To work with a horse is to embark on an archaeological mission of sorts, uncovering within both the horse (and yourself!) hidden spots of trouble. Sometimes such spots are obvious — a horse who is worried about the flag flapping, or rope around their feet, or a stirrup in their blind spot. But sometimes these spots are buried deep, requiring what seems like a perfect storm of circumstances to rise to the surface.


Sienna is a stoic mare. While some horses wear their thoughts on their sleeves, you would be hard pressed to figure out how Sienna feels just by looking at her. She is a model citizen when it comes to being brushed, getting saddled, leading, standing tied — on a superficial level, she even knows all the moves in a groundwork progression. To see Sienna on any given day, the way she is around anyone who handles her, you might be reminded of an old been-there, done-that lesson horse. But don’t let that calm demeanor fool you — Sienna is ‘fine’ until she isn’t, and that isn’t can be sudden and explosive.


Sienna seems to be bothered by things on her outside eye. A leg squeezing her, a rope touching her, a stirrup bouncing against her side, all things that could – operative word – trigger an outburst. These things always bother her, but sometimes they bother her so much that she bucks, and a powerful buck at that. Trying to find this spot within her is difficult since she hides it so well most of the time, but the risk of leaving that sliver in there, the times when she can hide it no longer, is too great. It must come out before she can be safe for others to ride.


What it really boils down to is her feet are not free. When she feels ‘stuck,’ all bottled up inside, that pressure has nowhere to go but up and out. You see this when a certain spot is touched in a certain way, yes, but also in the stilted way she backs up – heavy on her front, unable to shift her weight to her hind feet. You see it in the kink of her tail, this lack of balance in her movement. All related to her lack of mobility, something in her telling her that she can’t move.


But we are doing our best to teach her that she can, to empower her to know she has options, that security is a possibility.


Joel took Sienna under his wing this year, and then turned her over to Terry while still overseeing their partnership and stepping in when asked. Sienna is a horse who requires full attention, whose tendencies to slip back into old, troublesome habits must be caught early before they crystallize even more within her. With each ride and session on the ground, we work to chip away at those deep set braces and instill the gift of freedom instead.


And this is happening, this excavation. Slowly but surely. Progress is not always linear, and some days feel more like going backwards than forwards, but strides have been made. It still might take a while before Sienna is ready to meet just anyone to be her riding partner, but we have faith that one day, hopefully not long from now, she will fully transform into the confident mare we know she can be.