It has been a hard few weeks: poor Minstrel has left a huge void.
Three weeks ago I scattered his ashes along with those of Spot, his earlier amd most beloved companion. We had planted a tree for Spot in a place where he loved to rest and I scattered the joint ashes around this tree in the little spinney.
But we now have little Chester/Jester who has come to keep lonely Saxon company: from the same animal sanctuary.
As you can see he is a Shetland. He came on trial but has fitted in well and is a very amenable chap although not backward in coming forward! As our vet said, “He is a leader isn’t he?” And that is just what Saxon needed: they got on well from the beginning. As Chester/Jester was unloaded and came into the field he just took off and inspected everything with no qualms, basically saying, “Come with me or not, it’s up to you but I’m going this way.” Saxon looked bemused at first but then followed on behind and now they are inseparable.
We prefer the name Jester but as we have not yet been given his Passport we can do nothing about that. He is a rescue from the Shetland Isles, as yet we do not know his full back story. He is 12 years old and 35 inches at the shoulder, only 2/3rd the size of Saxon. In fact when he stands in front of Saxon he looks as though he could almost stand under Saxon’s tum!
The temptation is to treat him like a large dog but we need to remember that he is in fact a large horse, just in a small body. He now whinnies at me when I go out to the field and seems very sweet but it is important that he knows who is boss.
We had the vet out last week to file down Saxon’s teeth which were giving him trouble. Our vet, Chris, has had Shetlands for many years. At Easter he had to have his two put down, they were 34 and 36 years old respectively. He was heartbroken. He said they used to wander wherever they wanted, often coming into the kitchen.
So he went and adopted seven Shetlands from the Sanctuary that Chester/Jester and Saxon come from. Chris and his wife began taking the ponies into Old Peoples’ Homes and to Schools for children with special needs. But because of Health and Safety rules the ponies have to wear socks and horse nappies. Two of the ponies did not enjoy this so they were left at home to graze peacefully, but the others loved it. One old lady spent her last months knitting socks for the ponies: when she died Chris asked her family if they would like her favourite pony to come to the funeral. They were overjoyed, said yes at once, and the pony led the cortège.
One particular incident which moved Chris profoundly was when a boy of 8 who was deaf and blind was shown one of the ponies. The lad felt it all over and then just leaned over the pony’s back with his arms around its neck, feeling it breathing and stayed there for ages, at least forty minutes. The pony remained still the whole time.
Chris confirmed that, unlike most horses, Shetlands can live out in the worst weather because they have two coats of hair, rather like water birds have with down and feathers. The base coat is very dense and soft like down, with the longer coarser hairs making up the top coat. So we have bought Saxon a new, very thick, padded winter coat with a cover which goes all the way up his neck to his ears and fits round his neck so that he can stay outside more in winter with Chester/Jester. But Jester will just have to come in and spend the night in the stable if the weather is too bad for Saxon, even though Jester gets bored and wants to be out and about.
(This is not Saxon’s new coat, but gives the idea. His is navy blue with green edging. This photo comes from Google images.)
So there we are, the continuous circle of life moving onwards. Sometimes comforting, sometimes feeling rather cruel when we might rather get off and take time out.
But it is a great blessing to have two happy ponies once more grazing in the field behind the house: to look out at empty fields would be desolate.