Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Polly!

Polly, our registered Morgan mare Renwood Pollianne, is 32 years old today. I figure there are 2 1/2 people years for every horse year making Polly the equivalent of 80 years old, if she were a person. I wanted to get a photo of her today, on her birthday, but it is rainy and cold, so I dashed outside and snapped her pic as she grazed by the pond, unbrushed and dirty. She is a little thin these days, but still sound and happy, living with her beloved Mr. Smith, her daughter Jessie Anne, and her granddaughter Nightingale. What a wonderful legacy she has given us. We had no idea when she came to live with us 14 years ago what a greatl horse she would turn out to be.

We bought Polly when she was 18 as a companion for my two-year-old Morgan colt, Mr. Smith (Rogue Hill's Skybird). I researched Polly's history by contacting the Morgan farm where she was bred. It was a sad story. Polly's mother had been leased, in foal, to a couple in Washington. The deal was that those people would get the first foal, rebreed her to the same stallion and the breeder would get the second foal. But one week after the mare had a filly foal, the mare fell into an irrigation ditch and drowned. The foal, Polly, was raised on a bottle by the people who had leased her mother. But since there was going to be no second foal and the breeders were not going to get their mare back, they took Polly home when she was weaned at four months of age. So Polly lost both her birth mother and her surrogate human parents when she was just a young foal.

As a two-year-old, Polly had sticky stifles (a condition where the ligament covering the stifle joint of the hind leg, equivalent to our knee, gets caught and prevents the horse from bending that leg). At the time, it was believed that the only cure was to cut that ligament. Now it is realized that usually young horses outgrow the problem. Polly had both stifles cut. It is also now known that the ligament usually grows back normally after this operation, but the breeder didn't know that and thought Polly was good for nothing but a pasture ornament. She was sold to some people down the road for just that. Separation number 3.

Those people soon ran into financial difficulties and sold Polly to a man who used her for packing elk out of the mountains. This was probably the best time thus far of Polly's life. From all we could gather, he loved his horses and took good care of them. He bred Polly to a registered Morgan stallion. Unfortunately, before she foaled or shortly after, this kind man died of cancer. Polly and her foal were left to fend for themselves on a hillside acreage. The foal soon died.

Our friends Hazel and John inquired about the mare living on a hillside near them and were able to buy her from the deceased owner's brother. Polly was thin with long, unkempt hooves. They brought her back into good health and had her feet taken care of. But they had no other horses, just goats, and Polly often walked the fence line crying for the horses on the other side of the road. Hazel and John did not have time to ride and offered to sell her to us as Mr. Smith's companion.

Polly fell in love with Mr. Smith. After all her separations, she did not want him ever out of her sight. We thought having a foal would help her be less stressed when I took Mr. Smith out for a ride, so we bred her to a buckskin Morgan. Unfortunately, the stallion stood many miles from us and Polly had to go live there for a time. She was heartbroken at being separated from Mr. Smith.

Fortunately, the stallion owner had a young daughter who loved horses. I enlisted 6-year-old Emily's help in keeping Polly exercised, brushed, and loved. For the first week, Polly stood with her head in the corner, miserable. But soon Polly bonded with young Emily and with the other horses. When we came to get her after she was bred, she didn't want to come home! Emily had ridden gentle Polly bareback around the paddock nearly every day with just a halter and rope. Here is that mite of a girl on Polly at Blacksaddle Morgans in 1998.
Once home again, Polly went right back to being Mr. Smith's shadow. To keep her in shape during her pregnancy, I drove her to Mom's cart, the wooden cart Mom bought years ago for a lawn ornament and later gave to me. My dad and Johnny restored it. Mr. Smith and Polly both learned to drive in front of this cart. This photo was taken in April 1999, two months before Polly foaled.
Jessie Anne was born on our daughter-in-law Jessica's birthday in June. I was not there for the birth, having taken a fall off Mr. Smith three days earlier and landed in the hospital with broken bones and a punctured lung. These photos, on the day Jessie Anne was born, were taken by my father, who drove the 70 miles from his ranch to our farm to take them, then 35 miles back to Salem to get them developed, and 25 miles to the McMinnville hospital so I could see my new foal on the day she was born. What a great dad. And what a great mother Polly turned out to be.

Jessie Anne is now 12 years old. Since then, Polly has given many, many people their first ride on a horse. Countless school children have sat on Polly's back. Many adults who had become afraid to ride gained confidence again after being taken care of by Polly. She knows before someone climbs on how well they can ride and acts accordingly. Polly is a one-in-a-million horse. We had no inkling of what we had brought into our lives all those years ago.

Polly's palomino daughter Jessie Anne foaled when she was four years old with a black filly, Nightingale. Here are the three mares together in 2009... a colorful herd all from plain ol' chestnut Polly.

The photo below was taken last September. Then 31-year-old Polly is on the left; Mr. Smith on the right. Three generations of purebred Morgan mares are in Mr. Smith's little herd. Thank you, Polly, and happy birthday!

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