I was volunteering at a local horse rescue in 2010 when they brought in an "investment horse". She wasn't neglected physically but in my opinion she had been neglected emotionally. Everyone at the rescue said this horse was not pretty but that she had potential, I seen her beauty inside and out. Her previous owner would get on her and just run her. This mare didn't know how to just walk with a rider, she had no stop button and she definitely had no emotional investment in humans. Another volunteer as the rescue had ridden her but was having to fight with her a lot and run her into a corner to get her to stop. I really needed to be challenged to improve my riding and asked if I could ride her.
Sierra moved fast and I had a problem with going fast, it actually scared me. It was one thing I was having a lot of problems with since my accident with Harvey. (Read my previous blogs for Harvey's story.) I had been warned that Sierra was difficult to catch but off to the pasture I went, alone and no treats for bribing. It took a few minutes to catch her but not as long as I expected. I groomed her and saddled her. She had great ground manners and was very well behaved. I took her to the arena and did a few minutes of ground work with her. I never get on an unfamiliar horse without doing ground work. I send them back and forth in front of me, yield their hind-quarters, yield their front, flex to each side, back-up, yank on the saddle, a few sudden movements to test their reaction, and then I pet them and hug them.
I walked Sierra to a corner of the arena and with her nose pointed towards the corner, I slowly mounted, being careful to not touch her sides or do anything that would encourage her to move. I sat down softly in the saddle and made sure she kept looking into the corner, we were far enough back so she didn't feel trapped but I wanted her to think there was no where to run to. I petted her and talked to her and tried to get her to relax. Then we started moving. I did short paths across the corner gradually working to circles. Then we made the circles bigger and bigger. After that we began going back and forth across the arena. Anytime she would speed up we went back to doing circles. Eventually we worked on stopping; stopping wasn't a problem when we were already going slow. I made huge progress with Sierra in just a few rides. She was also getting easier to catch in the pasture.
After working with Sierra for a few weeks I took her on a camping trip. When we got ready to go on trail she forgot all of our slow down lessons. She was ready to run. We decided to stay in the campground and ride. We rode around and through the trees, she had to slow down. She was amazing once she slowed back down. We had so much fun. I think this is when I fell in love with Sierra.
After the camping trip the rescue decided Sierra was ready to be sold, I had made huge progress with her training. I went to see Sierra as often as I could. I couldn't stand the thought of her being sold and me not getting to say good-bye.
I talked to my husband about buying Sierra. I thought that eventually she would be a good horse for him to ride. He wanted no part of it, he never tells me no but this time he did and there was no room for discussion. I did finally convince him to come to the rescue with me and just meet this big beautiful girl. We walked into the pasture and she walked up to both of us. We talked and petted her, my husband will never admit it but I think it was love at first sight for them. He told me that if I could arrange payments that I could get her. She was delivered on December 19, 2010.
In January 2011, I had to have surgery and wasn't able to ride Sierra for about 3 months. As soon as I felt it was safe, I got back on her. It seemed like she knew that I was fragile and she took great care of me. I rode her every chance I got, we did some trail rides and camping trips too. I learned that if there is a horse in front of her she will go slow without any effort. A few months later my husband decided he wanted to ride Sierra. She was amazing for him. When he gets on she drops her head and drags her feet. He has to encourage her to even walk fast. The two of them have an unbelievable connection. They love each other, sometimes I wonder if I should be jealous.
My husband has ridden Sierra in the pasture and on trail, she is completely different with him. I know that every time I get on Sierra she will challenge me and push me. She has done so much to help improve my confidence in the saddle. When it comes to my husband she takes care of him. We love this mare so much.
Sierra is a Percheron and Morgan cross mare. Her coloring is very unique, she appears to be dark brown or black but she is listed as gruella. She is actually a reverse gruella, she has dominant dark hairs instead of the light hairs, and she has a dorsal stripe. She is actually very average looking, most of her beauty is inside. She is a no drama horse when it comes to the geldings in the pasture, she keeps them in line. She is my trusted trail mount. Sierra has taught me to trust, I trust that she will always take care of me and those that I love.