2008 Quarter Horse-type Mare
Suitability: In Training
Color: red roan
Autumn arrived at SAFE after quite the tumultuous past. She was part of a large Animal Control seizure, and was sent to auction with a foal at her side. The two were separated, and eventually Autumn was sold to someone down by Mt. St. Helens. A barn fire led to her escape, and she ran free for seven months before she was caught back up. Following that, she was given to a trainer who planned to gentle her, but after only a very brief period of time together, the trainer’s health issues led to her reaching out to SAFE.
Autumn is a nervous mare with a lot of fear and anxiety. She has allowed us to change out the rope halter she came in with a much safer breakaway alternative, But despite months spent trying to get close to her, Autumn remains untouchable. She is curious about us, but any attempt to touch her results in her literally jumping away and running off. At her age and with her background, she seems very committed to remaining feral. She does show signs of friendliness when being fed, which is a plus, but Autumn still has a long way to go. We have a lot of experience with gentling wild or untouchable horses here at SAFE, but we’re struggling to get through to Autumn. More to come.
All SAFE horses are adopted with a no-breeding clause, no exceptions.
If this image had a sound, it would be a ferocious snort. Even from a respectful distance, Autumn remains incredibly wary. It is clear that this girl has some serious trust issues, and while we knew she would need time, we always wish we could fast forward to the part where she has an understanding that we’re not out to get her.
There have been areas of progress, to be sure. She was a picky eater from day one, refusing to touch her hay if there was even the slightest chance a human was nearby and watching her. Because she was so thin, we hoped to help add calories (not to mention vitamins) with a grain mash as well, but this shyness to eat made it difficult for us to tell which grain — if any — she enjoyed. “Just put them in separate pans so you can keep track of what she likes,” you might say, to which we would reply that, while we did try that, sometimes the sneaky crows would swoop down and ruin our study. We couldn’t observe her directly, so the only choice was to leave her alone with the grain and hope that we could gain enough information from what she left to build a meal plan that worked for her.
And to our delight, she did begin to eat grain. At first, she requested it dry, and while we typically wet down all of our grain to avoid episodes of choke, we will on rare occasion make an exception. Then, as she grew a bit more comfortable, she began to eat a mash, which meant we could feed her larger quantities. Even still, she will wait far removed from her food while it is being delivered, her restraint based more in fear than in manners. But we are just happy she is eating more regularly, for a horse who doesn’t eat is as unnatural as one who doesn’t breathe.
Feeding her hay has still been quite a challenge. In an ideal world, she would eat out of the haybag that hangs at the back of her shelter, keeping her hay dry and elevated from the ground. Alas, the shelter is still a scary place for Autumn, who ventures in only occasionally, and even then in a tentative fashion. We have tried a range of musical hay nets in various spots around her paddock, but in nearly all cases there is some less than ideal circumstance surrounding the placement. Here, the hay that falls from the net creates a large pit of mud. There, the bag is unprotected from the elements, and Autumn often refuses wet hay. Most recently, we have been attempting to help her see the shelter as a safe space by feeding loose piles close to the entrance — close enough that she can make a quick exit if she should feel the need for one. Progress is slow, but it seems that she is growing more comfortable with the idea of spending more time in the shelter.
She is also gaining a bit more of an understanding around the routines here at SAFE. Trusted volunteers enter her paddock twice a day to pick, and though she snorts and avoids them, she can exist around them without completely losing her marbles. They, as instructed, ignore her entirely, showing her that they come in total peace, or even better, not even putting any meaning or expectation on their presence.
Autumn has even been known to take a few bites of hay in view of people on occasion, a pretty big change. She’s still leagues away from harassing you at her haybox, but we look forward to the day when we have to shoo her away.
Terry continues to spend patient time with her, working on earning her trust. Meanwhile, the rest of us keep our distance and root for her. Quietly. From afar.
On the direct heels of Tanis’ passing several weeks ago, we received a call regarding a horse in need — another roan mare. It felt, admittedly, a bit like kismet.
We know that Autumn’s story starts with an Animal Control seizure. She was one of group of 44 horses taken from a hoarder in Lewis County. This was a horrific situation that involved dead horses, as well as mares and stallions pastured together on the property. After the seizure, Autumn and the rest of the survivors were sent to the auction at Toppenish to be sold. Autumn arrived with a foal at her side, who was taken off her and sold. Autumn was eventually purchased by an individual who brought her to Clark County.
In October 2022, there were wildfires around Clark County. We don’t know if Autumn was purposefully turned loose or if she escaped from her owner’s property, but either way, this mare ended up running loose on Mt St Helens. Incredibly, she lived in the wild for the next seven months. People would see her from time to time, but she could not be caught. Some hoped that she might join a group of wild horses that lived in the area. One good Samaritan was so concerned about Autumn’s welfare that she would drive her jeep up the mountain whenever she could to deliver hay for her to eat. But catching Autumn was still out of the question. Her kind benefactor described her as the most frightened horse she had ever seen. Finally, in May 2023, Autumn wandered down from the mountain and onto a horse property, where she was captured in a corral.
She was taken home by her benefactor, who spent the next four months trying to gentle her. She tried to get her to accept being touched by petting her from a safe distance with a stuffed glove on the end of a long tube. Eventually she was able to comb her mane, and even get a halter on her, but she realized she didn’t have the right set up to really give Autumn the help she needed. So in August, she found a trainer who was willing to take her on as a project, and gifted the mare to her. Unfortunately the trainer soon discovered that she herself was seriously ill, so she could not keep Autumn. She reached out to us, and with all this knowledge of the horse’s past, we agreed that the best place for her would be at SAFE.
Autumn, aptly named for her resemblance to a deciduous leaf, clearly had a rather tumultuous past. We often talk about what is a SAFE horse, because with so many equines out there in need of rescue, there is no way for us to possibly intake them all. But a horse like Autumn — who was passed around for a long time, who was veritably untouchable, who, until at least nine years old, has never known a stable home — leaves us with no question. She is the description of a SAFE horse, one who has run out of options and has very few tools under her belt that make her adoptable. A horse like Autumn is one that our program was designed for, to keep her out of the auction pipeline. For Autumn, our hope is that the buck stops here, and SAFE is the second to last place she will end up (her future forever home being the very last).
Autumn arrived at SAFE wearing a rope halter with a lead line dragging behind her. We were all very worried she would hurt herself with this non-breakaway halter. Since her arrival, Terry has been working with her 2–3 times a day, gaining a little trust and getting her to allowing her to get close enough to touch Autumn. After a few days, she was able to take off the rope halter and replace it with a much safer break-away halter. The following day, with a fair bit of time and patience, Terry was able to walk up to her and clip on to the halter. She was able to groom her face and down her neck, brush her mane, and treat her for lice (even when no lice are visible, we treat all new intakes to be safe). The next step will be to reach the point where the breakaway can come off.
Autumn is incredibly nervous, and it is clear that she will need time to settle in. She has come to trust Terry enough to allow her to halter her, but it will still take a while before she will find the same trust in others. But with patience and time, we will get there.
1. Jane M.
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