Happy Help A Horse Day!

April 26 is officially ASPCA Help a Horse Day! SAFE officially celebrated last Sunday with a huge Open House Celebration at our new home in Redmond.

Huge thanks to the over 400 people who joined us on Sunday for the End Hunger Games at SAFE. Our volunteer team walked guests through 13 Districts where they learned about each step in the horse rescue process – from rescue and rehabilitation, feeding and care, through to adoption and a new forever home!  Each district even had 2 horse tributes from our herd, but the tour started with a rousing greeting from the wondrous Effie Trinket (aka SAFE Executive Director Bonnie Hammond) to explain the day. This event was important in so many ways…it was an opportunity to show off our new Redmond home, meet some of our new neighbors, and have a fun and educational day as we compete for part of $100k in grant money from the ASPCA for Help a Horse Day 2017. We even had participation from our friends at Little Bit, Rainland Farm, Olympic Forge, Snohomish Search & Rescue and King County Animal Control, each explaining what they do in their work with horses.

There was lots of interest in volunteering, which we just love, and over $3000 donated during this three-hour event. Eleven kind supporters even signed up to become new SAFEkeepers as part of SAFE’s monthly horse sponsorship program. You can join them by making a donation, becoming a SAFEkeeper sponsor, or joining us a volunteer. Just visit www.safehorses.org and click on 8 Easy Ways to Help for all the links.

If you weren’t able to visit, our next open house in Sunday June 25th from 12-3, so mark your calendar. Until then, enjoy a few photos from the event (photo credits to Jessica Farren Photography) and wish us luck as we prepare our submission to hopefully win the $25,000 grand prize! Any additional donations or horse sponsorships made by April 30th do count towards this event.  As always, thanks so much for all of your support!


Another Perspective on Bridgit

Here is a letter from Ian about his time getting to know Bridgit and working with her in the Joel Conner clinic. Ian is a wonderful horseman and a absolute joy to have volunteering at SAFE. I am very happy that he enjoys working with this very sweet mare!

Hi Terry,
I really want to thank you for getting the two of us to be ‘friends.’ Every session with her is a great experience, and the clinic was no exception. I had some initial nervousness – this was my first (ever!) clinic participation, and I had only a quick chance to “rehearse” some groundwork with Bridgit on the Thursday prior. Like many of the horses, she knew something exciting was going on, and had a good bit of energy in her stall when I groomed her. However, it occurred to me that she’s done more of these than I have, and I could learn a lot from her about it.
Leading her to the arena she shied away from the new floral planters at the entrance, which she had also done during the Thursday session when they were newly placed. Thursday, it was a full on spook – the only time she’s ever done that with me. At the clinic it was just a wary look, and a little more energy than was necessary coming through the arena entrance. I knew she needed me to take charge before she would calm down. I took her to into the arena to a space where we could work for a bit. After warming up with yielding the forequarters, backing, and circling at a walk first, then the trot, she was willing to settle into a lazy walk with some lip smacking. At that time, I stretched her by flexing to the halter, and then practiced some desensitizing with the rope. This got the first yawn out of her, and we were ready to get started.
Joel began the clinic by circling some more, which Bridgit now had a good groove for. She can still pull to the outside if her inquisitive mind passes anything interesting, but she evened her circle and loosened up her back, starting her trot with a head low to the ground and her back rounding and getting longer. I could see the mounted work she’s done with Lindsay lately has had a great impact on her natural sense of collection, and I was happy to see her relax further. The “back up then yield the fore end” exercise showed us both where to improve. Bridgit remembers that yielding the shoulder is different from going forward or back, and within the 20 odd minutes of practicing, both shoulders were soft enough to yield with no more commotion than simply raising my hand near her eye. I got to remember the importance of good body position when asking for a front quarters yield.
During the leading along the wall exercise, Joel noticed me being heavier than necessary to cue our backups, driving from the front with the lead rope. When he lead Bridgit, he used so much less energy cuing and much more of an energy of anticipation or gusto. Bridgit liked it a lot. She yawned after that moment, and after Joel got me to “lighten up,” she moved with me so much more willingly. Not only that, but she relaxed even further and yawned several times during the final practice of that exercise. At the end, we all gathered our horses around to listen to Joel’s wrap-up, and Bridgit yawned THE WHOLE TIME. Every time I looked at her, she was yawning. She had clearly let got of a lot of tension during the clinic, she even moved like a different horse. Also, I’ll be using the backup/front quarters exercise with all other horses.
Bridgit is so incredibly smart, she picks up on everything so quickly. This does mean that she spends a bit of time challenging me in the beginning of any session, looking for reassurance of leadership. Once I get her feet yielding and moving she can be so sweet and placid that little will phase her. All the same, she meets everything I do with so much try – I really think there’s no end to her potential. She is such a wonderful horse! The thing that gets me the most, is that she really enjoys her time with her humans and can be downright affectionate when she’s relaxed like that.
Let me know if you have any questions. She really is a joy to work with!
Ian LeFae

Something new for Rosie

At SAFE, we realize that our horses have many different gifts to share. As we learn about who they are and what they are capable of, we find that their future may not be as a “riding” horse. Dear Rosie has had a lot of miles on her in the past and from what we can tell they were not always very pleasant. There is a lot of fear around saddling and riding and we have decided to take it easy with her. From what we can tell, she is over 25 years old and it really isn’t worth a ton of stress on her to make her a “riding” horse again.

When Sarah approached me with the idea of doing some liberty training at SAFE with her trainer Nancy, I was very excited. Nancy’s style of liberty training is very positive and sounded like something that could make a big difference in Rosie’s life. Sometimes when horses have been abused or mistreated it is very hard to get them to trust and connect with humans. Abuse can come in many forms, and for a sensitive horse like Rosie, it may have just been people not listening to her or speaking her language. When a horse is confused and feels threatened, it can leave scars on their relationship with humans. Introducing Rosie to something she has never experienced, like liberty training, may be a door that can be opened to show her a different way of being with humans. This might just be the start of a whole new life for Rosie. At the very least, she is finding peace in a space with humans and learning to trust. Here is a what Sarah had to say about Rosie’s first liberty lesson with Nancy:

1st week: As I watched Rosie weave her head back and forth in her stall, I couldn’t help thinking it was a confirmation of what I had already assumed. Rosie was anxious, herd bound and it was going to take forever to get her to trust us. Nancy, my instructor, calmly advised me to wait it out. Thirty seconds later, and to my surprise, Rosie stood still and waited for us.

Nancy is an at liberty instructor. That means the horse has no halter, rope, or tack of any kind. It is a method focused on a partnership between horse and person. A partnership where the horse can say “no”. With the option to freely choose “no” the horse can also freely choose and act upon “yes”. As a person, my role is to act as a fair leader of our little (or big) herd. It is a connection built on trust and respect. Rosie continued to surprise me. I had assumed that she was so attached to her herd mates, that it would be forever before we would make any progress. Well, you know what they say about assumptions…

We started her in the round pen on a lead rope as she called and strained for her mates. With each round she walked and each reward, she calmed a little more. The treats were nice and we soon found that she favored carrots. By the fourth pass around, she was walking calmly and in step with us. Feeling that she had settled down enough, we slipped the halter off. Rosie turned straight back to the gate, took a moment to roll, and then began pacing and calling out again. In my mind, we had lost all of her attention, but Nancy cautioned that Rosie had to work this out for herself. She needed to figure out that being with us and the yummy treats was a better deal than pacing at the gate. Then we started a sort of dance. Rosie would come back, get a treat, and then get right back to pacing at the gate. But as the minutes went by and we backed farther away, she began coming farther to get a treat before going back. Nancy then stood in front of the gate and I took up my post in front of the treats. You could see the wheels in Rosie’s head turning. She couldn’t pace the gate without having to interact with Nancy, and I wasn’t handing out treats as easily. This is where we introduced a payment concept. If Rosie would do something that was asked of her, she would get paid with a treat. Nancy would ask her to walk beside her and I would ask her to stand quietly. We needed to create a space where Rosie could let go of her fear and start seeking the reward. She was free to say “no”, but those carrots were sure tempting.

By the end of our time together, she had walked beside Nancy of her own choosing for small increments and relaxed with the two of us. The horse we put back in her stall was more aware and more relaxed with the people next to her. What a change! Rosie taught me that for us to work together, I need to let go of my assumptions about what she is capable of and give her the chance to let go of her fear.

In the weeks and months ahead, I have a feeling Rosie and I will learn much from each other. We will need to earn each other’s trust and respect in this open dialog at liberty.

2nd week: Wow! Rosie has made so much progress this week! She went from anxiously pacing the gate on Tuesday, to a relaxed mare who calmly checked on the gate by Thursday. She will now walk beside me and stop and turn with me. I was even able to put the “cookie dish” in the middle of the round pen and she learned to leave it alone until I gave her a treat for good “work”. She is also learning very quickly to wait for a treat to be given instead of taking it. Rosie really is a sweet mare who is very responsive and intelligent. I am so glad to be working with her.

~ Sarah R


Ben: Training Update

Here is a wonderful training update from Lisa, Ben’s volunteer rider:

Ben continues to amaze! When I broke my wrist in December and was forced to take a 3-month hiatus from his training, volunteer rider Jolene took over, continuing his groundwork, re-introducing lunging, and teaching him to stretch while in movement, which helps him connect comfort and relaxation to movement and work, instead of… well, just plain ol’ work! I came back mid-march to a horse that was even softer in responses than when I had last worked him, and seemed more comfortable reaching in both front and back.

When Ben was restarted in regular work, he never missed a step; which, for our big, goofy, handsome thoroughbred, is a great thing! He still seems to genuinely look forward to his time under saddle, learning new movements, tying his education to more advanced riding skills, and even hacking out around the beautiful new SAFE property. Ben still gets excited and a little nervous about new environments, so any time he is introduced to a new space (the indoor arena… then the covered outdoor arena…. Then the uncovered outdoor arena….), he needs some time to revisit his groundwork routine, then a good bout of basics from the saddle. Returning to his basic education calms him and reassures him that, no matter WHERE we are, he will not be made physically uncomfortable or asked to do too much, too fast. When he does settle into the space and move into our session calmly, this horse’s willingness to TRY and to THINK about what is being asked is absolutely amazing. He no longer gets frustrated when he doesn’t understand (he literally used to STOMP his feet in frustration like a toddler!), but he waits, watches, thinks, then moves… and if I continue to ask, he keeps thinking and tries something else, without panicking and flipping through is “Rolodex” of answers in anticipation.

Ben is progressing BEAUTIFULLY at the walk and trot (including a (*gasp!*) VARIETY of speeds and movements in each gait!) and continues to improve his canter transitions in terms of balance and smoothness. He still exhibits the occasional, “canter… canter… can-RUN!!” tendency, but those moments are fewer, farther between, and calmly collected and slowed.

With the weather FINALLY moving toward a real spring and some dry days, I am working on getting Ben out of the arenas more often, with the hopes of introducing him to and working on the trails in Farrel McWhirter Park (right next door to our new home!) and into a couple of spring schooling shows and ride & reviews around the area.

Can you love one a little too much?

A face hard not to fall in love with.

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 adopt@safehorses.org if you have questions about Anderson.

Sierra: Training Update

Sierra working with Joel

Horses never cease to surprise and amaze me, both in their adaptability and intelligence. For the past 10 years, Sierra lived at the same farm with the same people and the same horse friend. So bringing her back into the rescue was undoubtedly going to be a bit of a shock to her world. However everything I thought she might have trouble with, she has been able to cope with and carry on.

She first shocked me when we went to pick her up and she jumped right in the trailer, really by accident. I was getting the dividers ready and talking to Lori who had come along to help load her. While we were chatting, Sierra jumped in the trailer! It’s like she said, hey I think I should go check this thing out. She traveled well and when we got home she took just a little while to settle in and hook up with Nala, her soon to be turnout buddy.

The move to the new facility was easy enough, but we had two mare groups that became herd bound and began calling and panicking when they couldn’t see their friends. Sierra was one of these mares. For the first few weeks, we had to work on ways to help ease these bonds and replace them with more independence, self confidence, and looking to humans for guidance.

Here is where the biggest transformation happened for Sierra. Helping her overcome her herd-bound issues might be the single most important thing that happened in her training. The foundation laid in the last few weeks has changed so much about her. She is happy to be working with me, not panicking when alone, and likes to be joined up with humans now and not just horses.

A few things made this happen. One was the help that Joel gave us at the March clinic. When Sierra would begin to call out to the other horses, he had me simply ask her to do a little work. The key here was not to come at it with any aggression or reprimand but rather just a request to pay attention to me. If she didn’t want to stand with me quietly then we would just do a little work. Nothing over the top or big, just a little hind quarter, front quarter yielding, then back to quietly standing. It was even better if I could ready her energy and if I could catch it right before she called out. This improved greatly in just that one session.

The second thing that helped was preparing her to be tied and working her while being tied. This might be easier to see than explain but I will try to do my best. After I knew that she would give to pressure and come forward off the lead, I tied her. Then I asked her to yield her hindquarters and immediately release my pressure by turning away from her. This helps her know that she is not trapped and that she can move her feet and turn to look out of either eye. I then could work with another horse while she relaxed and found patience standing. If she would call out or start to paw, I would just ask her to move her feet and yield her hind. After just a little time, she was quiet and relaxed. I then untied her and we did just a little groundwork. She was a completely different horse! She was not pushy, not calling out, and very attentive and soft to work. I immediately gave her lots of low energy praise to keep her relaxed and put her away. Bringing her out the next day, and every time since, I know that we did this right and got a lasting change. I don’t do too much, I end at the right time and put her away in a calm and relaxed state. This is the hardest thing to learn as a horseman, not to go through the good to get to the bad. Ending on a good note can mean the world of difference in seeing changes that carry through to the next session and became the foundation of future work.

Sierra has made some amazing progress since she returned to SAFE. I am excited to get her ready to go to Joel’s to be started next month and look forward to seeing her blossom into a riding horse. I think she is going to make someone an amazing friend and partner!

Lacey: Training Update

Lacey, Lacey… Lacey… Where do I begin? To love horses you really have to accept everything about them. They have good and bad days; they have personalities and little quirks just like us. I think I will write this report like my teacher did in my parent-teacher conferences… like an Oreo cookie the good, the challenges and then some more good.

Miss Lacey went to Joel’s to get started a few months ago. She did very well turned out with the other mares and the saddle work was typical for a green horse. She is a little “cold backed” so even with months of saddle work; she is a little tight to start each session but nothing a little groundwork in the beginning doesn’t fix.

There are two issues we are having with her: food aggression and extreme sensitivity to things touching her rump or flank area. Joel called me halfway through Lacey’s training, concerned that he just wasn’t seeing changes in these two areas. She had done well accepting a rider and being taken into all the gaits. However, if any thing or anyone touched her hind end, she would squeal and kick out, and if he approached her while she was eating her grain, she would strike and bite at him. He worked at it for a long time and never saw the sort of lasting change that he hoped for. In the end, he and I decided that there was nothing more he could do for her and that that hopefully, with some more time and continued work at SAFE, she will get better.

To rule out any health issues, we had her checked out by Dr. Fleck, who performed a pelvic ultrasound. Everything looked normal. He is having us try some hormones to see if balancing out her cycles could help with her sensitivity in her hindquarters. She is on a 10-day trial of Regumate to see if it makes a difference. We are glad there was nothing found in the ultrasound that was causing her pain. It is always good to rule out underlining medical issues and I am grateful that SAFE takes the time to do this for our horses.

As far as the food aggression, there is probably always going to be something there and whoever is around her will need to be mindful. When she is in her stall eating and you enter her space, she will pin her ears. If you let her, she will try to bite or strike at you. The best way to change this behavior is to “move her feet” and change the leadership dynamic. I don’t get angry with her, I just simple ask her to move away from her food dish. She will then drop the aggression and look to me to find out what I need her to do. She becomes much more docile. I can then touch her and then invite her back to her hay. This is something that will get easier over time, but right now, someone who is timid or not sure what to do with this type of behavior should not be around her when she is eating.

There is a lot of heart and sweetness in this mare’s eyes. Working with mares in general is a special thing. They are smart and deserve respect. She is making progress and is definitely a one-woman horse. Her size makes her attractive to kids, but unfortunately she is too young and too green to go to a family with small children. She tends to like a soft approach where there is a lot of kindness behind the requests but also clarity as to what being asked. I also think she is very brave and gets along well as the lead mare in the herd. I am excited to see how she is on the trails so we will hopefully be out there a lot this summer. Lacey is my special project, and I hope that we can start showing her to potential adopters later this year.

Emmy: Joel Conner Clinic Update

This is what Sara had to say about her work with Emmy in the riding workshop with Joel:

I have been working with Emmy for a while now, and can see how she has come along (with the work of many riders) since she came back to SAFE after her surgery and rehab. She has a lot of try and great big strides so she’s a pleasure to ride. Emmy’s main areas for improvement are in her transitions (being more responsive to feel when changing from canter to trot and to walk to stop). She is still a bit stiff with her stifle, so she could use work backing circles to strengthen her (though as she showed us when Joel did the flag exercise, she is physically capable of doing nice front end yields).

Bridgit: Riding update Joel Conner Clinic

This little mare is looking GOOD!! Our volunteer riders have been working on getting Bridgit strengthened up and she is looking sound and soft. We really have to commend their dedication to the work. Sometimes it isn’t a very glamorous process… lots of boring trot poles and strengthening exercises. Butthey have chipped away at it and the work is paying off. Every time Joel sees this little mare, he remarks at how pretty and well behaved she is for the volunteers. She is ready to have her own family and become someone’s riding partner. She has already been a star on the trails at our new home in Redmond. She and her rider have even been allowed to walk out on the path alone (where we can see her from our property!) and she did great! No problem walking away from the other horses or coming back in a panic. Just a perfect little sweetheart as always! This is her time, let’s get Bridgit adopted!!

Here is an update from Melinda who is riding Bridgit three times a week and took her into the Joel Conner clinic a few weeks ago:

I rode Bridgit for the first time in the Saturday afternoon session of this weekend’s Joel Conner clinic. What a fun little mare she is! I truly can’t believe she hasn’t been adopted yet. She is such a sweet horse, and she has a lot of try in her. She’s been ridden consistently lately and has also been in previous clinics, so I knew going into it that she would already have a good grasp on the basics. She was initially a little “sticky” when moving her hindquarters to the left and also needed a brief refresher on the soft feel in the beginning of the clinic, but by the end of the afternoon she was putting it all together well.

I’m really excited about Bridgit‘s future. She has blossomed into a beautiful young lady in the time that I’ve known her here at SAFE, and I’m excited to get to be a part of that growth. She’s going to make a really great partner for her adopter.

ASPCA Help a Horse Day and the End Hunger Games

WHEN: Sunday April 23, 2017 — Noon to 3pm

WHERE: Safe Harbor Stables in Redmond


COST: FREE to everyone!!!

Help a Horse Day is a nationwide competition sponsored by the ASPCA. Equine rescues and sanctuaries around the country put on events to raise awareness about the work they do year-round to care for at-risk horses. These events are judged on their creativity, effort, attendance, media coverage, and more. The winning rescue receives a $25,000 grant from the ASPCA. Five more rescues will win $10K and five will win $5K. SAFE is going all out this year to capture the prize and you can help by coming out to support us!

The theme for SAFE’s Help a Horse Day event is The End Hunger Games. Visitors will be taken step by step through the rescue process as they visit the thirteen Districts, each one devoted to a particular stage of the work that SAFE does:

District 1: Intake
special guest: Regional Animal Services of King County and Washington Animal Response Team
District 2: Triage
special guest: Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital
District 3: Farrier
special guest: Olympic Forge Farrier
District 4: Foundations
District 5: Horse Keeping
District 6: Groundwork
District 7: Riding
District 8: Nutrition
District 9: Annual Vet Care
special guest: Laura Voss Monahan, DVM
District 10: Adoptions
District 11: Alumni Program
District 12: Jobs for Horses
special guest: Snohomish Search & Rescue
District 13: Involvement

You’ll continue on through the different Districts, learning about training, farrier work, proper diet, readying a home for a horse, all the way through to adoption. And District Thirteen will show you all the ways you can get involved with SAFE! Each District will be informative as well as interactive. In the end, you’ll have a much better understanding of what SAFE does to help horses!

CONCESSIONS available from


Visitors to Help a Horse Day will park at The Overlake School, which is 3 minutes down the road from Safe Harbor Stables. A shuttle bus will provide continuous service to and from the parking lot. Accessible parking will be available on site at Safe Harbor Stables.

The Overlake School
20301 NE 108th St
Redmond WA 98053

Directions to The Overlake School

Safe Harbor Stables
10407 192nd Ave NE
Redmond WA 98053