description: 2012 chestnut Quarter Horse mare
type of rescue: owner surrender
intake date: 6/18/2015
adoption date: 12/26/2016
length of time with SAFE: 2 years, 6 months

ADOPTED!! by Julie W of Woodinville WA

Sophie was surrendered to SAFE by her owner with a serious injury from an uncapped t‑post that left a gaping wound in her neck. Miraculously the t‑post did not rupture her esophagus or her jugular vein, but missed both by mere millimeters. She made a full recovery from this injury and now only a slight scar shows where it was. Sophie has been a pleasure to be around since day one. She is bright, friendly, and sweet and easily makes friends with horses and humans alike. By age four, Sophie was ready to be started under saddle, and was sent to Joel Conner to learn to be a riding horse. Unsurprisingly, this bright, good-natured filly was a breeze to start, and in a very short amount of time, she was going beautifully at walk, trot, canter, and even being roped off of. Sophie found her forever home with one of SAFE’s neighbors and volunteers, who has introduced her to a world of fun and adventure on the trails!

Sophie: Grown up and Looking Great!

Sophie has been doing amazing things with her adopter Julie W. We are so happy to share this great video of them working at the Jaton Lord clinic this past weekend. Julie has done a wonderful job and is raising this girl right! They have a fantastic future ahead of them!

Sophie: Adoption Announcement!

Sophie and Julie

We are beyond thrilled to announce the adoption of our young mare Sophie! This special mare has an even brighter future with her new family, Julie and Paul W. They have been volunteers and neighbors to SAFE for the past 5 years. Julie has the experience and capabilities to develop a wonderful partnership with Sophie and we are excited to see what adventures they have together. 2016 was a difficult year for Julie who unexpectedly lost her horse Lemans, her partner of many years. All the experiences he gave and taught to Julie, she will now share and build on with Sophie. The commitment Julie has for her horses is commendable and above all Sophie will now always have the love and dedication she deserves.

While Sophie was in training with Joel Conner, Julie visited and rode her several times. Joel was a huge help to SAFE during this adoption process, working with Julie and Sophie helping to begin their partnership and ensuring this was a good match for them both. Julie’s thoughtfulness and care about this adoption and the future she could provide, made our decision to adopt to her so easy. There are just so many incredible things about this pair and we have no doubts that this is a perfect home for Sophie! Julie had this to say about Sophie and adopting from SAFE:

The moment SAFE moved into SHS I have admired and appreciated the dedication from people who follow their hearts and passion and who make the world a better place. To help each horse with grace, humility, honesty, integrity, and kindness is not easy. Yet every time I arrived at SHS with a horse to ride, I was met with a smile and cheerful inquisitive words. I’m heartbroken that I lost Lemans but I’m humbled and feel honored to bring a SAFE horse home.

I should add that while I didn’t know [Sophie] during her time at SAFE, it’s pretty obvious the volunteers did a great job. I’m in awe every time I load her, going or coming, 2 horse, 3 horse, front, or middle. She is no nonsense and practically loads herself. That in and of itself just makes me giddy each time! 

That day on the street when we chatted and you said I should go look at Sophie, I figured what the heck, I’m always up to ride a new horse but she isn’t anything I’m going to be serious about. What I saw when I got to Joel’s was a youngster who, on spite of a terrible set of circumstances, hadn’t yet been burdened with any baggage from people… yet. What I felt when I rode her was a willingness to learn and grow and a curiosity about how to get along with people. We couldn’t steer that well but dang-it she was honest and kind, w/t/c after just 16 rides. 

 As with any young horse, this is ours to ruin or ours to build upon and it wasn’t a responsibility I took lightly. I talked with Joel some about my concerns. He told me a story that had been told to him… imagine a horse has a bowl of stones. They draw from those stones whenever they are unsure, learning, or making choices. White stones are good experiences that allow a horse to trust. Black stones are bad experiences. Our goal is to have so many white stones in the bowl that when the horse draws one, in a moment of confusion or stress, it’s usually a white one. Eventually the horse will draw a black one, maybe we over exposed them or did something to cause them to doubt us, but they have drawn so many white stones already, and will draw more in the future, that it all works out and a black stone isn’t what sticks with them. I know Joel worked really hard to get a bunch of white stones in Sophie’s bowl and I’m grateful to him for trusting me with her and giving us both the tools to saddle up cold and ride off.

 Julie had this to say about Sophie’s first trail ride and having her at home:

The sun was out … and I wanted to ride! Paul rode the old guy [Sonny] we are borrowing. [We] had cars, kids on dirt bikes, and crazy Xmas lawn stuff we had to get past and she was a rock star! Seriously just some snorting, a few trots, working the bit, and a slight shy at a giant rock. Long droopy rein most of the ride. She is going to be awesome! I’m so totally beyond excited! Best part about the ride… her mouth got quiet when she got a bit more mentally comfortable. What worried her on the way out wasn’t an issue on the way back. She even walked out and wanted to lead a little bit and when following she got comfortable with some distance between her and the horse she was behind. I’m just so over the moon!

 Sitting outside on a water trough listening to horses eat after doing chores. Sophie keeps coming to check me out. My heart us full!

 We wish them the best and many happy trails! Here are a few photos of their first trail ride and at home together:

Training Update: Sophie

Sophie is just reaching about 40 rides this week in her training with Joel Conner. We were all very excited when Joel surprised us and brought Sophie over to ride in the clinic here at Safe Harbor. She looked AMAZING and while he explained about her “baby stuff” that he was helping her work out, from a spectators point a view, he has this mare looking great!

While Joel said we could most likely manage to ride her here at home since she had completed the first 30 days with no real major issues, we asked if he can keep her for the full 90 days of training. These first rides are very important in the foundation work and knowing that Sophie has a ton of athletic ability and a very bright future, it is important we set her up with the best possible start to a great future.

There are many many times that I have heard Joel talking about SAFE and our program and to be honest I often get goose bumps when he explains to people attending the clinics about the work we are all doing. It is inspiring how he “gets it”, understands our mission, the work and our core values. I was very impressed when I heard him talk about Sophie. He was explaining our adoption policies and the importance of finding forever homes for the horse. Understanding that none of the horses deserved what happened to them, now that they are here at SAFE they should be adopted to homes that will be 100% committed to them for the future.

It is very excited for us to be working with someone like Joel who is both a gifted horseman but also has so much heart for horses. He wants to see the horses in well matched forever homes. Joel really likes Sophie and sees the potential in this young mare, he also knows that she ended up in a bad situation in her past and now deserves a wonderful future. She is a very special horse and she will have a great future because of SAFE and Joel’s work.

Checking in with Joel this week as she returned to work at his facility in Ellensburg he said: “She is doing great!  Just learning more and more everyday.  Working more on the collection trying not to do to much as too get her mouthy.” We are all excited to see what a great horse she becomes and seeing her as she finished out her 90 days of training at the first of the year.

The Evolution of Sophie

sophie_09_29_2016_07Today Sophie was officially upgraded from a Prospect to a Riding Horse. Admittedly, this is a fairly minor development in Sophie’s career, but quietly behind the scenes, Sophie is making a big impact on how we think about horses here at SAFE.

As a SAFE horse, Sophie is what most of us would consider a Rescue Horse. A near-death experience was what turned Sophie into a Rescue Horse: she was impaled in the neck by an uncapped t‑post. The only way this filly was going to get the vet care needed to save her life was by being taken in by SAFE, and fortunately we got to her in time. Sophie impressed us from Day One with her gentle, good nature, which was fortunate because it made cleaning and caring for her gaping wound much easier. In time, the wound healed, and now, only a small scar remains as a reminder of the avoidable injury which almost cost Sophie her life.

So, an injury that happened in a less than a minute, plus the four days it took for her owner to call for help…and for the rest of her life, Sophie is a Rescue Horse. Nothing in that brief interlude of time was her fault. The t‑post that she was injured on wasn’t just uncapped, it was leaning into her pen at the perfect angle to impale any large animal who happened by. Sophie got hurt by a great big dose of stupid followed by a healthy slug of irresponsibility. She can’t be blamed for what happened to her.

And isn’t that true of just about every horse that comes through our doors here at SAFE? Can any of our horses be blamed for what happened to them, for the event or series of events that landed them in the care of a rescue? Of course not. But from that moment on, they’re not just race horses, or trail horses, or Curly Horses, or sport horses…they’re also Rescue Horses.

Being a Rescue Horse has its ups and downs. On the plus side, being a Rescue Horse beats the heck out of being a Hungry Horse, or a Frightened Horse, or a Dying Horse. And we LOVE our Rescue Horses! We admire their strength and beauty, we celebrate their accomplishments, and we promise them that they will be safe for the rest of their lives. Here at SAFE, we work with our supporters to give these horses every advantage possible: the best veterinary and farrier care; compassionate and comprehensive training; lovely hays and tasty tasty grain. They are cared for every day by people who treat them kindly, people who notice when they hurt themselves. I can say without reservation that being a SAFE Rescue Horse is a pretty great thing to be.

But let’s be honest: there is a stigma that comes from being a Rescue Horse. They’re seen as damaged goods, as somehow lesser than other horses. For some, adopting a Rescue Horse is an act of charity…which is a wonderful thing to do, no question! But what if that wasn’t the best reason to adopt a SAFE horse? What if people adopted SAFE horses because most of them are exceptionally well trained animals? Not because of the days in which they were neglected or abused, but because of the months that they spent in SAFE’s training program. No one should have to be defined by the misery of their past! I think Robyn Hitchcock summed it up best when he wrote “It doesn’t matter what you WAS, it’s what you IS, and what you IS is what you ARE.

So back to Sophie…

After Sophie’s injury healed, she was put out to pasture with a couple of mares to give her time to grow up. Last May, she came back to Safe Harbor and started groundwork training. As expected, this brave and easy-going young mare was delightful to work with in hand. By September, she was ready to take the next step, and jumped into trainer Joel Conner’s horse trailer and headed for his ranch in Ellensburg. Days later, Sophie became a riding horse. Joel says she the easiest SAFE horse he’s ever started. Not only is she physically well suited to the type of riding she’s doing, she’s got a terrific mind and an amazing temperament. And she was thoroughly prepared to start her under-saddle training by all of the groundwork that was done at SAFE before she went to him. Joel is riding her walk, trot, lope, and he can also swing and throw a rope while sitting on her back. RUMOR HAS IT that Sophie met Ricky Quinn Jr a few weekends ago and that Ricky was hugely impressed after riding her and was completely surprised to learn that she was a Rescue Horse! (I call it a rumor because no one has coughed up a photo of this yet…I am more than ready to redact this if a photo turns up!)

Seeing the amazing horse that Sophie has become gets us SO excited about our training program here at SAFE. Our goal is to help all of our riding horses reach a level of skill where folks looking to buy a horse will seek out a SAFE horse because of the quality of their training. We are so fortunate for the guidance that our volunteer riders receive from Joel Conner, who comes to SAFE at least three times each year to help us develop our horsemanship skills. All of this work is done for the love of the horse, to set them up for success, and get them ready for wonderful and safe new lives.

And finally, take a look at Sophie (click the first image for a slideshow):

Saddling Session at the Joel Conner Clinic

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:

Sophie: Training Update and Photos!

Sophie_07_06_2016_06Sophie is doing wonderfully in her training and preparation to be started under saddle. Volunteers have been introducing her to tack and doing groundwork with her so she’ll be ready to start training with Joel Conner in August. She has been a doll for everything and we expect that it will be a very easy start since she is so level headed and accepting of new things.

Sophie had a photo shoot with Jessica Farren last week. She’s a stunning young mare and growing like a weed! We expect her to mature at over 15 hands and fill out to be a good sized riding horse. We are exited to see where the future takes this girl and to see her working under saddle the arena soon!

SEE SOPHIE IN ACTION at the 2016 SAFE Benefit Horse Show, July 30–31, 2016, at Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish. Click here for details about the show!




Sophie: Baby is growing up!

Sophie had her first dental float this week! We were able to confirm that she is coming four years old this year. One baby cap came off during the float and one wolf tooth was extracted with no trouble. She needs a little work with needles for sedation but wasn’t too difficult. Her teeth looked good with no major issues.

Dr. McCracken remarked how big she has gotten since she came in last summer. She is filling out a bit and we think she may grow a bit more! We will have to get the stick out and measure her to see how tall she is currently. She also looks to have some white specks coming through in her summer coat so we may have a pretty red roan on our hands soon!

Sophie was out with Emmy at foster this winter and both came back into Safe Harbor this Monday. After she is settled into the routine we will start her back into groundwork training. Our plan is to send her to Joel Conner in July for a professional start of 60–90 days. She is very sweet girl and once she is started I don’t think she will stay long in the rescue. She is going to be a very nice horse!

Emmy, Sophie and Annabelle are turned out for the winter!

Emmy is getting a winter turnout with her new friends Sophie and Annabelle. Sophie and Annabelle have been at the farm for about a month now and welcomed Emmy into the herd. They are all getting along well and even the goats get to hang with the girls!

We are hoping that some rest and time out will help Emmy make a full recovery and we will be taking a look at her soundness again in the late spring. They are all very happy and enjoying the big field and space to be horses. We wanted to share with you these cute photos our wonderful foster mom Jackie sent us:


Sophie Update

Volunteer trainer Laura McCorkle has been spending some time with Sophie over the last few months. Here is a little about what Laura has to say bout this young mare: 

Sophie is a lovely, willowy, long-legged teenager — with all the good and sometimes aggravating qualities that implies! She is athletic and willing to try new things, but like most teenagers, she can be a bit short on attention span — always checking her texts, saying hello to friends, or being drawn by some shiny object on the horizon. She’s also pretty sure she already knows EVERYthing and doesn’t need you telling her to settle down and pay attention, or put more effort into the tasks at hand.…On the other hand, with some patience, effort, and firmness you can get her attention and break through the layer of attitude to a quiet, friendly, companionable horse who is a good learner and truly enjoys working with and for her handler. Once she aligns with you mentally, she is quiet and LOVES making you happy. 

The other day we were doing some Liberty work in the arena, and at first she was very focused on wanting to simply run back and forth along the fence line by the barn — calling to her buddies and really seeing me as simply an annoyance. I placed some obstacles along the fence to get her attention and make her pay a bit more attention to her feet — and also, frankly, just to see what she’d do! In her state of distraction, she knocked a couple of poles and a small chunk of log — clumsy and out-of-whack, not seeming to know or care were her legs were. Then she came to the barrel I’d placed on it’s side, directly in her path. She didn’t even SEE it until her front feet were about 3 inches from it — she stopped dead with all 4 feet together like she was standing on a circus ball, her neck and shoulders stretched out over the barrel. She teetered there for a couple of seconds, then got a very self-satisfied look on her face, and SO EASILY picked herself up and popped over the barrel as if she weighed no more than a butterfly.…no awkwardness, no fear, no overjumping, no straining — just an elegant little bounce and she was off! The next time she came to the barrel, she decided to go around it, but there was not a bit of fear or avoidance — she was clearly just smart enough to have figured out it was simply EASIER that way. She is going to make a really nice little horse for somebody!”

Our brave Sophie!

Apparently nobody told Sophie that horses are usually afraid of tarps! Our brave little girl walked over the tarp before Terry could even finish spreading it out on the ground! And it only took about 30 seconds to convince her it was haute couture. She’s amazing.



Sophie at the Open House

Sophie was at her charming best this weekend, meeting and greeting at the SAFE Open House.

New intake: Sophie

We have a new horse to introduce. This is Sophie. She’s a 2 year old TB/QH filly that was surrendered to SAFE this morning. She sustained a bad injury to her neck about 3–4 days ago when she was impaled on an uncapped t‑post. The wound was not treated, leaving a gaping hole. Once we got her to Safe Harbor, she was seen by Dr McCracken, who was utterly amazed at how lucky this filly is to be alive. She told us that had the t‑post gone in a few millimeters lower, it would have punctured her jugular. Had it gone a few mms deeper, it would have punctured her esophagus. Dr McCracken cleaned the wound out as best she could, and she thinks it should heal fairly well as long as we keep her quiet until it’s built up some granulated tissue. We’re all pretty much head-over-heels for this little girl. She is the sweetest and BRAVEST horse in the world. Really something special. We’re keeping a close eye on her to make sure that her healing goes the way it should, and keeping fingers crossed that there are no complications.

Sophie was named by a former SAFE volunteer and current SAFE supporter who won one of the “Name a SAFE Horse” opportunities at Heart this year. She came out to Safe Harbor to meet the new girl and decided that Sophie would fit her very well!