2014 chestnut Quarter Horse gelding
type of rescue: Owner Surrender
intake date: 8/10/2017
date of passing: 4/1/2020
length of time at SAFE: 2 years, 7 months
Valor and his five herdmates (including his dam, Nashville) were surrendered to SAFE by their owner, who was no longer physically or financially able to properly care for them. The horses were in decent weight but had not had farrier or dental care in some time. Valor came to SAFE as a stallion, but was successfully gelded and recovered well. He also had a hernia that was surgically corrected, and was plagued with upward fixation of the patella, which was treated with a fenestration process. Despite these medical needs, Valor was a fine young horse who was handsome, gentle, and bright. Valor was a pleasure to ride, with his easy going nature and calm personality, and he was a friend to everyone here at SAFE. Tragically, on April 1, 2020, Valor was struck with a major impaction colic and had to be humanely euthanized to stop him from suffering. We miss this fine young man so much. Rest in peace, sweet Valor, and know that you were loved.
It’s almost inconceivable to have to write these words. We lost a horse this week — a horse that was young, strong, and full of life. A horse with a sunny personality and a friendly calm outlook on life. A horse who was just days away from finding his forever home. We had to say goodbye far too soon. And worst of all, we still don’t really know why.
On Tuesday morning, the morning feeding crew found Valor in his paddock with both his eyes swollen almost shut. His muzzle and lips were swollen as well. We brought him inside to a stall and called our vet. Dr Lewis from Rainland Farm arrived soon after, and examined him. He had a very slight fever, but there was nothing to immediately explain what had caused the swelling. There was no obvious sign of a bite or sting, and we found nothing in his paddock that he could have eaten and reacted to. Dr Lewis took blood to test, and gave him medication to help reduce the swelling and make him more comfortable. We were told to keep his hay and water up high so he could keep his head up as much as possible. When his bloodwork came back, it was normal, with just some mild dehydration.
We kept him inside so we could keep a close eye on him, and monitor his intake of food and water as well as his bowel movements. We noticed he’d take a few bites of hay, but he wouldn’t really chew it. We offered him different hays and grains, but he wasn’t really interested in eating. He drank about a bucket of water, passed a small amount of manure, and seemed depressed but generally stable. The medication helped the swelling go down, and by evening, his eyes were able to open again. We watched him on the stall camera throughout the night, and he was quiet, with no signs of pain like rolling, pacing, or pawing. Mostly he just slept standing up. But he still wasn’t eating.
By morning the swelling in his head had gone down some more, but he still had an elevated heart rate and did not want to eat. When taken out to graze for a few minutes, he’d take a bite or two of grass then let it fall out of his mouth. We were concerned that something might be wrong with his mouth or his teeth. Dr. Renner came out, and took a look in his mouth with a scapula, but saw nothing that would explain his refusal to eat. He then tubed Valor to deliver water and electrolytes straight to his stomach and ease his dehydration.
This is when we began to realize that we were facing a much more serious problem. A foul odor came from the stomach tube. Dr. Renner did a rectal exam and found mucus, an indication that things were not in working order. He then did an ultrasound, and discovered that Valor’s small intestine was not functioning. Valor had a major impaction. The only option was surgery, and as Dr. Renner explained, the chance of success was low, in what was sure to be a very complicated procedure. We had no choice but to end his suffering and put him down.
The decision to let him go was made very quickly, but it was a complete shock to all of us. We thought we were dealing with an allergic reaction or poisoning, but suddenly we were facing a deadly serious colic instead. As the sedation began to wear off, Valor began to show us signs that the colic was progressing. We took him out to the grass, and he immediately dropped to the ground to try to roll. Dr. Renner stepped in quickly, and within minutes, Valor was gone. Our vibrant, happy chestnut boy had left us forever.
Since his passing, we continue to ask why. Why did this happen? What caused him to swell up so suddenly? Did that reaction cause the colic, or were the two problems unrelated? Drs. Renner and Lewis did a partial necropsy to try to find some answers, but so far we don’t have any. We completely stopped using the first-cutting timothy hay that Valor had been eating, and switched the entire herd to a different cutting of timothy from another grower. We’re having the old hay tested to see if it might have contained a toxic weed or insect. We’ve moved his paddock mates, George and Anderson, to a different turnout area, then scoured the empty paddock for signs of anything he could have ingested to cause such a reaction. And we’re watching the rest of the herd nervously and carefully for any signs of illness or distress. We do this with aching hearts and the fear that we might never have a definitive answer about what happened.
Valor was a good boy who overcame a rough start in life and became a shining star here at SAFE. He was loved and treasured by so many people, and none of us will ever forget him. We all have funny memories of his antics and silliness, and those memories will bring us comfort in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Valor was a delightful soul who brought a lot of joy along with him. He will be missed.
Here’s an update from one of Valor’s regular riders, Kaya M:
Valor seems to have everyone swooning over him constantly at SAFE. He’s so handsome and sweet and wants nothing more than someone to hug his face and tell him he’s a good boy. Working with him the past couple months has been a great opportunity for me to learn more. Valor has had so much quality training in his past that he really knows his stuff and I have been able to really learn specifics about what different exercises feel like. He needs a little bit of strength building after taking some time off, so we are working on a lot of correct bending and maintaining that unified circle. While I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him, Valor is definitely ready for his new home! He undoubtedly deserves a person to call his own; he has so much love to give!
We recently had radiographs done of Valor’s right hind pastern, the one that showed a potential issue on the bone scan last month. Our main concern was that there might be a bone chip in there, so clean X‑rays were a relief. With this knowledge, we formulated a new plan. With Dr. Fleck’s guidance we have opted to take a conservative route to start.
Since Valor’s foot soreness was a clear problem on the bone scan, we have put Valor in glue-on shoes to allow his foot pain to heal. He has also been put on Equioxx for pain management. We’re hoping that the combination of the shoes and pain medication will be enough to get him on the path to soundness. If we determine that this conservative plan is not enough, we will take the next step by having Valor’s shoulders, right stifle, and hips injected with platelet rich plasma (PRP). PRP is a regenerative therapy that uses the horse’s own blood to help speed along the healing process. This will be a more cost-effective method than steroid injections.
We’ll take things one step at a time and hopefully this initial plan will work. We should know more in the next few weeks.
Valor took a trip to Rainland Farm Equine Clinic for his bone scan procedure at the end of September. It was great to be able to get some concrete answers and know where his lameness issues really lie. The trouble with a bone scan is that it can reveal a large number of potential problems, and someone with an un-trained eye might assume that all of those potential issues are true trouble areas. Valor had quite a few of these areas that showed up on the scan. Luckily, Dr. Fleck’s trained eye easily determined which spots need addressing and which ones are clinically insignificant.
The areas that we think are true potential problem areas are his feet, shoulders, right stifle, and right hind pastern. We plan on putting him in glue-on shoes to help protect his tender feet. Beyond that, our next step is to get radiographs of his right hind pastern to determine what’s going on there. Dr. Fleck suggested we also consider treating his shoulders with steroid injections, and radiographing and potentially injecting his right stifle, as well.
The information we gained from the bone scan is incredibly helpful since Valor’s case has been a challenging one. We no longer feel like we’re trying to find needles in a haystack. Now there’s a straighter path to follow to help get him back to soundness. Dr. Fleck will be out again next week to perform the radiographs of his pastern. Once we know what that shows, we’ll be able to devise an overall treatment plan. In the meantime, Valor is content to just hang out and get loved on.
About a month ago, a company that puts on continuing education seminars for veterinarians reached out to us to see if we had any horses they might be able to use for an upcoming course at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital in September. The topics were centered around sports medicine and orthopedics, and they were looking for horses with various levels of lameness issues. We decided to send Renee, who we know has osteoarthritis, Valor, who has a few different lameness issues, and Zoe, who has a mild, intermittent hind end lameness. The horses were hauled in on a Friday morning and got to come home the following night. All three of them got to participate in demonstrations on both Friday and Saturday and they were well-behaved SAFE ambassadors!
The topics that our horses got to participate in were ultrasound of the front and hind limbs, pre-purchase exams, and use of a device called a lameness locator. The lameness locator uses censors that attach to the horse’s poll, hindquarters, and right front leg, and sends information about how the horse is moving to a computer. It assists veterinarians in pinpointing where a lameness is originating from. It’s a newer tool that is incredibly useful, and our vets at Rainland have one.
The benefit for us in taking SAFE horses was not only exposure for SAFE and a new experience for the horses, but we also got feedback on what findings there were on the exams performed by the veterinarians who participated. We didn’t really need feedback on Renee since she already has a diagnosis, but it was interesting to see where Valor was at after several weeks of rehab from his sore back and hind end lameness, and we got some good feedback about Zoe. Valor looked improved from where he had been the last time he had a lameness exam, but still off. Zoe showed a mild lameness in her front feet, and also in her right hind. New knowledge of these issues in Zoe prompted us to schedule a full lameness workup with Dr. Fleck after we got the horses home.
Getting to participate in this course with SAFE horses was a pretty fun opportunity. Zoe, Renee, and Valor deserve a gold star for their participation!
This sweet guy can’t seem to catch a break. A recent lameness has Valor sidelined once again, and we are waiting on more diagnostics to tell us what’s wrong this time. He became very sore in his back during ridden work at the end of June. Dr. Meyer of Pilchuck Vet Hospital did a chiropractic adjustment on him and found that much of his spine and both sacroiliac joints were out of alignment. All the strength-building exercises we had be doing were for naught, because prior to the adjustment, Valor wasn’t carrying himself properly and using the muscles that he should have been. We were hopeful that chiro work would help get him back on track, but we continued to see lameness issues in him.
Dr. Renner of Rainland Farm Equine Clinic performed a lameness exam on him a few weeks after his adjustment. He found flexion tests to be pretty unremarkable, but Valor continued to still be very sore in his back and SI areas. We opted to try the conservative medical management route with pain medication, muscle relaxers, and time off. But Valor was still painful after this treatment, so a bone scan was recommended to get to the bottom of his issues. Since the conservative method was unsuccessful and since Valor is such a young, promising horse, we have opted to have the bone scan done.
We are now waiting for an opening in the schedule at the clinic. Hopefully this procedure will give us some concrete answers on what’s truly ailing him and we can develop a clearer rehab plan with it.
(Valor photo by Sundee Rickey)
Unfortunately for Valor, his mother, Nashville, did not bless him with strong stifles. Since his arrival at SAFE we have worked to help cure him of his locking stifles (upward fixation of the patella), a condition that can cause a horse’s hind leg to appear to get stuck in place and unable to flex. He has gone through specific rehab programs designed to help him build up strength in his hind end in order to provide more support for his patellar ligaments, which often fixes this problem. We were doing pretty well with him until he had his setback with the minor trailer incident a few months back. Because he was on stall rest to allow his injuries to heal, he lost the muscling that he had built up in his hindquarters, and consequently began to have issues with his stifles locking up again.
Dr. Fleck of Rainland Farm Equine Clinic suggested we repeat the patellar ligament fenestration, the procedure that Valor had done in September 2017. We hauled him to the clinic for the procedure, which involves making multiple tiny cuts in the medial patellar ligament to encourage the growth of scar tissue. The scar tissue that forms is thick and tough, therefore helping to keep the patella in its normal position.
Dr. Fleck also recommended that we keep him turned out 24/7 to help encourage him to move around. His tendency to “lock up” occurred most often after he had been stalled overnight. Valor now lives outside next to his friends Moon and Cassidy, where he is quite happy.
Along with the weak stifles, Nashville also gave her son her flat feet and thin soles. He is currently being ridden in boots, but we will be putting him in a pair of metal shoes on his front feet. This is something that we were originally going to do last summer, but his hoof walls grew out enough that it became a non-issue for many months. But Valor is showing us once again that he really is just a guy that needs front shoes. Luckily that’s an easy problem to fix.
Today, Valor is going well under saddle once again. He barely missed a beat after this most recent rehab period, and he has a very positive attitude while he’s working. He is slowly regaining the strength in his hind end, and we’re optimistic that these sticky stifles are a thing of the past.
A few weeks ago, Valor had a stumble coming out of a horse trailer, scraping up both hind legs and lacerating his left front fetlock. The wounds on his hind legs were not the type that could be sutured but would require bandaging, but the fetlock laceration needed veterinary attention. It was a relatively small wound, but it was a flap that would heal best with sutures. Dr. Renner from Rainland came to the farm to treat him. His wounds were clipped and cleaned, then bandages applied to the hind legs and the front limb was sutured.
Following the laceration repair, Valor was prescribed antibiotics and three weeks of stall rest to allow the wounds to fully heal. His sutures were pulled and bandages changed last week. The fetlock wound looks perfect and the hind limb wounds are granulating in the way they should be. This boy’s sweet and calm nature shined through from the time he was injured to his final day of stall rest. He enjoyed being entertained by stall toys, but he never once put up a fuss and was a perfect gentleman even after being cooped up for three weeks!
Valor is coming along nicely. He is a big mover who will make someone a nice looking riding partner. As his training progresses, he is becoming responsive to the rider. This video is after working with Casey for 15 rides. We are accepting applications and he is available to meet potential adopters. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and fill out an application before it’s too late!
Kasey O has been considering the adoption of a SAFE horse! She came out to meet Valor, and was kind enough to share her impressions of him:
About two weeks ago, I visited SAFE for a second time. The first time was to meet and ride Roscoe. This time was to meet Valor, and hopefully make a decision as to which of the two horses would make the perfect fit into our little family. I want to share my experience in viewing Valor.
First off, there is NO reason whatsoever I could come up with to turn this one away. He is wonderfully put together, his movement is nice, his attitude and demeanor is willing and pleasant. I don’t have as much insight as some more experienced riders may have, but I do consider myself an advanced rider in “ability to stay on and get by handling most horses of any level and able to get some good results in training” and I would say “intermediate” for being able to conform to certain disciplines or being able to know enough and handle myself well enough to learn a certain discipline, and “beginner” when it comes to refining what I am doing and “feeling” the horse and really “look like I kinda know what I am doing – sort of”.
My thoughts on Valor when considering him for someone like myself…One, time. He deserves time. Two, consistency. He deserves a consistent hand and consistent work. I felt if I was in a different place and time, he and I could have formed a great partnership as long as I participated in training with him, allowing us to learn and grow together. But let’s be real, I have two young sons. I have a limited amount of time to devote. I have some level of “knowledge” to contribute, and I’m ready to learn at a slower pace…but in being fair to Valor, I am not the right fit for him…at this time. But I tell you, were my boys a bit older already, I would have loved to bring Valor home. He is going to make an outstanding partner for someone and I would be thrilled to see him reach his potential. I felt in my heart, this boy was getting ready to go any of several directions with his right partner. And he sure is handsome.
I wish you the best, Valor, and I’m so happy you have ended up at SAFE, where they will make certain you remain SAFE for the rest of your life. You are a very lucky horse!!
SAFE volunteer Casey worked with Valor during the clinic, and had this to say about working with him:
I restarted Valor about a month ago and got to ride him in all three sessions of the Joel Conner clinic. He is such an easy horse to be around and a lot of fun to ride. He consistently moves up and down all three gaits off my seat and has started to pick up a soft feel. He is comfortable around other horses working in the arena and is generally unfazed by energy and noise happening around us. He is going to make someone a great partner!
Valor is now being ridden and worked by our experienced Horsemanship volunteer, Casey. She has ridden him a handful of times now and reports that he is sound and moving along well with the work. We would like to give Valor a few more weeks of regular rising before showing him to potential adopters but we are setting up visits with him now to any applicants that are interested.
Valor is a gentle boy with who does not have a mean bone in his body. He loves people and really enjoys working. Because he’s considered green broke, Valor is best suited for an experienced rider who can support him in his training along the way. This guy is worth it! He has a great mind, is athletic, and very personable. And he’s exceedingly handsome with his shiny chestnut coat and his big white blaze. He will make someone a wonderful partner and friend.
Horsemanship Volunteer Kaya has been helping work with Valor. Here is what she had to say recently about this young gelding:
“Valor has been doing so great lately! He tries so hard and continues to help me learn this style of horsemanship by calling me out on my mistakes and “asking questions” that I don’t know the answers to. Aside from actually working, Valor is such a goofball! While we were working with the rope today, I threw it to the side of him and he walked over, picked up the loop in his mouth and looked at me. He has me cracking up constantly and he so cuddly, it’s hard to get things done sometimes! I’ve started calling him “puppy” because he acts just like one. Valor is one incredible horse and I feel very lucky to get to spend time with him. He’ll make someone a great friend some day!”
We are so pleased to announce that Valor is now officially a riding horse! Jolene did such a fantastic job preparing him for a rider that we decided we were comfortable doing the first rides here at Safe Harbor. She spent many hours “sacking him out” making sure there were no holes in the groundwork so that the first ride would be as smooth as possible. Here are a few photos and videos of the first two rides!!
Here is Valor’s 1st ride:
Here is Valor’s 2nd Ride:
This boy is a rock star in the making! He has the looks, style, and swagger that will make anyone fall madly in love. He is going to be an amazing riding partner too!
Valor’s rehabilitation is going super! The barn managers at SAFE began with walking him 2x a day, added ground poles and walking up hills. He then was able to graduate to roundpen work with Jolene to prepare him for saddling and ultimately to be ridden. As part of his rehab, along with the walk and trot work over cavallettis and walking up gradual inclines, Dr. Fleck said anything that would help him use his hind more to build up muscle would be great. We had the idea to teach him to pull a log and here is a video with the results. What a wonderful relaxed young boy he has become!
Valor was on site to help Caren with the installation of his new turnout slow feeder. He inspected the work and was very helpful in making sure everything was level. Many of the turnouts are now equipped with these wonderful boxes that keep the hay dry, limit waste, and allow the horses to have a more natural “grazing” feeding throughout the day. They are all loving the new feeders and are very thankful to the dedicated facilities team for coming up with these feeders and building them!
Here is an update on Valor from our Herd Health Manager, Melinda:
At the end of September, Valor had his umbilical hernia repaired and at the same time had a medial patellar ligament fenestration, which is a surgical treatment for locking stifles. He was put on a rehab schedule that involved limited turnout with a regimented hand walking schedule. He was a gentleman for the trailer rides to and from the hospital and has been calm and well-behaved for his recovery process.
About a month later he began to have some stifle troubles again. One afternoon his right hind locked up and he couldn’t walk. Dr. Renner was called out from Rainland to help him out. As soon as it was unlocked, it went right back into the stuck position. It looked as though he may have needed another procedure done—but this time it would have been a patellar ligament desmotomy, in which the ligament is actually cut. Luckily, muscle relaxers helped Valor loosen up and his patella went back into place. Dr. Renner recommended we change up his rehab plan a little bit and add more protein to his diet to help him build more muscle to support those ligaments. Radiographs were taken to verify that there are no developmental changes going on his stifle joints that would cause this problem.
For now we are continuing with the extra protein, and are gradually building on the rehab work to help him build muscle. Jolene is the volunteer rider who is working with him. She will be adding saddle work and teaching him to pull something to build help with strength training. He occasionally gets a little “spicy” when he’s asked to trot, and he reminds us that he’s still only a three year old. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a baby he is because he is such a mellow guy. It looks like Valor has a bright future ahead of him!
Part of Valor’s rehab is to make him into a riding horse. The riding work will help him build muscles and allow him to start working on larger hills out on the trails. Here is Jolene saddling Valor at Safe Harbor.
SAFE has recently taken in 6 new horses. They were surrendered to us by their owner, who was no longer able to care for them, due to physical and financial set backs. The horses were all in decent weight, but had not received farrier or dental care in many years. Most had extremely overgrown feet, causing lameness and discomfort. Two other horses belonging to the same owner were humanely euthanized due to pain and old age.
Our decision to take these horses was based on several factors. We felt that without our intervention, the horses would continue to suffer, and were likely to become thin once winter set in. We also have reason to believe that there was a genuine risk that one or all of the mares would be impregnated, either accidentally or intentionally.
The six horses now reside at Safe Harbor in Redmond. Valor is stalled at night and spends his days in a private paddock. The other five are living together in a small pasture where they can be safely quarantined from the rest of the herd.
3 year old QH stallion, now a gelding
11 year old QH mare
dam of Valor
27 year old QH mare
dam of Cosmo
13 year old QH gelding
son of Angel
|CJ (Calamity Jane)
17 year old QH mare
19 year old QH mare