The phone rang at 8am, and the caller apologized for calling so early. I said it was no problem because he wanted to talk about one of my favorite subjects: working ponies. He had seen an article I had written on the subject for Rural Heritage magazine. He has a small farm and wants to put small equines to work on it.
We talked about many of the dimensions of working equines, especially the smaller variety, and I pointed him toward some resources. Then I mentioned a great quote I’d read about a key characteristic of ponies: “easy keeping doesn’t mean the keeping is easy.” (1) He had asked whether the potential for founder was as common in larger ponies as it is in smaller ones. I shared how I have found it necessary to manage to avoid that problem. While the management burden may be heavier for working ponies, there is definitely an upside. I have found ponies to be so interested in working with me and having a job that the effort of caring for them is easily worth it.
I was talking with a pony friend later that same day, and we too got on the topic of the effort required to manage ponies. Like me she feels the ponies give so much in return that it is easily worthwhile. She exclaimed, “They can’t get enough of us!” I haven’t been around horses for decades, so I don’t know if they’re the same, but I definitely feel the same way about my ponies; they want more attention not less.
When I was talking to the aspiring small farmer, I had mentioned that having breeding stock like I do is a challenge because most of them don’t consider breeding work to be enough to keep them occupied. I’m constantly getting asked, “What are we going to do today?!” It isn’t very often (and usually when there’s a choice about green grass) that my ponies would rather do their own thing rather than do something with me.
I got an email the other day from another pony friend, telling me a story about taking a carrot to her pony partner of many years. For the first time in memory, her pony chose not to come to her. It was ten below zero, and her pony had found a sunny spot out of the wind. So sometimes they can get enough of us, but they usually have a good reason! My friend concluded her story by saying, “Love this pony!”
My first Fell Pony, Sleddale Rose Beauty, was bred by the late Mr. Henry Harrison. In 2005, Mr. Harrison gave the following endorsement of the Fell Pony: “Besides its hardiness, thrift, strength, and being surefooted, it is the personality of the fell pony that means so much, a kind natured pony, ever eager to please and provide good company.” (2) As each year passes, I recognize ever more the truth in Mr. Harrison’s statement.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
- Lesté-Lasserre, Christa, “Feeding Ponies” at http://www.thehorse.com/articles/35122/feeding-ponies?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=nutrition&utm_campaign=01-05-2015
- Harrison, Henry. Fell Pony Society Calendar, 2005, January page.
If you enjoy stories like this one, you might also enjoy the books A Humbling Experience and What an Honor, available internationally by clicking here.