Well over two years ago, my encounter with herd wisdom began, leading me into an equine-listening relationship with a pony named Dutchess. When I learned her full name was Pennsylvania Dutchess, I knew we were to become companions for at least a season. My ancestral line is Lancaster County, PA.
Day 57 gave glimpses of the world of herd wisdom opening for me in 2020. I’d always had a yearning for horses, though never knew quite how to meet that hunger. Then I was enveloped by a herd of mares, with a couple sentry males. Something Ancient landed in me there. I remember driving away from the ranch, pulling over to the side of to weep. I felt connected to…?
At about this time, a family in our church began looking for a little extra care for Dutchess, whom the elder daughter had ridden for years. Cassie was college-bound, so visits to the barn were more infrequent than the family liked. Following the lead, so to speak, I entered into a partial-lease arrangement, with freedom to be at the barn for time with Dutchess three days a week.
Dutchess and I developed our own rhythm for a little over a year. I learned the basics of grooming care, which she tolerated well enough. We’d walk some in the barn, or outside if the weather was nice. Most visits, in temperate weather, I’d take my small camp chair and simply join her in the pasture.
I learned she was protective of me, when other horses would draw near. Warmed my heart somehow, as long as I stayed out of her way. She mirrored my own soul noise again and again. Sometimes I’d be sad and want her to cheer me up. She would be present with me—of course—but it was clear that my own soul-care was not her business. She never nuzzled me with a “there, there, poor thing,” which made me smile (eventually) when I realized I had hoped she would. Such a familiar pattern for me, even with a horse. She created space for me to let go of that with her quiet stare, trust, patience, all while hoping for a treat.
Many pushed me to learn how to ride her, but something in me knew that was not for me/us. I didn’t want to, though not out of fear or aversion. She was my gentle reminder that being with her was enough. Presence was enough. My tending of her was a gentle intimacy, enough.
So I smiled when I got word she was moving to a new family, probably the day after Fire&Water concluded. I don’t know the new owner, nor where Dutchess will even be, though I know it’s local. No matter—she has landed well, and I am glad. Time to say good-bye to sharing physical presence, while inviting her in as a soul-companion in my variety of circles.
A treat for us both. Thanks, Dutchess.