The first Fell Pony stallion I ever met was Orton Hall Danny. If I had known when I met him that I would someday need to keep not one but two Fell Pony stallions, I would probably have turned my back and walked away from the breed. At that meeting, Danny seemed larger than life and somewhat wild and fierce, reinforcing my belief that stallions were a handful that I had no business being involved with. Danny’s display at the time was no doubt due to the ferocious windstorm that was gusting outside the metal barn in which he was housed. Fortunately for me I didn’t know what I didn’t know then, and fortunately for Danny, his life was soon to improve dramatically.
It has always been my opinion that the best thing that ever happened to Orton Hall Danny was being purchased by Patricia Burge. Not only was Pat a lifelong horsewoman, but she also approaches equines and all animals with a profound sense of compassion. That compassion led her to an ability to partner with Danny and help him to be the great equine ambassador that he became. When Pat called to tell me that Dan, as she called him, had passed away, I knew that a huge hole had been rent in her heart.
I never knew Danny very well personally, so mostly I experienced him through stories and photographs that Pat shared. It’s clear from the photographs that Pat and Dan were extremely happy in each other’s presence. Many of the photographs show Dan costumed as a unicorn. When Dan became Danequiel, wearing his horn, the two of them were truly in their element, performing for audiences. From Pat’s stories, it’s clear that, in return, audiences were captivated by these partners’ display. While for me the partnership was about extraordinary horsemanship, for many it was about something more magical.
In some accounts, a unicorn is considered “an extremely wild woodland creature” that can only be tamed by someone who is good and pure and honest. (1) Additionally, as a symbol of Scotland, the unicorn is seen as “a proud and haughty beast which would rather die than be captured….” (2) In other accounts, unicorns are considered gateway animals to other worlds, helping us “imagine wonderful other ways of being.” (3) To be able to tame a unicorn, to have a unicorn choose you to interact with, is to be recognized as being innately good and pure and honest, a form of recognition that is elusive in the real world. Often, according to Pat, Dan would interact with audience members in ways that left them profoundly moved, making unicorn magic a reality.
My first interaction with Danny squarely put him in the camp of “extremely wild woodland creature” and “haughty and would rather die than be captured.” In real life from where I sit, Dan was tamed by a good and honest horsewoman, again making unicorn mythology a reality. I know Pat felt Dan was a blessing in her life. I’ll always believe, though, that the bigger blessing was Dan having Pat in his life, for without her, Danequiel would never have existed, and this uniquely gifted pony would have been unknown in the world. Thank you, Pat, and rest in peace Orton Hall Danny.
- Same as #1.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
This story is included in the book The Partnered Pony, available internationally by clicking here.