I set a bucket into the first pony pen and pick up a foal halter on my way to the gate. While mama is eating, youngster gets a little work on leading and foot handling. Before I carry a bucket to the next pony pen, I make sure a hoof pick is in my back pocket to facilitate my work with the pony there.
The third pen requires four halters and lead ropes. Each pony presents themselves in nearly correct order to be haltered and tied to the fence before receiving their buckets. The foal there isn’t tied of course. She and I take a few moments for morning greetings including scratches in favorite places and a check to see if she remembers her foot-handling manners. (She does.)
Later in the day at a different feeding time, I don a riding helmet and mount a mare with foal at foot for a ride down the driveway to put them out to graze. On the way back up, I enter the stallion pen and put the halter on its occupant, tying the lead rope into reins for a few minutes of ridden circles before putting out his hay.
And then there are those times like this morning, which are fortunately quite rare, when I resort to just ‘throwing hay.’ The ponies notice the difference, and I do too. It’s as if they wish to start a conversation when I appear, and I walk quickly past them, ignoring their first few ‘words’ of greeting. Hardly the way to treat friends. And I miss those interactions when they offer something new, like a normally independent-minded mare trotting up to greet me or a foal leaving its mother’s side to say hello.
I received a phone call yesterday from a new Fell Pony enthusiast. They expressed interest in coming to meet the ponies, even though they are not in a position to purchase. They said they found the breed “intriguing.” I tried to explain to her that Fell Ponies are habit-forming. Once you get to know them, you find that the way they engage with you makes you want more opportunities to do the same. The caller and I agreed that her visit might be a problem for her!
When I just ‘throw hay,’ I tell myself I’m in a hurry and must attend to other ‘business.’ Yet the engaging I do with each pony at feeding time each day is its own sort of ‘business.’ As each day passes, foot handling improves, ridden circles are more fluid, trail rides are longer. And feeding time is more enjoyable too. I’m thankful for days like today, when I start by just ‘throwing hay,’ but then later make room for “conversations” with my friends.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
If you enjoy stories like this, you’ll enjoy the book A Humbling Experience, available internationally by clicking here.