A rider has hacked 1,000 miles with her formerly free-roaming Spanish mustang.

Samantha Shoemaker, an office manager and author from Virginia in the United States, purchased Rosa with the mind to doing trail riding and endurance events, but a lot of time was first spent building trust.

Samantha and Rosa share a special bond

“By the time Rosa reached me she was seven years old and minimally handled. She was a degree above feral as she hadn’t been handled until she was six; I could barely touch her,” shares Samantha. “I spent hours in the field getting close to her and getting her to consent to my touch. We’ve been on quite the journey.”

‘She catapulted me off’

Despite spending her early years free-roaming, Rosa had two owners before Samantha bought her.

“We know she was caught in Nevada when she was three years old and she’d had a foal. She was in holding for three years, and had a second foal during that time,” says Samantha. “She was purchased by a gentleman to break her for a mustang challenge but that didn’t go ahead so she went up for sale. She was bought by the young woman I purchased her from; she wanted to try her hand with a Mustang and they weren’t a match.”

The pair have gone on to compete in endurance rides

Samantha worked with Rosa for a few months before she purchased her. She’d been ridden by her previous owner, but hadn’t done much under saddle and was reluctant to take new riders, as Samantha quickly discovered.

“The first time I sat on her she catapulted me off and I went flying,” says Samantha. “We spent a whole month just working in the round pen teaching her commands. We then partnered up with her pasture mate and started doing short hacks.”

A step back was a step forward

Whilst Rosa started coming on in leaps and bounds, heading out for 5 miles every morning before Samantha went to work, the duo had an accident in October.

“We had a horse pile-up, essentially,” recounts Samantha. “I was out with the group I normally ride with, and one of the horses spooked and threw his rider. She was knocked out for a few seconds. My husband’s horse charged at us, and Rosa tried to get us out of the way but unfortunately it rocketed me out of the saddle.”

Whilst Samantha walked away without any broken bones, a second fall a few days later meant her doctor recommended she have time out of the saddle to recover.

“When I couldn’t ride her we did round pen work. I noticed not consistently riding had damaged our relationship and trust, so we worked on our communication. I was out of the saddle for three weeks, and that time did more for our trust and communication than anything else,” says Samantha. “She learned to trust me in a new way; it was incredible. When I started riding again I realised she trusted me more with things she was frightened of.”

The pair have since gone on to cover more miles, and even competed in endurance events.

Doing their part

Samantha and her husband Tim both volunteer with a conservation project that helps wild horses. Being part of this has meant they have both learned how to safely work with and handle horses who have had little to no human contact before.

“I really love working with horses that have been wild or who come from wild stock, because they are such thinking partners,” says Samantha. “When you’re going 1,000 miles you want a partner who can sense when something isn’t right and communicate if there is an issue. Not everyone likes that, but I do.”

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