Recently a teacher from a near by elementary school reached out because she had a few students who wanted to learn more about horses. Terry was happy to help educate our little budding horse lovers. Check out their questions and Terry’s answers and see if you also can learn a little about SAFE!

What do horses do in the summer when it’s hot?

They generally look for shade under trees and here at SAFE each paddock has a shelter to provide some shade. They will sweat when hot to help them cool down. Their nostrils will extend as they take in more air to cool but do not pant like a dog.

Here at SAFE we provide the horses with water all the time. In the fields sometimes the horses will paw and “play” in the water troughs to get water on themselves and cool down. We also give them water with a handful of senior feed and electrolytes. They really like this treat and it helps us know that they are drinking well. We add a little salt in their daily vitamins to help encourage them to drink more. If we are worried they are not eating the vet has told us to try a feeding tube with a salt paste in it. This makes them want to drink but doesn’t sound very fun to get a mouth full of salt so I generally don’t try this unless I cant get them to drink another way.

Do you train horses? If so, how?

Yes, a big part of our work at SAFE is to help the horses that come here become “good citizens”. In order to be safe for the rest of their lives, they need to be well behaved for domestic life. They need to be gentle for a farrier to trim their hooves every 6–8 weeks and any veterinarian exams, vaccinations, and emergency care if they should ever get hurt and need something such as stitches.

We are training horses any time we are with them. Whenever we are in contact they are learning and we are teaching them how to interact safely with us. Many of the horses who come to SAFE have little to no handling when they arrive or sadly have been mistreated or abused in their past. It is actually a lot easier to teach a horse who has never been touched by other humans than ones who have had bed experiences with people in their past and mistrust us. A lot of the work we do with horses at SAFE is establishing trust and giving them good experiences.

What do horses need to have a safe shelter?

Horse like to see what’s going on around them so often you will see them never going into a shelter they can’t see out of and around them. At SAFE we build shelters with 3 sides for wind breaks but also leave a window around the top so they can see out when they lift their heads.

Average size horses are most comfortable in a stall that is 12’x12’. This way they have enough room to circle around and lay down without getting cast or stuck along the wall. In the summer our herd lives outside 24 hours a day. In the fall and winter we bring most of them into stalls and out of the rain for a nice warm dry stall.

How do you help the horses to feel at home? Are they ever scared when they first come to you?

We like to help support them though the horsemanship training. Helping them feel free to move their feet in balance and find peace and relaxation. When I bring a horse to a new place I will do what we call “groundwork” to help them feel relaxed and connect with me. We slowly help them connect with us through “feel” teaching them to “feel of me”, that is if I say “let’s go” they go with life and energy, if I say “let’s slow down” they slow down. Once they are with me and feeling with me, I can help support them when they feel upset. I say “I am relaxed you can be too” and because of the work we have done to show them how to increase and decrease energy, they start to look to the humans around them for how to feel about something. This is how they work together in a herd and our training is helping them see humans as part of their herd and a kind trustworthy leader that helps them feel supported.

What do horses do when they are super-hot?

Good question. I think other than the signs I explained in question #1, I would say that at extreme unhealthy heat levels, including if they ever had a fever, they would not want to eat, act lethargic and may lay down prostrate (lying flat). Keeping them well hydrated is a very important way we can help them and why we do so much to make sure they keep drinking in both the hot and cold weather.

What do horses do when it’s cold?

They can shiver if they are very cold. In the fall, as the daylight hours start to change, horses naturally begin to grow a very thick insulated coat. The ends of their hair follicle have the ability to stand up and puff up to create a natural fluffy coat and insulate them from the wind and cold. Putting blankets on them can actually stop this natural expansion of the hair. However if they are older, unable to grow a thick coat due to their breeding (some horses just don’t naturally grow a good coat) or if they are skinny and need to save calories to refeed, we will put blankets on them.

We provide them with a shelter with a wind break to help as well. In nature they would group together with the herd to get a break from the wind. You will all see them turn their backs to the wind and shield their own heads from the rain and wind.

We also give them the same 5‑gallon water bucked with a handful of senior feed like we do in the hot summer, to encourage them to drink water. They love their sweet tea!

How do horses stay warm?

See answers in question #6. Also as a horse digests hay they create an inner heat. Kind of like their own personal heaters. In colder weather, we will throw them more hay to help them stay warm.

Is there anything that we can do to help your horses? 

There is a TON of things to help SAFE horses. Here are a few ways people get involved:

    • Volunteering:
      • Chore volunteers are generally 16 years or older. Younger volunteers around 12–16 years old can come work alongside an adult like a family member or friend. 
    • Come to Open House events: 
      • We have quarterly open houses for the public to come take tours at SAFE.
      • Our next open house is December 5th from 12–3pm. We will have crafts for sale, tours of the property to meet the horses and photos available for a $20 donation with our minis, Sunny and Shasta, dressed up for the holidays. Find out more about the Holiday Open House here!
    • Donations:
      • Throughout the year we have different fundraising events. We help horses with the public’s help.
      • Currently we have our Fall into Winter Hay drive and hope to raise $40,000 to cover the hay and grain needs for our herd of horses for the year. You can find this on our public Facebook page here or make a onetime donation on our website here!
      • Become a monthly sponsor of one of our horses: SAFEkeepers Club
      • Give a gift in someone’s name and we will send them a card letting them know about your gift. We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and in memory: Make a Gift Donation
    • SHARE about SAFE! 
        • Word of mouth is one of the best ways people can help the SAFE horses! Telling everyone who you can about the horses and the work being done to help them is a great way to help spread the word. Someone may not be able to adopt a horse, have just a little to donate or not able to come volunteer but if they tell 100 other people about SAFE … those 100 people may be able to adopt, donate, or volunteer. By telling others, they have helped SAFE 100x more than what they could do by themselves.

What do you feed horses? Do they eat hay?

They eat hay from Eastern Washington. We feed either Timothy or Orchard grass. Most of the horses get a little Alfalfa hay as well, but it is generally always mixed with the other two kinds. They all get vitamins and make sure it has selenium that our hay in Washington does not have enough of for them. For the general herd we feed something called CA Trace that has great vitamins for their hoof growth.

For older horses they get senior feed. Since they are older they can’t utilize all the nutrition from the hay. Senior feed is easier for them to digest and give them the nutrition they need as older horses. Some of the horses don’t have great teeth and can’t chew hay. They get all senior feed around 12–14 lbs per day. We don’t feed more than 4 lbs at a time so some of them get fed up to 6x a day! We add water to this as well to make it into a mash to reduce the chances that they could choke on the hard pellet feed.

Horses need to eat 1.5 to 2% of their body weight in hay or complete pellet feed like senior. Our average horses weigh around 800‑1000 lbs. This means on average we are feeding them 12- 15lbs of feed per day. They have clean water provided to them at all times and generally drink 5–10 gallons of water a day.

Do you help the horses by finding new homes for them?

Yes! All of our horses are available for adoption once they are healthy, had a chance to be seen by our veterinarian and farrier for updates and have been evaluated for their basic foundation training.

Horses that are not ridable, retired due to age, injury or behavior, are available as companion animals. They are matched with homes where they can be the herd mate to other horses the family owns and live out their happy retirements.

Riding horses are started under saddle and ridden at SAFE before becoming available for adoption. We want to make sure they are sound for riding and well behaved. Once they are doing well as riding horses, they meet potential adopters and if everyone gets along well they can go home with that adopter.

With all our horses we have a 30-day trial period. This allows the family to take the horse home and if for any reason it does not work out, they can return the horse to SAFE. We check in annually with the adopters to see how the alumni horses are doing and if they ever need our help again, SAFE is there. This allows us to know that all the horses that come into our herd have a lifetime of safety.