In his book, Soul of a Horse, Joe Camp says, “Many people have told me that if they let their horse live with a herd 24/7, they would lose their relationship with the horse. The horse would forget all about them. Ignore them. This is simply not true, if the relationship begins correctly in the first place. If the horse was allowed to make the choice to be with his human. If the human has proven to be a good leader.” (1)
Yesterday when we went to check on Restar Mountain Shelley III and Willowtrail Spring Maiden, they met us at the gate as usual. Shelley was looking for a bucket with something interesting to eat in it, which we didn’t have, and Madie was interested in the green grass under the gate. We gave each of the ponies scratches in their favorite places and checked them over to make sure they were all right. Then I walked out into the pasture to see how much feed remained for them. When I turned around, I saw Madie leave her mother and start walking with resolute purpose toward me. When she joined me, I scratched her several times in her favorite places and thanked her for her conscious effort to come see what I was doing. It meant a lot to me.
Madie is very special to us, so one day earlier this month when we went to pasture to check on her and couldn’t see her anywhere, we were instantly concerned. Finally I saw a tail flick up through the grass and could tell that she was lying down in a small depression that made her invisible from a distance. Don got to her before I did, and fortunately I did have a camera this time, so I snapped several pictures of the two of them while Madie was lying down then also when she got up. The two of them had quite a conversation, on Don’s side at least about how worried we had been a few moments before.
Two days ago, when I was checking the larger herd at pasture, it was Willowtrail Wild Rose’s turn to touch my heart. No ponies were visible when I first arrived; Rose was the first pony to emerge from the willows when I called. I scratched her in her favorite places then checked each of the other ponies in turn. Rose was right at my elbow, eager to distract my attention from the other ponies. Willowtrail Jonty hadn’t yet come to see me, so I began walking toward him, a few hundred feet away. Before long I heard steps behind me, and there was Rose. I greeted Jonty with a few scratches in his favorite places then greeted Rose again. Then I started back toward the rest of the herd, with Rose at my elbow. I stopped and scratched her again, then just to see how much she was ‘stuck to me’ I walked in a circle. Sure enough, she followed me around the circle. I could see she was questioning the sense of it, but she followed nonetheless. Rose’s choice to be with me for those five minutes meant a lot.
Madie and Rose, living in their herds, chose to be with me instead of their herd for a few moments. By making a conscious effort to be with me, and even follow me, they showed me that I am a leader worthy of their respect. To have Madie, a three-month-old foal, tell me that was one thing, and then to have four-year-old Rose say the same was something else. Both gave me a great gift by their actions, that our relationship has meaning to them. My life is blessed by these ponies.
(1) Camp, Joe. The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd. New York, Harmony Books, 2008, p. 66
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011