Emmy — Adopted!

2007 bay Thoroughbred cross mare


Emmy was seized by Pierce County Animal Control after she was discovered abandoned on a property with a huge herd of starving pigs and cattle. While the owner of the animals was identified and charged with cruelty, he apparently fled the country, so we received no background information on her. Emmy went through 45 days of professional training with Larry Plagerman and was going very well at all three gaits. Sadly, Emmy was diagnosed with an OCD lesion in her right stifle in early 2015. Thanks to a number of generous donors, she underwent surgery in April 2015 to remove the bone chip. The surgery was a success, but following a long period of rehabilitation, Emmy was still unsound. It was discovered that Emmy also had an injury to the middle patella ligament in her stifle, an injury which is somewhat uncommon. Emmy became a light riding horse, and was enjoyed by many SAFE volunteer riders. She was adopted along with her best friend, Gracie.

Emmy and Gracie Find a Home Together!

Sometimes timing and patience play a big role in finding the perfect match for our horses. Rebecca put in an adoption application last year, but at the time, SAFE didn’t have the right horse for her. But several months later, we took in a horse named Gracie who seemed like a good prospect for Rebecca. While Gracie moved through her rehabilitation, she got all the medical attention she needed, including multiple dental floats to help correct her neglected teeth, and we began reintroducing riders. In the meantime, Rebecca made sure she was ready to take on another horse in her herd.

Fast forward to the spring of this year: Rebecca and a group of friends and family make the trip up to meet Gracie. They were in love with her gentle ways on the ground and understood her nature and sensitivities. During their visit, we also introduced them to Emmy, another horse that seemed like a good fit. Emmy and Gracie were pasture mates here at SAFE and really great friends out in the field and on the trails. Both mares showed well and Rebecca could see a future with each of them. The group left SAFE with a lot to think about and consider.

We were thrilled when Rebecca had decided that she couldn’t see the pair separated and wanted to be considered to adopt both of them! This was great news, but a lot of careful consideration on both sides needed to happen to make sure this was a good idea.  Gracie and Emmy both have special needs so it was important to make sure the family was prepared to take on the costs associated with caring for these two mare, now and in the future as they age.  After a lot of conversation and consdieration, everyone felt prepared and comfortable moving forward. Gracie and Emmy’s adoption was a go!

Rebecca has sent us many lovely photos of the girls and tells us she is delighted to have them in her herd. Gracie and Emmy join Rebecca’s 37 year old retired mare Tina, 31 year old gelding Cezanne, 10 year old gelding Amber and 18 year old mini Nugget! Both have settled in well and are out exploring the trails together. Enjoy these photos of the girls in their new home!!


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).

Joel Conner Clinic Update: Emmy

We have been working on strengthening Emmy’s stifles for the past few months. There have been a few small setbacks but we have been slowly working her up to weight of a rider. Her training currently is a combination of lots of walking both on the ground and with a rider and trot poles on the ground. We have also been seeing some results by keeping her on a small dose of Previcox anti-inflammatory medication once a day. We are currently trying to add a Turmeric Paste and then lowering the Previcox and hoping to see continued improvement. Happily, Emmy was able to participate in the Joel Conner clinic with the help of SAFE volunteer rider Sara S. Here’s what Sara had to say about her ride:

Emmy & Sara
Emmy & Sara

I rode Emmy in the Joel Connor clinic on Sunday afternoon. As far as I know this was the longest (nearly 3 hours) that Emmy has been under saddle in quite a long time, and she did wonderfully.

Erika and Tess and I (and probably others) have all been working on Emmy’s rehabilitation since she returned to Safe Harbor after her surgery and recovery. Both in ground work and under saddle, she has so much “try” and is always paying attention to her handler/rider, very responsive to cues. She was great at moving her front end out and back on cue when backing circles, and she also did well leg yielding at a walk. I was being careful not to ask to turn too tightly because of her injury, so we focused on this exercise in larger circles instead of a pivot on the hind legs. I was also able to get a “soft feel” and “thread the needle” from halt to walk and walk to trot, and also come back down to a walk or halt.

She does need more work to learn the cues from our seat/weight shifting when asking her to halt and back up, and also bringing her head in a bit more when we ask for a soft feel, so I tried to focus on these during the clinic.

Overall, I love working with Emmy and it makes me really happy to see the change in her disposition compared to when she first returned and was so nervous and flighty. She’s (re)turning into such a sweet horse, who will hopefully continue to heal and strengthen as we work with her toward finding her an owner who loves her as much as we do.

Here are a few photos of Emmy taken by volunteer Jessica Farren:

Emmy’s new friend!

What is cuter than pictures of sweet Emmy? Pictures of Emmy and a PUPPY! Molly is our volunteer and neighbor’s new golden retriever puppy and Molly along with her big sister Maggie, came over to say hi this week. These photos are absolutely ADORABLE! Jessica Farren caught some very sweet kisses between them!

Health Update: Emmy

This week we brought Emmy home from winter turnout at foster. We had a lameness evaluation done on Tuesday (video posted below) and sadly, she is still slightly off on the right hind. The time off has helped her some, but there is clearly something still bothering her. The two issues we’ve been struggling with have been the sizeable bone chip that was surgically removed from her right stifle last year and the middle patella ligament swelling that we discovered after the surgery. Injuries to the middle patella ligament (PL) are relatively uncommon, so there is not a lot of information to go on. It’s much more common for horses to have issues surrounding the medial PL, which causes the stifle to “lock up”. Since we don’t know how long that ligament had been contributing to her lameness, we decided against PRP or shock wave as treatment. Instead we opted to give her the winter off in a big turnout and allowed nature, movement, and time to do their work and let her heal. After discussing our options with Dr. McCracken, we decided to try injecting her stifle to see if that brings her any relief.

Emmy’s right stifle was injected with a combination of steroids and antibiotics. She then had 24 hours of stall rest before we started hand walking: 5 to 10 minutes of walking over the next two days, gradually building up over the next two weeks. She’ll be able to return to normal turn out on Friday. Dr. McCracken will recheck her in 10 days to see if the injection has helped. Best case scenario will be that the injection allows her to return to light walk/trot riding. If the stifle injection proves to be successful, she should be able to maintain soundness for six months to a year by continuing the injections. However if we see a return to lameness within the next month, we’ll know that the damage to the patella ligament is still causing the majority of her lameness and we may have to consider retirement. For now, we’re going to stay positive and hope that the stifle injection keeps her sound. With consistent work and conditioning, we hope that shecould have a good riding career as a walk/trot horse.

Personality-wise, Emmy is still an absolute doll, and just a lovely looking mare. She is easy to handle, great for the vet, and calm for volunteers and others to be around her. She is settling back into life at Safe Harbor Stables and we hope that this injection will allow us to put her back into work and conditioning soon! We will keep you posted!

Emmy’s lameness exam:

Health Update: Emmy

Emmy and Sophie don't ming sharing
Emmy and Sophie don’t ming sharing

Emmy’s rehab after surgery went according to plan — or so we thought —until around the 6 week mark. We noticed her take a few bad steps in turnout and that raised a few red flags that something might be wrong.

Dr. DeWard examined her and noted swelling in the stifle and sensitivity on palpation of the sesamoid ligament, where she had previously had some issues. He recommended performing a nerve block on the ligament to see if the pain was coming from the ligament or the stifle. Emmy was still lame after the block, so the ligament was not the issue. Dr DeWard thought her movement was indicative of pain in a source further up the leg instead of originating from the stifle.

With this information in hand, we contacted Dr. McCracken, who had performed the surgery. Emmy was hauled up to Rainland Farm Vet Care for an exam and follow-up x-rays. The stifle joint appeared to be healing with no remaining bone fragments or new fractures. The joint was then injected with anti-inflammatories and Emmy was given discharge instructions for continued stall rest and hand-walking. If she did not return to soundness, our next step would be to schedule an ultrasound.

Unfortunately, Emmy was still lame at her 3-month post-surgery exam. We scheduled an ultrasound to see what was happening. It showed that she had a significantly enlarged middle patellar ligament. At some point she had clearly injured it. It isn’t clear if it happened during her rehab, during the recovery from anesthesia, or it was there before her original diagnosis of OCD.

Dr. McCracken researched how best to treat this particular ligament because unlike the medial patella ligament, injuries to the middle ligament are not very common. We had two options. The first option was that we could inject PRP and do shockwave treatments. Given that we don’t know the age of the injury, that approach would have no benefit for an older chronic injury. There was also a debate about whether the cost was worth it if that was the case. Our second option was to turn Emmy out to pasture for the winter and see how she healed on her own.

In the end, we opted to send Emmy to foster with her pals Sophie and Annabelle where she will live the next few months in beautiful fields of green pasture. We will re-assess her lameness in the spring. For now, she is happy and enjoying Mother Nature’s healing touch. Also there are goats.

Everyone is invited to the hay party!!
Everyone is invited to the hay party!!
Emmy likes to eat right next to her buddy Sophie
Emmy likes to eat right next to her buddy Sophie
First meeting of the girls...
First meeting of the girls…


Emmy, Sophie and Annabelle are turned out for the winter!

Emmy is getting a winter turnout with her new friends Sophie and Annabelle. Sophie and Annabelle have been at the farm for about a month now and welcomed Emmy into the herd. They are all getting along well and even the goats get to hang with the girls!

We are hoping that some rest and time out will help Emmy make a full recovery and we will be taking a look at her soundness again in the late spring. They are all very happy and enjoying the big field and space to be horses. We wanted to share with you these cute photos our wonderful foster mom Jackie sent us:


Emmy Released to Rehab

Emmy was released from Rainland Equine into the care of her Aunt Kyle, who will be overseeing her rehab at Feature Farm for the next several weeks. To give you a clear picture of what that will involve, here is the discharge information from Rainland outlining the next twelve weeks of her rehab: