I find myself in a particularly rich spot at the moment with regard to Fell Ponies. For many years, because of the way I got started with the breed, I had more immature and unrideable ponies than I did mature ones that could be ridden. Due to sales of youngstock in the past year as well as ponies reaching full maturity, I now find myself with more rideable ponies than ever before. On a good day, I am working with four, and it’s fascinating to see how differently they respond to ridden work.
Not long ago I stayed up way too late finishing Mark Rashid’s book Whole Heart, Whole Horse. The last several chapters were all tied together by the author’s relationship with a particular black horse. The many stories about that relationship hold lots of wisdom, but one aspect in particular has been on my mind as I work with my four ponies newly being ridden. Rashid found that the black horse would respond to his thoughts as they rode together, changing gait or speed when Rashid thought about the change, for instance.
Two of the ponies I’m currently working with have occasionally responded to my thoughts as we’ve ridden, and it is an incredible experience. Each time it has happened I’ve been so surprised that I have not latched onto the connection to see what more we could do together. These two ponies are related, Restar Mountain Shelley III and her son, my young stallion, Willowtrail Black Robin. The experience of these ponies responding to a thought have brought many questions to mind. Have other ponies in my herd offered a response to my thoughts and I just haven’t recognized it? Is there a reason that the two ponies that are currently offering this incredible experience are related? What do I need to do to really honor this connection and explore its dimensions? To be sure, each time I work with these two ponies now, I am more aware of our connection and also watchful of my thoughts. It isn’t just the ones that are about what we’re doing that they respond to!
The title of Rashid’s book came from his mentor’s description of what the black horse had offered him: “[You] went and did something with this horse not a lot of folks ever do. You gave him your heart… In return, this horse gave you himself… and that doesn’t happen very often. He didn’t do that with me, and he didn’t do that with them boys. But he sure did it with you… Now if you want to feel bad [because this horse is being sold,] that’s okay. But what would make me feel bad is if I thought it would never happen again… Whole heart, whole horse. And that’s something.” (1)
While I haven’t harnessed ‘responding to a thought’ the way that Rashid did with his black horse, I have learned one thing. When I first read his mentor’s suggestion that such a connection could happen more than once in a person’s life, with more than one horse, I was skeptical. It seemed such a unique and special situation that it must be extremely rare. Now, though, I know that he was right. I feel very, very fortunate to have two ponies offering such a connection to me right now. It is, indeed, something.
1) Rashid, Mark. Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, New York, 2009, p. 204-5.
(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2012