2012 Mustang mare
Suitability: Companion, For Intermediate Handler
Color: red dun
Markings: blaze, sock
Height: 13.3 hh
Weight: 874 lbs
Adoption Fee: $300
Lacey is a mustang mare who was born at a wild horse sanctuary. She and Stevie were adopted by a family who fell in love with his photo. Unfortunately, their adopter was forced to rehome the two youngsters due to personal circumstances. Two years later, the original owners were contacted by the person who had taken them, who also was unable to keep them. Concerned for their safety, both owners turned to SAFE for help. We evaluated the horses with the assistance of our veterinarian at Mt Rainier Equine, who found them to be in decent health and soundness, but pretty thin. (Lacey needed to gain about 75 pounds.) The two horses were surrendered into our care.
While Lacey does have quite a bit of riding experience, she is currently in the process of being restarted. Lacey has shown us that she is uncomfortable with things touching her hind end and has had moments under saddle that we need to sort out via groundwork. For now, Lacey is companion only. We may be able to work back up to riding, but we are going to go at Lacey’s pace and help her sort through her troubled moments first.
Trudy, our wonderful Saturday barn staff, recounts an interaction that she and our sweet (and brave!) little Lacey had recently:
While bringing anxious Domino into a stall every year has always been somewhat of a production, because of his friendship with Lacey we discovered last fall, this year coming inside for Domino was no big thing. The two neighbors munch their hay happily side by side, with Domino taking occasional breaks to check that his red-head neighbor is, in fact, still next door, and after their meal time they spend the evening in equal parts napping, bickering, and just hanging out together like an old married couple. A sweeter sight is rare!
If our horses had to pick a favorite season, it would likely be summer. The ground has dried up enough that they can stay outside 24/7 (although there are certainly those who miss a padded stall for nighttime snoozing), and the long and mostly warm days mean plenty of opportunities for naps in the sun. But perhaps the best reason of all is the opening of our grass pastures for a season of grazing. This is the time of year when the horses nicker when you walk by — we can lie to ourselves and say it’s because they’re happy to see us, but really the purpose is a siren song, luring us close with the hope we will lead them out to graze.
We have a limited number of grass turnouts here at SAFE, which means fields are shared amongst our herd (who have all been dewormed before grass turnout starts, not to worry). That also means we’re constantly looking for ways to streamline the turnout process to maximize the amount of time our horses are able to get. Whenever we can turn horses out together, we try to do so.
I’ve already spoken about Domino and Lacey’s special friendship — how Lacey supported Domino during the entire winter while he came into a stall — so when it came time for grass, we thought to ourselves what better time to test out this friendship in a safe space. We would not turn the two of them out together in an area without food, but with grass aplenty, they would have ample space to eat in peace without disturbing the other.
And as things occasionally happen in life, it worked out quite well. Their initial foray onto the field together was met with a singular squeal from Lacey when Domino grazed a bit too close to the sun, but for such a feisty little mare, Lacey didn’t put up much of of any fight whatsoever. Since that first day, the two go on grass together daily, and can often be seen with their heads down not far from each other in companionable snack-time.
Recently, Lacey discovered that the large, overgrown hill in the pasture is actually a most ideal spot for munching, and has been spending her time doing gentle parkour to get the tastiest bites. Domino prefers to keep his feet planted on the flat ground, but is usually never too far from his dun companion.
Our longest resident at SAFE is a little chestnut mare named Lacey. 7 years Lacey has been here, so you would think that by this point we know her very well. And while this isn’t wrong, there are many ways in which Lacey remains an enigma to us. For a while she was going well under saddle – she had gone off to training, and had been put through the paces by multiple different riders. But there is something that lurks beneath the surface of lake Lacey we have yet to identify. Getting along with Lacey is easy until it isn’t, and that ‘isn’t’ can be dangerous.
So for a while, Lacey sat dormant as we decided what to do with her. She could go out any time as a companion horse, yes, but she has her fair share of challenges even in that realm. She has not historically been the kindest to the people in her space, especially if said people are asking her to move (and if food is involved, forget it). If you touch her back end at the right time (or, wrong time rather) you risk a kick. She is one of those chestnut mares who give chestnut mares their stereotypes.
And I don’t mean to be unfair to her. There are many ways in which Lacey is a wonderful, sweet mare. She loves dogs. She can have the very softest of eyes. She enjoys being brushed, and she has been the support buddy of many an anxious horse out in the arena because of how well she can stand tied. The people who have spent the most time with Lacey keep a chamber of their hearts reserved with her name on it.
But she leaves a question mark in our minds. How can we best serve Lacey going forward?
We have decided this year to once again give it a go with Lacey under saddle. With the help of Joel, we’ve brought ol’ Snooki back into the fold of our regular horsemanship program. The biggest challenge with Lacey remains keeping her lively (the old saying goes, a dull horse is a dangerous horse) and not picking a fight with her. This is especially true for her restart under saddle, as it will be hugely important for Lacey’s success to ease her back into the swing of things. It’s early days yet, and I don’t want to jinx anything, but even after just a few days of riding, the positive changes Joel was getting in Lacey during his time spent with her were appearing to stick. For now, her sessions will remain short and – hopefully – sweet, as to make the lessons we’re trying to teach her crisp and meaningful. It may take some time to either get Lacey over the hump as a riding horse or decide once and for all it’s the companion life for her, but with 7 years here already under her belt, what’s a little longer?
Ultimately, it is going to take a special type of person to get along with Lacey — or at least, one who can understand who she is and be able to meet her halfway. Or some days, 3/4 of the way. But no good relationship exists without compromise. Lacey is a handy little mare who just requires a special kind of partner, and while there may come a time when she lowers her standards a bit, we will never accept for Lacey anything short of the very best.
Our Domino is a very special boy. His days before he arrived at SAFE were lonely ones, and so now, with so many other horses around and the bustle of daily activity, Domino lives a very different life than he did for many of his years. But that sort of adjustment can be difficult, especially for an older guy. Domino, like many of us, has a hard time with change, and at SAFE where change is all but guaranteed as horses come and go, some days can be more challenging for our sweet man. We do our very best to support him through these triggering scenarios, like when his neighbor changes or when he has to switch paddocks, but for the most part we try to keep his environment as stable as we can.
Logistically, this is not always possible. It is yet another reason why we hold out hope for a permanent home to come along for this guy, one where the very nature of the place isn’t built around the coming and going of horses. But until then, we do our best to make things as easy as possible for Domino in tough situations.
Which brings me to my anecdote: Domino does not like coming into a stall. Once he loses sight of his friends, he becomes nervous. With the cold and wet of winter in full swing, we like to bring our horses inside at night to keep them out of the elements, but unfortunately this cannot be explained to Domino.
Last year, it was his friend Mac who got him through his nights in the barn. The two boys would have their adjacent windows opened immediately upon turn in, and Domino would not rest until Mac extended his nose out and showed his paint friend he was just around the corner. Mac’s presence for Domino was an immediate balm, settling him instantly.
But with Mac’s adoption, this year we knew we would have to adjust and find a new solution for Domino.
At first it was Tanis, his large lovely neighbor mare, we hoped would help soothe him. The two had a pair of stalls on the back of the barn where they could see one another – if the other’s head was out. This posed a problem early on, when Tanis would duck inside to eat her hay and Domino, despite his cries, could not coax her out (those first days we had to help her, drawing her head with a treat to say ‘see, Domino? She’s right here!’) And it did work – the two fell into a routine of walking in together and spending the evening with their windows opened. Domino was doing great!
The thing about the stalls on the back of the barn is, they open into our indoor arena. This is a cute feature, because their inside windows allow the horses to hang their heads into the barn to watch their friends at work (we call the Sienna, Declan, Owen side of the barn the peanut gallery for how much time they spend observing the going ons). For Domino, however, this was a worrisome element of his nighttime residence. When the flags started flagging and the horses began running, Domino grew upset. Not to mention the times when his friend, Tanis, disappeared from view momentarily while she went in for her turn in the round pen. Overall, it was not the right place for Domino to feel comfortable, and so another move was in order.
Here’s where the story tapers off into a happy ending: we decided to try Domino in an inside stall next to Lacey, seeing as he has quite the penchant for little red mares, and got to know Lacey over the summer when she was turned out next to him. We brought them both inside together, and when we let Domino into his new stall, making sure his window was open so he could stick his head out and survey the land, he seemed calm. But after he’d finished his grain, he began to grow nervous. Where were the other horses? We opened the windows of his across the way neighbors, Cramer and Otto, but their presence was not near enough to help him.
Then there was Lacey… but to open her window would mean the pair would have full access to each other’s faces. Both Domino and Lacey are bossy, to use one word. Lacey’s unique personality has meant we’ve had to keep her separate from other horses for fear that she will be injurious towards them – she is full Mare. And while Domino has had success in group turnout before, he requires a very specific (re: submissive) personality to be his direct buddy. On paper, it seemed the two of them together would be water and oil.
But a co-ed relationship is different, that’s for sure, and it quickly became apparent when we cracked Lacey’s window open and watched with baited breath the duo’s first interactions that a bossy red mare was exactly what the doctor ordered for Domino. Sure, there were some initial squeals – neither would be who they are without them – but after sharing some mouthfuls of hay, Lady and the Tramp style, it was clear this was something special. The first night they yipped and yelled in intermittent periods, but nothing escalated past vocalizing. And the second night, Domino, who used to call and pace and fret when he couldn’t see his buddy for even a moment, finished his dinner in total silence, and hung his head out of the window with the sleepiest, calmest eyes, waiting for Lacey to finish up so they could nap together. We have never seen Domino more content, inside or out, and Lacey certainly doesn’t seem to be complaining either. And until one of them finds a home outside of SAFE, the two will remain posted up beside one another at night, a special slumber party for two very special horses.
Lacey has been enjoying some time off this year; eating yummy grass, sleeping in her cozy stall, enjoying long naps in the sun, and spending time with her fenceline buddies (one of which was a very sweet donkey who she liked very much). Since Lacey let us know that her horsemanship journey is going to take some time, dedication, and very skilled energy, we decided to wait until we could really dedicate that effort to restarting her under saddle. That was not in the cards for this year as we had many rather difficult horses to start and we knew they would take much of our time. Lacey didn’t seem to mind the break and time to reset and she’s been behaving well for the vets, the farriers, and the volunteers. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to dedicate the time to help Lacey through her riding difficulties starting in the spring, but in the meantime, we’re happy to be able to see her sweet face napping quietly or diving into her hay net excitedly. Lacey is a very special member of our herd and we’re ready to do whatever it takes for her to have a lifetime of safety.
Lacey has taken a real liking to her fence line buddy, Freya. It was very cute when we first turned Freya out with the mare herd next to Lacey, the two of them spent a ton of time talking to each other through the fence. Then for days Freya would be found next to Lacey along the fence line just hanging out. The two mares are also stalled next to each other in the barn. When the better weather comes, and if both mares are still here, we may look for a nice big area for them to get acquainted and turned out (at non-feeding times) together. Lacey can be turned out with other horses but they just have to be the right temperament. She must be the boss and they have to be very submissive. Something about Freya’s old wisdom must interest Lacey because it is clear they are already showing us they are friends.
Our sweet little problem child Lacey has been making some great progress as of late. In an effort to obtain some positive behavior changes, we’ve started her back on Regumate for hormone balance so that she doesn’t go into season. On Regumate, Lacey seems more content with her life, showing happy (forward) ears and more nickering to people and other horses. At the rate with which changes have been happening in her training, her trainer believes the Regumate is a significant help to Lacey. Her trainer has been pushing her to new acceptance through rope work, particularly to be less sensitive to things touching her hind quarters, and Lacey is now back to regular groundwork in the round pen. Lacey’s trainer said the she is continually surprised and pleased in each session with being able to pick up where Lacey left off in the previous session and progress further and further each time. Training objectives remain being able to break through Lacey’s reactive insecurities and turn those into responsive actions going forward.
Lexee, one of our SAFE volunteers worked with Lacey in the March Joel Connor Clinic and here is what she had to say about it.
“Ms. Lacey has taught me so much the last 6 months. I’ve been given an awesome opportunity to work with one of the most challenging horses I have ever met and learn not only a bunch about her and this horsemanship, but also about myself. She tests you without any bounds and until you can be true to your feel, she will not open up to the horse we know she can be.
She and I have been working mostly on life, for herself and I, which for her, when she has life a lot of holes pop up. She is used to going through life, dull, purely going through the motions of her work where she seems balanced however, as soon as you add life she starts to fall apart. This is where the real work begins. It’s amazing to see how unbalanced she truly is when she starts moving out. She then feels that and feels vulnerable, striking out and biting at the things she think will kill her because she doesn’t feel like she can get away.
My goal when working with her, is to show her how to get some life, “move your feet and you’ll be free”. Throwing the rope up on her back and getting out before she has time for an immediate reaction. This will then work up to her working with Terry or Joel and the lariat rope, where she’ll be able to use life as a tool, and not a hindrance. She will one day carry the rope on her back and not boggle down and buck. Hopefully one day she can realize that she can move and isn’t as reactive to the obstacles in her life, bringing balance not only to her feet, but to her emotional state of mind.”
Lacey Lacey Lacey…what a difficult pony you can be!
Lacey participated in the recent Joel Conner clinic and gave the small, social-distanced audience quite a show, bucking and squealing away at the rope. It looks like it’s going to be a long journey for Lacey to overcome her ticklishness at the rope and things touching her hind area. While we’ve been riding Lacey for years, she always had this little explosiveness tucked away in her. Every once in a while, this would come out under saddle, causing a couple volunteer rider spills. After the most recent one last November, we decided we needed to take her back to groundwork and figure out how we can help prevent future episodes. It looks like it’s going to take a lot of perfectly timed releases and just the right amount of pressure to help Lacey feel more comfortable. Fortunately, we have some very dedicated volunteers and Lacey has stolen more than a few hearts. We are here for the long haul for our little pony, whether it takes one year, or it takes ten.
Oh Lacey…you sure are a conundrum! We love you just the way you are…but it would be a lot easier to find a home if you weren’t so hot and cold. The riding itself was never the biggest issue. I think even the random freakout bucking under saddle could be figured out… but having to test every single new person who comes along just might be an overreaction. Seriously sister, humans don’t eat hay…so when a volunteer needs you to move out of your shelter to clean around the hay bag, they are NOT trying to take your food from you! Clearly you think you need to protect your meals. I have yet to see any of our volunteers chomping down on any other horse’s hay…but I suppose you have your reasons. For now, we’re making sure that only staff or experienced volunteers enter your area and since then we haven’t had any other issues.
As for riding, we will get there if we just keep chipping away. Lots of groundwork to help you feel like you can always move your feet. We know that you are still concerned about your back-cinch area and hind quarters being roped but you’re still making progress and relaxing more quickly. We REALLY want to get to a place where we can trust you 100%…but you may always be a mare that demands a thoughtful rider. You have made it clear: if people are fair, you are cool; but if they’re a little too intense or ask without a quick release, you feel wronged! In these situations, you feel it is well within your rights to throw a little redhead attitude their way.
Bottom line Lacey, you are one boss mare! You are loving and devoted to those you consider friends and we are honored when you bestow that privilege on us. Everyone else, well for now, just stay clear! We are still hoping with time and more experience, you decide strangers are not all trying to steal your hay! You deserve a person of your own, someone you can train…someone you can trust. That person is out there, Lacey, don’t lose hope!!!
At the most recent Joel Conner clinic, Lacey went into season and we saw some less than desirable behavior from her. She has a history of being sensitive around her flank region, especially when she goes into heat. She’ll squeal and make it known that she is not at all happy about being touched in that area. Lacey has come a long way since the beginning of her days under saddle, and she is no longer sensitive about things like saddle strings or peoples’ hands touching her hindquarters when she’s being ridden. And she’s a great little mare about 95% of the time. But it became clear that we have a problem to get to the bottom of.
We consulted with Dr. Renner of Rainland Farm about the behavior that we were seeing, and we have started her on a trial of Regu-mate. Regu-mate is an oral progesterone medication that is used to suppress heat cycles in mares. Lacey’s issues seem hormonal in nature and appear to be related to her cycle, so we’re hopeful that this medication will get this problem under control. If it is a hormone issue, training alone is not going to be the answer. Trying to solve estrus-related behavior problems with training is like picking a fight you’re never going to win.
If the Regu-mate works and Lacey’s behavior issues disappear, we’ll know that we’ve gotten to the root of the problem. If this is the answer, a long-term solution would be surgery to remove her ovaries. Regu-mate does no harm to horses, but it is readily absorbed into human skin and can cause issues for women. Spaying Lacey with a laparoscopic procedure would be a viable alternative to long-term medication administration.
Mares don’t typically go into heat during the winter. Because of this and the fact that Lacey’s bad behavior isn’t constant, we may not have our answer for a few months. If the behavior continues even on the Regu-mate, however, we’ll have an answer sooner rather than later and at that point will have to come up with a new game plan. But we’re hopeful that the medication will do the trick and we’ll be able to have our sweet mare back again.
SAFE was honored to be invited by Pet Connection Magazine and Dirtie Dog Photography on an exciting new television project called the Limelight Project. Their goal is to bringing more exposure to rescue organizations to help adoptable horses find families while increasing awareness about the work of the rescues interviewed. SAFE chose Lacey to spotlight for the interview. Here is the wonderful video and GORGEOUS photographs of this most deserving and adoptable mare! We cannot thank Tracy and Marika enough for their time and kindness to SAFE and Lacey.
Thanks to The Limelight Pet Project for featuring Lacey!
The Limelight Pet Project is a campaign local to Washington that shines a light on harder to adopt pets and the people who help them. We’re delighted they chose Lacey to share this month on Q13 FOX.
Here’s the video from The Limelight Pet Project on Facebook:
Link to article on Q13 website: https://q13fox.com/2019/09/10/lime-light-pet-project-meet-lacey/
SEATTLE — If you love horses- and are looking for one- this gorgeous mare may be the one for you.
Q13 is partnering with the Limelight Pet Project to help get Lacey adopted.
She is a five-year-old mustang looking for someone who to love her and that’s dedicated to earning her trust.
“She loves going out on trails,” Director of SAFE Horse Rescue Operations Terry Phelps said.“She’s pretty brave, she does jump. She looks pretty up in a frame so even somebody doing English with her would be good.”
Lacey came to SAFE Horse Rescue about three years ago from a home that wasn’t able to give her enough to eat.
Lacey is in good spirits now, but workers at the rescue say she is best suited with someone experienced.
“She’s not a kid’s horse yet,” Phelps said. “But she’s really close. She had some behavioral stuff when she came in; she was quite young and untrained.”
A shorter rider may be best for Lacey- she’s small but stout, standing 13-three hands.
Lacey also packs a lot of personality; she has an opinion and isn’t afraid to show it.
Lacey is a dominant mare, so if you have other horses, she is best kept on her own or with another horse that doesn’t mind letting her take the lead.
If you think Lacey would be a good fit for you, head to safehorses.org and fill out an application.
At the beginning of every ride, Lacey asks me the same questions. She asks, “Are you sure we have to ride today? Don’t you want to just groom me some more instead?” Then she asks, “Will you let me be a dull pony today? Because I don’t really feel like putting in a ton of effort.” It takes me about 5 minutes of warm-up and bending each time I get on her to convince her that my answers to her questions will always be, “Yes, I’m sure we have to ride today,” and, “No, you don’t get to be a dull pony.” Once we get through that initial conversation, rides on Lacey are really fun and rewarding. We’ve been working on improving her response times to my aids. She’s showing improvement there. We’ve also been working on lateral movements with improvement there, too. One thing’s for sure with Lacey, though: she is not a push-button horse (at least not yet). You have to really be present during the entire ride in order to communicate well with her. In my opinion, I think Lacey expects that if she’s going to put forth effort, her rider had better put forth effort, too. But if you’re willing to put in that effort, she’s one heck of a fun little horse.
Lacey has nice gaits. She has a smooth little western pleasure jog but also a nice forward trot when you ask for one. Her lope also has a forward and a relaxed setting. She’s very responsive to her rider’s seat aids, and it’s easy to bring her down from forward to relaxed with just the change in your own energy. She will also stop and back up off of just seat aids, although right now the back is sluggish without any reins.
I end up having a soft spot for all of the SAFE horses that I get to ride and I’d take any of them home if I could, but if I was truly in a position to be looking for a riding partner of my own, I’d consider adopting little Lacey. She’s not really “my type,” but she’s proving to me that size doesn’t really matter—it’s what’s inside that counts.
What a remarkable job Kaya is doing with this little feisty pony! The growth in Kaya’s horsemanship and dedication to Lacey this winter was inspiring. All the hard work shows in how well they did in the clinic this past weekend. Kaya’s enthusiasm and commitment to the horsemanship has made her a wonderful addition to our rider program. Lacey had a great learning clinic and the changes were very evident in her behavior and attitude. Here is what Kaya had to say about working with Lacey:
This was a great clinic for Lacey! I am super proud of how far we’ve come this winter and we were able to get some serious changes this weekend! As is usual, Lacey was lacking life, making pretty much everything except stopping difficult. We recently had some incidents outside the arena of sudden explosions of life generated by outside stimulus, one of which left me on the ground, and when we asked Joel about these, his solution was to find life in the arena so we can get used to it and it will become less of an explosion outside.
I logged this information away and continued to try to inspire energy and forward motion in Lacey. Joel showed me a way to move my leg that could be more effective, and it definitely was! Lacey’s hind quarters and front quarters motions were much more lively after this. And, fortunately, this continued through the rest of the weekend!
Lacey and I did have a moment on Saturday that made me nervous. Her energy felt very similar to the day when I came off, so I rode into the center and dismounted. I told Joel of this feeling and he equated it to PTSD. He got on Lacey and was able to use the life that had made me nervous and showed me that, even though she had life, she wasn’t troubled like she had been before. I was still a bit nervous but conquered my fears a bit and finished the day on a good note. On Sunday, Lacey started to show a similar life and, instead of letting my nerves take over, I was able to help her use it in a positive way. I’m so glad we had this moment to help me conquer my fear! I’m excited to keep trying to fight both my anxiety and Lacey’s dullness. We’ll both be so much better for it!
A sweet update from Kaya on working with Lacey, post-snow storm:
With snow falling off the roof of the arena, Lacey and I have been focusing exclusively on groundwork for the past few days. This is totally fine with me as we have a lot to work on! Today we went into the indoor arena (a place we very rarely go) and encountered some scary obstacles!
At first, the arena itself wasn’t too scary, but I could tell Lacey was almost walking on tiptoes waiting for something to jump out at her. She had no problem with the pool noodle obstacle, but the cat litter box on the corner demanded a lot of attention and snorting.
We moved past this pretty easily and went to the other end of the arena where there were voices and shovel sounds from outside. This was where Lacey started to get pretty nervous. I’ve been working on keeping my own calm in situations like this, so it was a great opportunity for both of us! After getting busy with hindquarters and front quarters, she settled down and started licking and chewing. Then the tractor started outside and we started all over. This was a bit more difficult to bring her back from, but in about five minutes, she was walking steady and about five minutes after that she was licking and chewing again, even with the tractor still making a lot of noise! After all this, Lacey was even more settled than when we first entered the quiet arena. It seemed like she actually looked to me for support, which was a big change from past incidents!
While the tractor was still running we went and played with the tarp which, to Lacey, is a fun toy rather than a scary crinkling monster like it is to other horses. When the tractor was quiet, we went back to the places she had spooked before and she maintained her playful, but not anxious mindset. After today, it is clear to me that we both need more successful moments like these so that we can both practice staying calm in unknown circumstances!
We have some amazing volunteers at SAFE and the connections they have with the horse are inspiring. Kaya has been dedicated to helping Lacey through some trouble and giving her the attention and miles she needs to find a home. This Christmas, Kaya had something extra special for Lacey:
“Merry Christmas to Lacey! This sweet pony really deserved some toys this year. She loves nuzzling soft things like saddle pads, so I thought she needed some stuffed animals. We have also been playing with the big yoga ball in the arena a lot lately, so she got one of those for her paddock as well! She has such a childlike personality, so curious and playful, I knew she would love opening presents. I love how she was a little spooked by them at first, but kept trying to get close to them to check them out. It reminded me of when we were on the trail and she started trotting after the biker! Chase the danger! This afternoon when I went to get Lacey out of her paddock, her ball was sitting about 20 feet away outside the fence. I guess she was playing a little too hard!”
Lacey is making great strides in her riding work and improving immensely with Kaya’s consistent care. We recently took Lacey out on a trail ride. She had a good amount of energy and life out on the trails. She was brave and attentive to Kaya. She did feed a bit off the other horse’s high energy and became “hot” when a runner came from out of nowhere. Kaya did great getting her to work and get busy to regain her attention and peace. It took a little time but she came to focus and Kaya was able to regain a calm and relaxed ride on our way back home.
Here is Kaya’s update about Lacey in the last Joel Conner clinic at Safe Harbor Stables:
This was my second clinic with Lacey and I was a lot more confident this time around! I have come to realize over the last month that Lacey is not generally bothered by outside factors like weather, other horses, commotion, things that might make other horses nervous or flighty. Lacey is one solid pony! That being said, fighting her dullness is a constant struggle. Saturday was great and we were consistently picking up the correct lead and transitioning between gaits with ease. Sunday, however, she was really tired and a lot more work. Joel gave us instructions to focus on short rides that inspire life until around January.
Besides focusing on life, Joel also helped us with front quarters. He noticed that Lacey was really heavy on the front end and gave me tools to help her be more free there. Lacey is such a special horse, I feel so lucky to get to be her friend. Lacey definitely has a lot of love to give, but she’s a little selective about who she gives it to. Though some people may think that Lacey is just grouchy and mean, that is so not true! She is one of the most cuddly and lovey horses I’ve worked with and is so much fun. She has so much to give and is going to make an amazing partner for someone in the future.
SAFE horsemanship volunteer Kaya M rode Lacey in the October Joel Conner clinic:
Honestly, I was a bit nervous about riding Lacey in the clinic, since I had only recently started working with her, and we were still feeling each other out. I am now so glad that I had this opportunity to improve my horsemanship and have fun with her! This weekend really helped improve not only our communication, but also our partnership. Lacey even nickered to me when I came to take her out of her paddock one day!
While we are now a more solid team, we still have a lot of work to do! Joel helped us learn how to be safe about picking up the hind feet of a horse that likes to kick, and this will be incredibly helpful for me and Lacey. We also worked on improving my cues so that Lacey would be more responsive to them. Lacey can be a bit dull, so I need to now how to escalate my ask in a timely manner. This improved quite a bit over the weekend. By the end of the clinic, Lacey was even moving into a canter off of my feel alone!
Her left lead, however, is going to be a continual challenge for me. Prior to the clinic, I had never been able to get Lacey to pick up the left lead. Joel helped me with this a lot and we got it once on Saturday. On Sunday we managed to pick it up once on our own and three or four times with Joel’s help. I’m hoping that as I work on creating more life in Lacey, this will be easier. I also need to work on being able to feel the difference between trotting on the correct vs. incorrect lead. Overall, Lacey is so much fun and I am so glad I got over my nerves and rode her this weekend! I can’t wait to keep working on getting changes and developing our partnership.
Lacey and Erika participated in the June Joel Conner clinic at SAFE. Here’s what Erika had to say about the experience:
Clinic report from SAFE volunteer rider Erika:
This clinic was not the first time I’ve worked with Lacey, but it was the first time I’ve spent so much time working with her.
The first day, Friday, we really worked hard to get to a soft feel, and we got to where she can hold it for a couple of strides. Part of learning the soft feel with Lacey is learning how to have her respond to my legs and my seat, so that she continues to move forward. That was definitely the most challenging piece of the puzzle for me. To add to that, I have a tendency to lean on my hands a lot, which Lacey does not respond well to. With Lacey, once she gives a soft feel, I have to remember to give her her head immediately, or she’ll start to pull on the bit and be less collected in the hind.
Saturday, we worked more on the soft feel and my seat and leg cues. She felt more forward as we progressed, and we held the soft feel for a few more strides than Friday. I worked that day to make my leg cues sharper. Another thing that Lacey does not respond well to is unclear cues, so I tried to make my leg movements crisp and clear for her. She responded positively, and we did better with turning a circle on a loose rein that day. As I was improving my leg and seat cues, Lacey was better at moving out, as well as slowing, stopping, and backing.
Sunday we worked even more on those puzzle pieces: soft feel, not leaning on my hands, and clear leg and seat cues. We got to where Lacey was more collected all over, and would hold the soft feel a little longer, and we even got to the lope (with a good expression on her face!) Sunday really felt like the culmination of the whole weekend, and was my favorite day. Lacey worked hard all weekend, and I’m really excited to start working with Lacey regularly.
thank you to Kino McFarland for this video and to rider Alicia for helping find the softer side of Lacey!
Since November, Lacey has been ridden by SAFE volunteer rider Alicia. The two are getting along great and Alicia has found out how sweet this mare can be when you get to know her and she respects you. Jessica came out on a rare dry winter day and got some great photos of Lacey in our outdoor arena. The more miles this mare gets the better she is! She would be suitable for an intermediate rider now. She can still be a baby and her handler needs to be aware of her but overall Lacey is ready to meet her future adopter and hit the trails!
Volunteer Rider Alicia has started working with Lacey. Here is her report on how things are going:
Lacey and I have been getting to know one another for about a month. She took a few meetings to respect and trust me but now we’re beginning to enjoy one another more on the ground. She occasionally tests our relationship, but we continue to grow each time we’re together. Lacey has really comfortable gates and fantastic downward transitions. she has slowly started to respect me as a rider and will move forward more willingly. Lacey and I recently rode in my first Joel Conner clinic and learned a tremendous amount. We work regularly on our upward transitions and moving freely in each gait. The walk and jog have made improvement already and I expect the lope to take a bit longer. Lacey is a lot of fun to ride and loves pets, kisses and being told she’s beautiful.
Here’s an update from Terry, who rode Lacey in the recent Joel Conner clinic:
Lacey did wonderful in this past Joel Conner clinic! She was forward and willing and kept a good attitude for most of the workshops. She is still young and at 4 there is just only so much arena time you can take in a day so I was mindful to take breaks and to put her away on a good note and not make her work past what she could handle. Since the clinic there have been some great changes in her and we are having a lot of fun. She is very connected to me and tends to be respectful once she knows you. Since she still tries to be naughty some times, we are only having the barn managers or volunteer riders handle her. This has made a big difference and she is leading better and more respectful to her handlers. Baby has to try right? I am really pleased with how far she has come and excited to hit the trails more with her this summer!
We have been working hard in the arena over the last few weeks and Lacey is improving every day! She has been doing a lot better with things touching her hind end. While she still might squeal and kick out from time to time, it has improved a great deal. I can now get the rope tossed over most of the time without a reaction. She is good about grooming, bathing and tacking up. However still needs to be watched because she will still try to bite or kick from time to time. She is my little work-in-progress but she does have a very sweet side to her. She loves to rub her lips on anything soft she can find, like the saddle pad after I take it off of her. She is so mature, I sometimes forget she is just 4.5 years old. She has a very playful side too! We have been playing with the yoga ball in the arena and she loves to chase it and kick it. We have a little soccer pony on our hands for sure!
Yesterday was our first ride into the large outdoor arena, followed by a short little trail ride. She did fantastically outside and was forward and comfortable. Heading up our driveway to the trailhead, she looked at a few things but was brave and kept moving. She was perfect over the bridge for the first time and I was able to stay on a nice relaxed rein the entire time. We saw out first bike on the trail and she reacted but I yielded her hind around as he came towards us and then asked Lacey to follow him as he rode away. This gave her confidence because it made her feel she had made the bike move away from her. I was very pleased at her response. I bet she would be great with cows!
We have some homework to do and lots more miles to cross before she is beginner ready but she is progressing well and a ton of fun to work with. One thing I hope to get help from Joel Conner this weekend at Lacey’s first riding clinic is addressing her reaction and behavior as other horses approach or pass her. With all the other horses in the arena, I will really need to work on correcting her aggressive behavior, and keep her listening to me and not worrying about the other horses. This will be a very important lesson if she every goes to a show or if someone passes us on the trails.
Lacey is not ready for just anyone to come jump on and ride her but would be a great project horse for someone who can see her potential and is willing to put the time into training her. She is very special and I know is going to be a fantastic riding partner in the future. Not to mention that she is cute as a button and loves snuggles!
Lacey, Lacey… Lacey… Where do I begin? To love horses you really have to accept everything about them. They have good and bad days; they have personalities and little quirks just like us. I think I will write this report like my teacher did in my parent-teacher conferences… like an Oreo cookie the good, the challenges and then some more good.
Miss Lacey went to Joel’s to get started a few months ago. She did very well turned out with the other mares and the saddle work was typical for a green horse. She is a little “cold backed” so even with months of saddle work; she is a little tight to start each session but nothing a little groundwork in the beginning doesn’t fix.
There are two issues we are having with her: food aggression and extreme sensitivity to things touching her rump or flank area. Joel called me halfway through Lacey’s training, concerned that he just wasn’t seeing changes in these two areas. She had done well accepting a rider and being taken into all the gaits. However, if any thing or anyone touched her hind end, she would squeal and kick out, and if he approached her while she was eating her grain, she would strike and bite at him. He worked at it for a long time and never saw the sort of lasting change that he hoped for. In the end, he and I decided that there was nothing more he could do for her and that that hopefully, with some more time and continued work at SAFE, she will get better.
To rule out any health issues, we had her checked out by Dr. Fleck, who performed a pelvic ultrasound. Everything looked normal. He is having us try some hormones to see if balancing out her cycles could help with her sensitivity in her hindquarters. She is on a 10-day trial of Regumate to see if it makes a difference. We are glad there was nothing found in the ultrasound that was causing her pain. It is always good to rule out underlining medical issues and I am grateful that SAFE takes the time to do this for our horses.
As far as the food aggression, there is probably always going to be something there and whoever is around her will need to be mindful. When she is in her stall eating and you enter her space, she will pin her ears. If you let her, she will try to bite or strike at you. The best way to change this behavior is to “move her feet” and change the leadership dynamic. I don’t get angry with her, I just simple ask her to move away from her food dish. She will then drop the aggression and look to me to find out what I need her to do. She becomes much more docile. I can then touch her and then invite her back to her hay. This is something that will get easier over time, but right now, someone who is timid or not sure what to do with this type of behavior should not be around her when she is eating.
There is a lot of heart and sweetness in this mare’s eyes. Working with mares in general is a special thing. They are smart and deserve respect. She is making progress and is definitely a one-woman horse. Her size makes her attractive to kids, but unfortunately she is too young and too green to go to a family with small children. She tends to like a soft approach where there is a lot of kindness behind the requests but also clarity as to what being asked. I also think she is very brave and gets along well as the lead mare in the herd. I am excited to see how she is on the trails so we will hopefully be out there a lot this summer. Lacey is my special project, and I hope that we can start showing her to potential adopters later this year.
Jessel and Lacey made their way over to Ellensburg to start working with Joel Conner. They are both doing well and I checked in with Joel this week to see how the girls are doing. The plan is to give Lacey 90 days of professional training and let Jessel winter over with Joel. He’s going to lightly start her under saddle and keep her exposed to professional, consistent handling to ensure she is learning the best manners possible.
Here is what Joel had to say about the two girls:
“JWOW (aka Jessel) is doing really good she’s been wonderful to saddle and ride. She is acting a little bit bothered by the road behind her so we’re getting her over that. Also she is learning how to move away from you when she’s tied up and not kick.
Ol Snooki (aka Lacey) is getting better every day. She is learning how to stay on the wall and walk trot lope. We are also working with her on making sure that she doesn’t kick when she’s tied up. We’re working with her with the rope and the mighty fart noise!”
So a little explanation might be needed here…Joel always comes up with nicknames for the horses and this time we just had to share! Snooki and JWOW are quite a pair and the names are just as fun as these two young mares! Also the “mighty fart noise” is something interesting that we found out about Lacey when we started to work with her here at SAFE. She absolutely hates it if you make a kiss sound or “fart noise”. She becomes quite agitated, tossing her head and overreacting! We work on getting her used to it here but Joel is still having to work on getting her to relax about. It.s pretty funny but also a bit puzzling…why would she react to a noise this way but be okay with a tarp hanging off her back? Silly ponies! Sometimes you have to just scratch your head, smile, and tell her she’s going to be alright and a noise will not hurt her.
Both of these horses were my training projects while they were here at SAFE and I grew to love their personalities. They both have a very sweet side but before we could see that sweet side, they needed to learn to respect their handler. I am very excited to see the work Joel is doing with them and thrilled to have such good report cards coming in. I miss seeing them at the barn but know this is an important time in their lives and trust Joel’s skills 100%. It is amazing to be able to work with such a gifted and heartfelt trainer, I know the girls are going to turnout to be wonderful riding horses!
Here are some photos of them at Joel’s:
Sunday morning, three young redheads were saddled up and worked in the roundpen at the start of the clinic. This included Jessel (who met the saddle for the first time at yesterday’s clinic), Sophie, and Lacey. Here are photos from this session:
Sweet baby Lacey! She is a doll and we are enjoying getting to know her. She is already a volunteer favorite! Here are a few photos that Jessica Farren took on our 3 week from intake.
We have taken them slowly through the re-feeding process, starting with just what they were getting for hay when they came to us and slowly increasing that to the full amount required. Horses need between 2–4% of their body weight in hay. Our flakes are about 5 pounds each so since Stevie needs to be around 900 pounds to be at full weight he requires 18–36 pounds of hay, Lacey requires 13–26 pounds per day. In our big 3 string bales of Eastern Washington Timothy hay, at 5 pounds a flake, Stevie will need 4–8 flakes a day and Lacey with 3–6 flakes. From what we estimated, Stevie and Lacey were sharing around 10 pounds of hay per day. It is clear why these two were not thriving and why they both were so thin. For the last 3 weeks we have been increasing their hay a small amount every other day and soaking it for 30 minutes rinsing off extra sugar as they adjust to getting more hay and preventing them from colic.
They were allowed to start a simple vitamin that covered the basic needs and contains the selenium that our Washington hay is lacking. They also were allowed access to the salt mineral block in their stalls right away and of course access to clean water 24 hours a day. Lacey was found many times chewing on her mineral block, a very good indicator that she was in need of them and had not been getting them before coming to SAFE. After working to the full amount of hay and slowly transferred them to dry un-soaked hay, we could begin adding a mash. This week they are begin to get a mash 2x a day to add more calories into their diets. Since they are so thin they simply can’t eat enough hay in one day to recover from their starvation. The mash helps them get more calories while they recover and this too is added slowly over the next few weeks. They will maintain on free choice hay and 2–3x per day mashes until they are up to weight. Then for some time after that as we slowly start them into work as to not slide backwards in their recent weight gain. They will ALWAYS need 2–4% their body weight in hay. Depending on the level of work a horse is in the 2% in the minimum needed to be at weight. This can fluctuate depending on how much grazing time they are able to get in summer month but is a good rule of thumb.
Please join us in welcoming the two newest faces at SAFE! Stevie and Lacey are two young mustangs who were born in the wild, then rounded up and sold at auction. They are now three and a half years old and while they haven’t had the easiest life so far, they have landed in a place where their future is bright.
Stevie and Lacey were born at the Wild Horse Sanctuary, which is located on 5,000 acres of meadow and forest land in Shingletown CA. The Wild Horse Sanctuary is home to nearly 300 wild horses and burros, most of whom were removed from public range lands in many parts of the western United States during government round ups. Foals born at the Sanctuary are offered for adoption each year. Stevie was adopted by a family who fell in love with his photo, and ultimately decided to take on Lacey as well.
Unfortunately their adopter was forced to rehome the two youngsters due to personal circumstances. Two years later, the original owners were contacted by the person who had taken them, who also was unable to keep them. Concerned for their safety, both owners turned to SAFE for help. We evaluated the horses with the assistance of our veterinarian at Mt Rainier Equine, who found them to be in decent health and soundness, but pretty thin. (Stevie needs to gain about 150 pounds, Lacey about 50–75.) The two horses were surrendered into our care, and arrived at Safe Harbor last Sunday.
Of the two, Stevie is the worst off. He’s visibly underweight, with prominent hips and ribs and a ewe neck. Lacey is shorter and stockier, so she does not look as bad as he does. She is also the dominant horse of the pair, so it’s likely that she got the larger share of what they were being fed. Both horses have dull coats from lack of nutrition and seem a little dull attitude-wise as well. They are both extremely sweet and friendly, and quite interested in people, so they have clearly been treated well in their short lives. A few months of good nutrition and plentiful food and they should be just fine.
SAFE has “the kids” in quarantine for two weeks where they are being treated for any possible lice and are being closely monitored for any signs of illness by our staff and volunteers. They are also being re-fed an appropriate diet for their current weight and condition.
Once they get a clear bill of health, both Stevie and Lacey will start into training. Stevie in particular has displayed some herd-bound behavior and needs to learn boundaries so he can be safely handled. Lacey has impressed us a lot with her willingness to approach new situations, like trailer loading. She definitely has her moments of mare-ish-ness, but she’s pretty easy to handle and was surprisingly well behaved for the veterinarian. A big plus for a 3 year old and quite promising in terms of her future demeanor!
We look forward to working with these bright young horses and will enjoy watching them as they transform into beautiful representatives of their hardy breed.