Old horses, like old dogs, are hard to rehabilitate. It takes a long time for their biology to respond and even longer for their psychology to come around. Mya had not had veterinary care for many years; no vaccinations to protect her from contagious diseases. Standard practice for a horse with unknown history is to quarantine for two weeks, but because of Mya’s age and known lack of care, she would be quarantined for 30 days.
We settled Mya into a side pasture with shelter and room to roam without allowing contact with the other horses. She was some distance from the house, but our eyes were still on her. Mya was emaciated, but not so much that she needed hourly feedings. Plus, it was December and the grass was safe for her to feed on without limit. We thought that would be a treat for her. It almost worked. She was calm and curious when haltered and standing with us, but panic stricken when left to herself. Mya was certainly entitled to anxiety after such a mighty transition. Remember, she had never been away from the place where she had been born and spent the first 29 years of her long life. But this was more.
We set up corral panels to pen her into a smaller area, spreading hay in piles around her to feed on. Her panic subsided. Every few days, we added panels and moved the area covered by them. We came to understand that Mya was overwhelmed by “long views”. She had lived her life in trees and brush with no view of a horizon. Our property is more open and on a hill. From the right vantage point, you can see horses dotting the pastures half a mile or more away. We exposed her to that too soon and it unnerved her. Poor Mya.
Mya welcomed our attention. She was calm and cooperative with the farrier, who came frequently to work on her overgrown hooves. She stood quietly for the vet, shot after shot, as we slowly reintroduced vaccines into her immune system. And Mya began to gain weight, not visible at first, but then all at once seeming to catch up. Her quarantine time passed without further incident. We left a corral panel pen set up for her, but with an open end. She liked to be fed in there, but curiosity called her out. Each day, she roamed further out into her empire. She established a favorite spot under a tree but with a long view up the road and she stood there for hours as if looking for someone.
Mya had not been with other horses for over 10 years and we were anxious about how that would go for her once quarantine ended. We chose to start her in the “mini herd” which, at the time, consisted of Boo, Belle, and Pudge.
After across-the-fence introductions over several days, it was time to open the gate. We stood ready to interrupt; any one with horses knows the process of integration can be dramatic and we had the added issue of the size difference between Mya and her would-be companions. Mya saw Belle and said “my baby, I have been looking for you” and proceeded to boss Belle into a corner away from the others.
I’m sure I am simplifying this memory, coloring it over with what has now been two years of Mya’s baby fixation with Belle. It’s just that none of us remember it ever being different, not for a moment. Mya loves Belle and treats her like her own permanent foal. Belle is not a foal. Belle is a twenty something mini horse with views and opinions of her own. They live with a compromise, one I help to enforce, that allows Belle her own time away from Mya and Mya time with the “big” herd — the adults, if you will. She does so begrudgingly.
Still, if Mya is confined, Belle must be confined with her; she fears otherwise we will trick her and steal her baby. Last month, Mya was restrained for a dental procedure and I let Belle out of her stall thinking Mya wouldn’t notice, given her heavy sedation. She did. The procedure waited until Belle was ushered back in.
I tell you this to show that Mya is doing well. She has adjusted to life on a new farm with new caretakers and new equine companions. Her new life gave her something we never knew she was missing — motherhood — and for that I am so very grateful. Mya has been with us almost two years now. From the looks of things, she will be with us a good time longer. Mya is a happy ending Rescue Story.