Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Adoptions Mora's Story Part 1 Challenge Painting #159

Mora’s Story Part 1 
By Beth Cook

5 by 5 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

I first saw Mora, then named Shawnee, when I moved my horse Dusty to Surprise, Arizona, as I had started a new teaching job.  Mora was in a big corral with another boarder’s horses.  Of course with her coloring she caught my eye.  However, she was a touch-me-not, so even when the other horses would come to the fence to get pets, she stayed behind them.  She had a sweet face though and her eyes were kind.  It might have something to do with her right eye being one-third blue.

In the middle of December 2008, Dusty and I tore his suspensory ligament, so he was going to be laid up for three months and then another three months of rehab.  I knew Mora’s owner had too many horses and wasn’t working with her, so I asked “Lisa” if I could work on getting Mora’s ground manners back in place.  This is what Lisa told me about Mora’s past.

Lisa had bought her to use as a dressage prospect from a man who had owned her twice.  The man had sold her once before, but Mora was returned to him because she had issues the new owner couldn’t deal with.  When the people entered Mora’s stall she would turn her butt to them.  They took this as a sign of aggression and started smacking her on her butt to make her turn away from them.  However, with Mora this just meant in her mind they were going to beat her front, so she got even more insistent that she wasn’t going to let them near her head.  Eventually they gave up and returned her.

                I don’t know if the man did anything with Mora, but eventually Lisa came along and wanted Mora for a dressage prospect.  Lisa had been told Mora had been broke to ride at one point, but no one had ridden her for quite a while.  However, Lisa had also rescued four other horses from various places plus one she already owned, so Mora made horse number six for Lisa.  Lisa unfortunately left Mora alone for about a year and a half before I ever saw her.  At this point of her story, Mora was twelve or thirteen Lisa thought.  The only other thing Lisa knew was that Mora had come off the range when she was two.  No one had called BLM to get her papers transferred in who knows how long.

Mora had pretty well gone back to wild mentality before I started working with her in December of 2009.  In the middle of January 2009, Lisa stressed out too much and took two of the horses and moved back East leaving Mora and the remaining horses for the stable owner to do with as she thought best, but Lisa didn’t let Julie, the stable owner, know this until February. 

On February 15th, Julie told me I could buy Mora for the cost of her back board and as Julie knew I really couldn’t afford two horses, I could work off Mora’s board by cleaning stalls after school.  I jumped on the chance and when my tax return came in March I bought Mora. 

Now, I don’t believe in changing an animal’s name, but in this case I had to, as my best friend’s name is Shawn and she categorically told me I had to.  After much thought and searching, Mora was christened Morheleg, which means Black Ice in Elvish.  It fits because, she is black and white, I’m from Alaska, so I drove on ‘black ice’ all the time in winter, and one of my favorite bands, AC/DC, had just released their Black Ice album.  Of course I shortened that to Mora and call her “mi amore” an awful lot too.

The first time I tried to catch Mora in December took forty five minutes.  I had taken the other horses out of the large 20’ x 20’ stall they were in so it was just me and her.  She definitely knew how to hide behind other horses and stay away from people.   After using my limited knowledge of horse training (I’d only owned Dusty for just over two years) I finally remembered how Clinton Anderson had said to be “big” and got Mora to stand still long enough to get a halter on her.  Once her halter was on she walked next to me pretty well in the stall.  We stayed in the stall for the next week or so before we moved to grooming.

Mora wasn’t fond of grooming in the beginning.  The smallest movement scared the living daylights out of her, like she was going to be hit.  I knew she was going to take a lot of desensitizing, which we still have to work on even today.  Picking up her feet was something she really did not want to do.  After a week I could get her front feet up.  Her left back came up next eventually.  But her right rear she still doesn’t like to pick up.  While I can get them all up and clean them, she won’t let the farrier touch her back feet yet.  We’re working on that.

Catching Mora in her stall was pretty easy once I switched her to a smaller 10x 20 stall.  She did turn her butt to me the first couple of times I went in to clean or halter her, but all I did was shove her off balance and she turned right around to face me.  I actually took this as a good sign.  She never lifted a leg to strike at me, so I really have no clue why the other owners thought they had to beat her.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know Mora liked to roll in her stall.  She turned up a bit lame twice and I asked Julie if I could move her to a wider stall.  I thought she might be casting herself in the less wide stall.  And apparently she was casting herself as she didn’t come up lame after she was moved.

Saddling . . . where to start.  Mora hated/hates it.  The first three hundred times I saddled her she ducked out from under the saddle.  So off and on the saddle went without even tightening the girth.  She still tenses up when I swing her saddle up, but she stands now without quite jumping out of her skin.

You would think that bridling would be a problem with how bad Mora was with the saddle, but she opened her mouth and accepted the bit without any questions.  Yay!  I was using Dusty’s copper snaffle bit and she didn’t seem to hate it at all. 

And off to the round pen we went.  In all truth I had only been working with her for just over a month at this time.  Someone had done a pretty good job teaching Mora how to lunge and how to go around the round pen, so I figured I would let her get reacquainted with weight on her back and just let her move with saddle on her back.  After a couple of days of that, I started putting my weight in the stirrups without throwing my leg over.  She stood rock still for this.  I was quite impressed.  After a week, I asked Julie to come out, just in case, and hold Mora’s head so I could throw my leg over.  Mora was great, she just stood there.  And this started our next set of issues.  That was all she would do, stand there.  Getting her to walk all the way around the round pen without stopping took another week.  There was no way in her mind she was going to trot with me on her back in there though.

After another week of walking in the arena I finally asked her to trot.  Once she finally trotted once around the arena without stopping, and she stops on a dime by the way, I reached down to pat her neck and tell her she was a good girl.  And the next thing I knew, I was flying through the air to slam into the gravel of the arena.  The only thing that went through my mind was, “Who doesn’t teach a horse that petting is a good thing!? 
Part 2 of MORA's Story on Monday  Aug 1st : The terrible discovery of Mora's Past and how She And Beth overcame it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment