Mirana, along with Meadow, was one of the matriarchs of the Gig Harbor horses we picked up this past May. She was part of the largest herd on the property, a group of four mares living in a scrubby paddock. They, like the others on the property, were lacking in clean water, and their only sources of shelter were buried in thigh-deep mud. Mirana likely had at least ten years on the rest of her cohorts, as well as some vision issues that were immediately made clear to us from the unfocused quality of her eyes. She was gentle enough that we were able to slip a halter on her that first day, luring her close with grain, but it all felt very tenuous.

While it’s true that a lot can be done to shape a horse in a short period of time (for better or worse), it is also true that the more years under their belt that they have, the higher the chance that whatever they learned is calcified pretty strongly. It quickly became clear to us once we unloaded Mirana and met her on our turf, so to speak, that one of the things she had learned from humans was how inconsequential they were. She was very herd bound, and at the slightest suggestion of one of her friends leaving, she became very anxious. In these periods of anxiety, Mirana became a wrecking ball, oblivious to anything in her path, human-shaped things included. She did not look to humans as a source of any sort of comfort, and clearly had not for a long time, possibly ever.

But when she is settled, Mirana has a sweetness about her that is heart-wrenching. She enjoys pets on the face, and likes a good currying on her rain-rot scarred back. And herein begins our journey with Mirana, teaching her the importance of boundaries while also showing her that humans can be kind, and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Mirana is still uncertain about being caught sometimes, and even though she can be haltered and led, she is not what we would consider to be ‘halter broke.’ She does not know how to come off of pressure very well, and her leading on a line is really only on her terms. So for this mare, likely with at least two decades behind her, we must start from scratch to teach her the very basics in order to ensure her successful future.

We have also been working on gently separating her from her friends, and teaching her that security can come from both herself and her handler. For a horse like Mirana, who can become dangerous to herself and others when separated from her herd mates or a location she knows, it is crucial to teach her this lesson to keep her from hurting herself or someone else. It will also allow us to have her vetted, to introduce her to other parts of the property, and to eventually ready her for a forever home somewhere else.

The going may be slow at times, but there is never a time frame, and we would like to think that despite her 20-odd years, with Mirana’s first steps off the trailer at SAFE, she began the first day of the rest of her life.