description: 1989 chestnut Saddlebred mare
registered name: Impromptu DHF
type of rescue: Snohomish County Animal Control seizure
intake date: 3/3/2008
date of passing: 5/7/2014
length of time with SAFE: 6 years, 2 months

Summer was a lovely chestnut mare with a flaxen mane and tail. She was one of several horses seized by Animal Control in 2008 as part of a large neglect case, and the very fact that she survived is a testament to her strength & will to live. She was extremely sweet and quiet, loved to be groomed and scratched. Summer spent 6 years with SAFE, available for adoption as a companion, and along the way, she made many friends at the foster homes where she was cared for. When Summer’s arthritis began to cause her discomfort and difficulty getting to her feet, we let her go peacefully, surrounded by many people who loved her.

Saving Summer

Summer -- photo by Karen Wegehenkel

Summer — photo by Karen Wegehenkel

We said goodbye to a dear old friend this week. Surrounded by adoring friends, at the farm she’s called home for the past few years, Summer was humanely euthanized. Summer’s health had been slowly failing over the past six months or so, and she was starting to have a great deal of difficulty getting to her feet and walking steadily. Our vet gave her a thorough examination and determined that the neurological symptoms of unsteadiness in her hind end were likely being worsened by severe arthritis in her neck. Once this became clear, those closest to her, including her wonderful foster family, agreed that it was better to let her go than to risk having her fall or suffer in any way. As always, it was a difficult decision but when the time came, Summer made it clear to all of us that she was ready to go. Her passing was peaceful and dignified.

As sad as it is to say goodbye, it’s given us the chance to celebrate Summer’s life and recognize what an amazing mare she was. Summer came to us from a horrific situation of neglect and starvation; at age 19 she was the oldest of the horses to come out of that situation alive. She came to us rail thin, riddled with parasites, and with about half her coat missing due to lice and rain rot. Her lice infestation drove her nuts, and she absolutely loved to be scratched and rubbed to relieve the itching. Grooming put Summer right into a trance, so much so that you had to be careful she didn’t fall down out of sheer ecstasy and relief.

With proper care, Summer blossomed into a chestnut beauty with a shining coat and long, elegant neck. She would struggle with keeping weight on for the rest of her life, and her severe sway back sometimes looked alarming, but she was healthy and happy with a true appreciation for life. Once she was fully recovered from starvation, we found out she was well broke to ride. Not only did she compete and win ribbons at the SAFE Horse Show, she could also tote little kids around for fun when we asked her to. She had many significant equine friends both at SAFE and at her foster homes over the years, forming some very strong attachments to both the mares and geldings in her life.

As a companion horse, Summer spent most of her time in foster care, and she made lasting impressions everywhere she went. Her foster mom Brenda K sent us donations to buy treats for Summer, years after she’d moved on from her care. Summer became the companion to an older gelding named Mac in her second foster home, and she and Mac were inseparable. Mac always watched out for his friend Summer, and she seemed to feel very safe when they were together. The night that Mac passed away, Summer stayed by his side and stood watch over him all night to make certain he was not disturbed.

SAFE horse Buckwheat became Summer’s companion at her foster home after Mac passed away, and the two of them remained together for several years after. Bucky was a little guy and he seemed a little worried that Summer might take a bite out of him when she tried to engage him in grooming or rub up against him. Nevertheless the two were great friends, with Summer taking the dominant role over her older male companion, as a great lady often does.

Summer and Lucky

Summer and Lucky

Summer spent her final years at Jackson Valley Ranch where she was adored by legions of little kids learning beginning horsemanship and riding. There she had another great friend, a rescued gelding named Lucky that the folks at JVR called “her husband.” Lucky was given the chance to say goodbye to Summer after she passed, and he nickered sweetly to her, which left everyone in tears. Summer’s ashes will be spread at Jackson Valley Ranch so that she will always be part of their lives.

There are so many people we want to thank for making the last six years of her life so wonderful. The volunteers of SAFE who nursed her back to health and gave her a second chance at life. Brenda K (and Miss Figgy!), who cared for her at her first foster home and never forgot her. To the amazing Carol and Steve A, who fostered Summer and Bucky for two years at their expense, and who remained vital parts of both their lives to the very end. Carol and Steve took care of the cost of having Summer cremated after she passed, in order to give her the dignity and respect they felt she deserved. Her current foster family at Jackson Valley Ranch opted to contribute to Summer’s cremation in order to have her ashes returned to their farm. The care that Lisa and her family provided for Summer over the past two years was incredible, and I think she felt she had found her forever home with people who truly loved her.

Summer touched so many hearts during her time as a SAFE horse, and she was probably the toughest, strongest survivor we have ever had the pleasure to know. We will never forget you, Summer. Rest in peace!

Thank you to Carol and Steve A who donated $500 in memory of Summer and Bucky during GiveBIG yesterday.

Summer update

Summer in summer

Summer: the ol’ girl keeps on kickin’! Kyle dropped two additional blankets off for the grande dame so her foster caretakers can mix and match as needed. Kyle says that Summer came out to meet her just as bright eyed as she imagined she can be. We’ve been very concerned about Summer over the past few months, since she has not been eating well, and she’s had a few scary episodes of reluctance to get up. In order to keep her weight up, we have adjusted her diet to include more of those tasty carbs that were taken away from her due to her Cushing’s. It’s not ideal, of course, but sometimes you have to consider which is worse, the disease or the cure? We would rather see her enjoying her food and eating it all than see her losing weight and leaving her food uneaten. Fortunately her groom tells us that Summer is eating much better and she is being carefully watched for any signs of trouble.

Summer is very well loved and pampered, and everyone involved with her care wants to see her remaining happy and comfortable. Truthfully, she may not be with us for a whole lot longer — the neglectful abuse that Summer suffered at the hands of her former owner was horrific, and tragically, it’s likely to have taken years off her life. Nevertheless she is a remarkably strong mare to have survived at all, and as long as there is a spark in her eye, we will keep caring for her and honoring that survival.

Healing thoughts for Summer…

Please think good thoughts for Summer…she went down in her pasture this morning and for a while it didn’t look like she was going to get back up. Thankfully she’s up on her feet again and our vet is on the way out to see her. We’ll have an update later today, meanwhile we are hoping and praying that she is okay!

UPDATE: Summer has been seen by the vet and everything seems normal. She was a little bit nervous when Dr Penny examined her, but not enough to really be concerned about. She might just have been extra tired this morning, or feeling a bit off…either way, she’s doing fine now. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on her for the next few days, but it looks like she’s okay.

Summer, looking good!

We were delighted to receive these photos and updates from our friends at Jackson Valley Ranch who foster Summer: 

Here is Summer out in the round pen for a little lite exercise. Everyone here (staff & horse owners) all know Miss Summer, and stop by her stall/paddock often just to say hello. She is the “Grand Dame” of Jackson Valley Ranch, as well as the S.A.F.E. foster program.


Here is Summer being groomed and well cared for by a volunteer named Erin Reed. She comes in 3 or 4 times a week to groom Summer, take some walks, and talk to her very caringly.



Our last photographic subject from our Karen Wegehenkel photoshoot is our beautiful old lady Summer. Summer and her buddy Buckwheat have recently returned to SAFE after almost 2 years at a wonderful foster home in Auburn. Both horses are elderly and are being treated for Cushing’s Disease, but they came home looking like a million bucks!

Click on the first image to view photos as a slideshow:

Summer Update from Dec 26 2010

Summer is doing well. She continues to be on pergolide, but she’s doing well at 1mg. Her coat is slightly longer and thicker than last year but I think that’s more a reflection of the kind of winter we’re supposed to have. She’s holding her weight and is continuing to look really good. My vet was out in Dec and he’s really pleased with how she’s doing. She’s been on Adequan for about a year and it seems to be helping her. She used to have a lot of popping in her neck, which has disappeared since she started on the injections. 

I noticed a few months ago that Summer would sometimes almost fall down when she started to doze off in the middle of the afternoon. I didn’t think too much of it, but I mentioned it to the vet when he was out a few weeks ago. He said she has some calluses on her front legs from where she may be falling down, which he thinks may be due to sleep deprivation. He suggested that we lower the stall wall between Bucky and Summer, which we did. Since then, she has started to lie down in her stall, and she seems much more relaxed. Apparently she just needs to be able to keep an eye on him during the night.

I know I’ve been sleep deprived, and it’s no fun. I had no idea that it could impact horses too. If anyone else has experience with this, please let me know.

Summer Update from May 16 2010

Update from foster home:

Summer continues to do well. She and Bucky have become good friends and they have a nice routine established.

Summer reminds me quite a bit of a wonderful older horse we had many years ago. I found Wallstreet when he was 18 and I wanted a very calm and reliable mount for my husband, who was just learning to ride. Over the next 8 years, we successfully showed him at local shows — he didn’t win but he was always in the ribbons. He not only got my hubby hooked on horses, but he gave dozens of young kids their first ride. He was perfect with small kids. Summer has many of the same qualities, and could really blossom in the right environment.

My wish for Summer is to find a wonderful loving forever home. She is very affectionate and would love to have a family of her own to bond with. She’s very gentle and good with kids. While we very much enjoy fostering her, and will continue to foster her, she really deserves a permanent family of her own to pamper her. She can give so much back in return. She is a very special girl with a huge heart. She deserves someone very special.

Summer Update from Feb 7 2010

Update from foster home:

Hi fans of Summer,

I wanted to let everyone know how Summer is doing. We’ve been fostering her since late Sept. I needed a companion to my wonderful 30 year old gelding, Mac, and he and Summer really hit it off.

We lost Mac in mid January. He had been part of our family for 19 years and we miss him terribly. We are so fortunate to have many many happy memories of trail rides and adventures, but saying goodbye to an old friend is never easy.

I was so touched at how Summer handled Mac’s passing. She understood that he was gone, but she wanted to stay by him. We left her in our arena over night and she stood guard over Mac. She did not want to leave his side the next morning.

Summer is a very social horse and would never be happy by herself. Bonnie and Jaime were very understanding of our situation, and Bonnie was able to bring Bucky out to keep her company. Bucky is a little cutie, and he settled right in. They’ve been together for about 3 weeks now and they’re getting along really well. They are quite the Odd Couple — Summer is very tall and towers over Bucky. He follows her everywhere, and they enjoy eating together at the hay bunk.

Summer is a very special girl. My farrier and vet just love her. Her ground manners are wonderful, and she loves being rubbed and loved on. She is a very sweet and gentle mare, and we really enjoy having her in our barn.

Summer Update from Jan 20 2010

Update from foster home:

Summer is doing really well. She’s gained a little weight since she’s been here, and she looks great. When she first arrived, I taped her at 1150 pounds, and she’s now 1170. This morning after I let her out of her stall, she went down for a roll and got up and bucked and ran around the dry lot three times. She was feeling especially good! She has the most amazing trot. She is the first saddlebred that I’ve really spent time with, and she has a beautiful way of moving.

Summer Update from Dec 30 2009

I recieved an email today from Summer’s former owner, which answers most of our questions about Summer’s history before Jean:

I owned Impromptu as a younger mare as well as her daughter Paprika’s Mark. I was horrified to hear and read of her life the last decade. I bought her daughter from the breeder to be my show mare (Pinto circuit) and then went back and bought Promptu as a broodmare and riding mare. She was a big sweetheart and one of the first Saddleseat horses I’d ridden. She wasn’t the best for that.….…… she was too heavy on the forehand and her neck set lower but she would try her heart out and was a safe riding mare. I lived in Snohomish and would take her to the ride nights at the fairgrounds in Monroe. I bred Promptu to my cremello Saddlebred stallion (one of the early known and marketed ones in the breed) Gold On Q. He is how I met Jean. She responded to my ad and brought Gypsy to breed to him. Gypsy was in fine shape at that time with good weight ‚clean culture, etc and stayed at my place for that week with the foal by her side. She did have an older trailer but the horses were in good condition and the filly very cute. I traded Promptu (in foal) to another lady for a 5 gaited mare that I later sold when we found out we were coming to Texas. I brought Paprika’s Mark and Gold On Q as well as 3 Morgans. That first summer Jean called me here and told me Gypsy had foaled and also that she was excited to have finally bought Promptu. She’d fallen in love with Promptu but could not afford her at what I was asking at the time. ($3500. what I had paid for her). I guess the other lady had decided to keep Promptu’s palomino foal and let her go since she said Promptu was chewing her barn down. She never did that at my place and that lady had a gorgeous facility so I have no idea why she was chewing but anyway, Jean got Promptu.

This was the last I heard of Promptu until I saw her on Petfinder. it is devastating to hear of any horse abused but one of your own is especially horrible. I am glad to know that she did survive her years there and now has a safe place with good care and attention. I wish I was closer to go see her again. She is a beautiful mare and so kind hearted. She had nothing but the finest care until Jean. Maybe that is why she made it? That and she was efficient for such a big mare. I remember sticking her at 16.1, her two daughters were a little smaller (Sonnet and Paprika) but better conformation. Reading of her issues getting in the trailer reminds me of a time with her. She could be fine to haul or reluctant to get in. One night we took her to the Monroe fairgrounds to ride. When we got there, we unloaded the other two and our trainer went in to get Promptu for me. Somehow she got upset and started scrambled around and bashed him into the back wall. The next thing we saw was Promptu coming out of the rig and him slumped to the floor. She had knocked him unconscious, broken ribs and bruised his spleen. We had no idea why she would have done that but we did say it was good because I am very petite and she might have crushed me. Later that night she got back in fine and never a problem. Sometimes you just never know about even the most gentle ones.

I thought I would take the time to write about some history of Promptu. I hope she finds a good home but I know it is difficult with the seniors with issues. At least, she will never have another hardship again. I have an old lady here as well as two I have taken in/back and our three dogs were rescues that I could not place so kept. Bless you all for what you do.

Summer Update from Nov 7 2009

I wanted to give everyone a quick update on Summer. We’ve been fostering Summer for the last six weeks and she’s doing really well. We lost our wonderful 29 year old TWH mare, Abby, in mid September, which left our Mac as an “only” horse. Mac is 30, and he’d never been alone before. He and Abby had been together for almost 20 years, and he was missing his friend terribly and was starting to get a little depressed. My vet suggested that we look for a rescue horse to foster or adopt, and we found Summer.

Summer and Mac are now quite an item. They have really bonded. Mac is much happier having a friend, and Summer has settled in very well. She’s looking very good, and she’s gotten rave reviews from my farrier and my vet. She has absolutely wonderful manners and is a doll to handle.

We feel very fortunate to have found Summer and we’re very grateful to SAFE for the opportunity to have Summer in our barn. She has really been the sunshine that we were looking for to help Mac out.


Summer Update from Sept 21 2009

Photos of Summer in her foster home:

Summer Update from June 17 2009

Summer had a visit from the vet today. Dr. Page thought she looks great!

Summer Update from June 4 2009

Update from Summer’s foster mom, Brenda:

Summer is doing great I just love this mare. She needs a job with young horses teaching them the ropes. Figi has learned so much from her. I will have to get a video of Summer teaching Figi about personal space and making her back half the field it is so funny.

Summer Update from Mar 21 2009

Summer under saddle:

Here’s a video as well. She did great with my son. He has never rode a horse all on his own I always lead him but they did great together.  She is go good with the kids. Next time he rides I will use the small saddle and I might put a snaffle on but she did ok with the rope halter. I also had her feet done last Friday and she was wonderful in all the blowing wind and then we had to chase the school bus down the street. My son hardly ever rides the bus but did on Friday I had Summer and was running up the driveway and horse shoer was yelling at the bus and it stopped at the neighbors. Summer was so excited but took it all in and was fine. My horse shoer just loves her and was very thankful he was working on Summer and not Figi! 

Summer Update from Mar 6 2009

Summer Update from Feb 17 2009

Summer getting her itchy spots scratched, she loves that!

Summer Update from Feb 4 2009

Summer gets a haircut!  She is such a nice horse. I have never had a problem catching her and today she did not even blink at the clippers and let me clip her with out moving.

Summer Update from Feb 2 2009 and Feb 4 2009

 I promise I wont always post so many pictures but she is just so dang sweet. She is already warming up to us.

Here she is with my boys.

Summer is doing great. She is eating good and her and Figi are getting along just great. Summer had a visitor yesterday and she might be contacting safe!!!! Even if she does not decide to adopt her she knows lots of people and will be a great cheerleader for Summer. Here is a short video of Summer and Figi.

Summer Update from Jan 26 2009

Summer came home from Laura’s on Saturday, just in time for our little mini-snowstorm. I had her in a stall and I turned her out in the arena with Cedar yesterday for some turnout time. WOW did she play hard! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes…she was galloping, doing sliding stops, bucking, and just having a good old time. Both her and Cedar were playing together and then both of them started doing that loud snorting thing horses do when they are very excited. It was like a little chorus:

“Snort SNORT!”


Anyway, she is feeling great. I think I might actually put a saddle on her and see how she does just walking and maybe a little trotting. She’s quite sound, she’s just got that poor arthritic neck, but you would only know it if you had to watch her put her head down. It obviously doesn’t affect her ability to run around and play! 

Summer Update from Dec 2 2008

Summer is doing really well, and I can see that she feels much better now that she is on the Cushings medications. Her weight is great and she’s a great babysitter to the weanlings. I’ve also seen her gallop across the pasture a couple of times, so she is bright and perky. Her manure is still soft, but I switched her to Timothy hay and the most of her diarrhea has cleared up.

I just went outside to turn a couple of the horses out into the back pasture since it is such a nice day out. Summer was in the neighboring pasture and she got really excited and started galloping around the pasture. She did 3 or 4 laps and not only that, she threw in some really good bucks! Now I know for sure that the Cushings medication is helping her, she has NEVER done that before! I wish I had my video camera!

Here are a couple of photos of her from the summer. She is looking so good!

Summer Update from July 1 2008

Photos from the summer:

Summer Update from Apr 27 2008

Summer after 6 weeks in SAFE’s care:

Summer Update from Apr 12 2008

Summer after one month in SAFE’s care:

Summer intake photos

Summer Background

Summer is one of the Jean Elledge horses from Snohomish County that SAFE has been quietly caring for since last March. Now that the case has ended and all the horses have been signed over to SAFE, it is time for her story to be told.

Summer, whose registered name is Impromptu DHF and whom Jean called “Tutu”, is a mare who’s history we would love to know. Extremely well bred, by a famous Saddlebred stallion named Chairman of the Board, she is a striking rich chestnut mare with a flaxen mane and tail. Tall and regal, she stands 16.3 hands. But her body has been ravaged from years of neglect from Jean Elledge and being used as a “palomino foal machine” for years. I am told that Summer’s babies were also quite prized, and sold well. The mark of her quality is quite evident on Kokomo, her last foal, and the first Elledge horse from the seizure to find a home. We wonder if prior to ending up in Jean’s clutches, if Summer had once been a fancy show horse — it is easy to imagine that she might have been.

When we first met Summer she had been at the Enumclaw auction for 2 weeks and had not fared well. She refused to load, and we had to use panels to squeeze her into the trailer. She was a pitiful sight, with bald patches and chunks of hair falling out all over her, and areas where her skin was open and bleeding. She was crawling with lice, and so miserablly itchy that she was rubbing herself raw on anything she could find. She was skin and bones, and at some recent point must have been wearing a blanket that did not fit, and had dug a wound into her withers that was still open and oozing. Her feet were horrible, not just long and chipped but with cracks that ran vertically to the coronet band all around them. She walked slowly and painfully. But her eye! Her eye was so soft, and so sweet, and she seemed to know we were there to help her. Unlike the other horses, most of whom were unhandled and untrusting, Summer was a horse that had known a kind hand at some point in her life. And in fact, in the weeks after the seizure as several people contacted me that knew Jean and the horses there — it was “Tutu” that everyone asked about. Tutu was ridden by many a young girl on the trails, being one of the few horses that was broke and one that Jean frequently lent out for riding in exchange for work. Was she still alive? At first, not even we knew…and because of her age, and the fact that all the older horses on the Carnation property had died, we assumed she could not be. But Summer is a tough mare, and she knew how to protect her food and herself, and somehow she survived.

True to her name, when Summer arrived so to did the real Summer emerge. Her weight came back, and her coat grew in over the bald areas and the old, fungus and lice encrusted hair gave way to a gleaming, beautiful chestnut coat. However, she still moved slowly and stiffly, and most concerning was the fact that she labored to bring her head down to graze or eat her hay, her neck popping and cracking as she slowly lowered it in stages. Valerie started donating Chondroprotect injections for her and Dr. Hannah donated her time for bodywork and chiropractic injections, all with the hope of easing her painful cervical arthritis.

This August we noticed that Summer was growing a winter coat, long before the other horses had, and we began to suspect Cushings. A recent test confirmed that she has the disease, and she just started Pergolide. She is still getting her monthly injections and bodywork, and whitewolf (Crystal), has kindly donated some joint supplements for her. She still moves stiffly, but she is holding her own, and is a tough horse for sure.

One thing is for sure about Summer — she has captured all of our hearts. Summer is available for adoption to a very special home and her adoption fee has been waived. She has had her shots, a dental (and her teeth are still in good condition), and is microchipped. She’s on a daily wormer and will require Pergolide for the rest of her life, and comes with a 3 month supply. She will need to be blanketed in the winter, and be kept on a low-carb diet as she is a founder risk with the Cushings, although she bears no signs of previous founder. If the right home cannot be found, she will stay with SAFE until she is ready to leave this world. Currently, she resides with me in Monroe.