Category Archives: Volunteer of the Month

March Volunteer of the Month: Caryn Littler

For volunteering tirelessly through thick and thin, for the many unsolicited hours contributed to SAFE, and in recognition of her indefatigable good attitude, Caryn Littler is SAFE’s Volunteer of the Month for March.

A native of Rochester, New York who now lives in Seattle, Caryn has been riding pretty much since she could stand up. “I’ve been riding in backyards and at riding stables ever since, much to my parents’ amusement,” she says. She now rides a 13-hand welsh pony named Cricket, “learning to be a tiny eventing team.”

Caryn says she has always been around horses and volunteered at a rescue in New York for a brief time. When she first came to Seattle, she thought about volunteering to help horses and to meet new people. People she talked to had heard about SAFE from some of the rescues in Pierce County and were impressed with everyone’s professionalism, “so I knew this would be a great fit.”

Asked what she likes most about volunteering with SAFE, Caryn says, “I like that I get to learn something new, whether that’s watching Terry work with the horses, horse care, or facilities work around the farm.”

Phoenix is one of Caryn’s favorite rescue stories. “I wasn’t here when he was at SAFE the first time, or when he was found and brought back, but he was one of the first horses to greet me when I first started,” she says. “I didn’t think this horse, who thought he was a puppy, would ever get adopted: he had so many quirks, as lovable as he is. When Terry told me he had found his forever home, I was shocked! Now, I get to see pictures of him relaxing in a pasture and even roping cattle. I’m so happy he found a mom and dad who love him just as much as our volunteers and barn visitors do.”

When not helping at SAFE, Caryn likes to go exploring. “I’m not from the Pacific Northwest so when I’m not riding or volunteering, I drive to strangely-named places or go on day hikes to soak in views from our beautiful section of the world. And I’m always looking for suggestions.”

February Volunteer of the Month — Casey A!!

Congratulations to Casey A. who has been named Volunteer of the Month for February in recognition of her stellar ground work and riding. “Casey is tireless, has a great attitude, is a star stall cleaner and communicates well with our ponies,” said SAFE Volunteer Manager Jane Millar. Trainer Joel Conner also praised the thoroughness of Casey’s prep work that sent Stevie to training with a great foundation for riding.

Casey started riding when she was eight at a small hunter/jumper barn in upstate New York. “I was hooked immediately,” she says, “and started spending every spare minute around horses, doing chores in exchange for lessons and board. Lady Louise, my first horse, was a small chestnut Arab with a flaxen mane and tail who, I like to think, chose me as much as I chose her. Affectionately known as Her Mareness, Lady taught me the value of elbow grease, gumption and quality. At nearly 30, she is now happily retired and well-loved by my mom, Sandy, in New York.

“Horses had become an indelible part of my life, so when I moved to the Seattle area in 2012, I was feeling the void. In the spring of 2013, I serendipitously found SAFE and started volunteering on a Tuesday night chore shift. Shortly after, I joined the riding and training program. Being a part of the SAFE community has felt like a gift. I have learned so much since joining the team, and I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded and strong horse people.”

Casey says she can’t choose a favorite SAFE horse, and is struck by how resilient and forgiving they are with kindness and consistency. “Right now, Stella, Stevie, and Jewel are keeping me on my toes,” she says. “They are each remarkably different, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from them.”

SAFE is fortunate to have volunteers like Casey A., who work so hard to keep our horses healthy and on the path to finding their forever homes.

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.”

2016 Volunteer of the Year: Caren McMillen

Choosing just one SAFE volunteer to be named Volunteer of the Year is never an easy task, but when someone like Caren McMillen is part of your family, the choice becomes utterly obvious. Caren has been with SAFE as a volunteer for almost three years, but there are times when it feels like she has always been part of this organization. She brings so much heart to everything she does here at Safe Harbor, and she always seems to find a reason to chuckle, no matter what. Knowing that Caren is on site means never having to worry about a thing and if ever there is a problem that needs solving, she is usually front and center making sure it gets done. She is a dear friend to so many of us, and the horses love her too. So choosing Caren as our Volunteer of the Year was very easy, as she absolutely beyond a doubt was our Most Valuable Player in 2016. We can’t even begin to speculate what we’d’ve done without her in 2017!!!!

In addition to her role as shift lead on Monday mornings at the barn, Caren routinely jumps in to help when a chore crew comes up short, and is nearly a daily presence at SAFE to help wherever needed. She operates as a right hand to Facilities Manager Jeanne Stine, helping to wire electric fences, hang gates, haul manure, build a Noble shelter or install hay racks. Barn managers Lori and Lisa call her “a great assistant.”

Caren joined SAFE’s Monday morning chores team in April 2014, a couple of weeks after she retired from her job as a graphic designer for CBRE. “A dear friend had read an article mentioning SAFE as one of the top volunteer organizations in the area,” she says, “and thought it might be a good fit for me. Bingo!”

She says it had been quite awhile since she had mucked out a stall, let alone five or six. “After a time, I wanted to know more about the group, so I signed up for a few committees (facilities, marketing and alumni). Expanding into these other areas has given me the opportunity to get a much broader picture of what’s involved in running such a complex organization.”

Friendships grew and developed, sharing the common bond of the love for the horses. “Friendships that have been, are, and will continue to be, very special to me,” she adds. “My favorite horse? Why, Stevie, of course! But, there was/is also Phoenix, Ben, Prince and King. I ride an iron horse now which, quite frankly, seems to be the safer choice!”

Caren is a tremendous SAFE volunteer in many capacities, not only physical. Her graphic design talent is evident in some of SAFE’s marketing materials and certificates. She’s a delightful force around the barn, always sporting a friendly, upbeat attitude. SAFE has benefited greatly from Caren’s time and energy.

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.

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.