, but the horses would tell you otherwise. They LOVE their grain, it is the highlight of their day. The horses love grain, and we love Kris Hoglan for making it possible. Kris is one of our dedicated baggie making crew. She comes every week to sort and measure the myriad of supplements we feed to keep our SAFE horses in tip-top condition. Kris comes every week even though she works full-time in the mortgage industry. She is so dedicated to our SAFE horses that she even comes on weekends when we have work parties to help out. Kris has been with SAFE for over three years, and we are thrilled to name her our August 2016 Volunteer of the Month.

Kris is a native of Spokane, WA, but she spent much of her life in Arizona. She remembers loving horses almost from birth. She has never owned a horse of her own, but her neighbors growing up had horses. As a teen, she spent many hours taking hunter-jumper lessons.

When Kris moved back to Washington, she yearned to get horses back in her life. She found SAFE and decided to volunteer to see what it is like to be around horses outside of a lesson. Kris hasn’t jumped into horse ownership, but she considers the SAFE horses hers in a way. Here is what she has to say about our horses,

“I have lots of favorites – fell in absolute LOVE with Bean. Skye is amazing because I’ve always had a thing for draft horses. I adored Finn. But I have to say Sophie is my girl – she was so amazing even with a giant gaping hole in her neck and I was very impressed with her. She was amazing during treatments and just overall a real trooper – she’s a special girl. I especially enjoyed getting to see her heal up over time.  Never seen anything like that before!

Like many of us, Kris appreciates being at the barn for a number of reasons. She says it best, “I’ve been there some nights putting food bags together and the times I’m alone, I really love the sound of all horses crunching on their hay.  I don’t know why, but there’s something extremely soothing and peaceful about being there.  Also, even though I might be having a tiring day and just want to go home, I am ALWAYS in great spirit when I leave the barn.  Being around horses simply brings a little peace to my soul.  Awesome people of course too!”

When she isn’t horsing around with us at the barn, Kris likes to stay fit running, doing cross fit, and weight lifting. Kris, from the bottom of their rumbly bellies, the horses thank you. And the rest of the human team thanks you too. Congratulations on being our August Volunteer of the Month! We love your Sophie Selfie!

July Volunteer of the Month: Candace Carlson

Everybody loves Jewel!
Everybody loves Jewel, including Candace!

Organized, efficient, motivated, wonderful! The list could go on and on about our July 2016 Volunteer of the Month, Candace Carlson. Candace has truly found her niche here at SAFE, she is the Tack Queen. She is cheerful and willing, and most important of all, undaunted by the volume of tack we get on a regular basis. Not that her specialty stops her from helping in other ways. Candace is always happy to groom horses in advance of events, help with chores, and generally do whatever needs doing. Her roll-up-the-sleeves attitude translates into peace of mind for our staff, knowing that the tack situation is handled. Thanks to Candace we recently turned some of those donations into useful funds to support our horses. At our June Open House we raised over $2,000 in tack sales. When I asked Candace about herself and her background, she shared some neat information about herself and why she loves volunteering at SAFE.

“I grew up in Bremerton, but have lived and worked in downtown Seattle for many years. A year ago, I retired from Metro Transit where I managed the 7-agency ORCA fare payment system. I first learned of SAFE from a news article several years ago which featured Bonnie’s horse rescue efforts.  I was hooked. Through my work site “Giving” program I was able to support SAFE with annual donations. On retiring, signing up as a SAFE volunteer was a high priority. Like most of us, I’ve always loved horses, but living in the city with a crazy work schedule is not conducive to horse ownership. I ride Western and am the product of horse camps, treks, lessons and lease horses. A lot of good horses in that mix! I enjoy my SAFE job handling tack donations.  We get amazing donations. SAFE horses get the best to meet their needs and we sell the rest or pass along to other rescues.  On a few occasions, people have written the most heartfelt notes. They have lost their horse and it gives them comfort or a kind of closure that a SAFE horse will use their gear. Another case of horse rescuing human. Every donation bag tells a story. Come visit me in the garage and maybe I can sell you some tack!”

Candace, we thank you from the bottom of our blankets and the tops of our bridles.

June Volunteers of the Month

There is nothing shy or retiring about active retirees Gerry and Robbie Meisner. This couple is a powerhouse of activity at the barn. After a full careers in academia, and raising a family, Gerry and Robbie embarked on a second career of fulfilling their lifelong dream to be horse-folk. Like most things we see them do, they took a systematic approach. From their then home base in Tennessee, they found a horse rescue where they could learn the realities of life with horses. The Meisners felt fortunate to be involved with a rescue where they could learn hands on horse skills. Robbie shared a great story about her involvement:

I was fortunate enough to be chosen by the Horse Haven equine manager to participate in a training program with Gary Lane – a note gaited horse trainer from Kentucky. We worked with Gary on ground work and then riding the horse we were assigned. Nobody had ever ridden the horse assigned to me at Horse Haven and I was stunned (I’m at best an intermediate rider). When they told me to mount up and ride her around the arena my anxiety level was pretty high and on top of that the stirrups were set for somebody a little over 5 foot (I’m about 6 foot). Needless to say, it wasn’t the best ride of my life or hers, but the mare now lives with us and is as sweet and forgiving as any horse I’ve ever been around.

The Meisners chose to retire to Washington and purchased a home in Roy in 2014. Two of the horses they worked with at the rescue in Tennessee made the journey with them. The couple was happy to find SAFE, as it reminded them of the positive experience they had at the rescue in Tennessee. Gerry says it best:

Two years later we are living the dream and reality of life with horses. How can we not love working at a horse rescue when it has enabled us live a dream?

Robbie & Gerry with pal Jewel
Gerry & Robbie with pal Jewel

Gerry and Robbie are a dream realized for SAFE. They leave their happy farm at least twice a month to come and do daily chores for us. They are reliable, responsible workers, and eager learners. We are honored to have them on our team. If you see them around the barn, please congratulate our June Volunteers of the Month, Gerry & Robbie Meisner.

May Volunteer of the Month: Sara Sluszka

Sara and Phoenix
Sara and Phoenix

When horses come to SAFE, they are often suspicious and fearful. In many cases, their hard lives have left them mistrustful of humans. It takes patience, sensitivity, timing, and powerful observation skills to bring them out of their hurtful pasts and into a healthy, useful future with humans. SAFE has worked hard over the past few years to develop a group of talented volunteer riders who help do just that: give these horses a future. Every bond a SAFE horse forges with these calm, kind individuals makes them that much more ready to go out and make a bond with a new owner. This month we would like to spotlight, and thank, one of these talented individuals. Willing, cheerful, competent…these are the words our shift leads and barn managers use to describe this month’s volunteer of the month. Sara Sluszka is a ray of sunshine and a calm, competent hand for our horses in training.

Sara recently shared some of her horse background with us…

I grew up in Upstate New York, surrounded by farms. I had horse fever by the age of five at the latest, and started volunteering at a local barn in exchange for riding lessons when I was ten. One of my favorite horse memories is the summer when I was about 14, and my friend and I would take our horses to a field that belonged to a neighbor and race them (usually bareback). Being involved at SAFE as a volunteer rider over the past year has been such a great calming experience for me (as a contrast to my day job as a deportation defense attorney for detained immigrants in Tacoma). The horses have a magic way of bringing me back to the present moment, and when I am moving in a flow with them, it’s an indescribable feeling. It’s hard to choose a favorite horse at SAFE, though Phoenix, Ben and Cameo have stood out to me (all for very different reasons!). Thanks so much for this recognition, though I feel like I’m the one getting the great deal here!

Cheers to you, Sara! And thanks for all of your work with the horses!

Photo credit: Bea Sluszka

April Volunteer of the Month: Jayne Tracy

Jayne and friend Bridgit
Jayne and friend Bridgit

Our April Volunteer of the Month has been a steadfast friend of SAFE for more than three years. She has a quiet way with people and horses. She doesn’t need the spotlight and goes about her work with a cheerful willingness that makes the Saturday morning shift run smoothly. Jayne Tracy is always happy to meet new volunteers and new horses. She greets both with a smile. Jayne is a favorite with the horses, and not just because she brings them carrots. Her gentle nature and calm demeanor put even the skittish ones at ease. Jayne is a busy retiree and we are fortunate to have her with us. She also spends her time walking rescue Greyhounds and acting as the president of the Seattle Beagle Rescue, where she has volunteered for 14 years.

Originally from Santa Monica, CA, Jayne started riding horses in high school. As a young adult she traveled to Guam to teach kindergarten. While she was there, she and some friends noticed that many dogs went uncared for on the island. Together with her friends, Jayne helped start the first humane society on Guam. When she returned to the states, Jayne settled in the Seattle area and got back into horses. She bought her first horse when she was 36. Pablo was a Quarter Horse and Jayne’s steady friend for 20 years. They enjoyed the trails together and Jayne took devoted care of Pablo until the end. She currently leases a Swedish Warmblood mare and they hit the trails regularly in Bridle Trails State Park. Even with a special horse of her own, Jayne still finds time to come and help take care of the SAFE Herd.

Thanks, Jayne, for sharing your hard work, sunny smile, and gentle ways with us.