I have often thought that having a foal would be good for Minnie and I seriously considered it. The question was, what would I do with a foal once it was here? There is no market for horses in Ireland anymore, so there is no point in breeding a horse with a view to sell it; the country is full of horses that nobody wants to buy. I probably wouldn’t want to sell it anyway, even if I had a buyer. If Minnie had a foal I would keep it. But lovely as a foal is, I really don’t need one. I don’t need another riding horse, I already have Cassie, who is young and needs lots of time. I don’t think it’s right to breed a horse just to put it out to pasture. I also think that putting a mare in foal to a nice stallion is easier said than done; there is no way I’d bring Minnie to a place where she’d get all trussed up and hobbled before she is subjected to a stallion whether she likes him or not. And it can cost quite a bit of money too. So, no foal. Sorry Minnie.
Sometimes, when you get lucky, things fall into place and the right thing happens at the right time. Because even if I didn’t think a foal was a good idea, I still wanted to get Minnie a companion. And then Arrow came into our lives. When I put him in with Minnie and Cassie last Sunday, they reacted as I had expected. They paired up and made it clear to Arrow that he was the intruder and to expect no quarter if he crossed the line. Poor Arrow was clueless; having never seen another horse since he was weaned, he didn’t know where that line was and he had no idea how to behave. He didn’t seem to recognise the warning signals either and he made silly mistakes. Trying to get his nose in Cassie’s bucket…not clever. Cassie didn’t accept any excuses of youth and inexperience and taught Arrow a few hard lessons in which he collected several bum bites for his trespasses. But even that first day it was clear that Minnie was intrigued by him.
The following day Minnie and Arrow had paired up and they spent a lot of time together. Cassie was not interested at all and kept her distance. Then, when I went to check them that evening, I noticed to my astonishment that Arrow was attempting to suckle and that instead of chasing him off, Minnie allowed it and seemed to enjoy it.
It made me feel sad; so many foals get weaned when they are far too young and many of them are put in a field without the company of other horses and as a result are thoroughly traumatized. That Arrow was traumatized by the experience became very clear over the past few days: he has reverted to foal behaviour and he stays close to Minnie at all times. And Minnie loves it. She looks after him and displays a tenderness towards him that I find very moving.
I have never seen Minnie as relaxed as she is now. There is no need to put her in a stable when I take Cassie out. For the first time ever Minnie can stay in the field and she shows no sign of anxiety at all. She calmly watches me leave with Cassie and close the gate, and then she will turn around and move away, taking Arrow with her. It is such a relief to me. I actually didn’t realise until now how worried I’ve always been about Minnie and how she was always on my mind, even when I was working with Cassie. Now I can take Cassie out and I don’t have to worry or feel guilty about putting Minnie in the stable and as a result, I am far more relaxed with Cassie than before. All Minnie needed was this little pony.