After serving more than a decade as a research participant in California, the Thoroughbred Anakin was found neglected and starving last month in Washington.

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With a starved frame, Anakin lacks strength to stand on his own. The 20-year-old Thoroughbred was found neglected in Western Washington early last month following a celebrated career in research years ago.

But now, several hundred pounds underweight, the former star is on an uphill trot to health. The Woodinville horse-rescue nonprofit, Save a Forgotten Equine (SAFE), stepped in to care for the gelding, hoping he eventually gains strength to get up on his own.

“His will to live is incredible, considering the shape he’s in,” SAFE Executive Director Bonnie Hammond said. “Most horses would’ve given up a long time ago, but he’s determined to keep on living.”

Anakin started his life as a mediocre racehorse. At 3 years old, his fate seemed grim — he was sent to a kill pen — until a team of California researchers offered him a new career.

The group, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, or Cal Poly Pomona, rescued him. Over the next 12 years, he participated in studies on locomotion and impacts on horses at high altitudes, among other topics, at the school’s Equine Research Center.

But when the facility’s director suddenly died, research funding grew scarce. The studies ended, putting Anakin’s future again in limbo, at age 15, until one researcher in the group took him in.

After that, his story is fuzzy. It’s unclear where and how he wound up in Washington malnourished. The Gray’s County Sheriff’s Office’s animal-control department is investigating the case with hopes of determining Anakin’s source of mistreatment.

Caregivers say he is making progress in terms of physical activity and appetite at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish County, though they estimate it will take three to four months before he returns to full weight and health, according to the horse’s profile on the SAFE’s website.

Some two weeks after he first entered the facility, caregivers were still using a hoist to get him up on his feet because his hind legs are so weak.

“I’m just hoping and praying that he’s going to start showing signs that he’s going to be able to stand up on his own,” Hammond said. “He didn’t get this thin overnight, and he’s not going to bounce back overnight.”

SAFE is accepting donations to support Anakin, which can be made online, by calling 206-331-0006 or by mailing a check to SAFE at 16509 164th Ave. N.E., Woodinville, 98072.

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