One fine day before Christmas I was down at the lake with both my daughters (ages 13 and 6) with time on our hands. It is beautiful there. The sun was shining, it was not even too cold and the swans were on the lake. Ben and Rosie came up to us. I offered Ben a scratch while Rosie went over to the girls. Ben stuck out his head and pushed her away. I let it go. Ben stayed with me and the girls went up to Rosie. Ben went over to them, drove Rosie away and stuck his head out to the six year old with his ears back.
Enough! Rosie is Ben’s herd and my daughters are mine. Ben is not allowed drive my daughters away. So I drove Ben away. I moved energetically forward with my hand up and he knew what that meant, despite having a large open space. I drove him around until bucking stopped and he relaxed. Then he wanted to come up to me and I let him. He allowed me scratch and stroke him all over, much more than he usually would and as I did so his relaxation increased to feeling practically hypnotised. I could feel the endorphins flowing through him. Ease and well-being oozed through every pore. I stayed with him for a long time. The girls, meanwhile, were with Rosie. My older daughter commented afterwards how much Rosie loved it, how she kept touching the six year old’s hair with her muzzle. I was reluctant to leave, feeling nearly hypnotised myself. When we left I looked back. Both ponies had not moved, rooted to the spot, dozing in the winter sun.
In an ideal world I would have four ponies. I think that two is the bare minimum for horses to live together. Ben has all the responsibility of being the strong one. I have noticed that if I go out to the paddock on a stormy night, for example, or at a time when something is worrying Ben, it does no good for me to stand relaxed beside Ben, hoping that my relaxation will calm him. He stays standing, on the alert. When I stand tall and alert myself, he relaxes. When Ben and Rosie are at Sandra’s in the summer, Sandra has noticed that the only time that Ben lies down to sleep is when Cassie is on guard. She seems to take on the role of lead mare. He does not lie down if Minnie or Rosie are standing.
When we were at the lake that day I should not have let Ben herd Rosie away from the girls. When I once had the opportunity of a phone conversation with Carolyn Resnick she told me that I needed to show Ben that he was not the boss of Rosie when I am around. She also said that he would probably be the type of pony who would follow me everywhere. (She also told me I had to fall in love with him, which was very astute of her as this was in the early days when I was encountering challenges all the time and was most definitely not in love with Ben.)
When I am that strong with Ben, when he asks me to be, he does follow me everywhere. Sometimes he does not ask me to be. And sometimes I go out and he has a look in his face which is a challenge and I do not want to rise to it. He ups the game until I do.
A conversation with Ben from this morning: I have wandered away while Ben and Rosie eat their feed. I disturb two curlews, who rise up and away, rejectingly, with a clatter. From the distance Ben’s head shoots up. He looks at me. I stand tall. Guns go off nearby, Ben looks towards them. I look also. Ben stays alert. I relax, dropping my head, relaxing my shoulders and fiddling with my camera. Ben returns to his feed. Rosie has not looked up.