Maya Angelou said ” Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.” I think she’s definitely onto something there.
Three years ago – well more than three years ago now – I had one of these moments. Unusually it wasn’t with Chandi, but with another hairy, four legged creature – one of the wild ponies that freely graze the moorland where we love to walk – The Long Mynd. I have just found the post I wrote for my private Facebook page to mark the occasion and wanted to share it here as well:
“Today I had one of those rare moments that completely took my breath away. There are wild ponies that graze the 26 square miles of open moorland where I regularly walk with Chandi. The ponies are always fascinated with Chandi, and usually one or more of the ponies will come towards her and want to sniff her. Chandi doesn’t mind and I’m always careful that things don’t get out of hand. Once the ponies are bored with Chandi, I always hold my hand out to see if any will want to touch me. Never, in 20 years of trying, has a wild pony ever touched me.
Today was different. A young chestnut mare reached out to touch my extended fingers. We looked at one another, me of course with tears in my eyes. I slowly pulled my hand back to see what the pony would do. She considered her options carefully, and then reached her nose out so she was again touching my hand. I gently stroked the side of her mouth and her soft, pink, fuzzy nose. I stepped away from her and wondered what she would do. She stepped towards me and again touched her nose to my outstretched fingers so we were touching once more. I backed away further and the pony walked towards me. I kept backing away, faster now and the pony began to trot towards me to make contact with my hand. I was having trouble believing what was happening – on this cold, wet November day, a wild pony had chosen to make contact with me.
Then I had a grey pony on my right who let me touch her nose and another chestnut pony who thought she might like to be touched, but wasn’t brave enough. I turned my back on the ponies to continue my walk with Chandi, and as Chandi and I walked side by side up the path, suddenly, with her shoulder level with me, the chestnut pony was walking next to me. Not following behind me, but walking as Chandi was, as my companion.
We all stopped as a mountain biker came hurtling down the path towards us. Of course the pony was startled, and so was I, and the magic was shattered. He forced his way around us and then through the herd of ponies that was blocking the path. My chestnut friend had moved out of the way and was about 10 feet away from me. I was disappointed as I thought our encounter had ended. Not so. The pony trotted back over to me and reached out to touch my shoulder with her nose while I stroked her face. It was entirely her choice to interact with me – I offered myself to her in the first place and she was free to choose. The first pony to choose to make contact.
If I hadn’t have stopped her, I don’t know for how long she would have walked by my side. I would have loved to have had her company for the rest of my life, but there was no way I could have fitted her in the car to get her home. Other people walking on the same path didn’t stop to marvel at the mad woman with a bunch of wild animals around her, I don’t think they even really registered what was happening and were oblivious to the magic that was in the air. This was an experience I will never forget, and I feel so glad that I had the desire to make contact with another creature in the first place, and that the wild pony saw something in me that made her trust me, and leave her herd to walk with me, if only for a few moments. Those moments will last a lifetime for at least one of us.”
Over the last three years I have been lucky enough to find ‘my pony’ on several more occasions, and each time she has recognized me and at times, run some considerable distance, to reconnect with me. Each time she makes this choice it totally overwhelms me. She also greeted Chandi so gently – watching them both touching noses and sniffing each other always brought tears to my eyes.
However, the last time I saw my pony was August 2012 – a sunny, blue-sky day. I hadn’t seen her since then, until two days ago.
Grace and I were driving along the road over the Long Mynd having enjoyed our walk when I saw her. At least I thought it was her – she was much bigger and had really filled-out. She was looking well, I was relieved to see. She was with her dapple grey friend and a tiny Shetland pony. There were two Shetlands that had been dumped on the Long Mynd about two years ago – the female found her way down into one of the valleys and was rescued, but the stallion remained on the hill.
As soon as I realized it was indeed my pony I stopped the car and with my hand on the door handle, I went to open the door. Pony had been watching the car this whole time, tossing her head up and down. Before I could open the door, she came trotting over to the passenger side where Grace was sitting on the front seat watching the pony.
To my surprise, the pony came right up to the car and reached out with her nose. She stood with her nose pressed against the glass while Grace pressed her nose against the pony’s nose. I was dumbstruck as I just watched. Grace wasn’t frightened, which was a surprise as she hadn’t been this close to a pony before. Did the pony think Grace was Chandi? I guess so. After all this time.
I opened the door and got out, calling to the pony. She came towards me, tossing her head so her flaxen mane danced in the wind. I offered my hand and held my breath. We touched and stared into each others eyes. I stroked her nose and then the side of her face and she let me. It was a beautiful moment.
Suddenly aware of some walkers approaching, I stopped touching my pony and moved away. She put her head down to graze as the walkers got closer. As they passed by, one of them said hello to me and the other stretched out her hand to stroke my pony as she had seen me doing. My pony moved away and didn’t allow this stranger to touch her.
After the walkers had gone, I went back to my pony to say goodbye and she lifted her head and touched my shoulder. I stroked her nose once and more and turned to go back to the car. She didn’t try to follow me this time but joined her friends as they cantered past. She did stop, turn her head and look in my direction, at the same time that I paused for one last look before getting into the car.
I do not know why this pony allows me to touch her, but it fills me with such joy gratitude and humility, in the same way as the relationships I have shared with Pepper, Chandi and now Grace. Pure magic – these are the only words to describe the way it feels.
“Those that don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~ Roald Dahl.
I’m a believer….