After our fire evacuation from the CZU August Lightening Complex Fire – Santa Cruz, we returned home without Shasta and Snickers. They stayed with their foster family while we cleaned and learned more about the water contamination for our area. My internal clock became obviously apparent to feed and care for the horses, which were not outside in the yard. I adopted both horses in 2008, and they have never been gone in 12 years. I missed them as I walked past an empty corral; it was too quiet. This empty nest situation confirmed that I wanted a horse that I could ride on trails and trailer out on weekends. I was planning to buy a horse trailer for future evacuations/emergencies, but why not use it on weekends.

I reached out to friends about horses for adoption and joined a few Facebook group organizations, such as Oakdale Equine Rescue. My friend Dori referred me to her friend and former neighbor Rebecca who is a self-funded horse rescue. She rescues horses from Texas kill pen auctions, such as Bowie and Kaufman horse brokers. On October 9, 2020, I messaged Rebecca that I was interested in another gelding, but she said she only had mares for adoption. She sent me pictures of her paint mare, Khaleesi. She was willing to let Khaleesi go to a good home knowing she was a safe and well-trained horse.

The story of Khaleesi really peaked my interest and desire to meet this beautiful and amazing mare. Khaleesi is 13 years old and stands as 15 hands. Her foal date is May 18, 2007 in Texas, and she was registered by the American Paint Horse Association on October 10, 2007. Her registered name is Double Sweet Six. Her color/pattern type is Bay Tobiano. Her sire’s name is Mr. Candy Land, and her dam’s name is Candys Sweet Six. Her mother’s father is her father, so she is double-bred.

Rebecca rescued her in 2017 (at age 10) from the Kaufman kill pen auction in Texas. Khaleesi was ten years old. In the situation of the kill pen, Khaleesi arrive healthy, but in 5 days, she got sick, and she was kicked in the face.

Rebecca took action to provide vet care for over 5 weeks before she could get the health certificate by a vet to travel across state lines to California. Rebecca paid $1250 for her bail; more expensive than other auction horses because the broker knew her value as a registered paint from a desirable, double-bred pedigree line of roping horses.

Rebecca wrote to me about her story, and it is so amazing that she is a friendly and outgoing horse:

“I was able to connect with a former owner thru her papers, she had been in the same home for most of her life…was a trail horse for an older guy, but he got sick and unable to ride, eventually sold her to pay for surgery.

The guy who got sick sold her to his buddy who had a 300acre roping ranch, they compete and do lessons. She has the same breeding as a roping champion he owned in the 90s so he was gonna train her, but had too many and not enough time so he put her in foal to his stud. Then the frost killed the grazing and he had to bring them in and feed. Decided he didn’t want to pay to feed her so he sent her to auction. He seemed mortified that she ended up in a kill pen…he said he didn’t know. But she got sick in the kill pen, kicked in the face…she lost her foal too at some point (she was vet checked in foal, came with her papers).”

Rebecca says that when she got her, she was indifferent to people. She had not been ridden since the age of 4, but Rebecca threw on her English tack and rode her down the road. According to Rebecca, “Kaufman Kill Pen also does not show videos of the horse being ridden or even walking/trotting which is crazy. I bought based on still photos only. I got VERY lucky getting a horse who is safe and sound and sane.”

Rebecca’s positive feelings really made me feel confident that this horse is special, and I should come meet her:

“Khaleesi is very intelligent, she is beautiful, calm and bold, she has her opinions, but she is loyal and affectionate.”

“Always first to the gate, always happy to see me, curious, alert, proud. There is something quite magnificent about her presence. Kind of makes my heart skip a beat every time.”

Khaleesi at the gate greeting Rebecca.

I decided to take half a day off work on Monday, October 19, 2020 to meet Khaleesi and ride her. When we first met, she was covered in dirt so Rebecca washed her off, and I took off her fly mask so I could look into her eyes. There is such a different with mares compared to geldings. I was told by friends that they have to bond with you. It may take time, but once they do, they will give you their all.

I had a great time riding Khaleesi. Rebecca rode Fancy, her pony, and her 3 dogs followed along. Cars drove by, a FedEx van came around a blind corner, dogs were barking, but Khalessi did not react. We trotted and cantered down the road, and I felt safe riding her. A little bit of leg pressure, and she reacted. She was not a slug or sour to head home.

Rebecca did disclose that another person had taken her home, but returned her within a month, saying that her fetlocks had dropped. Rebecca’s farrier felt quite confident that this would not affect her ability to be ridden. She rode beautifully with me and did not reflect any lameness.

On Saturday, October 24, 2020, Rebecca brought Khaleesi to Love Creek Farm. When she got to our street, I could her neighing.

We were ready; Snickers and Shasta were put into their large corral space so Khaleesi could come inside her own space. She was walked into the area, seeing the boys for the first time. They were VERY interested in meeting a new horse, especially a mare.

Once she came into the corral, Khaleesi took right to the grass in the feed bag.

Super sweet girl!

After she settled in, we opened the gate so the boys could come in. Wow, they were very interested in a mare. They followed her around, and Shasta got excited. Khaleesi kept her distance and would squeal out when Shasta was too close and annoying. A few times she kicked out at Shasta, and he turned around and kicked back at her, asserting his dominant pony attitude.

Khaleesi meets Shasta and Snickers.

The first night was still a getting-to-know-you period, where at 4am and 5:30am, Khaleesi squealed loudly. After that, everything was smooth sailing.

Khaleesi relaxing in the sun!

Shasta is the herder, moving everyone around the 3 feed bags. For the first time bringing in Snicker’s oat/alfalfa mush, Khalessi was at the gate waiting. However, Snickers pinned his ears back and gave her a quick nip to let her know that he’s first in the feed line. After Snickers is locked up in his stall to eat peacefully, Khaleesi is given some of the soaked oat/alfalfa with grass pellets and CA Trace, and then Shasta gets his bucket. I’m also giving them both treats when I greet them. They know the protocol, and it’s working great at feeding time.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, my farrier Cody Hill came to trim the horses. I asked him to look at Khaleesi to get his opinion on her dropped fetlocks. He did notice the left rear as particularly more pronounced than the back right side. He recommended a base line x-ray, and a vet’s opinion to learn more. Cody said he knows a mare with the issue who is 22 years old and out to pasture because she cannot be ridden. He considers ten years of riding to be a positive, since Khaleesi is 13.

Khaleesi was calm and patient for the farrier. Such a sweet girl!

On Thursday, November 5, Chuck Kessinger (Adobe Equine Vet) came to x-ray Khaleesi’s back feet.

She stood still and was super clam; Chuck commented, “Thanks for sedating her for me!” The boys went into the redwood grove to watch from the gates, they wanted to see where she was going.

The x-rays showed that Khaleesi has flat feet in the back (both left and right hoofs) where her heels are higher and all the weight is bearing down. A “normal” balance should be a lower toe as if walking in high-heel shoes. The great news was that her fetlocks have not dropped, and she has no arthritis. Chuck stated that he could not determine if this was caused from a congenital condition (since he’d have to see her when he was young) or incorrect hoof trimming over a long period of time. He said that this would not bother him as far as buying a horse, but it’s not the ideal situation to have to deal with. Of course, I want my horse to be healthy and happy, so we’d do what’s needed. I’ve dealt with this for Shasta so it’s not anything new.

Chuck’s recommendation is to have shoes with a wedge to correct the imbalance, and then to trim every 6 – 8 weeks. Before her third shoeing, we would take another set of x-rays to see the changes and make updates to the shoes, which would be eggbars. He also said that a lot of pressure is in her heels which can affect muscles. He could not predict if she would go lame after a period of time, but with the corrective shoeing it would make a difference.

From just being outside the corral for 20 minutes, Shasta and Snickers were so happy to greet Khaleesi. They have all bonded and become good buddies. I was relieved to let Rebecca know that the situation with Khaleesi’s feet does not change my mind to adopt her. We love her kind, calm, and friendly spirit. She’s a great fit.

After digesting the information from the vet, I contacted a couple of my friends who are barefoot trimmers to get their opinion. One friend is very holistic and mindful of the overall health of the horse. Her first reaction was what could be the cause because putting on shoes with a wedge is not the end-all, be-all solution. She recommends remaining barefoot and trimming every 3 weeks. With shoes, it would be trims every 6 – 8 weeks which would not reduce the toe as quickly.

She asked about Khaleesi’s heath, stating that here can be many possible reasons she’s using & holding herself this way:

Is she painful in her s/i? Hocks hurt? Even gut pain or ulcers can cause this posture. And thrush – they’ll stand this way to avoid painful central sulcus in their frogs. Wedging won’t address any of those things. I also wanted to say that I’ve known a number of horses with very funky, unbalanced, ugly feet you’d think would cause them lifelong lameness…and it never did. They can often live long, useful, happy lives with the ugliest, most “incorrect” angles. But if someone tried to fix it, they’d go instantly lame.

I really appreciate the holistic and natural approach to maintaining a healthy horse. I am giving Khaleesi and Snickers California Trace which is a mineral supplement. Shasta is given supplemental minerals from Platinum Performance due to his allergies. I just ordered Egusin SLH for Khaleesi to ensure she maintains gut health.

In my second verbal consultation with a friend who is also a barefoot trimmer, she mentioned that boots can also help. Rebecca’s farrier had also mentioned boots. There are a couple options for boots as far as an Easy Boot to use for riding only. It is not enclosed so rocks can get in. Then in the corral, we could put on a different boot that is enclosed with buckles. The boots are only needed as extra protection for her soles if she gets sore from trimming every 3 weeks. Boots provide extra support as well. The more movement for Khaleesi means more circulation and more hoof growth.

On Friday, November 13, farrier George showed up without Cody Hill. He explained the process by which the shoes with a wedge help support the flat hoof. He convinced me to put on shoes, but Khaleesi was not happy about it. It was apparent that the hammering to shape the shoe made her nervous as well as the hammering on her hoof. I learned later that she was probably “shoe-green” never had a shoe before. She would not stand still and backed up into George’s metal cart. It became too dangerous for him, so he pulled off the one shoe he got on and suggested using sedation in the future.

The visit did not sit right with me as far as forcing Khaleesi to get shoes using sedation. In the past, we had to sedate Shasta for his shoeing, and this just felt like I was going backwards. Khaleesi was so calm during her first trimming as well as with the vet during x-rays. It was apparent shoeing is not something for her.

To learn more about her past, I called her previous farrier Brett Lancaster who was highly recommended. My friend Dori said he is a horseman who can train and go beyond just horse-shoeing. Brett asked me point blank what my intentions were with Khalessi. He said that there is no guarantee with or without shoes that she’ll go lame, so basically don’t adopt her if I’m worried about it. Take her as she is. He said many clients don’t do 3 week trims due to cost, but I could get her trimmed every 4 weeks on Shasta’s schedule and then put on boots. He also said that I would see an issue going downhill on a trail, not uphill. He also said a horse will give signs that she does not want to ride, such as twitching tail and ears back.

Khaleesi is ready to go on trail rides. She is engaged, excited, and forward going. On November 22, Lisa, Tauna, and I rode at Henry Cowell, an 8 mile loop up to the look-out tower in Felton. The day was crisp with beautiful blue skies. Part of the trail was uphill, and she trotted up without stopping. It was a different experience than riding her at Quail Hollow. Now, she is familiar with Honey, and fortunately Honey and George are patient with her because Khaleesi rides close to them. I can tell she’d prefer to ride side by side but the trails are too narrow. She also was fast going downhill, no signs of soreness.

On August 21, 2021, Khaleesi was boarded with Sandi Parker for a month of training. Sandi trains her four days a week with ground work and helping her understand what is expected from her. She only had training for a month when she was younger, and she does not understand. Sandi follows the Perelli training technique, and Khaleesi is so smart, she picks if up quickly.