|SEX: Mare||BREED: BLM Mustang||REGISTERED NAME: none|
|COLOR: Sorrel||MARKINGS: Blaze|
|YOB: 2007||AGE: 13||HEIGHT: 14.3 hh||WEIGHT: 1,223|
|LOCATION: Redmond||ADOPTION FEE: $2,000||Online Adoption Application|
Sienna and her herdmate Koko were surrendered to SAFE and NWESC by their owner, who was unable to care for them. Sienna grew up fairly unhandled and lived a pretty rough life as a result. When she was surrendered, her front hooves were so overgrown that she could barely even walk. Her weight was good, but she clearly was unhealthy and badly in need of an upgrade in life. Sienna was collected from the Coyote Lake HMA in Oregon and looks like she might be descended from an escaped draft horse! She’s big but becoming quite pretty as she grows more healthy. All SAFE horses are adopted with a no-breeding clause, no exceptions.
Sienna has changed in leaps and bounds since her arrival at SAFE in the fall of 2017. She has had over 60 days of professional training, but she can be challenging. If you have experience supporting a green this mare is worth the time. She is a quick learner, forward and wants to please. This is a NICE horse with a kind heart. She needs an experienced rider to guide her through this next phase.
One of the ways we are working to help Sienna build a solid foundation is to get her operating better off feel. 1st goal was to get her to stop at a point away from the gate. Helping search for this point, we made the wrong thing (leaving the spot) difficult by sending her forward, and the right thing (stopping at the point) easy, full relaxation and petting when she chose turn towards the stop point or as we approached it. It took about 45mins for her to find the stop. Next day.…less than a minute to hunt and find the point.
After that we worked on establishing the leading leg. Helping her choose to follow the riders feel sent either to the right or left. Ultimately our goal is that our horses become an extension of our legs. In order to get there she needs to follow our feel. Again she has the choice. The right thing easy, turning with the direction the rider is sending the feel, and the wrong thing difficult, sending her when she chooses to go the opposite way of the riders feel.
Sienna is sensitive mare that even the slightest tension held in the riders leg or seat keeps her from turning all the way loose and coming to a stop or following a feel. In time she will get more with her riders and search for the peace offered when we are going together.
Before riding Sienna we run through almost all aspects of Buck Brannaman’s Groundwork book (The Red book). Checking out green horses is key to making sure you aren’t over looking anything and getting yourself into trouble. Sienna can be full of braces and you could surface ride her for awhile and think everything was good…until it wasn’t or some outside stress tips the scale in the wrong direction. It’s very important she learns to work through her braces and find relaxation even when put into binds.
Sienna is a lovely mare and going to with a lot of consistency and good horsemanship make a wonderful riding partner. She has come so far and her future is so bright!
Sienna has made some excellent improvements since we took a little extra time with her groundwork training. Our friend Joel Conner felt that Sienna started out training holding so much trouble inside of her that once she started to free up her feet, her residual anxiety started to come to the surface. This may explain why she did so well in the first months of training and then became so sensitive in her hind, especially near the back-cinch.
Since August I have been diligent with her groundwork. I have been taking her through all Buck Brannaman’s “Groundwork” exercises and paying close attention to her “feel” or emotional state. Her ability to hold her feelings inside and hide her fears can be deceiving. It is crucial to not expect her actions and responses to be mechanical. I have to be careful not to stop before she reaches true acceptance. Leaving just a little trouble in there, especially if it is allowed to build up, can make her very reactionary and frightened. I have seen big changes by drawing her troubles to the surface and supporting her so she can let them go and find true freedom, balance, and peace.
When I went back to riding her again, everything felt different. She was much softer, she would “feel back to me;” that is, when I asked for her to bring her head around, she was reaching for me as I asked for her. Most importantly, she was connected to me in a way that she had never been before. I am continually in wonder and fascination with how well this style of horsemanship helps troubled horses find peace. I am thankful we have the tools to help horse like Sienna. Through this work, she is able to partner with humans to experience a trust and friendship that she never experienced before.
Sienna was set to be in the clinic with Joel but we had a little setback the day before he came out. It had been a very busy week with outreach cases and Sienna was not able to be worked as much as normal. I jumped on her for a quick ride the day before the clinic and during the warm up she became troubled and I fell off. Unfortunately, I was not in the right head space to be riding this green mare and with so many other things on my mind when she started to buck, I didn’t commit to staying on, which resulted in my hitting the ground. Luckily it was not a horrible landing and I was able to get back on and walk, trot, and canter her before putting her away for the night.
This setback is unfortunate because a smart, sensitive mare like Sienna is like a sponge for new information. When she felt nervous, I did not support her through the trouble so she took that as the new normal. It was nice to have Joel here right after this happened. Sienna was a little stressed with the clinic environment, new horses, lots of movement in the arena. Add to that the new worry that Terry might hit the dirt, it wasn’t the great showing we had hoped for in the clinic. However, everything is a good training opportunity and we used this time to get to the trouble and help her through it. She became very sensitive to the rear cinch area after the incident so this was something that was important to work on.
Joel rode her a little bit in the class but suggested that I go back to the basics with groundwork. Looking back, I think I have been doing too little groundwork and getting more focused on the riding. I also know that I rode her just shy of the trouble. It can sometimes be worse to ride a horse without going through the trouble than to not ride at all. Let the trouble sit just below the surface and it’s going to be there waiting for the first opportunity to surface. You’ll regret not dealing with it.
Since the clinic I have been able to work with Sienna both on the ground and in the saddle. We are regaining trust. She is still pretty sensitive to the hind cinch so I make sure to help her accept this touch. She’s a few days off recently due to a bad case of hives but with a little hydroxyzine medication she is looking and feeling better. We’ll start up again next week and the goal will be to get more miles on her to help prepare her for adoption.
We had a chance to have photographer Alessia Rauseo visit Safe Harbor and take some beautiful photos of our sweet Sienna. Sienna has recently come home from Nick Donohue’s training barn and she’s doing very well. She is still fairly green but she is accepting me as a new rider. She still needs more miles and experiences before she will be ready for the public but things are progressing well.
A few new things since coming home from training. First, Sienna LOVES her buddy Zoe…maybe a little too much. But it’s so cool that she can be turned out with other horses and is doing so well with companionship! Second, she is an expert with the farrier. Happy girl for her toe trims! And lastly, she is even MORE of a sweetheart than I remember before she left. She loves grooming and spending time just hanging out with me. Such a quiet soul who was just needing to understand what people wanted of her to be gentled. Sienna is AMAZING!!!
This horse is helping me be a better rider, horseman, and hopefully, a better human being. Her try inspires me to work harder to be the partner she needs to guide her through this journey to adoption. Where she is today is light years from when we first met. Her transformation takes my breath away. A true testament to rescue done right and the power of horsemanship. I promise to keep striving to be the best I can be for horses like Sienna.
Here is a little video of her working at home at Safe Harbor:
We have been getting wonderful reports back from Nick Donohue on Sienna’s progress. She settled in nicely to his training barn and Nick said that while she was a bit reactive and touchy at first, she is progressing well. Nick worked on getting her more comfortable with the saddle and more “turned loose” to both the act of being saddled and carrying it around without a rider. This is an important piece to helping make this first ride a success.
Thank you Nick for the wonderful video update and giving Sienna such a great foundation! We are excited to see how she progresses and to see where this journey takes her. She will always be a smart and sensitive mare and with the right start she has the tools to be successfully adopted as a riding horse.
Kaya has been diligently working through the groundwork steps to get Sienna prepared for a rider. Here is what she had to say about this experience:
“Sienna is, without a doubt, one of the smartest horses I have ever worked with. Having just been working with her for a little over a month, I’ve gotten to see some awesome changes, but watching videos and hearing stories from when she first came to SAFE, it is incredible how far she has come in the last year!
We have been preparing Sienna to go to training to be started under saddle, so my job has been to focus a lot on getting the trouble out. It’s been a great learning opportunity for me! We do a lot of work with the rope and a lot of touching all over and she has made some serious progress. Saddling can still be a little scary for Sienna, but overall, I am optimistic about her future as a riding horse! I can’t wait to see what changes she will make in the next year!”
Last week, Sienna headed down to Nick Donohue’s farm in Banks, Oregon. She will get settled in and start training in early February. We are unsure how she will take to a rider but if this mare has taught us all anything, it is that through patience and love anything is possible. She was an absolute gem to load in the trailer and was quiet the entire ride. Nick reports that she has settled well, and he will begin working her next week. We are all rooting for her and look forward to seeing her transformation!
Horsemanship volunteer Kaya took Sienna into last week’s Joel Conner clinic. Here is what she had to say about their work together:
This clinic was my first time ever working with Sienna! She did so great and I learned so much. There were a couple of moments when Sienna kind of lost track of me and got overwhelmed with the commotion, but I got right to her hindquarters and she quickly settled into a quiet drift and got back to work. I was so impressed with her ability to move past these few moments!
With Joel’s help, I decided on three main goals on Friday that I would work on over the weekend. 1. Freeing up front quarters 2. Backing up 3. Backing arcs. I was so happy with Sienna’s progress with these three aspects of groundwork. By Sunday, Sienna was moving her front quarters away from me with a calm balance, we got three even steps backwards consistently based mostly on feel, and she figured out how to move her hindquarters the correct way on a backing arc! Sienna is such a sweet and attentive horse. She was constantly looking at me with bright eyes and ears forward waiting for the next cue. I can’t wait to see how she continues to progress!
Terry worked with Sienna during the groundwork sessions of the Joel Conner clinic, and Sienna was saddled for the first time! Here’s what Terry had to say:
This was Sienna’s second time in a Joel Conner clinic at Safe Harbor. Joel and I assessed the work I’ve been doing with her and I asked for his help saddling her for the first time. I’ve done quite a bit of rope work with her and she seemed untroubled by it now. In the beginning she would flinch a ton when anything touched her and even bolt away when the touch lasted too long. I took a good amount of time preparing her for the cinch by rubbing her with my hands along the girth, chest, and back. Even just grooming her has been good preparation for this. In the beginning, I could only brush her hindquarters or tail. Now she stands quietly for grooming. So I was hopeful we could get the saddle on but unsure about doing it myself. Making sure this first saddling was a good experience was very important with such a sensitive mare. Having Joel’s experience and guidance was really helpful.
She did react a little bit to the saddle but overall it was not too bad. She got a little tight and threw in a few jumps but she she quickly smoothed out. To be completely honest, after Joel put the saddle on and I could see Sienna was ok with it all, I got a little emotional. Having seen this mare come so far in just a year with SAFE was simply overwhelming. I am so impressed with her willingness to connect. She’s transformed from an untouchable frightened mare to a sweet gentle girl. She stood quietly amidst all the commotion of the clinic and rested her head on my arm. It’s truly a gift working with horses like her and being able to build a relationship of trust and love. She is truly one of the special ones and I am honored to have her friendship.
I’ll continue to saddle her when I work her and do tons of things to help her get used to the stirrups moving around and things touching her side. The biggest improvement over the weekend was her softening around to bend her neck. This will be very important for when we get on for the first ride. We want her to find comfort in the bend and helping her stay soft and not brace up. If all continues to go well, we will put the first rides on her at the November clinic. I truly believe Sienna is going to make it because this horsemanship works!
Gallery photos (click to view):
Terry worked with newbie Sienna in the groundwork portions of the Joel Conner clinic, and had this to report:
Sienna was a superstar for the Joel Conner clinic! She became very relaxed and calm in the clinic setting with the other horses around. She even stood quietly with me and almost fell asleep during a break. This smart, athletic mustang mare is making amazing strides and transformation in her training at SAFE. We have taken it slow with gentling her, allowing her time to adjust to life as a domestic horse. She’s had a lot to get used to over the last month. SAFE being the busy place it is with lots of people and horses coming and going, there have been many first time experiences this once untouchable mare has had to conquer. This clinic was a good benchmark to see all our efforts are paying off.
As far as the groundwork itself, Sienna is a willing and bright partner. She is less afraid of what is being asked and her true personality is beginning to emerge. She is sweet and has a kind eyes. She also is very smart and you can see her trying to figure out what is being asked. She has an enormous amount of try. If she gets frightened, her first response is to bolt. But more and more, she is not as overwhelmed or panicked and will look for support rather then trying to flee the scene. She now allows me to groom her and brush her tail, pick up her hooves (still cautious with the hinds but we get there relaxed and managed) and the farrier has been able to trim all four of her hooves twice now. It is a slow process since she was so afraid but things are moving forward with many little successes along the way. She is still timid when new people approach her but even that is showing signs of improvement.
We plan to keep things slow and steady with Sienna’s training. She’s a long-term project so we’ll continue to put just enough pressure on to push through her trouble but not too much to overwhelm her. She continues to impress me with her willingness and intelligence. With the changes she has shown so far, I feel like she has a chance of becoming a riding partner and we will continue to make steps in that direction.
SAFE does the majority of its work in the public eye, sharing our stories, photos, videos, and updates with our supporters via our website and social media. But there are some rescue efforts that are done in private through our Community Outreach Program. Through this program, horse owners in need of help can apply for assistance with hay, vet care, gelding services, and euthanasia. Out of respect for the privacy of these individuals, most of whom have simply fallen on hard times and need short term assistance, we don’t typically publish these stories, or if we do, it’s well after the fact. It’s important that people feel comfortable asking for our help, because it takes a lot of courage to admit when things go wrong.
There are also some individuals we work with quietly for years, hoping that they will finally see the light and agree to surrender their horses. It takes patience, tact, and empathy to deal with such situations, but kindness often wins out and horses’ lives are changed for the better. So when Animal Control told us that Sienna and Koko’s owner was ready to give up their horses, we simultaneously rejoiced…and panicked. The timing was really bad…SAFE was completely full with several intake requests in the pipeline. Plus, we knew these two horses…and neither of them seemed like good intake prospects. Sienna, a young Mustang mare was dangerous and untouchable. The other horse was an elderly gelding who was a little friendlier, but not much. But we also knew that they were living in terrible conditions, so we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get them out. It was a conundrum for sure.
After some thought, we decided that the best thing we could do was remove the horses from the home and humanely euthanize both of them. This is a sad way to start out a rescue mission, but sometimes it is the best option available to offer. The horses would never be hungry or cold or afraid again…they would never suffer neglect again. It was the best we could do in a situation that had gone bad years ago.
Removing the horses from their home was a challenge. They lived in a remote area on a property that was difficult to access on foot, much less with a horse trailer. And once we got our rig in, how would we get these two unhandled animals safely into the trailer? Terry made about a hundred phone calls, and got many offers of help from members of the community. Special thanks to Pasado’s Safe Haven, NWESC, Joel Conner, Dr Dana Westerman, and MANY others for their smart suggestions, offers to lend us equipment, and offers to go along and help wrangle/transport. Pretty soon we had developed a plan that we thought would accomplish the mission and keep everyone safe.
We also did a preliminary site visit to assess the horses and their surroundings so we’d know what we were up against. This is where our carefully considered plan hit an emotional snag. Sienna was jumpy and nervous, but she allowed us to pet her and within minutes became surprisingly relaxed about it! She seemed to have changed quite a bit since the first time we met her, a couple years before. These are the moments where you think your heart might tear in two…when you look into a horse’s eyes and you just cannot imagine putting her down. She was not who we thought she was.
Koko on the other hand was shockingly thin, and of the two, he was the one who was pinning his ears and pulling grumpy faces at us. He looked like hell, but he seemed to have a fair bit of energy. The owner disclosed his registered name, and we learned that he was 29 years old. Turns out that we didn’t know these two quite as well as we had thought.
The extraction was challenging but ultimately a success. Panels were used to create a chute that led from their pen to the trailer, and since Koko agreed to be led, Sienna followed quite willingly. The horses were signed over and we were on our way to Northwest Equine Stewardship Center for the next phase of this rescue mission.
At NWESC, the two horses were quarantined side by side, and Dr Hannah began working with them on the ground so that they could actually receive some much needed vet care. Sienna in particular still had some deep seated fears that needed to be dealt with so that she could be safely examined and treated. Her hooves had gone untrimmed for so long she could barely walk and it took some coaxing before she was able to be trimmed. Fortunately for her, SAFE’s partnership with NWESC meant that she had the best people working for her and helping her make this transition. More about Sienna’s stay at NWESC
Last week, the next phase of Sienna and Koko’s new lives began. Because of SAFE’s extensive training program, it made sense for Sienna to become a SAFE horse. Koko was kindly taken in by NWESC where he will hopefully find a loving retirement home to live out his days. When moving day came, Dr Hannah said goodbye to her sweet friend Sienna and wished her well. Sienna loaded bravely into a trailer, and headed off to begin working with trainer Jolene D who will be donating her services to teach Sienna ground manners and safe handling, before moving on to possible under saddle work. Koko was moved to an NWESC foster home at the same time, and fortunately, neither horse reacted badly to being separated, once they saw that there were other horses in the world.
We are so grateful that NWESC was able to offer Koko a place in their program. Their mission is not to take ownership of horses, but to assist other rescue groups, so this was a bit of a change for them. Since SAFE really did not have room for Koko, we are so thankful that NWESC was able to take responsibility for this old gentleman. This rescue effort was a true partnership, and we are honored to have worked beside such terrific people.
Here’s a video of Sienna, shortly after arriving at her new barn. Quite a trot, don’t you think?
Here are photos of Sienna taken at NWESC at the beginning of her stay there. You can really see how awful her feet were in these photos. It was incredibly difficult for her to walk with feet this long.
Here is an update from NWESC on Sienna’s progress:
Sienna is doing really well with her handling and hoof trimming. She is catchable although still very cautiously and she get spooked/nervous occasionally. She is good for the most part about being groomed and touched most places (probably not all the way under her belly or between her hind legs yet). Dr. Hannah has been able to do a very basic trim just to get some of the big slipper feet taken down a bit. She has been able to trim the fronts but haven’t been able to trim the hinds yet but she can pick up and touch her hind legs to pick out her feet. Daphne will be here December 8th so hopefully with another week or so of practice and with Daphne’s amazing way with horses she’ll be able to trim her hind feet as well. We are hoping to have some xrays before Daphne comes out so she’ll have a better idea of how much she can take off — at the moment the xray machine won’t accept running multiple extension cords up to their paddock but Sienna is very close to where she could CAREFULLY be brought down to the arena for xrays. She is wearing a rain sheet and is on a bit of a diet but with the slow feeder net shes had hay in front of her 24/7.
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