Monday, February 28, 2011

While I still have one good leg to stand on....

A few weeks ago I was riding with Ruth, getting compliments on my leg placement and seat but when she approached me to to suggest a different placement for my foot (toe in) and moved my foot into position a pain shot through my knee and made a sound that gave us both a fright. This is the pain that I ride with, the one that sadly limits the time I am in the saddle and the one that really prevents me from progressing.

"How do you ride with your knee like that?", she asked. "With my foot like this (pointed more straight ahead) because it hurts any other way" I replied. In her stern voice she flat out told me that I needed to make a commitment and that if I intended to continue to ride I would get that knee fixed. On my ride home I thought about it and decided that Ruth was right. I could continue to ride like this, through the pain, and I might be able to make it another two years but then I'd be DONE! Or I could get it fixed and I might get another 10 years of riding. That night I told my husband that I was going to make the appointment I'd been start the process of getting a knee replacement. He wasn't exactly happy with my reasoning (he would have preferred that it be because I wanted do something really important, like "walk") but he did agree that it was time...perhaps even well past time. I called the next day and made an appointment & their first available was 2/22.

Twelve years ago I was on a ski trip to Big Bear with my family. I KNEW skiing was not for me so the dog and I hung out while my Mom (yes, my MOM!), my son, my brother and his friend were all up on the hill. I was walking from the lodge to the observation deck across a gravel path that had iced over and I slipped, fell and twisted the heck out of my knee. We were just a couple of months away from moving to Washington state so while I did get it looked at 2 days later in Los Angeles, I decided to wait until I got to Washington to start the physical therapy that the doctor suggested. I got to Washington and no longer had insurance so I decided it could wait a little while longer. I babied it...a lot!

About 3 years later we bought a two-story house and within a month of using stairs every day the knee was toast. I had also fallen two more times and finally went to the doctor (because now I had insurance!). The menicus was not only torn (almost shredded) it was now dislodged and had fallen back behind my knee. I had surgery to trim up the tears and put it back into place but who knows how long I'd been walking on it with bone on bone action and there was already signs of damage. To top it off, I'd come to rely so much on my *good knee* that I'd damaged that one too (sounds like lameness issues, eh?). I was told that I needed TWO knee replacements but at my age (then turning 40 the next day) that they'd like to see me go as long as possible because the knee replacement at that time would only last 8-10 years and they could only replace it twice. So I toughed it out.

I started riding again (because that seems like a great idea for someone with a severe knee injury right?) at the age of 45. When I got serious and hired Chrissy as my trainer I noted that I was good for about 30 minutes before the pain started to slow me down. As I worked up to 40 minutes and then a full hour, I really felt my riding was improving. I started doing schooling shows and rode for a few hours, but not continuously. Then came some trail riding and did a couple of 2-3 hour trail rides where I thought I was going to blow out the knee ON THE TRAIL and hoped Coconut would be able to get me back. Most of you probably know that going down steep hills is hard on the knees but once you're up there, you have to get back down and what was I going to do, get off and walk back? So yes...I suppose it was time to get serious about this and enter the program to get the knee fixed.

Over the last year I did start to address the problem by consulting an Orthopedic surgeon who started me on Synvisc injections. Synvisc is basically (as I understand it) purified chicken fat that, when injected into the knee, creates lubrication and less friction between the bones. Those are supposed to last up to 6 months and the first round seemed to have some good results. The second round was not as successful. I got injected days before I left for the World Equestrian Games were I walked extensively every day. I knew a week into it that I wasn't getting much relief from it, but I pushed on.

I tend to sit pseudo-yoga style at my desk and about 4 days after my conversation with Ruth, I was working at the computer and went to unwind my legs but discovered that I could fully extend my knee and could barely put any weight on it. I had no choice but to break out the crutches and was on them for the next 36 hours.  The next morning I called Dr. Hunter's office and told them that even though I had an appointment in a week, I really felt like I was having an unexpected urgent issue and they were able to fit me in early the next morning. Of course when I woke up for that appointment, the problem seemed resolved but I didn't know what could trigger it next so I kept the appointment anyway.

They took a series of x-rays and Dr. Hunter came in within a few minutes and said, "I don't know how you even walked in here today" ... the knee is completely blown. He said if he didn't know me, he'd say it was the knee of a 78 year old (about 30 years off!!!) and shook his head saying there was nothing he could do but replace it. Apparently it's covered in bone spurs and too damaged to try to treat. He asked if I could clear the next 6-8 weeks and since I happen to be in a position to do that, he put me at the top of his list and I got a call later that day that they scheduled me for Monday the 28th, just 10 days away at that point. No time to go through the seminar, prep classes or any of that...get in and do it, pretty much, NOW!

When I told him I wanted to ride at least another 10 years, he said, "Why not 15-20?" and I smiled BIG and said "OK!" There will, however, be no running in my future (oh darn...bwahaha) but riding pleasure, trails and some dressage would be ok. No Jumping though! Hey...I'm starting to sound like Bucky B Lucky! I knew we were kindred spirits. In fact I went to visit him on Friday and he kept sniffing my knee. How weird is that? Do you think he knew? Maybe when we're both all better, we can team up for a ride. That would be amazing!

A little Lucky Love before I go off to fix my leg. You next handsome!

So projects that I'd been looking at doing over the next few months either had to go on hold or get done in a hurry! The last week has been a whirlwind of stuff that I felt pressured to do. Now it's hours away from when I need to leave for the hospital and I'm looking around thinking that I guess some of it will just have to wait until I can get to it. I did what I's time to get better!

I'm not too worried about the procedure. I have a highly recommended surgeon and my own personal recovery nurse. It turns out that my friend Becka, who's mare Autumn was my first lesson horse at Chrissy's & is now Coconut's neighbor on the other side at the barn, is a recovery room nurse and she has a plan for me! I will be in good hands all the way through this so nothing to fear...and every thing to gain, I think! I'm starting to consider how much more relaxed I can be in the saddle once I am out of pain. I know there is a LOT of work I will have to do to get rehabbed from the surgery and get used to the new knee but I have every reason to believe that if I can power through the pain to ride and do the things I love, then I should have no problem applying myself to, what some call, a difficult recovery. I'm pretty tenacious... but I also know that I could be writing "omg, this is the hardest thing I've ever done" posts later. I hope someone will cut and paste this back to me if I do turn into a screaming/crying mess. Maybe Ruth can come over and remind me how committed I need to know...if I am serious about this riding thing.

Tonight I'm hopeful. Tomorrow I'll sleep it off & then it's on to a new adventure!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Value of Good Riding Apparel

This story is probably less about the title but more about the event and the "what did" and "what could have" happened....

A week or so ago I got this really nice postcard from Olson's Tack Shop about their upcoming big clearance event, including a 20% coupon off of one regularly priced item. On that post card was a photo of the very Ariat Boots that I have been craving since WEG...
The Windemere Baker by Ariat (In Black please!!)
 Since I don't currently have a budget for boots, I kind of knew that I wasn't going to go get them but I held on to the post card ... just in case.

Then on Thursday Olson's started posting photos of their tent sale merchandise on Facebook while they were getting ready for the big sale on Friday morning. I saw a shot of several stacks of Dansko shoes and sent Maeve a text to let her know that her beloved footwear, the same ones she'd had to put down so she could help rescue Sugar back at the beginning of the Great Paint Project, were on sale and I might have hinted that these would be less expensive in the long run...especially since they were half off.

Before long I got a call from her and somehow she'd been magically teleported from Tacoma to Bellevue and not only did she pick up a pair in red, but also a yellow pair in snakeskin .... and a few other things including a new pair of Kerrit's Full Seat Riding Breeches BLUE!!! She was so excited! I recycled my postcard knowing that my work here was done and it was not my day to get new black or any other color! The message was just to pass on the info to some other deserving soul. It was reward enough to hear how excited Maeve was about her treasures...and to feel like she finally got the reward she'd denied herself in order to help a couple of sad Paint horses...TWO YEARS ago!! (I can't believe it's been that long already!)

I try to remember to follow that little voice that tells me to do things even when I make a million excuses not to. On Sunday I was working in my storage unit trying to get things situated so I can finally move my (ex) business out of there. My original plan included going to see Coconut afterward but it was getting pretty cold and close to evening time so I thought I'd head home instead. I had to turn right before I could make the U-turn to head home but when I got to the intersection I decided it was really just a mile or so to go see my girl and I continued ahead.

As I pulled up I was excited to see Maeve's car parked in front of the barn and an arena full of people and horses. It always makes me happy to see folks enjoying horse time. I noticed right away that Maeve had on her new breeches and so I rolled down the window to say something stupidly clever like "nice seat" or something equally equestrian-y...until I saw the look on her face was not that of great joy but instead of great pain. Before I could get any info she said "I was just trying to call you" and I looked at my phone confused because I had received no such call...what she meant to convey is that she was trying to reach her phone to call me because she was hurt and could not bend into the car to get her phone or her purse. Thankfully one of our young barn girls, Vanessa, was there trying to help so I jumped out of the car to help if I could as well.

Maeve said she didn't think she could drive home and asked if I could take, no I couldn't in my right mind do THAT! She was clearly in pain and I felt she needed immediate medical attention.

It turns out that Sugar bucked during a ride, Maeve lost her balance and went feet over head (similar, I'm sure to my September unplanned aerial dismount) and had landed on her back. She says she got the wind knocked out of her and, after awhile, was able to turn over onto all fours, but was unable to stand from that position for quite some time. Eventually her wild pony (who had been standing at her side quietly) lent her a stirrup and she was able to stand. Once up she got this notion (as we all do) to get back up and ride, deciding to lunge her a bit first. It was then that she realized she couldn't move well and gave up on the remounting idea.

I told her I needed to take her to get checked out, especially after she could not lift her left leg to get in my passenger side. We were standing beside the car and I was wondering if I might still need to call an ambulance. We then tried to load her in on the drivers side into the back seat and it took some doing and a couple extra hands but she got in and off to St. Francis we flew.

Upon arrival there, I parked in the ambulance bay and rushed in to get a wheel chair, by the time we got back to the car with, Maeve was already out of the car but insisted that she had to walk in as she would not be able to sit in the wheel chair. I walked in behind her with my arms out like a force field ready to catch her at any angle. It was at the check in desk that a nurse stepped around to access her and when he ran his hand down her back she cried out in pain. He reached over and grabbed the phone calling a code yellow trauma in the ER Lobby...and suddenly 15 people came out of nowhere, descending upon her. They placed her on a back board, standing up, and then lowered her to the ground before lifting her to a gurney. although she protested a bit at first saying she was probably ok since she could walk, the nurse said that his concern was that she could walk tomorrow & they were going to take every precaution to make sure she could. That scared the daylights out of me and I was just standing there watching the whole scene unfold. I can't even imagine what was going through her mind at the time but I do believe that even if she hadn't been before, she was sufficiently scared by then.

As they wheeled her back into an exam room I noted her cool new breeches and already had a bad feeling about how long they were going to last in an ER setting. I toyed with saying something but I just kept saying to myself "No! her safety and well being is waaaaaay more important than a pair of breeches!" but it kept nagging at me and I wanted to bring it up so I asked her if I could make her laugh yet and she indicated "NO!" it wasn't a good time yet. So I kept the thought to myself....for the moment.

About then I realized my car was still in the ambulance bay so I excused myself to go move it and check on her dog Ruby (who was now investigating every interesting smell inside my car in hopes of finding something tasty). After moving my car and noting what wrappers were now empty on the seat of my car so I could tell Maeve later what her dog may or may not have eaten, I returned to the exam room. She was in a hospital gown and they were covering her with warm blankets. I glanced around the room to see if I could find any sign of the breeches....nothing!! Argh....the agony...somehow I knew that my job would be to make sure those breeches were not compromised!

Breeches are one of those riding apparel items that really make a difference to those of us who use them. I can totally tell the difference in my riding comfort in a well made pair so to find a pair that fit well, feel well and (hopefully) look great is a major discovery and, yes, we can convince ourselves to spend well for them! find that fit, quality and style ON like a dream come true!!!! The love story would come to a tragic end should one have to be cut out of them. I not the well being of the rider the most important thing?...well....yes....ok ... YES...but good breeches....I'm just saying...they're worth saving know...if you can!

The Doctor came in and ordered xrays so they wheeled her off. I was told I could wait in the exam room for her to return and I took the opportunity to approach the remaining nurse about the beautiful new Blue Kerrit Breeches..."I know this might sound silly....but were you able to save her riding breeches?", I asked. She started to laugh and told me that Maeve's main concern in the dis-robing process was too "PLEASE Save my breeches!!"

Great Minds Think Alike!

The nurse had a cousin who rides and she said she got the impression that everything about horses was expensive, including the clothes. I told her it's not cheap but more importantly is that when you find a good pair of breeches, they're priceless;  to get them on sale is even better but to only get to ride in them one time would have been heartbreaking. About this time they brought her back from xray and I told her about my conversation with the nurse and we finally got to have that laugh! Then one of the other nurses read my jacket logo...Troxel Performance Headgear...and asked me what that was. I proudly indicated it was a riding helmet company. It was only then that anyone bothered to ask if she'd been wearing a helmet. I was very proud to answer "YES, she was!!!....I wouldn't talk to her if she didn't!" ...and this weak voice broke through her pain to say "That's kinda harsh!"...with a bit of a laugh behind it. So while it's probably not exactly true that you can't be my friend if you don't wear a helmet, you certainly can't be close to me and NOT know how I feel about riding safety!. With all of the current unknowns about her physical well being,  her back, her legs, etc...she had not a single complaint about her head. She spoke clearly & logically and I felt every confidence that she saved herself the possibility of head injury because she does wear a helmet when she rides...EVERY TIME!!!

By now I hope you know that I can poke a little fun at her and I'm writing this with her permission because the xrays showed no fractures. Other than being very stiff and very sore, we believe she's going to be ok. She's still got a bit of a fight ahead of her in terms of dealing with the pain but she's a strong woman and she's already up and around...just slower and more cautiously than normal. We hope she'll be back to herself soon...and wearing those cute new blue breeches!

Friday, February 18, 2011

February's Featured HeARTist ~ Leah Anderson

It’s certainly fitting that we celebrate the month most closely associated with the Heart with a feature of Leah Anderson.

Leah Anderson

Thanks to Leah, who has worked on both of the past HeART of the Horse events, we have a beautiful logo & some wonderful graphics!

Poster for the Original HeART of the Horse Art Show in 2009

Leah is passionate about everything she does, be it riding, taking photos or caring for those around her. It was while she was a volunteer for SAFE when she was finishing up at the University of Washington that she was inspired to create her cornerstone project, “Forgotten”, a look at rescued horses and what it means to the people who rescued them in their own words and Leah’s beautiful photographs. Everyone who has ever had the opportunity to enjoy the book has been deeply moved…many of us to tears!

Leah & myself looking at her book, "Forgotten" - photo: Debbie Hess

“Forgotten” is available through and won their People’s Choice Award in 2008.

Leah is generously donating any profits from the sale of her images on her website Dapple Bay Design or orders of the book “Forgotten” to SAFE this month.

Lost Boys by Leah Anderson

I met Leah in May of 2008 while she was working on the "Forgotten" project after her call out to the SAFE Message board for rescued horses to photograph. I immediately offered Coconut as a subject. Leah came out to KCJ stables and spent the morning shooting the "model" coconut as she posed endlessly for the camera. It's almost as if she knew she was a star!

Coconut as art. photo

Leah shared those photos with me and they've become some of my favorite images of Coconut Macaroon.

Coconut in motion (framed in my office!)

It was at the end of that first photo shoot that I took her up to meet a special little guy who'd been born at KCJ just 17 days earlier...he didn't even have a name.

Baby Basil

But she snapped this photo of him on his very first day out on a pasture with his Mom....Sugar....and then some 9 months later they both were surrendered to Maeve & I and this leggy little creature would end up being called "Basil" and eventually registered as Macho Bar None and sold to his trainer, Kelli Jordan who just took him to his first show (but that's another whole blog post!).

So serious!

In 2009 I had Leah come back out and do a glamor shoot with us as a Christmas gift for my husband Les. He was always so patient with me, my horse activities and the boring (and often dirty) barn attire. I figured he needed a permanent reminder that I *can* clean up OK...

Sylish Girls!

Silly Girls!

We got fancied up and while the original plan included some seated shots, the weather did not cooperate so we played with what we had and used the old barn as our backdrop and I was very happy with the results.

What a fun day that was, even in the rain! Be sure to check out her work and we look forward to her next project. Whatever it is, it's sure to have her heart deeply embedded in it. I can hardly wait to see what's next for this amazing and talented young woman.

I'll close with this favor to ask....If you happen to know a publisher, please share her project with them. We'd all like to see "Forgotten" offered to the world. You certainly do not have to be close to the project to feel is impact & emotion.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lucky Stars!

After the story about Bucky B Lucky hit the front page of the Seattle Times the popularity of a certain handsome Thoroughbred went public. No longer was he just a favorite among SAFE Volunteers, he now had a larger following, including some folks from across the country.

In December SAFE was contacted to see if Lucky was available to be featured in a story that our local PBS Affliate, KCTS 9 (Seattle/Yakima) was working on about the life of a Thoroughbred after the race track. Of course we said yes and on January 5th reporter Jenny Cunningham & her film crew came out to interview SAFE President Jaime Taft, VP Bonnie Hammond and myself about his story & our efforts to help Off The Track Thoroughbreds and other horses.

Getting ready for his closeup!

Lucky is no stranger to the camera for a quick WIN photo but he found this extra attention quite engaging and the new equipment very interesting. At one point he got so close that he fogged up the camera!

Will it eat me or is it something for ME to eat?
He got cleaned up for his interview and then got turned out with two other Off-The-Track horses who live at Jaime's farm in Monroe: Slam (of Dressage Days fame) and Vanna (Vanity Fair) who is a former SAFE horse that Jaime personally adopted. They played a game of "race horse" around the arena and gave us quite a show!

Vanna & Slam have fun playing "Race Horse" with Lucky

After the turnout it was time to show off what a good boy he is. We got him tacked up and Jaime rode him around her arena. He did great demonstrating his walk & trot but best of all showing off how calm he is!

Lucky at the trot.

This week we got word that the show will air this coming Friday, February 18th at 7:00pm on their regular program KCTS Connects (channel 9 or 109 for local Comcast customers.)

We decided that it would be a great reason to get together with other local equestrians so SAFE is holding two Viewing Parties that evening.

If you're in the Monroe or surrounding area join us at:

Monroe Fire Station
163 Village Court
Monroe, WA

if Auburn/Black Diamond is more convenient, please join us at:

Horsepitality Too! Riding Center
33623 206th Ave SE
Auburn, WA

Both events run from 6:30 - 8:00pm and light snacks & drinks will be provided.

If you're interested to attend, please contact me or RSVP on one of the facebook pages:

Monroe - ... 23&index=1

Auburn - ... 65&index=1

We hope to see you there! If you're outside the viewing area, I'll post links as soon to watch it later online as soon as I know when that feature will be available.

EDIT TO UPDATE ( 2/23/11): Here is the link to the KCTS Video. It's easy to skip ahead to around Minute 12 to start the Bucky B Lucky Segment. I will add that in any story there can be a few things that aren't quite right, overall I'm very happy with the outcome.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Calling Your Stallions!

Doesn't your stallion or stud colt deserve a shot at a long and happy life? Have you considered his options by remaining in-tact? What are your goals for him by keeping him a stallion? Is he showing, performing & earning his status? Please ask yourself these questions and then consider giving him the gift of a life-changing opportunity...

Make him a gelding!!!

Save A Forgotten Equine (S.A.F.E.), in partnership with Tacoma Equine Hospital, is offering a Low-Cost Castration Clinic...just $50 will buy him a brighter future.

Date: Monday - February 28, 2011
Location: Tacoma Equine Hospital - 3112 156th Street East, Tacoma, Washington 98446

Apply now at: Save A Forgotten Equine Web Application

Approved candidates will receive day-of-treatment pre/post surgical care on site at Tacoma Equine Hospital, basic medications and the services of a castration by the very qualified Vets at Tacoma Equine Hospital.

All horse candidates must be in good health, have a verifiable up-to-date Tetanus vaccination (or may purchase one on the day of service), and have both testicles fully descended. 

There are only up to 10 spots available that day so get your application started now. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Planning For The Unknown

52 Thoroughbreds needed homes or were going to be sent to slaughter in Ohio....or so went the email, Facebook and Craigslist campaign that swept the internet last week.

I even received six emails from several of my huge hearted non-horse friends about this story asking if I knew anyone who could help. I had also seen it posted on Facebook a dozen times through various organizations I "like" &  my extended friend network that includes many rescuers and other equestrians (and non-equestrians too!). My first reaction was that there must be more to the story and so I didn't immediately pick up the phone and call the number listed because a) I had no way of placing them from my corner of the county & b) it did appear they were getting plenty of attention.

So as it turns out, there really was an owner who passed away recently; a breeder, owner & vet in the Ohio Thoroughbred racing industry by the name of Daniel Stearns. If you'd like to read more about the internet sensation and resulting discoveries, you can read it on the Fugly Blog. As it turns out by the time most of us heard about it, the horses were reportedly rehomed to other racing barns and that by late last week, there were no horses who needed to be placed and the plea then went out to please stop calling the real phone number that had been posted over and over and over....

So it sounds like an acceptable outcome for these horses but I saw an underlying question in this drill...

Do you have a plan on what to do with your horse(s) should you become unable to care for them? This is about to go in a few directions....but one would be the obvious first concern (to me)....if I died, what would happen to my beloved Coconut? My son, Corey, says he wants her but is he truly prepared to provide for her in the manner in which she has become accustomed? I promise anyone who cares for my horse after I am gone that I will come back and Haunt the Hell out of you if you fail her in any way shape or form, should you accept the challenge of becoming her next forever home! So, maybe the fear of me nagging him from the other side is incentive enough to make sure he'd always do the right thing by her, is it really the best thing for her? Maeve said she'd take care of Coconut until the right home could be found. I also thought about the rescue I work with, certainly through their contacts they could find a placement for her through the SAFE Assisted Adoption Program, right!? I choose to believe in my heart that there are several others who would step up for "The Nut!" and either give her a home or find the best possible one. (you KNOW who you are!!)

All that and I only have ONE HORSE!!! What if you had more than one? What if you were a racing barn, a training facility or even a rescue? What if you had 10? ...20?....100? or more??? This idiot, James Leachman, in Montana didn't die, but he did lose his property and had no where to take his 450 horses....let's spell that out... FOUR HUNDRED & FIFTY Horses....and left them there!! Unacceptable!!! If you can no longer care for them, SOMEONE has to. If you own them, breed them or have any plan to make it your income, it is YOUR responsibility to care for them until you can find a suitable/responsible placement for them. Responsible means just what it implies. They are YOUR responsibility now and will be until you die unless you get someone else to accept that responsibility for you. I can't even begin to wrap my head around trying to rehome 450 horses!

...but back to the main subject...

There are so many things to think about & I don't know how one might plan out every scenario but it's really thought provoking to consider the possibilities. We don't need to play out every scene of Black Beauty to understand what can happen in the course of a horse's long life. Some of us need only look as far as our own stalls to be reminded how close horses can come to the brink of disaster.

What would I choose if I had the ability to? Of course I'd want her to feel very loved and that she enjoyed her new home. I would want her new partner to be a good fit and that they both earn respect with one another. Much of that philosophy goes into what I do with her. If today was my last day at the barn, what would happen when the next person steps in to grab her lead rope? Would she be respectful & do as they ask? I think she would...although she's going to eventually ask them her own interview questions like "What will you do when I jump like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssssss and get all four feet in the air while lunging?" "How will you protect me when horse eating alpaca's come to get me on a trail ride? me riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight now!!!!!!!!!". She'll also ask the question (while batting her beautiful white eyelashes at them) "Can you promise to love me?" I feel I've answered those questions for her and she's pretty trusting for the most part. But then again, I do feel like she chose me and that can make a difference.

I feel like what we do together is training, no matter what it is. My trainer Chrissy taught me that! Even if it's just me coming out and grooming her and having some hand grazing. There is still the element of constant behavioral expectations. When we ride, it's done with consistency. The same cues mean the same question every time. She gets to know me and what I want, I get to know her and how she'll perform. It's a dance of ever evolving dance. I've seen others ride her and it's always interesting to see how she responds to them. I watched her test people. When I think to myself, "She never does that for me!" I guess I have to understand that it's because we're a team and we know each other pretty well. She no longer has to ask me the interview questions (I'll add here that I sometimes see her bad behavior as a message she's sending me, not always as a question she's asking me).

How does that translate to the potential rehoming process, you ask?  It matters plenty to me since I need her to possess as many of the quality skills as possible so that her re-homing value grows. Not in a monetary sense, but in a behavioral sense. What happens if her lack of confidence or her intuitive interview skills unfairly portrays her as the rowdy sort? The likelihood that she'll make a good impression starts to dissipate and the odds that her future might hold drama grows. That is not the outcome I would want for her.

It becomes my job to make sure she's a good citizen, to borrow a phrase from Monica Bretherton's Blog, HorseBytes,  and to make sure that while I can't provide her full history, I can account for the history I've created for her over the last 4 1/2 years. I've also been marketing her to a point. She's certainly not my little secret pony at home. I share her story with the world mostly because I want others to feel they are not alone in their journey, whatever part of mine they might feel akin to but also because someday that story may help her in her next chapter if for some reason I can not be in it. No, I have no plans to ever part ways with Coconut. However, if it were not my choice, I think there is enough out there about her that someone would step up and say that she could be a good fit for them and vice-versa.

The next thing I think about are my friends who have large herds, horse facilities or business attached to their horses. What provisions are in place should you no longer be in a position to make decisions...or even care for them....tomorrow? Are your horses going to be advertised on Facebook, Craigslist & emailed out to the entire world? Is that how you want them dispersed or re-homed? If you don't, the time is, while you still can, to put a plan in place.

I like the model Save A Forgotten Equine (S.A.F.E.) has for placing horses. They assess the horse for it's strengths and needs, matching that up to potential adopters. There are a series of meetings between horse and adopter as well as a reference & site check. It's never done solely over the internet. A placement is the work of several people touching each aspect of the horse's well being before the word "Approved" is announced. This makes me feel confident when a rescue favorite ends up in a home I know I might never see them at again but knowing they found a great match is worth what I, as a volunteer, might give up.

There's also the SAFE Assisted Adoption Program that has been in place for many years but has been updated for 2011. We will go out and do evaluations on the horse, document their health care and photograph the horse, if needed, to help us most effectively market their horse. The goal would be to help good owners find responsible placement for their beloved equine companions through the same screening process that SAFE gives it's own herd with the additional promise to look after the horses' well being in that new home for the rest of its life. The difference is that the owner continues to care for the horse and has a say in the final adoption. The rehoming fee is then donated directly to SAFE. I've had the honor of being able to work on this program and invite anyone who might be looking to rehome their horse to check it out on the SAFE Website.

One horse that recently entered the SAFE Assisted Adoption Program is Walker, a 17 year old New Zealand  Thoroughbred with eventing experience. Check out Walker in his SAFE Thread.

I certainly don't have all the answers, especially for those with large herds but I'd like to pose the question to those of you who do....What is your plan?