Babe Hoolihan
Blaze and hind sock
March 22, 2004

1300 lbs

Online Adoption Application

Ben was seized from his owner by Pierce County Animal Control after he was discovered running down a road by a pizza delivery driver. He was thin and neglected. He was signed over to SAFE after 3 months in AC custody. After his rescue, we discovered that he’s been at risk since he left the track at age 3, having had several different owners in the past seven years. Ben is a very nice boy, sweet and friendly, and he has a ton of personality. But he may never be a beginner safe horse. He’s had a lot of issues to overcome, both physically and mentally. We’ve put a lot of work into his body in an attempt to make him more comfortable and reduce his stress. We’ve also done tons of ground work with him. He really excels at In Hand work because he is very smart and sensitive, always watching his handler for clues. Under saddle, Ben shows a lot of promise, but he will probably never be a show horse because the show environment causes him so much anxiety. We’d love to see Ben in a home where he can be ridden on the trails and where he can be loved for who he is inside. This big goofy Thoroughbred is super interactive with people and can be very vocal, too. He loves to make people laugh, and he would be a great horse for someone with intermediate riding skills who appreciates the personality and beauty of Thoroughbreds.

Clinic Update: Ben

SAFE’s Herd Health Manager Melinda is now riding Ben to help get him ready for adoption. Here is what she had to say about her ride with Ben in last month’s Joel Conner clinic.

Ben and I participated in the riding portion of the Joel Conner clinic in November. I’ve just recently started riding him a few days per week so it was great timing to get some insight from Joel. Ben and I developed a rapport when I started doing groundwork with him at one of last year’s clinics, so I have enjoyed this opportunity to continue working with him. He’s a really fun horse!

Ben did great for the clinic. He was level-headed and calm with the busy activity level in the arena. He focused really well for the majority of the session, only fading a little bit at the very end–but in reality this was likely me that was fading, and him just going along with it.

One of my favorite things about Ben is how responsive he is. He’s a very sensitive man and picks up on the slightest cues from his rider. Joel was able to give me some good goals to work toward. Ben and I are going to focus on transitions off of seat aids, and figure 8’s to help keep him balanced.

This clinic was a lot of fun for me, because I have gotten to watch Ben’s progression in previous clinics with his other rider, Lisa. He’s come a long way and I look forward to getting to continue this work with him.

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Ben vs the Cows!

Photos courtesy of Jami Davis

Here is what volunteer rider Lisa had to share about her time spent with Ben at a Horsemanship and Ranch Riding clinic October 6th:

This past weekend, Ben and I attended the Ricky Quinn clinic in Ellensburg and, yet again, this horse has blown me away. We started each of the 3 days in a Horsemanship class, improving the finesse of some seemingly-basic skills; balance, flexion, collection, and transitions. By the third morning, Ben was moving calmly and punctually off of my seat and leg on even circles and figure-eights, and up and down through transitions. Before the clinic, he was doing all of this, but it was just a little late, and just a little sloppy… what a huge change!

The afternoon sessions were a ranch roping & cow working clinic. On day one we worked on roping some dummies, including one that was drug around. Ben did just fine, following the dragged dummy and having a rope (poorly) swung over and off of him … despite the occasional flick on his ears! Day 2 was a whole new world- Ben saw real live cows for, as far as we know, the first time in his life! He did alright at first, following the herd around the round pen, until we were asked to come around the front of the herd and turn them. Ben was, at first, afraid of them, backing and spinning away, even nearly unseating me a couple of times. With Ricky constantly reminding me that I needed to have confidence so that Ben could have confidence, and that I had to support him to help him through his fear, we slowly closed in on the herd and (with a lot of me yelling at the cows) turned them. Ben became very focused and attentive, and we moved them back and forth several times, Ben getting quieter and less afraid with every pass. By the end of the clinic he even got to a point where he WANTED to approach the cows, and would even stomp a foot at them, just rarin’ ter go!

Thank you Jami Davis for capturing a few photos of Ben and Lisa working! You can find more about Jami’s work on her website:

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SAFE Horses at the SAFE Show!

Here are just a few of the photos from Jessica Farren of the current SAFE horses that competed at the SAFE Benefit Horse Show. It was a fabulous weekend of competition, and we all had a marvelous time!

Click to enlarge:

Photo Update: Ben

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Ben: Training Update

Here is a wonderful training update from Lisa, Ben’s volunteer rider:

Ben continues to amaze! When I broke my wrist in December and was forced to take a 3-month hiatus from his training, volunteer rider Jolene took over, continuing his groundwork, re-introducing lunging, and teaching him to stretch while in movement, which helps him connect comfort and relaxation to movement and work, instead of… well, just plain ol’ work! I came back mid-march to a horse that was even softer in responses than when I had last worked him, and seemed more comfortable reaching in both front and back.

When Ben was restarted in regular work, he never missed a step; which, for our big, goofy, handsome thoroughbred, is a great thing! He still seems to genuinely look forward to his time under saddle, learning new movements, tying his education to more advanced riding skills, and even hacking out around the beautiful new SAFE property. Ben still gets excited and a little nervous about new environments, so any time he is introduced to a new space (the indoor arena… then the covered outdoor arena…. Then the uncovered outdoor arena….), he needs some time to revisit his groundwork routine, then a good bout of basics from the saddle. Returning to his basic education calms him and reassures him that, no matter WHERE we are, he will not be made physically uncomfortable or asked to do too much, too fast. When he does settle into the space and move into our session calmly, this horse’s willingness to TRY and to THINK about what is being asked is absolutely amazing. He no longer gets frustrated when he doesn’t understand (he literally used to STOMP his feet in frustration like a toddler!), but he waits, watches, thinks, then moves… and if I continue to ask, he keeps thinking and tries something else, without panicking and flipping through is “Rolodex” of answers in anticipation.

Ben is progressing BEAUTIFULLY at the walk and trot (including a (*gasp!*) VARIETY of speeds and movements in each gait!) and continues to improve his canter transitions in terms of balance and smoothness. He still exhibits the occasional, “canter… canter… can-RUN!!” tendency, but those moments are fewer, farther between, and calmly collected and slowed.

With the weather FINALLY moving toward a real spring and some dry days, I am working on getting Ben out of the arenas more often, with the hopes of introducing him to and working on the trails in Farrel McWhirter Park (right next door to our new home!) and into a couple of spring schooling shows and ride & reviews around the area.

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Joel Conner Clinic Report: Ben

SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Here’s a report from Melinda SAFE’s Herd Health Manager about her session with Ben:

I had the pleasure of working with Ben for both groundwork sessions of the Joel Conner clinic over the weekend. He was a rock star! Lisa has done an incredible job in building his confidence and getting him to relax and focus. I wasn’t sure at first about how he would behave with a relative stranger at the other end of the rope, but from the get-go he was attentive and respectful of me. There were a few times when something would distract him, but just a gentle reminder to pay attention was all he ever needed.

He knows the groundwork exercises well. He responds with a soft feel easily when backing and is sensitive enough to body language that he picks up on what you’re about to ask him almost before even needing to ask it. It was like he was the “old pro” in the arena, there to show all the newcomers how things are done. Heck, he was the old pro in the arena who was there to show me how things are done! Whenever I fumbled, he’d wait for me to get my act together and try again. I was very appreciative of his patience.

I wasn’t able to make it to the most recent clinic in August, but I audited the two clinics prior and got to see Ben’s progression. The work that has gone into getting him where he is now has paid off tenfold. The gelding who first came to us as a bundle of energy mixed with fear and insecurity is now a calm, cool, collected kind of guy. Even when one of the other horses spooked and caused a bit of commotion, Ben just stood there and watched on, totally unfazed.

It warms my heart when I think about the changes we’ve seen in Ben. I really can’t say enough about how much he impressed me this weekend. He really is something special and I’m glad I got the chance to know him a little better.

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Ben at the Joel Conner Clinic, September 9-11, 2016

ben_09_11_2016(as reported by his regular rider, Lisa Garr)
In September, Ben and I once again worked under the tutelage of Joel Conner at a SAFE-hosted clinic. This weekend showed a completely new horse in our big ol’ redheaded fellow. Now able to handle pressure from the bit without panicking, we worked on soft feel, isolating front-quarters and hindquarters, and transitioning down off of two reins (although, always, continuing to use the seat to ask for transitions as well) for more punctuality. Ben is learning to reach for a soft feel and to collect himself at the walk and trot so he can stay balanced throughout his body. He worked through the entire weekend without ONCE mentally “checking out”, staying relaxed and confident. As we did in April, we worked on walk-trot-canter transitions around the group, but this time Ben was able to work THROUGH these transitions, up, down, and back up again, with my seat, my feel, and the bit as aids.

Ben has started progressing in leaps and bounds throughout the past six months. While we are still working on balance, proper engagement, punctual responses, and calm transitions, I can say with utter confidence that, with support, understanding, patience, and a FAIR approach, this lanky redhead is going to make someone a willing, smart, hardworking equine partner with enough heart and “try” to blow you away. I can’t express how proud I am of this horse nor how honored I am to be a part of the SAFE Training Team that gives these animals a chance to prove how truly amazing they can be.

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Hi Ho Stevie!

Stevie and Ben have a whale of a time together in turnout. Geldings love to pretend that they are fierce stallions battling it out on the wild plains. Well, Stevie does, anyway. From Ben’s expression, he might be wishing he was back with Oscar, who was a bit less rambunctious than Stevie is! Thanks to SAFE volunteer Caren M — who also sponsors Stevie with a monthly donation — for catching this action photo.


NEW Photos: Ben at SAFE Show 2016

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SAFE Benefit Horse Show, July 30-31, 2016

(as reported by his regular rider, Lisa Garr)
On July 27, 3 days before our annual SAFE Benefit Horse Show, I decided to go for it and ask if our biggest redhead could go along – even if just to BE at the show, competing or not. Ben was reported to have a lot of anxiety in a show environment the previous summer, even when not participating, to an almost-dangerous degree. But he had come SO FAR in the 10 months we had been working together in his ability to accept new situations calmly and to work through trouble, I really wanted to give him the chance to have a positive experience in a high-energy environment. We got the go-ahead, and we loaded everyone up on Friday afternoon and headed out.

Ben did indeed have a lot of anxiety on that first evening, as horses were constantly being hauled in, excited competitors were everywhere, and trucks and trailers were constantly coming and going. So, Friday evening, several times over, we exited his stall, grabbed our gear, and worked- on the same things we did at home every day. We did a little groundwork at a time, in various locations throughout the (extensive and beautiful) showgrounds, and when he focused on me and worked calmly for a minute, we went back to the stall and he had some hay. We took a walk with all the other SAFE horses to check out the grounds. We did some work. We gave everyone baths. Everyone munched on some grass. We did some work- all with breaks in between.

On Saturday, it was the same idea, but sometimes we were in a show ring for a little while and he was asked to stand still for a bit. If he was too anxious, we went to work for a little while. Then he was asked to stand, walk a little, work a little, and back to the stall. A few times in the morning, in the warm-up ring and even once in a class, he got so worked up he reared (his former go-to escape from mental pressure). “No big deal, big guy, but now to work – if you’re going to move your feet, it needs to be forward, not up.” This utter lack of pressure and reaction between times in his stall, I feel, was great for him. By mid-day Saturday, I could approach his stall and, instead of his head snapping up, eyes wide, ears LOCKED forward, he just looked at me… like, “Oh, hey. We’re going out again? Cool.” WHAT A TRANSFORMATION! We did in-hand obstacle courses, walked (more-or-less) over bridges, through (OK, UP to) cowboy curtains, across tarps, serpentines through cones and trotted over ground poles, all while staying relaxed and willing. Ben even scored HUGE on an in-hand dressage test!

Ben may not have taken home many ribbons, but this guy was without doubt the biggest winner in my book.

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Not impressed.

Jewel, who helped out as an anatomy model at yesterday’s Equine Health Fair & Open House, is not impressed by Ben’s posturing.


Ben at the Joel Conner Clinic, April 16-17, 2016

Ben_02_2016_01(as reported by Ben’s regular rider, Lisa Garr)
In December of 2015, Ben and I participated in a clinic at SAFE with trainer Joel Conner and I was just hoping he would stay calm enough to participate safely. Well, he blew me away then with his focus, willingness, and trust, and in April we once again joined Joel for a clinic… and Ben was a STAR!

Since December we had been focusing on moving up and down through transitions calmly off of the seat, from walk to trot and back down again, stopping off of one rein, finding a soft feel, moving his body in a straight(ish) manner, and really just continuing to help Ben understand that when he is asked to bring his energy up a little and move at a slightly faster pace, that does not necessarily mean RUN. Ben had been described at one point the previous summer (2015) as a bolter… but really he just had never been taught to listen; he had just been taught to GO. He was then taught to GO and JUMP but then STOP and HOLD YOUR HEAD HERE but still GO but NOT TOO FAST and KEEP YOUR HIP THERE and HEAD HERE and…. well, I’M confused… and so was he. It felt like he was with me (mentally) until I asked for a trot, and he would stay with me for a bit but then “check out”… his brain turned off, his feet got to moving, and goodbye Ben, hello Babe Hoolihan the Racehorse! He was imbalanced (hip out, shoulder in, head out and often tipped slightly… he rather resembled Gumby, actually) at the trot, but especially in the canter, even without a rider, and didn’t know how to coordinate himself.

I was already so proud of the progress Ben had made by the time Joel arrived for April’s clinic, I couldn’t wait to see how much more he could accomplish with his guidance. Throughout the weekend, Ben was focused, relaxed, incredibly willing and soft, and picking up new material like crazy. At the end of the riding portion each day, Joel had each horse-and-rider pair move out and work on something specific to their training needs. For Ben, it was moving up and down off of the seat (as opposed to pressure from the reins & bit) and staying checked-in, mentally. Day one was OK – The rest of the class was gathered in the center of the arena and we were working around the outside, trying to trot at a good pace without jumping into the canter. In the end, when he DID hook back on and come down, it was a huge emotional release for both of us and a HUGE step forward in our work together. On the second day at this time, we DID canter… and then some. All while receiving instruction and support from Joel, it was the same idea as day one but at Ben’s “Trigger Pace”– at which he was taught to GO and GO and GO and GO (regardless of form or balance) until someone hauled on his face to stop him. So, he ran. I quieted my seat, pet him constantly, and kept him out to the wall (again, the rest of the group was gathered in the center of the arena), while trying to help him stay balanced. Did I mention he ran? Maybe 15 full laps around the arena, but at one point his ears flipped forward (he “checked back in”), his poll straightened, and he came down to a fast trot… and as he was only given support and continued quiet praise, he slowed through the trot, then the walk, and when he finally stopped altogether, he sighed, licked, chewed, sighed some more, and his entire body relaxed. It’s difficult to describe, but his entire FEEL changed in that moment. This would take a LOT of continued work, but with Joel’s guidance, we made huge leap in teaching Ben to trust that he would be supported and treated fairly and that he did not need to protect himself by mentally checking out. What an amazing horse this guy is!



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Wrap up from Joel Conner Clinic Dec. 12-13, 2015

Great group of Volunteer Riders!
Great group of Volunteer Riders!

We had a great time hosting Joel again at Safe Harbor. The horses and volunteers had an amazing weekend and everyone progressed in their feel and training. Here are a few accounts from the volunteer participants about what they learned about the horses they were working with during the clinic:

Jolene D:Khianna– At the time of the clinic Khianna had a total of 4 or 5 rides on her since her return from foster. She was nervous, but did so well! She tries so hard. She is coming along nicely and I believe will develop into an incredible partner for someone.

Sara E: Jewel – Jewel was an all-star for the clinic, Claire has done such a great job with her. She felt flawless going from hind-end to front-end turns. I learned so much while riding her during the clinic. She is going to make someone a really great horse.

Sara E: Khianna – Did ground work with Khianna and at the beginning she was a nervous trotting mess, but Joel came over and helped me get her front feet moving and she calmed right down. She is so loving and tries so hard. Once she figures out you aren’t going to eat her, she just wants to please you and be loved on, I don’t know if I have ever worked with a horse that tries to give you 150% all the time.

Lisa G: Ben– I can’t say enough about how the horsemanship that Joel has helped bring to SAFE amazes me. I had Ben in all 4 sessions, GW and riding, and I was honestly just hoping I could get him to stay focused on me with all of the excitement, maybe get some nice serpentines down in the riding portion, and work on soft feel and stopping/moving forward off of the seat. Well….. He did all of those things and SO MUCH MORE. Every exercise that Joel moved the participants through, beginning to advanced, Ben tried. And SUCCEEDED, at least on some level. I am so impressed with the effort this big guy puts into everything; as long as he understands that there are no consequences if he doesn’t understand, and he knows that I will wait for him to figure it out, I believe this horse would be willing to try anything under the sun. In the few days since the clinic, Ben had maintained a quiet, willing attitude, with TONS of deep, relaxed sighs, even during the riding work. SO proud of the progress he has made and so grateful that this work was brought to the SAFE horses.

Sara S: Khianna– I worked with Khianna for the first time doing GW on Saturday morning, and was so impressed by her “try”. She does get a little nervous about the rope and flag coming at her while moving (though not at all while standing still in the comfort of the “herd” (me)). I particularly enjoyed the backing exercises, and she was so in tune with my feet and body language it felt like we were dancing partners! She is such a sweet girl.

Sara S: Phoenix– I did GW and rode Phoenix on Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t been ridden in weeks, and it was raining on the tin roof, so he was extra “special” to start, but after just a bit of GW he calmed down and started paying attention to me. Riding, he was great. He’s getting very good at backing circles, front and hind yields (he’s so bendy!). Over the few months I’ve been working with Phoenix, I’ve noticed he tries very hard to anticipate what I want (if he’s in the mood), but as soon as I push too hard and/or he doesn’t understand what I’m asking, he shuts down. On Saturday, I didn’t feel him shut down at all which is probably a combination of both of us getting better at this!

And many thanks again to Joel and Terry for putting on such an inspiring clinic!!! I wish I could come out to SAFE every day, but I’m glad to be even a small part of this great community and cherish this opportunity!

Claire C: Mesquite– It was my first official time working with Mesquite, and I think we made some really good changes. He is super sensitive so it was interesting to experiment with him and see how much pressure he needed. I only did the groundwork session with him and it was fun learning to time up with his feet better.

Claire C: Phoenix– For the afternoon session, I rode Phoenix, who I have not done a whole lot with either. He was also good; we worked a lot on more forward motion and keeping him focused on what I was asking. We did lots of bending and yielding, which was so good for him. Overall, he did very well.

Casey A: Stella– I worked with Stella, who is turning out to be a great little horse. We worked on slowing down and developing balance on both the ground and under saddle. We were both so much lighter by the end of Sunday, and I know we got a big change in our partnership. She was so relaxed through the entire clinic, even when horses around her were nervous. She’s also pretty resilient and forgiving of my mistakes. She has taught me so much, and she is going to make someone really lucky!

Erika S: Maggie– I worked with Maggie for all 4 sessions, and she did fantastic! She’s such a smart, willing mare, and we connected early on. One idea that I heard this weekend was that eventually it will feel like your horse is reading your mind… Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s the truth! Maggie remained tuned in for everything we learned about, and worked in sync with me. It honestly helped me more than I think it helped her!

Ann A: Bridgit– Bridgit is a friendly girl and likes getting attention. She is a bit on the lazy side and I had some trouble getting the life up in her while doing circling exercises. She just wanted to come into the center and hang out with me. She made good progress under saddle in the afternoon sessions. She was learning how to pick up a soft feel at the walk by the end of the first day and we had some nice walk/trot transitions. She needs more work backing straight and in a circle both on the ground and under saddle. She also needs more work reaching with her front foot and disengaging her hindquarters under saddle. She felt much more balanced to me than she did when I rode her last summer.

Jane M: Oscar– As a relative novice to practicing Joel’s horsemanship skills, the greatest lesson I took away from GW and riding Oscar during this most recent Joel clinic is the impact GW has on riding. Yielding hindquarters, circling to achieve bend and balance, it all makes such a difference when aboard the horse. I’m able to apply lessons learned under Joel’s guidance to my regular riding lessons. It’s quite remarkable to me, and I look forward to Joel’s next visit and my next “aha” takeaway!

Our Resident Comedian Ben

Some pictures are worth a thousand words, and some, like these, a whole bucket of laughs.  Ben is a big goofball with as many expressions as that of a great stand-up comedian.  We love hanging out with this big guy as his antics always put a smile on everyone’s face. Jolene, a volunteer rider, enjoys… Continue Reading

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Ben: Follow up Bodywork

Dr. Christin Finn came to see Ben on Friday for his third bodywork session. Each time, the work has made changes to how he moves and even the shape of his back. This time it was clear that we needed to push through some very tight back and pelvic muscles. While the adjustments and acupuncture… Continue Reading

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Handsome Ben!

Volunteer Jessica Farren was out to the stables last week and took some beautiful photos of Ben and volunteer Ann working in the arena. We also had a few others with Ben and Terry in the arena a few weeks ago. He is truly a stunning boy and his looking healthy and content with his… Continue Reading

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SAFE’s clinic with Joel Conner and Colt starting demonstrations

It was a pleasure this past weekend to have Joel Conner visit the SAFE horses and teach our volunteers. We began each morning, with a colt starting demonstration where Joel worked with Hickory, Mesquite and Ben. Joel is an expert when it comes to working with un-started horses and it was clearly evident that his… Continue Reading

Michael Sparling and Ben

When Michael Sparling came to town for his most recent clinic at SHS, we asked him to work with Ben for a short session to help us assess him for training. Michael worked with Ben on the ground before getting into the saddle. Ben demonstrated both the anxiety under saddle reported by his previous trainer,… Continue Reading

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Ben returns to the fold

For the past 60 days or so, Ben has been on an extended trial with a Hunter/Jumper trainer who was interested in finding out if he had a future as a sporthorse. This was a wonderful opportunity for Ben, and a tremendous help to us because it meant that he would receive two months of professional… Continue Reading

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So far is SO good for Ben!

Some horses just have that sparkle in their eye from the moment they arrive at SAFE. Within the abused or neglected body is a personality that’s just waiting for the energy and life to come back. Since the day he arrived at Safe Harbor, Ben has been one of those great horses. Outwardly he can… Continue Reading

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Ben training update

Ben has been getting some good work with our volunteer riders. He is a very interesting fellow who has a playful side that has to be carefully managed. He is not for an inexperienced horse person. Even walking him to and from turnout requires the handler to be mindful of Ben’s energy and helping him… Continue Reading

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Ben Update

Ben is looking great! He needs to gain about 100 more pounds or so but his appetite is up and he is eating very well. We are doing light liberty and ground work with him while he recovers from starvation. He is a very smart and fast learner. We will start to reintroduce tack to… Continue Reading

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Ben has a sweet spot…

…and Steph knows right where it is! This is a happy horse.   Ben is steadily gaining weight and winning the hearts of our volunteers! He is a sweet boy and very smart and willing to work. We are just lightly working him at liberty and adding a little bit of groundwork off the rope… Continue Reading

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Ben has been identified…

We’ve checked Ben’s tattoo and discovered that he is a 2004 gelding named Babe Hoolihan, bred in Washington state, and raced twice as a three year old. (He came in dead last in both races, so obviously horse racing didn’t suit him.) In 2009, he was rescued from an abusive situation in South Pierce County… Continue Reading

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Ben at Safe Harbor

Ben arrived safely at Safe Harbor Stables and Terry & Laura spent some time with him, getting him cleaned up and taking photos. As we suspected, this guy is a sweetheart! Continue Reading

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Ben Intake Photos

We picked up Ben today from Pierce County Animal Control. He’s a 12 year old Thoroughbred gelding, tall, chestnut, with a blaze and one hind sock. He was picked up by Animal Control after a pizza delivery driver found him running down the road — he was in pitifully thin condition with a BCS of… Continue Reading

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Ben’s Friends:

1. Jessica F.

2. Maureen S.

3. Lori P.

4. Julie B.

5. Barb F.

6. _____________________

7. _____________________

8. _____________________

9. _____________________


Every horse deserves at least ten friends! Even a small monthly donation can make a difference. Plus, SAFE horse sponsors receive discounts at local businesses through the SAFEkeepers program!

Click here to sponsor Ben!