Volunteers of the Month
SAFE is incredibly fortunate to have such amazing volunteers. Each month, we select two exceptional volunteers to honor as our Volunteers of the Month. We ask them to share their stories, including why they decided to start volunteering at SAFE and who their favorite SAFE horses are. It’s a unique insight into what its like to volunteer here. Click here if you’d like to learn more about our volunteer program.
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I always lived just a few miles from horses while I was growing up, but I never interacted with them. Since none of my friends were involved in horsemanship it never crossed my mind. My mom would talk about riding when she was younger and tell stories about an uncle of hers who caught and trained mustangs in New Mexico, but it didn’t seem like a world I could be a part of. Still, I think growing up in that environment and hearing those stories stayed with me.
A few years ago I moved from Seattle to Duvall, and seeing horses on a daily basis again sparked my interest. Plus, I knew I wanted to be around animals but I wasn’t in a good situation to adopt a pet. One day I saw a sign outside the local coffee shop seeking SAFE volunteers, and when I realized I had nothing to lose from giving it a try I decided to get involved.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I joke that I volunteer at SAFE instead of paying for CrossFit, but there’s so much more to it than that. I never feel out of place because we have volunteers at all skill levels and with all sorts of backgrounds, and I’m always learning little things about horsemanship and the community in general.
I’m a freelancer who works from home, and while I love the flexibility, it can be a bit isolating. It feels good to be a part of the Tuesday morning crew we call the Giddy Up and Go Gang, and meet new people when I fill in for other shifts or special events.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? Piper is my current favorite because she has such a strong personality and she’s full of curiosity at her age. Sometimes I’ll photograph the horses if I have free time after a shift, and her expressive face and buckskin coat maker her very photogenic. It’s been exciting to watch her mature and see her skills develop.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I like running, hiking, backpacking, and photography—pretty much anything that lets me get outside and set my own course. Someday, when I’m an experienced rider, I’d love to explore the Olympic Peninsula on horseback.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up?
My parents Pete and Eva taught me the importance of volunteering and staying active. My dad assists with search and rescue missions and co-founded an organization that maintains trails and organizes races, and my mom has helped with youth programs through church and served as a court-appointed advocate for children through the CASA program.
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? Our family bought its first Morgan when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. His name was Abner and he was the kindest, most gentle horse! We used to go visit him on weekends at the stables close to our house in Southern California. I loved grooming him and riding him in the arena. Eventually we purchased some ranch property and acquired a few more horses. I have fond memories of trail riding and even participated with Abner in a few horse shows. A few years later my dad bought my sister and I our own horse – a Welsh pony named Ace. We loved him and would spend all our free time with him until we started taking more of an interest in boys and sports. Sadly I do not own a horse now, which is why I love my SAFE horses : )
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I just love the energy being around the horses at SAFE — they all have such unique personalities and stories!! Before I found SAFE, I was having these dreams about horses and realized that somehow, some way I needed to be around them again. I started searching the internet for opportunities to volunteer and found SAFE. I feel so blessed to be a part of the Wednesday a.m. crew! I look forward to seeing them as much as I do all the horses!
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? It’s hard to pick one horse – I fall in love with all of them! I remember when the draft horses Moon and Slim arrived at SAFE. I was so in awe of their size and gentle demeanor. I would go out to their paddock after I was done with my chores and just hang with them. I was so happy when Moon found her forever home and cried a river of tears when Slim had to be put down. It goes without saying though that I have an immense amount of respect for the difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made in the best interest of the horses here at SAFE. Then there’s Cyrus. When he first arrived at SAFE, I had never seen a horse so malnourished!! It was disturbing. But, as the months went by and he started putting on weight and coming out of his shell you could see just how beautiful he was! I was so drawn to him. I’m so glad he is back. I know it won’t be long before someone scoops him up!!
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I love spending time with my family! I’m so fortunate that my daughter (employed at DocuSign) and son (attending UW) both live close by. We are a super tight-knit family. I also love practicing yoga, skiing, hiking, traveling the world and getting together with friends.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? I am thankful that my husband and kids support my desire to spend time at SAFE. They always reach out midday on Wednesdays to see how my time was with the horses and look forward to getting pics….. With everything going on in our crazy pandemic world right now, SAFE is definitely my “sweet spot” for sure!
Congratulations Sundee Rickey, our Volunteer Retention Manager, for being SAFE’s May Volunteer of the Month! Thank you for bringing your compassion and care to our SAFE family. We are better for all the ways you contribute; from barn chores, to team building, to making the Volunteer of the Month program special. You help us recognize and acknowledge the contributions of our volunteers, while working hard as a volunteer yourself. You bring us together. You keep us together. You warm our hearts with your sweetness and your smile. Thank you, Sundee!
Sara Hummel, chores and more! Thank you, Sara, for all you do for the SAFE ponies and people! You have been a life-save this winter, turning up whenever we need you. You are always there ready to work hard and you never lose your smile. Congratulations!
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I love the amazing community of volunteers and staff who are all there for the same reasons; loving and caring for these amazing animals coming from some pretty bleak circumstances, all in an effort to rehabilitate their bodies and minds in order to place them in the loving homes they each deserve!
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? It’s so difficult to pick just one! At this time I’d have to say I’m torn between Millie and our pair of giant toddlers, Merry and Jollie. For all three it’s because they are such sweet, curious, affectionate creatures who just want to be loved and adored. Although, 1,100 pound curious-George toddlers can be a bit oblivious of their size 🙂
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? When I’m not at SAFE I enjoy finding new hiking and camping adventures with my 11 year old Labrador, spending time with good friends, cooking, reading and continuing my endless journey of self improvement.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? My family and best friends all support me in my volunteering endeavors at SAFE and often express joy in seeing all of the ways my time with the organization is undeniably changing my life for the better!
February is a month to share the love. We are pleased to announce our February Volunteer of the Month is someone who we all love to be around, Wednesday PM Shift Lead all-star, Lisa Pascualy. Thank you for all the ways your share your compassion for horses and people, Lisa. And congratulations! Here is some interesting info about Lisa:
How did you first get involved with horses? I assume most SAFE volunteers are like me and have loved horses for as long as they can remember. The first horse of my own, sort of, was “Black”, a jet black gelding of an unknown breed that my older sister brought home from summer camp. I was twelve years old and since my sister was in high school (with other interests) I quickly and happily stepped in as Black’s “owner” and care giver. Black was a little dangerous to ride and was notorious for taking the bit in his teeth and charging ahead at a full gallop. Those were the days when parents didn’t micromanage their kids, and I was able to convince them that we should buy him from the camp for $250. The camp wrangler told me I “drove a hard bargain” and readily (and perhaps a little too quickly) accepted my offer, Unfortunately the vet check revealed that Black’s hooves had two deep vertical cracks and the likelihood of future lameness was inevitable. Sadly, Black went back to the camp the following summer.
How did you find SAFE? I stumbled upon the concept of horse rescue and rehoming on Facebook, My online research took me to another horse rescue organization where I worked for over a year before I discovered SAFE. Initially, I just wanted to be near and care for horses, which I still love to do. However, SAFE’s mission, professional structure, and committed and kind volunteers are what has made me a dedicated and happy volunteer for almost three years. My regular crew of five volunteers on the Wednesday pm shift (Jan, Rob, Ava, Makenna and Jill) are extremely competent, kind and a lot of fun. An added bonus of my work at SAFE is the occasional request I receive to research and answer legal questions around horse rescue issues.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? I love to know which horses are people’s favorites at SAFE. and it’s a question I often ask other volunteers. I don’t always have a favorite horse, but two have stood out over the last several years. Sage, one of my all time favorites, was so sweet and gentle and a little bit like a big puppy dog. l am sure she helped What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? a lot of young humans at the therapy camp where she found her forever home. My current favorite is Valor. I am drawn to the sweet and affectionate horses at SAFE.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? When I am not volunteering at SAFE, I dabble with writing children’s stories, manage real estate and travel the globe (near and far).
Are there special people in your life who support your volunteering? My husband and three adult children love hearing about my adventures at SAFE and all but my oldest son have visited and met the horses.
Gerry and Robbie Meisner retired to Roy, WA, after a lifetime in academia in Tennessee. Having learned everything they needed to know about horses at a wonderful rescue called Horse Haven Equine, and feeling grateful for the opportunity to rescue their horses: CeCe and Tacoma, they felt the need to give back to the community which had given them so much. In October of 2014 they set out to find a rescue where they could donate their time. For almost 6 years, this amiable couple has been driving up from Roy every other weekend to do barn chores at our farm, even though they have their own place to tend. Not only have Gerry and Robbie been an integral part of our Sunday chores team, they have helped at every horse show, and done data entry for us behind the scenes.
Gerry and Robbie help us with adoption and alumni site checks down in their area as well. They are part of our SAFE family and we have relied on them for years. We are so grateful for all they bring to SAFE. 2020 is a new level of retirement for Gerry and Robbie and they will be staying down south to focus on their farm. I am happy to report they will still be helping with the show and plan to come up for a work party or two throughout the year. Thank you, Gerry and Robbie, for your many years of kind and compassionate service. We will miss you on the Sunday crew, but we wish you well as you enjoy your farm and critters. Give CeCe and Tacoma a pat for us!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I was raised mostly by my grandparents, in Oklahoma, for the beginning part of my childhood. My Grandpa loved horses, and imparted this love of them onto me. One of the ways he did this was taking me to a local Clydesdale barn to greet and feed the Clydesdales. I remember cupping mints in my tiny hands, reaching up as FAR as I could to meet the Clydesdales. They’d reach their big, gentle heads down to accept the mint with big, soft muzzles that were completely oversized for my little child hands. As a result, draft horses hold a particularly special place in my heart. On that note, I would like to give a special shout out to Mr. Slim Pickens, a Belgian gelding who no longer resides on-site at SAFE but is currently in SAFE’s foster program. I hadn’t seen draft horses in a long time, so Mr. Slim was truly a refreshing sight; and had me feeling a kid again as he reminded me of the lovable, gentle giants draft horses are.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? It’s so difficult to answer that question! I’d definitely say the horses first and foremost, I’ll always consider them the first and primary loves of my life. Just as well: I have several mental health problems, some of them crippling, but none of them unable to be quelled by even a short time spent at SAFE. But this isn’t just due to the horses; I also enjoy the camaraderie, the community and mission our rescue is built upon. I also love my PM Chore shift team (Not to brag but Sam is the best chore lead ever) we have our duties down to a science, practically. But amidst our work, amidst the mud, physical exhaustion and manure, we have so many laughs and delightful conversation. We aren’t just team mates, we’re also friends. Also a special shoutout to my fellow chore shift volunteer Vicki, who often carpools me after our shifts.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? Oh dear, I love them all. But if I had to pick out one horse: It would be Ms. Teddi, or “Teddi Bear” as I call her. I was relatively recently given the honor of grooming most of SAFE’s companion horses. Ms. Teddi is a charm to work with, and while she has a few spooky bones in her body; you will never find a mean one. I often think to myself that she would make a sublime therapy horse, as her achy leg prevents her from being ridden, but she has a heart that is pure as a lamb and has an almost motherly bearing and patience. Not to mention she is AMAZING at picking up her feet! I recall when I first volunteered to groom, I was worried my vertigo problems would render me incapable of picking horses’ feet. This was mostly due to my many experiences in the past of horses practically cementing their feet to the ground when I attempt to pick them. Not so with Ms. Teddi: Sometimes, she already readies her leg to be lifted, and will actually meet your hand to get her feet picked. Noted, sometimes on days her leg is particularly achy: She’s unwilling to allow her front feet to be picked. Not wanting to bear weight on her leg. Every time I groom her, I take pictures of her before and after grooming. Then post them on Facebook with the hashtag #TuesdayTeddi or #ThursdayTeddi.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I’m an artist by hobby, I’ve been drawing almost continuously for 15 years. I sometimes take commissions, though I’ve yet to make any real profit from that. I do sometimes do gift art—examples being the chibi versions of our adopted horses, that I make for their new humans. My more advanced pieces are generally fan art–lately, Misha Collins and Castiel fanart—that take weeks and sometimes up to months to complete. Longer still to make are my cards, that I make every year for my beloved boyfriend of nearly 10 years: Nick. Honing my skill as an artist is a challenge I relish, but hope never to complete, as I love finding new and inventive ways to improve in my craft. I’m also a published journalist; as writing is another creative hobby I enjoy. Outside of this, I also take GED courses and Highschool 21+ at Hopelink, hoping to gain the diploma I was unable to when my mental health took a turn for the worse, several years ago.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? Of course! This would barely be possible without the love and support of my dad and stepmom: Christopher and Susan Lester. In fact it was Susan who informed me that SAFE, who I’d been following for years prior, had moved to an area accessible to me. I’d also like to give a shout out to my boyfriend, mentioned above, who, despite his fear of horses, has supported me and encouraged me as any proper significant other would—even complimenting the photos of freshly groomed “clients” of mine. There’s also a fellow volunteer, Sarah, who has never failed to step up to the plate both as a comrade and a friend to help me in my work. There’s also my therapist, Virginia, who always asks about and enjoys my stories about SAFE in our sessions. I daresay SAFE has made her job easier!
Mariah’s horse-loving Grandpa, Jack, passed away this month, just before we shot her VOM photos. She shared with us, “…my Grandpa died knowing his granddaughter was top volunteer at a rescue of the creatures he held so dearly. With a lock of Ms. Teddi’s tail as testament to the mission I carry on in his absence.” Mariah, you do your Grandpa proud. Thank you for all you do.
Congratulations to SAFE’s Volunteer of the Month for December, Thursday AM Chores Team Player, Wendy Kettering!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I was the usual horse-crazy young girl. When I was in junior high I painted the entire exterior of our house as payment to purchase a horse that resided in the neighbors pasture next door. It was actually a big job, and I finished the whole house all except a small wall. Once the horse was purchased, their labor pool of one vanished. Parents, be mindful that child labor can be a little flakey! I rode with no instruction or mentors; we just hopped on and headed out through nearby open space, forest, and neighborhoods.
Very I recently brought a new horse into my life. She is a 15 year old half Quarter Horse and half Arab buckskin mare. We are getting to know each other and I look forward to hitting the trails with her.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I wish I had “found” SAFE about ten years ago! I enjoy being around the horses, and learning by observation how SAFE staff cares for and readies the horses for adoption. I also like to be outside, and my Thursday morning shift gives me a reason to get outside regardless of the weather! However, my favorite aspect is the Thursday AM team members. They make schlepping poop (among other things) a joy, not a job!
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? I don’t really have a “favorite”! I was very fond of Gunner when he was with SAFE. A little cliché but I like them all. I do appreciate the various personalities of the SAFE horses, and seeing their transformations to curious and more calm such a short period of time after arriving at SAFE. Remarkable.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? We have four rescue dogs, and I have volunteered in dog rescue for nearly 13 years. Which is how you end up with 4 dogs! The dogs are 16, 13, 8 and 6 years old. All came from less than ideal situations and have their own unique quirks. Which really means, not all of our friends and neighbors love our dogs as much as we do! We recently began building a home on the Key Peninsula in Pierce County, and will eventually move there. It’s an area where we have family, and have had a small cabin since the 80’s. It is quite rural, so it will be a big change from the greater Seattle area. So that little project is beginning to take up more and more time.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work? My husband Mark has encouraged and supported my all-things-animal interests. He has tolerated being bitten (badly!) by foster dogs, and encouraged me to volunteer at SAFE because “you love horses, and you’re not getting any younger.” This fall we took a trip to Africa. It took me 3 years to convince him it would be an amazing experience. He finally acquiesced and now says it’s probably the best trip we have ever taken.
Hillary Dixon, past shift lead, current groom, and Bingo caller extraordinaire!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? My first time I was involved with horses was when I was four years old and had my first pony ride at the Woodland Park Zoo. It was all down hill from there. I signed up for the 4H club at the Woodland Park Zoo on my tenth birthday, but couldn’t start until I was twelve years old. I worked at the zoo for three years and learned everything about horses. During my childhood, I went to horse camps as well. When I graduated high school, I worked at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop during the summer, helping run the ranch of 45 horses and taking tourists on horseback rides. Those three months were the best time of my life.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I like the peace I feel being around the horses. It’s been so fulfilling to me and I needed that kind of healing in my life, along with the horses who need healing as well.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? Emmy was my first favorite when I started, then Slim, then Moon. They were all kind.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I play pool, camp or just get out into nature, be with great family and friends, and of course work too much to pay the bills.
Warren Nolder, Thursday AM rock star, facilities powerhouse, and best neighbor ever!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I began working with SAFE last year in March, with absolutely no prior horse experience. Having lived next to the horse facility (that SAFE moved into) for years, I noticed a sudden increase in activity: fences being mended, massive weeding and mowing taking place, things getting pressure washed, new gravel getting laid out, painting happening all over, and old and discarded piles of junk being sorted out and dealt with. I would peak over periodically to check on the progress at the stables and one day, met Jeanne Stine who introduced herself, the SAFE organization, and their goals for the property. We talked off and on for the next few months, and it was always a positive and uplifting conversation regarding the horses and work efforts. I was continuously amazed at the number of people showing up to help out and the amount of work being done. At some point, I just felt the need to be part of that effort, and started volunteering soon after. The commute has been very pleasurable and the work has been very rewarding 😊
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? There are many things which stand out regarding what makes SAFE such a great place to volunteer for. The people involved with SAFE (volunteers, leads, etc.) have a genuine interest in the well-being of all the horses that come here. And that shows in their work as well as their words. The horses are fantastic, but not in the way most people think about horses. Every horse here has a story, many of which are very sad to hear. But the resilience of these animals is amazing to watch, and they each have something to teach us and share. The hands-on experience that can be gained as a volunteer is crazy good. Want to learn how to mend a fence? Boom, here is an opportunity. Want to help feed horses? We got that multiple times a day. Want to train horses? Tons of possibilities there as well. Every day I work at SAFE, I walk away feeling like I’ve actually helped move this effort forward, no matter how small or insignificant the task might seem that I completed. Thank you SAFE for this great opportunity.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? When I first started I had favorites. Stormy was my very first favorite. She is blind, but was taught voice commands so she could navigate uneven ground. She was the first horse I ever led out to pasture and was incredibly gentle. People would say,” Stormy will be here the rest of her life.” But miraculously, she found a great home. And that’s kind of how it is around here. Horse miracles are constantly happening. Now I focus less on ‘favorites’ and more on seeing what is unique and special about each horse and what we can learn from each other.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I’m retired now, but always seem to have very full, action packed days. Besides volunteering at SAFE, I maintain our acre lot, actively ride bikes to keep in shape (for working at SAFE), camp, hike and backpack with my kids, take German language classes, attend occasional dance courses with my wife Kerstin, do weekly wine tasting, and spend long vacations in Germany where half of our family is from.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? Kerstin and our kids and our friends are very supportive of the volunteer work I do at SAFE. They are always enthralled by the latest horse news and adventures.
We are so fortunate to have outstanding volunteers. In fact, it makes for a difficult choice every month when we pick two volunteers to spotlight. This month we would like to highlight two barn chore volunteers who rock our world with their sweet natures, work ethic, and dependability. Thank you, Alissa and Beth, for all of your hard work and dedication to the horses and people of SAFE. Congratulations on being named October Volunteers of the month!
Alissa Ralston, Tuesday AM Shift Lead Super Star
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I have always loved horses and started taking riding lessons at around 10 years old. I found SAFE when I moved to Washington and started volunteering May of last year. I have one very handsome quarter horse named Bonc that lives on my family’s farm in Arkansas with his favorite horse friend Friday.
Beth Erkel, Sunday PM Rock Star