Breed: 1995 bay Quarter Horse mare
Registered Name: unknown
Type of Rescue: Owner surrender
Intake Date: 10/7/2016
Adoption Date: 4/24/2018
Length of Time with SAFE: 1 year, 6 months
ADOPTED by the Brill Family of Duvall WA
Rosie is one of five horses who were surrendered to SAFE after their owner passed away unexpectedly. Rosie is a gentle horse who loves her companion buddies and routines. Initially we worked with her to see if she could be a riding horse again but due to an off-and-on lameness in her front hoof and a lot of anxiety with saddle work, we decided to let her retire to a non-riding life. Rosie was always a great herdmate to horses here at SAFE, so we knew we could find her a good placement where she could enjoy life as a companion. She was adopted in the spring of 2018 to a family with a lovely farm, and she lives there in the company of her good friend and fellow SAFE alum Cali.
This past spring, SAFE had been called to help on several large intake cases. This filled our stalls and while we have a great medical staff to get our horses healthy and training program to prepare them for new lives, finding the right home takes time. SAFE was in a dilemma: we had some lovely companions that were ready to be adopted and horses in the community who desperately needed our help.
Eric had come to us about a year ago after purchasing a large property. He wanted to bring horses on the land but knew little about their care. We suggested he come volunteer at SAFE and start learning about horses and take advantage of our educational opportunities as well as learn from the knowledge of our staff and community. Eric spent the next months helping at Safe Harbor, coming to our herd health talks and participating in our horsemanship classes.
Fast forward to this spring and our full barn and horses waiting to come into SAFE. We called Eric up and told him the situation and he was willing to help. We met at the barn and walked from stall to stall visiting with the horses and talking about each of their personalities. Two that stood out were Rosie and Cali. They were already turned out together in the mare field and complemented each other. Rosie was older, calm natured and wise; Cali was younger, sensitive and devoted to a herd leader. After a few visits and grooming sessions, the girls were ready to move home.
Both settled in quickly and were a happy and bonded pair. Eric and his family love spending time with the girls. Both are very healthy and enjoy each other’s company. This is a wonderful retirement home for these sweet mares and they will have a wonderful life living out their days together in safety and comfort. It is a sweet life!
Sweet Rosie is getting some exercise out on the trails with our wonderful volunteers. Here is a quick video of her out on the trail with her buddy Prince and the minis Sunny & Shasta. Rosie did great on the trails and even “ponied” off Prince when the volunteers needed to concentrate on getting themselves and the minis through the deeper water. Rosie is such a great horse! While she plays the stoic older mare when you first meet, you need to spend just a little time with her and discover she has a very soft side and actually loves attention. This pretty girl is more than ready to go on to her forever home!
Rosie is a solid citizen at SAFE and has done extremely well with all the changes over the last year. Rosie likes things to stay the same and loves constancy. So it is very nice to see how quickly she has been able to relax with changes in location and even new pastures or stalls. She also has had quite a few members of her original herd leave to go on to their adoptions but by preparing her and helping introduce her to new friends she has been able to navigate all of the changes.
She remains very healthy and thriving in her life at SAFE as a companion. She has joined in a few volunteer classes, teaching them how to groom and lead horses. She has been a champ for it all! She has taken a few trail walks and is a great pal with other horses in her turnout pastures. All round she is a good soul and has come to be a favorite of many volunteers. Her wisdom and kindness shows in her sweet deep eyes. One special friend to Rosie is SAFE volunteer Catherine. Rosie and Catherine participated in last month’s Joel Conner clinic and this is what she had to say about the experience:
“I have been at SAFE for a little while. I found out a lot about myself and about Rosie. I was vary happy to be able to work with this amazing mare. Rosie is a sensitive and loving horse. Looking for a connection and guidance from people. At the start of the clinic she was nerves, and losing focus. With patient energy she refocused on me. Changing eyes was sticky in the beginning, with not trusting in me. When she’s not confident, she tends to be grouchy, but never mean. With a calm but steady person, will be a amazing companion for anyone. Rosie tries her hardest at what ever she does. Her favorite thing was scratches on her face.”
Rosie is a perfect companion for any home. She is gentle and kind to the horses and humans in her life. We hope to have her placed in a forever home soon where she can feel to love and care of her own family.
A report from Rosie’s volunteer trainer:
Rosie continues to make big strides each week. She now will come to the fence when she sees me coming instead of walking the other way, which is a huge change. We have built a trust relationship and she is more relaxed when we return to pasture because she knows that I won’t let the other horses pick on her while I am there. I’ve gotten comments from other volunteers that they see positive changes in her confidence and behavior. Today she even got after Prince which I have never seen her do!
At SAFE, we realize that our horses have many different gifts to share. As we learn about who they are and what they are capable of, we find that their future may not be as a “riding” horse. Dear Rosie has had a lot of miles on her in the past and from what we can tell they were not always very pleasant. There is a lot of fear around saddling and riding and we have decided to take it easy with her. From what we can tell, she is over 25 years old and it really isn’t worth a ton of stress on her to make her a “riding” horse again.
When Sarah approached me with the idea of doing some liberty training at SAFE with her trainer Nancy, I was very excited. Nancy’s style of liberty training is very positive and sounded like something that could make a big difference in Rosie’s life. Sometimes when horses have been abused or mistreated it is very hard to get them to trust and connect with humans. Abuse can come in many forms, and for a sensitive horse like Rosie, it may have just been people not listening to her or speaking her language. When a horse is confused and feels threatened, it can leave scars on their relationship with humans. Introducing Rosie to something she has never experienced, like liberty training, may be a door that can be opened to show her a different way of being with humans. This might just be the start of a whole new life for Rosie. At the very least, she is finding peace in a space with humans and learning to trust. Here is a what Sarah had to say about Rosie’s first liberty lesson with Nancy:
1st week: As I watched Rosie weave her head back and forth in her stall, I couldn’t help thinking it was a confirmation of what I had already assumed. Rosie was anxious, herd bound and it was going to take forever to get her to trust us. Nancy, my instructor, calmly advised me to wait it out. Thirty seconds later, and to my surprise, Rosie stood still and waited for us.
Nancy is an at liberty instructor. That means the horse has no halter, rope, or tack of any kind. It is a method focused on a partnership between horse and person. A partnership where the horse can say “no”. With the option to freely choose “no” the horse can also freely choose and act upon “yes”. As a person, my role is to act as a fair leader of our little (or big) herd. It is a connection built on trust and respect. Rosie continued to surprise me. I had assumed that she was so attached to her herd mates, that it would be forever before we would make any progress. Well, you know what they say about assumptions…
We started her in the round pen on a lead rope as she called and strained for her mates. With each round she walked and each reward, she calmed a little more. The treats were nice and we soon found that she favored carrots. By the fourth pass around, she was walking calmly and in step with us. Feeling that she had settled down enough, we slipped the halter off. Rosie turned straight back to the gate, took a moment to roll, and then began pacing and calling out again. In my mind, we had lost all of her attention, but Nancy cautioned that Rosie had to work this out for herself. She needed to figure out that being with us and the yummy treats was a better deal than pacing at the gate. Then we started a sort of dance. Rosie would come back, get a treat, and then get right back to pacing at the gate. But as the minutes went by and we backed farther away, she began coming farther to get a treat before going back. Nancy then stood in front of the gate and I took up my post in front of the treats. You could see the wheels in Rosie’s head turning. She couldn’t pace the gate without having to interact with Nancy, and I wasn’t handing out treats as easily. This is where we introduced a payment concept. If Rosie would do something that was asked of her, she would get paid with a treat. Nancy would ask her to walk beside her and I would ask her to stand quietly. We needed to create a space where Rosie could let go of her fear and start seeking the reward. She was free to say “no”, but those carrots were sure tempting.
By the end of our time together, she had walked beside Nancy of her own choosing for small increments and relaxed with the two of us. The horse we put back in her stall was more aware and more relaxed with the people next to her. What a change! Rosie taught me that for us to work together, I need to let go of my assumptions about what she is capable of and give her the chance to let go of her fear.
In the weeks and months ahead, I have a feeling Rosie and I will learn much from each other. We will need to earn each other’s trust and respect in this open dialog at liberty.
2nd week: Wow! Rosie has made so much progress this week! She went from anxiously pacing the gate on Tuesday, to a relaxed mare who calmly checked on the gate by Thursday. She will now walk beside me and stop and turn with me. I was even able to put the “cookie dish” in the middle of the round pen and she learned to leave it alone until I gave her a treat for good “work”. She is also learning very quickly to wait for a treat to be given instead of taking it. Rosie really is a sweet mare who is very responsive and intelligent. I am so glad to be working with her.
I have been working Rosie over the last week to prepare her for riding. It is my belief that Rosie must have been used in some sort of sport where she was asked to be very hot with not a lot of relaxation. This showed in a few ways beginning with her work the ground. She has a very difficult time relaxing at the walk along the unified circle. She was continually pacing into a jig or trot and not connecting to my energy. I did a lot of lightly asking her hind end to yield, making it a little more work for her to continue to trot. Once she came back to the walk, I released and let her move onto the unified circle. I also used the change of direction to help get her into the walk all the while keeping my energy even and low for her to feel my quiet walking presence. We had to do this for quite some time to find a quiet walk but eventually we got there.
We’re also working on not crowding me with her shoulder as we work. This is probably one of her biggest issues right now. She is learning to keep herself upright in the front and beginning to rock some of her weight onto her hind quarters. This is a very difficult thing change but she will gradually getting better. I can see some changes in our sessions and she is retaining a lot of the work we are doing. She is also getting into the routine and is trusting that I don’t ask too much of her and there is always a lot of praise and love for the work she is willing to give me. We will need to take things slow to successfully restart this mare. There are quite a lot of trouble and confusion from her past. That is what is great about this type of horsemanship. We truly have something to offer the horses and they are better because of the patience and peace that is at the core of the work.
Rosie was very easy to saddle and accepted the back cinch without any problems. We worked in the saddle the last two days and today put the bridle on without issue. Another issue we’re working on will be coming along side the fence for mounting. She was very nervous about this and pushes her shoulder into me while I sat on the fence to have her come “pick me up”. I was very sad to see how the act of preparing to mount gave her so much anxiety and she even shook when I gathered the reins and made the motion to mount. It’s going to take time and calm, easy repetition to make this something she can feel relaxed about.
Monday of this week brought a really nice surprise…The changes that we got last week really set in and she was MUCH more calm and relaxed into a nice walk right off the bat. She had a lot of releases and tons of licking and chewing. She was so relaxed with the preparation to mount, I felt comfortable sliding my leg over and sit in the saddle. I let Lori just lead me around for a few easy circles and that was enough for the day. Such an improvement! It also shows that taking things at her pace, not asking for too much too quickly, and tons of groundwork can make riding a uneventful non-stressful experience for our horses. I am hopeful that this gentle approach is the right path for this sweet senior mare.
SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Tess worked with Rosie, our new intake, in the morning groundwork sessions and with Bridgit in the afternoon riding workshop. Tess writes about the clinic and shows a ton of good insight to these two horses and her experience with them. Thank you Tess for your volunteer work with SAFE and for sharing how special these horses are! You’re putting great work into helping find them homes! Here is what Tess has to say about her sessions with Rosie & Bridgit:
When I was paired up with Rosie for groundwork I was very excited to get to work with one of the newer horses. I thought Rosie would be a total breeze to work with, but I was proved wrong within the first 20 minutes of the first session. After 22 years of bad training and being allowed to walk all over her handler she needs lots of retraining. Her tendency was to try to crowd me and brace against me. When trying to bend her head head around she would create a brace and try to back up. After going around in circles backwards for a while she finally got it and was then very soft whenever I asked her to bend. It was to same story with backing. By the second day I really felt a change in her. She wasn’t crowding me as much and was much softer when I asked her to bend or back up. She’s very willing to learn and almost enjoys it when someone tells her to stop doing something and make a better choice. She had a hard time standing still initially (would start weaving and tossing her head or head butting me), but whenever I bumped her to say “stop that, keep your focus on me,” she would immediately start licking and chewing and even occasionally yawning. I’m very excited to see Rosie continue to learn and grow into the amazing horse she has the potential to be!
Bridget was a total rock star for the clinic! I have been working with her for a few months now and and was very excited to be able to ride her in the clinic. She’s done several other clinics with Joel so she’s a total pro at these, but this was my first clinic with Joel and my first clinic ever! I was a little worried about her being able to do everything due to her stifle weakness which we have been working to strengthen, but she didn’t have a single issue. I think I probably learned and grew more than she did. Bridget is such a great horse to learn on. She’s very forgiving and can take a joke. She’s also the kind of horse where you have to ask her to do something properly in order for her to do it properly, but even when I didn’t ask something properly she would still try to figure out what I was asking and wouldn’t get upset or frustrated. The only time I ran into any trouble was on the second day when she was obviously tired (I was tired too) and was somewhat reluctant to move off my leg. After she got it once though I didn’t have any trouble again. By the end of the clinic I felt that we had both really grown as a pair. She was even softer than she was at the beginning of the clinic, and she was already very soft, and she was much more prompt to respond to my aids. I’m so excited for her to become stronger and stronger so we can continue to grow! She is such a joy to work with and be around. She is constantly making me laugh, I have never met a horse with such a sweet and fun personality.
More photos from the clinic:
Prince, Rico, Vida, Rosie, and Ruckus were surrendered to SAFE after their owner passed away unexpectedly from cancer. The five horses were transported without incident to a SAFE foster home, where they will remain until their quarantine period is over. We’ve been told that the four full-sized horses are well started under saddle and some are very easy to ride. They all seem to be very well mannered and reasonably healthy. The five together make up a lovely little herd, and we’ve really enjoyed watching them interact with each other.