From the ashes: Issaquah's Equine Escapes thrives 2 years after barn fire

Kelly Bolen and Doug Madden stand with the two newest additions to Equine Escapes, Issabelle and Bubba. The couple has 13 horses on their Plateau ranch. - Photo and Illustration by Kevin Endejan/Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter
Kelly Bolen and Doug Madden stand with the two newest additions to Equine Escapes, Issabelle and Bubba. The couple has 13 horses on their Plateau ranch.
— image credit: Photo and Illustration by Kevin Endejan/Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter

The memories still haunt Doug Madden and Kelly Bolen  — sometimes feeling like it was just yesterday a 3-alarm fire destroyed their Snoqualmie barn and took the lives of two of their beloved horses.

But, nearly two years after the tragedy, there is also a sense they couldn’t be farther away from the hard times.

“It’s amazing when something like that happens,” said Bolen, of the May 1, 2010 fire. “You don’t automatically go into the grieving process, you go into, ‘OK, what do I need to do to make sure who is left is taken care of.’”

The couple has since moved to Issaquah where the last 14 months they’ve operated Equine Escapes  — a business started four years ago in Snoqualmie focused on horse trail rides, children’s camps and parties.

Their new property, located off Issaquah-Fall City Road just north of Klahanie, features close to 20 acres and includes a 3-acre lake stocked with trout.

“I can’t believe we found this place,” Bolen said. “When you go down the hill, it’s like you’re in your own sanctuary.”

Along with a land upgrade, the couple has added to their family of horses. Left with eight after the fire, they now have 13  — with the two most recent additions Bubba and Isabelle joining the herd last week.

“In this economy, it’s nice to find a good horse that needs a good home,” Madden said.

While trail rides are a focus, not all of the Equine Escape horses are used for riding. Bolen, who has raised horses since she was a girl and has been involved in horse rescue, puts a heavy emphasis on letting the 1,200-pound animals decide what they want to do.

“You go to some places that do trail rides and the horses are head down, nose to butt, it’s almost like they don’t have any more will or spirit,” she said. “We don’t believe in that. We honor and respect the horse.”

Bolen said there’s no other interaction quite like the one between humans and horses.

“They can sense your emotion, they can sense your energy, they can even sense your intention and they see us for who we are,” she said. “There’s a saying that you can never lie to a horse because they see you, not the mask or the facade we put on for everybody else in the world to see.”

As one of the few businesses of its kind in the greater Seattle area, Equine Escapes offers a variety of services.

There are a number of trail rides, ranging from one-hour excursions, to full-day cookouts, to overnight campouts. All rides are done off property on various horse trails.

They also offer several options on property, including lessons and three levels of children’s summer camps. Kids are also able to interact with the three goats, two pot belly pigs, one rabbit, 11 chickens, two ducks, barn cat and two dogs.

The couple is currently constructing three teepees for an overnight guest ranch designed for women’s retreats  — a project they hope to have finished by July.

While they’ll never forget the difficult times, Bolen, a former IT specialist for the US Coast Guard, and Madden, a former firefighter, couldn’t be more happy they continued to live out their dream. Even when bad luck seemed to pile on and three of their horses were attacked by a cougar days after the barn fire, there was never thought of calling it quits.

“We didn’t even think about shutting down,” Bolen said. “This is something that we’re very passionate about. It’s been a dream of mine forever.”

Equine Escapes

Trail rides range from $60 for an hour up to $295 for an overnight camping escape. Summer camps and riding lessons are also available.

Contact (425) 281-0548, (253) 632-2660 or


Kelly Bolen asks Conan to smile for a carrot. The 24-year-old stallion is the leader of the 13 horse herd at Equine Escapes.


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