Annabelle and Anderson 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, a young stallion, had been allowed to breed Annabelle repeatedly over a period of 5-6 years, resulting in a number of pregnancies but no surviving foals. Annabelle had her last foal in early May 2015 but received no vet care, and because she and the foal were not separated from the stallion, the foal died. As soon as she was rescued, Annabelle was sent to NWESC to be check for possible postpartum complications, and to treat wounds that were inflicted upon her by the stallion. Fortunately she was okay, although she clearly had been living rough.
Annabelle is a genuinely sweet mare that loves to be groomed. She is pasture sound, coming into the rescue with some old injuries: thickening of her deep digital flexor tendon on the right fore, a scar of her left hind cannon bone, and a lump in her left hind pastern. None of these are causing her any discomfort and she is very healthy however as we prepared to start her as a riding horse we noticed that the right front would get warm and a bit swollen with work so we have retired her and she is available as a companion horse.
Annabelle likes her routine and stability in the herd. She would be best suited with other animals that like to stay home and keep each other company. She is currently at foster with a few goats as her companions and she is very content. She is an absolute darling and would make a great addition to a quiet farm. She’s a volunteer favorite who loves attention and might make a good liberty or therapy horse.
It’s always interesting to pair up two horses for the first time…you never quite know how they’re going to get along. Happily, Annabelle and Aubrey, two mares looking for companion homes, hit it off right away when turned out together for the first time. Since this video was shot, the two have been seen grooming each other in the field, the sign of a true friendship! Good girls!
Annabelle has been fostered out at Jackie’s for 9 months and recently the other horses Sophie and Emmy moved back to Safe Harbor for training leaving Annabelle without a horse mate. While the neighbor horses are always in sight we weren’t sure how happy Annabelle would be alone and if we would need to bring another horse on property to be her companion. Jackie has 3 goats: Yodel, Bridget and Jet. Some goats and horses get along well and keep each other company. We thought we would give it a try and see if Annabelle could bond to having goat buddies. Well I think the photos tell the story best! At some point another horse will come to stay in foster with Annabelle but for now this sweet mare is going fine with just her little buddies to keep her company!
Emmy is getting a winter turnout with her new friends Sophie and Annabelle. Sophie and Annabelle have been at the farm for about a month now and welcomed Emmy into the herd. They are all getting along well and even the goats get to hang with the girls!
We are hoping that some rest and time out will help Emmy make a full recovery and we will be taking a look at her soundness again in the late spring. They are all very happy and enjoying the big field and space to be horses. We wanted to share with you these cute photos our wonderful foster mom Jackie sent us:
Sweet Miss Annabelle is healthy and ready to move out of SAFE Harbor to a foster home and help us make room for new intakes. We are looking for a foster who can take in this arabian girl and give her a quiet place to be a companion non-riding horse. She is still extremely herd bound so the ideal home would be somewhere she can see her buddies all of the times. She is a good girl, easy to groom and handle but when she is stressed she needs an experienced handler to help her and the people around her safe. She is still on the heavy side and it would be good to keep her grazing on grass intake to a minimum especially during the high sugar times in the fall and spring. Please fill out a foster or adoption application if you are interested in learning more about Annabelle and making her part of your family. You can also email our Foster Coordinator, Eileen Carrel, at email@example.com or to learn more about adoptions, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If Annabelle could tell us all the stories of her life, I think we would all have a good long cry and then gather ourselves up and look to the future. She is a tough girl who has spent a good part of her life fighting for her safety. Annabelle has a deep soul and we can tell that she desperately wants to be with a herd and comforted by their peaceful community.
After being rescued, SAFE has taken some time to let this mare settle into her new life. She has steadily been getting easier to handle both for the volunteers and farrier. We can tell that a long time ago she was handled and may have even been ridden. We have been helping her lose some weight by light exercise, turnout on a dry lot, and soaking her hay to reduce the sugar content.
She is for the most part easy to lead and accepts what we ask of her. There are times, however, that the desire to leave the human handling her and connect with the herd overwhelms her completely. This strong herd bound behavior is something that we have been working with her on since she arrived. It is dangerous for her to get into this stressful state and lose sight of the person at the end of the lead. She has an underlining go to reaction for self preservation that can be unaware of the people around her who are trying to help. She is slowly learning to trust and look to the human for guidance but this is a long process and her past may never be completely erased.
One of the biggest roadblocks ahead for her training is a bi-lateral swelling and light lameness in her right front and left hind. Before putting her into any work we had our veterinarian take a look at her to determine if it was safe for us to ask her to work. The vet concluded that she is mildly lame on both those legs but that we can begin to work her lightly and never ask too much of her. Ideally we could X-ray her hind left and ultrasound her right front but it is important be responsible with our medical funds. Due to her age and level of training we determined not to do any diagnostics on her and to only ask a little bit from her. The swelling in her left hind has gone down some over the last few months, probably since she is not defending herself from the stallion she was kept with before being rescued. However the right swelling remains and can became more inflamed at times. We continue to only ask a little bit from her and monitor her comfort.
We have put a saddle and bridle on her, which she kindly accepted. We do not feel that she will be a suitable for heavy riding but she maybe able to have riders at the walk as long as it is not too demanding. We will continue to work with her on trusting people and being good for things like the farrier, trailering and general handling. She really has changed a ton since her intake. She is currently available as a companion horse and we are looking to place her in the right home as soon as possible.
Annabelle working with Sydney on stepping up on the platform.
Annabelle trusting Sydney as she asks her to stand up on the platform.
Yesterday was a marathon day of dental care for the horses at Safe Harbor Stables. Dr McCracken of Rainland Equine did seven floats and some lameness consultations along with them. Here’s a rundown of how each of the horses did:
Annabelle was not terrific about getting injections for her sedation, but considering it’s probably been several years since she’s seen a dentist, her teeth were in reasonably good shape. Some sharp points but nothing significant.
Jewel was a pill for her shots, but her teeth were in great shape. Dr M said that based on her teeth, Jewel is well into her 4th year and could be closer to 5! (For the record, we’re going to leave her at four!). Nothing too conclusive about her thickened left front knee. Dr McCracken said Jewel could have had soft tissue damage at some point and has some arthritis in that knee. It’s unlikely that it’s a bone chip since those generally happen more in the knees with TB race horses, but we might x-ray at some point to take a look.
Oscar did considerably better for his shots, and his teeth looked good, but he does have some extra large spacing between some of his teeth on one side, which means that food can get trapped there and cause decay. She cleaned it out and said if he is good for us we can help by squirting water into his mouth to help flush his gums and remove anything that gets stuck in there. Dr McCracken also flushed his left eye to see why it is always tearing. There was no clog in his tear duct. She also examined his eye using a little stain to reveal ulcers and scratches, but everything looked normal.
Bridgit was an angel for her shots! Her teeth looked good too. But here’s another surprise: Dr M puts her age closer to 3 years old!! She is still losing baby teeth! Bridgit popped a splint a week or so ago and Dr M advised us to give her another 3-4 weeks off until there is no heat in the area. No that means that Bridgit won’t be at the SAFE Horse Show this year. In fact she may end up going back to foster along with Sophie, which would be awful for her because she’ll have nothing to go all day but graze, snooze, and play in a huge pasture. Poor Bridgit!
Lola we knew would be bad for her sedation, so we did an IM sedation to start and let that soak in, then came back to start the dental. She was still too awake so did have to give her more drugs this time IV and still not great for it. But her teeth were in good shape which made the procedure quick and painless. We will need to work on Lola’s aversion to seeing the veterinarian. She can be very difficult to handle when she sees them coming. Fear based issues can be hard to overcome but it is important we help her through just like any other training issue. Lola has her strong opinion and self preservation and while we love her for it, it’s what makes her our endearing “sass-apolussa mare”, we need to help her stay safe and understand vets are there to help her feel better.
Khianna was good for her shots, but her teeth showed more sharp points than you’d expect to see considering she was floated in January. Dr M suggested that we plan to have her teeth looked at and possibly floated again in 9 months.
Finn also handled his shots like a pro, giving Dr M the chance to do an in-depth evaluation of his jaw, which has had some unusual swelling for about the past month. The swelling has gone down some and she thinks it will just take more time. His teeth are very, very weird with the right top long, right bottom short, left top short and missing some and left bottom extremely long. She took a lot off the tall areas and it took a little work but she did get to a point where there was some contact now on both sides. It is a slow process to correct his teeth and he will continue with the 4-6 month dentals for a few more times. Dr M can only take so much off at a time and keep the tooth alive. He is a very sweet boy even with his funny teeth.
Annabelle is getting settled into the routine at Safe Harbor Stables. For the first week she was a bit nervous when other horses where being moves around from turnout or to the arena. She also would start calling and running even if the horse across from her went out to their run and she could not see them any more. She has since settled down quite a bit. Mornings are still a little exciting but she loves her breakfast and the hay bag is keeping her busy!
We had her first farrier appointment and all went relatively well. We have some work to do in teaching her to standing quietly but all and all it was managed. Part of the anxiety may also still be connected to her being unsettled in the new environment. Volunteer rider Sydney has added Annabelle to her senior project and is working on helping the mare focus on her handler’s aids and find peace in the work together. While she has shown a sweet side she also has little to no understanding about personal space. One big issue is her falling or putting her shoulder into the person walking her. In just one week of training we have already seen some very nice changes and expect that it will keep progressing well.
Annabelle was seen by Dr. Liz Devine from Pilchuck for a soundness evaluation due to multiple issues with old leg injuries. Dr Devine looked at the thickening in Annabelle’s right front deep digital flexor tendon, the scar on her left hind cannon bone, and the lump on her left hind pastern joint. However, the lameness exam showed only mild (1/5) lameness in the left hind with an occasional lame step in right front. Dr. Devine indicated that it would be safe to put Annabelle to work in light training and if she becomes more lame, we can consider further diagnostics at that time.
Before her rescue, Annabelle had not had proper hoof care for some time. Her hooves were terribly overgrown and split, making movement quite uncomfortable for her. Dr Hannah gave her a preliminary trim while she was at NWESC, but today she got a full and proper trim from farrier Eric Nelson. Annabelle found the whole “standing still” thing to be a bit of a challenge but she was a good girl for the most part. Best of all, her hooves now look much more like they’re supposed to. It’s going to take several more trim cycles before she’s fully recovered from the neglect of years without farrier care, but she’s taken the first steps.
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. Jessica F
2. Susanne M
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!