Do you ever get to moving so fast that you have no idea how exhausted you are? That’s a pretty accurate description of how things have been at SAFE for the past year or so. We started 2019 off with business as usual — caring for 30 rescued horses, managing their rehabilitation and training, and looking to find them new homes. Then in June, we got involved with the Fall City 40. That effort, helping 40 wild and neglected horses, was a roller coaster ride that took us from the highest highs to the lowest lows and back again. It played out on a very public stage, with legal threats, courtroom disappointments, and heroic efforts by law enforcement. And now that the dust has finally settled, it’s just beginning to dawn on us how much that experience took out of us.

It’s now March 2020, and while we are extremely proud and grateful to have found new homes for 30 of the Fall City 40 horses, there are still 10 that don’t have homes yet. Five of these horses are residing at SAFE, and five are in foster homes with trainers who are working to gentle them. This seizure was big news back in December, but people have moved on…and we’re not seeing many applications anymore. But each one of these 10 horses need a human being who can commit to spending a LOT of one-on-one time with them. SAFE doesn’t have the staff or volunteers to be able to accomplish this. Because we still have our hands full with the 30 rescued horses who were here before we got involved with the Fall City 40.

And there’s a lot to be done with those horses! There are the well-trained riding horses, like Anderson, Stella, Valor, Zoe, and Mina, who need to be ridden 3–4 days a week to keep them ready to be adopted into new homes. There are the more challenging horses like Sienna and Lacey, or the barely started Millie and Cassidy, all of whom need a lot of dedicated attention from their riders. There are a whole slew of horses just starting out in groundwork–Piper, George, Alder, Pearl, Merry, and Jollie–who require many hours of attention each week to get them ready to started under saddle later this year. The very youngest of our horses, yearlings Pippi, Nova, and Rae, need careful and patient handling to learn how to be big girls now. And the very oldest, Angel, Amelia, Beauty, Teddi, and Renee could always benefit from some one-on-one with a horsemanship volunteer. So there is an overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done, even without adding five wild and untouchable horses to the mix!

We are SAFE, and there is nothing we can’t do if we just try hard enough. Also, we’re human, and we get tired and burned out. So before that happens, we’re going to wave the while flag and cry “Uncle!” We just cannot take in any more horses right now.

Last week, we decided we have to scale back our Community Outreach program to include just two services: gelding vouchers and euthanasia assistance. And until we get our feet back under us, that is all we can offer to horse owners in need. We don’t talk a lot about our Community Outreach Program, mostly to protect the privacy of the people we’ve helped. We started our Community Outreach Program to be able to help horse owners through difficult situations, with the goal of preventing neglect and keeping horses out of the rescue pipeline. And through this program, we’ve been able to help a lot of horses outside of our own herd. But the management of a program like this, especially as it has grown and the demand for help has increased, is a huge challenge. It’s more than just an overwhelming amount of work. There is also an emotional cost that comes from dealing with the volume of calls and emails, from the long phone conversations with people who need far more help than we are capable of providing. There have been times when it’s felt like we were working for Social Services, instead of a small nonprofit horse rescue! And we’re nice people — we genuinely want to help! But we can’t help everyone. We have to focus on the horses that are right in front of us.

So…no new horses until a lot of adoptions are finalized. We’ll continue to try to come up with ways that we can help people in our community that take less of a toll on our people. And someday soon, we’ll look back on 2019 and the Fall City 40, and see a job well done.

But right now, it’s white flag time. No more horses.