Inula was the youngest of the Gig Harbor horses, and despite not being a literal baby, she still had a youthful element about her that we made note of from our first meeting. A subsequent dental put her in her 4th year this year, but when you compare her to a horse like Addie, who was newly 5 when she came under our care, Inula felt so much younger. I don’t mean to make this out to be a bad thing — her youth just meant she hadn’t had a lot of experiences of any kind, and it was clear that she was very open to exploring the world with her whole heart open to it.

She and her mother, Ciara, were kept separate from the rest of the mare herd on the property from which they came. They both wore ratty coats that we couldn’t wait to get our hands on, knowing the lackluster tufts of hair that hung off their bodies would come away easily under a brush. They also stank, but a different smell altogether from just ‘dirty horse’ (which, in the right circles, might do well on the fragrance market). They smelled, as someone remarked from a good distance away, like death.

But it was just a product of their environment, and nothing to do with them internally. Unloading off the trailer onto the first solid ground they’d felt in who knows how long, they were curious and sweet — mostly baby Inula, who stayed close to mom while still making her own explorations of the world. Their feet were long, cracked and slipper-toed, and while we had a bit to do before they’d be ready for the professional rasp, we knew that the gravel they now called home would do a good deal in helping the mares self trim.

Those first few days in the round pen, we worked on getting a routine down to separate Inula from her mom, and vice versa. Our solution came as running them both into the pen, and then herding one out to sit and eat alfalfa in the attached chute. All of the horses were quite herd bound to one another, Inula and Ciara no exception to this, and in the interest of working on one thing at a time, we kept them within close range during those initial days.

Inula’s lack of handling came across to us immediately, but perhaps not in the way you might thing. True, she didn’t have a great understanding of what pressure meant at first, and was naturally a little wigged out by things touching her, but her foundation was built on a willingness to try. You could almost see the little gears working away in her head as she puzzled out what was being asked of her, and how she could achieve it. Because of prior handling, many horses come to us feeling like they already know the answer to the question they are being asked, but in Inula’s case, she was the one asking the questions.

She is also just tremendously sweet. She has within her an inherent kindness, an energy that radiates out from her and is easy to feel, I’d argue, even for non-horse people. As someone who loves all horses, it likely doesn’t sound like much coming from me, but Inula is one of the nicest horses to simply be around. She is truly a pleasure to have in class.

During her time at SAFE, she has hit many milestones, including having her teeth floated (she was a very brave little lady, walking into the barn, and standing as a nice support beside her mother while she went under the drill), getting her necessary vaccines (hardly blinking at the needle), having her feet trimmed twice (where she stood like a total pro), and separating from Ciara to join another herd (more on that particular story later). Even as the darker months loom, Inula’s future remains bright.