description: 2005 dark bay Thoroughbred mare
type of rescue: Skagit County Animal Control seizure
intake date: 12/4/2009
adoption date: 9/11/2012
length of time with SAFE: 2 years, 9 months
This will not be an easy post to write. I’ve already made four or five attempts to get started, writing tired cliches…like “Letting a horse go is never easy” or “We know we can’t save them all” …and then hitting the delete key. Staring at an empty page. And finally putting the task off for another day.
But when you run an organization based on transparency, you have to be as forthcoming with the bad news as you are with the good. And sometimes the best way to tell bad news is to simply come out and say it.
We made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Dexter last week. As rescuers we’ve been in this position many times before, and it’s true that it’s never an easy decision to make, but this time was so very much harder. Dexter was young, healthy, and sound. We made the decision to let him go because after three years of working with him, handling him, riding him, and training him, we felt that he was too unpredictable and dangerous to ever be safely adopted out.
Dexter came to SAFE in late 2009, after being seized by Skagit County Animal Control due to neglect and starvation. Initially, he seemed pretty solid under saddle, and we had high hopes that we’d be able to place him into a good home pretty easily. He was adopted for the first time in early 2010, but was returned to SAFE after two short months when his adopter could not keep him contained in her fencing. Having never had a similar problem with him at the SAFE farm, we put him back up for adoption, and again, he was placed into a new home. Again he was returned to SAFE, this time because he was behaving aggressively towards other horses and because he was displaying bad behavior on the ground — nipping, rearing, and striking. Again, we were somewhat baffled, having never seen such behavior from him ourselves.
Our trainer and key volunteers worked with Dexter regularly over the summer and he continued to behave well. He did have some bad moments, most notably at the 2010 SAFE show where he proved too anxious to be ridden safely in the show environment, but once he returned home, he was back to his usual self. Once again, he was offered for adoption to a suitable home with an experienced rider.
Unfortunately, Dexter’s third adoption fell through, again after just a couple months. This time, he displayed dangerous behavior under saddle when his adopter took him to an unfamiliar place to ride. We were beginning to get a clearer picture of this horse’s tendencies, but since his bad behavior was so unpredictable and hard to replicate, we were at a loss as to how to train him out of it. Most of this time, he was perfectly normal…but when he wasn’t, it was as if he was experiencing a meltdown — tuning his rider out completely, and behaving very dangerously.
We had no choice but to classify him as a project horse suitable for an experienced rider only, someone who understood that there would be a lot of work needed to get him through his issues. He continued to be ridden by one SAFE volunteer who took weekly lessons on Dexter from a visiting trainer. Dexter was typically well behaved at home, but even so, from time to time he would have his little meltdowns, which made us increasingly concerned about ever being able to find him a home.
About a year ago, we got a very generous offer from a long time SAFE supporter and experienced rider to take Dexter on as a foster horse at her boarding barn and continue to work him under saddle on a regular basis. I can say with absolutely certainty that this person went as far as humanly possible to work out a solution to Dexter’s problem. No stone was left unturned, his soundness was evaluated, his teeth re-checked, his saddle fit assessed, his hormone levels were checked — anything that could contribute to his behavior was explored, examined, and ruled out. His foster “mom” bankrolled most of this testing herself, and refused reimbursement from SAFE. She and Dexter had ups and downs, and we all rejoiced at his appearance at the 2012 SAFE Benefit Show in which he was a perfect gentleman and competed successfully in dressage, trails and english. Many times she told us that if only he were a taller horse, if only she could commit to a second horse, she would adopt him.
I also truly believe that during this year, Dexter thought that he’d been adopted, and that he finally had his own person. Which makes the end of this story all the more heartbreaking.
Dexter had been showing some signs of lameness and he was examined by a vet on Sept 1. During the exam, he was put on a lunge line and when asked to go forward, he suddenly and with no warning, reared straight up and flipped himself over. He hit the ground hard, and it is a wonder that he was not killed on impact. It is also a wonder that no one else was hurt. Had there been someone on his back, they would not have had time to react, and the result might have been tragic.
A horse that rears and flips displays a complete lack of regard for its own safety and is a dangerous animal that cannot be “fixed.” Upon hearing of this incident, the SAFE Board of Directors immediately and unanimously agreed that Dexter should be euthanized. All the time put into him, all the work and expense…it means nothing if someone gets hurt. We could not take that risk any longer. It was time to accept that we had done all that we could do for this poor horse.
And so last week, surrounded by people who cared for him and loved him, Dexter was set free. We are left behind to wonder if we failed him, to wonder if things could have been different for him…and we’ll never know the answer. But we do know that for three years, there was always enough food to eat, a dry place to stand, a warm blanket in the winter, and people near and far who cared a great deal for him. We do know that in that time, he was never treated roughly, never made to be afraid, never asked to do anything he couldn’t do. We had very high hopes for Dexter, and he will be missed greatly.
No, you can’t save them all. But it still hurts to fail.
Dexter has spent the past year in the care of Kyle Putnam, who has been fostering him at her barn and working with him under saddle. Dexter is nothing if not a challenge, and Kyle has had her work cut out for her. But we were all amazed at his performance this weekend at the SAFE show…Dexter was well behaved and painted quite a picture in the ring! Here’s a report from Kyle on Dexter’s weekend:
Not only did he win the halter class for rescue horses, he got a 78.75 on his little dressage intro test! Yeah, it was a schooling show and yeah it was intro, but for a 14.3 hand paint rescue horse to get great comments from an FEI trainer is a big win in my book! His behavior all weekend was nearly impeccable. We had a couple brief reviews of The Rules, but he was gobstoppingly well-behaved for his first outing in ten months. I had been planning on doing more of the under-saddle classes today, but his bare feet were getting pretty sore on the rocks to and from the arenas. That, plus the heat, made me decided to end on an obedient note and enjoy the fact he had been so well-mannered. I think he could easily stay barefoot with a pair of barefoot boots for outings. Also, he loaded and trailered like a perfect gentleman both to and from the show. Needless to say, I’m exceedingly proud of the little guy!
Here’s an update from Dexter’s foster home:
Ultimately, I’ve fallen in love with this little guy. If he was a hand taller or I was a hand shorter, I’d keep him. He’s smart, athletic, tough, and funny, everything I like in a horse. But I do think he deserves a rider who doesn’t tower over him quite so much. He absorbs my leg very nicely, but while I’ve gotten used to riding him, I think a shorter rider would simply find him very easy to ride in comparison.
On the ground, he has really been minding his manners. I know I just jinxed us, but he has really been minding his Ps and Qs. His mouthiness on the ground is getting much better. Most days, with a little reminder, he can hang out calmly without getting mouthy about everything. That has taken some time, and I’m glad to see him remembering to respect my space on a daily basis. He has also become much better about respecting my space if he sees something scary on the ground. Early on, if he spooked at something, he would try to climb on top of me. Now, he’s learned that he can look at the scary thing but he needs to do it from his own space. This is a huge improvement.
Lately, our big projects under saddle have been developing a nice free walk throughout the ride, especially the beginning, and picking up lots of canter transitions. I’m on a semi-vacation from work, so I’m getting to spend lots of “couch” time with Dexter. He can come out a bit tense at the beginning and only really relax after our first trot set. I’m really working on taking the time to just hang out on his back in the arena for a few minutes before trying to get started. This gives him a chance to look at all of those other horses and relax. This has really helped him be able to walk on a longer rein at the beginning of the ride. The trot work is really all quite easy. He’s become much more even in strength behind, so making nice rhythmic circles without leaning on a shoulder has become a cake walk. He turns very nicely and easily off of the outside aids. Our walk-trot transitions are pretty decent. Or trot-walk transitions still need some work, but that’s just something that takes a downhill horse a little extra time. We started leg-yields at the trot today and he basically learned them in one ride. No problem!
Our big project is the canter. When he first got here and I tested out the canter, cantering just made everything worse. He was so off balance that he would get very tense and upset. Now, the more I challenge him with things like leg-yields and canter transitions, the better everything gets. He IS still pretty downhill at the canter, though he can canter on the bit for a few strides here and there. This week, I’m working on picking up the canter, cantering half a circle and then transitioning down to trot before the canter snowballs downhill. If he gets downhill and loses his balance, he can have a hard time going back to the trot and can be a bit of a speed demon. This is not a disobedience. He just doesn’t have the strength to rebalance himself yet. We’re doing a lot of work on it now and it is getting better every ride. Picking up the left lead is very easy. Picking up the right lead is harder, but interestingly enough, the canter is better once we’ve got it. The best thing is that even if the canter falls apart, he’s mentally relaxed enough that I can give him a long rein at the walk, regroup, pick up a nice trot and go back to work without it being a big deal.
He can still get nervous with a bunch of other horses. In our barn, they are ALL bigger than him and he has some confidence issues. I’ve been working on having people ride closer and closer to us and he is getting more and more relaxed about it, though this still needs time and work. And, in good news, despite the fact we’re rapidly moving into breeding season and have many mares in raging heat, he has been doing quite well with the whole thing. I know he could test that issue any day, but he has actually been having less issues with the mares than a couple of months ago.
I think he is nearly ready to try a permanent home again. I would like to have the canter a lot more solid and generally rideable and i would like to take him on some spring trails rides, but other than that I think I’ve nearly done what I can to set him up for success without him actually being my horse. He’s been handled seven days a week since he got here. He’s been slowly legged up into full training. He needs to stay in some sort of full training schedule! He’s a horse that thrives on daily work and consistency. He needs more miles in all areas of his life, but that is true for any horse his age, especially one with a slow start. I have no doubt that he will test his new owner on the ground and under saddle and that person does need to be very experienced and consistent, but his behavior has really improved with a few months of unwaveringly consistent handling. He’s too smart to NOT test, but I do believe this is a great horse for the right person.
For the past couple of months, Dexter has been fostered by our friend Kyle and boarded at Feature Farm in Auburn, WA, a beautiful and extremely large, busy boarding facility. This has been a great experience for him as he learns to deal with lots of horses in the arena with him, including mares, and a lot of comings and goings and constant activity. He gets ridden regularly and handled daily by Kyle and by our volunteer Abby, who has been riding him in lessons with the dressage trainer there. Kyle is also a certified equine massage therapist so he gets regular bodywork!
Here is Kyle’s report on Dexter:
The last couple of weeks have been pretty informative. It reminds of when I was bucked off a horse as a working student and was BAWLING to my instructor “I don’t want to ride her; she’s SOOOOOO unpredictable!” and my instructor shouted back, “SHE’S THE MOST PREDICTABLE HORSE ON THE PLANET. I COULD TOTALLY PREDICT SHE WAS ABOUT TO BUCK YOU OFF!” The problem, of course, was that as a pre-training level rider at the time, she felt utterly unpredictable to me, even though a more experienced rider could tell exactly what she was going to do. I think the situation is similar with Dexter.
I think we’ve figured a couple things out about Dexter.
First, he really hates to lose his balance. A couple weeks ago, Abby was riding him and a couple times he would start to rush at the trot, fall on the forehand, rush more, get upset, and then did try to buck a couple of times. She managed to keep it from turning into any sort of incident. When she went back to doing some walk-trot transitions and keeping the trot steady, they had no problems the rest of the ride. They had a great lesson the next day working on the same stuff. As long as he’s forward-thinking the trot can stay pretty slow and steady and he stays quite happy. I do think that if a rider loses her balance or lets him rush off willy-nilly, he could easily get off balance and then revert to bucking. If you keep him trucking along just a wee bit on the slow side to accommodate his conformation, he is very rideable.
Second, I think part of the problem is that when Dexter is being overly low-key, he’s not actually actively being good. He’s simply not doing anything wrong. Then, when he asserts his opinion, he goes from zero to naughty in what seems like a blink of an eye. To narrow the gap between half-asleep and TOTAL MELTDOWN, we’ve been working on making sure he is actively being obedient, not just being blase. WIthin the limits of his abilities, he still has to think forward and be responsive. My guess is that problems occur when Dexter is allowed to make decisions. He does not make good life choices! He’d rather speed up and drift towards the ladies in the ring than pay attention to his rider and when he’s told that he needs to save the flirting for another time, he doesn’t like that! The thing is, If you catch him testing early and quietly, he is REALLY easy to shut down. All it really takes is just disrupting whatever he set his mind on with something as simple as a halt or a downward transition to walk. Do that a few times and he gives it up pretty quick. I do think that if a rider got nervous and did nothing, he would immediately take advantage of the situation and a little bit of attitude could quickly turn into a full-blown meltdown.
So far, I haven’t seen any issue that isn’t perfectly normal for a strong, smart, quick six year old. He does have that stallion-like way of thinking where he digs in for a fight, but he’s way more bark than bite. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a total lamb!
The other thing I’m wondering is if one of the previous owners had a severe saddle fit issue. He’s hard to fit. We’ve jerryrigged a 16 3/4″ Neidersuss so that he goes comfortably in it and it doesn’t go past the last rib. No, neither Abby nor I are particularly suited for a sub-17″ saddle, but there it is. He does paddle a bit with just the left front and might have a bit of scar tissue up by the scapula. None of this seems to bother him in the slightest, but it made me wonder if, at some point, someone had a really poorly fitting saddle and he’d simply had it. Maybe, maybe not. Total speculation on my part.
Oh, and I had his feet trimmed last week. We debated between doing them last week or waiting two weeks and Pat thought we should probably do them then. They look great. He pretty much followed Daphne’s trim. There were no real changes. And as much as farriers like to bitch about each other’s work, Pat had no complaints about Dexter’s feet! A miracle!
Overall, I think things are still going well. We’ve mostly been walking and trotting thus far and letting him canter in the round pen. Abby and I are both so tall on him that we’ve been waiting for his balance to improve a little bit before tackling the canter. I felt this last week that we’re about there, so we’ll start trying to spend enough time at the canter that he’d be rideable for a prospective owner. We’ve had no real problems with mares. He’s stalled next to a mare who has been in season and a hussy about it and other than wanting to drift toward her in the arena, there have been no problems. Also, zero issues challenging fences or getting upset outside. I turned him and Reel out yesterday but I had to bring Reel in first because Reel completely melts down alone outside. So, Dexter was completely alone for a few minutes while every horse in the barn was inside eating lunch. Didn’t bat an eye. I believe that he must have done something in the past, but I have been completely unable to replicate it here.
Here are a few photos (cell phone quality) taken during Abby’s lesson a couple of weeks ago. Looking good Dexter!
Let’s take a look at Dexter’s photos from last week’s Karen Wegehenkel photo shoot. How handsome is this horse?
Click on the first photo to enlarge it and view the photos in a click-thru slideshow!
Dexter has been doing really well at home. Last weekend, he gave Sara’s daughter Angelique her first ride ever on a horse, a lunge lesson with Andrea and was very patient as Angelique was learning to post. Yesterday, Sara rode him in a lesson and worked on starting to teach him to give to the bit instead of brace against it, and he was really starting to get it towards the end of the ride. He is very defensive of the bit, as well as a bit stubborn about it, but as you can see from the pictures he is coming around.
One of our volunteers, Debi, has a small boarding facility in Clearview and she has a Parelli instructor named Michael Sparling come to her barn and do clinics. She spoke to Michael about Dexter and he agreed to work with Dexter at no charge to SAFE. Here’s a synopsis of how the clinic went, from Debi:
I am grateful to SAFE for allowing me to take Dexter for the weekend to participate in a Natural Horsemanship clinic I was hosting. I thought the experience had the potential to be a very positive experience for Dexter, who I happen to have a crush on. I picked Dexter up from SAFE early Saturday morning. He loaded politely after just a moment of surveying the unfamiliar trailer, and unloaded at my barn just as easily. Off to a good start!
I let him run around a bit in my arena, then started playing with him with some toys/obstacles. He definitely seemed to be feeling a little confused about where he was and why, but aside from having a little trouble staying focused, he did not act up at all. It was pretty easy to confirm that he has respect issues. His favorite maneuver is to shoulder into your space with some energy. I’m sure it has been very successful for him in the past to discourage silly humans from requiring anything of him. Not today! We worked on respecting my personal space, and then started to work on moving off of pressure. This was quite difficult for him, his stubborn streak was in full force, but after a couple of hours I could see real improvement. I let him rest up and settle in, surveying his surroundings and the other horses.
Sunday morning the fun began. Horses, trailers, people, loudspeakers…it was a very busy place for Dexter to hang out. We did some more work on respecting space and moving off of pressure. I could tell he was remembering the lessons from the day before. Around Noon, Parelli Professional Michael Sparling took Dexter for a demo in front of the group. I had made up some copies of a mini-Bio for Dexter, showing his “Before” and “After” pictures and elaborating on his history and issues. Everyone at the clinic agreed he was adorable, and deserved another chance at being adopted into a forever home. While Michael worked with Dexter, he kept the participants informed about what he was asking from Dexter and what he was seeing in response. It got a little interesting when Dexter was introduced to the blue tarp, but even that didn’t faze him for very long. All throughout the demonstration, Dexter demonstrated a clear willingness to try, and showed that he is smart and able to learn. He also demonstrated his dominant personality and had a bit of a snit when he realized that it wasn’t going to get him anywhere with Michael! Overall, the session with Michael was uneventful but was another step in helping to establish for Dexter that humans can be effective, fair leaders. At the end of Michael’s demo, he stated that while Dexter clearly had some dominant behaviors he wasn’t nearly as bad as he had expected. And he agreed with me that he was a very adoptable horse (with the right human, who is willing and able to exhibit the fair, consistent leadership that a dominant horse needs!)
After the clinic was over and everything settled back down, I noticed Dexter was slightly agitated in his stall, where he had been very mellow the first night. I think he was pretty stimulated by all of the activity of the day, and seemed to be processing all of the learning from the two days. I’m not sure if he had trouble getting to sleep that night, but I kind of picture his head whirling a bit!
Monday morning, Michael was back out at my barn to teach a private lesson…and I was fortunate enough to be able to join in. So Dexter and I had another 1 ½ hour session with Michael. While it wasn’t nearly as busy as the clinic, there was a mare at the other end of the arena going ballistic for pretty much the entire session. That proved to be a significant distraction, and allowed me to ask Dexter to step it up to the next level. We continued the groundwork; asking him to move his feet, hindquarters, and forequarters when asked. He responded well nearly all of the time. There was a point where he looked as though he was fed up and wanting to prove to me that he didn’t have to do anything I asked. He momentarily considered rearing to escape this annoying human. But his attempt was unsuccessful and he decided it was best to go back to working cooperatively with me. At the very end of our session, Michael spontaneously hopped up on Dexter’s back and rode him around for a few minutes bareback. When he was finished, he again reiterated his feelings that Dexter was a very adoptable horse.
I can say with certainty that Dexter learned a LOT in the short time he was here. I hope that I get the opportunity to continue working with him to improve his chances at finding an outstanding adoptive home. If anyone is considering Dexter as a possible adoption, I would be happy to offer my time to assist them in establishing a leadership role with Dexter which would set them up for a successful partnership. He is so worth it!
I want to be clear that Dexter does have some training issues that are fairly significant and need to be worked through by a confident handler/rider. Most of the time, this horse, while a little dominant and stubborn, is calm, compliant, and easy to work with. However he does still have some issues that show up from time to time that will cause him to melt down — sometimes it seems to be a herdbound behavior in new situations where he gets over-stimulated, other times it can be triggered by being around a mare in heat. We haven’t found a clear pattern yet, and he obviously was being a very good boy for the clinic. Since his behavior issues have caused him to be returned 4 times, we are being very careful about only offering him for adoption to someone who is experienced, aware of his issues and can demonstrate the ability to work through them.
Yesterday was an extremely busy day at SAFE! First of all, we have the new horse Corona who came in late yesterday afternoon. Dr. Hannah finally got a chance to look at him last night. She has not yet spoke to the vet who treated him previously (hopefully will do that today) but her overall impression is that it is “not too bad”, despite how bad it looks. She was not able to get his penis out completely and did not want to sedate him because of his condition and until she spoke to the other vet. She was puzzled about the sutures, which seem to have been put in place to keep him from dropping his penis. She went ahead and removed them and a bunch of pus came out. However, from what she could feel there are some lacerations but nothing horrible. She drew bloodwork on him and wanted to check that and speak to the other vet before starting him on antibiotics (she is also concerned about the diarrhea) but is pretty optimistic on his recovery. She also took a fecal sample and he’ll get lice-dusted today.
Before Corona came, Dr. Hannah had a busy day at the SAFE farm doing spring shots and dental floats on Annie, Dexter, and Lexi. Lexi was a good girl and we are hoping to wrap up her adoption soon and send her on her way to her new beginning! Dexter was good right up until the sheath cleaning.…he was not happy about that at all. Despite sedation it took two of us handling him (one with a stud chain) and Dr. Hannah carefully staying out of firing range while she cleaned him. He did finally settle and grumpily accept it, but he was not at all happy about it. And Annie…well Annie lived up to her reputation for being a drama queen! She knew something was up right away and was on high alert as soon as we took her into the stall. Dr. Hannah decided that we’d sedate her first before we did anything else, and the first thing Annie did when we she just started cleaning her neck with antiseptic for the sedation was to rear. Even sedated, she was not having anything of having her temperature taken and kicked the wall so hard that Dr. Hannah also decided to forgo it, seeing as how she was obviously feeling just fine. 😉 She required two more hits of sedation to get the dental float done but we got it done, with Annie glaring hatefully at Dr. Hannah from the dental halter the entire time. At this point, after 3 years dealing with Ms. Annie, we just have to laugh at her antics. She’s such a good girl most of the time, but she knows what she doesn’t like and throws some pretty impressive temper tantrums. Afterwards she was so relieved when Dr. Hannah left her stall, and she lowered her head and put her head in my chest, sighed deeply and closed her eyes and just let me rub her forehead while I soothed her emotions and her ego by telling her what a beautiful girl she is. She is such a diva!
Lastly, a not-so-good update on Tia. As I mentioned in my last update on Tia, she was very nervous and worked up yesterday when I went to visit. In fact, while Dr. Hannah was at our farm working, she received several calls about Tia from her farm help at NWESC. They thought she was upset because the other horses were out so brought another horse in across from her that she could see. That seemed to settle her for a little while but then she got worked up again, for no apparent reason. She was excited when I was there, pacing and calling, and they had taken her blanket off earlier because she had worked herself up to a sweat. When Dr. Hannah called me last night to give me an update on Corona, she told me she was very concerned about Tia whose behavior continued to escalate throughout the evening even as other horses were brought into their stalls. She finally gave her some Ace which did settle her down. However, she is very concerned about the anxiety for no apparent reason and took bloodwork on her last night. One possible cause for unexplained anxiety is liver failure, and another is a brain tumor (such as Cushings). Neither are very good possibilities, so I am anxiously awaiting an update this morning as to whether or not Tia was calm this morning after the Ace wore off or if she was again agitated, and also waiting for the results of the bloodwork. Hopefully I will have a more positive update later today.
Here are a few photos however of Annie, Dexter and Lexi getting their dentals! I also had to include a photo of Dr. Hannah’s “dental assistant”, her 1‑year old daughter Heron, who was so cute in her SAFE purple colors!
Dr. Hannah had a busy day at the SAFE farm doing spring shots and dental floats on Annie, Dexter, and Lexi. Lexi was a good girl and we are hoping to wrap up her adoption soon and send her on her way to her new beginning! Dexter was good right up until the sheath cleaning…he was not happy about that at all. Despite sedation it took two of us handling him (one with a stud chain) and Dr. Hannah carefully staying out of firing range while she cleaned him. He did finally settle and grumpily accept it, but he was not at all happy about it. And Annie? Well, Annie lived up to her reputation for being a drama queen! She knew something was up right away and was on high alert as soon as we took her into the stall. Dr. Hannah decided that we’d sedate her first before we did anything else, and the first thing Annie did when we she just started cleaning her neck with antiseptic for the sedation was to rear. Even sedated, she was not having anything of having her temperature taken and kicked the wall so hard that Dr. Hannah also decided to forgo it, seeing as how she was obviously feeling just fine. 😉 She required two more hits of sedation to get the dental float done but we got it done, with Annie glaring hatefully at Dr. Hannah from the dental halter the entire time. At this point, after 3 years dealing with Ms. Annie, we just have to laugh at her antics.She’s such a good girl most of the time, but she knows what she doesn’t like and throws some pretty impressive temper tantrums. Afterward she was so relieved when Dr. Hannah left her stall, and she lowered her head and put her head in my chest, sighed deeply and closed her eyes and just let me rub her forehead while I soothed her emotions and her ego by telling her what a beautiful girl she is. She is such a diva!
Here are a few photos however of Annie, Dexter and Lexi getting their dentals! I also had to include a photo of Dr. Hannah’s “dental assistant”, her 1‑year old daughter Heron, who was so cute in her SAFE purple colors!
Dexter back under saddle after being returned to SAFE in December.
I’m sad to report that Dexter is back at SAFE. While I like to hang out with him- I was really hoping to never see his cute face again. He was a very good boy for his potential adopter for about 2 months and then he had some behavioral issues and was returned. It sounds like this incident was pretty similar to what I experienced with him at the SAFE show.
Dexter is an easy guy 90 (or more!) percent of the time… but he’s got an insecurity streak in him that creates a bit of a jekyl/hyde situation. While he’s very consistent at home, once in a while when he’s out (it’s not every time, it’s not even most times… just sometimes), for whatever reason he just seems to lose it… and once he’s lost it it becomes dangerous to ride him. Then he goes home, resets and is back to his easy going self. The good boy in dexter (who you get to see MOST of the time) does not buck or rear, even when you push him pretty hard and he’s not really thrilled about what you’re asking. When “lost my mind” Dexter shows up, well, all bets are off. Whoever ends up as his for-ever person just needs to understand this and be prepared to deal with it.
Overall, he’s a sweet, easy to handle guy. Easy to catch, super to tack up and groom. He’s a bit of a pain on the lunge line (he insists he has NO Idea what you’re asking him to do- but is all a bluff) but if you call his bluff- he’s fine and easy.
I rode him today and he was a good boy. He has definitely made progress in his time away and his trot has greatly improved. He’s also retained his steering and become a tiny more willing to bend.
Dexter under saddle:
Update from Sara Hall:
I have been riding my little buddy Dexter fairly consistently, 2–3 days a week, for the past 6 weeks or so. I am really starting to like this guy- he’s so friendly and sweet on the ground (always easy to catch, loves to have his face and ears rubbed). He is starting to come along quite nicely under saddle although we still have quite a ways to go. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to take some lessons with SAFE’s trainer and she has really helped me make some big strides with Dexter.
Each lesson we take a big leap forward and my goal is always try and keep that momentum going/not take any steps backwards until the next time Andrea is in town. We’ve progressed from a trot that was all over the place tempo wise, no stearing, and no left lead- to picking up the correct lead both directions, stearing both directions, and making mostly round circles both directions. Something really clicked with him last saturday and I was able to build on that throughout the week and even more-so with andrea today. Woohoo!
I really think Dexter would be the perfect “do anything” mount whether that was a 4‑H type home or just someone’s all around good-guy. He does need more miles and consistent handling- but it’s easy to like this guy.
Update from Sara Hall:
I have a good news/bad news update with Dexter.
The bad news is that we were not as prepared as we should have been for the show and Dexter was super amped up/anxious in the show environment. Ultimately I decided to scratch my afternoon of riding classes. I was terribly disapointed with this outcome because a few people expressed interest in him and I would haved loved for them to be able to watch him go under sadle. He did take 5th in the Halter, stock type, in the morning.
I was anxious about riding him again after the show- worried that perhaps the out of sorts behavior I saw at the show, might have followed him home. Instead, we had the best ride we’ve had so far. He was focused and obedient. Not a hint of herdboundess, ring sourness or stuborness tonight. Yay!
photos by Karen Wegehenkel (click here to see all of Dexter’s photos from the show!)
Update from Sara Hall:
I rode Dexter for the 4th time today and took my second lesson with Andrea. Each ride is better with him. He’s *starting* to understand bending and stearing. We got the left lead canter 3 or 4 times in a row today and ended on a good note, when he completed a full circuit of the arean without breaking gait or swapping leads on me.
As I’m getting to know him better I can see that he does have an opinionated and stubborn side of him- though he’s not very committed about it. For example, today while I was leading him away from the pasture he grew roots and decided he wasn’t moving. I encouraged him a couple of times, got no results, swatted him with the lead rope, and then we proceeded as normal. Although he’s calm, sweet and generally easy & agreeable- he definitely will require handling by someone willing to insist he does it their way, every time.
So I am going to go ahead and re-list Dexter as available for adoption. He is going quite well for Sara under saddle (a little stubborn about going to the left, a little ring sour about going towards the gate, but nothing major). We have still not seen any signs of aggression or bad behavior on the ground towards people, although he is a little herd bound when separated from other horses.
He lived with Lexi for a while and that worked out pretty well, and he never challenged the fences while with her. He did try to mount her once when she was in heat, however. He is now turned out with Honeycutt, who is dominant towards him, with mares next to him, and we have had no problems. HC put him in his place in the first 30 seconds and after that it’s been quite peaceful. I really think the issue is he is both studdy around mares and herdbound, so putting him with a more dominant gelding would be ideal. He can be pastured alone, next to other horses, but only with very secure fencing.
He’s still a super nice horse that will make someone a great riding horse, but maybe not appropriate for a novice handler on the ground and needs to be in the right living situation for it to work out.
Look for him and Sara at the SAFE show on August 7th!
Today’s update comes from Sara Hall who has been riding Dexter on a fairly regular basis:
I took Dexter for a spin today. Although quiet green and very quiet- he’s not lazy. He did give me quite the workout though. Dex is a super sweet, easy to handle (in my experience) guy. He has really filled out these days. He let me catch him, lead quietly, tied quietly, tacked up quietly, stood nicely for mounting (but walked off when I got on him). He even was a good boy when baby sampson was being nosy and disruptive in the paddock next to the arena, when dusty was screaming his head off, when Tara got loose and went tearing back to the pasture at a gallop, with other riders entering and exiting the ring…and so on. There is lots to like about this boy!
He is a “work out” to ride just because he’s pretty green. My sense is that he has had some training, probably more along the lines of riding trails and things like that- and I bet he’s pretty solid in that situation (this is just a GUESS on my part). I would guess that he’s done next to *no* arena work so he just doesn’t know much about the kind of work you do in an arena: ie steady gaits, turning, etc. He did pick up all 3 gaits with out much fuss- including the canter (except his right lead — more on that later).
He can have cute, forward, gaits but you have to encourage him to keep going. He’s not balky, or lazy, he just needs support from his rider still. I was riding him in a lesson so we were doing lots of circles and beginning leg yields and things of that nature- all of which are a whole body work out on him, for now. Although, I will say, that in a trail situation one would probalby not see the same kind of greenness you see in the arena with him.
But the real workout came in in trying to get him to take his correct lead left at the canter. He is very “right sided”, even at the trot, and had a really, really, really hard time picking up that left canter. We did eventually get it but I don’t think I’ll personally try until I can work through it with Andrea (the trainer).
Here is a picture of us working on that tough left side:
So I’ve had a little bit of time to handle and observe Dexter and while I have not seen any of the bad behavior on the ground (he’s been quite compliant still), I have seen some of the behavior concerns with regards to fences and other horses. I think the issue here is a horse that is young, and was gelded late (at age 3, we were told), who has no social skills at all, and has learned he can get through fencing if he tries hard enough. I first turned him out with a couple of mares (Zan and Calamity) and while he was not aggressive to them he did get very possessive of them and liked to herd them around. I added Goliath and Annie to the mix one day and Lucky and my yearling gelding Truman another day and he got very concerned about them getting close to “his” mares and spent a lot of time running the two paints away from the other geldings.
The next day I tried him by himself in one of my front pastures next to my three horses (two mares and a gelding). He was fine for a while and then started pacing the fenceline and finally breaking through it to get in with my horses. To his credit, we are talking about just a single strand of hot wire that is not very hot right now. Once he got in though he immediately started herding the mares around in a similar fashion. He was put back in his pasture and he did the same trick twice, so he was put back in a paddock, and THAT was the point in which he went kind of nuts and started threatening to climb/tear down the gate to get back with the others (he earned a night in a stall for that one).
The next day I tried him with Lexi. Lexi immediately HATED him and spent some time chasing him off when he got near her, but her presence was enough to keep Dexter quiet and he didn’t even think about testing a fence that day. Last night I had him in a paddock two paddocks away from Lucky and for some reason his very presence there was driving Lucky mad and he kept rushing the fenceline towards him. There is something about his behavior or lack of social skills that pisses some horses off. Today I have him in the front pasture with just the wood fences with Lexi again and he is remaining quiet.
I still haven’t seen him do anything REALLY aggressive towards another horse, just a lot of running around, herding them, obsessing over other horses. I think, like Baxter, he is just studdy and may need to be pastured separately, or with a dominant horse. He does need secure fencing that his hot if he is going to be turned out separate from other horses.
I will say this, he looks like a million bucks. Need to get new pictures!
Once again Dexter was pending adoption but unfortunately things did not work out. He seems to have developed some very concerning bad habits at his last two foster/adoptive homes. He is continuing to test fences and is showing aggression towards other horses, and he has also started being very naughty on the ground — nipping, rearing and striking. This is of course very surprising and disturbing to us at SAFE as he was always a gentleman when he was with us. I suspect that the fence issues came about when he learned at his first adoptive home that he could get out of fences, and the behavior problems came about at his second foster home that were really novice about handling horses and he must have been allowed to get away with naughty behavior that has now gotten out of control. Unfortunately it was not something his pending adopter was able to deal with, so he was once again returned to SAFE on Saturday. We will be working with him and trying to figure out what is going on with him before offering him again for adoption.
Dexter was adopted in late January but unfortunately, things are not working out with his adoptive home. His adopter lives on a property that is right by a busy highway. Their fencing is safe but not electric and for some reason Dexter has been repeatedly trying to get out. He cut his face open resulting in a big vet bill (he’s fine now) and has damaged several metal panels. He has horses next to him and she even tried putting another horse with him but he just keeps trying to get out. It’s strange, as he never tested the fencing here at all, but we have mostly hot wire and he respects that, so he may just need to be kept in electric fence of some type.
On a positive note, they have been riding him on trails 3–4 times a week and he’s been absolutely great to ride. If you missed out on Dexter before, now is your chance to own a great family horse!! He’s being moved temporarily to a friend’s house up in the Arlington/Stanwood area so please email me if you are interested in seeing him. His adoption fee will once again be $600.
Dexter got his booster vaccinations today and the final verdict on his age — he is definitely a coming 5 year old, not a coming 3 year old. I don’t think the vet looked very closely last time because we had already been told he was 3. But he has canines which put him at 4 1/2 to 5 years old.
Dexter went on a trail ride today. It was so much fun! Thank you so much to Kathleen for planning this and to Barbara for leading the ride! Dexter was awesome, this horse is seriously cool…he is so very solid and safe. I was so tired when I got back though that I fell asleep on the couch…and I think my muscles are going to hurt tomorrow!
Dexter wasn’t a very fast walker and kept having to jog to catch up, so he had to work extra hard. He was cute though, he would decide when he felt he was getting a little too far behind and break into a jog until he caught up and fall back to a walk again. He was pretty much on the buckle the entire ride and it was just a very relaxing, easy ride with mostly walking and a little trotting and cantering. The trails were wonderful — I am going to go back soon!
Barbara commented, “The joke is he totally didn’t care he was falling back. He’d just look up and go “huh, better catch up” and then casually rejoin the rest of the group. My mare is like that too, but she likes it more when she can SLOW down and join the group behind her. I bet Dexter would be cool with that too.”
I’ve been in contact with someone who thinks she knows who Dexter is. She described his markings pretty accurately (left shoulder marking of a longhorn, and another similar shaped marking under his throatlatch which you can not see in the pictures but he does indeed have), so it sounds like it is probably the same horse. If it is him, he would be a bit older than 3, more like 4 or 5 years old. I’m having the vet out to give him his vaccination boosters on Thursday and going to have her take a really close look at his teeth and try to narrow it down.
The other horse was named “Tex” (ironically very close to Dexter) and was purchased as a 2 1/2–3 year old a year and a half ago at the Everson Auction. He was a stallion at that time and was gelded and started under saddle as a roping horse, and he was indeed unflappable and laid back then as well. He was then sold when the owner was injured by another horse of hers and could not ride. Her friend recognized his photo on a flyer that Emily Diaz had put up in Skagit County and contacted the county.
Physically, he still looks to me like a younger horse in a growth spurt as he has no withers and is quite butt-high at the moment (I sticked him last night at 14.2 at the wither, 14.3 at the hip). But the older age would explain his training. My guess now is he is about 4 — which would give both vets a margin of error of 1 year which is plausible.
Dexter had his second ride today and did great! We have an eventer trainer named Leigh Mescher doing some volunteer training for us. She rode Amber and her working student, Ashley, rode Dexter. He doesn’t steer super well but otherwise, he did great! She cantered him a bit both directions as well and he has a nice, balanced canter.This is one of those horses that is just born broke and he is SO sweet and laid back. I love him!
Here’s are some photos and video clip too.
Dexter had a little mini training session today with our trainer, who came down to teach some lessons. He did great! She put a bridle and saddle on him (which he didn’t care about at all) and lunged him a bit. He was a bit nervous about being lunged (probably been round penned) but did well once he figured out what was being asked. He was feeling pretty spunky on the lunge line and did a few airs above ground and some nice bucks but he hadn’t been able to really run for a while as the ground has been so frozen. After that she tested his reactions to slapping on the saddle, leaning over his back, etc, and he was completely unfazed by it. Got on him and was able to walk and trot around a bit and while he is very green he clearly has been ridden before. She’s going to work with him again next weekend as today’s lesson was very short due to the fact that we ran out of daylight. But I think he’s going to be just as easy as he appears to be!
Introducing…Dexter! Isn’t he the cutest? He’s a bit butt-high at the moment, so he still has some growing to do. He’s very round, and a far cry from the condition he was in when he was seized (currently a BCS of 5/9). Today he got his teeth done and his wolf teeth extracted in preparation for being able to go into training, and he also got his first round of shots. He is such a gentleman, so laid back, and so sweet!
Dexter was seized by Skagit County Animal Control in April 2009 due to neglect and starvation. At that time he weighed 698 lbs and had a BCS of 1.5. Despite his emaciated state, he had shoes on and was being ridden by his owner.
Skagit County Animal Control officers placed Dexter into foster care where he gained weight and recovered from his neglect.
In December 2009, Skagit County Animal Control officer Emily Diaz requested SAFE’s assistance with both Dexter and another seized gelding, Baxter, and since we had space available, we agreed to take both geldings.
We met Emily Diaz at the Skagit County Fairgrounds to pick up the two horses. When we arrived, Dexter was alone at the fairgrounds and was very happy to see us. He seemed relaxed, easy going and friendly. He loaded very willingly into the trailer, unloaded just as easily, and settled right into his new paddock at SAFE in Monroe.
We were told that Dexter was not even three years old, but later determined his age to be closer to 5.
Here are a series of pictures that show what Dexter looked like when he was taken away from his owner in April 2009: