On the direct heels of Tanis’ passing several weeks ago, we received a call regarding a horse in need — another roan mare. It felt, admittedly, a bit like kismet.

We know that Autumn’s story starts with an Animal Control seizure. She was one of group of 44 horses taken from a hoarder in Lewis County. This was a horrific situation that involved dead horses, as well as mares and stallions pastured together on the property. After the seizure, Autumn and the rest of the survivors were sent to the auction at Toppenish to be sold. Autumn arrived with a foal at her side, who was taken off her and sold. Autumn was eventually purchased by an individual who brought her to Clark County.

In October 2022, there were wildfires around Clark County. We don’t know if Autumn was purposefully turned loose or if she escaped from her owner’s property, but either way, this mare ended up running loose on Mt St Helens. Incredibly, she lived in the wild for the next seven months. People would see her from time to time, but she could not be caught. Some hoped that she might join a group of wild horses that lived in the area. One good Samaritan was so concerned about Autumn’s welfare that she would drive her jeep up the mountain whenever she could to deliver hay for her to eat. But catching Autumn was still out of the question. Her kind benefactor described her as the most frightened horse she had ever seen. Finally, in May 2023, Autumn wandered down from the mountain and onto a horse property, where she was captured in a corral.

She was taken home by her benefactor, who spent the next four months trying to gentle her. She tried to get her to accept being touched by petting her from a safe distance with a stuffed glove on the end of a long tube. Eventually she was able to comb her mane, and even get a halter on her, but she realized she didn’t have the right set up to really give Autumn the help she needed. So in August, she found a trainer who was willing to take her on as a project, and gifted the mare to her. Unfortunately the trainer soon discovered that she herself was seriously ill, so she could not keep Autumn. She reached out to us, and with all this knowledge of the horse’s past, we agreed that the best place for her would be at SAFE.

Autumn, aptly named for her resemblance to a deciduous leaf, clearly had a rather tumultuous past. We often talk about what is a SAFE horse, because with so many equines out there in need of rescue, there is no way for us to possibly intake them all. But a horse like Autumn — who was passed around for a long time, who was veritably untouchable, who, until at least nine years old, has never known a stable home — leaves us with no question. She is the description of a SAFE horse, one who has run out of options and has very few tools under her belt that make her adoptable. A horse like Autumn is one that our program was designed for, to keep her out of the auction pipeline. For Autumn, our hope is that the buck stops here, and SAFE is the second to last place she will end up (her future forever home being the very last).

Autumn arrived at SAFE wearing a rope halter with a lead line dragging behind her. We were all very worried she would hurt herself with this non-breakaway halter. Since her arrival, Terry has been working with her 2–3 times a day, gaining a little trust and getting her to allowing her to get close enough to touch Autumn. After a few days, she was able to take off the rope halter and replace it with a much safer break-away halter. The following day, with a fair bit of time and patience, Terry was able to walk up to her and clip on to the halter. She was able to groom her face and down her neck, brush her mane, and treat her for lice (even when no lice are visible, we treat all new intakes to be safe). The next step will be to reach the point where the breakaway can come off.

Autumn is incredibly nervous, and it is clear that she will need time to settle in. She has come to trust Terry enough to allow her to halter her, but it will still take a while before she will find the same trust in others. But with patience and time, we will get there.