While walking in the Forest of late it is very evident that autumn is fast approaching. The early morning mists that weave silken ribbons of silver vapour through the valleys and woods are a telltale sign. Some of the leaves on the trees are already beginning to turn and will very soon produce a magnificent display of autumnal colour. The heathland is a mosaic of lilacs, purples, greens and browns that dovetail in bold blocks across the landscape. It is little wonder that with such natural beauty and vivid colours for inspiration the New Forest has been a magnet for artists, poets and writers. I walk the territory that my ponies haunt and find pleasure in the hunt for them. The natural beauty of the New Forest and the tranquility of the early mornings are quite restorative and, if I am able to find my mares, I am amply rewarded for my pre-dawn start.
The colour of ponies
The herd that my mares belong to comprises mostly bay coloured ponies, which is a brown body with a black mane and tail. There is another herd that I often see in the same area, which is predominantly made up of grey ponies and so these I ignore. I look first for the herd with mostly bay ponies in it and then begin to try and identify some of the individuals. One of my mares is the colour of dried bracken, which is such a bright copper colour that she stands out from the others in the herd, so I tend to look for her first. She is usually in the company of her little sister, a bay yearling filly, and the pair are easy to spot from a distance. They show no signs of recognition when I go up to them. I have a good all round look to check they are in good health, with no obvious injuries, but make no attempt to touch or pet them. They are fairly ambivalent to my presence and regard me with only mild curiosity.
Architects of the Forest
The wild ponies make such a pretty picture grazing amongst the heather and gorse. Of course it is their foraging habits that have earned them the title ‘architects of the Forest’. However, while they may have created the landscape it is nature that has coloured it in. Ponies have dichromatic vision and only see in blue and green. Anything else in the colour spectrum, for example red or yellow, will just be processed as yet another shade of green. Given the time of year, although the New Forest ponies make up much of the beauty of the landscape, the many colours of autumn will be sadly lost on them.