By the time SAFE offers one of our horses for adoption, we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve nursed them back to good health and good weight, we’ve spent countless hours getting to know their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, and their likes and dislikes. In most cases, we’ve either discovered past training, or provided training. And we’ve documented and shared the horse’s entire journey from intake through rehabilitation and training, providing a history of that horse. So when you meet a SAFE horse, at least some of the uncertainty about who that horse is has been eliminated, giving you a much clearer understanding of what you’re taking on as an adopter. And giving you a better chance for success with your new horse partner.
The other benefit of adopting a SAFE horse is that by giving one of our rescued horses a home, you will open up a space in our program for another horse who desperately needs our help. You get to help two horses for the price of one, which is pretty great!
If you are interested in adopting a horse from SAFE, the first thing you’ll want to do is review our Adoption Policies to see what our requirements are. Then please familiarize yourself with our Adoption Procedures, and submit an Adoption Application.
SAFE Adoption Policies
- SAFE reserves the right to turn down an adopter for any reason.
- SAFE will approve adoptions based on what is the best situation for the horse. Often, we have multiple applicants for available horses, but adoptions are not approved on a first-come, first-served basis. Our goal is to find the best possible match for the horse and adopter.
- Adopters must to be able to provide their horse with:
- adequate shelter (minimum requirement is at least a three-sided shelter for the horse to get out of the elements. A tarp or carport is not considered adequate, nor are trees)
- safe, secure fencing in good repair (no barbed wire, and t‑posts must be capped)
- adequate hay, feed, and a continuous supply of fresh water
- in addition to regular exercise, horses need to have access to some amount of turnout in a safe pasture or paddock with a mud management plan for high-traffic turnout areas during the winter months.
- necessary veterinarian care, include routine checkups, vaccinations, teeth floating, a deworming program, and emergency care
- regular farrier care, whether the horse is shod or barefoot
- reliable and experienced caretakers onsite
- suitable companionship
- in some cases, continued training for the horse and/or riding instruction for the adopter
- SAFE Adoption Area: Generally speaking, we are looking for adopters who are located within the state of Washington. One of the reasons for this is because we want potential adopters to come to SAFE more than once to meet our horses and get to know them before making the decision to adopt. If you are outside Washington state, but are willing to make multiple trips to our farm as part of the adoption approval process, then you are welcome to submit an application. If you have questions, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org for clarification.
- Site Visits: Potential adopters of SAFE horses are asked to submit to a site inspection prior to approval. A SAFE representative will meet with the adopter at the location where the horse will be kept to assess that all the above requirements are met. Because of this requirement, SAFE prefers to adopt to people who live within a reasonable driving distance of a SAFE member approved to conduct site visits. The majority of our horses are adopted within western Washington state and northwestern Oregon.
- No-Breeding Policy: As an organization, SAFE feels that excessive breeding of horses is a large factor in the problem of unwanted, discarded horses. Therefore, it is our policy that mares and fillies adopted from SAFE may not be used for future breeding and all stallions and colts will be gelded before they are offered for adoption. This policy is not negotiable.
- Future SAFE Involvement with Horse: SAFE will maintain an interest in the horse throughout its lifetime. We will perform yearly site visits and ask for regular updates on how the horse is doing.
- 30 Day Trial. The first thirty days of every adoption are considered a trial period. During the trial period, you may return the horse to SAFE for any reason and receive a full refund of your adoption fee. In some cases, we will extend the trial period to 60 or 90 days, but this must be agreed upon in advance. The trial period gives adopters the opportunity to see how the horse adapts to its new home. If problems or concerns arise during the trial period, the adopter can return the horse to us, no questions asked. (Actually, we’ll have a lot of questions, but they’ll be for the purpose of learning from your experience!)
- SAFE is seeking permanent, lifetime homes for our horses. Therefore:
- We do not adopt out to people who are specifically looking for resale prospects.
- We typically do not adopt horses to lesson barns looking for school horses.
- We do not adopt horses to summer camps.
- Rehoming Policy: We are looking for forever homes for all of our adopted horses, but we realize that situations change and sometimes a SAFE horse will need to be rehomed. We expect our adopters to take responsibility for rehoming their horses if that need should arise. The first thing we ask is that adopters contact us at the first sign of trouble, so we can work together to do what’s right for the horse. Rehoming a SAFE horse is permitted under the terms of our adoption contract, but the new home must meet our adoption criteria, and the new owners must 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.
- SAFE reserves the right to remove the horse from any situation in which the horse is not being cared for properly or is deemed unsafe. This right extends for the life of the horse.
- First-time Horse Owners: SAFE welcomes and encourages first-time horse owners to apply for adoption. We do ask that there be an experienced horse person available to provide guidance to the first time horse owner and help when needed. Our first priority is assuring that both the horse and the adopter will be safe.
- Please be aware that until you have signed an adoption contract, paid an adoption fee, and transported the horse to your facility, the horse will still be considered available for adoption. We will continue to accept Adoption Applications for that horse up until the point that the adoption is complete. We do not “hold” horses, even for applications in process, and we do not work on a first-come, first-served basis. In the case of multiple applicants, we will choose the adopter we feel is best suited for the horse.
- There may be very rare exceptions to the above policies.
SAFE Adoption Procedures
Before you submit an Adoption Application, please review SAFE’s Adoption Policies (above) to ensure that you meet the minimum requirements for adoption. Also please visit https://www.safehorses.org/meet-the-safe-horses to familiarize yourself with the horse(s) you are interested in. Our website is updated weekly, so if a horse is listed as “Not Available,” please do not submit an application for that horse. We will update as soon as we make the horse available for adoption, and we will accept applications for that horse at that time.
Here are the steps you will go through when adopting a horse from SAFE:
- Adoption Application
If you are interested in a SAFE horse, you must first submit a completed Adoption Application before we can show the horse to you. Click here to go to the adoption application.
- Phone Interview
Your submitted application will be reviewed within 2–3 business days. You will then be contacted by our adoption manager for an informational phone interview, which gives us a chance to get to know you a little better. We want to learn more about what you’re looking for and what type of commitment you are able to make. You’ll also have the chance to ask specific questions about the horse and discuss the horse with someone who knows it well.
- First Showing
If, after the phone interview, this appears to be a good potential match, we’ll set up a time to show you the horse(s) you are interested in in person. You’ll see the horse being ridden by a SAFE rider who will talk to you about the horse’s level of training and past experience under saddle. You may be able to handle and/or ride the horse during this showing, and you’re welcome to bring your trainer or riding instructor along to meet the horse as well. (All riders must sign a liability waver and wear an approved helmet while riding SAFE horses.)
- Additional Showings
We will likely arrange a second or third showing so you can have multiple opportunities to ride or work with the horse. We really want you to have time to get to know the horse, and we want the time to get to know you, too.
- Application Processing
If you decide to move forward with the adoption, your application will be processed, your references will be contacted, and a site visit to the property where the horse will live will be arranged. You’ll need to contact the references you listed on your application to make sure they are prepared to receive a call from one of our representatives. We also ask that you give consent to your veterinarian and farrier to release information regarding horse care to us. This part of the process usually takes 3–10 days, depending on how available your references make themselves. If our phone calls are not returned promptly, that will delay the process.
The Adoption Committee will review all of the gathered information and make a decision on the adoption in accordance with SAFE’s Adoption Policies and the best interest of the horse. We will then notify you of our decision.
- Adoption Contract
If the adoption is approved, you will review, sign and return an original copy of the SAFE Adoption Contract along with a check for the horse’s adoption fee. When you sign our contract, you are agreeing to care for the horses to our standards, allow us to conduct annual site visits, and agree to contact us first if you ever find yourself unable to continue to care for the horse.
You will schedule transport of the horse. Limited delivery may be available if you do not have transport of your own, although SAFE does ask for compensation for transport expenses.
- 30 Day Trial Period
All SAFE horses are adopted with a trial period of at least 30 days, during which the horse can be returned to SAFE for any reason with a full refund of the adoption fee. This trial period allows you to see how the horse fits in at your property and with your life. Because our goal is an adoption that works for both you and the horse, we don’t want to force a situation that doesn’t work.
- Annual Site Visit
Your new horse is part of a community, and now you are too! Part of the promise we make to both our horses and the donors who support our mission is that SAFE will provide a lifetime of safety to the horses that we rescue. So we will periodically ask to visit your horse and see how they are doing in their new lives. We also strongly encourage you to take part in our Alumni community to share updates on your horse. We have a group on Facebook that you can join (SAFE Alumni Facebook group) and post photos, videos, and stories. You’ll find that our supporters will be delighted to hear from you.
Note: Please be aware that until you have signed the adoption contract, paid the adoption fee, and transported the horse to your facility, the horse will still be considered available for adoption. We will continue to accept Adoption Applications for that horse up until the point that the adoption is complete. We do not “hold” horses, even for applications in process, and we do not work on a first-come, first-served basis. In the case of multiple applicants, we will choose the adopter we feel is best suited for the horse.