This morning when I went to pasture, only two of the five Fell Ponies that should have been there were visible. The two senior mares were standing in their customary spot, chosen I suspect for optimum breezes for keeping the bugs at bay. The three younger ponies were missing and didn’t come when I called.
The pasture they are in is half taken up by willows. Not trees really, but not bushes either since they are easily fifteen feet high in places. The ponies have created paths into the willows because there are small patches of lush grass to be found, and they have created a loop trail around the pasture. I set out on this loop trail in search of my missing friends. It was a beautiful fall day, and the sunlight was illuminating the golden aspen leaves and the yellow willows in a remarkable way, so the walk was enjoyable. It was also fruitless. Not only did I not find my missing friends, but when I returned to where I began, the two mares were no longer in sight either.
Despite now missing all five ponies, I wasn’t too worried because I’ve been through this routine before. In the past I have walked the loop trail again, only to find all the ponies at the start of the trail, obviously having walked the loop in front of me, some of them twice! This morning I decided to show I could learn from past experience, and I walked the trail backwards. Sure enough, I finally won the game of hide-and-seek, discovering all five ponies on the far side of the willows seemingly wondering why it had taken me so long to find them.
My senior mare Sleddale Rose Beauty greeted me first, then each of the other four came to say hello as well. What happened next spoke volumes about who is the leader of the herd. Beauty marched off on the loop trail as soon as no more treats were forthcoming from my pocket. Then each of the other ponies dutifully followed her, leaving me standing alone. Willowtrail Liberty, the youngest, was the last to leave, and while Libby is often eager to spend time with me, even she followed the herd in this situation. I’ve learned a lot from my old mare Beauty, and today’s game of hide-and-seek showed that I still have a lot to learn from her about leadership.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011