Six Ponies and a River

The ponies and the river on a day when I did have the camera

The highlight of my day yesterday was moving six of my Fell Ponies from one pasture to another across the Michigan River.  Mind you, a river here in the high country of Colorado is what we called a creek where I grew up in western Oregon.  Still, though, it was a thrill.  I wish I’d had a camera.

In the past when I’ve had to move the ponies across the river, I’ve either ridden the ponies or at least ridden the lead mare.  Or I’ve led them across.  Yesterday, though, neither of these was an option.  Of the six ponies, three are too young to ride, one is too old, and two aren’t broke.  And leading wasn’t really an option this year for a couple of reasons.  First, six trips, one for each pony, was more than I wanted to do, and I honestly wasn’t sure if they would follow me.  But really the reason that leading wasn’t an option was that the river is still high from our record snowfall, and I needed to focus on my footing without worrying about leading a pony, too.

What I ended up doing was using the power of vitamin buckets.  I opened a gate then rattled the feed buckets containing the ponies’ ration of vitamins for the day, making sure all six knew that I had something of interest.  Then I headed across the river, looking back to see if I had any followers.  When I was halfway across, I slipped and nearly fell in the knee-deep water.  Just then two ponies clattered past me across the river.  As I clambered up the bank on the far side, two more ponies splashed past me, and I heard the last two heading my way.  The adventure wasn’t over, though, as we still needed to negotiate a slough. 

We headed off through grass up to my armpits in places, and I busily kept ponies in high spirits from getting into the buckets prematurely.  Now I was concerned that the fresh grass would be more interesting than the buckets, but as I headed into the ankle-deep mucky water of the slough and out the other side, I was splashed and laughing as six ponies passed me again, heading at a run for the open gate of the new pasture.  Boy was I happy we’d left that gate open!

Giving the ponies their vitamin buckets was anticlimactic at this point.  I closed the gate as they gulped the meager portions and reflected on how easy the job had ended up being.  Jonty and Rose were the first ones to follow me into our adventure.  Rose was the one I was most concerned about, as she’d slipped through a fence a few weeks ago and gotten into the river when it was much higher, scaring herself as she’d had to deal with strong currents.  That she was one of the first to follow me into the river meant a lot.  Later in the day as I was filling the stock tank in the new pasture, Rose spent a lot of time with me, taking scratches in her favorite places and playing with the hose.  I am often surprised how much moments like those and like crossing the river bring me so much joy.  My life is blessed by these ponies.

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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