There are so many things we want for our horses…good health, comfort, confidence…the very best care…friendships, positive experiences, carrots. But most of all, what we want to give them is a home where they can live their lives in safety and comfort. Adoption is the ultimate goal for every horse who comes to SAFE, and we work hard to prepare them to make the most of the opportunities they will be given.

Adoptions are critical to our success as a rescue. Before we can intake a new horse, we have to open a space in our program by adopting out a horse that’s made a full recovery and is ready to leave us. The more horses we can adopt out, the more we can take in. But because we are completely committed to the quality of each adoption, finding the perfect match of horse and human takes time!

In the past, we’ve tried to adopt out at least 12 horses each year. But thanks to some very impressive improvements in the way we train our horses and market their availability, that number nearly doubled in 2018 to 23 successful adoptions! And while everyone who volunteers or supports SAFE gets credit for this accomplishment, there is one person who has been pivotal in making it happen. That person is our Operations Director and acting Adoptions Manager, Terry Phelps.

A Day in the Life of an Adoptions Manager

Terry usually starts her day replying to emails from people who are interesting in adopting one of our horses. They have many questions and Terry does her best to fill them in on what they want to know. But to really understand who they are and what they are looking for, a phone call is best. Terry takes advantage of her hour-long commute to SAFE to talk to potential adopters on the phone (hands free of course!) She uses these conversations to really get a sense of each person: what their experience with horses is, how they see themselves as riders, what they want to accomplish as a horse owner, and so much more. These can be long conversations, but they are vital to starting the adoption process. Often, people will contact us with interest in a particular horse, but after talking to them, Terry might steer them in a different direction. She says that this is something she really enjoys: playing matchmaker and trying to find the perfect match.

To be able to do this, Terry has to know each of the SAFE horses very well. Many of the horses are in her training program here at Safe Harbor, but there are others who are in foster or away at a trainer’s barn. Thirty horses with different abilities, personalities, and quirks are a lot to keep track of, but Terry does this effortlessly. When she speaks to a potential adopter about one of our horses, she is completely honest about their weaknesses and challenges, because she has no interest in adopting out a horse under false pretenses. There is someone out there for every one of our horses, someone who will love and value them for exactly who they are. Terry knows that she’s not working on a timeline. The right person will come eventually. We can wait.

At some point in this process, the potential adopter will fill out and submit an application, and then if SAFE has a horse that might be a good fit, Terry will set up a showing. This allows the person to meet the horse and see it being worked and ridden. If things go well, a second showing will be scheduled so the person can ride the horse, bring their trainer or family members to see it, and spend more time getting to know the horse. Showings can take a couple hours, and on a good week, Terry might have 4 or 5 scheduled. Showings often have to be scheduled on weekends, cutting into Terry’s precious time off from work.

But having her there is another crucial step of the process. While the adopter is getting to know the horse, Terry is learning even more about the adopter. How comfortable they are with the horse, how kind, how patient. How the horse reacts to their presence and handling. Terry feels a lot of responsibility as she tries to predict how the two will do together, because there’s a lot at stake here. The safety of the human. The continued success of the horse. She’s probably already devoted months to teaching the horse to be a good citizen, and it’s not easy to turn that responsibility over to someone else. But SAFE is not a sanctuary so eventually all of her horses will leave. Terry pursues each adoption with positivity and hope, but at some level, it can’t be easy to care so much and then say goodbye.

Terry has been overseeing adoptions at SAFE for more than four years and she’s learned a lot in that time. Most importantly, she’s learned to trust her instincts when it comes to approving an adoption. She knows that if you have to fix or overlook too many things to make it happen, it’s not worth doing. So another part of the job falls on her: telling people “no.” People do not like being told no. Sometimes she dreads making those calls, but she keeps the horses in mind, and she does what’s right for them.

With 23 successful adoptions in 2018, Terry has had a lot to celebrate, and a lot to be proud of. So thank you, Terry! Thank you for being so devoted to the horses, and for working so hard to find them the best possible homes. Thank you for doing all of this on top of all the other responsibilities you take on for SAFE. You are incredibly good at what you do, and you make SAFE shine. We can’t wait to see what the new year brings to your Adoption Program!

And to the 23 horses that left SAFE last year for new homes, MAKE US PROUD!

Koko • Jessel • Finn • Prince • Aubrey • Aurora • Belle • Miracle • Cali • Rosie • Duchess • Valencia • Banjo • Tasara • Stormy • Ru • Orion • Roscoe • Ben • Bowie • Timmie • Star • Mason