2015 Yakama Reservation mare
Suitability: For Advanced Rider
Height: 13.2 hh
Weight: 800 lbs
Adoption Fee: $3,000
Esme and two geldings were obtained through a now defunct rescue organization by a family that moved to Washington state hoping to keep horses on a rented property near their home. They soon discovered that the property flooded rather badly during the fall and winter months. With no other options available to them, these horses just had to live in the wet. Thankfully, they were able to survive under these poor conditions. Their owner turned to SAFE for help after coming to the realization that caring for these three horses was more than they could handle.
The timid mare who first came to SAFE is a far cry from the sociable, curious creature Esme is today. She has been started under saddle, and is going very well as a nice riding horse. She is a very forward, sensitive horse at this point, and still green. She is a brave girl and has been successfully out on trails with buddies. She will do best with consistent work with a rider that can continue her education. Esme is ready to meet adopters and find her forever home!
All SAFE horses are adopted with a no-breeding clause, no exceptions.
Esme started her time at SAFE as a curious, yet standoffish mare, spending her days playing chase with Jacob and Edward out on the grass field they shared. She was challenging to catch, requiring a practiced (and patient) touch. And while there are still some days where she enjoys giving you a literal run for your money, Esme’s progress in so many realms has been astronomical.
She has remained a quick witted and quick footed little horse, but these days does much of her thinking and moving under saddle. She is definitely more ‘go’ than ‘whoa,’ which certainly makes her a fun ride for those with more experience who enjoy motoring around. Recently, she went for a ride out on our neighboring trails — her first time ‘off property’ in the (not so) wild woods. She had been for walks around the property before, which is a feat in and of itself, but the loop trail we most commonly use is somewhat of a different animal, filled with ticklish ferns, unknown scents and sounds, and the ever present threat of bikes, dogs, and other horses.
Overall on her first ride out, Esme did very well. She’s a confident leader, not afraid to forge ahead at the front of the pack, even into the unknown. Over bridges and, well, not quite through water, but close enough to hear its rushing, Esme trekked bravely. The undergrowth brushing against her legs did give her a startle at one point, but nothing earth-shattering by any means, and she soon faced (or stepped on, rather) her fears by repeatedly encountering that which tickled until it lost its scare factor.
Esme is still available for adoption to the right person. She still needs a confident partner to help guide her, and one who is not afraid of all the life she brings to the table. But she is brave and willing, and will make some lucky person a really wonderful riding horse!
Even though Esme has been going well under saddle for a bit now, there are still some basics that she is in need of revisiting. Because Esme was improperly halter started once upon a time, she still has a difficult time coming off of pressure. In the below video, Joel helps Esme learn how to follow a float and a feel by dallying her from his saddle horse.
This is also important work to help Esme learn to tie. In teaching her to come off of the pressure of the line instead of fighting against it, he makes it so it is less likely Esme will pull back when tied. He also helps her learn that if she feels she needs to move on the wall, she can do so laterally instead of sucking backwards.
Esme, started under saddle last fall, is coming along very nicely as a riding horse! She is a cute little mover, and is soft on a loose rein, walk trot and canter. She recently had her very first rides in the outdoor arena, and did great, even amongst many would-be distractions. She is beginning to work a bit in the soft feel on two reins — a really exciting development from the horse who two summers ago could barely be caught!
Speaking of being caught, now Esme practically insists on it. When you enter the paddock she currently resides in along with Darla, Tanis, and Tiva, Esme presents herself front and center. Regardless of what your plans were, she thinks that she is the one you should be paying attention to. In her current herd, Esme has established herself as the boss, but she is a kind leader. Yes, she may decide that the hay box you’re eating out of is actually the one she needs to eat from, but you can understand that, right?
Esme is soft and responsive on the ground, and has become a mare who is safe for nearly anyone to handle, brush, and blanket. She can still have her moments of being a bit wriggly, but overall has really matured into a sweet and even tempered girl. Esme is going to make a wonderful horse for an advanced rider looking for a lovely partner, both inside and out.
Following in the footsteps of her two “older brothers,” Edward and Jacob, the horses she came in with, Esme has been started under saddle. This sweet little mare made it clear early on that she was going to take a bit more time, but that has never been an issue. After all, it just means getting to spend more time with Esme, and that’s never a bad thing!
Esme didn’t fuss much over having a rider on her back. Each horse is different of course, and have different experiences in their pasts that contribute to their present day responses, but we do our best in each case to prepare them for things like wearing a saddle and carrying a rider so that when the time comes for these things to actually happen, it’s not a huge deal.
Joel put the first ride on Esme, before passing the reins to Terry. Riding a colt is a very different experience than riding a broke horse – to avoid getting into a wreck and confusing the horse, the rider must simply ‘go with’ them as they move out. I don’t think the phrase ‘easier said than done’ even applies here, because I don’t think it is either easily said or easily done. Gripping and squeezing a horse, what I would argue are two very common and innate moves we humans tend towards as the thousand pound creature below us starts to move, sends mixed signals. So the best thing to teach your legs to do is to be inactive, to flop there like two noodles, meaning nothing to the horse when you don’t intend them to. It is easy to get in a horse’s way, and for those first rides especially, it is important to stay out of it.
Often, during those first rides, the horse and rider combination will often be flagged up through the gaits by a third party. This is also for the horse’s benefit, to keep them soft off the ask, so that the communication is very clear. The first ask would be with the seat, where the rider sits ahead, and the horse understands that means go. Legs come after, but there is always a clear progression. For horses who are dull or just learning, having someone with a flag to help the ask means the release for the horse can come a lot sooner, therefore making the message a lot more clear. By the time they have a rider, the horse is already very familiar with a flag’s meaning, the feel of a person telling them to increase their energy, so it typically takes very little to tip the horse up into the next gait when aided by someone on the ground. That way the rider can focus on being clear about their ask versus overly focused on getting it done.
I digress – all of this to say that for her first rides, Esme was a rockstar. No shenanigans, no real fuss. Patience with her riders – what more can you ask from a girl?
Esme has had a busy summer, spending much of her time learning to wear a saddle (some days, it’s easier than others) and drilling the groundwork basics on the regular. One big hurdle for Esme has been getting comfortable with the rope touching her — her back, her legs, even the area where she already knows the saddle goes. In the video below, Terry works with Esme to help support her through her discomfort in being touched by the rope in different positions and conditions.
Not every horse will have to deal with situations like the ones Esme is preparing for in their lives. Most horses we adopt from SAFE will spend their days working in ways that do not include circumstances where they might be regularly exposed to a rope around their feet or hind, but showing Esme that she can handle the pressure of a rope helps to prepare her for the unthinkable. This work helps to show her that if she ever does get caught in a similar bind — say she were to get tangled up in a fence or have a dangling vine brush her during a trail ride — she can handle it without blowing up in a reactionary way. She may not be quite there yet, but with every groundwork session, she gets a little closer!
One of our horsemanship volunteers, Sue, had this to say about Esme.
“Esme has come a long way from the wary mare who was hard to catch, and careful who came close. She spent some time in the rehab paddock next to Pepper, and was always very curious when I groomed Pepper. What is happening over there? Should it be happening to me? After a few days she would actively go to the fence line to watch, and to the gate when I approached. She is long past this now, and happy to have attention whenever she can. She loves to be groomed, and knickers when people approach. For a while she shared a paddock with Pepper and was quite pushy about demanding her turn if Pepper was groomed first. She has a gorgeous flashy trot. I can’t wait to see her blossom.”
Esme came to SAFE alongside Edward and Jacob, and while they all got along quite well, being the only girl in a herd of boys does have its downsides. She could certainly hold her own, but the boys picked on her a bit, as horses figuring out herd dynamics are want to do. Eventually we split the trio up, and for a while, Esme was in a paddock by herself – across the street neighbors with Edward, but given a moment outside of having to deal with essentially older brothers.
When Pepper hurt her leg, she was moved to a paddock beside Esme’s, and the two were fast friends. For a time, Esme was not keen on being caught by anyone aside from her main trainer, so she was living outside 24/7. At turn-in time, when Pepper would leave to go inside for the night, Esme would call to her, and in the mornings when she returned, it was clear Esme was happy to see her back. Once Pepper’s leg was healed, we decided to turn these two girls out together.
It was a success. After some brief initial squealing on the halters, the girls were turned loose without much hullabaloo. There was one kick from Esme, but no one was injured, and the tension dissipated immediately. For the most part, the girls just explored the new space together, Pepper following on Esme’s heels.
The very next day, the two were sharing hay from a hay net together, clearly destined to be best buddies. When Pepper left the paddock for a trail walk one afternoon, Esme called out to her friend – “where are you going without me?” – and was very delighted to see her return.
In addition to this new friendship, Esme has also started coming into a stall in the evenings. Wary to be caught at first, she quickly adjusted to coming in at turn-in time, and soon was trotting right up to the gate, even more eager to be caught than Pepper. Seeing her now, it is hard to imagine that she is the same flighty and fighty girl who arrived last summer – she has become a gentle friend to Pepper, and an easy, respectful horse for her handlers.
Esme did well at our colt starting workshop in November. She was able to be saddled every day and became more and more comfortable with carrying the saddle. As with Jacob and Edward, we are going to spend the winter months getting her more comfortable and better prepared for the first rides. No use in causing trouble that isn’t there with a ride done too early in haste to get it done. A set-back with a sensitive horse could be a lasting issue we don’t need to cause.
The biggest issue facing Esme is her comfort level with things touching her in her blind spots. She is very quick to kick out at anything touching her hind legs. Work on this issue is important to help insure a lifetime of safety ahead. Not only will her comfort with this help the gentling process and her becoming a riding horse, but it will also help her accept pressure. If she were ever to get caught in fencing, we hope that lessons to give to pressure on her legs would help prevent her from panicking and hurting herself kicking at whatever she is entangled in. Seems like a simple thing, but can be a lesson that save her from serious injury or loss of life.
Esme has had a few successful farrier visits and is now fully vaccinated. We continue to monitor her fecal content, worm, and recheck her to eliminate the heavy parasite load she had upon arrival at SAFE. She has been treated with Ivermectin and the double five-day dose of Panacur. With a small load still present, we will be worming her for a third time. She is getting fecal checks regularly and hopeful we will soon have all the parasites eliminated. Years of going untreated without regular checks and treatment can create incessant parasites that take time and multiple treatments to get under control.
We are moving at a fairly good pace with Edward despite his continued breathing issues. He is still very wary about people approaching him to be caught but each time he is quickly haltered and doesn’t have the opportunity to get away, he finds the event less and less stressful. Part of the problem with horses that have had some halter work in the past is that they have learned where the “outs” are from getting caught. They have been rewarded time and time again, for evasion when people have tried to halter them and failed. That is a learned behavior and a very hard foundation to change.
At this time, I am building trust with Edward and he understands that my patience will outlast his maneuvers to get around the issue of getting caught. Sadly, the poor haltering in the past also taught him to pull a bit of a nasty expression and he has tried a few times to take control and move my feet. Luckily when he charged me, I was able to get a change that has carried over in the days that have followed. Simply put, I rewarded the smallest of tries, made the wrong thing difficult (not impossible) and the right thing easy. Horses naturally are going to move away and don’t try to aggressively come towards a person’s space unless they feel trapped and are given no other options. Those who have learned that pushing into a person makes person back off will try this as a way to get people to leave them alone. Edward is at a crossroads in his life, and we are thankful he made it to SAFE. Here can help him bring about the changes needed so he can have a safe and happier life with people.
He still needs a lot of work. We are helping him search for the right things by making them always the easiest and rewarding his try. He is rewarded when his feet are free and he finds balance with all four feet reaching equally. He tends to push and become heavy on his inside shoulder. Once he finds balance he will be move more comfortably and won’t be heavy or stuck in his feet. Right now, we continue with clear short amounts of work that help to “get life”, energy and freedom in his feet.
Health-wise, he is now at a great weight. He’s seen the farrier for trims on all four hooves. He’s also been vaccinated and is scheduled for a dental next month. We have introduced him to a nebulizer to administer medication to help with his breathing. Training for that has gone well and he has begun a course of twelve days of medication. If that improves his breathing, we will wean him off the prednisolone we’re currently giving him. If all goes well we will be able to lower the nebulizer treatments to a few times a week as maintenance, which he may or may not need for the rest of his life.
Esme has been great to halter and was well prepared and well behaved for her first farrier visit. Since she has been easy to catch, she has not gotten as much attention in the groundwork as the other more difficult new intakes. Well that stops now! Time for this little one to get busy. She was poorly halter broke coming into SAFE and needs to relearn the foundations of haltering. Like Edward, she had learned through her previous experiences with people where her outs are and that she can run over the top of her handlers. Our first goal is for her to learn that she can move freely without pushing on the halter. Just plain better halter starting work. Learning to back and to freely bring her front across, being consistent with the freedom all four feet while backing and moving them equally will continue to help this cute little mare improve.
Esme has a very sweet personality, but can get a panicked expression since she was never taught to freely move around on the halter. The work we’ve done has already shown us a more relaxed and peaceful mare that should make changes quickly and move towards becoming a riding horse in the next few months.
Overall Jacob has been a gentleman to work with and is very kind-hearted. He is not over reactive and has accepted the work very well. He has been vaccinated, wormed, seen the farrier (was prepared and had absolutely no issues picking up all four feet), and is scheduled for a dental next month. He is a big handsome dude horse and will move through the training program quickly. His main goals currently are to bring up his energy, and give him a big reward for his try. Overall he looks relatively sound but has some muscle atrophy along his left hind side. We will work to help him strengthen his hind quarters and if needed, have his soundness evaluated by our vets. These three horses were living in very poor conditions for many years so the process to full health and recovery will take time. We have a very good feeling he will make a great riding partner and we will give him all the support needed to make that a successful endeavour.
Meet our new intake at SAFE, Esme. She is a 6 year old Yakima Reservation mare, who has not had a lot of past experience being lead. Esme is very friendly and interested in people, just a bit frightened by the halter. This is our third day working with her and things are going very well. We have been able to brush her, give her a lice dusting and she did great for a blood draw for the veterinarian.
Edward and Jacob are both seven year old geldings, while Esme is a 6 year old mare. They were obtained through a now defunct rescue organization by a family that moved to Washington state hoping to keep horses on a rented property near their home. They soon discovered that the property flooded rather badly during the fall and winter months. With no other options available to them, these horses just had to live in the wet. Thankfully, they were able to survive under these poor conditions. However, Edward has apparently been suffering from equine asthma for quite some time, resulting in severe weight loss that has left him quite emaciated. The other two horses look better, but that’s somewhat deceptive because they have large parasite loads, making their bellies look big. Their owner turned to SAFE for help after coming to the realization that caring for these three horses was more than they could handle.
As with most of the horses that SAFE takes in, there are lessons we can learn from what these horses have experienced in life up to now. While these three are not nearly as wild and feral as the Fall City 40 were, they are still untrained and fairly shy about being handled. Terry has already been able to get halters on them and even deworm them without a great deal of trouble. But what people need to understand when deciding to take on a wild horse is that Terry has years of experience working with horses like these. She has put in countless hours of practice, and she’s invested a ton in her own education to improve her already considerable skills. When we hear someone say that they want to take on a wild or young horse and figure out how to tame them as they go along, we literally cringe. This is a bad idea that can put the horse at tremendous risk for a difficult and challenging future. So many horses end up in the rescue pipeline because they didn’t get a good foundation in basic handling at the beginning of their life. This is why we strongly encourage people who want to be involved with horses to invest in a well started horse that they can learn from and enjoy. But alas, not everyone is listening, and that is why horses like Edward, Jacob, and Esme need SAFE to rescue them.
As mentioned, Edward is painfully thin, and battling equine asthma which is a lower airway inflammation, formerly known as heaves. Untreated equine asthma can cause massive weight loss very quickly for two reasons: one, because overuse of respiratory muscles can burn a great number of calories and two, because they don’t eat or drink as much as they should because it’s hard to breathe and eat at the same time. Edward was in respiratory distress when he arrived at SAFE. At his initial vet visit, Dr Lewis from Rainland Farm Equine immediately gave him a steroid medication and within 10 minutes, we saw an improvement in his breathing. He’s been prescribed a range of medications to help him, including steroids for the inflammation and bronchodilators to open the airways. He was also given a short course of an antibiotic (naxcel) as his bloodwork showed signs of a secondary infection. We’re wetting down his hay to reduce dust, and he’s been taken off the hay he’d been fed prior to his rescue since we suspect it contains mold. Our hope is that when his asthma is controlled, he will start putting weight on again. Fingers crossed that this young horse and his two friends will make full recoveries, so we can get them into the SAFE horsemanship program and start them on their way to brand new lives.
Vet and feeding expenses for these three horses will be quite costly, so if you’d like to take part in their recovery, we welcome donations to be put toward their care. Thank you so much for your amazing support and please keep your good wishes coming for Edward and his friends, as well as Cameron!
Edward (photos by Kristina Oden)
Esme (photos by Kristina Oden)
Jacob (photos by Kristina Oden)
1. Ellen H.
2. Carrie S.
3. Kim D.
4. Jeanne A.
5. Elizabeth W.
6. Makayla C.
7. Couren S.
8. Judith C.
Every horse deserves at least ten friends! Even a small monthly donation can make a difference. Plus, SAFE horse sponsors receive discounts at local businesses through the SAFEkeepers program!