The three miniature horses eating in their fenced pen. Steve Powell/Bainbridge Island Review photos

From rescuing antiques to rescuing animals

Mar gives up Meli Melo for Happy Hooves Sanctuary

  • Sunday, November 1, 2020 1:30am
  • News

Karen Mar wasn’t horsing around when she decided to rescue animals.

Mar sold her popular Meli Melo, a vintage and antique mall downtown, to Hiromi Yoshinaga, who is changing its name to Zutto.

And she started rescuing animals, even though she admits she didn’t know what she was doing.

She said it was hard giving up the shop she ran for six years.

“I cried a lot,” she said. Of her customers she said, “They became my friends. But I had to let go.”

Mar said she tried for awhile to do both but it was too much work.

“I can be there all day” at her five-acre farm taking care of her rescue animals, who are needy when it comes to attention from people.

Right now she has three miniature horses, two goats and two dogs, which are hers. Along with feeding them she exercises them by walking them and having them pull a small cart. The upkeep on the farm also takes up a lot of her time.

On her wish list is a horse-walker ring, she said.

“They put on weight really quickly,’ she said of the mini horses.

It’s a lot harder work and more time-consuming than she expected.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said, adding she does have some volunteers who help a lot, along with her husband.

Mar had planned to travel to Japan and Italy after retiring, but this was more important to her.

One thing she learned to do that has saved her time and money is teaching the horses to go “potty on demand.”

“You train them just like dogs,” she said. “They’re very smart. I learned by watching on YouTube.”

Mar didn’t know when she started Happy Hooves Sanctuary, but she’s also now involved with therapy horses. Young people who need that kind of therapy come to the farm.

“We don’t have any children, so it’s important to us,” she said.

Mar, who is going through the paperwork to make it a nonprofit, it’s also very expensive. Along with feeding them there are many other costs in taking care of them. One she didn’t know about was how much damage they can cause, chewing on wood at mats.

“I’m so new to this. It’s hard work, but I’ll never regret it,” she said, laughing.

And she’s making it bigger. She already has six stalls and it adding a building for six more.

She said she’s always wanted to run a rescue, but didn’t know what kind. She had thought about dogs but decided that was too expensive and complicated. She has two friends who rescue horses, so she decided to take that route. One, Eileen Retland, is her mentor.

The process is not easy. She had to go to Port Townsend a couple of times to talk the owner into giving up Melody, a palomino. The owners knew she was neglected because they didn’t have time for her. When they relented the Mars picked her up in their van as they didn’t have any other way to transport her.

Horses need company so Mar then picked up Shorty, who was losing its eyesight. Then came Geoffrey, a certified therapy horse who is already working with four ages 9-15 girls who need that type of help.

“I’m just learning about it,” said Mar, who is finding out that one thing just leads to another. That’s how she ended up with two rescue goats from Port Angeles.

Her goal is to get all of the animals “healthy, train them and find them a good home.”

Prior to her antique mall, Mar said she worked on websites for 25 years through But she always knew she was destined to do something else.

“My messsage for young girls is to do whatever you want to do,” she said. “Don’t give up. You’ll make it if you put your heart into it.”

She has also rescued a couple of goats.
The miniature horses cart around a carriage for exercise. They can gain weight fast if they don't move around a lot.
Food is put in bags to slow down their eating. They are so small they can gain weight quickly.
More stalls are going to be built on this site in the future.
This goat seeks a lot of human attention.
Even though they are miniature they eat like a horse.
Kids love hanging out with Geoffrey,a therapy miniature horse. Courtesy photo
Horses relaxing in the corral. Courtesy photo
Volunteers have fun exercising the horses as they pull this cart. Courtesy photo

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