breed: 2005 chestnut Arab gelding
type of rescue: Snohomish County Animal Control seizure
intake date: 7/27/2015
adoption date: 4/14/2016
length of time with SAFE: 8 months

Status: ADOPTED by Cory M 

Mesquite’s Story: Hickory and Mesquite were seized by Animal Control from their owner as part of a long running situation of neglect. Both horses were seized as stallions and gelded before being signed over to SAFE. Although neither horse appeared to have much prior handling, they displayed fairly decent behavior from the start. Of the two, Mesquite was initially more stand-offish with a tendency to snake his neck and turn his butt towards people, but as he’s became accustomed to being handled, he improved quite quickly. Mesquite took part in a “colt starting” demonstration at a Joel Conner clinic at SAFE in mid August 2015 where he was successfully saddled, bridled, and ridden in a round pen. He went on to complete 90 days of training with Joel Conner, and found his adopter during that period. It was a pleasure helping this handsome horse get an upgrade in life, and we will always be quite proud of him for his willingness and bravery in facing those changes.

Alumni Update: Mesquite

Alumni Update: Mesquite

Mesquite and his family love trail riding on their new 10 acre property and on the many nearby trails in their neighborhood, including a rarely used soft, groomed airstrip!


Adoption Announcement: Mesquite!

Cory, Melissa and Mesquite

Cory, Melissa and Mesquite

We are so pleased to announce that Mesquite has been adopted! This handsome and talented boy has truly made an amazing transformation. Less than eight months since arriving at SAFE as an unstarted stallion, Mesquite is now a well-adjusted good citizen with loads of potential, heading off to a new home and a new life.

Adopting horses to great people who understand the “spirit” of SAFE’s program is one of the best parts of our job. Cory and his wife Melissa had room in their hearts to add Mesquite as a member of their family and we are thrilled to know he will always be cared for and loved. It has been really fun getting to know Cory and learning how passionate and responsible he is about horses. During his 30-day trial with Mesquite, he sent us photos and updates on how they were doing. It was wonderful to see the connection between them growing and knowing that this was going to be a successful match.

We have to give a huge THANK YOU to Joel Conner for his help in both preparing Mesquite for his new life and in assisting us in this adoption. Taking a young horse and getting it started takes good horsemanship skills but taking an older, recently gelded horse and training him to be a safe riding horse is truly amazing. Training older horses is not the easiest part of our work but it’s by far one of the most important. Teaching the horses that pass through our program to be well mannered and safe is what gives them the best chance “for a permanent home and a lifetime of safety”.

Cory sent us this letter about his experience with finding Mesquite and adopting from SAFE:

I had been looking for a while. About 2 years, actually. Scouring the web in every place I could think of, looking for the right one. I became ever more frustrated as the search produced dead lead one after another. Placing multiple calls and arranging visits only to find out days later “Oh by the way he foundered last fall and has slight issues.” Or “Yeah, she is our baby, standard QH mare, well broke does everything, although no-one has spent any time with her since last fall, and we are only asking $4,500!”

And then one late night as I was just simply browsing without purpose, I ran across Mesquite. I thought “Wow! I would really like the opportunity to be able to own a horse like that! Imagine what he could become.” Now realize we are talking about a major project here. 11-year-old Arabian, recently gelded, not broke, poorly cared for and starved. 

As soon as I contacted SAFE about the possible adoption, I knew this was an incredible opportunity. Right away I knew this was an honest, straightforward connection. The horse had been gelded, checked by the vet and farrier, and was up to date on vaccinations. As SAFE was very interested in finding a solid long-term home for this horse, I knew they were being open and honest about any problems or issues that existed. I was given a ton of information about his habits, disposition, and soundness. I knew exactly what I was getting.

I was still looking at the fact that this was going to be a huge project. Or was it? As it turns out SAFE had sent the horse to a trainer for 90 days to get started under saddle! I know, just when you thought this opportunity couldn’t be better, right? I cannot express enough my absolute amazement, even still today, how in such a short time with a horse like this the trainer was able to instill such foundation and softness. I’m telling you, when Joel Connor works with your horse, you find he has truly been touched by a magnificent master of horsemanship!

In conclusion, my experience with Terry Phelps from SAFE and Joel Conner the trainer has been beyond my wildest dreams. The entire process of the adoption, from start to finish, was very streamline and comfortable. Both Terry and Joel went out of their way to accommodate both Mesquite and I, and make our dreams come true! If you wish to save a horse, and find yourself that special Equine companion you desire, contact SAFE first!  

Thank you so very much, Terry and Joel!

Cory K

We look forward to more updates from Cory and Mesquite and seeing their bond flourish.

Training Update: Mesquite

Mesquite%202Sometimes you meet a horse and say, wow, now that’s my kind of horse!  Mesquite has had my heart from the beginning. Once I rode him, I was done for! He is an amazing horse! He is kind, gentle, intelligent and fun. Plus, he has three smooth gates. Oh, and did I mention, he’s also quite HANDSOME! Between you, me, and Mesquite, somebody better adopt this boy soon or I might have to do it myself!

Joel Connor did a fantastic job starting this boy for SAFE. He has solid walk, trot and canter. He trailers well, calmly stands for the farrier and vet, hauls like a dream, ties easily, and has no stable vices. He is still considered green broke but I think he would be fine for an intermediate rider with a trainer, or a professional, looking for a new mount.

Beautiful in the light! Great Photo by Jessica F

Beautiful in the light!

I took him to our Joel Conner clinic last month and he did really well. We had as many as eleven other horses in the arena and he was not bothered at all with the activity or commotion. He was easy to maneuver around in the crowd and he paid attention to me. He was also a ton of fun to work with when we did the horsemanship exercises.

I would love to continue to ride this fabulous horse, but I know his forever home is out there looking for him. Please submit applications online for Mesquite or email questions to

Wrap up from Joel Conner Clinic Dec. 12–13, 2015

Great group of Volunteer Riders!

Great group of Volunteer Riders!

We had a great time hosting Joel again at Safe Harbor. The horses and volunteers had an amazing weekend and everyone progressed in their feel and training. Here are a few accounts from the volunteer participants about what they learned about the horses they were working with during the clinic:

Jolene D:Khianna- At the time of the clinic Khianna had a total of 4 or 5 rides on her since her return from foster. She was nervous, but did so well! She tries so hard. She is coming along nicely and I believe will develop into an incredible partner for someone.

Sara E: Jewel — Jewel was an all-star for the clinic, Claire has done such a great job with her. She felt flawless going from hind-end to front-end turns. I learned so much while riding her during the clinic. She is going to make someone a really great horse.

Sara E: Khianna — Did ground work with Khianna and at the beginning she was a nervous trotting mess, but Joel came over and helped me get her front feet moving and she calmed right down. She is so loving and tries so hard. Once she figures out you aren’t going to eat her, she just wants to please you and be loved on, I don’t know if I have ever worked with a horse that tries to give you 150% all the time.

Lisa G: Ben- I can’t say enough about how the horsemanship that Joel has helped bring to SAFE amazes me. I had Ben in all 4 sessions, GW and riding, and I was honestly just hoping I could get him to stay focused on me with all of the excitement, maybe get some nice serpentines down in the riding portion, and work on soft feel and stopping/moving forward off of the seat. Well.…. He did all of those things and SO MUCH MORE. Every exercise that Joel moved the participants through, beginning to advanced, Ben tried. And SUCCEEDED, at least on some level. I am so impressed with the effort this big guy puts into everything; as long as he understands that there are no consequences if he doesn’t understand, and he knows that I will wait for him to figure it out, I believe this horse would be willing to try anything under the sun. In the few days since the clinic, Ben had maintained a quiet, willing attitude, with TONS of deep, relaxed sighs, even during the riding work. SO proud of the progress he has made and so grateful that this work was brought to the SAFE horses.

Sara S: Khianna- I worked with Khianna for the first time doing GW on Saturday morning, and was so impressed by her “try”. She does get a little nervous about the rope and flag coming at her while moving (though not at all while standing still in the comfort of the “herd” (me)). I particularly enjoyed the backing exercises, and she was so in tune with my feet and body language it felt like we were dancing partners! She is such a sweet girl.

Sara S: Phoenix- I did GW and rode Phoenix on Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t been ridden in weeks, and it was raining on the tin roof, so he was extra “special” to start, but after just a bit of GW he calmed down and started paying attention to me. Riding, he was great. He’s getting very good at backing circles, front and hind yields (he’s so bendy!). Over the few months I’ve been working with Phoenix, I’ve noticed he tries very hard to anticipate what I want (if he’s in the mood), but as soon as I push too hard and/or he doesn’t understand what I’m asking, he shuts down. On Saturday, I didn’t feel him shut down at all which is probably a combination of both of us getting better at this!

And many thanks again to Joel and Terry for putting on such an inspiring clinic!!! I wish I could come out to SAFE every day, but I’m glad to be even a small part of this great community and cherish this opportunity!

Claire C: Mesquite- It was my first official time working with Mesquite, and I think we made some really good changes. He is super sensitive so it was interesting to experiment with him and see how much pressure he needed. I only did the groundwork session with him and it was fun learning to time up with his feet better.

Claire C: Phoenix- For the afternoon session, I rode Phoenix, who I have not done a whole lot with either. He was also good; we worked a lot on more forward motion and keeping him focused on what I was asking. We did lots of bending and yielding, which was so good for him. Overall, he did very well.

Casey A: Stella- I worked with Stella, who is turning out to be a great little horse. We worked on slowing down and developing balance on both the ground and under saddle. We were both so much lighter by the end of Sunday, and I know we got a big change in our partnership. She was so relaxed through the entire clinic, even when horses around her were nervous. She’s also pretty resilient and forgiving of my mistakes. She has taught me so much, and she is going to make someone really lucky!

Erika S: Maggie- I worked with Maggie for all 4 sessions, and she did fantastic! She’s such a smart, willing mare, and we connected early on. One idea that I heard this weekend was that eventually it will feel like your horse is reading your mind… Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s the truth! Maggie remained tuned in for everything we learned about, and worked in sync with me. It honestly helped me more than I think it helped her!

Ann A: Bridgit- Bridgit is a friendly girl and likes getting attention. She is a bit on the lazy side and I had some trouble getting the life up in her while doing circling exercises. She just wanted to come into the center and hang out with me. She made good progress under saddle in the afternoon sessions. She was learning how to pick up a soft feel at the walk by the end of the first day and we had some nice walk/trot transitions. She needs more work backing straight and in a circle both on the ground and under saddle. She also needs more work reaching with her front foot and disengaging her hindquarters under saddle. She felt much more balanced to me than she did when I rode her last summer.

Jane M: Oscar- As a relative novice to practicing Joel’s horsemanship skills, the greatest lesson I took away from GW and riding Oscar during this most recent Joel clinic is the impact GW has on riding. Yielding hindquarters, circling to achieve bend and balance, it all makes such a difference when aboard the horse. I’m able to apply lessons learned under Joel’s guidance to my regular riding lessons. It’s quite remarkable to me, and I look forward to Joel’s next visit and my next “aha” takeaway!

Hickory & Mesquite: Training Update

All reports have been glowing for our new riding horses, Hickory and Mesquite. They are both in training with Joel Conner and are coming along well with the work.

As expected, Hickory has been fairly easy with only minimal issues. He is the younger of the two and never really displayed much studdish behavior after being gelded. Hickory will be returning to SAFE with about two months of professional training. In fact, we are hoping to arrange transport home for him within the next few weeks.

Mesquite has been at Joel’s for just a month and will take another month or two of training before he is ready to come home for the volunteers to work with and ride. He was about 11 years old when he was gelded so he knew a bit more of the “stallion life.” But even though Mesquite has been very well behaved on the ground so far, he’s got a lot more to learn before he’s finished with his professional training.

Both boys are already going solidly at walk, trot, and canter. While they are still green, they are ready to be shown to adopters with the skills to handle them at this point in their training. If you are interested in knowing more about them or want to meet them while in training with Joel in Vancouver WA, please fill out an adoption application or email me at These are two very nice, sound geldings who won’t stick around long!

Mesquite: Making great strides!

Mesquite left early this morning for Vancouver WA where he will join his friend Hickory in training with Joel Conner. You might recall that Joel rode both boys at his clinic at SAFE in mid-August. Now they’re both going to get the start they need to be saddle horses. 

Before he left, volunteer Lisa G did a bunch of work with Mesquite to get him ready for Joel. She shared this report with us:

I had the great privilege to work with one of our “smokin’ hot” new Arab boys, Mesquite, at the recent Joel Connor clinic in August, a few days prior to the clinic, and in the weeks since, and all I can say is what a guy!! The first day I lunged Mesquite as part of his post-gelding PT, he moved right off with hardly a speck of attitude (surprising for so being so recently studly!), quickly figured out when I was asking him to tune into me and change pacing and direction. After only a couple of sessions introducing Mesquite to some groundwork and working on getting him “gentle” in preparation for the clinic, Mesquite showed off his amazing attitude and intelligence when Joel used him in his colt starting demonstration the first morning of the clinic, accepting a saddle and for the first time with very little fuss.

Working among the other horses in the afternoon portion of the clinic, Mesquite very quickly focused in on me and was working beautifully on a nice loose lead, responding very well to body language and incredibly soft cues. He was a little tense physically throughout, finally relaxing and softening only towards the end of the session.

Photographic proof of bath & behavior

Photographic proof of bath & behavior

Freshly armed with new and refreshed information and tips from Joel, Mesquite and I have since been working primarily on moving off of cues with a relaxed, soft feel as opposed to jumping into the work with a tense neck, wrinkly nose (seriously, he looks like he’s smelling something foul when he’s tense or bothered; it’s adorable, but a nice smooth nose is much more encouraging!), and nervous air… and, once again, this boy’s ability and willingness to learn and accept new situations was amazing! One week after the clinic, Mesquite was introduced to a hose (to cool off after a good work session on a hot day), and, after showing him that it was okay to move, but to do so softly and the hose was still going to be there and that was OKAY!, he stood very calmly and let me hose all but his tail.… and two days later, he got his first bath!! What a CHAMP!

My last session working with Mesquite before he heads off to train with Joel was on Sunday, and within 5 minutes of working, he was moving in perfectly even, soft circles with a lovely relaxed poll, drifting his hindquarters out and shifting smoothly into the trot. Disengaging his hindquarters on the right track is still a little bit of a challenge for him, but he was reaching beautifully, softly bent, without sticking his face straight at me (another “I’m doing it but NOT LIKING IT” sign from him). Another challenge for Mesquite has been backing away from me with space between us and a loop in the line; he would raise his head, get those nose wrinkles going, and big wide eyes… but SUNDAY, he just had this, “K, coo, whatevs” attitude and it was a beautiful thing.”

Video proof:

Mesquite’s Ground Work Session

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photos by Jessica Farren 

Mesquite, photos by Jessica Farren

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Mesquite makes a new friend!

Volunteer rider Claire got to spend some time with Mesquite this past week. He is learning to trust new people and let go of his past. Claire is very quiet and patient with him. You can see from the photos what a handsome fellow he is becoming.

We continue to increase his feed and he is gaining weight steadily. Dr McCracken was out to the stables 2 weeks ago to give the new boys a dentals and their vaccine boosters. Both Mesquite and Hickory had a few sharp points and were very well behaved for the vet. While they woke up, Terry cleaned their sheaths which were badly needing to be done. They were perfect gentleman for all the work. The dental work along with a good amount of groceries, will have Mesquite filling out in no time. He was also seen by SAFE’s barefoot farrier, Marla Karabinos and she said he has wonderful feet. He may even be a candidate to remain barefoot since his feet are so nice.


SAFE’s clinic with Joel Conner and Colt starting demonstrations

It was a pleasure this past weekend to have Joel Conner visit the SAFE horses and teach our volunteers. We began each morning, with a colt starting demonstration where Joel worked with Hickory, Mesquite and Ben. Joel is an expert when it comes to working with un-started horses and it was clearly evident that his years of experience have giving him the timing and insight to know exactly what they need to have a successful start.

This method of horsemanship and starting horses has the horse’s wellbeing at the top of the priorities. It is fair and prepares the horses for each new step in the process. They may not understand fully what is happening but Joel was there to help them through each part and they were not surprised or made to feel any undue stress or pressure did not have a release. As many of us know, you don’t have to start horses in a way that takes anything away from their spirit. That’s what we love about them and when we ask them to partner with us, to become our riding companions, they can do so with out force or fear. Joel said that his work is about the horse; it is finding ways each day to do right by them and helping them have a clear and clam understanding of the work they do together. Watching him work this weekend it was clear he has a true gift and our horses are benefitting for his kindness.

Hickory has a very inquisitive and gentle disposition, which made him one of the star pupils. This great personality will inevitably make him a wonderful partner and this weekend it helped him accept the saddle and rider without stress. Joel prepared him for saddling through groundwork and gaining Hickory’s trust. We were all amazed at both Joel’s skill and Hickory’s willingness to accept being ridden. I knew that we were lucky to have Joel working with the SAFE horses but after watching him work with both Hickory and Mesquite, our two most recent intakes and gelded Arabians, I feel blessed and grateful he is on our team. Hickory did so well that we decided that he would be the first to go down for training with Joel. He loaded on Joel’s trailer Sunday afternoon and headed to get a few more weeks of training before returning to SAFE Harbor and having our volunteers begin riding him. He is going to be an amazing riding horse!

Mesquite is a bit more reserved than Hickory. He is the older of the two and had more years as a stallion and at the hands of his abusers. He is wary of new people approaching him and has an eye on what is going on around him. He is thoughtful to new things but was willing to work with Joel and see what he had to offer him. The changes Mesquite made over just the few short days were outstanding. Joel allowed him to take the time he needed to accept and move out in the saddle. By the second morning Mesquite was walk, trot and cantering without any worry. All the horses were hardly sweating under their saddles and were calm and relaxed throughout the work. Mesquite is going to make someone a very lucky adopter! He is going to take a little bit longer to open up to new people but there is a very kind boy under all that mane and we are feeling lucky to have been given the responsibility to find him a perfect forever home!

Last up for the demonstrations was Big Ben! Before going into work with him, I explained to Joel that we want the best for Ben and if riding is not in his future we are ok with that. I was again reconfirmed why Joel is such a perfect fit for these troubled horses. Ben has years of people letting him down, passing him around, starving and forgetting about him. SAFE will never let that happen again and is giving him the opportunity to understand people are not afraid of him. Past experiences have put braces in his body that don’t need to be there. Joel worked to help Ben free up his body and left go of the baggage someone else had put in there. It will take some time sorting this out for our big boy but the changes we saw though the work with Joel have us optimistic that Ben can make it though. Our plan is to send Ben down to Joel’s for an extended amount time and allow him to move through the process without being rushed or pressured. He continues to put on more weight and is more comfortable and happy everyday. SAFE is committed to this sweet boy and he has a very bright future ahead of him.