Sleddale Rose Beauty, my 23-years-young Fell Pony, is currently lead mare in a herd of six. We know each other well, having been together for ten years. Yet tonight she gave me a gift she hadn’t given me before.
I entered the paddock with a bucket for 4-year-old Bowthorne Matty. Buckets are pony magnets around here, and Matty and I were immediately swarmed. I didn’t worry about the four ponies younger than Matty, as she can fend them off. I had my eyes on Beauty who as head mare naturally considers any food that comes into the paddock her property. I told Beauty to stay back, and she stopped about two feet away, still a commanding presence. As Matty continued working on her bucket, Beauty made a motion to approach and push Matty off the bucket. I told her, ‘no’ and she stopped. I acknowledged her acquiescence by giving her a treat. What happened next amazed me. Beauty backed away and moved off to a nearby pile of hay. I thanked her verbally, and she looked at me as if to say, “I just wanted to be acknowledged.”
I have had this experience once before, with another mare. They just want their position in the herd acknowledged, and then they will acknowledge mine. It is a humbling show of respect. A friend recently reminded me of Pat Parelli’s saying, “It’s about the relationship.” What a gift Beauty gave me tonight, honoring our relationship.