|SEX: filly||BREED: Yakima Reservation Wild Horse|
|COLOR: chestnut||MARKINGS: Blaze||For Advanced Handler|
|YOB: 2015||AGE: 6||HEIGHT:||WEIGHT:|
|LOCATION: Redmond||ADOPTION FEE: $500 will increase with training|
Veronica is one of 24 wild Yakima Reservation horses seized in December 2019 by King County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with Regional Animal Services of King County and SAFE.
All SAFE horses are adopted with a no-breeding clause, no exceptions.
SAFE’s volunteer, Candi, has been a huge part of Veronica’s gentling process. Her kind and patient feel has been key to the successful haltering of this extremely sensitive and touchy mare. We have slowly gained her trust and she is allowing for basic grooming and picking up her hooves. The first video shows Veronica’s first walk outside of her paddock. As you can see, she was very nervous, but connected back with her handler to find the comfort and support she needed. Veronica ended the session in a really good place. In the second video you can see the first time Veronica was led into a trailer. We will continue to work with her in baby steps. She is worth the time, effort, and patience to help her succeed.
One thing I love about SAFE is that we have no expectations or deadlines that our horses have to fulfill for us. We accept them as individuals and recognize that one size doesn’t fit all.
As we got to know the Fall City 40 horses better, we found there were many different personalities among them. But there were two mares in particular who seemed far more troubled than the rest of the group. Both ended up joining SAFE’s herd when homes couldn’t be found for them right away. They were scared, and we knew that pressure from humans could make them feel like their lives were in danger. So we made a conscious decision to turn the pressure way down and begin their reeducation by just spending time near them.
Over the last year, Veronica and Caramel have been slowly brought into domestic life. Veronica, while clearly a sensitive mare, was a bit more confident and willing accept human’s touch. SAFE volunteer Candi was asked to make Veronica her special friend and to spend time visiting her whenever she could make it out to SAFE. Candi has spent HOURS sitting with Veronica, calmly petting and eventually grooming her. She then starting haltering her and eventually leading her, then began groundwork: freeing her hind and shoulders and walking and trotting on a unified circle. Last Friday I checked in on their progress and I was very impressed. Veronica is SOFT, willing, and gentle on the lead. She allowed me to lift all four hooves and to walk her out of her pen and into the outdoor arena. The other “yahoos” in the paddocks nearby erupted with excitement and Veronica was ready to fly…but instead of leaving me, she listened to my supporting feel as I asked her to stay with me and to drop down the excitement. She was hunting and searching for my support, even in an excited state she looked to me, this strange two-legged human, to give her the comfort she desired. We were able to end the session grazing along the grass of the “yahoos” pens and show them that good girls get yummy grass! HA!
Caramel, is a very inquisitive and smart little mare but her flight response is out of this world. She would rather run as fast and as far away from something that scares her than take a moment to see it really was nothing to be afraid of in the first place. Her instinctual nature to save herself is deeply ingrained. Unlike Veronica, there is a lack of confidence keeps her from checking in before checking out. Nevertheless the progress she’s made is really quite huge. Today when visiting with her, she was very curious and interested in being near enough for a stroke on the face or neck. But make any sudden movement, and she said goodbye. I actually think she really wanted her hind scratched but couldn’t bring herself to getting close enough to be touched without the fence between us. From the other side of the fence, Caramel is pretty open to being touched just about anywhere. The fence gives her the comfort, since she can’t be caught by someone on the other side of it. If she even sees a rope or halter in your hands, she is very unlikely to approach.
We’ve thought a lot of about Caramel to try to figure out why she is so different that other mares in our herd. Many vets and horse professionals have told me that the Yakima Reservation horses are like “Wild Cats”. I’ve seen it in a few of them, and clearly Caramel is the wildest of the horses we kept from the Fall City 40. She might be like this because of inbreeding, missing important nutritional elements in her early years, or being traumatized by living on such a small property with multiple stallions fighting for herd position and limited food.
Bonnie sent out numerous letters to wild horse sanctuaries on the west coast in hopes that one might be willing to take her. They all declined. But even if they had said yes, it still didn’t feel like the right answer for Caramel. She was born in captivity in Fall City, not on the open plains of some romantic western scene we want to dream for wild horses. In a sanctuary herd, her basic needs as a domestic horse might not be met. She would have no one to take care of her if she was injured or needed medical assistance. It just isn’t the life we would want to give her, nor would it keep with our promise to provide her a lifetime of safety.
Where do we go from here? How do we help Caramel reach a point in her gentleness that her basic needs like farrier, dental and emergency care are able to be met? Time and a slow approach is making progress. It is also allowing her to not be hurt in the process because when her flight response is triggered she could literally kill herself in trying to flee. She needs someone with a quiet place to let her absorb natural life along with a small herd that is constant and relaxed. She needs daily consistent interactions with one person so she can gain trust and eventually learn to trust other humans. In order to make it to the other side of this, she needs a very special friend.
When we first visited the Fall City horses in July of 2019, Trisha was a volunteer that came to help. She was drawn to the herd, their plight, and how she might be of service to them. Trisha had connected with a beautiful dark bay mare that was originally on the side of the property with Veronica and Caramel. She was a very skittish mare, similar to our two, constantly moving and “leaving the scene” whenever approached. Sadly, we had to walk away from the Fall City 40 for several dark months before we were able to get them seized by Animal Control. But in December of 2019, when the rest of the horses were ours, I reconnected with Trisha and asked if she was willing to take the mare. She wholeheartedly agreed and has done a wonderful job gaining her trust and gentling her.
When the sanctuaries unanimously turned Caramel down, I felt a bit deflated. I was losing hope that we’d ever get her over her fear. I decided to call Trisha and get her thoughts. Her Fall City 40 mare was a lot like Caramel and Trish had successfully brought her through it. Trisha was open to meeting Caramel.
Caramel really turned on the charm for their first meeting. She was very interested in us and especially in Trisha’s mask. We talked a lot about our hope to give her time and consistency in a calm and quiet environment. We agreed it was important to not the pressure of a timeline or expectations on Caramel. We are so excited that Carmel will be moving to Trisha’s farm as a foster some time next week! This will be a great chance for Caramel to grow her trust through dedicated one-on-one handling. We are optimistic for Caramel’s future and grateful that Trisha and her family are willing to give her this opportunity.
SAFE volunteer Candi K. has taken Veronica under her wing and has been consistently working with her for the past few months. Candi’s patient gentling work was exactly what Veronica needed. It’s moving to see Veronica opening up to human contact. Together they are creating a foundation that will be an enormous part of Veronica’s future success as a domesticated horse.
Candi wrote this very thoughtful article about Veronica’s progress:
Remember the excitement of learning something new and how it opened a whole new world of possibilities for you? Now imagine that as a horse. Imagine how freeing your life will become as you can navigate your days more confidently. Veronica is now successfully halter broken and will stand quiet and still to be groomed. She has the most gorgeous thick tail and much to her delight, she has figured out that it feels really good to have it brushed out.
In the last couple of weeks, she has learned how to walk and stop alongside me as I lead her. She has become a champ at unified circles to the left. Her right eye is her non-dominant eye so she feels less confident on circling to the right. Slowly but surely, she is taking more strides in that direction. We have been practicing approaching the gate of the round pen, opening and closing it while she is haltered and in hand. She is waits patiently and enters and exits without any issues.
Last week we had great success worming her for the first time. She spent several days learning about a syringe and the yummy applesauce that comes out of it. She was happy to take the worming medication and only stuck her tongue out at the end to let us know it tasted a little funny.
Veronica is also getting used to having the lead line touch her all over her body. At first, she was very jumpy and unsure. She is getting more accustomed to it now. This will help as we progress further into her training and future saddling.
Veronica is very loving and eager to learn. Her movement at a trot looks like she is floating on air. She is truly a beautiful mare with a bright future.
What a change Veronica has made in the last few months! She has gone from not wanting to be touched to greeting us at the fence with a nicker and inquisitive eyes.
Over the summer Dylan has spent time with this sweet mare to be able to gain her trust to groom and begin haltering her. SAFE volunteer Candi was able to spend quite a bit of time getting her accustomed to being brushed and having her beautiful mane untangled. Over time she began to realize that this felt good and she would stand in place and enjoy the spa treatment.
Last week we moved Veronica and Caramel into new turnouts where they share a round pen in between their panels to further their training. Veronica is working on entering the round pen and is getting better at it each day. She moves around beautifully and Dylan has been roping her with ease. Not only has he roped her for halter work he has also done work with all 4 feet to prepare her for the farrier.
Veronica is making great progress with haltering. The first haltering of the day can be a little challenging, but once her halter is on, she will let it be taken off and put back on again repeatedly. Candi has spent a lot of time rubbing her head, ears, and neck to reassure her. She will now rest her head in Candi’s hands and stand still.
She hooks on easily and is learning to walk alongside and backup. She’ll be learning hindquarters and front quarters soon. This beautiful girl definitely has a bright future. She is smart, and she wants to learn and to please.
1. Samara K.
2. Michael K.
3. Marcella H.
4. Katherine M.
5. Whitney-Bear B.
6. Gwendolyn B.
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!