Scarlett & Amber

Looking out of her bedroom window each morning, Scarlett is reminded what a lucky little girl she is.  There, grazing in the paddock just a few meters away is Amber, the golden palomino mare she fell in love with at first sight, just a few months ago.

Scarlett had been attending a riding school for a year and a half and was gaining confidence in her abilities but her dream had always been to own a horse of her own.  She and her mother Nicole both knew they would need some expert help in choosing the right horse, so they took along Emily, Nicole’s sister in law  for advice.  

A capable rider of many years, Scarlett’s Auntie Emily accompanied them to view the palomino mare Scarlett had set her heart on.  After some riding and handling it was agreed that Amber was both quiet in nature and reliable enough for a ten year old with some riding experience to handle, and for a while that proved to be true.

“I had enjoyed riding school lessons and it was fun to ride with the other students who I’d formed friendships with.  Once I had Amber, I started riding with Aunty Emily and she was giving me lessons.  

“In early October I started having lessons with Pete.  Everything was going really well,” Scarlett says.

The first signs of trouble came shortly before Christmas.  

Amber had arrived without a fully developed education, her quiet nature meant she had been the perfect horse to pair with inexperienced riders on trail rides.  She’d been happy to take riders along well-worn paths, following other horses without much guidance.  It was far from the ideal learning experience for a young horse.

Scarlett did her best to educate the young mare but when Amber began to challenge Scarlett, she and her mother Nicole both felt helpless and completely out of their depth. 

“Amber wouldn’t stand to be saddled, she wouldn’t stand for me to get on, or even go where I wanted her to go.  One day she just stood in a corner and I had to get off and lead her.  Even leading her became difficult and although I was firm with her and tried to pull her into line, nothing seemed to be improving,” says Scarlett.

“Although Just Equus was closed for the holidays we had Pete’s phone number and contacted him for help.  Scarlett explained what was happening with Amber and straight away it was as if a weight was lifted from our shoulders,” Nicole explains.  “He was genuinely concerned and caring and was willing to give his time to help us.”

Pete listened carefully to Scarlett’s concerns and ensured firstly, there were no health issues at play.  Mares are notoriously temperamental during breeding season and the abundance of feed available after good rains was also taken into account as a contributing factor.  A local vet checked on Amber and found her to be in perfect health.

Pete invited Scarlett to bring Amber over for assessment. 

“Of course, once we got Amber in the float and took her to Pete she behaved perfectly!  We felt a little confused but Pete helped us to understand that our heightened emotions and nervous energy had quickly transferred to the horse, making her edgy and nervous too.”

Pete showed Scarlett ways to make Amber more considerate of her space and how to convey a calm and relaxed manner when handling her.  Armed with this knowledge and lots of support from Pete, Scarlett and Amber continue to learn and grow, forming an even stronger bond.

Scarlett is now looking forward to joining a Pony Club on the outskirts of Brisbane that focuses on fun and learning.  

“I’m not interested in the competitive side of riding,” Scarlett says.  “Pony Club will be a chance to have some fun and games with Amber, make new friends and spend time riding with them.  I want to learn some new tricks and exercises, improve my riding and continue to educate Amber.”

Owning a horse comes with responsibilities.  It’s a journey for both horse and rider irrespective of age.  For Scarlett and Amber the journey will continue because Scarlett is willing to accept and learn new strategies that work with her horse and are based on understanding Amber’s needs.  


Journalist: Janette Jenyns


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