It’s important when we think about our ponies (or any other animal for that matter) that we not assume they experience the same emotions that we do. Nonetheless, when we see behaviors that are similar to our own, it’s hard not to say that our ponies are happy or angry or loving or stubborn. Rather than assuming the emotion is the same as our own, it’s better to let them express whatever they need to express and receive it as information to benefit our relationship.
With that disclaimer, I will admit that I’m starting to think my new stud colt Restar Lucky Joe has an affectionate side. Like most of my ponies, he greets me at the fence, and then again like most of my ponies he wants to interact. More than some of my ponies, though, he seems to relax when I pet him or scratch him or talk to him, as though he likes the attention. And then he’ll put his head on my shoulder or lip my clothes in a way that makes me think he’s returning the affection I’m giving to him. (Then again, these could be interpreted as actions of dominance. I’m staying open to both interpretations to inform our developing relationship.)
The word ‘selfie’ was apparently added to the American English dictionary recently (though my computer’s spell-checker doesn’t include it yet!) A few weeks ago I got a camera that allows for taking selfies. I’m not much interested in pictures of myself, but ponies of course are another matter. Lucky Joe was ready and willing to be included in the first one and display his affectionate side.
The other day I watched Lucky Joe interact with one of my mares over a tall gate. The mare was in heat; on other days she’s wanted nothing to do with Lucky Joe. But on this day she was interested, and I watched Lucky Joe ‘caress’ her neck (the only part of her body he could reach) with his lips and teeth. It was very gentle and tender and quite touching to watch and quite a contrast to how I’ve seen some stallions behave around mares.
It’s still eight months at the earliest before I introduce Lucky Joe to a mare without fencing between them, so it will be awhile before I get much more new information about how he feels about them and they about him. In the mean time, I’ll continue to observe his reactions to my gestures of affection. So far he seems to be as special as his breeder described after he was born.
(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
If you like stories like this one, you might also like A Humbling Experience, available internationally by clicking here.