Here at Three Graces Farm, our goal is to eat real food, limiting the distance from source to plate as much as possible. Given that challenge for the human contingent of our little homestead, applying the same goals to the care and feeding of our various critters is another consideration. Yet it’s interesting how we acquired four ponies with a unique story, one that just happened to reflect our own “slow food” efforts.
Last winter, we heard about some Shetland ponies that needed a new home. They were retired therapy ponies, having worked for an organization that places these special pets in homes with members who can benefit from the healing connection that exists between humans and equines. Shetlands are particularly suited for this job, being small in size and particularly calm in temperament. When we met the mother and daughter pair, Sunshine and Lace, it didn’t take us a minute to decide they could come live with us. Merry Meadow and April soon followed, and as a result we have our very own therapy herd!
Right away we learned that our ponies are unique in another way, in that they were raised on a natural diet, without reliance on the standard commercial grain feeds that are conventional in equine care. They came to us with the regimen of free grass grazing (a highly debated approach) supplemented several times a week by “salads” consisting of fresh, seasonal leafy greens, vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs.
Though not in line with common practice, we’ve continued this method of care not only because it’s what they are accustomed to, but because in many ways it parallels our own “slow food” efforts at Three Graces Farm. Every day, we intentionally reach outside the norms of an industrialized food chain to limit our consumption of commercially processed foods, looking first to our own land and then to other local sources whenever possible. Likewise, our ponies eat mostly from the pasture and the garden, not from the factory. Foregoing the scoop of commercial grain product and instead filling up their feed buckets with all this good stuff is a daily reminder of what we’re going for here. And why wouldn’t we extend the effort to our beloved animal companions?
These four girls are beyond irresistible! They’re like big friendly dogs who come up to for a rub and a hug. Whatever psychologists have to say about the therapeutic aspects of having them around, I’d say that being able to throw your arms around a cute little pony’s neck and give it a squeeze is good enough for me. A look into those sweet eyes and a nose nuzzle isn’t so bad either.
We do our best to give these ponies a happy, healthy life. They have a nice barn for shelter, plenty of room to roam and graze and a diet that comes directly from the earth. Given their overall health and well being, our equine vet has affirmed this regimen with a hearty thumbs up. We consider their gentle, loving nature, their temperament and their lifestyle to be an example for all of us humans. It is surely no accident that these lovely creatures have come our way.