Wild Horses

Image description: six wild ponies of grey, white, and dark brown stand on a grassy hillside, looking at the photographer.

I sang to the Carneddau ponies today.

I wanted to do a longer walk, up Foel Fras and on to Llwytmor, but it became obvious this wasn’t the day. I didn’t have the time, the daylight, the weather. I started off under blue skies with puffy white clouds, but my body felt sluggish and slow. I was too tired, too sore. We walked up past Pen y Gadair along the track which goes towards Dulyn then veers up the side of the hill towards Foel Fras. I wanted to get to Llwytmor to see where a German plane had crashed in WWII, but it was already almost one as I was slogging up the side of Foel Fras, and it was hard going all the way. I sat down for a little of my lunch, then pushed on. I probably should have eaten it all but it seemed wrong not to eat on the summit. One problem with autism – it can be hard to make yourself stop and properly rest.

Image description: an expanse of tufty mountain grass in the foreground with the rising peaks of the Carneddau mountains further away, and a blue sky with clouds gathering over the hills.

I found out there was another WWII crash on the side of Foel Fras, an Anson Mk.I, in which one man died and four escaped. I thought I’d make for that instead, then up to the top of Foel Fras. If I carried on to Llwytmor I would be exhausted and unsafe, and would probably have to come down in Abergwyngregyn, and call for my husband to pick me up. He’d have to break the county quarantine, go over the border, to get me. I’m not sure exactly where the border runs in the hills, but we know where it lies on the coast, and he’d have to cross it.

So, I slogged on up Foel Fras, tired and hungry and getting cold.

Image description: seven wild ponies of grey, white, and dark brown stand on a grassy hillside, looking at the photographer, with a rickety fence cutting across the left side of the picture.

Then I saw the horses. A whole family group; seven, I think. Greys and whites and a couple of dark brown. One was a teenaged dark brown foal with a white blaze. They were on the other side of the fence from us. They were obviously curious about me and the dogs. They kept coming closer then shying away. Horses have such a lovely curiosity. Cows’ curiosity seems stolid. The horses seem more alive.

I thought they’d feel less threatened if I sat down. I felt reasonably safe because of the fence, even though I knew they could flatten the fence if they wanted to. It was all flimsy old fence posts covered in lichen, and rusty wire. But a barrier is a mental thing as much as anything else. I sat down and the dogs sat down and the horses kept sidling closer, then getting nervous and moving away.

Image description: four wild ponies of grey, white, and dark brown stand on a grassy hillside. A grey-white pony is closest, looking at the photographer intently.

I thought I should sing to them. I’m not sure what the thought process was. I think it was a dual thing. I thought song might calm them, and I thought it might intrigue them. So I started singing the first song that came to mind. ‘In Dublin’s fair city, where the streets are so pretty…’ I sat on the mountainside singing Molly Malone. It’s one of the few songs, along with Christmas carols and other folk songs, that I could pick out without music on my recorder as a child.

They were intrigued. They kept stepping closer. One would come closer, then hesitate, then another would nose through and take its place. The foal stayed safely in the middle, but it took its turn coming forward. There was a grey-white one, in particular, built like a barrel, which was the most curious. It was on the outside of the group, not safe in the middle. It came closest of all.

Image description: seven wild ponies of grey, white, and dark brown running from the photographer over a grassy hillside, on the other side of a rickety fence.

I went through a couple of verses and they just stood and listened, trying to work out what this strange human was doing. Then I stopped singing and they became a little less curious. I stood up, and they lurched away. They move like something organic at these times – like a piece of nature, not beings with individual minds. They skip back like the undertow on a wave, come forward again, skip back again. It’s like watching the tide going out. I stood and I walked on, and they ran back across the hill, a tide running back into the sea, back into their amazing and isolated world. 

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