When Sierra came to Hanaeleh, we were told that she was trained to ride and just a little nervous out on trail, but we quickly discovered that not only was she not trained, but that previous trainers had used abusive methods when working with her. As a result, we had to teach Sierra how to work under saddle, and we needed her to trust us and to eliminate the fear reaction she had to being worked.
Even after about six months, Sierra still is afraid when being worked in the arena, and will run around as if we’re chasing her. Abusive trainers will run the horses around until they are exhausted, whipping them when they try to stop, so the horse will keep running and running and running until they are too tired to fight. It takes a long time for the horses to stop that behavior and learn that we are just trying to exercise them, not hurt them, and Sierra is slowly understanding that she is safe with us.
When we realized that Sierra was not trained to ride, we started her back at the beginning – ground driving her and teaching her the basics – left, right and straight. Eventually we were able to get her to relax and finally get on her back without her being afraid! We have been working her under saddle for the past month now, and she is doing well walking and trotting under saddle both in the arena and out around the ranch. We plan on taking her out on the street next week so she has a little change of pace! She is still tense while being worked, but she is starting to relax a little, and as we continue to ride her, we hope that she will learn that we aren’t going to hurt her and she can start to enjoy our rides.
Sierra has a lot of muscle soreness in her neck and hind. We believe that the trainers tied her face to the stirrup of the saddle or even her tail. This terrible practice is yet another abusive technique by trainers who prefer to hurt the horses in order to try to overpower them instead of actually teaching them.
Thankfully we have Lisa at Five Star Equine to help us! Lisa is a wonderful massage therapist who has started to work on Sierra, and we are continuing her massage techniques during Sierra’s grooming sessions, so we hope to have her feel more relaxed and comfortable soon!