This morning I went outside just after daybreak when the temperature was right at zero degrees Fahrenheit. The first pony I saw was my Fell Pony mare Sleddale Rose Beauty. I was struck by how tough this twenty-five year old is. She was snow-covered and sifting through snow for bits of hay left over from last night’s feeding. I felt fortunate that she’s still in my life.
I know hill breeders in Cumbria who find lowland homes for their senior ponies so they don’t have to endure the hardships of fell life as they age. I’ve given Beauty that opportunity a couple of times, and each time she’s made it clear she wants to be here. I’ve now promised her she will be here as long as she wants to be. Each spring I think will be the last I have with her, and then she shows me once again the hardiness of her fell birth. As I pondered all of this today, I realized my favorite pictures of Beauty all show her with a blanket of snow on her back.
This winter she’s needed more nutritional support than last. Her tail is thinner and shorter, and she has more gray on her muzzle and lots of gray around her eyes. She’s no longer the head of the herd but seems content to push around a few of the ponies that she can still dominate. Each time she sees me, she politely asks for a treat, and if I have one I can’t help but comply with her request.
My research indicates that Beauty is the oldest Fell Pony in North America. If we make another year together, I will have spent half her life with her. What a blessing that would be.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012