The phone rang and my mind was on business, so it took me a moment to respond to the greeting of a friend rather than a client. Fellow horsewoman Peg Brocker of Brocker Quarter Horses began, “I have a 4-H Horseless-Horse student, and we’re researching the horse breeds of North Park.” After a few minutes, we agreed she would bring the student out to see the two breeds I have here at Willowtrail Farm.
When my guests arrived, I began by talking about the multiple uses that my pony breeds have historically had (ride/drive/draft/pack), and that their size makes harnessing, lifting loaded packs, and riding bareback easier. The Horseless Horse student was a quiet sort, but when she met my Fell stallion Guards Apollo, she assertively asked, “Can he see?” It was a great question. Compared to my other Fells, Apollo’s forelock is long and thick, so his eyes are rarely visible. I explained that when I work with him, I braid his forelock so he can see any visual cues I offer. Peg added that equines have much more highly developed other senses than humans, so when Apollo chooses not to see by leaving his forelock over his eyes, he is likely monitoring his environment with hearing and smell and even touch (think flies and wind for instance) instead.
The other question that the Horseless Horse student asked about hair was when she met my Norwegian Fjord Horse. “Why do you cut his mane?” I touched briefly on the idea of the breed standard requiring it and then explained that when doing harness work, it’s helpful to not have hair mixing with the collar and lines and other tack. Later I explained my observation that generally Fjords are more likely to be seen in draft work than Fells, and Fells are most often used in ridden and driven work where hair isn’t as much of an issue.
The question I was most interested to ask myself was “What breeds do we have here in North Park?” The answer so far in their research was Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas, Morgans, Percherons, Shires, and of course Fells and Fjords.
The best thing about having visitors to Willowtrail Farm is the questions they ask. This time was no different. Once again I got to see horsemanship in general and my ponies in particular through other people’s eyes. I learned that Peg had already shared many of the things I said, such as equines like to have a job. It was nice to know that my disclaimer that horsewomen often have strong and differing opinions wasn’t true in this case. Peg quickly corrected me, saying that she’d shared many of the same things with her student.
I also appreciated Peg’s reaction to my stud colt Restar Lucky Joe. Peg and I usually see each other only once a year, and the last time we talked, we commiserated over the job it is to find a stallion to follow one we really like. When Peg said about Lucky Joe “I really like him,” I was heartened that I was on the right track.
I am thankful for people like Peg who give of their time and knowledge to young people, especially those who don’t have an equine of their own. Giving more people chances to experience the relationships that equines offer enriches the lives of all involved. There can’t be a much better investment of time than that!
© Jenifer Morrissey 2015
If you enjoy stories like this one, you’ll also enjoy the books A Humbling Experience and What an Honor, available internationally by clicking here.