King was seized from his owner by Pierce Co Animal Control after he was discovered living tied to tree and starving. He was held in Animal Control custody for nearly 7 months while his owner petitioned the court for his return. Once ownership was signed over to the county, he was offered for adoption and quickly placed; however his new owners returned him, saying that he displayed aggressive behavior. PCAC turned to SAFE for help. Despite what we’d been told about him, we found him to be relatively docile and respectful when handled correctly. Nevertheless we will proceed with caution. King is a fine looking fellow who seems to be in good health and decent weight. This is a horse that we hope will benefit greatly from SAFE’s training program.
When King arrived at Safe Harbor, he was frightened of every noise and every person who approached him. Our efforts to gentle him and gain his trust are really showing and now you can hardly tell he is the same jumpy horse that came to us. Now when you approach his stall he is calm and inquisitive. He loves head rubs and has become relaxed in his stall and to work around. King has also gotten a lot better for the farrier and we have no problems grooming him or getting his blanket on and off. He had some time off during the move to our new property and for the most part “vacationed” well. His sensitivities to the flag showed up again during his recent clinic with Joel Conner but over all he was much more connected to his volunteer handler. After the clinic was finish King loaded easily into the trailer and went home with Joel to begin his training as a riding horse. All reports have been great. He traveled well, settled into his paddock and began work with Joel without an issues.
Volunteer rider Ann worked with King in the clinic. Here is what she had to say about her experience:
I really enjoyed working with King in the groundwork session. He is a sweet and sensitive horse. I worked with him at the November clinic and he has made some good progress since then. He is still anxious about the flag and is not real comfortable being worked from his off side. He is very light and responsive in all the groundwork exercises. He sticks right with me while leading and is easy to send out on a circle in either direction. I did the exercises without the flag at first and kept everything calm and slow. Then I added the flag and he became quite anxious and was rushing through the exercises trying to keep the flag from touching him. I worked on sending him past me in a half circle petting him with the flag several times as he went past. He was able to settle down and accept the flag touching him before too long. He just needs a lot more work with the flag. King stays focused on what I am asking and follows a feel well. He is willing and has a lot of try. King is going to make a really nice horse for someone.
King is working through the groundwork phases to becoming a riding horse. Last week Jolene began having him come up to her along the fence, to get him used to her swinging her leg over him and weight of her on his back. As you can see from the video, he took all of this very well and was happy and content. Our goal with a sensitive horse like this is to allow him the time and patience to progress without making things a huge ordeal. Days like this are building a strong foundation of trust and partnership that will follow him for the rest of his life.This will teach him to trust people so that when situations arise where he needs to make choices, he will remember that people made him feel peace and safe around them even when new presented with new things. He can look to people for how to react or guidance in what to do. King has changed dramatically from that horse that showed up at SAFE just 3 months ago, who was afraid of everything and had no idea how to reach around people. By concentrating on basic manners and a solid foundation SAFE is truly making a difference in this horse’s life. And let me tell you it is going to be a great life! He is going to be a very nice riding horse and a wonderful partner to his future family!
Here is a short video of King getting to feel the weight of a rider for the first time:
Here are some beautiful photos Jessica Farren took of Jolene working with King in the round pen:
Little distractions along the outside of the round pen
Jolene has been working to prepare King for his first saddling. He is a very sensitive boy so she has been preparing him with a ton of groundwork and it shows. The experience was very successful and he was able to experience this important training step without too much stress or worry. Great job, Jolene!
Here is a video of the event, which includes a lot of great information from Terry. (Note: Terry mistakenly says King is 7 but we think he’s closer to 10, from what Animal Control told us.)
Volunteer rider and trainer Jolene D has been working with both King and Vida to get them ready to saddle up and ride. Here is her report from our recent Joel Conner clinic:
I had a wonderful time working King in the clinic this past weekend. It was the perfect opportunity to help him work through some of his fears. There was so much going on all around him. Everyone was using flags, horses were constantly moving around, there was even a mini getting worked! He struggled with knowing where to focus. I tried to make being with me and working with me the most comfortable place for him. At first, his thoughts felt like they were ping-ponging around the arena. As I started reinforcing for him that all the other commotion was nothing to be concerned about, he became more consistent and relaxed in his maneuvers. I believe this will be a key concept for him moving forward.
This is a really sweet horse. A couple days before the clinic she became sensitive to pressure behind her poll. She started rearing. There was no intent behind it, she was just stuck. She did not know that she could relieve the pressure she felt by just moving forward. The more we work with her to get her feet unstuck, the less likely she will ever feel the need to rear again. She made so much progress during the clinic. I can’t wait to see how calm and centered she becomes.
Here are some photos of Vida getting worked at the clinic:
SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Here’s a report from Ann A about her session with King:
I worked with King in Sunday’s groundwork session. I had not worked with him before and really enjoyed getting to know this sweet, sensitive boy. He responded well when I kept everything calm, quite and slow. I started by working him in a half circle between myself and the wall. He was quite nervous at first and wanted to rush through. Joel had me work him without the flag and use only my leading hand to keep him from feeling too much pressure. He got progressively better with each pass but did not want to stand on my right side. He would spin around and try to rush immediately back through to my left side where he felt more comfortable. I had to bump him back to keep him from rushing through. When he could stand quietly on my right side I rubbed his forehead and had him pause for a moment before sending him back to the left. He was ultimately able to walk calmly from one side to the other pausing on each side and waiting for me to send him back the other way.
Following this we worked on the walking half circle exercise. Joel wanted us all to use a flag for this one. King is still fairly fearful of the flag but was able to do quite well after our work next to the arena wall. I was primarily working on my own coordination switching hands on the flag and lead rope. I used the flag very minimally to cue him without scaring him. King was a bit stressed and really wanted to scoot around to avoid the flag. He only got really scared a couple of times though. We did much better on our second pass down the arena. He could use a lot more work with the flag and this exercise in particular.
King is doing fairly well with backing from a hand on the halter knot. It did not take much to start him back although I had to encourage him to flex at the poll and get soft. I only backed five or six steps each time but he was stepping with his feet in diagonal pairs. When we tried backing a circle he would take a couple of reaching steps and them bog down and get stuck. He could use a lot more work at this.
King was a bit nervous leading along the wall. I gave him a bit more space and kept things calm and quiet. He handled it well and got good at keeping slack in the line and following a feel. I did not try trotting because I wanted him to stay calm and relaxed. He stayed focused on me and I only had to bump him back a few times when he was late backing. He was not as comfortable being led from the right side and will need more work on that. He tried to put me back on his left side a few times.
King is quite soft and light at bending his head to the left. He followed my feel and kept a float in the lead. When asking him to bend to the right he would bend his head about 45˚ and then start moving his feet. He took quite a few steps before he got his feet stopped. I had to use a bit more pressure to get a 90˚ bend. It took many tries before he was able to bend to the right without moving his feet but he did eventually get there.
All in all King is a nice horse to work with and has a lot of try. I was really pleased with the progress he made today.
We have begun the process of evaluating and setting a training plan for our new horse King. He is currently started training with Jolene, one of our volunteer riders, and they are already making strides to a great partnership. Here is an update from Jolene about her experiences so far with King:
King came to us with some history. We were told that he had charged at someone and been aggressive. This is always a concern when we take in horses, as we have volunteers in their stalls every day. How was he going to handle this?
I started working with King after his initial quarantine was over. I learned some very important things right from the start. He didn’t show any aggressive behavior. What I did find was some behavior that could have appeared aggressive which came from his higher-than-normal fear response. He feared almost everything. Standing water, blue tarps covering gravel piles, horsemanship flags, sudden movement, being approached in a small space. This horse just never had the opportunity to learn that these things would not hurt him.
King is a riding prospect. He is going to make someone a great riding horse. But he will have a long road in preparation for that. SAFE has the ability to go slow prior to starting a horse under saddle. It is a luxury that sets our horses apart. Because of this luxury, they are content when the first ride comes, and they become incredibly comfortable with their surroundings and life.
King is going to be an awesome horse to work with and learn from. He has so much to offer. We look forward to sharing his progress.
King is a 9 year old Tennessee Walking Horse cross gelding who was seized from his owner by Pierce Co Animal Control. King, another horse, and several dogs were discovered living tied to trees and starving, on a wooded property where their owner was squatting. The horses were seized and held in Animal Control custody for nearly 7 months while their owner petitioned the court for their return. Once ownership was signed over to the county, King was offered for adoption and quickly placed; however his new owners returned him within a month, saying that he displayed aggressive behavior. Knowing that SAFE has a great training program for troubled horses, PCAC turned to us for help. We agreed to come meet the horse and assess him.
The horse we met was a handsome fellow, big bodied and jet black expect for his white legs and one big area over his left shoulder. He greeted us with cautious optimism and allowed himself to be haltered. Working him in hand, he seemed pretty uneducated but quite willing to yield when asked. The true test, we decided, would be loading him into our trailer. He looked doubtfully at our trailer ramp, but with a few words of encouragement, he walked right up and in without a fuss. He was signed over to us, and we took him home!
King has settled in at Safe Harbor quite easily, and while he’s interested in the horses that surround him, he’s calm and quiet most of the time. But we know full well that just because he’s behaving himself now, that doesn’t mean that the behavior that his adopters saw is not in there somewhere! So we are proceeding with caution. Once he has passed quarantine, we’ll be able to start working with him on the ground to see what we’ve got. This is a horse that we hope will benefit greatly from SAFE’s training program.
Photos, just off the trailer:
1. Dej J.
2. Therese J.
3. Kirsty E.
4. Dana R.
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!