2003 chestnut Arabian gelding
Type of Rescue: Animal Control seizure
Intake Date: 11/1/2022
Adoption Date: 2/13/2024
Length of Time with SAFE: 1 year, 3 months

ADOPTED!! by Sue

Declan, a long-legged chestnut gelding, came to us from Yakima. Although Animal Control was involved with this neglect case, Declan was surrendered to SAFE by his owner. In his past, Declan was likely a family horse, and his overall gentleness reflects this. After he regained his health and weight, Declan was re-started under saddle, however his soundness was off and on. We decided to retire him from riding and offer him for adoption as a companion. It was not too long after that the perfect adopter came along for Declan.

Declan is Adopted!

Declan is Adopted! 

The word ‘failure’ does not typically have positive connotations, but when placed in conjunction with the word ‘foster,’ it takes on a whole new meaning. When Sue called to let us know she was a failure (a foster failure, that is) we could not have been more overjoyed.

Last October, Declan moved to Sue’s place to be a buddy to her gelding, Cal, and live beside the sheep that she raises. Sue had previously adopted Pepper, but after some changes in her life, realized that the match may have not been the best fit. But Pepper’s return left a horse-shaped hole in Sue’s life, and Cal without a friend. Enter Declan. We had previously started Declan under saddle, but following some soundness issues, decided to retire him to the companion lifestyle. With Sue in search of a companion, Declan was just about the right fit. The two of them spent several visits together at SAFE getting acquainted before Sue decided that she would like to invite Declan over as a guest to her home.

Well, guest no longer — Declan has officially become part of Sue’s family! This is such a happy ending for this chestnut guy, and we couldn’t be happier for everyone involved in this match. Congratulations, Declan and Sue!

Declan, One Year Later

Declan, One Year Later 

There are no timelines when it comes to our horses. We promise them that no matter how long it takes, we will be there for them to rehabilitate them into the horse they were always meant to be.

This week marks the year anniversary of when we met Declan. Many wonderful things have happened in his life since then. Hours of care, patience, hard work, and empowerment. Declan was restarted under saddle and ultimately made into a companion, had medical ailments diagnosed and dealt with, and made friends both horse and human. We are so proud of the horse Declan has become.

Now, a year from intake, Declan would surely tell you that he is living his best life. He has gone to foster with a loving family, and has made a great new friend in horse buddy, Cal. The two of them met last week after a introductory period to his new home, and it has been smooth sailing since.

Because of the support of our wonderful community, both in person and afar, SAFE has the ability to change the lives of horses like Declan. And we certainly wouldn’t want it any other way!


Declan: Companion

Declan: Companion 

After giving it a fair shake, Declan told us that he was done being a riding horse, and would very much prefer the companion lifestyle. And we, as responsible stewards of his care, listened to him.

To recap: it was clear pretty early on in his training that he had some soundness issues, and after having him examined by our vets, we felt that he could be well managed as a light riding horse with proper care and handling. One joint injection and a pair of front shoes later, Declan was back in the game, under saddle for a bit of walk-trot a few times a week, and doing well with it. He tested his mettle out on the trails, and proved himself a brave boy out there as well. We adjusted our expectations of him and what his future home should look like, and were ready to start showing him to those who met his criteria.

But things changed when his regular volunteer rider began to feel that he was different under saddle — not unsound, but unbalanced. We work so hard on helping our horses find balance in their feet, and on the ground he was moving well, but with a rider he was clearly struggling. After all of the iterations of riding horse he had been through, we decided at this point that it was not worth it for Declan for us to keep trying to find workarounds just so we could sit on him and walk around for a little while. It made the most sense for all involved to allow Declan to hang up his saddle and retire from ridden work once and for all.

As far as a companion horse goes, Declan has gotta be one of the best around. We have a lot of companions at SAFE at any given time, and often there are disclaimers about them that makes them more suited to a specific type of home – all great horses, mind you, but with their unique personalities and quirks, placing them isn’t always straightforward. But Declan has to be one of the ‘easiest’ we have. He is currently turned out with a boss gelding who he gets along well with, and a gelding who, until Declan, has never before had a ‘bromance.’ Declan has taught him the joys of sharing a haybag and sleeping side by side in a shelter. He makes a great buddy to all types, and while he’d certainly prefer to have his friends around, does alright when they are away (some calling does ensue, but he keeps his wits about him regardless).

Declan is a tremendously sweet guy to his people as well, the type to come right up to you in turnout (likely with hopes that you have a carrot for him, but he certainly won’t say no to a pet or scratch). He was a great horse when he was under saddle, and his value has not diminished now that he is a companion.

Trail Horse Declan

Trail Horse Declan 

Some horses jump fences that tower a horse-height above them. Some run races at breakneck speeds. Some move cattle out on the open range. And others are destined more a more leisurely life, filled with lots of paddock naps and some very casual walks in the park. This lifestyle is the one Declan is destined for.


Since his lameness eval and subsequent joint injection, Declan has been taking it easy. Our vets feel that the way to keep him most comfortable under saddle will be to limit his sessions to just a few times a week, and mostly at the walk. But will you really hear him complaining?


Because of the recommendation to more or less retire him from any sort of demanding arena work, we decided the best path forward for Declan would be as an easy trail horse. And so far, things seem to be looking good for him in this realm. A recent walk around the property (his first time out of the arena) saw him as a very brave boy, taking the new environment in stride. A week or so later, he accompanied friends on a trail ride in Farrel McWhirter and was a great partner for his rider, who felt he was solid the whole way through.


After his ride, Declan got a cool shower, which he pretended not to enjoy (pictured) but relaxed right into. He is a sweet and willing gelding, now all he needs is a forever home!

Health Update: Declan

Health Update: Declan 

Since arriving at SAFE, Delcan has been a little bit off, physically. Granted, he’s an older gentleman, and with the wisdom of age comes less desirable things, like arthritis, but we still wanted to check him out with our vets.

To add another layer, when he first arrived at SAFE, Declan kicked out at a panel which resulted in a laceration along his heel bulb. This injury ended up growing down the hoof wall in a horizontal crack, something we thought might be affecting his soundness, especially after a trim exposed it a bit more recently, and seemed to coincide with some intermittent lameness.

We had Dr Lewis out to assess his soundness. She used a lameness locator to check him out — the best part was the cool hat he got to wear during his exam – asking him to trot both straight lines and circles on hard and soft ground.

Declan wearing the lameness locator.. looking dapper!

The results of his lameness exam revealed his right front to be the culprit, not his right hind as we’d originally thought. It was a subtle lameness, most noticeable when lunging to the right on a hard surface. After flexion tests, he was mildly positive on his right front, the only positive limb. His hinds were negative, and his left front worsened the right front.

Dr Lewis partially blocked his right front then, which really made me question how bizarre it must feel for a horse to have to move with a numb foot (do horse’s limbs ever fall asleep? A question for next time). The block resulted in a 50% improvement in his lameness, proving we were on the right track. A total block of everything below the fetlock resolved his lameness entirely. We had our answer.

Radiographs taken a few days later let us take a closer look at what was going on below the hood. On that right front, Declan has a chip off his coffin bone, and associated marked to moderate arthritis of the coffin joint. The bone fragment is smooth and rounded, and has likely been there a long time.
X‑rays of his left front revealed it to be unaffected. Phew!

Dr. Lewis decided that the best route forward would be a joint injection in that right front coffin joint. I can’t imagine it’s much fun having your joint injected, even under sedation, but Declan was a champ for it. He didn’t get a lollipop (being sedated would have made eating one difficult), but he did get a cool vet-wrap bandage, as well as a few days of stall rest to increase the efficacy of the injection. Well, I say stall rest, but our Declan is a social guy (re: a touch herdbound) and would have found sitting in his stall in an empty barn quite distressing. So we improvised a stall-sized space out of panels in his usual paddock, simulating turn out for him while keeping his range of motion very limited.

Declan’s joint injection in action

He was off work for a week, and then began a slow ascent back into regular riding, which is where Declan’s story enters the present day. He is back in work as a riding horse, and will remain so as long as he is comfortable. We also started him on Equioxx to help keep him even more comfortable. Going forward with good results following his injection, he should receive annual (approximately) injections to help maintain him as a light riding horse. Declan will never be a high intensity boy, but a life of leisure was always one we intended for this gentleman. And if and when the day comes when his arthritis progresses to the point where he is no longer comfortable under saddle, well, then he will retire from ridden work, and live out the rest of his days as a companion horse. But we are optimistic about his prognosis, and you can expect to see more of Declan under saddle for the foreseeable future.

Oh, and as for that right hind of his, we are wrapping it and booting it during turnout to keep it dry and clean. So far, both our vets and our farriers seem to think it will heal up just fine as the split continues to grow down his hoof.

Declan — Ready for Adoption!

Declan — Ready for Adoption! 

Declan is ready for his new riding partner! This big, sweet, handsome gelding has overcome a lot of tension and anxiety when it comes to riding and is starting to relax, lower his head, and lengthen his strides more and more every week. Declan recently started riding out in the big arena and feels very confident and comfortable outside the round pen. He has also started standing tied and does well waiting patiently. While Declan is gaining confidence and balance, he still has a ways to go if he’s going to be expected to fill in for a newer rider. Declan would do best with a confident rider who can support him safely and encourage his freedom and relaxation.

Not only is Declan ready to be your buddy, he is excited to be best friends with all your other horses! Currently, Declan gets turned out with our resident curly horse, Owen, and the two play frequently throughout the day. Owen is definitely the boss and doesn’t take kindly to other geldings challenging his leadership, but Declan has eagerly accepted his role as second in command of the two. Declan is very much your typical goofy gelding who just wants to play, eat hay, get scratches and take naps. He can be a little too “in your pocket” and has to be reminded about personal space, but he is a very gentle and easy to handle guy on the ground. Declan stands well for the farrier and does well with the vet.


Decoding Declan

Decoding Declan 

Oh Declan, caramel-colored stranger-turned-friend, unspooling who you are has been, as it often is, an adventure of the best sort.

Declan, you first arrived having worn the hat of “family horse” in your past, and you brought it with you, tucked away with the rest of your baggage. We ask all who come to us to open your cases, so that we might help you donate that which you no longer need, or at least take some of it to the wash — rarely are the articles within without fraying threads and more than a few unidentified stains. But given the little we knew about you, we figured you would quickly run through our program. Heck, within the first month we had you saddled at a clinic. Not to inflate your ego too much, but the same can’t be said for most of the horses who we get.

But it was in your first ride where we felt exactly how dusty that “family horse” hat really was. You were rigid — a sawhorse, animated. Your already long neck extended even further, as though taking the first step to transmuting into a giraffe. Your gaits felt unbalanced, like at any moment you could topple over. And that was perhaps the most dangerous feeling, that you were poised to flip at any moment. A dangerous quality for any horse to have.

Because I’ve just been brutally honest about you, and it may not have seemed particularly flattering, I want to pause a moment to reflect on what a gentleman you always were on the ground. Perhaps that was implied when I said how easy it was to saddle you up and stick you in a clinic environment when you were still so new, but it bears repeating. You stood so politely for the farrier, and you were easy to halter and groom and blanket, all the hallmarks of a gentle sort.

It was just going to take a bit more time than we might have originally thought, but there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s never a deadline at SAFE.

So Kaya got to riding you regularly, working on helping you feel a bit more free in your feet. It was evident that you felt very stuck, but little by little she helped to chip away at those braces. Your head, once so upright, was beginning to come down. Only a little at a time, maybe, but progress is progress. You reached the point where when you went from a walk to a trot, your poll no longer skyrocketed into another layer of the atmosphere. Not only were you growing more comfortable at SAFE, but you were growing more comfortable in your own skin.

It is always so fun watching a horse like you find a bit more balance and the change that brings. With each ride, you drift a bit closer to a more relaxed version of yourself, and we can’t wait to watch you let down even further.


Joel Conner Clinic Report: Declan

Joel Conner Clinic Report: Declan 

Kaya M has been working with Declan, and had the opportunity to take him in the groundwork section of the clinic this past week. Though he is a new arrival here at SAFE, he is gentle enough that he is able to get right to work in our program! Here’s what Kaya had to say about their time spent together over the weekend:

“This is one special horse! The amount of try and motivation that Declan showed over the weekend and since is both impressive and surprising to me. After being ridden when he was younger, but spending many years without experience, it’s clear that Declan has a huge heart and is putting in all his effort to overcoming past difficulties.

Declan has quite a brace in his hindquarters. Moving his ribcage and shoulder out and away from pressure is difficult for him and requires very frequent reminders. Helping Declan with this movement will hopefully translate to him feeling more confident and balanced when ridden.

Riding Declan can be a bit hairy at this point. He’s very upright and takes short little strides. Through more lateral work, we’re hoping he’ll be able to start lowering his head, relaxing, and moving more freely. I’ve already seen a bit of change in this good boy and I can’t wait to keep working with him! While Declan is currently a bit of a challenge, I’m so confident that he’ll pull through and make a really nice, sweet horse for someone.”

Meet Declan!

Meet Declan! 

It has been a busy start to the fall (more like Winter, with this change in weather) here at SAFE – our phenomenal Outreach team is working hard behind the scenes on rescuing a vast number of horses from dire situations, and we have welcomed, and are preparing to welcome, a few through our own gates.

Our newest arrivals come to us from Yakima, and while animal control was involved with the case, they ended up being owner surrenders. Declan is a long-legged chestnut QH/Arab type, estimated to be somewhere in his teens. He arrived with a mare, probably somewhere in her 20s, is also a QH type, and is also a chestnut (‘tis the season for chestnut intakes)! In their past, they were family horses, and their gentleness reflects this. When circumstances drew the family’s time and attention from them, they grew thin and lacking in proper care. Both come in need of some groceries and TLC, but have proven to be very sweet in their temperaments, standing easily for their intake measurements and blanket fittings.

Because of how gentle the mare was, she left SAFE and moved to our friends at SAIN after only a few days. We are tremendously thankful for our partnerships with other rescues during times like these, when the inn is approaching fully booked. SAIN taking on this mare will allow us to intake another horse who is less gentle. We are very grateful to be able to work with these great organizations to best suit the needs of the horses.

Declan is working with Kaya, our Barn and Facilities Manager, during this weekend’s Joel Connor Horsemanship Clinic We look forward to getting to know this gentleman’s personality and offering him for adoption soon!

Declan in the November Joel Connor Clinic