Willowtrail Spring Maiden is my only Fell Pony foal this year. Until the past week, Madie has been running with her mother and no other ponies. Now that she’s almost three months old, though, I decided it was time to get her acquainted with running in a herd. This decision has given me lots of opportunities to see some interesting herd dynamics.
Madie’s mother Restar Mountain Shelley III is a management challenge for me because in the past she has been aggressive towards other ponies. So when I introduced Shelley and Madie to other ponies this week, I did it when I could keep a watchful eye. I also did it just a few ponies at a time, and I learned that Shelley is less aggressive with mature ponies than with youngstock. The grouping that has been sustainable has been Shelley and Madie with Lunesdale Silver Belle. Yet there was a surprise in this grouping, too. The last time Shelley and Ellie were together, Shelley was dominant. Now Ellie is. I can’t help but wonder if the dynamics would be different if Shelley did not have Madie at her side.
One of the most interesting interactions that I witnessed was between Madie and three-year-old gelding Willowtrail Jonty. Jonty was very polite when greeting Madie for the first time. Madie was appropriately submissive, opening her mouth and working her jaw showing Jonty that she was a youngster that meant him no harm. Jonty and Madie then began sniffing each other, and Madie including in her sniffing regime a reach below his flank between his back legs. I’ve seen other foals do this to geldings. I’ve always wondered whether it is because there are interesting smells there or whether they are looking for an udder. Perhaps someday a foal or gelding will give me a clue whether either of these explanations is correct. For now, I’ll just have to wonder.
As is common with foals of dominant mares, Madie hasn’t let much bother her when she’s met the other ponies. This socializing, though, will make weaning easier when that time comes. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy watching the various herd dynamics.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011