Anderson and Annabelle were surrendered by their owner after the Kitsap Humane Society discovered the two horses living in an isolated field where they were being fed but were otherwise unhanded. Anderson was a stallion, who had been allowed to breed Annabelle repeatedly over a period of 5-6 years. His behavior in the presence of his mare was decidedly studdish, and Annabelle had to be removed from the property before we could even attempt to catch him safely. With the help of trainer Darik Anderson, Anderson was caught, loaded into a trailer, and hauled to NWESC where he was immediately gelded. He got an education in good behavior from Dr Hannah, who conducted his post-surgery forced exercise.
Anderson is a stunning horse — a deep chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail — and an absolutely breathtaking mover as well. He has several months professional training, but is still green broke and needs a confident and experienced rider. Anderson is a lovely horse with a classic Arabian frame who positively floats when he moves; he just needs patience and continued training to reach to his full potential. He stands nicely for the farrier, vet, and handlers. He bathes, trailers and is currently being ridden walk, trot, and canter. He has been ridden on trails and has a very intelligent and sweet personality, always looking for a neck rub! He is quick to learn and has a big gait that would do well for competitive trails, endurance riding or whatever discipline you fancy. His athletic abilities will take where ever you want to go!
Here at SAFE, we are enjoying the wonderful sunshine by exploring the trails at Farrel-McWhirter Park next door. The horses love to get outside and get a break from arena work. Last week, both King and Stevie went out for their first trail rides and did perfect! We had a nice steady group to help them along, with Anderson in the lead and Cameo bringing up the rear. You can bet we’ll be enjoying many warm days this summer walking in the cool forest with these horses. They all are amazing and more than ready for new homes!
OK OK… so maybe there aren’t any rodeos in our near future but let me tell you this boy was SO BRAVE and well behaved working with cows for the first time. The truth is… I was more scared of getting run over by one of them than Anderson! The only time he really got concerned was when they first came into the arena. After that, he was interested but remained with me and listened to my direction. MAN I LOVE THIS HORSE! It is things like this that show me what an amazing riding partner he has become and will continue to develop into over time.
We had a some really great riding sessions with Joel while visiting in Ellensburg and quite a bit of homework to do. Overall Anderson did extremely well hauling over the pass and getting settled into the farm and was ready to work. The next goal in our training is to increase his promptness to moving forward when ask and to keep his life up during the movements. Anderson, our fiery Arabian boy, has a dullness to him. He would mush rather stand and watch the action then get out and go. It’s important to continue to make sure he doesn’t become dull and when I ask him to move forward he needs to do it in a timely manner. Changing paces even within the gait can help keep him lively and at this point in his training it is still important to remember to stay away from using two reins. Pulling back with two reins will only stop him and not allow him the freedom he needs as a young riding horse. While we can start asking for softness with both reins he still needs to be going along for the majority of the time with a soft rein and if needed just the inside rein to help him bend and shape up around the inside.
I am extremely proud of Anderson’s improvement over the past few months and it is good to have a check up with Joel. He has really come quite a long way and is a testament to the foundation that the horsemanship training is providing for our SAFE horses. He is ready to take on whatever style of riding his adopter wants to take him into. And while he is still best suited for an intermediate to advanced rider he is starting to fill in more for the rider. I am hoping to start introducing some of the volunteer riders to him and see how he does with different riders on his back.
Interested but relaxed
First time moving the herd!
Separating one off
Learning to turn on the front quarters
Anderson hooking on to the cow
SAFE saddle comes in handy keeping the riders safe and balanced!
Being “horseless” is a choice I have made. I work many long hours for SAFE and when I come home, my family needs me. I could not justify running off in my free time to ride my personal horse or spend the many hours a week I would want to spend with one. I don’t think I know how to do anything but go all in. So I get to still enjoy working with horses thorough my job at SAFE. I always have one very special horse that becomes my central project and that horse will get all the attention and care I would give my own horse. So I have lovingly taken to calling Anderson my boyfriend and all the volunteers tease me that I love him so much.
So what is the consequence to this? Well for starters, potential adopters seen that love and have even remarked that they didn’t want to take him away from me. Oh dear! Have I loved him too much? I don’t think this is possible but I understand their concern and think it is very sweet. For me, the absolute best day at SAFE is when a horse is loaded in the trailer and headed to their new home. A perfect family has been found for them and a future of safety and love awaits them. With Anderson, he needed a consistent person to attach to and trust. So the relationship for both of us works well. I get to have a sweet boy to ride and learn on and he gets to see that people are pretty cool and is building the trust he needs to secure placement in a forever home.
He gives me a very strong sense of safety. I know this sounds strange coming from the person that was bucked off this guy not even a year ago, but I feel that he wants to be safe and he doesn’t intend any harm to me. That said I am always mindful of him. Not only is he a young energetic Arabian but also he was a late cut stallion. In no way does he act overly interested in mares but he does test me in little ways to see who is actually in charge of whom. It is these times that I help him know the herd order that he becomes even more gentle and kind. He loves to interact with me. If he is in the round pen doing liberty work he wants to be near me and stays with me as I walk around the pen. He is a little cheeky at times so I am always aware of him and what he is capable. Keeping the order of the herd is important with him. I don’t have to “dominate him” to make my point, I just have to be clear and when I ask him to do some thing there are no questions about it happening. Get the change and let him have peace, have become some important lessons for us. If I let me get away with little bad habits he may challenge me at other times. Really small things like not letting him became mouthy are very important.
I have an absolute blast working with him at the Joel Conner clinic in March. He was happy to show Joel the changes he has gotten and in this clinic we really learned the importance of working on a loose rein. I LOVE the fact that we are at a place that he can calmly go into the walk, trot and lope on a loose rein and come back down with out pulling on the rein. God knows it took a lot of courage and trust to get there but the end result has changed so much in my own abilities and made a huge difference for Andy.
After the Joel clinic, it was time to take him back out on to the trails. He was a little excited at first but soon relaxed into a very nice big walk. He crosses over the bridges and water with just a very little amount of caution before going over; he’s happy leading other horses and just as content to follow. He did not get upset when other horses with us were pacing or unsettled. He was respectful of their space and OK if they came close behind him. I think he really enjoyed being out of the arena and he was just as responsive to me outside as he is at home. Again all the work we have done in preparation and building a solid relationship are paying off. I felt very safe on him and was very happy we could walk on the trail and over bridges with a long rein and at a relaxed pace.
Now I write this glowing report and think wow, he sounds like the perfect horse… While I might have some rose colored glasses on but I do think he is extremely talented young horse and has a ton of potential. He still is at a place in his training that he needs an athletic advanced rider who is able to keep up with his energy and able to guide him through the next few years. Someday he maybe able to carry a more beginner rider but at this point he needs an adopter who can continue the great work SAFE has done with him and not let him regress or fall into bad habits. His perfect match would be someone who has the time to work with him 4-5 times a week and has an arena to continue working with him along with any trail riding they want to do. He is not ready for someone to just pull him out on a Saturday, saddle up and head out on the trails. He still needs groundwork and to continue to confirm the basics. I do think he is going to go fast when the right match puts an application in for him. I will miss him but know that he will have the best home we can find for him and all the opportunity to have a successful forever home. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about Anderson.
Anderson, Nala, Bridgit and Jolene’s horse Jackson.
I don’t know if I will be able to put into words how pleased I am with the work Joel Conner did with Anderson. Anderson and I had hit a pretty hard spot in our training this last summer and while I loved working with him, I knew that he needed a better hand to get him through this rough patch. He was still very scared of saddling and had extreme reactions to leg aids and going forward. This resulted in a few accidents where I got to test gravity and one major fall that left me laid up for a few weeks. Stubborn or stupidity might have played a role in waiting as long as I did to ask Joel to take him into training, but in the end it saved us both.
During the three months Anderson was in training with Joel, I had the opportunity to take several day trips over to see his progress and ride. While Anderson had several issues to work out himself, there was a tremendous amount of growth I needed to do as well, including getting over my fear of falling from this horse. There are times you have to trust, to let go of old fears and let the teacher take the reins, as it were, and show you a better way. I am truly grateful for Joel’s help.
I was listening to a video of a theologian talking online the other day. He had an interesting analogy about growth. He explained that when we are at a point that we need to change we experience an uncomfortable feeling. He used the comparison of a lobster. As the lobster gets bigger, he becomes too small for his shell. Finally he becomes so uncomfortable that he has to shed his current shell and grow a new one, making him very vulnerable during this process. Pain, being uncomfortable, and vulnerability are all symptoms of growth. Let me tell you, Anderson and I both had a lot of growing to do over the past three months!
It’s amazing how horses can get us to stretch and push beyond ourselves. Rescue horses add another layer to this as they have to work through troubles that other horses often don’t face. I know I shouldn’t be proud but I can’t help smiling and being pleased with all the changes this horse has gone through since we picked him up. He is still growing and learning to be a gentle riding partner but now he has a great foundation to work with as we progress in our work together. He is suited for a confident rider who has experience with green horses, preferably someone who has worked with late cut stallions. I know his match is out there and they are going to have one amazing horse to partner up with!
Early in July of this year, we made the decision to put Anderson back into training, this time with Joel Conner. Although Anderson had a good start as a riding horse, there were some holes in his training that had started cropping up. A bucking incident unseated SAFE trainer Terry Phelps, and although she was unhurt, her confidence in Anderson was a bit shaken. Other holes in his training were beginning to cause concern. So Anderson was sent off to Ellensburg to continue his training with Joel.
Anderson is a smart horse who learns well, and he’s made terrific progress in his training. Being at the ranch means that Anderson is exposed to new situations all the time. He lives outside in a small herd made up of a young mustang gelding and another horse you’d probably recognize: SAFE alumni Owen. Owen and Anderson both came to SAFE as stallions and both grew up in relative isolation, leaving them a bit socially challenged in regard to other horses. Owen has turned out to have a very dominant personality, and he accepts nothing less than total respect from the horses he shares space with. At first, Anderson didn’t understand this dynamic, and in fact he tended to behave rather rudely towards other horses, letting his studdy side show. Joel told us that when Anderson was turned out with Owen, he put on a little show of dominance, which Owen wryly observed for several minutes before putting Anderson firmly in his place. This taught Anderson a valuable lesson, one that has had a very positive effect on his training. The three horses co-exist peacefully in their shared space, but both Anderson and the mustang know that when Owen says move, you’d better get out of his way!
We’ve made several trips over the mountains to visit, and Anderson’s been ridden successfully by Terry, as well as volunteers riders Casey and Jolene. He’s going beautifully at all three gaits, and looks amazing with his flaxen tail flowing out behind him as he canters along. This is a fabulous horse who is going to make someone a wonderful partner, but at this point in his training, Anderson needs a rider who is very confident and has experience working with green broke or difficult horses. If you don’t have complete confidence in your ability to ride him, Anderson is going to figure that out pretty quickly. For a rider with a light touch and near perfect timing, Anderson is a joy to ride. What makes him tricky is the fact that he is both sensitive and stubborn. As Joel puts it, he is not a horse who is willing to fill in for his rider. Make a mistake, or ask him with hesitancy, and he can quickly get “stuck.” He can be quite resistant to the idea of moving forward, especially if he’s not convinced that his rider really means it. Anderson is a horse who still believes that there is room to “negotiate” with a rider, and Joel is working with him to clear up that misunderstanding and improve his communication skills.
Joel’s also worked with Anderson on two spots of trouble that we saw here at Safe Harbor: saddling and standing for the farrier. Anderson has never been a huge fan of having the saddle put on; in fact, he’d probably prefer to be ridden bareback. He’s improved greatly in this area, and will now stand quietly for the pad and the saddle. Joel’s also worked on his reluctance to have his feet handled, and now he stands quietly to be trimmed as well. The end result? A horse that is safer to be around, not to mention more pleasant to handle. All of Anderson’s best qualities are still as strong as ever: he really is a sweetheart on the ground. He’s the type of horse who greets you with an interested nicker when you walk up to him. He’s a good-natured, good-looking horse. And when you remember where he came from, you can’t help but admire him for how far he’s come.
Anderson is likely to be returning to SAFE in Woodinville in the next few weeks. If you’ve got what this horse needs in a rider, and are interested in meeting him, please fill out our adoption application.
Anderson is one BIG love bug! If he could, I believe he would come into the house and snuggle up on the couch with me. This big puppy has a giant heart. It’s been a joy to be around him during his journey to becoming a riding horse.
He has a very smart and strong personality but he is also very young in both his actions and emotions. I don’t think he has a mean bone in his body. He is inquisitive about new things and very much wants to be your friend; however, he has some confusion where the line is between buddy and riding partner. So we are working on that.
Once he learns something, he is eager to show you what he knows. He is a little bit of an overachiever with a side of show off and goofball! I crack up every time I ask him to “pick me up” on the fence, because he quickly gets into position, lines up on the wall, and comes as close as he can so I can get on without any problem. He is very pleased with himself during the whole process and it is very endearing to watch.
He is very steady for mounting and dismounting either off the fence, mounting block, or from the ground. He has a pretty good stop and is learning that forward is the answer. He loves long grooming sessions and any activity that means I’ll be staying close and interacting with him.
He is great at trailer loading, standing for the farrier and being led in and out of turnout. He is easy to catch when he’s out in the large grass field. We still have not turned him out with other horses, mostly because all of the geldings here at SHS right now were late cut stallions who would want to assert too much dominance towards each other. He is a sweetheart over the fence with mares; in fact he’s stabled right between two mares without any issues.
I took him into the Joel Conner clinic a few weeks ago and he was great. We were in the morning groundwork sessions and Joel rode him over the lunch hour each day. Since the clinic, I’ve been riding him in the round pen and things are going well. I also took him out on a trail ride with four other SAFE horses and he was a very good boy.
Anderson is still extremely green and would only be suitable for a professional rider or someone with a lot of experience with young horses. He also needs an adopter who has a good understanding of the Arabian temperament. We will continue to work on his training here at Safe Harbor and hope to see some adoption applications come in on him soon. He has a ton of potential to offer to a skilled rider looking for a partner to enjoy for years to come.
Anderson made his way home from training a few weeks ago. It has been a lot of fun getting to know his personality and to start riding him. I have 100% confidence getting on him. With unfamiliar horses you don’t always know how they are going to react to a new rider, but Anderson was honest and not at all afraid or unsure about having me climb aboard.
While he is still a little leery about things being put on his back—like saddles or blankets—once they are in place, he quickly accepts them. He is gentle and very sweet! A few volunteers have have even described him as “cuddly” — which is a far cry from the horse we first met last summer! He is getting used to having a bit in his mouth and doesn’t have any major objections to it. He is well behaved around other horses in the arena, including mares…although he does show a little interest in them from time to time. But that usually means that he would rather go to wherever they are in the arena then stay on the circle we are working.
I had the opportunity to take him in the morning sessions for groundwork with Joel Conner when he was here in December. Anderson was fantastic! He was attentive to me even with up to 11 other horses in the arena. I was amazed at how intelligent he is and how quickly he picks up new things. He also had his first trimming session with our new farrier David Barron. David was kind and took his time to get to know him. He was good for the trim and everything went well.
I am enjoying our time together and excited to start showing him to potential adopters. Anderson is suitable for an intermediate to advanced rider who is comfortable with green horses and willing to keep this horse in training. With the right instruction, he could do just about any discipline. He got a little a bit of trail riding time while he was with Darik. Anderson is a genuinely nice gelding that will make some person a very lucky owner.
We had a great time hosting Joel again at Safe Harbor. The horses and volunteers had an amazing weekend and everyone progressed in their feel and training. Here are a few accounts from the volunteer participants about what they learned about the horses they were working with during the clinic:
Jolene D:Khianna– At the time of the clinic Khianna had a total of 4 or 5 rides on her since her return from foster. She was nervous, but did so well! She tries so hard. She is coming along nicely and I believe will develop into an incredible partner for someone.
Sara E: Jewel – Jewel was an all-star for the clinic, Claire has done such a great job with her. She felt flawless going from hind-end to front-end turns. I learned so much while riding her during the clinic. She is going to make someone a really great horse.
Sara E: Khianna – Did ground work with Khianna and at the beginning she was a nervous trotting mess, but Joel came over and helped me get her front feet moving and she calmed right down. She is so loving and tries so hard. Once she figures out you aren’t going to eat her, she just wants to please you and be loved on, I don’t know if I have ever worked with a horse that tries to give you 150% all the time.
Lisa G: Ben– I can’t say enough about how the horsemanship that Joel has helped bring to SAFE amazes me. I had Ben in all 4 sessions, GW and riding, and I was honestly just hoping I could get him to stay focused on me with all of the excitement, maybe get some nice serpentines down in the riding portion, and work on soft feel and stopping/moving forward off of the seat. Well….. He did all of those things and SO MUCH MORE. Every exercise that Joel moved the participants through, beginning to advanced, Ben tried. And SUCCEEDED, at least on some level. I am so impressed with the effort this big guy puts into everything; as long as he understands that there are no consequences if he doesn’t understand, and he knows that I will wait for him to figure it out, I believe this horse would be willing to try anything under the sun. In the few days since the clinic, Ben had maintained a quiet, willing attitude, with TONS of deep, relaxed sighs, even during the riding work. SO proud of the progress he has made and so grateful that this work was brought to the SAFE horses.
Sara S: Khianna– I worked with Khianna for the first time doing GW on Saturday morning, and was so impressed by her “try”. She does get a little nervous about the rope and flag coming at her while moving (though not at all while standing still in the comfort of the “herd” (me)). I particularly enjoyed the backing exercises, and she was so in tune with my feet and body language it felt like we were dancing partners! She is such a sweet girl.
Sara S:Phoenix– I did GW and rode Phoenix on Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t been ridden in weeks, and it was raining on the tin roof, so he was extra “special” to start, but after just a bit of GW he calmed down and started paying attention to me. Riding, he was great. He’s getting very good at backing circles, front and hind yields (he’s so bendy!). Over the few months I’ve been working with Phoenix, I’ve noticed he tries very hard to anticipate what I want (if he’s in the mood), but as soon as I push too hard and/or he doesn’t understand what I’m asking, he shuts down. On Saturday, I didn’t feel him shut down at all which is probably a combination of both of us getting better at this!
And many thanks again to Joel and Terry for putting on such an inspiring clinic!!! I wish I could come out to SAFE every day, but I’m glad to be even a small part of this great community and cherish this opportunity!
Claire C: Mesquite– It was my first official time working with Mesquite, and I think we made some really good changes. He is super sensitive so it was interesting to experiment with him and see how much pressure he needed. I only did the groundwork session with him and it was fun learning to time up with his feet better.
Claire C: Phoenix– For the afternoon session, I rode Phoenix, who I have not done a whole lot with either. He was also good; we worked a lot on more forward motion and keeping him focused on what I was asking. We did lots of bending and yielding, which was so good for him. Overall, he did very well.
Casey A: Stella– I worked with Stella, who is turning out to be a great little horse. We worked on slowing down and developing balance on both the ground and under saddle. We were both so much lighter by the end of Sunday, and I know we got a big change in our partnership. She was so relaxed through the entire clinic, even when horses around her were nervous. She’s also pretty resilient and forgiving of my mistakes. She has taught me so much, and she is going to make someone really lucky!
Erika S: Maggie– I worked with Maggie for all 4 sessions, and she did fantastic! She’s such a smart, willing mare, and we connected early on. One idea that I heard this weekend was that eventually it will feel like your horse is reading your mind… Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s the truth! Maggie remained tuned in for everything we learned about, and worked in sync with me. It honestly helped me more than I think it helped her!
Ann A: Bridgit– Bridgit is a friendly girl and likes getting attention. She is a bit on the lazy side and I had some trouble getting the life up in her while doing circling exercises. She just wanted to come into the center and hang out with me. She made good progress under saddle in the afternoon sessions. She was learning how to pick up a soft feel at the walk by the end of the first day and we had some nice walk/trot transitions. She needs more work backing straight and in a circle both on the ground and under saddle. She also needs more work reaching with her front foot and disengaging her hindquarters under saddle. She felt much more balanced to me than she did when I rode her last summer.
Jane M: Oscar– As a relative novice to practicing Joel’s horsemanship skills, the greatest lesson I took away from GW and riding Oscar during this most recent Joel clinic is the impact GW has on riding. Yielding hindquarters, circling to achieve bend and balance, it all makes such a difference when aboard the horse. I’m able to apply lessons learned under Joel’s guidance to my regular riding lessons. It’s quite remarkable to me, and I look forward to Joel’s next visit and my next “aha” takeaway!
Anderson is coming along well in his training and shows every indication of making a great riding horse partner. Here is a video of his first ride with a saddle. You can see he is very cautious about this leather thing on his back but once Darik sits on him he had little problems accepting the saddle. After this video was shot, I held Anderson while Darik trimmed his feet and he was a very good boy. It hardly took any time and he was very accepting of the handling of his feet. Since the video Darik has reported that Anderson continues to do well and he has begun riding him out on the trails on his property. Darik has over 50 acres of beautiful horse country and lots of woods that make for a great trail ride. Again, this boy, although still very green, has made wonderful changes since his rescue.
Anderson is doing excellent in training with Darik. He has spent some time relaxing into being a good gelding and getting used to the life as a domestic horse. We got to spend some time with him and watch Darik work him in the arena. He still has a cautious nature but he was quiet willing for us the handle him. He shows no signs of being aggressive and was eager to be involved with the people around him. We had a bit of a crowd, which was a little intimidating at first, but he settled into the work and let us all watch.
Darik’s property and farm is very quiet and a wonderful place for this boy to ease into life with people. We have no agenda or timeline he needs to follow. Our hope is that over the next few months we will get a saddle on him and he will start to understand that we are his friends. We were very surprised to see that he was already willing to let Darik sit on him and walk around the arena. He was a good boy and it was amazing watching him figure this out and the partnership he is gaining through Darik’s work. It is simply amazing how much this horse has changed from the day we rescued him and Annabelle. We can’t wait to go down and visit him again in training soon! He is spending a little more time getting gentle with Darik and then we will see what next step will be on his journey.
Our gregarious gelding was released from the hospital last weekend and made an uneventful journey down to Vader WA where he will be starting kindergarden with trainer Darik Anderson. Testosterone is still ebbing away, but we have high hopes for this handsome fella. We also want to send an enormous THANK YOU to Dr Hannah Mueller and NWESC for doing a spectacular job working with Anderson during his post-gelding exercise sessions. The horse we picked up on Sunday was a far cry from the wild thing we dropped off five weeks ago. Thank you for starting him well down the road to his new life!!!
Anderson is experiencing some complications related to his gelding surgery. He has increased swelling and general discomfort along with slightly depressed attitude. He was started on antibiotics today, and this will delay his discharge from Cedarbrook Vet Care. We’d like to have his teeth floated and his vaccinations done before he leaves, but since a float requires anesthesia, it will not happen until the complications resolve.
On a happier note, Anderson was trimmed by farrier Daphne Jones, who thought his feet were not that bad.
Here’s Dr Hannah, teaching Anderson the joys of bathing on a warm day in late Spring! This was a great learning moment for our former wild stallion…and as it turned out, a learning moment for all of us as well. Although Anderson had been checked carefully for lice — and none had been found — lice were lurking and apparently they did NOT appreciate bath day all that much. So May 21st was also “Lice Dust Your New Intakes” Day, although that’s a holiday that probably won’t catch on, outside of SAFE.
We’ve been monitoring Anderson’s progress since his gelding surgery last week. Dr. Hannah Mueller is supervising his post-operative forced exercise, which will help reduce swelling and encourage drainage and healing of the surgery site. During this exercise, she has an opportunity to provide an essential introduction to training. These lessons will be crucial in Anderson’s transition from a dangerous stallion to a happy, well-behaved gelding.
SAFE’s Herd Health Manager Debi Shatos spent a morning observing one of Anderson’s very first round pen training sessions with Dr. Hannah. She reported that, while he was exhibiting some stallion behaviors, he was responding appropriately to correction and was demonstrating that he is both sensitive and intelligent. He is also sound and a beautiful mover! Having been previously unhandled and untrained, he is having to learn the most fundamental concepts of leading, respecting space, and responding to voice commands.
Dr. Hannah continues to work with him daily and we should see steady progress as the hormones clear out of his system and he continues to learn acceptable behavior. Anderson is also scheduled for his first trim with farrier extraordinaire Daphne Jones this week. This will provide another opportunity for some very crucial learning.
We hope you enjoy this brief video showing a little of the work being done to help Anderson in his journey!
Taking possession of new horses is one of the most challenging parts of our job. Usually, even when a horse has been neglected, it’s had some degree of handing. And loading an unfamiliar horse into a trailer can be a challenge, but with patient efforts, we usually get them home uneventfully. But every couple of years, we encounter a situation so dysfunctional that it pushes our hearts and spirit to the limit. This is the story of Annabelle and Anderson.
Last week, the Kitsap Humane Society contacted SAFE, asking whether we would take two horses that an owner wanted to surrender. We were told that the horses were a mare and a stallion loose in a field; the mare had recently foaled; the foal had died; the mare was injured; and the stallion could only be caught by the owner, who was too ill to catch him. We agreed to assess the horses and made initial plans to catch the stallion.
To a point, we are used to picking up horses from situations where any sort of normalcy has been abandoned, but this case taught us new lessons. We entered the pasture through a gate that the owner had assured us could be pulled aside to lead the horses through. It was tied on by string, and the owner’s grandson and his friend started working to get it freed while we went to catch the horses.
Our initial plan had been to cordon off part of the pasture, but the pasture was too large for that to be feasible. We decided to assess them and see if they could be caught easily. The mare was friendly and was interested in oats. She was in healthy weight but her hooves so long they were nearly slippered. The stallion, while wary, was quiet and initially took a carrot. Our first impressions of him were that he was simply stunning with a gleaming chestnut coat, a flaxen mane and tail, and beautiful movement.
We put a halter on the mare and that is when things rapidly went sideways. The stallion suddenly charged the handler with the mare, trying to mount her. The situation was dangerous and the handler let the terrified mare loose. She ran free, with the stallion chasing her. She did her best to fight him off, double-barreling at him, but he was now excited and violently determined to breed her.
We were able to catch her again and prepared to take her out the gate, only to realize that the gate, now removed, did not offer the exit we had been promised. There was no way to remove her safely. We found another gate, but it was barred by blackberries and debris. We started clearing a path out of that gate, but now had a haltered, injured mare, and a stallion determined to get to her. It took three people holding him off with longe whips to keep him away from the handler.
In hindsight, had we realized his level of determination and unmanageability, had we realized the lack of safe egress, and had the mare not been injured, we would have quietly exited the field and asked the appropriate law enforcement officials to step in to manage the situation. There comes a point when risking human welfare adds to the dysfunction of the situation and is inappropriate. This case reiterated that, when taking in horses, we cannot take anything an owner or onlookers say at face value and need to assess the situation step by step before taking action.
We were able to get the gate cleared and the mare freed. We learned that the foal she lost a few days before had been her fifth foal, the other four had not survived. Every person we talked to about the mare had a different story, so we may never know the details, but clearly she had experienced great loss. We named her Annabelle. She went straight to the hospital at the Northwest Equine Stewardship Center for evaluation, and Dr Hannah was able to give her a decent bill of health, with no lingering complications from foaling and only minor, treatable injuries. She was released to SAFE a few days later and is now beginning her rehabilitation at Safe Harbor Stables.
This left us with the stallion, who was screaming and galloping down the fenceline. For both our safety and his, we decided to leave him in the pasture for a day or two to see if he would be more tractable without a mare present. We had to decide whether this horse was an appropriate intake for our program. He was uncatchable, and had spent the past five years breeding a mare continually. While he respected the longe whips enough to not challenge them directly, it was clear that we were dealing with a true unhandled stallion. We were concerned about the risks of trying to catch him and we were concerned about the risks of having him in our program, even if we could catch him. If he displayed the same kind of aggressive behavior when we were trying to catch him alone, our only responsible choice would be to euthanize him. We went to bed exhausted, with heavy hearts.
The next day, Terry Phelps, our Operations Director, took the initiative to contact a horse trainer named Darik Anderson, who has extensive experience handling feral and difficult horses. Darik agreed to meet us at the pasture and assess the stallion and give us his professional opinion on whether we could realistically try to rehabilitate him.
Darik arrived, assessed the situation, and started quietly working the stallion. Darik quietly, kindly, and professionally moved him around the pasture, walking up and down a large hill a seemingly endless number of times as the horse galloped away. At every opportunity, he gave the horse the chance for a quiet rub on the neck and a carrot. Every time the horse would gallop off, he would patiently send him forward and repeat the process. Again. And again. And again.
Finally, in a moment full of power and energy, the stallion stood and quietly let himself be haltered. He and Darik walked calmly down the hill together. He stood in the shade and let himself be fed carrots and drink water. He walked out the gate, loaded easily into the trailer, and was easily delivered to NWESC to await gelding surgery.
Once Annabelle was gone, he did not display the same level of aggression that he showed in her presence, which gives us hope that he can learn to find normalcy as a gelding. Since he’s been caught, he’s been easily to handle and is behaving well in the hospital. In the interest of full disclosure, given his long history as an aggressive, unhandled stallion, if his behavior were to revert and could not be remedied by reasonable training methods, we would opt to quietly euthanize him. At present, we are optimistic. Once he was alone, he gave up his freedom and let himself be caught without showing any kind of threatening behavior. He has earned his chance to become a very special gelding.
On Monday, without a great deal of fuss and bother, our newest horse underwent gelding surgery at NWESC. The procedure itself was uneventful, and a groggy gelding was returned to his stall to rest. He will now undergo a week or two of forced exercise with Dr Hannah to assist in his recovery from the surgery.
In honor of the person who first earned his trust and started this horse down the road to a new life, we named him “Anderson.” Welcome to the herd, Anderson.
1. Tabitha F.
2. Wynn H.
3. Maureen S.
Every horse deserves at least ten friends! Even a small monthly donation can make a difference. Plus, SAFE horse sponsors receive discounts at local businesses through the SAFEkeepers program!