Miracle in Mr. Gurley's stock trailer, early January 2011
Miracle in her make-shift sling in the Gurley's garage
a few weeks after her rescue Miracle was strong enough to be moved out of the Gurley's garage to Sunkissed Acres; Mr. Gurley with Miracle in front of the barn at Sunkissed Acres
Miracle was finally strong enough to be adopted and move to a new home in March. I can't believe that in a couple of days Miracle will have been with us for a year. Please read this post for a complete recap of Miracle's moving day along with a picture history of her progress from her initial rescue to when we met her. She has changed so much during that time. The most obvious changes are the physical ones. She was covered in a massive, matted, unhealthy looking coat of hair when we got her. Lori called it the "starvation coat" and said she sees it on a lot of rescue cases. The starvation coat came off to reveal a gorgeous dappled grey coat underneath.
Her many horrible wounds were well on their way to being healed when we brought her home but the remnants could still be seen. They finally fully healed, and other than some parts of her coat that are more white than grey the evidence of her abuse has healed on the outside.
Of course she continued to gain weight and muscle. I haven't looked at her "before" pictures in a long time and I had forgotten just how skinny and starved she was. She has filled out tremendously all over her body. We were amazed at how much her condition had improved when we picked her up at Sunkissed Acres. I can't believe how much more weight and muscle she continued to gain.
with her first babysitter Sky March 16, 2011
Miracle and Sky romping in the arena March 31, 2011
Miracle and Jo the fainting goat sharing some food
Finally confident enough to be part of a family group, Thanksgiving 2011; it was 8 months before Miracle was mentally ready to be part of a group
It probably shouldn't have surprised us that her mental scars were a lot deeper than her physical scars but it did. When we met Miracle at Sunkissed Acres she was incredibly friendly to people. Not just to Lori whom she knew, but also to Jason and I who were complete strangers at the time. It was so surprising given her horrible past with people that she would come right up to anyone, nickering and wanting to be the focus of your attention. She acted so self confident and you would have thought she didn't have a care in the world. She never spooked at anything, never acted like the abused baby horse that she was. Now I realize that it was simply because she was so early into her recovery and at that point she still didn't have the energy to do anything but survive.
Don't get me wrong Miracle really did like people and want attention, she still does. However we are still always mindful of certain things when handling her. She was very comfortable being touched, petted and groomed on her neck and shoulders when we brought her home. However the further back you went on her body, the more nervous and uncomfortable she got. By the time you were touching her flanks she was often trembling, occasionally even kicking out. We spent a lot of time slowly and cautiously touching her on the back half of her body, working our way up to grooming her all over. Today she is comfortable being touched, petted and groomed all over. However we still would never just walk up to her and give her a friendly pat on her rump right off the bat, at best she'll just try to get away and at worst she'll fire with a hind leg. We no longer have to do a complete ritual of starting at the front and working back, but you still need to give her a touch or pat on the neck or shoulder before you touch her anywhere on the back part of her body. One pat on the neck seems to reassure her that all is well and we're not going to do anything malicious when we touch her further back and I expect over time that even this need may very likely fade.
The odd thing is hoof handling has never been much of an issue. One would think with her phobias about her back half being handled that picking up her back hooves for cleaning and trimming would be an issue. Surprisingly that has never been a problem. Give her a pat on the neck or shoulder and then she is good to go as far as hoof handling, front or rear.
She is an incredibly feisty personality. I can see how her personality led to her horrible treatment when she was broke to ride as a weanling. She has lightening fast reflexes, no doubt sharpened and honed by her months of abuse. She also acts like a typical baby horse who thinks she knows everything, doesn't want to be told otherwise, and has lots of energy. Miracle spends a lot of time running and playing, she is not a low energy girl. Combine that with her self assurance that she knows better than people and I can see how, in the wrong hands (understatement of the year), she wound up being tortured, starved and abused as they tried to break her to ride. Although her abusers did their very best to break her spirit they did not succeed. It will be interesting to see if she mellows or stays the same as far as personality while she continues to grow up and mature.
The other big surprise with Miracle was her complete lack of self confidence, in fact downright terror, about being with other horses. This really shocked me. Self assured Miracle was terrified of being around other horses. She loved interacting with them as long as there was a physical barrier such as a fence between her and the other horse. However put her in a paddock or pasture with another horse and she was terrified. My mare Sky ended up being her babysitter for the first few months. Sky was perfect for the job. She never pushed interaction with Miracle and would just graze and ignore her. Curiosity finally prevailed and Miracle would slowly inch her way closer and closer to Sky with Miracle soon becoming Sky's shadow.
After a few weeks with Sky and playing with Bonnie, Sparky and a couple others over the fence I thought she was ready to be part of the group. Wrong. The most normal of horse rituals such as sniffing noses absolutely terrified her when done with no fence separating her from the other horses. She literally just went off into the woods and hid, and if another horse approached her, now matter how friendly their demeanor, she ran away. She and Sky went back to living in a paddock together.
After a few months of Sky as a babysitter I switched her babysitter to Traveller the pony with whom she had shared a fenceline for several months. Miracle was terrified of him as he grazed and totally ignored her. It took about 3 days for her to overcome her fears and then she happily lived with Traveller for a couple of months. Next up was a month with Sparky the donkey, another one she knew well over the fence. We went through the same ritual of terror progressing to friendship. After several weeks with Sparky her babysitter was my gelding Hoffy. There is no more gentle of a soul than Hoffy yet once again Miracle was terrified.
However she progressed from terrified to friends with Hoffy in less than half a day which was a record for her. A few weeks after she and Hoffy had been roomies I decided to put her in with the group consisting of Sky, Sparky, Hoffy and Bonnie. Finally she was able to feel comfortable in a group of horses and was right in the middle of everything. As her confidence continued to grow so did her interactions with her friends. In fact she is quite the bossy little thing these days with other horses now and does not hesitate to assert herself. There was a point in time when I never thought she would be able to live with a group of horses. Now we are so used to watching her run, play and be snarky with them it is shocking to me that she used to be scared of other horses in her space.
In other areas of Miracle's life my dad spent hours teaching Miracle what treats are. The first time she finally took a carrot from him he was elated. It took a few weeks for her to understand the concept of treats. She definitely understands the concept now! She is tolerant of grooming but she doesn't love it. She remains stubbornly hydrophobic and wants nothing to do with having a bath. She would probably get past this if we worked with her on it more but I've seen no reason to force the issue.
That summarizes the first year with Miracle. We've seen a lot of physical and mental changes in Miracle during our first year with her, even more than we were expecting. Before I wrap up this post I want to answer a few common questions that are often asked:
1. What breed do we think she is? We have no idea. She was advertised as a Tennessee Walking Horse but we don't know if this is accurate or not.
2. How much has she grown? Not very much. She has filled out a lot and put on a lot of weight and muscle but as far as height very little change. We don't know if her growth was stunted due to her extreme starvation at such a young age or if she really is a pony. She wears a 66" blanket.
3. Will she be sound to ride? The jury is still out on that
4. What are our plans with Miracle (this question always surprises me especially given she was around a year +/- when we brought her home)? We have no plans at this point other than to provide her with a good home. She's approximately 2 years old so her job is to be a baby and grow up for at least another year or two.
Below is a history of Miracle's first year with us in videos and pictures. Enjoy!
Miracle, Sky, Bonnie and Sparky on the run October 2011
Miracle & Sky playing in the arena March 31, 2011; home two weeks
March 15, 2011; first full day home
March 15, 2011
March 24, 2011
early October 2011
late October 2011
New Year's Eve