When Lunesdale Silver Belle and Sleddale Rose Beauty were here, Beauty was usually the one that greeted me first at the fence, asking for a treat. Usually she got one. It didn’t matter how far away Ellie was, she always knew if Beauty had gotten a treat, and she became extra-demanding, wanting one, too. If, on the way to the haystack, Beauty got a second treat, Ellie wanted a second one, too. She kept count. If Bowthorne Matty was the first one to the fence, and she got a treat, then Beauty wanted one, of course, and she kept count (though honestly Matty rarely ever got one because the other mares pushed her away before it could happen.)
Today Beauty and Ellie are no longer part of the herd, but I saw a variation on the counting game amongst the mares that remain. I took Willowtrail Wild Rose for a long ride. She got a treat for doing well, and Matty of course noticed. When we returned, my husband had Shelley out for a short hand-grazing session. When Rose and I reached the gate to the mare paddock, Matty let out an enormous squeal and buck. She seemed to be expressing displeasure that Rose, who is below Matty in the hierarchy, and Shelley, were out amongst green grass. Matty didn’t know that Rose didn’t get any green, of course, though she did see Rose get a treat.
A few minutes later, my husband put Shelley back in her paddock. Shelley immediately trotted the length of her paddock to the fence next to where I was. She was whinnying and moving more quickly than usual. She seemed to be expressing her displeasure that I had taken Rose on a ride instead of her. I smiled, and I admit that it felt nice to be so wanted!
Later in the day, I tied Apollo to a fence so he could get a little green grass. He was in full view of the mare paddock, so he occasionally called to them but mostly ignored them while he was indulging. Matty, on the other hand, was regularly vocalizing, making it clear, once again, that she had now counted three ponies that had gotten special treatment in the green department, and she hadn’t gotten any. I’m not sure yet if she’s going to be at the top of the mare herd now that Beauty and Ellie are gone, but she’s sure saying she should be treated as #1, keeping count of important matters like green grass and treats.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
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.