Don’t Leave the Dragon Behind


Matilda the Dragon
Matilda the Dragon

She was a Welsh Pony yearling, and she came with the name Matilda the Dragon. “Hmm,” I thought at the time, “must be a Welsh thing. There’s a dragon on the Welsh flag, so yeah, they probably named her off of that.”

For the first few weeks Mati did nothing even remotely dragon-like—although she did show a tendency to always be in a bit of a hurry. It wasn’t until one sunny afternoon that she completely showed her dragon side.

I started to put her friends in the barn—horses that she shared pastures with—and for some reason I did it out of order and left Mati for last. Mati demonstrated her dislike for that idea by promptly running several enthusiastic laps around her pasture until I rushed back to her. “What’s the matter? You don’t like being left for last?” The little “dragon” responded with an impressive series of snorts, blows, and prancing—behaviors that quickly disappeared as soon as I caught her and returned her to her friends.

Over the next several years, however, Mati showed how completely un-dragonlike she could be. In time, she learned to ride, jump, and do dressage. Her manners were very good and she could be handled by anybody. Load, clip, bathe—apparently the dragon was in hibernation.

Unless you did one thing: leave Mati outside for last. Then the dragon would awake, running around, blowing, getting all fired up—so I always made sure Mati didn’t get left behind.

Mati always seemed to be in a hurry. Not in a bad way, just matter of fact. Whether in hand or under saddle, she always wanted to walk briskly, as if to say, “I’ve got places to go and I’m not wasting any time.” Kind of a businesslike dragon. The handwritten judge’s remarks on her dressage test score sheets occasionally reflected Mati’s philosophy: “Nice moving pony…needs to relax and accept aides in slightly slower tempo…” But that’s okay—the dragon, apparently, had more pressing things to do than fuss over details. Her foals have shared her athleticism—and her drive. The “baby dragons” always show a lot of spunk at the beginning, until they learn to focus their energy into a job.

Mati is older now; her face is a little grayer than it used to be; her teeth a little longer. Most of the time she acts like the sensible, mature mare that she is, although she is still always in a small hurry. And sometimes, once in a while, if you start to put the other horses in the barn and don’t get Mati quickly enough, she still gets that look in her eye. The look that says, “I’ll still run around like crazy if you leave me out here!” So I don’t.

Because I know that somewhere within her, the dragon still lurks.

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