Growing up on a farm with parents who still ride horses today and two older sisters who followed in their parents’ footsteps, makes it no surprise that Sarah Wiest, of Hamburg, enjoys riding and being around horses as well. From April to the beginning of August, Wiest did what she has said was probably one of the hardest things she has ever tried which was compete in the Extreme Mustang Challenge.
Not only did she compete, but she won the Reserve Championship at the New Jersey Dream Park on Aug. 3. Of the top ten finishers, Wiest was the only one who was not a professional horse trainer.
In April, Wiest picked up her wild mustang along with the other participants in Virginia. The horses were not haltered and not touched. The trainers had 120 days to train the wild horses and prepare them for the competition which consisted of handling the horse from the ground, riding over a trail and obstacle course and completing a designated reining pattern. Then the top ten finishers competed in a freestyle set to music.
“We’ve always said Sarah likes working with horses who don’t behave,” said Wiest’s mom, Robin Phillips. “She could ride anything. She’s always been good at getting the horses confident.”
Family is a big part of Wiest’s life. The family works together and is always willing to help each other no matter what. Wiest commented that it was just how they were raised.
“I couldn’t have done it with without the support team,” said Wiest on her family.
It was her sister Amy Garber and her brother-in-law Mark Garber who encouraged Wiest to take part in the challenge. After watching a documentary which showed the challenge, Amy said, “Sarah could totally do this.”
During the challenge, Wiest housed her mustang, Lulu, at her sister’s farm Irish Creek Stables in Mohrsville. The first thing that Wiest had to do with Lulu was to teach Lulu to respect and trust her. Lulu had never been touched by a human and the first night Wiest and her family let Lulu into her stable to be alone. The next day they used one of the other horses to help teach Lulu that it was okay to trust Wiest.
“I scratched her head and her entire body relaxed. It was a neat moment,” said Wiest. The next day, only the third day since picking Lulu up, Wiest was able to ride her.
One of the biggest elements of breaking a horse is body language. While at her parents’ farm, Wiest demonstrating how to build a horses confidence and teach them to trust on a young horse named Sprinkles. Wiest used round penning to create a hierarchy with Sprinkles that would exist with a herd. During the exercise, she can control the horse without touching her. Depending on where Wiest is or small body movements, Sprinkles learns which way to move. At the end, Wiest holds out her hand and Sprinkles will slowly walk over to showing her trust and acceptance of the social structure.
“Every horse goes at their own rate,” explained Wiest. She also works on desensitizing the horse and showing them that is she does not make a big deal out of something there is no need for them to either.
After working Sprinkles for a bit, Wiest prepared another horse, Pickup, for a ride. She showed how small movements allow her to instruct Pickup on what he should be doing and most of the time the movements are so minute that they are hard to see if someone is not looking for them.
With the challenge and Lulu, she believes that the atmosphere of the stable helped where Lulu was surrounded by other animals, children taking riding lessons, other children playing and farm equipment being used. It was actually the children who helped pick out Lulu’s name. After they all put in their suggestions, Wiest picked which one she thought best fit the mustang.
“It takes a lot of time, a lot of patience,” said Wiest on getting to know a horse and breaking it.
By the time of the competition, Lulu was taught to lie down, follow Wiest around and was able to be ridden by Wiest without a bridle or a saddle.
“It was almost like being a kid again. Seeing if I could do it for the fun of it,” explained Wiest on what she was able to do with Lulu.
To teach Lulu to lie down, Wiest had some help from her brother-in-law Mark because of the size difference.
“That’s what makes it special for me, the family part,” said Wiest.
Wiest and her family are very supportive of each other and everything that they do is a group effort. In Phillip’s home, there are numerous trophies, photos and buckles from various competitions that the family members have taken part in and won. The family is big on farmland preservation and has a love for horses. Wiest credits the support she received from her family as a big part of her accomplishment during the competition and based on their comments, they are very proud of her and her work.
For more information on Irish Creek Stables visit irishcreekstables.net. To see videos of Wiest working with horses visit www.thehamburgareaitem.com.