Sarge has a new life in Sequim because he refused to get in horse trailers that would have carried him to an awful fate. ()

Sarge has a new life in Sequim because he refused to get in horse trailers that would have carried him to an awful fate. ()

KAREN GRIFFITHS’ PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Inspiring story of a horse that refused to be taken to slaughter house — and the organization that found him a new loving home

I love sharing this story of success from the horse-rescue organization run by Valerie Jackson and Diane Royall called OPEN — Olympic Peninsula Equine Network (formerly Eyes That Smile).

Valerie shared with me that a little over a year ago, they were told about a horse that was in desperate need of a place to call home.

It had been a ranch horse, and apparently when this particular ranch is “done” with a horse, the ranchers send it to the feed lot with instructions that it go straight to the slaughter house, “not to be re-homed.”

She was told the ranch owner doesn’t like to see his brand anywhere but on his ranch.

Apparently the ranch owner underestimated one horse’s will to live.

Horses can stay jammed into holding pens for a few weeks until there are enough to fill a semi-truck’s trailer to travel across the Canadian or Mexican borders to a “kill house.”

While at the feed lot holding pen, this gelding — apparently an expert at unlocking gates — loaded himself into horse trailers with open doors on trucks and ready to leave with other horses to be re-homed.

He loaded himself up three different times in an attempt to get the heck out of there.

The third time was the charm: The feed lot attendant said to the trailer owner: “Just take him. He is a nice boy and very smart. He deserves a chance at a life.”

A friend of a friend called Valerie and Diane to see if they could take him in.

Of course. After hearing this story, they couldn’t turn him away.

After promising never to post the ranch brand online or give out any other specific details, the gelding, which they named Sarge, came home to Sequim.

Although he had hoof problems, he was otherwise a healthy 12-year-old.

A few visits from the farrier took care of the hoof problem.

It didn’t take long for Sarge to be adopted. Today, he is part of a very loving home.

OPEN is the horse-rescue organization for Clallam County.

Founded nine years ago, it is now a registered ­501(c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping horses and their people.

Over the years, volunteers have directly helped hundreds of animals — primarily horses — and also network with other horse rescue associations and advocates across the United States.

Through all these years, they have used their own properties along with a network of foster homes to care for the many horses that have come through OPEN’s “gates.”

At the beginning of this year, OPEN leased a few acres in Sequim with power, water and some fencing, and the group plans to build shelters, paddocks and outbuildings.

The goal is to create a rescue facility that can house up to 10 horses at a time with a covered arena to be able to offer various educational and veterinary clinics.

So far, OPEN has hosted three successful vet clinics that focus on tooth floats, vaccinations and castrations. But other vet services are provided as well, including chiropractic.

“We are not a sanctuary,” Valerie says.

“We take in and rehabilitate horses with the intent of eventually finding them new homes. . . .

“Fostering one of our horses can qualify as a tax-deductible donation.

“However, as with any other rescue organization, there are times, whether it’s due to poor health or dangerous behavior issues, an animal cannot be returned to the public or re-homed, and we must make the difficult decision to have them put down.”

OPEN is 100-percent funded through donations and animal adoption fees.

The volunteers clean out barns of last year’s hay to help farmers get ready for the new crop.

Many times they have been offered pastures of hay but usually have trouble finding someone able to bale it for them, even though they are willing to pay for the service.

If you would like to help, OPEN has a volunteer application on its website,

“We cherish every bit of support we receive,” says Valerie.

“And thank you to all who’ve supported us and helped us make a difference by getting involved in helping us help these beautiful animals.”

OPEN has other horses available and waiting for their new loving homes, too.

To find out more, visit the website or call Diane at 360-582-9455.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Sunday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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