What could be more delightful than bumping into a great friend of yours? I think of ‘Bluebell’ as no less than that, even though she is one of the ponies of Dartmoor. And what if your friend had a great, great surprise waiting on a particular day that you knew nothing about….
For the past year or so, Bluebell as I’ve affectionately named her has become one of the particular characters that I seek out here. She has the most exquisite eyes and she is a wonderful, eccentric soul. From the first meeting with her when I had just started going out with my camera seriously, she was just there. She stood and seemed to pose and stop for me to click away. She made things very, very easy. She made it ALL look easy. I’m so glad for that because Bluebell gave me a wonderful insight, early on as to what is possible with them when the connection is flowing. I can say from experience, that from working around many of these ponies now – all are not the same. Some you can get nearer to than others. Bluebell, for me, is an ambassador for the horse-human connection. And I say horse, because, to me, regardless of size, these are all horses in spirit. The ponies that I have the privilege of connecting with here are huge in their personalities and their energy, sometimes three times their physical stature or more. Bluebell is no exception – she tends to win the hearts of humans effortlessly. She allows people very close to her indeed. And I’ll say it once again – not all ponies are the same. Some you need to spend hours around, building trust and then they may just start to approach. Others may never let you close. And that is a great thing to remember because it means that I take nothing for-granted and do not assume that it’s my right to go right in and take what I want whether that’s a photo, a touch, or closeness. When I’m on the moors, when I’m around all animals – for the most part it is a dance of working out what is ok, what is not. When to move forward, when to step back. Intuition and trusting gut instincts is paramount. Sometimes those signals and feelings are subtle, sometimes they are deafening.
Yesterday I went out to the moors for the first time in three weeks with my camera. After a period of time without a car, I was champing at the proverbial bit to find those wild-ones. I went way up onto the moors and came across a herd that I’ve spent a lot of time with now, building relationships with them. But there are always new members to navigate each visit so it keeps me on my toes. I noticed yesterday how incredibly interactive the ponies were, they simply wanted to come in very close indeed. A young and highly spirited colt spent a long time edging forward, eventually to sniff my head and nibble my hat. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous moment because the time had been spent to allow that to happen. And for it to happen I had to be OK with all the other herd members too. Being amongst them when this happens is hard to describe. I often find myself with tears in my eyes, recognising how special it is to be so close. Nothing is taken for-granted, because it can also change in a moment if they get distracted or spooked or if they just plain fancy a gallop with the rest of the herd. What is peaceful can change on the flip of a coin. This is a process. I haven’t arrived anywhere, it will always be ongoing and surprising. Perhaps that is part of what draws me in closer and closer – it feels real, it is ‘out of control’, but for us in our often over-controlled modern world, this feels a vital teaching. It’s extremely valuable to learn to be more in the ‘moment’.
Driving homeward I stopped at the place I saw Bluebell last. This is the place where I’d taken a longer walk and fallen into the mire briefly. This is a place where those ponies are pretty well protected as there is a lot of unstable ground in terms of walking there, it is super-boggy in places. I walked along and saw the herd on the hill and a solitary pony having a snooze near some gorse. As I looked up, a mare began trotting and then galloping towards me, making lots of whinnying along the way. She stopped right in front of me and was extremely curious as to whether I had brought anything along food-wise. Several more of the herd did exactly the same thing, catching the excitement of this first mare. They ran over and nuzzled me, gave me a bit of a barge and hung out a while – it was so exhilarating! I could not see Bluebell anywhere and imagined that she was far up on the tor with the others I could see in the murky light. And then…. then I heard a rustling and I looked into the gorse thicket where one pony had been standing all along. And the most incredibly exciting feeling washed over me as I saw Bluebell. And then…. and then, joy of absolute joys….. I saw the tiniest foal. Incredibly tiny and very young, maybe a day or so.
The most delightful news that I wish to share with you is that Bluebell has had a foal! The most beautiful colt. And he is much like her – curious, friendly and rather eccentric. Spending time around one so young, being circled and held within the herd as they are and I was, has a magic that I will never, ever be able to put a value on. The experience of that has lit up my heart and soul in a way that I can’t describe. My delight for her, for the herd and for my own self being lucky to experience this is huge. That beautiful colt tried to approach me but I just didn’t want him to get too close. Something about that didn’t feel OK just yet for me. But I swear he recognised my voice because his response to me calling for his mother was one of familiarity and warmth. He held absolutely no fear. Of course, all the time she has been pregnant I’ve been around her periodically and chatted away to her about how beautiful she is, how many humans are touched by her ways. We often hear about talking to human babies in the womb. I had not realised that I was talking to Bluebell’s unborn whilst I was around her all this year. There was me thinking that she had been eating rather a lot of the moorland goodies and she was in foal.
As I stood with the them all, tears filled my eyes. Tears of joy, tears of surprise, tears of recognition of the incredible honour of being there with them at such a vulnerable moment. I smiled and smiled inside. I congratulated my friend and her herd, telling them how grateful I was to be there with them and how excited I was for them to have new life in their world. I also worried for that tiny soul, will he make it through the winter, will he be ok? And then I watched as he played and teased his mother, springing around like a mountain goat. This is how it is to love. The fear of loss is immediate, but love we must – no matter what, these ponies teach me so much about love and loss and everything else in between. Everything is subject to change. And I thought to myself… with this family, with this protection and love around him, his wild, tenacious spirit and with those instincts. He just may make it. I do so very dearly hope so…..
With gratitude to Bluebell and her incredible herd. And for the new colt that has arrived, long may you remain little one. What a delight to share in the wonder of new life with the ponies of Dartmoor.
All images are my own and therefore respectfully © Fi Takács
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