This morning I wanted to load Ben into the horsebox to take him to a clinic, a follow-up to the one described earlier. Ben saw the horsebox being hitched up and backed into position. He did his usual dash away when I came up that carried him all of about 10 feet this time. He stopped and looked at me. I said “yes, I am asking you to leave Rosie and go in the horsebox. We will be back.” He waited for me. He walked calmly with me as far as the horsebox. Then he stopped. He moved this way and that, everyway except into the horsebox. When this happens I usually lead him in random directions which gets him focused on me so that he follows me up the ramp. Today he was having none of it.
And suddenly it seemed too much for me: Ben just seemed like an obstinate pony and I was tired: tired of asking, tired of being patient, tired of being firm, tired of giving clear boundaries, tired of keeping my energy up but not too up, tired of it all in fact. And I felt despair and I thought “I do not want a pony like this. I do not want a relationship like this. I do not want any of this and I do not know what to do right now.” And in that moment Ben’s eyes softened as he looked at me and I looked at him and I felt empty, no leadership, no answers, no anything and we looked at each other and I walked up the ramp and Ben followed me on a loose line and stood for me to go round to the back and put up the bar.
Rosie softly allowed Ben go, no calling after him when he loaded. We had a good day, Ben stayed with me in his energy and his spirit all day, he walked up the ramp to go home and calmly unloaded at the end.
This is the first time I have felt Ben reach out of his space, his comfort zone, to give to me and I find it hard to put words on my thoughts and feelings about this.
Last night I went out to the paddock at about midnight. I did not take a torch and made my way around track by the faint light from the stars. The ponies were not in the yard, haynets were not finished. I picked my way carefully along the rough, dried mud of the front section of the track towards the trees where I thought they might be. They were not there and I made my way around the track, hearing nothing. I saw Ben’s silhouette in the wide corner that is the highest place on the track. His white socks were just visible. He made his way towards me. We stood together looking down the track and he rested. His breath was gentle on my face as he moved his head near me. This little cob, who is quite resistant to touch around his head, moved his head over my shoulder and in beside my face and he dozed.
When he moved away, I moved towards Rosie. Her head, being level with my waist, was instantly nosing at my pocket for the carrots that were there. Ben ignored us as she crunched on one. It seems a long time since he would chase Rosie away if she came near me. I crouched and Rosie and I were nose to nose in the darkness.
I was very struck by what an urban environment they live in. We are supposed to be in the country here. It was midnight. Lights were on in our house and our neighbours’. Cars were on the road. Looking down the track, across the lake, the glow of lights from a nearby town was visible. At midnight, in the darkness, under the stars, horses should have silence from human sounds and they do not. They cannot. We are everywhere. There are of course more remote places in Ireland. We are near to villages and towns and a main road here. But even in more remote places they will see a glow from lights in the sky, they will hear noise. And they adapt, they have to. Do we?
I did a workshop with Ben at the weekend given by a trainer who has trained with Hempfling and Chris Irwin among others. It was helpful, particularly in showing me how to position my body during in-hand work to help and allow Ben move his body optimally and also to keep my focus so that Ben can relax when he is around me. There was a pony brought there who was difficult to trailer load, a sweet looking Connemara type. She was filthy as she would not let anyone groom her. Horses and humans interfacing can clash and this clash can so rapidly become chaotic and even dangerous.
I do not have a photograph from the darkness, so here are Ben and Rosie again early this morning after their breakfast. I love that their stance is almost identical.