Corro Stories

#CorroCares Spotlight: Save A Forgotten Equine

By Sarah McGarr

Corro recently wrote an article about the EQUUS Foundation, an organization that is near and dear to our hearts. The EQUUS Foundation helps Guardian organizations, which are organizations on the Equine Welfare Network that demonstrate a commitment to public transparency by their willingness to make comprehensive data about their programs, horse care practices, and governance available for public scrutiny. Corro aims to shine a light on the work being done at these incredible Guardian organizations. This month we are spotlighting Save A Forgotten Equine.

Save A Forgotten Equine (SAFE)

Who says you can't meet great people online? That's how the founding members of Save A Forgotten Equine (SAFE) met—online at Chronicle of the Horse in  the spring of 2005. The founders, who chose to remain anonymous, decided to pool their money to purchase a single horse off a feedlot. Eventually, the group raised enough money to save several horses from slaughter. After that, they realized that their efforts could be more effective if they could keep horses from entering the slaughter pipeline, so they formed Save A Forgotten Equine and began working with Animal Control and horse owners needing help.


SAFE’s Mission: To rescue, rehabilitate, and retrain horses facing neglect or abuse and provide them with the best opportunity for a permanent home and a lifetime of safety.

Image provided by SAFE

Creating A Safe Space For Horses

SAFE became a non-profit in 2006, and acquired 501c(3) exempt status in 2007. In 2017, SAFE was expanding, so they moved from Woodinville, WA to Safe Harbor Stables in Redmond, WA. Safe Harbor Stables features an 11-acre property that can hold up to 30 horses and allow them to work routinely with animal control agencies in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties in Washington state. The farm is complete with a large covered riding arena, covered round pen, outdoor riding arena, and cross fenced paddocks and pastures.

 In 2018, SAFE was verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the only globally recognized organization providing standards for identifying legitimate animal sanctuaries. More recently, this past August, SAFE received the EQUUS Foundation Guardian Seal of Transparency, which provides SAFE with financial support from the EQUUS Foundation, as well as help to increase public awareness.

Friends For Life

Image provided by SAFE

SAFE’s commitment to their horses’ well-being continues long after they find them a new home. As part of the adoption process, adopters sign a contract that includes a statement that says that adopters must meet SAFE’s standard of care throughout the horse’s life, and remains in contact with the horse owners through yearly site visits, emails, phone calls, or through the Alumni Facebook group. 

Image provided by SAFE

 Most adopters remain in contact with SAFE. Connected by their shared love for their horses, adopters are excited to share updates and photos with SAFE and other alumni. SAFE does not keep ownership of the adopted horses, but they offer a safety net for the rest of the horse’s life in case the adopter is not able to maintain care of the horse.

However, there are some occasions where adopters were unable to hold up their end of the bargain. In those instances, SAFE has stepped in, removing horses from their current location and returning them back to the safety of their farm. It's situations like these that show how vital it is for organizations like SAFE, even years after the adoption, to continue welfare checkups on the horses they adopt out. The adopter must pass the rigorous screening process upfront, but circumstances can change or deteriorate later. SAFE is committed to protecting their horses when situations become difficult – because no horse should ever be forgotten.

The Fall City Forty

Not only does SAFE rehabilitate horses and re-home them, they also are contacted by horse or property owners who are concerned about other horses’ well-being. Last June, SAFE was contacted by the property owners of a Fall City property about some horses they originally agreed to have stay there temporarily. 

The herd that was originally brought onto the property were 20+ wild horses from Yakima. Due to the mares and stallions being turned out together, the herd grew to 40. The property owner grew concerned as the horses weren’t being fed or getting any vet or farrier care, so they hired a lawyer to have the owner of the horses remove them in 15 days. The owner of the horses did not comply, so they were considered abandoned under the law. That is when SAFE was invited to step in to rehabilitate the horses and adopt them out to new homes. 

Image provided by SAFE

With permission and support of the property owners, SAFE was able to feed the horses, photograph and catalogue the herd, and attempt to gain their trust – since they were unhandled and wild – to take the first steps in gentling them. 

This was a major undertaking for SAFE – the biggest rescue operation they’ve ever been involved with. They needed donations in order to help take care of the herd of 40 horses properly. Over 350 people donated to help save these wild creatures, with over 40 applications to adopt them. SAFE and its volunteers worked around the clock, conducting phone interviews with potential adopters, doing reference checks with vets and trainers, making sure the potential adopters’ property was suitable.

Image provided by SAFE

After a few weeks of working with the Fall City Forty, 15 of the horses were loaded onto trailers and taken to their new homes. SAFE continued to work with the rest of the horses in gentling them, but, unfortunately, there were legal disputes raised by the horses’ owners. 

Situations like this are not uncommon and cannot all be solved, but organizations like SAFE are available across the country to help. If you hear of someone trying to move a large group of horses on short notice, please contact your local rescue organization for advice.

Finding Your Local Rescue Organization

Sometimes finding your local rescue group can be challenging if they don’t have a commanding online presence. “Fake rescues” – places that may call themselves rescues but hoard animals and do not make much attempt to adopt out – complicate the process of finding a resource in your area.

The EQUUS Foundation’s Equine Welfare Network connects individuals and organizations in the equine community committed to the welfare of horses with the goal of building a support base of equine advocates and affecting change. You can find local rescue groups through the EQUUS Foundation website by entering your zip code, or searching by name.

However, only those rescue groups on the Equine Welfare Network that have been awarded  the EQUUS Foundation Guardian Seal of Transparency, like SAFE, have demonstrated their commitment to public transparency by their willingness to make comprehensive data about their programs, horse care practices, and governance available for public scrutiny – and only EQUUS Foundation Guardians are eligible to receive financial support from the EQUUS Foundation. 

If you’re looking to adopt from your local rescue group, SAFE’s Executive Director, Bonnie Hammond says, “We are looking for people who want to provide a horse a home for the rest of their lives. Someone who will accept a horse for who he or she is, and stand by them through sickness, injury, behavior changes, and old age.  Someone who considers a horse a member of their family, and won’t dump them, even if they face difficulties or changes that conflict with their agenda. Someone who will put the horse first.” 

If this sounds like you, please explore organizations like SAFE or other EQUUS Foundation Guardians in order to give these amazing horses the opportunity of a loving and safe home.

How You Can Help

As with all non-profits, SAFE relies on donations to operate and continue helping horses. Just like any rescue, they need help with money, supplies, and volunteers. Non-profit organizations have many ways you can contribute in large or small ways.

Monetary donations are tax deductible and can be made online, a mailed check, or through a legacy gift. For specific projects like the Fall City Forty, SAFE will hold targeted fundraisers when they need to raise funds for a particular cause. They have successfully done this when horses need surgery and posting updates throughout the process.

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