Today was one of those days when the ponies were inclined to yell at me. Not all of them: each herd has its designated communicator. Unfortunately there was a limited amount I could do to address the concerns they expressed when it was three below and a wind chill a dozen degrees lower midday.
Ponies, of course, don’t yell the way that we humans do. But they do change the character of their whinny when they are distressed or upset. They add a note of urgency as well as some volume. One pony’s usual greeting is a gentle nicker; sometimes I don’t hear anything but I see her nostrils flutter. I know when she vocalizes at all that something is amiss. My elder stallion vocalizes every time he sees me; with him a yell is just longer and louder and a bit more strident.
My goal, of course, is to never have a pony yell at me. My goal is to maintain my herds in a state of emotional harmony. If a pony yells at me, I know there is some distress that needs to be addressed immediately. It is a management technique that has served me well. I know, for instance, when I return after being away all day how extreme the weather has been while I’ve been gone. If no one yells at me, then I properly anticipated the day and properly prepared them with feed, water, minerals, and shelter.
My husband is also aware of the different qualities of pony communication. (One of his favorite things to do is to come in and tell me that Mya is calling me bad names!) One night he was checking the ponies at pasture for me when I was feeling under the weather. A foal kept calling to him, and the failing light of dusk caused him to take awhile to realize that the foal’s dam was nowhere in sight. Don came home to get me, and we headed out, now after dark, to see what had become of Sue. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. Rand hadn’t been more than twenty yards from his mother when he was calling, but Don hadn’t realized that Sue had become trapped in an old barn and was therefore out of sight but not far away. We extricated her, and all was peaceful again.
Now I’m off to feed one more time before bed. It’s ten below, and the wind is howling. I doubt I’ll be yelled at, as I’ve been feeding heavy and more often today. Tomorrow morning, though, is likely to be a different story!