Paso Fino cross (ungaited)
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*Stella is suitable for a balanced rider (& tack) weighing up to 140–170 lbs max.
Stella is a young Paso Fino cross mare who was seized by Snohomish County Animal Control in 2014 after she and another horse were found starving and neglected. Stella spent 6 weeks under the care of the county before being released to SAFE. Watching this young horse grow up has been a delight. At first she was shy and quite unsure about humans, but with kind, consistent handling, she’s proven to be friendly, sweet, and easy to catch. We’re most impressed by the bravery and confidence that this horse displays. When faced with something new or strange, she takes a moment to investigate and reassure herself that the scary thing means her no harm. That bravery should suit her well in her future life as a riding horse, as will her smooth and powerful movement. Stella had 45 days training with Joel Conner and returned to Safe Harbor going well at all three gaits. She’s a small thing with a lot of get‐up‐and‐go, and she’s ready for anything! She does not appear to be gaited, so she’s probably not pure Paso.
About five years ago Terry invited me to audit a Buck Brannaman clinic in Enumclaw. I had not heard of Buck, but I was eager to see his style of horsemanship and continue my education. I am so grateful that I took that opportunity because it resulted in a fundamental shift in my approach to horsemanship, and has informed SAFE’s approach to rehabilitating horses. At the end of October, after auditing clinics over the years in Ellensburg, Spanaway, Dayton, and Fort Worth, Stella and I participated in his Horsemanship I class.
We decided to head down the night before the clinic started so that we could get settled and organized. Stella hopped right onto the trailer, and when we arrived at the Tacoma Unit she quickly relaxed into her stall, even when the horses around her were troubled and calling. We got out the night before the clinic for a short ride, and it didn’t take long for her to relax into a great ride. During the clinic it was much the same, as she was relatively untroubled by the other horses in close proximity (25 in total) and always looked to me to keep her out of trouble. She was so unconcerned that she would doze when we took a break from working! By the end of the clinic we were walking united circles just off my leg with no rein, had gotten all four methods of moving the hind quarters, improved our turn around, and met a lot of like‐minded horse people. Stella is a very sensitive horse, and it was so cool to see and feel how relaxed she was in a new and busy environment. It was an invaluable experience, and I was incredibly proud of how well Stella did. No one would have guessed she was a “rescue”-a testament to the strength and support of the SAFE community we are both lucky enough to experience.
In August, Stella and I had the good fortune to travel to Oregon to participate in Joel Conner’s horsemanship clinic at Northwood Farms. Though she hasn’t traveled off the SAFE property often, she was awesome. She loaded right into the last space on the trailer without a problem and handled herself safely for unloading. When we got out to the arena, she settled right in to work. Though she has a tendency to get troubled by the back cinch and stirrups, the exercises both on the ground and under saddle really helped bring her to a place of peace fairly quickly. She was unconcerned about the other horses in the arena, and was safe when they got close. She did get a bit herd bound when she was in her stall, and would call if a neighbor left (this happens at home, too), but it wasn’t an issue while we were working.
Joel came to SAFE this past weekend, and Stella continued to show growth. Her walk‐to‐halt and trot‐to‐halt transitions were consistently solid and soft, and she was less troubled at the canter. This weekend we got a couple of walk‐to‐canter transitions and halt‐to‐canter transitions. However, she’s very sensitive, so it will be important to make sure that she doesn’t start to anticipate these transitions and get tight or start to pull. We also have some exercises that we’ll be working on to improve haunches in. Stella is a talented partner, and she’s certainly ready for her forever home!
Stella has had a busy summer! She is going beautifully in all gaits and has been on a few adventures with Horsemanship Volunteer Casey. This year was the first time Stella competed at the SAFE Benefit Horse Show at Donida Farm. She was an absolute star for everything. She trailered, bathed, and was ridden at the show with absolutely no issues! And she took home several blue ribbons, winning large and competitive classes!
Last weekend Casey and Stella traveled down near Salem Oregon to ride in a clinic with our friend Joel Conner. It was great to see Stella so relaxed, unfazed, and ready to work in an unfamiliar place. We were stuck in hours of traffic on the trip down but Stella was a champ, patiently riding in the trailer over 6 hours. She caught the eye of many auditors and everyone was impressed with her personality, try, and training.
Casey has developed such a good relationship with Stella and the support and consistency of their work has set this mare up for success. Don’t be fooled by her size: she is still a little powerhouse that without direction could be problematic. But with a good rider aboard, this mare shines!
Stella has come a long way from the little filly we met back in 2014. She has grown up into a beautiful and talented young mare. Her size makes finding her a perfect match difficult but we are confident that the right home is out there for her. Meanwhile she is getting excellent training under Casey’s tutelage and is developing many skills that will ensure her a bright future.
Stella and Casey took part in the June Joel Conner Clinic and had this to report about their experience:
I worked Stella during the groundwork sessions the first two days of the Joel Conner clinic. I had noticed that Stella was very troubled about changing eyes, the flag, having things touch her legs, and having the back cinch and saddle strings touch her sides. This trouble was apparent both on the ground and under saddle, and I needed help developing the skills to support her. Over the course of the two sessions, I made gains in making sure I was supporting her from the correct angle, getting a balanced hind quarter movement, and releasing when her feet were truly freed up. Stella is so athletic that she can really move her front quarters and hind quarters, even when she’s unbalanced or braced, which I didn’t fully realize prior to this clinic. Over the course of two days, we made huge gains in flag work and rope work, so we participated in the riding session on the third day. She is much less troubled by the saddle and my legs on her sides, but we still have some work to do. With Stella’s work ethic and my newfound awareness, I’m confident that we’ll work through this trouble pretty quickly. I really enjoy working with Stella because she is so sensitive and responsive to a feel.
Stella is a forward and willing young mare with a lot of try and personality. She is currently in training and going well in her riding work. She stands nicely when tied, she’s good for the vet and farrier, and trailers with no problems. She’s is a good companion to other horses too. She needs more miles on the trails but is a confident girl on her walks around our property. Don’t let her little size fool you, this mare has a lot to offer! She is best suited for a small adult or confident young adult working with a trainer.
thank you to Kino McFarland for this video and to rider Casey A for guiding Stella on this journey!
SAFE owes a very big thank you to volunteer rider Casey for all her efforts and steadfast devotion to Stella through her rehabilitation and training. This little mare is full of life and has a BIG heart. She is more than ready to find her special someone and a family to love her forever! Here is an update from Casey about Stella and their work together:
Stella has been doing very well on the ground and under saddle. After her rehab I noticed some regression in some areas, including being bothered by the flag, particularly when switching eyes, and by things touching her hind legs. These areas of regression make sense because she was stall bound for months, and due to the nature of her injury, we couldn’t really work around her hind legs in a way that would cause much movement. We’ve been working through these issues now that she is sound, and she has shown significant improvement, but I suspect that these areas will need to be continually revisited.
Though there were a few areas of regression, she has really maintained her softness and responsiveness. She is always ready to work and readily cues in to my feel, which is something I’ve always loved about her. All of the exercises that we had worked on prior to her injury have served us well while she was rehabbing and while rebuilding strength in her hind end. There are days where she is more spirited but overall, she is very pleasant and well mannered.
Once again, Stella was a rock star for her rehab process after the injection of her sacroiliac joint. Once we were able to ride her again she was looking a feeling great. We started to add canter work and for a few weeks it was looking better than before. But after some time, she began again to feel unbalanced to the right and swapping the canter lead in the hind. Overall this procedure sadly did not solve her problem. Dr. Fleck said that without a bone scan and the unknown, there is not much we can do to fix the canter. Now she is comfortable to remain a walk/trot horse, so that is the direction we are taking her in. We are working on strengthening her with trot work and exercises over poles.
Stella has been a very good patient during her rehab work! She is calm and relaxed and has taken this all‐in stride. Her volunteer rider, Casey, has been doing canter work as part of Stella’s strength building program. Unfortunately, she is showing some discomfort at the canter. Casey reports that she is swapping her leads and feels unbalanced.
Dr. Fleck came out to examine her in April and thinks that she may have injured her sacroiliac (SI) joint. The only way to confirm this would be to have a bone scan performed, which is an expensive procedure. He said that treatment would be an ultrasound‐guided injection of cortisone into her SI joint, followed by stall rest and a hand‐walking regimen. We chose the option given to us by Dr. Fleck of skipping the bone scan and having her joint injected to see if that solves the problem. She was hauled to the clinic on May 1st for the injection and home the same day.
Stella is a sweet mare. We’re confident that she will once again be a good patient for this go‐round of rehab, and hopeful that we can get her back on the path to soundness.
Stella is now 9 months in recovery from her left hind peroneus tertius tendon rupture. She has, to say the least, been a ROCKSTAR for the entire rehab! She is now back up to full saddle work and Casey, Stella’s volunteer rider, has started to add the canter into their workouts. Once she is cantering regularly we can add turnout into her daily routine and we will be removing the medical hold and offering her again for adoption. Here are some sweet pictures of Stella from our last open house.
Our wonderful volunteer rider Casey has been dedicated to Stella’s rehab work and a tremendous help to getting this mare onto the road to a full recovery! Here is what Casey has to say about the progress she is making with Stella:
After four months of strict stall rest and three months of walk and trot in hand, Stella is officially back to work under saddle! I was a little concerned that there would be some regression after seven months off, but she was great for her first saddling and ride. This week we will be up to 20 minutes of trot under saddle. Stella has handled this set back impressively, especially when considering where she started when she arrived at SAFE Harbor. Throughout this process she has been safe in her stall for the volunteers to clean daily and for her handlers on the ground at the walk and trot. This is a testament to the solid foundation and start she got with Joel Conner and the horsemanship that the training team has been implementing with his help.
On March 24th, Stella came up completely lame on the left hind leg. Dr. McCracken came out and diagnosed her with a peroneus tertius tendon rupture. This tendon is part of the apparatus in the hind limb that coordinates flexion and extension of the stifle and hock. Rupture of this tendon is usually secondary to hyperextension of the hock joint, so we suspect she slipped and injured it while in turnout.
Treatment for this injury is strict stall rest, and Stella has been prescribed 3–4 months minimum. She will have recheck ultrasounds to monitor her progress. So far she is handling stall rest like a champ, and she is enjoying her new neighbors, Sunny D and Shasta, who have moved in next door to keep her company.
Although recovery for this injury is a long process, we are hopeful that she will make a complete recovery and return to being a riding horse when it is safe to do so. She was going so well under saddle, this is a sad setback. She is being a very good patient even though stall rest can be frustrating for most horses, she is taking it in stride.
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!
Just for a little fun, I decided to work Stella in a Dressage saddle this week. She did very well and was comfortable to sit the trot and canter in the English tack. She is learning to keep a nice rhythm and cadence in her gaits. When she gets troubled, it takes just a little re‐balancing work to bring her into a soft gait. Throughout her time under saddle, Stella has kept a positive and willing attitude.
I don’t like to school her every day because it is important that training stays fun for her, especially since she is just over three years old. We keep things light hearted and add in some fun with trot polls, work on smooth transitions and some leg yields. Stella is a quick study and a pleasure to work with and handle. Here are a few photos Jessica took for us working in the English saddle. Stella is ready for adoption and looking for her forever person!
Stella has been a doll to work with in training at Safe Harbor this past moth. I have been her primary rider but recently I asked volunteer rider Casey to ride her a few times a week. Stella was absolutely great for her new rider. This was a really important test to see that her disposition and work ethic doesn’t change with a different rider. Even though our aids maybe slightly different, Stella thought about what was being asked and looked for the correct answers. She was kind and had no attitude about someone else asking her to work for them. This consistency is lovely to have in a young mare and we are all very impressed with her amount of “try” she gives during our training sessions.
Stella is currently being ridden 3 to 4 days a week. She gets a few play days with groundwork or other fun things like bath day! She is a wonderful little mare and going to make someone a great partner. Since she’s still green, she does a little difficulty keeping a steady rhythm and balance but these are things that will improve with time and consistent work. She needs time to grow up so keeping the work light and playful is a good thing. Stella is quickly becoming a favorite at the barn!
Stella is home from 45 days of training with Joel Conner. I got the chance to ride her in the clinic when Joel was at SAFE and it was a blast getting to know this spunky mare. She is a very sensitive and smart girl. She handled being in the arena with ten other horses without too much fuss and we really started to get to know each other well.
It is wonderful to have her so well trained right from the start. She definitely has a go button but some pretty nice breaks too! She is VERY light in the bridle and off the legs. Stella is only 3 1/2 years old and is still extremely green but with the right foundation laid everything from here is easy. It will take time and miles to get her ready for anyone to jump on but for now is a really fun ride for a more intermediate rider. We hope to get her and a friend out on the trails in the next few weeks to see how she does outside of the arena. She is ready to start showing to potential adopters and find the right match for this little sports car! I missed having her around the stables and it was fun to see that she still remembered how I had taught her to put her own halter on. She is such a cutie!
Baby girl is back at Safe Harbor! I would say that we missed her but I’m not sure the neighbors were too happy she was home. She spent the first two days (and nights) calling for her bestie Jewel, who was stalled in the other barn. It was a bit of an adjustment being separated from Jewel but she got through it and is now settling into the routine of the barn. Our volunteer rider Sydney is working Stella as part of her senior class project. She’s started with the basics of groundwork and Stella seems to be remembering the work, so things are going nicely. Stella is pretty sensitive and quite inquisitive in nature, and that can help when teaching her new things. As long as she is prepared for the next steps, she is a smart mare and should be relatively easy to get started under saddle with a rider.
Stella is growing up nicely and has become much more consistent for other people to handle. She is easy to catch in turnout and happy to get groomed. She is still a little shy about letting people handle her feet but that’s continually improving too. She is a very brave filly! When she is unsure, she thoughtfully looks at new things with interest and quickly relaxes when she realizes that the scary thing isn’t dangerous. We are working on bridling a little bit, including having straps pass over her ears, and accepting a bit in her mouth. She’s also been introduced to a surcingle, and is getting more relaxed about having it put on and taken off. All in all, we’re pretty excited about this brave little filly! We may be looking for a foster home for her over the winter where she can spend some more time growing up before we start to think about starting her next year. We’d also consider adopting her as a prospect to someone looking for a young horse who has a clearly defined plan for starting her under saddle when she is physically mature enough to do so.
I have been working on catch and release games with Stella. She is a very timid girl but is coming along nicely. We have been practicing with the halter and her putting her own nose down into it. Finally got someone to hold the camera for me so I can show you all. She is really funny about it now. She see the halter and literally shoves her head into it. She was so afraid of people approaching and trying to put the halter on. Now she is throwing her head in as if to say: “See I did it!” I love her personality!
Stella is learning to pick up her hooves softly without kicking. The rope allows us to desensitize her and get her used to picking up her feet at a distance where the handler can stay safe. She’s come a long way in the two weeks we’ve been working with her. By the end of this session today, I was able to pick up all four and put them down softly.
Here’s SAFE volunteer Lisa doing some expert scratching on the (formerly) shy Stella. Apparently the way to this sweet mare’s heart is through her withers!
I had a chance to visit with Stella and Terry today. Stella is the prettiest little thing!
Terry has started working with Stella at liberty in the arena, giving her the chance to stretch her legs and learn a thing or two about approaching people. Fortunately she loves scritches, and that makes this introduction period a lot easier!
Stella was signed over to SAFE today by Snohomish County Animal Control. She’s a tiny thing, still thin, but otherwise looking much improved from the photos taken of her a few weeks back by SCAC.
Stella was one of two horses seized by SCAC in early May 2014 due to starvation and neglect. She was thin (BCS 1.5/9) with lice and a fungal skin infection. She spent six weeks in the care of SCAC before being signed over to SAFE. Here are photos that were taken about four weeks after she was seized:
She was signed over to SAFE about two weeks later, once her fungal infection was completely cleared up and the vet gave her the okay to travel. Here are some photos taken on the day she arrived:
She’s a little unsure about people, and is reluctant to allow her head to be touched, which makes haltering a little bit of a challenge. But with consistent handling, she should come around quickly. She appears to be a very sweet little filly.
Stella’s Ten Friends:
1. Jerri E.
2. Kastle H.
3. Dave W.
4. Caroline E.
Every horse deserves at least ten friends! Even a small monthly donation can make a difference. Plus, SAFE horse sponsors receive discounts at local businesses through the SAFEkeepers program!