breed: 2006 brown & white Paint mare
type of rescue: Pierce County Animal Control seizure
intake date: 12/18/

adoption date: 3/26/2017
length of time with SAFE: 2 years, 3 months


Nala was one of three horses seized from their owner by Pierce County Animal Control due to neglect and abuse — Karma was another horse from the same seizure. Nala came to us in decent health and good weight, but behaviorally, she had some issues to overcome in terms of ground manners and respect for personal space. For those reasons, we arranged for her to go straight into training with Matt Olson as soon as she was signed over to us. Fortunately, Matt was able to establish boundaries with Nala fairly quickly and teach her that she could look to him for guidance instead of just other horses. Nala successfully graduated from training after 60 days, and became a nice riding horse for the volunteers at SAFE. In 2017, Nala became the luckiest horse in the world when found a boy of her own, who loves her dearly and enjoys riding and caring for his very own horse!

Nala: Training update and Joel Conner Clinic

A lot has been happening with Nala girl! Once we moved to the new facility, we had enough room to move her back to the main barn and get her back into rehab and training work. Lindsay took her on as her riding project and did a fantastic job getting her going walk trot and canter again. She has been ridden for the last 4 weeks and looks great! We have taken her on a trail ride too and she led for a good portion of the way. We are excited that she is going so well and available again for adoption.

Ann took Nala in the Joel Conner clinic. Here is what she had to say about their experience together:

worked with Nala in the afternoon riding sessions. Nala was great to work with because she has done several clinics and knows most of the exercises we worked on. Nala does not like to be ridden with much leg so I was challenged to use my seat to cue her with only minimal use of my legs. She can pick up and hold a soft feel. I was able to get her to halt and even back a few steps off of my seat while holding a soft feel. We practiced leg yielding and she maintained a soft feel and stepped smoothly over with very little leg pressure. She could use more work on short serpentines. she did not want to maintain a 90 degree bend and keep all four feet moving forward. She does well at the hindquarters/front quarters maneuver as long as I have my hand in the right position and time up with her feet to keep her balanced. Nala knows a lot and is a fun horse to work with. She should make her adopter very happy.

A Gift of Bodywork: Oscar and Nala

The SAFE horses have made a wonderful new friend: Barbara Breckenfeld of Movement in Balance. Barbara specializes in equine bodywork, massage, and energy healing. For the past few weeks, she has been coming to Safe Harbor and donating her time and gifts to a few special horses. We are so grateful for her healing touch and understanding. Thank you Barbara! To read move about Barbara’s work, check out her website at:

Here are reports from Barbara’s sessions with Nala and Oscar:

I am taking a ‘less is more’ approach with Nala and Oscar, in hopes that more frequent short sessions will build trust and support them to make small changes over time. It’s a layer of the onion thing again!

My intention is to support their bodies to be in balance physically and mentally/emotionally so that the wisdom of their bodies can process and heal as needed over time.

Nala and Barbara

Nala and Barbara

Nala 5/3/2016– I started with Nala in the turnout, and then she asked to go back to her stall. Perhaps she knew it was near feeding time. Note to self: work with Nala when it is not mealtime. I also noticed how interested she was in the kids visiting yesterday. Seems that she likes them.

Similar to last time, she walked away from me to process and came back when ready for more. This time she spent a long time processing. I honored that, kept checking in with her. Her eyes were blinking, nose/lips quivering, and periodically, she’d lick and chew. At some point I went out and stood a couple feet from her shoulder to support her. Then her head lowered below her withers – another good sign of processing, and that her body was releasing its own endorphins. When I invited her spine and pelvis to move more and the circulation increases, the hair over her spine started to shine. 

She continues to feel guarded emotionally, but her body is cooperating with this work if I go slow enough. I’m pleased with her engagement with the work and processing it. When it was feeding time she was totally focused on that and acted worried about getting hers.

Nala_06_10_2016_03Nala 5/20/2016- Nala was busy eating lunch in her stall, and I let her continue to eat while I worked. I was able to do more deep work with her this time, as well as the vibration technique with her front legs. She was quite clear that she did not want me touching her back legs – even her gaskins. I wonder if her issues in front are compensations for something behind or in her back. I did most of a structural integration session with her. She allowed me to work deep in her shoulder on the left. I found a tight muscle along her back right above the shelf of her ribs on the left; it was similarly tight but less so on the right. It felt like the iliocostal muscle which runs alongside the longissimus dorsi muscle. Nala_06_10_2016_02

Nala 6/10/2016– Nala loved the structural integration neck and shoulder work on her left side (it can support healing on the other side of the body). She also loved work on her inner left leg, and cocked her hip for me, which allowed deeper access to the tissue. Nala needs pauses to process during her sessions. These pauses involved my hands on her and me feeling lots of tingling as she received Reiki. She reacted to some strokes across her barrel. I paused between sides to write some notes. On her right side we did lots of Reiki, and she was wigglier, not wanting me to touch her. She kept processing and getting offered Reiki and other options like lifting her back. Finally she was done without my doing much structural integration work with her right side, also didn’t do much vibration with her front legs.

Oscar and Barbara

Oscar and Barbara

Oscar 5/3/2016- Oscar was more interested in connecting with me this time. I worked with him using Tui-na and some light structural integration strokes (shoulder, long back muscle, loin and top of HQ). Encouraging long back muscle to soften and move (his is pretty good) and encourage movement along his spine and pelvis. (disclaimer: not chiro, bodywork) Oscar looks good from lots of perspectives, but I’d like to see more movement in his pelvis and spine. He did some good processing, and stopped eating when I came into his space. Will be curious to see how he is next time.

Oscar 5/20/2016– I worked with Oscar in the turnout area above/behind the arena. He enjoyed the Reiki I offered him more than the percussive strokes. He really relaxed and received it. When I explored deep tissue strokes, he allowed some really good work on his left side – cocked his hip to allow me to work in a relaxed muscle, also around his neck and shoulder. On his right side, he was either done or protecting, but did allow me to work around his loin, top of his hindquarters and down his hamstrings. The muscles in the top of his right hindquarters felt pretty lumpy to me. I’ll explore that a bit more next time.

Oscar stayed very connected with me during most of the session. He followed me around, licked my hands, and had many good releases throughout. I did notice that his mouth got tighter when I began the deeper (structural integration) strokes. Knowing Arabs are sensitive and quick, I was aiming for lighter strokes, shorter duration, etc. He is such a sweet guy!

Oscar finding release!

Oscar finding release!

Oscar 6/10/2016– Oscar’s session was mostly structural integration strokes, lasted about 45 minutes. He had great releases, lots of licking and chewing, sighs, lowering his head, softening his eyes. I started on his left side (the harder side), getting reaction from him just behind his shoulder and on top of his hindquarters. Both times, I paused, lightened up, and let the spots clear so I could complete the strokes. On the right side, he curved his neck around which gave me lots of access into the depths of his neck crease. He reacted to something in the right pectorals in front and inside the leg. Again, I paused and held my hand over the area without pressure or movement. This time it was an emotional clearing. As I cried, and said to him over and over, “I’m so sorry,” over and over. Then, “You are precious.” He just loved the work on the inside of his hind legs on both sides. I completed all the strokes on both sides in that protocol, and when he was done, he was definitely done, telling me again with his ears and mouth. I’m always thrilled when the mental/emotional things stored in the tissue can emerge and heal. Good boy, Oscar!!

I’m really pleased to be working with these two and am grateful for the opportunity. I enjoy coming to SAFE, and feel that Oscar and Nala are progressing in their acceptance of the work I’m offering them. It is important to me, and I think to any horse, especially rescued horses with unknown hurts and traumas, that each horse has a choice about bodywork. I let them know that I heard them when they move an ear, flick their tail, pick up a foot, etc. This helps create trust and supports them staying in the place of rest and digest where healing and learning happens. 

Barbara Breckenfeld, of Movement in Balance

Training update: Nala

Nala continues to do well under saddle. She is moving up to more trot and is looking sound! The volunteer riders are dedicated to her rehab work and they are enjoying getting to ride her. She is still bare foot and as long as that looks good we are going to see if how she does without shoes. So far she is looking strong and healthy! Keep up the good work baby girl!

Nala’s rehab…time for a saddle!

Nala has been great about both her stall rest and being hand walked.  After reviewing her progress with Dr. Devine at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital, we decided it was time to start the next phase of Nala’s rehab plan.

We began riding her for 20 minutes at the walk.  The added weight will increase the load on her hooves and help with the strengthening process.  We will increase her walking by five minutes a week up to 30 minutes.  At that point, we will try five minutes of trotting for a few weeks.  Initially, the trotting will be in a straight line, then we will build up to circles.  As long as Nala continues to stay sound, we will bump up the trotting time an additional five minutes every few weeks.

We are crossing our fingers that she will continue to heal during her carefully managed rehab.  Our hope is that Nala will be available for adoption as a riding horse in the next two to three months.

Nala: Health Update

Nala has been very well behaved for her rehab, stall rest and hand walking. Three weeks ago we took off her shoes and balanced her feet in a bare foot trim. Farrier Marla Karabinos will be checking her this week to see if she is foot tender and if she will be needing the shoes back on. So far she looks happy in with the changes made.

Last Friday Dr. Christen Finn from Equisport Medicine, came out to give Nala some body work. Dr. Finn found some pretty tight spots in Nala’s shoulders and neck. She was able to get some nice releases. Hopefully this adjustment will help Nala on her recovery. She is currently hand walking 20 minutes a day by SAFE’s wonderful volunteers.

Health Update: Nala

Nala at the SAFE Benefit Horse Show

Nala at the SAFE Benefit Horse Show

The past few months have caused a bit of frustration for Nala and her friends here at SAFE, as we have been dealing with some lameness issues with no real conclusions. Her new shoes in May helped solve problems related to conformation, but a new lameness appeared. First in the right front, then the left front. Dr. Devine from Pilchuck came out to see her and suggested trying her with wedges in her shoes first before pursuing further diagnostics. Unfortunately the shoes this time were not a fix. Dr. Devine took x‑rays of her front hooves and all looked good. We had to do several blocks narrowing out that the pain was not just coming from her heel. She became sound with a block to the coffin joint and we felt like we had finally found the culprit of her pain or at least an area that we could treat. With this information we elected to have her coffin joints injected.

Nala seemed to feel much better after the joint injections. For about 20 days after the injections she looked to be more comfortable both at the walk and trot. So much better, in fact, that she attended the SAFE benefit show! She still seemed a touch off so we took it easy with her, but overall she did great. There was still that little lingering nag, though, that something else was going on. We consulted with Dr. Devine again and she is worried there is soft tissue damage or a collateral ligament tear. The best diagnostic tool available for this kind of injury is an MRI, and unfortunately that financially isn’t an option for us. We currently have a tentative diagnosis of a soft tissue injury to the right front foot and a prescription for 30–60 days of stall rest and hand walking.

Once she gets the OK to go back to work, there is a special shoe we can try her in to provide collateral ligament support. We will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, we have to convince her that stall rest is a good thing—she’s not taking our word for it, but we’ll get there!

Nala the Wonder Horse

What a difference a pair of shoes can make! Nala is doing much better in her new shoes donated by our farrier Jake Cowden. She is much more balanced and comfortable with a rider over the last two weeks since the shoes were put on. We took her on 3 trail rides this last month and she has constantly been the best-behaved horse of the group. She leads at any point during the ride, she is not startled by people or animals on the trail, she does not spook at sounds or strange new objects in her path and she does not react to having a “wild Arabian” running up her tail when Cameo jumps at her own shadow! 

At the Hollywood Hills Schooling show she went in both the English and Western classes. She made us all very proud winning the Reserve High Point award for her English classes, coming home with quite a few ribbons including a few 1st and 2nd places as well as coming in 7th out of a large 15-horse class in our Western pleasure class. Overall, this horse is going to make a wonderful addition to someone’s family. She is very versatile and will be suited for an intermediate rider as she is still needs some direction while riding and support staying balanced.

Hollywood Hills Schooling Show — May 2, 2015

Nala, Misty, and Karma competed at the Hollywood Hills English/Western Schooling show this weekend, and all three girls were amazing!

Nala won the English Walk/Trot Reserve High Point for our age division at her very first show!! She earned that award with a first place ribbon and a few seconds! Nala ended her day by placing 7th out of 15 horses in the Western Pleasure class in the afternoon. At the end of the day, everyone agreed that this little mare would make a perfect 4‑H horse for someone special! She really made us proud.

Misty and Karma did great too. Karma had a lot of deal with at her first show but she learned to relax, which is very positive. Casey did a perfect job supporting her and helping her find peace. Misty was a tough cookie today but Ardelle did a beautiful job with her and the two did some lovely work together.

The people at the Hollywood Hills Saddle Club were SO nice, and they made lots of announcements to the crowd about the SAFE horses, letting everyone know that the three girls were available for adoption! All and all, it was an amazing day.

BIG THANK YOU to Heather, Casey, Ardelle, Lisa, Sara, Jessica, and Erika for helping prep for the show and bring the horses looking all fancy today for everyone to see.

Here are just a few photos from the day, we hope to add more soon!

Nala at work and play

Thank you to Jessica Farren for these lovely images of Nala at liberty in the arena and working with Terry on the ground.

A field trip for Misty, Lola, Cameo, and Nala

Misty, Lola, Cameo, and Nala had a little field trip today, leaving Safe Harbor with their riders and walking down to the nearby Hollywood Hills Saddle Club. There’s a schooling show coming up at HHSC on May 9th that we’re planning to bring horses to, so Terry wisely decided that a test run was in order. The four girls did well, especially Nala who was on her very first trail ride and handled it like a complete pro!

Nala graduates from training!

Nala graduated from training last week and headed off for Safe Harbor Stables, where she immediately was enrolled in the Michael Sparling clinic! Volunteer rider Lisa G was aboard, and the two of them did quite well together. Lisa says she’s really enjoyed riding Nala so far, and we are so pleased to see that the training that Matt Olson has done over the past 60 days is translating to other riders!

Nala is now official available for adoption as a riding horse!

More Nala photos

Nala Intake Photos

We picked Nala up today from the Pierce Co Animal Control holding barn. She loaded into the trailer without a fuss, and made the successful trip to Poulsbo where she will begin working immediately with trainer Matt Olson. Here are her intake photos, along with video of Matt working with her after her arrival at Sandamar Farm.