I was striding quickly with purpose down the edge of the long ‘strip’ pasture, intending to get to the far end and shut the gate to keep the ponies contained in a smaller area. It was a beautiful morning, but I was focused on a job that needed to be done immediately after the gate was closed, so it took me a few moments to really hear the hoofbeats coming up behind me. They were coming at a trot, and I guessed the pony responsible for them before turning to confirm her identity. It was Willowtrail Wild Rose.
After I shut the gate, I greeted Rose and asked her to follow me back up the length of the pasture. She was eager to oblige, so eager in fact that she was asking for more connection than just that. I considered jumping on her back and letting her take me up the pasture, but her spirits were high enough and I didn’t have a helmet much less a halter and leadrope, so I opted to stay on the ground. Instead I broke into a jog, and she did the same, and we trotted along together. To test our connection after a bit, I quickly stopped and she did too.
Carolyn Resnick recently wrote about bonds shared between people and equines. “I see how truly and deeply some people want to feel a bond with their horse and they are analytically trying to figure out how, but the emotional aspect is somehow disconnected. When we think of a bond I also see that most people have no idea how to bond with a horse. Many times I see that a horse feels a special bond with their owner, but their owner is not even aware of, or sees, how their horse is feeling. The opposite of this is that the person, because they are having a wonderful time, calls it a bond when the horse wouldn’t feel that way at all.” (1)
I have been on both ends of the unfulfilled bond spectrum that Resnick describes. At one extreme many years ago I exuberantly hugged a pony, only to be bitten for my trouble. Obviously that pony didn’t share my feeling about our bond at that time. Since then I’ve learned how she likes our bond to be recognized, and she is my best friend. On the other extreme, every time I bring a new pony into my herd, whether they are born here or purchased from elsewhere, I know they want a bond with me but I have to learn just how to achieve it since every pony needs something different from me. Restar Lucky Joe, my new stud colt, definitely wants a bond with me, and I am still exploring how to achieve a bond that we both enjoy.
And of course I am fortunate to share close bonds with so many of my ponies. Rose, at least right now, is giving me more than any other. I have never had a ‘true and deep bond’ with a pony from birth like I have with Rose. I am humbled by the opportunity she is giving me. I look forward to finding out how much further our relationship can go.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
The book A Humbling Experience contains many stories about developing bonds with my ponies. It’s available internationally by clicking here.