I had finished feeding the largest pony paddock one morning and had moved onto where Restar Lucky Joe, my young stud colt, is housed. I had given Lucky Joe and his paddock mate their morning vitamin buckets and was waiting for them to finish so I could throw their hay. I looked up to see Sleddale Rose Beauty, my senior Fell Pony mare, standing at the fence looking in my direction. We were near the stock tank, so I assumed Beauty had come to get a drink. Yet she wasn’t showing any interest in water. She was looking intently at me.
I’ve shared life with Beauty long enough now to know she was trying to communicate something to me, so I asked her what was up. She looked at Lucky Joe and then she looked back at me intently. When I asked her again what she needed, she looked at Lucky Joe and then at me again. When this sequence repeated itself again, I finally understood. And then Beauty took a drink.
Imagine an aristocratic lady wearing an elegant hat and dressed perfectly. Then imagine this lady entering a room and surveying the people there assembled. Now imagine you are the host or hostess of that room of people, and you are awaiting the lady’s gaze to shift to you. You know that in the instant she first looks at you, you will know immediately what she thinks of your gathering, though her facial expression will barely change at all. Her glance will either be an approving one or it will be profoundly different than that.
What Beauty seemed to be communicating to me that morning was her approval of Lucky Joe. That she ceased her pattern of looking from me to him when I reached this conclusion confirmed that I had correctly understood her communication. Her approving glance means a lot to me. Once before she passed judgment on my choice of stud colts (and there have been a number of other good colts here that she hasn’t shown partiality to.) The previous experience of her showing approval helped me to more quickly understand her communication this time than I might have otherwise. Five years ago she made it very clear that Willowtrail Black Robin had her blessing. And Robin matured into a very fine stallion indeed.
I was recently contacted by someone who’s become fascinated with Fell Ponies. Their interest is in driving a pair, which is of course laudable. Yet they also communicated that their fascination goes beyond putting these ponies to use. I shared that I understood that fascination. Beauty’s approving glance is one of the many profound interactions I’ve had with these ponies that makes them endlessly fascinating to me. I’ve just heard about a few Fells who are still living in their late thirties. Another decade of approving glances from Beauty? I think I can live with that!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
If you’re looking for more stories like this one, look no further than the book A Humbling Experience, available internationally by clicking here.