breed: 2005 liver chestnut paint mare
type of rescue: Animal Control surrender
intake date: 4/28/2011
adoption date: 9/28/2013
length of time with SAFE: 2 years, 5 months
Adopted by Equamore Horse Sanctuary in Ashland OR
April lived alone in a small muddy paddock with nothing to eat but stale bread and potatoes. Her living conditions had already attracted the attention of Animal Control, but it wasn’t until she got tangled up in barbed wire that her owner finally surrendered her to the authorities. The barbed wire cut a 5” long and 4” wide gash into the muscles of her neck, exposing and just missing her jugular vein. When SAFE agreed to take her, it was uncertain if she would even survive her injury. Fortunately, our vet was able to suture the wound closed and stave off infection until it healed with minimal scarring. Once recovered from her ordeal, SAFE sent April into training to be a riding horse, where she proved to be an excellent student, however, intermittent lameness problems sidelined April periodically over the years, and in the end we sadly concluded that she was not sound enough to be ridden. Because of the difficulty of finding a suitable companion home for April in Western Washington, April has been adopted by Equamore Horse Sanctuary in Ashland OR.
Do you recognize this former SAFE horse? It’s April, who left SAFE over a year ago to live at Equamore Horse Sanctuary in Ashland OR. Jessica F visited her last week, and took some gorgeous photos of this lovely mare. April was brought into the barn to be groomed and photographed, and Jessica says that when she was taken back to her field, her companions were waiting for her and came to greet her one by one. Thank you Equamore for providing April with a perfect home and a happy future!
We got this wonderful update on April from our friends at Equamore. It’s absolutely thrilling to hear (and see!) that she is doing so well!Here is a picture of April with Sara, another liver chestnut mare, and other mares in the mare field this morning. It has been really fun watching her try to manage the herd and figure out her place. Lots of drama, lots of excitement — all good and seemingly natural. Sara is the alpha mare in that field at the moment, so she is probably a good choice for April to sidle up to. She even went up the aisle to the upper field with Sara and the others today.
April seems like she has never had herd experience and isn’t quite sure what to make of it all. She is learning! BTW, we have not yet seen any signs of lameness — she galloped quite nicely during all the excitement — beautiful to watch.
This summer, we created our Hospice program to provide SAFE horses whose physical or mental conditions were deteriorating a special space to enjoy a final period of life as comfortable as possible without any external pressures. One of the other goals of this program is to mentally prepare ourselves in advance so that when the right time comes, we do not wait too long to say goodbye. Our first and foremost obligation is to the physical and mental welfare of our horses.
In the case of Logan, the hospice program worked exactly as intended. Following his surgery at Pilchuck for a rectal polyp, Logan’s health temporarily stabilized and then started to decline again. Despite our best efforts, it became clear that his quality of life was deteriorating. A very special foster caretaker took him in, knowing that the goal was to give him an opportunity to fully be a horse and then to let him go. While he was initially nervous at being out to pasture for possibly the first time in his life, he settled in and was able to enjoy a summer truly living the life of a horse. When his health did suddenly and rapidly take a turn for the worse, we were able to act without any delay to say goodbye and quickly end his discomfort. While it was heartbreaking, as always, having a clear intention in advance maximized the joy Logan experienced in the last few months of his life and minimized his pain at the end.
When we have to say goodbye to a SAFE horse, this is how we want it to happen. But when we tried to implement the same procedure for April, we found it was a far more complicated situation. When we put April into the Hospice program, it was with many tears but with a good conscience. Even after being on pasture for a few weeks — a pasture she had been quite happy in before — it was clear to us that things were simply not right with her. She was dragging her toes, lunging at both humans and other horses, and demonstrating a clear unhappiness of body and mind. But given her youth and the emotional difficulty of letting her go, we made a decision that, at the end of the summer, we would have a veterinarian independently re-evaluate her quality of life to basically make sure we were still making the right decision. As it happens, April had a surprise in store for us.
A few weeks ago, we began hearing reports that April was starting to move much better and play more in her pasture. She was also more comfortable holding her feet for the farrier. So we went out as a group to visit her, and discovered that her attitude had clearly shifted for the better! She was pleasant to handle and was no longer showing aggression toward the horses in the pasture on either side of her. At the trot, she was still mildly lame on her right hind and didn’t look entirely comfortable in her back, but she was pasture-sound and happy to be moving around her field. This was a very different horse from the April we’d seen at the beginning of the summer! Whether it was the ability to move freely throughout the day or the hills she was walking up and down, she appeared to have become stronger and more comfortable. We happily voted to remove April from the Hospice program.
We still had to figure out then what was next for April. Her foster situation would not be able to be extended past the summer, and we didn’t want to bring her back to SHS only to reduce her turnout and have her condition go backwards. In an incredibly fortuitous turn of events, we were contacted by a woman named Angie, who turned out to be an angel sent for April. Angie was extremely moved by April’s story and asked us if we had considered sending her to an equine sanctuary like Equamore. As we began to discuss April with the folks at Equamore, they were equally touched by her story and felt that they might be able to help her. They assured us that they had seen many horses like April in the past, and had never met a horse who could not get along with other horses, given the time and the space to work out new relationships.
This was an intriguing spark of hope for us, but we were unfamiliar with Equamore, and given its significant distance from SAFE, were worried about sending April so far away from home. But thanks to some frequent flier miles, our executive director and two board members were able to fly to Ashland for the day at minimal expense to SAFE. We were given a full tour of the property by Equamore’s Vice President, Ruth Kennedy and met with Executive Director, Linda Davis. We discovered that Equamore is professionally run, with multiple full-time staff members living on site. The horses are well-cared for and have a clear daily routine. There are a variety of turnout situations available, and they take great pride in finding the right situation for each horse. The more arid climate of southern Oregon will allow April to be turned out on pasture without the constant concerns about her weight and metabolism. Most importantly, Equamore is a true sanctuary and, as such, is specially situated to meet the needs of horses like April. After spending the day with Equamore, we realized that we had found the answer to our prayers for April and made the decision to officially adopt her to Equamore Horse Sanctuary.
To be clear, had April still been unhappy in her life, we would have humanely euthanized her this fall, even with the offer from Equamore to adopt her. Our first obligation is to the welfare of our horses, and we cannot in good conscience send a horse in significant pain to someone else to avoid having to make difficult and unpopular decisions. SAFE will never euthanize to create space nor will we ever put a horse into the hospice program in the hopes that someone will rush to adopt her. If we have placed a horse in the hospice program, it is because we believe it is our ethical obligation to the horse.
We view this as a partnership between two equine rescue organizations with very different missions. Equamore’s philosophy is that the life of a rescue horse is a process, and they are happy to be the next step in April’s rehabilitation. We are extremely grateful that Equamore is able to provide a place for April to live as fully as possible and we hope this is the beginning of a long-term collaboration between our organizations. A special thank you to Angie who made the connection between SAFE and Equamore and for paying for professional transport for April to Oregon. You appeared in April’s life at precisely the right moment and we are grateful.
April, you have touched many lives at SAFE and will surely touch many more at Equamore. You have an entire community of people across two states pulling for you and want to see you happy. May you have a lifetime filled with friends, both horse and human!
Main Barn and Arena
Secondary Barn and Paddocks
Large Group Pastures
Smaller Group Pastures
The story of how April came to be a SAFE horse is a sad tale: she lived alone in a small muddy pen, her owner barely cared for her, and often she had nothing to eat but stale bread and potatoes. Her living conditions had already attracted the attention of Animal Control, but it wasn’t until she got tangled up in barbed wire that her owner finally surrendered her to the authorities. The barbed wire cut a 5” long and 4” wide gash into the muscles of her neck, exposing and just missing her jugular vein. When SAFE agreed to take her, it was uncertain if she would even survive her injury. Fortunately, our vet was able to suture the wound closed and stave off infection until it healed with minimal scarring.
Once recovered from her ordeal, SAFE sent April into training to be a riding horse, where she proved to be an excellent student. For a long time, we considered her one of most promising horses available for adoption. We did notice that she was very dominant with other horses, and cautioned potential adopters that she’d need to be introduced carefully into a new herd because she had a tendency to kick and act aggressively towards other horses. This behavior was troubling to us, but there are plenty of horses who don’t get on well with other horses, and plenty of horses who have to be kept separated because of this.
As her training progressed, it became clear that April was physically not quite right. There were periods of time in which she did quite well in her under saddle work, but they were always followed by periods of lameness. April was given long periods of rest and time off work, but still she did not remain sound. She began to show definite signs of pain with a rider on her back, throwing her head in the air, and refusing to move forward. When she did move forward with a rider, it was very reluctantly and she consistently dragged her toes. On the ground, we started noticing more ear pinning, angry faces, and grumpy behavior. We began to suspect that she was experiencing some form of back pain. She received chiropractic care, which helped a little, but did not return her to full soundness.
Based on April’s symptoms, our trainer, Brittney Stewart, became concerned that April might have kissing spine or a similar condition. This spring, our vet examined April and palpated her spine and agreed that kissing spine was certainly a possibility. Kissing spine is most commonly found in the vertebrae of the thoracic spine, which is area that lies right beneath the saddle, which is where both Brittney and our vet felt she was experiencing discomfort. Horses with kissing spine often display avoidance behavior when ridden, which is understandable given that the saddle puts pressure on the affected vertebrae, causing them to rub together painfully.
In order to confirm the diagnosis, we would need to have our vet perform additional expensive diagnostics. It was at that point that we began to have a difficult discussion about April’s future. If diagnostics confirmed a back issue such as kissing spine, it would be extremely difficult for SAFE to justify the cost of trying to treat it, with little promise of success. Had April, at one point in her life, had good experiences being comfortable as a riding horse on a consistent basis, we may have had a foundation from which to attempt to rehabilitate her. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We could not justify either the expense of treatment or the discomfort of rehabilitation for a horse who had shown no ability to hold up to or enjoy being ridden. It was time to look at retirement options for April, hopefully as a companion horse.
However, once again, we were faced with a problem. A companion horse needs to be able to get along peacefully with other horses. Sadly, April has never been that kind of horse. Since coming to SAFE, she has displayed aggressive, dominant behavior towards all other horses except for one, Zanadu. When she lived in the main barn at SAFE Harbor, she pinned her ears and lunged at her neighbors. Moving her out of the main barn into a more separated paddock seemed to make her calmer for a while, but even there, she began getting more and more demonstrative toward horses working in the arena, or even passing by her area.
The other problem with turning April out to pasture is her weight — after a summer spent on grass during one of her rehab periods, she gained so much weight that we were concerned she might founder. We suspect that her diet of starches in her early life may have altered her metabolism to the point that keeping her in a pasture situation long-term would be dangerous to her health. At SAFE Harbor Stables, we were able to slim her down by watching her diet and keeping her in a gravel or dry lot paddock. Which might be okay for a horse that’s getting regular exercise. With April’s lameness, she is facing a life living in a dry lot, with no friends and no “job.” Even that wouldn’t be the worst thing for a horse were it not for the fact that April doesn’t seem to enjoy it. She displays boredom behaviors like wood chewing, and eating poo, she hates her neighbors; and just generally appears depressed/unhappy in that scenario.
Therefore we made the difficult decision to put April into our Hospice Program …to give her one last summer to live in a field, eating as much grass and hay and treats as she wants without having to worry about her weight. At the end of the summer, we will let her go, as kindly and as painlessly as possible. April is currently living at a foster home where she has spent a lot of time previously, in the care of someone who loves her very much.
On a recent visit, we were saddened to see that even in her current situation, with only one horse to interact with, April is still acting aggressive and angry, baring her teeth and lunging at her one equine companion, at her foster mom’s dogs…even at us as we stood by the fence. She does seem content to graze in the sunshine, but she can only do that for so long. This is not how we wanted April’s story to end — we had big dreams for this mare — but she has made it clear to us that she is not in a state in which happiness is possible. We could opt to keep her alive, living alone in a dry lot on a never ending diet, but we feel it would be kinder to just give her one last summer before we say goodbye and set her free. On the day that she passes, we will surround her with love and know that she was saved from a far worse fate. She will never feel pain, she will never be hungry, and maybe, hopefully, in some sense, she will never again have to be alone.
April used to occupy the first stall & paddock in the main barn at SAFE Harbor, but recently, after some re-shuffling to accomodate a new intake, she took up residency in the covered paddock next to the Indoor Arena where we originally kept Strider. It’s a good size area for a single horse, but because it doesn’t share a fenceline with any of the other paddocks, some of the horses don’t really like it there. Volunteers report that she is acting more friendly towards them now that she’s been moved, and she seems to prefer the company of people over that of other horses.
April has the cutest ears! They’re quite round. Turns out she likes having them stroked and petted too! Somewhat unusual for a horse, most are quite insistent that you keep your hands off their ears. But not April, you can pet her ears until your arms get tired! It’s quite sweet.
April is being ridden on a regular basis by SAFE volunteer Kyranny and the two of them are getting along fabulously. April has shown some resistance to going forward when being ridden but SAFE trainer Brittney Stewart worked her through most of these issues. Happily she’s moving very well for Kyranny!
Brittney would like to take April out on some trail rides, in hopes that April might make a good trail horse for someone since she is so laid back and not a hot horse. In the past she’s been a bit nervous on the trails, but that might have been because it was a new experience for her at the time. Hopefully we’ll have an opportunity soon to give her another chance to give it a try.
April has been on pasture rest for several months due to showing some signs of lameness. We’re looking forward to her beginning to come back slowly at the end of the month and we know she is too. She needs to be in work to keep her weight in check and she gets bored silly if she’s not played with regularly.
One thing is certainly true about April and that is she is a sweetheart. Visitors to SAFE Harbor Stables who don’t come straight into her stall to say hello will notice her cute white nose pushing through the bars of her stall, asking for a pat. April is a love bug who adores people and loves being scratched and petted. She is going to make someone a great friend.
We made a last minute decision to bring a couple of the rescue horses to get some exposure the outside world at the Windy Tides horse show at the Monroe Fairgrounds. We brought two horses — April who is 7 and been under saddle about 9 months, and Lola, our 3 year old Arab/Appy cross that has only been under saddle a few months. Both did great for their first outing!
She lived alone in a small muddy paddock with nothing to eat but potatoes. Her living conditions had already attracted the attention of Animal Control, but it wasn’t until she got tangled up in barbed wire that her owner finally surrendered her to the authorities. The barbed wire cut a 5” long and 4” wide gash into the muscles of her neck, exposing and just missing her jugular vein. When SAFE agreed to take her, it was uncertain if she would even survive her injury. Fortunately, our vet was able to suture the wound closed and stave off infection until it healed. Once recovered from her ordeal, April was sent into training to be a riding horse, where she proved to be an excellent student. April will make a wonderful companion for someone looking for an uncomplicated riding horse. She is also a complete and total sweetheart, pretty as the day is long. Only a slight bit of scarring hints at how close April came to dying. April was a lucky horse; unfortunately there are other horses out there that aren’t so lucky. Helping SAFE means that another horse like April gets a second chance at life.
April has returned from training and has done phenomenally well. In fact, she has been one of the easiest horses to start that we have sent our trainer thus far. She has been very willing and generally uncomplicated to start — with no real bucking, spooking or major issues to work through. She is still quite green, but she has finished her 60 days and is walk/trot/canter and has been out on the trails. She does still have a major issue about tying…she was straight tied in the barn while being tacked up and something scared her and she pulled back, and pulled the entire wall out. She escaped with only a few scrapes but the incident set her back a bit, and she will need some work still in order to be safely tied again. She also remains a bit of a dominant mare and you do have to be careful about what horses you put her with, as she will kick.
Her neck injury has healed with a minor scar…more of a dent in the left side of her neck. It looks great!
On a plus side, she’s really easy to handle, tack up, takes the saddle and bridle easily, is not girthy or spooky and stands nicely for mounting. We hauled her out to the Redmond Watershed and I rode her and she was great. Everything was new, and she was leery of the wooden bridges at first, and the painted lines on the roads we crossed, and the sound of the water from the streams next to the trails, but she stopped and thought it through and then made her way through or over every obstacle, with only one bridge (complete with running water under it and a scary wall right before it) requiring me to get off and lead her. For being only 60 days under saddle I was very impressed with her. We even tried her in front for a while, and while she was looky at first, she soon settled and quite enjoyed the leadership position.
Some updated photos:
A great update for you on April! Dr. Hannah has worked her magic and the wound is now completely healed. She is off antibiotics and doing great! There will be a scar there, but once she gains some weight she will be ready to be made available for adoption!
Dr. Hannah’s assistant sent me this horrible photo of April’s injury, just before it was sutured up. THIS IS WHY BARBED WIRE IS NOT SUITABLE FENCING FOR HORSES!!! If this doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. Everyone horse owner should see this photo, as gross as it is — feel free to share it!
April is doing well. She’s a little shy and doesn’t appear to have been handled much, but she’s sweet and tolerating her treatments well. So far the stitches are holding well, and the drain has been removed. Dr. Hannah remains cautiously optimistic, but as deep as the wound is and as she had to do two layers of sutures (one for the muscles, another for the skin), infection is a significant concerns, as is that the wound will open up.
Photos taken April 30th, two days after arriving at SAFE: