Spending countless hours training six days a week at Silver Gate Farms in Santa Clarita, 13-year-old equestrian Sawyer Hammersley is preparing for her competitive debut at the Verdugo Hills Show at Hansen Dam this Friday through Sunday.
An eighth-grader at Rio Norte Junior High School, Sawyer Hammersley began riding horses at the age of four due in large part to her mother, Christine, and her passion and love for the sport.
“I started riding horses because my mom had always told me how great it was because she loved it when she was little,” Hammersley said. “She started me at a young age and I’ve just loved it ever since.”
Over the years, Hammersley has excelled in the sport thanks to her trainer at Silver Gate Farms, Julie Van Loo, who also trains multiple kids from different age groups throughout the week.
Six days out of the week, Hammersley arrives eager to get saddled up and ride Easter, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred Oldenburg Cross.
Her daily routine consists of feeding Easter so he gains weight before his shows and tacking, which consists of putting on the saddle, stirrups, halters and reins before she can even mount Easter.
Hammersley will then mount Easter and warm-up for about 30 minutes before she can get the training underway.
At Silver Gate, Hammersley is learning how to perfect the style of “English riding” which involves dressage, teaching the horse to be supple, balanced and responsive, as well as leaping over hurdles or obstacles.
“Some of the jumpers that we have are solid jumps where we have blocks underneath the polls, some are verticals, technically it’s horizontal, where it’s just straight across,” Hammersley said. “Then we have cross-rails which are small X’s or big X’s and then oxers that are two verticals that are spaced out that the horse has to do in one jump.”
Hammersley says those who are not familiar with equestrianism don’t understand just how much time, effort and training go into creating a bond and relationship with a horse.
“I love that it’s not just a single person sport, it’s a team sport because you have to bond with your horse,” Hammersley said. “I’ve heard many people tell me that you don’t do anything or you’re just kicking your horse, that’s not OK. Really, we are not hurting them because they have a mind of their own. Again, that’s why it’s a two-person sport. A lot of people don’t realize that and we work a lot harder than it seems and so do our horses.”
Excited to showcase what she and Easter have been working on for over the past year at The Verdugo Hill Show, Hammersley will also be making her IEL (Interscholastic Equestrian League) debut as part of the Rio Norte equestrian team in the IEL portion of the show on Sunday.
“Honestly, I think we are going to do fairly well,” Hammersley said. “We might not finish in first place, I know that, but I trust him and we have been working on this for over a year and we haven’t done anything else but work on this so I have the feeling that we will do fairly well.”
One day, Hammersley hopes to fulfill her dream of riding at the next level at an NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 college or university, something that she has seriously considered for a long time.
For now, Hammersley will continue the six-day-a-week routine at Silver Gate Farms, a place she calls her second home.
“I love spending time here. It’s like my second home with my second family,” Hammersley said. “I can rely on pretty much everybody here and it’s just great to come out and do the thing you love and see the people that you always talk to even if they’re from your school or in your grade or in your age group at all. It’s just really nice to see these people.”