breed: 1997 bay Thoroughbred gelding
Registered Name: Rose City Special
type of rescue: Animal Control seizure
intake date: 6/21/2013
adoption date: 9/12/2014
length of time with SAFE: 1 year, 3 months

Status: ADOPTED by Amy W of Bainbridge Island WA

Portland left this world in August 2015

Portland was seized as part of a neglect case by Snohomish County Animal Control and signed over to SAFE on June 21, 2013. Portland was removed from his owner with a Body Condition Score of 1 (out of 9) meaning that he was very close to starving to death when he was seized. Portland spent three weeks in Animal Control custody under the care of their veterinarian until his condition stabilized but was still extremely thin when he was signed over to SAFE. His ribs, spine, hipbones, and shoulder bones were all very prominent, he had no topline or neck muscling at all. 

In another life, Portland was a racehorse named Rose City Special, who ran 38 times with a record of 9–13–4. He won the Oregon Sprint Championship Stakes at Portland Meadows in 2002. As for his life after the track, we don’t know much at all. 

Portland made a fine recovery from his previous state, but the years of neglect took a toll on this proud horse. Our veterinarian examined Portland’s body with great care, and found that too much damage has been done in his past for him to ever be comfortable as a riding horse. Portland found his forever home with an adopter with a beautiful horse farm, where he would spend his days in the company of another former SAFE horse named Goliath (GiGi) and a retired hunter/jumper named Magnum.

In August of 2015, Portland’s adopter told us that his legs could finally no longer carry him, and he had started falling down. Her vet had confirmed that his arthritis had advanced to the point where it was becoming debilitating, and that Portland was hurting. So he was humanely euthanized and laid to rest in a sunny spot where he loved to spend time with GiGi and Magnum. Portland was now running free of pain, thanks to his adopter who loved him too much to draw out or delay making a choice that was painful for her. Portland spent his final year living in paradise and knowing he was loved.

Rest in Peace, Rose City Special (1997–2015)

Rest in Peace, Rose City Special (1997–2015)

Beauty in the "After" Shot

Beauty in the “After” Shot

We never truly know how much time we’ll have with the ones we love. We give our hearts to our animals, knowing that chances are good that we’ll end up outliving them and having to face saying goodbye. It’s a risk that most animal lovers are willing to take, grief being the price we pay for love.

Most horses that come to SAFE have faced the worst and still survived. Thankfully a lot of them are able to bounce back from the physical effects of abuse and neglect, and go on to live long, healthy lives. Others carry the scars of their neglect, and rely on the size of their hearts to pull them through.

Portland was one of those horses. By the time help came for him, he had already suffered years of neglect and hard living. He was the only horse seized from the infamous Lowell-Larimer Rd neglect case. Proper care put the weight back on his frame and the light back into his eyes, but when he was evaluated by our veterinarian as a possible riding horse, we learned the extent to which this Thoroughbred had been broken by life. His knees and hocks were ravaged with arthritis and nearly all the joints in his lower legs showed severely reduced range of motion. His sacroiliac showed clear signs of injury including a possible fracture to one wing. His legs and body were an unreadable roadmap of scars. Riding was out of the question for this campaigner. 38 starts on the track coupled with years of neglect meant retirement for Portland at the relatively young age of 17.

Portland was adopted about a year ago by someone who wasn’t so concerned about what a horse could do for her, but what she could do for a horse. Amy had already adopted a companion horse from SAFE named Goliath, and when she contacted us to find out more about Portland, we already knew the kind of home she could offer a pasture ornament. But we had to be very honest with Amy about Portland’s physical condition. Presently, he was sound and comfortable, but realistically we knew that his battle-scarred body would fail him in time. He would require an adopter willing to watch him carefully for signs of discomfort, and be brave enough to face saying goodbye if and when he started to fail. Amy was willing to accept that challenge and readily opened her heart and home to him.

We got word yesterday from Amy that Portland was humanely euthanized over the weekend. She told us that his legs could finally no longer carry him, and he was falling down. Her vet confirmed that his arthritis had advanced to the point where it was becoming debilitating, and that Portland was hurting. He was laid to rest in a sunny spot on Amy’s property where he loved to spend time with his two friends, GiGi and Magnum. Portland will be missed terribly, but it is a comfort knowing that he is running free of pain, thanks to Amy who loved him too much to draw out or delay making a choice that was painful for her. We are so grateful that Portland spent his final year living in paradise and knowing he was loved.

Rest in Peace, Rose City Special (1997–2015)

Read more about Portland’s life as a SAFE horse. Click here.

Portland is home

We couldn’t be happier to announce that Portland has been adopted and one of his new friends is an old friend of SAFE. Portland found his forever home with the person who adopted Goliath from SAFE back in 2010. He now resides on a lovely 10 acre horse property on Bainbridge Island where he has large pastures to graze in and a lovely stall to tuck into at night. We are so grateful to Amy W for opening her home and heart to another horse from SAFE, and we know that Portland will continue to flourish under her care, just as Goliath (better known as GiGi) has! Amy now has herself a herd of old Thoroughbred ex-racers, and the three of them make a well matched set of tall, dark, and handsome. We love to see older pasture pets getting the kind of life they deserve, so we are grateful to Amy and so happy for Portland.

Portland medical update

We’re happy to say that Portland’s recovery has continued and he’s now officially up to a good weight (4/9 as determined by Dr DeWard) and looking healthy. Now that he’s got plenty of good food to eat and no mean horses beating him up, he’s truly enjoying life again, which is wonderful. 

We had Portland examined by Dr Bob DeWard and asked him to evaluate Portland as a potential riding horse. SAFE board member Kyle Putnam, who is Portland’s fairy godmother, has been concerned for some time now about the battle scars that she’s observed on his legs and body, and Dr DeWard’s findings do support her suspicions that Portland may not end up being a riding horse. 

Portland, by Karen Wegehenkel

Portland, by Karen Wegehenkel

Dr DeWard determined that both of Portland’s knees are arthritic, with fairly severe reduction in range of motion in both joints. There is quite a bit of bony growth and remodeling in his knees that not only can be felt when palpating, but can also been seen when you examine his legs, and this may worsen as he gets older. Portland also has a reduced range of motion in his lower legs (fetlocks, pasterns, and coffin joints) but without the bony thickening present in his knees. He has several scars on his forelimbs as well as on his hocks. His hocks also show visual evidence of arthritis including bony thickening and remodeling. His right stifle joint is mildly to moderately filled with fluid. He appears to have suffered an injury to his sacra-iliac joint at some point in the past, with a possible fracture to the right illial wing. He has limited range of motion in his hind limbs, poor muscle tone, especially in the back & hindquarters, and is mildly swaybacked.

Dr DeWard’s opinion that this Portland would make a suitable companion animal, but is a poor candidate for riding. Competitive riding is out of the question. He says that the argument could be made that low intensity exercise under saddle would be acceptable, but he would discourage any rider over 80 pounds and strongly recommends that exercise be limited to walk only on level ground with good footing. 

On the positive side, Portland is healthy with good teeth and good feet. As long as he can stay comfortable, he should be able to enjoy life as a companion animal. He certainly deserves a safe place to live out the rest of his days in the company of humans and horses who will treat him kindly. 

If you would like to take a look at Portland’s complete medical report from Dr DeWard, you’re welcome to download it by clicking here.

The Constant Gentleman: Portland

Portland and Chance

Portland and Chance

If you have yet to meet this amazing gelding, I wanted to give you just a little taste of what it’s like to know this special horse.  I lovingly call him my “boyfriend” because he embodies a strong, caring gentleman who would undoubtedly take long walks on the beach and read poetry to you near the fire.  He is a real charmer!

In turnout, Portland plays kindheartedly with Chance and knickers in a soft low voice to the mares.  If you go to visit with him, he stands near you, even with all the grass at his feet, and lets you pet his forelock and love upon him.  To say this majestic gelding has been to war and back is an understatement. In his deep, dark eyes you can see the wisdom of an old soul.  I am truly honored to know him and astounded by his forgiveness; when some horrific man took him to the brink of death, this gentle horse can trust again and shows nothing but love and understanding.  

He has made exceptional progress gaining weight and has become quite handsome through his transformation.  His many years as a stud race horse are evident as we begin to see the definition return to his shoulders and neck.  When the mares are near him he often stands dignified and noble in an effort to show off for them.  He is downright stunning to watch passage along the fence to flirt with a passing mare.  However, at any moment when I ask him to pay attention to me or to calm down, he is very responsive and easily reconnects to what is being asked of him and relaxes to become his sweet gelding self.

I’m very happy to let everyone know that his weight and health are so well that he has been taken out to a foster home for a few months.  There he can enjoy lots of turnout and gain more weight and muscle.  I can’t wait to see how incredible he looks when he returns to Safe Harbor and is evaluated as a riding horse!  He is a gift and I am humbled to call him my friend.

Portland photos

These photos of Portland were taken by photographer Karen Wegehenkel at SAFE Harbor in July.

Portland Update

Portland’s condition is continuing to improve, but he is still very thin. He’s also covered in bites, scrapes, and scars — evidence of the life he was leading before he was rescued. His coat is improving and he has shown us some glimpses of spirit and energy, which is wonderful to see

In his previous life, Portland was very much on the low end of the pecking order in his herd, which is partly to blame for his emaciated condition…what little the herd was given to eat, Portland didn’t get much of it because the other horses chased him away. He’s a living reminder that many Thoroughbreds don’t do well living “the rough life” in a pasture without supplemental hay and grain. With their high metabolism, many Thoroughbreds are “hard keepers” who have difficulty keeping weight on even when given adequate care. Thoroughbreds are amazing athletes with tons of personality and heart, but they can be difficult to care for, which is why we look for adopters with Thoroughbred experience when placing one of these horses.

Here are some pictures of Portland enjoying a sunny afternoon at SAFE Harbor:

New Intake: Portland



Portland is a 16 year old Thoroughbred gelding who was seized as part of a neglect case by Snohomish County Animal Control and signed over to SAFE late last week. Portland was removed from his owner with a Body Condition Score of 1 (out of 9) meaning that he was very close to starving to death when he was seized. His owner is now facing 1st Degree Animal Cruelty charges in Snohomish County.

Portland has been in Animal Control custody for the past three weeks under the care of their veterinarian and his condition has stabilized but he is still extremely thin and faces a long road to recovery. His ribs, spine, hipbones, and shoulder bones are all very prominent, he has no topline or neck muscling at all. He received farrier care while in county custody but as you’ll see from the photos below, a lot of damage has been done to his hooves due to long term neglect. He’s been treated for lice and fungus and both conditions seem to be clearing up.

In another life, Portland was a racehorse named Rose City Special, who ran 38 times with a record of 9–13‑4. He won the Oregon Sprint Championship Stakes at Portland Meadows in 2002. As for his life after the track, we don’t know much at all. We’ve been told that he belonged to a 4‑H kid who abandoned him with his previous owner, but we have no way of verifying that story. Until he has gained back the weight he has lost, we won’t know if he is rideable or not, but no matter what Portland is capable of, we are very grateful that he now has the chance for a much better life. Portland is a very sweet and gentle horse, and it’s heartbreaking to see him in such sad condition.

SAFE was also able to assist in this neglect case by persuading the property owner to allow us to bring in a veterinarian to geld his stallion, who was running free with his herd and breeding his mares. The stallion was successfully gelded about two weeks ago, and we have continued to monitor the situation to ensure that he is getting the proper aftercare. The cost of this procedure was covered by SAFE’s Community Outreach fund. We are happy to report that the former stallion is healing well and adjusting to a new life in which he will not be able to start any more unplanned equine pregnancies.

Below are more photos of Portland, taken shortly after his arrival at SAFE. He’s going to need a lot of care, and contributions to help him can be made with a tax-deductible gift to SAFE. We will keep you updated as his story progresses.