We got in late from work, so I was feeding at dark. I’d been enjoying my last feeding of the day with some light since daylight savings time and spring equinox. The darkness was making things just a little more work than usual. So when my mare Shelley offered to give me a taxi ride from the fence to the hay yard, I thought twice. I’d never ridden her after dark, and a taxi ride is ridden with no tack at all and I wasn’t sure I was up to that ‘first.’ On the other hand, it was dark, and Shelley’s surefootedness exceeds mine. I opted for the ride. I quickly realized how much I watch Shelley’s ears when I ride her, and I couldn’t see them! I thought of Sally Swift’s soft eyes in Centered Riding and laughed because you have to be able to see to use them!
Restar Mountain Shelley III has been making me laugh on other occasions, too. Usually it’s because she expresses her opinion about our relationship, and recently I’ve been quite flattered. I’ve temporarily changed my management routine so we’re spending less time together, and she’s let me know she misses me. It’s a nice feeling because it’s mutual.
Last month we had visitors on what I felt then was one of the muddiest possible days (since then it’s gotten worse unfortunately.) Instead of venturing into the mud in Shelley’s paddock, I brought her out. No halter or lead rope, just touching her under her chin to guide her. We interact this way nearly daily. It’s still a thrill every time she cooperates with me like this. The picture here was taken by one of the visitors.
Twice a day Shelley is my chore pony. I ride her down the driveway to the farthest pony pen. I let her run back up the driveway while I feed ponies in the various paddocks on my own return journey. My young stud colt Restar Lucky Joe is in the farthest paddock. Usually Shelley gave Joe barely a glance before starting her run up the road. One morning, though, after I let her loose, she took two steps towards Lucky Joe as if she wanted to go say hello. Because I didn’t want the fence tested, I emphatically said, “No”. Shelley gave a small kick in my direction then headed up the driveway as I’d wanted. I laughed pretty hard. When I got back up to the house, Shelley wasn’t as cooperative as usual. Instead of letting me put her in, she ran away from me, then down and around the largest paddock and to the other stallion pen. As I headed in that direction, I heard the unmistakable call of a teased stallion. That explained a lot; Shelley was in heat. I walked to her again, and this time she looked at me sweetly and compliantly, and we walked up to her paddock together without a halter or leadrope. Yes, I laughed again.
After green grass started coming in this spring, Shelley didn’t run to the top of the hill after I turned her loose. Instead she would run a short distance and then start nibbling green. After feeding the farthest paddock, I would catch up to her and re-mount and have her take me up. One day she didn’t go very far at all after I let her loose. When I finished feeding, she came in my direction as if offering to take me back up. It was an amazing feeling because this pony was loose, no tack, and had lots of other options. Instead she chose to be with me. Then when we got back up to the top, she went right in her gate, being a perfect partner rather than suggesting a detour for more green grass. I really think Shelley likes being my chore pony. The feeling, again, is mutual.
Another night I’d had a fence break and a loose pony, and I wasn’t in the mood for additional shenanigans. When I let Shelley loose, I told her to run all the way up because I didn’t want any extra things to do. When she did as I bid instead of stopping to graze, I had to laugh despite my annoyance about fence repair. I was very sincerely appreciative of her cooperation.
Every day with my ponies is different. Yet there are also things that are the same, like Shelley’s interest in my companionship. The expression, of course, differs, and that makes me laugh. I’m thankful for the variety and the joy it brings and for the laughter that brightens my day.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy the books A Humbling Experience and What an Honor, available internationally by clicking here.