Oh Declan, caramel-colored stranger-turned-friend, unspooling who you are has been, as it often is, an adventure of the best sort.

Declan, you first arrived having worn the hat of “family horse” in your past, and you brought it with you, tucked away with the rest of your baggage. We ask all who come to us to open your cases, so that we might help you donate that which you no longer need, or at least take some of it to the wash — rarely are the articles within without fraying threads and more than a few unidentified stains. But given the little we knew about you, we figured you would quickly run through our program. Heck, within the first month we had you saddled at a clinic. Not to inflate your ego too much, but the same can’t be said for most of the horses who we get.

But it was in your first ride where we felt exactly how dusty that “family horse” hat really was. You were rigid — a sawhorse, animated. Your already long neck extended even further, as though taking the first step to transmuting into a giraffe. Your gaits felt unbalanced, like at any moment you could topple over. And that was perhaps the most dangerous feeling, that you were poised to flip at any moment. A dangerous quality for any horse to have.

Because I’ve just been brutally honest about you, and it may not have seemed particularly flattering, I want to pause a moment to reflect on what a gentleman you always were on the ground. Perhaps that was implied when I said how easy it was to saddle you up and stick you in a clinic environment when you were still so new, but it bears repeating. You stood so politely for the farrier, and you were easy to halter and groom and blanket, all the hallmarks of a gentle sort.

It was just going to take a bit more time than we might have originally thought, but there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s never a deadline at SAFE.

So Kaya got to riding you regularly, working on helping you feel a bit more free in your feet. It was evident that you felt very stuck, but little by little she helped to chip away at those braces. Your head, once so upright, was beginning to come down. Only a little at a time, maybe, but progress is progress. You reached the point where when you went from a walk to a trot, your poll no longer skyrocketed into another layer of the atmosphere. Not only were you growing more comfortable at SAFE, but you were growing more comfortable in your own skin.

It is always so fun watching a horse like you find a bit more balance and the change that brings. With each ride, you drift a bit closer to a more relaxed version of yourself, and we can’t wait to watch you let down even further.