Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to: Questions about SAFE and its programs

Jump to: Questions about adopting from SAFE

Jump to: Questions about fostering for SAFE

Questions about SAFE’s Programs

Q. How many horses does SAFE care for at one time?

Our maximum capacity at the current time is 30 full sized horses. This number has been determined by our physical capacity to house horses, the manpower available to see to them, and available funds to pay for their ongoing care. We will only exceed this cap to assist with Animal Control seizures, and only when we already have the funds in hand to care for additional horses.

Q. Where does SAFE get horses?

Our first priority is to intake horses from Animal Control seizures or surrenders. Animal Control is supported by law enforcement, which gives them the authority to remove neglected and abused horses and to prosecute owners for criminal animal neglect. SAFE strives to support Animal Control efforts by taking ownership of horses after they become the property of Animal Control. We also accept owner surrenders from people facing extreme situations in which the life, health, or safety of their horse is at risk. We do not take horses from auctions or feedlots; instead we are committed to helping horses before they end up in the slaughter pipeline whenever possible.

Q. Does SAFE take only horses of a particular breed, age, or type?

SAFE is an all-breed equine rescue. To date, we have had horses in our program representing almost every breed including miniature horses, Shetland ponies, drafts, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Saddlebreds, Paints, Morgans, Appaloosas, Standardbreds, Halflingers, Paso Finos, and one American Bashkir Curly. We have taken in everything from pregnant mares and foals to senior horses well into their 30s. We do not focus exclusively on “adoptable” horses, but our goal is to get every horse we get in to an adoptable state, even if they are only suitable as a companion. We do not have permanent residents at SAFE, except for our mini horse mascots, Sunny and Shasta. While we are an “equine” rescue, it wasn’t until 2022, 17 years after our inception, that we were called upon to help our first mule.

Q. What is SAFE’s euthanasia policy?

SAFE adheres to the guidelines for euthanasia set forth by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) which can be found online at https://aaep.org/euthanasia-guidelines-2011

SAFE may consider euthanasia as an option when one or more of the following is apparent:

  1. The horse is suffering and that suffering cannot be relieved within a reasonable space of time
  2. The horse has a severe injury or illness, and the only alternative to euthanasia is some type of medical treatment that is not guaranteed to work or is beyond our financial means
  3. The horse’s quality of life is poor
  4. The horse’s problem is chronic/unfixable and cannot be reasonably managed
  5. The horse is a danger to itself or to others, and training has been attempted and failed

As many of the above are subjective criteria, euthanasia will always be considered on a case-by-case basis. If euthanasia is deemed to be the best option, it will be performed by a licensed veterinarian using humane lethal injection.

Questions about Adopting from SAFE

Q. How do I adopt a SAFE horse?

Click here to read about the SAFE adoption procedure.

Q. What are SAFE’s adoption policies?

Click here to view our adoption policies.

Q. Where do I find the SAFE Adoption Application?

The Adoption Application can be found right here.

Q. How does SAFE categorize horses?

In Training: a horse that is currently taking part in SAFE’s horsemanship program, either here at Safe Harbor Stables, or off site with one of the professional trainers we work with. Horses in training are not offered for adoption

Green Broke: a horse that has had minimal training under saddle or a horse that has just graduated from our training program. Typically SAFE will put between 60 and 90 days of training on horses that have not been already broke to ride, to establish a solid walk/trot/canter under saddle, as well as learn basic skills like lunging, tying, bathing, clipping, etc. Once a horse has this foundation, it is ready to be adopted and move into whatever type of riding the adopter is interested in. We make every effort to have qualified staff or volunteers regularly ride these horses from the time they leave training and the time they are adopted. Most green broke horses require intermediate or expert riders.

Well Started: a horse that has been ridden for at least a few years. These horses have various levels of training and experience (some in a specific discipline), and not all of them are suitable for beginning riders. SAFE will fully disclose any issues that have come to light during our time with the horse, but keep in mind that even an adopter of a well started horse may have to seek training assistance for issues that come up in the future.

Rideable with Issues: Issues may include bucking, bolting, bad ground manners, or resistance. These will be issues that have come to light during the evaluation, training, or continued handling of the horse while at SAFE, or were disclosed to SAFE upon intake. These issues are usually not unfixable but they do required continued training and patient work. Therefore, we will only adopt horses with known issues to experienced riders who have a plan in place to deal with them.

Light Riding Only: a horse that for physical reasons cannot hold up to strenuous work, like jumping, galloping, or extensive showing. These horses are usually best suited for trail riding or pleasure riding, primarily at the walk or trot. If you’re looking for a horse to have fun with and be friends with, a light riding horse is probably just what you want.

Companion Horse: a horse that can’t be ridden, either due to age, physical limitations, or training issues that cannot be overcome, making the horse dangerous to ride. Companion horses are the hardest horses to find good homes for, because most people are looking for horses they can ride. But these horses have a lot to offer. They make wonderful pets, they look pretty while grazing in a pasture, and they can be great friends — for people as well as lonely horses. A person who owns horse property can decide out of the goodness of their heart to give an old horse a final home and this can be a truly rewarding experience. Horses, being herd animals, generally prefer the company of at least one other horse, so companion horses are perfect for someone who has one or two horses at home and wants another horse to keep the other horse company (or keep one horse company while one goes out for a ride). The ideal companion horse gets along well with other horses, is generally an easy keeper, and is easy to handle for grooming and routine care.

Q. How does SAFE categorize rider levels that each horse is suited for?

Inexperienced: A person with little to no riding experience. An adult who only rode a few times as a child, or someone whose riding experience is limited to organized trail rides, would fall into this category. We do not recommend adoption for inexperienced riders, but recommend lessons with a qualified instructor on safe, well-trained school horses for at least a year, before considering adoption.

Beginner/Novice: A person with less than two years of formal riding experience, or someone who has perhaps ridden as child informally but is now an adult. Generally, we recommend that people are in lessons for at least two years before they consider adopting a horse, or if they are adult riders just getting back into riding after 10 or more years, that they take some lessons first to “brush up” their skills.

Advanced Beginner: An advanced beginner is someone that is generally comfortable riding a well-trained, quiet horse at walk, trot, and canter.

Intermediate: An intermediate rider is someone that is comfortable riding a well-trained horse at all gaits as well as is starting to learn more advanced techniques such as jumping, dressage, gaming, reining, etc. They are comfortable riding green horses in a controlled environment and providing basic training for a horse.

Advanced:  An advanced rider is someone that is comfortable riding a green horse at all gaits and has ridden or is riding more advanced techniques such as jumping, dressage, gaming, reining, etc. in a competition environment. An advanced rider is also capable of advancing a green horse’s training or starting a horse under saddle.

Expert:  An expert rider is someone who is currently training horses as a profession. Generally, expert riders are those that can train a horse from its first experiences under saddle all the way to advanced techniques. Generally, expert riders are actively competing in their discipline, and they may also be riding instructors as well.

Q. How does SAFE determine its adoption fees?

The general price structure we go by is as follows:

  • horses that have graduated from SAFE’s horsemanship program: $2,000 and up
  • companion horses: $300

As always, there are exceptions to these rules.

Q. Why doesn’t SAFE allow breeding of its horses?

SAFE has a strict no-breeding policy on all adopted horses. We feel pretty strongly that the overpopulation of horses and over-breeding of low-quality horses is the primary reason why horses end up in situations of neglect or become unwanted. We are not anti-breeding: we support well-managed, careful breeding of superior mares and stallions that represent the ideal of their breed standard in terms of conformation, movement and temperament. However, we do feel that any horse that has fallen into the hands of a rescue deserves to live out the rest of its days in a loving home and not as a breeding animal. All colts and stallions are gelded before being made available for adoption and we do have a no-breeding policy in our adoption contract for all mares.

Q. Does SAFE allow adopted horses to be boarded at a stable or on a leased property?

Boarding of adopted horses is absolutely fine, we understand that many people own horses who do not own their own farm and have the ability to keep their horses at home. We will subject the boarding facility to a site check, just as we would any other location that the horse would be kept. Leased property is also acceptable but we will ask to see written approval from the landlord stating that horses are allowed to be kept on the property.

Q. When I come out to see the horse I am interested in, will I be able to ride the horse?

Absolutely!  Our goal is to find a suitable match between horse and adopter. If you are adopting a horse that is broke to ride, we will want to actually see you handle and ride the horse to make sure it is a good fit. Most of our rideable horses are located at our facility in Redmond WA, which has two large covered arenas available for use. We will generally offer to ride the horse first (unless you prefer we do not), so that you can see the horse being ridden and we can explain some of the training issues we are working on. Then you can ride the horse, and are also welcome to come and ride the horse several times before making a decision to adopt. We also welcome potential adopters to bring their trainer/instructor with them when they come and meet the horse, so that person can provide an objective evaluation as well. We do require potential adopters to wear appropriate clothing, boots, and wear a helmet while riding at SAFE.

Q. What information will I receive about the horse that I am interested in adopting?

Our goal is the right match for horse and adopter, thus it is in our best interests to be completely up-front and honest about any issues the horse may have, their history (as much as we may know it), vices, and any health concerns. Most of the information we know about the horse is available on our website. Once an adoption has been approved, we also provide copies of all vet records of the horse while in our care and prior to that if available. If you have a question about a specific horse we have not addressed on our site, just ask!

Q. What type of vet care have the horses available for adoption received?

Prior to being made available for adoption, horses are brought up to date on all farrier care, worming, vaccinations and dental care. They have had basic exams and may have had bloodwork and fecal tests done. Any illness or injuries that the horse may have had when the horse came in will have been treated and resolved to the best of our abilities and the horse has been deemed in good weight, healthy and ready for placement. Any issues that arise during their time with us, such as lameness issues, may result in more in-depth examinations or procedures including ultrasounds or x‑rays, and these results are also shared with a potential adopter. We do not routinely do flexion tests or x‑rays on horses in our program unless we suspect a problem. Therefore, we strongly recommend and encourage a pre-purchase examination be done at the adopter’s expense for a horse that is being adopted for a specific riding purpose.

Q. Does SAFE allow adopted horses to be sold?

We are looking for loving, lifetime homes for our horses. We do not adopt to individuals simply looking for a resale project. However, we do understand that the need to rehome may arise due to unforseen circumstances such as illness, loss of a job or farm, moving out of state, etc. Our policy is that adopters may not transfer the horse to another party without written permission from SAFE. We will ask the potential new owners to submit an adoption application and go through our adoption process. Provided the new home meets our adoption criteria, we will approve the request and we will ask the new owner/guardians to sign an adoption contract. The goal is not to disallow an adopter from selling a horse, it is simply to ensure that a previously rescued horse never ends up in a bad situation again.

Q. Do you allow trials of adoptive horses?

Yes, in fact we insist on it. Our adoption contract includes a 30 day trial period during which time the horse can be returned to us for any reason and the adoption fee will be returned in full. We are willing to consider longer trial periods if there is a compelling reason to do so. Our goal is adoptions that last a lifetime, so we consider this trial period to be in the best interest of both our horse and its potential adopter.

Q. What if the horse does not work out for me, can I return the horse?

As stated above, during the first 30 days of the adoption, if a horse turns out to not be a good match for the adopter, we will allow the horse to be returned to us. Beyond the initial 30 day period, the adopter assumes all responsibility for the ongoing care and stewardship of the horse. Before signing an adoption contract with SAFE, all adopters must understand that SAFE’s mission is to rescue horses in desperate situations of abuse, neglect, and starvation. Once a horse leaves our program for its adoptive home, its space will be filled by another horse in need of our help. For that reason, we cannot take horses back after the initial 30 day period just because the adopter no longer wants the horse. Although it is our intention that every adoption will last for the lifetime of the horse, we understand that is not always possible, which is why we will permit adopted horses to be rehomed, provided the adopter notifies us prior to rehoming the horse, allows us to evaluate and approve the new adopter, and signs a new Adoption Contract with SAFE.

If circumstances arise that put the horse or its adopter in serious jeopardy, SAFE may elect to allow the owner to surrender the horse back to us. This is dependent on SAFE having room for the horse at its facility, and may involve a waiting period until a space opens up and/or a surrender fee. These situations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and we will work with the adopter to determine the best course of action for the horse.

Q. Does SAFE allow adopted horses to be euthanized?

Humane euthanasia, when conducted by a licensed veterinary professional, is considered a kind and acceptable end to a horse’s life. We ask we be notified about euthanasia of any of our former horses, but in cases of veterinary emergency, when euthanasia is intended to stop suffering, we trust the adopter to use his or her best judgement and do what is best for the horse without delay.

Under no circumstances may a SAFE horse be sent to a feedlot for slaughter or to the Game Farm in Sequim WA to be disposed of. We consider these methods of destroying a horse inhumane and cruel and we do not permit any SAFE horse to be put down via any method except humane euthanasia performed by a licensed veterinarian.

Q. Does SAFE retain any ownership rights on adoptive horses? Do I get papers (if applicable) for my adopted horse?

Upon approval of an adoption, the adopter is considered the owner of the horse and any breed registration papers we have will be transferred over to the adopter. (Note: SAFE rarely has registration papers for any of its horses.) However, our adoption contract will remain in place, and the owner is expected to conform to the requirements of the adoption contract, including annual site checks, our re-homing policy, and our no-breeding policy.

FAQ about Fostering for SAFE

1. Where are you located?

SAFE is located in Redmond, WA. We prefer to keep all of our foster homes within a one hour drive of our facility and they need to be on a property that’s easily accessible year round by a truck with a horse trailer.

2. What are you looking for on a foster property?

The safety and treatment of our horses is paramount to us at our foster properties. That means that all foster properties need to have fences in good repair, with any t‑posts capped and no accessibility to barbed wire. Horses must have access to shelters that are in good and safe condition. Manure should be picked on a daily basis and the property needs to have a good mud management plan in place. Horses must have access to fresh water in clean troughs or buckets. Hay and grain needs to be stored in a clean dry space where rodents do not have access to it. Pastures need to be free of any debris that could be injurious. SAFE will conduct a site visit prior to approving a new foster home.

3. What length of commitment do you ask/require?

We request a minimum three month commitment to foster one of our horses.

4. Can I foster a horse to ride?

As a general policy, we do not foster out rideable horses. The majority of our foster horses are non-rideable companion horses or unstarted youngsters. For liability reasons, we prefer to keep our rideable horses on our property. It also gives us the ability to continue their training and to have them convenient for showing to possible adopters. However, if you are a professional trainer who is interested in giving back by donating your talents to a rescued horse, we would be very interested in speaking to you about how you can help.

5. How do you decide on which horse I will foster? Can I choose a horse to foster?

While we are always open to listening to your preferences, usually the foster is matched by need, the property, and your ability. Some of our horses require a greater level of care and some require more expertise in handling. We do our best to match our horses to homes that can offer them the greatest growth. We also consider gender and age preferences and will work to find a good match to your existing horses.

6. Can I use my vet and farrier? Will you pay for it?

We prefer to use our own vet and farrier, since they already know the horses and they offer us a rescue discount. In some cases, we may approve using a different vet or farrier. In all cases, vet care must be pre-arranged with SAFE.

7. How do you help with feeding costs?

You can choose to pay for feed yourself and claim your expenses as a donation to SAFE. Or you can choose to receive a monthly stipend from SAFE to offset the cost of hay and grain for the horses. The amount of that stipend is dependent upon the needs of the particular horse and is judged on an individual basis.

8. Can I claim this on my taxes?

You may be eligible for a tax deduction for horse care expenses that are not reimbursed by SAFE. We recommend that you track your expenses and keep receipts. We will provide you with a letter at the end of the year that states you’ve been fostering on our behalf and designating the date range. As always, please consult your tax preparer before claiming any deductions.

9. What if it doesn’t work out?

While we hope that everybody can offer at least a three month commitment, we understand that circumstances do change. In the event that you can no longer foster for SAFE, we ask for 30 day notice to arrange to move the horse. If a stipend has been paid, we will need to be reimbursed for the days that the horse is not on the property.

If the foster isn’t working out because of specific problems with the horse, we work with you to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.