For the past several mornings, I’ve been followed. Fortunately these events have brought me joy instead of evoking fear. And the reason, of course, is because it’s my Fell Ponies that are following me. Each day after I check the ponies at pasture individually, I tell them I’ll see them the next day. Then I walk through the pasture to the fence to leave. More often than not, I hear footsteps following me, and I can’t help but stop and engage whichever pony is in my wake. I talk to them and give them lots of scratches in their favorite places. Then I bid them adieu again.
Over the past several years I have noticed that my youngstock seem increasingly interested in engaging with me whenever they see me. Today it manifested when I walked into a paddock of three ponies, and even the youngest, five-month-old Willowtrail Spring Maiden, wanted to stick her nose in a halter. While I have found this sort of behavior gratifying, I haven’t been sure what I’ve done to deserve this sort of positive reaction from these ponies.
In a recent issue of Savvy Times, there was an article on early training of foals.(1) According to the article, one of the goals of handling foals in the first few days of their life is to establish a desire in the foal to follow the lead of their human. This article provided the best explanation I’ve found yet for how my youngstock respond to me. I have apparently established a desire in their early days to accept guidance from me just as they do from their dams and herd-mates. It’s quite a compliment.
Today as I left the pasture and heard the footsteps, I stopped and found Willowtrail Wild Rose at my shoulder. We had already had an intense tête-á-tête, so it was particularly heartwarming to have her wanting more. After our second session, I proceeded to depart, passing through a gap in the willows and out of view of the herd. Despite this, I heard footsteps again, and this time it was Willowtrail Liberty. Rose had pushed Libby away a number of times, but since Rose hadn’t followed me this time, Libby must have felt it was her turn.
Yesterday, in my post “Hide and Seek”, I described how the herd follows my senior mare Sleddale Rose Beauty’s lead. In particular, I noted how Libby followed Beauty yesterday instead of me. Today, the opposite was true. In “Hide and Seek,” I indicated that I still have a lot to learn from Beauty about leadership. Yesterday and today have emphasized that again.
(1) Parelli, Pat. “A Good Start: With Foals, Timing is Everything,” Savvy Times, Issue 31, May 2011, Parelli Natural Horsemanship, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, p. 60.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011