Severa is a really beautiful chestnut mare. She has a tough background that includes a serious car accident. She has huge scarring on her belly, rump and shoulder from where she was dragged behind a completely unsafe horse transport that she had fallen out of. It is a miracle she is even alive.

Her physical wounds had healed before she came to us, but she still has some trauma she is struggling with.

She is suspicious with humans and is very confident in making her own decisions. For example while leading, she can easily barge through you and drag you along into a direction she feels safer at. It is easy to guess that in her life the humans have not been trustworthy in her eyes and so she prefers to take the lead and be in control.

She is a kind and sweet mare but still reluctant to open up to us. In small moments she relaxes and accepts pleasant scratches and little by little we can build up on it.

Now traditionally, she would probably be labeled ‘rude, bargy, no manners, no respect a pig, nightmare, typical mare, difficult horse….’ any of the above…. and probably the suggested training plan would to ‘ let her know who’s the boss’ or ‘put her in her place’ maybe in a round pen or with a whip/carrot stick/extension of your arm.

Knowing her background, my question is; if violence and force trained horses, shouldn’t she be pretty bloody well trained now?

We are at the beginning of our journey. So far we have had bodywork done on her to release tension in her fascia and we have been slowly getting to know each other. We will retrain her using as little equipment as possible. So far we have got to a stage where she stands by the mounting block at liberty and allows a rider to climb on without getting worried. It might not sound a lot, but it’s huge progress!

So far she has taught me that the only thing that gets you respect, is not round penning or headless lunging and moving feet…. it’s respect. Respect gets you respect.

If you can prove to your horse consistently by your own actions that you are a reliable, sensible, safe and trustworthy partner, not a leader – a partner, you will soon have a horse that walks by your side where ever you choose to go.

We have given her autonomy too by clicker training her. It’s empowering for horses, because they have a full control of what happens to them in that moment. They learn that their behavior has a pleasant consequence and keep offering it. It is my job to use the training wisely to reinforce the right behaviors.

it’s always a safe learning environment because the wrong answers are ignored, not punished. Horses grow in confidence and try different approaches and succeeding makes them happy.

Together we will forget about the dark past and focus on the bright future!

Pia Saari is the founder and owner of Country Quest Portugal. Throughout her life she has gathered extensive experience with horses in many different ways. She has worked with horses professionally in riding schools, livery yards and racing stables. She has worked in horse rescue and helped numerous horses recover from severe physical and mental negligence. She has studied equine ethology and psychology, learning theory and many other subjects relating to horses. Country Quest Portugal has a mission and a vision to make the world a better place for horses - sharing knowledge by an online course is a very important part of this mission. The course is priced low to make it accessible for everyone who wants to learn how to better care for their horses.