2012 grey Appaloosa-type mare
Type of Rescue: Owner Surrender
Intake Date: 9/24/2021
Adoption Date: 8/28/2023
Length of Time with SAFE: 1 year 8 months
ADOPTED!! by Monne & Mike
Darla, along with Montana, was surrendered to SAFE in 2021 by her owner, an elderly man who suffered a stroke and could no longer care for her. His family was able to successfully re-home his other horses, but Darla was untrained, and therefore at a greater risk of falling into a bad situation. So SAFE agreed to take her on so she could benefit from our horsemanship program.
Over the time she was at SAFE, Darla has transformed from the nervous mare who first stepped off the trailer into a more confident version of herself. Darla did tremendously well in our horsemanship program, and it was a joy to watch her find peace through balance in her feet. Monne came to meet Darla over the summer of 2023, and the two got on great. Over the course of many rides together here at SAFE, their partnership continued to develop, and Monne took Darla home. Today, Darla enjoys the good life with Monne and Mike, living out her days in a beautiful pastoral setting surrounded by riding trails to adventure out on.
Darla came to SAFE as a very sensitive mare, and while that is not something that goes away (nor would we want it to), she really made huge strides during her time here. When Monne came to ride, the two were able to overcome obstacles that would have been impossible for Darla to handle in her early days as a riding horse. Over the course of their visits, Darla and Monne did it all — riding both inside and outside the roundpen, loping out in the big outdoor arena, meandering around the property, and even taking a trail ride or two through the park. Darla also got along well with Mike, Monne’s husband, and their young grandson who accompanied the pair of them to a few of these sessions.
As summer began to slide into fall, we scheduled a date to take Darla to her new home, where she settled in nicely upon arrival. Surrounded by other horses, goats, sheep, and chickens, Darla found herself a nice little slice of pastoral heaven with Monne and Mike. She has access to a lovely big pasture, as well as a warm stall and dry lot — everything a girl could ask for! In addition, Monne’s property butts up to an area with horse trails, meaning that adventures are just out the back door for the two of them.
Before she left, we made a plan that Darla would return for the Joel Conner clinic, as it coincided with a previously planned vacation that Darla’s adopters would be taking. When we pulled around the corner to pick her up for her brief stay back at SAFE, Darla and Monne were waiting for us, with Darla looking about as content and relaxed as a horse can look. It was clear that she and her new home were getting along famously.
Since then, Darla has been doing great in her new digs. She is one lucky mare, and we are so happy that she was able to find such a great match in Monne and her family!
Our Darla is certainly not a one trick pony! This mare has come a loooooooong way (note how many ‘o’s I used, and know that I went conservative on the amount) from the anxious horse who first arrived at SAFE. She has become one solid riding horse with quite a few miles under her cinch in the round pen and in the arena. Fewer out on the trails, but even there she has proven to be steady.
Darla has become a truly extraordinary horse. And if you wont take my word for it, then please watch this video of a recent day in the arena, where Kaya decided to try some mounted work with the tarp. This wasn’t anything she had previously practiced, merely Darla having confidence in her rider and a lot of solid work to get her to that point. She sure is one cool horse!
While Darla is ready to leave the nest and embark on her next big adventure alongside a lucky adopter, we are happily enjoying the time we still get to spend alongside this special girl. Kaya M, Darla’s primary rider, has been putting in a lot of work to prepare this darling creature for her forever home, and while you can read what Kaya herself has written about Darla on her page, it’s clear from Kaya’s tone and expression whenever she’s around her how much of an impact this sweet mare has made on her. These days, Darla is riding outside of a roundpen, and even outside of a walled arena — going for walks on the trails and around the property, and moving out in the wide open space of our big outdoor arena. Kaya and Darla have been spending a lot of time working on the soft feel in the walk, trot, and lope, as well as some more advanced moves like leg yields.
Darla is a sensitive mare, which is perhaps not as broadly appealing as a goofy gelding-type, but she has a ton to offer as a horse who’s ready to go today, as well as one who can be taken far and wide in the future.
With the onset of nicer weather comes the shedding of many things: layers, coats, and roofs. The latter of which doesn’t actually go anywhere, rather we just get out from under them.
Walks around the property are a great first step for prepping horses for the trails, or just experiencing a change of scenery. And really, when the ground is dry and the sky is blue, we’ll take any excuse to get out and about.
Darla has been outside of the arena several times now, including a few times out on the trails, and has done very well each time. Here are some short clips of her enjoying a leisurely stroll around the premises.
Darla is ready for her forever person to take her home! This sweet mare has so much try and she is so fun to ride. Darla has come a long ways since she was surrendered to SAFE; from hardly halterable, to confidently rideable. While Darla can still be nervous at times and takes a confident rider to help her relax, she’s proving that she is getting more and more comfortable and will be suitable for an intermediate rider. Darla has shown that she is comfortable moving at all three gaits on a loose rein and has a good foundation of lateral movements, so she is starting to work on some more advanced movements, like carrying a soft feel in a canter and leg yielding.
Darla does well in a herd and is often toward the bottom of the pack. Currently, Darla is in a herd with three other mares and prefers to spend her time with her best friend, Tiva. Every once in a while, Darla decides its time to run and play and she can really take off when she wants to! Most of the time though, Darla just loves to nap with her buddies. It has taken some work, but Darla has gotten much better about her hind feet being picked up and now stands quite well for the farrier, though she will need continued work to ensure that this maintains. Darla is learning to stand tied and is doing well with this understanding.
Darla is doing well with her training and continues to show that she is a quick learner and has a lot of try! Darla’s gotten freer with her movements, but still has some work to do getting off her front end and really carrying herself forward. We’ve also been working on developing her soft feel and have started leg yielding. Darla rides confidently in the larger arena, with or without other horses for company. While things can still startle Darla and she’s still nervous around certain types of energy from people, she’s figured out good ways to deal with these circumstances by moving her feet in a balanced way. Darla is proving that she’s a confident and capable riding horse who could be a great fit for a rider who can support her through her occasional nerves and is looking for a true partnership with their horse.
Our darling Darla is looking for her forever home! This sweet mare will melt your heart with just a single look into her big doe eyes.
Darla is going well under saddle, walk trot lope, but will still need an intermediate rider to help support her as she expands her education. Her disposition would benefit from a confident partner, and she would thrive with someone who is looking for a project with a great foundation. Helping Darla find confidence through balance has been instrumental in her journey thus far, and to go to a home with someone who is willing to help her further down this path would be ideal.
She has ventured off property, and has done well when faced with new environments. A hand walk in the park is, well, a walk in the park for Darla. She is currently turned out in a small herd with Esme and Tiva, and the three coexist with little to no drama – she has even been known to share a hay bag with Esme once in a while (but don’t tell her I told you). Under saddle, she is comfortable by herself and also in group settings.
Darla loves naptime in her stall at night, and an occasional carrot treat in her grain pan. In the winter, she turns into a walking marshmallow – you’ll have to be careful not to lose her in the snow. But despite her white coat, she manages to stay relatively clean.. I do say relatively.
Darla is a willing and soft mare who has the potential to be a phenomenal partner for some lucky individual. We have loved watching her blossom from a shy, nervous mare into a sweet girl whose confidence grows by the day. Meeting Ms. Darla for yourself by way of filling out an adoption application is just one click away!
See some footage of Darla from October below:
Kaya M, who has been working with Darla for a while now, brought this lovely white mare into the riding portion of Joel Conner’s clinic recently. Here is what she had to say about their time spent together in the arena:
“I literally can’t say enough good things about this mare. She handled all of the clinic like she’d been doing it her whole life, even though it was only her second clinic. Darla was much more relaxed about the other horses around us this time and it’s clear that her confidence continues to grow. Joel helped me get more particular when asking Darla for lateral movements and we got some pretty great changes in our front quarters and backing an arc. In order to help Darla continue to find more balance, we’ll keep working on these lateral movements and her responsiveness to me leg. Working on these things will hopefully help to free her up even more in the canter. She’s gotten better, but she needs time to rework her muscles to support herself through her topline rather than through her muscles underneath her neck and body. Darla was able to progress through some more movements this weekend and we even started leg yielding. Darla is so soft in a soft feel and it’s exciting to be able to do more and more with her! While I’m having a blast riding this horse, I’m excited for Darla to find her person to continue her horsemanship journey with her.”
Darla has been sound since August, and in regular work with Kaya since then. She has certainly come a long way from the nervous mare we met at the end of last summer, and while she is still quite sensitive about things, she grows a bit more comfortable in her skin with each week that passes.
And that’s certainly not a result of just sitting around. Darla’s increased (and increasing) comfort is a result of many hours of work, both on the ground and under saddle. For Kaya, Darla is a great example of how well this style of horsemanship can work. From the point at which they started up until now, Darla has reached a place where she is able to find relaxation faster, and has really found the freedom within herself to let down a bit. There was a time when Darla’s head was at a constant elevation – her neck could have rivaled a giraffe’s for how extended it was. Anxiety poured off her, and it was almost palpable how stiff she felt. But over time, that head has come lower and lower, and she no longer has to crane her neck to feel secure.
Darla is currently going well at all three gaits, and though she still needs work on freeing up her feet moving forward, with each ride she gets a little softer. She is very soft to bend and in a soft feel, and is coming along well with her lateral work. Foundationally she is overall pretty solid, and grows stronger by the day. She’s had her first rides in the big arena, and is doing very well, with or without other horses. She participated in the September Joel Conner Clinic alongside Kaya, and the pair did swimmingly – it was Darla’s first time amongst the activity and occasional chaos a clinic setting can bring, and she kept her cool the entire time. She even went for a walk through the park a few weeks back, and had a successful ride in the arena there. Darla is expanding her horizons and bravely taking on new challenges with each passing day.
Of course, there remain hurdles. Darla still has a difficult time changing eyes. She considers the rope to be a big deal, and is reluctant to give to pressure when roping her by a hind foot. Her sensitive nature means she is worried about things sometimes, like the snap of the saddle strings or an object swinging overhead. There are little mystery scares to excavate with Darla, which Kaya accomplishes by helping her to free up her feet and prove that there is nothing to fear after all. Darla’s comfort arises in her ability to feel free, which cannot be achieved without a high level of confidence in her abilities. Darla’s path towards this confidence is often an uphill one, but one which she has great support on as she traverses.
It will still take some time before Darla is settled fully in herself as a confident, steady mare, but if the admiration in Kaya’s eyes when she talks about her tells you anything, it’s that Darla really is something special.
Remember when Darla blew an abscess, way back in January? The shockwaves of that are still being felt all the way now in August. There was a sweet spot a few months back where she was sound, and we thought that we were in the clear. But it was not to be. Shortly after we got Darla back into regular work, she came up lame again. That same hoof again, the dreaded left front, was still proving to be an issue. So we soaked her, we wrapped her, and we rested her. The one positive about all this — we’re getting really good at duct tape boots!
But despite all of our efforts, Darla’s foot stubbornly insisted on carrying on giving her issues. It was time to break out the big guns (or dremels, as it turned out). We called upon the talented Dr. King of Pilchuck who has worked his hoof-healing magic on mini Chip and SAFE alumni Cy (formerly known as Cyrus), among others. When he trimmed back her hoof, a tunnel was revealed that ran the entire length between the tip of her hoof and the section, now about half-way down, where she had ported out her coronet band. He cut away this area, revealing lots of dirt and dead laminae, and then packed the area with betadine gauze to help dry it out.
In another week, he saw Darla again for a scheduled recheck. At this visit, he applied a cast to her hoof to shore up the area and promote healing. Aided by a little bit of dorm gel to keep her from movement during the process, Darla was a perfect angel during the procedure.
At her next recheck a few weeks later, Dr. King had us trot her out to evaluate where she was at, lameness wise. While there was certainly some improvement, even with the cast on, Darla still was slightly off. Dr. King attributed this to just the cards she was dealt – she doesn’t naturally have a big, solid foot, so even at her most sound she would always be a little bit lame. He suggested putting her in front shoes as soon as we were able.
At this appointment, he also cut away the cast, revealing that Darla was healing up quite nicely. He gave her a trim, and instructed us to wrap the hoof up during the day to keep it clean.
A mid-post ‘did you know:’ applying epsom salt poultice or another type of poultice within the context of a duct tape boot is great for drawing and softening, but too long in this environment and the hoof could go too soft. To prevent this, we have been using betadine-soaked gauze to keep the afflicted area clean, and bringing Darla into a stall at night where she can have an unwrapped hoof in a clean, dry environment.
Last week, we had one of our wonderful farriers, Lisa Fite, out to put shoes on our dear Darla. With this piece in place, we may finally have found the end of Darla’s hoof issues… but we’ll still knock on wood, just in case.
During this entire process, Darla has been living a mostly normal life. With the exception of coming into a stall at night, she has been allowed her normal turnout and grass time. Now with the addition of shoes, she is fully back to work.
Thanks to the hard work of so many, Darla is back on her feet, hopefully once and for all!
Kaya has the following to say about her time spent recently with Darla:
After struggling with her hoof injury for the last several months, Darla is sound and ready to get back to work! It seems she has used the time off to think about what she was working on before the injury. She’s less touchy about her hind end than when we first got her and quicker to relax and let down.
Darla’s past has left her with braces in her body and nervous when energy is increased around her. It will take some time and care to help her free up her feet to feel unstuck and comfortable when she feels pressure increase. We’ll be working her on building her strength and begin saddling her again in the weeks ahead. She had a few rides put on her last November and hope over the Spring we can begin riding her and offer her for adoption as a riding horse this summer.
Pretty much everyone agrees, Darla is a special lady. It is fascinating watching her break through her braces and let down. She has a ton of try and with time and patience, we have hope that she will make it as a riding horse.
Oh Darla! Our little accident prone darling. When making a round after their morning chore shift, two of our eagle-eyed volunteers spotted Darla’s pretty white head with an alarming stroke of red on it. Upon further inspection, it was revealed that miss Darla had opened up a little gash on her forehead – not tremendously large, around 3 inches, but deep enough that a call to our vet was warranted.
So call the vet we did, and she was quick on the scene. Part of Darla’s wound was full thickness, which meant that the cut extended through the dermis and epidermis into the lower levels. This in turn meant that she would need several stitches. After some light sedation and a healthy bit of lidocaine injected around the area, Dr. Lewis got to work stitching Darla up.
The placement of her wound, smack dab in the middle of her forehead, made it seem as though she was really just a unicorn, reminding us where the horn used to be.
It has certainly been a lengthy recovery process, but the end is finally in sight for our dear Darla. Since her abscess finally ported (in not one, not two, but three places: her coronet band, her heel bulbs, and her white line) back in early January, we have been carefully tending to her foot each day to ensure it continues to heal. And it has paid off! During her most recent visit with our vet, Darla was evaluated as being sound at the walk and healing up quite well. The most important thing during this final stretch is to ensure that the port areas are kept clean, which we have been doing through a combination of duct tape boots, iodine solution, and, most recently, a diaper “sock” that Darla wears inside a trail boot. Gone are the days of deeply bedded stall rest – Darla now gets a daily turnout with her “shoes on,” where she moves around quite comfortably.
Darla has been a wonderful, patient patient during this entire process, even during the periods when she was at her highest levels of discomfort. She seemed to really enjoy her ‘pedicures’ – the epsom salt soaks we were administering multiple times a week – standing still as a statue for the entire duration, even lowering her head and adopting a relaxed, sleepy expression.
Our vet gave Darla the all clear to go back to work after her next trim with our farrier, and we look forward to getting back to work on the road to adoption for this special girl!
Poor, sweet Darla has been suffering from a bad hoof abscess over the holidays at SAFE. Despite starting treatment (soaking and Epson salt poultices), her pain level became more severe. We called our veterinarian, Dr. Renner, for a visit. X‑rays showed a significant hematoma had formed in her front left hoof, putting a significant amount of pressure on her coffin bone. We don’t know what caused this injury or when it happened, but the hoof had experienced some traumatic event.
Darla was started on SMZ (antibiotics) and Bute for pain. We continued soaking and wrapping in an Epson salt poultice. After a few days the pain increased and we added Tramadol for more pain management. She was kept in a deeply bedded stall with a camera monitoring her for 24-hour surveillance. While she has been a fairly willing patient, she did not like being given oral medications so we will have to work on that.
Finally, during the first week of January the abscess opened and started to drain. There is at least one port at the front of her coronet band and possibly another on her medial heel bulb. She is MUCH more comfortable now and is able to put some weight on the hoof. We will continue soaking the hoof with Epson salts with a splash of iodine as an antiseptic for the open area. We are also using Animalintex poultices (these were donated and we’re very grateful for them because they are pricey) to cover the port area to help encourage more drainage. We will keep the hoof wrapped, clean and dry as the area finishes flushing out and heals. We are so grateful that she is on the road to recovery and we will have our sweet Darla healthy and happy very soon!
Darla is a pleasure to get to know and very rewarding to work with so far. She has a huge heart and a ton of try. She was very shy and afraid coming into SAFE. Now after just a few weeks, she is more comfortable with haltering and has been walking nicely into the arena for her groundwork sessions. As her feet are getting freed up and her weight distributed onto her hinds, her expression softens and she is not in a panic. The volunteers have also noticed the changes in her while cleaning her paddock. She is no longer standing “on point” with her head high and eye intense on everyone or any noises around her. She is truly “letting down” and finding peace and relaxation in her life here at SAFE.
This week, after a fair amount of preparation, we were able to have Joel Conner’s help saddling her. She accepted the saddle very well and was not panicked when wearing it around the round pen. We hope to continue to prepare her for a rider and put the first rides her at SAFE on during Joel’s visit next month.
Darla has been wormed and seen our farrier, however she was only comfortable having her fronts trimmed at that time. She will be vaccinated in the coming weeks and scheduled for a dental before we put a snaffle in her mouth.
Darla is shy, so it takes a few minutes for her to get used to being approached. She can be led, but has a pull back (resistance) issue when on the lead. We’re doing basic groundwork training with her to help her feel free to move her feet. Darla was first introduced to having an oral syringe inserted into her mouth and eventually accepted her worming medication through the syringe. At this point, we expect it will take 6 months to a year of training to help Darla work through her troubles and issues. Her prior handling was most likely well-intentioned, but appears to have resulted in some braces. (Braces are a lack of unimpeded movement in any available direction that one sees in a tension-free and willing response from the horse.)
Say hello to our two newest arrivals, Darla and Montana! Darla is about 10 years old, and Montana is a 5 year old gelding. Both were surrendered to SAFE by their owner, an elderly man who suffered a stroke and could no longer care for them. His family was able to successfully rehome his other horses, but Darla and Montana are both untrained and were at a greater risk of falling into bad situations. So SAFE agreed to take them on so they can benefit from our horsemanship program.
Montana is a striking dark bay and white pinto, who was originally purchased as a yearling to be a riding horse, but they were unsuccessful at halter starting him. Now at 5, he is still quite unhandled, and very tentative about being approached. He will need a lot of patient work to be gentled and started under saddle, but fortunately he is quite good looking so we’ll be able to enjoy his beauty as we work with him.
Darla is a bit more gentle, and while it’s clear she’s still quite nervous about being touched, she can be caught. She even stood for a bit of light brushing upon arrival. We expect her to make an easier transition into a horse that enjoys the company of humans. We hope she will become a nice riding horse too.
Thank you to Jackie for driving the trailer, and Candi and Kaya for assisting with pickup!