Epona: Our Dartmoor Hillie Goddess

Also known as ‘the sassy one’:

Epona ‘great mare’ was the Gaulish name for their Celtic Horse Goddess, a goddess of fertility and protector of equines and she was also celebrated by the Roman Army as a protector of their horses.

It was the name all three of us heard when Meadow said she wanted a new name, as the one she had didn’t mean anything. I sat on the barrel in the round pen watching Jo Dutfield (our friend and animal communicator) heal Meadow’s hip which she said was sore. Livvy stood the other side deep in thought about names. Meadow suggested ‘Star’ because her daughter was called Luna. She didn’t have a significant star on her we observed back. Livvy suggested ‘Faith’ as we had 2 other Dartmoor Hillies called Hope and Grace. She reluctantly accepted, until Jo explained she is used to being a people pleaser and didn’t really like it. Livvy told her to be herself, she needs a name she loves. I felt she needed a Goddess name, as I noticed she was getting some sass about her the longer she spent with us. Isis (the Egyptian Goddess) Livvy suggested. ‘Do I look like an Isis?’ she span her head around to look at Livvy in a way that suggested the answer was ‘no!’.  I heard ‘Epona’ as more of a thought, being the sceptical science one I dismissed it and waited for Jo to pick up something. Jo said, ‘I heard Epona’. Livvy said ‘yes I heard that too’. I nodded, a little bit quizzical as to how that worked. ‘YES, Epona!’ the little mare responded.

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Jo gives healing to Epona’s hip

Epona is the only mare we have in the herd who has been a mother; she had a still born boy in the wild she told Jo, and she had a daughter 3 years ago called Luna. She wanted to know that Luna was OK. Luna was doing fine, and we said that if there was ever a time she was needing a home, she had one back here.  Epona was reassured.

Epona was about a body condition 4 and suffered with laminitis, having had a bout of it about a month before we bought her. She mostly lived in the stable and went out in a grazing muzzle to restrict her eating with Logan. We had a vision of her living out with the herd, she would need to lose the muzzle. She would need to lose a bit of weight, start moving more and selecting other things to eat besides grass. Jo suggested she watch some of the others and stop eating when they did, maybe have a snooze, and have a forage in the hedgerow. Our holistic vet gave us some advice, and told us not to starve her of grass. Epsom salts were amazing, and she selected it when she needed to drink from that bucket. In our first week, she needed to have feet soaked in a bucket of cold water, and I applied a cooling gel to her hooves to help regulate their temperature. We moved forward, she lived out between the disused round pen which we embellished with various things to do and play with to encourage her to move, and her stable. As spring turned to summer, one of the fields was so eaten down, and looked like a wild field, the sun had burnt what was left so it resembled hay. We moved forward again, into living out in this field 24/7 with her buddy Logan. She got closer to our herd, which were through the hedgerow.

Glastonbury, Goddess, Dartmoor hillie, Equine ReWilding, Paintedhorse, EFL, EAL, EFP, Equine Therapy, Healing Herd
Dartmoor Hillie Billies

As a scientist, I know about experiments and variables, and specialising in biology, I know controlling variables with ‘living systems’ so to speak…is a challenge. So I am not claiming a proven method to help with laminitis, I am just telling you our story. And so, Livvy who is trained in Equine Touch was doing body balances daily. Epona was trusting her more and more as time went on. Livvy patiently explained everything to Epona and she was able to do more body work which in turn helped her body to regulate itself. At this time Epona was living out 24/7 and not having to come in as there was no pulse in her hoof and her neck not too cresty either.

laminitis, Glastonbury, Goddess, Dartmoor hillie, Equine ReWilding, Paintedhorse, EFL, EAL, EFP, Equine Therapy, Healing Herd
First week, with laminitis

Livvy went to Glastonbury festival for 2 days, I was not able to do Equine Touch, but everything else we were doing I did. Sadly I had to bring her off the grass due to having a pulse on day 3. Livvy returned, did Equine Touch (ET) and Epona was back out 24/7 within 2 days. Epona then started to approach Livvy in the field for ET and eventually stopped drinking from the Epsom salts bucket.

Epona began moving around more and more, and started asking to meet Hope and Grace. She got so excited about meeting them, she behaved quite aggressively by kicking out at them. Again with communication via Jo, Epona actually blamed her buddy Logan for the aggression. This was not the case, he had been so gentle with them. We then left the little ones in the main herd for a while, until Epona started trying to get through the hedge to get to them herself. We compromised and the little ones went to visit Epona and Logan during the day and back with the others in the evening and night. It was heartwarming to see Epona start to run, not anywhere near the speed of the other two, but hey, it was faster than we had seen before. Epona really loves Grace, although she is from the same area of Dartmoor as Hope. Epona and Hope could be half sisters if the stallion was the same within their 5 year age gap. Epona looks more like Grace however, they both have the round body and little legs, whilst Hope is all legs and her chest hasn’t filled out yet.

Glastonbury, Goddess, Dartmoor hillie, Equine ReWilding, Paintedhorse, EFL, EAL, EFP, Equine Therapy, Healing Herd
Epona, Grace, Hope and Logan

We told Epona, when Logan’s shoes came off that’s when we would put them into the herd. The shoes came off, but we had to wait for a day that Jo could come visit to help us communicate with the herd introduction. Epona wasn’t happy with me, ‘the shoes were off’. She took matters into her own hooves and decided to go through the hedgerow and meet the herd. She met nose to nose with a few of the herd and I talked her out of pushing through the last log and tape because we were concerned Ulha may hurt her. We wanted to do the meet up safely but we would put the little ones in with her until Jo came, well for the day time at least. She retreated back through the hedge.

The herd introduction happened a week later. Although massively brave, we feel its been a little bit stressful for her as she didn’t quite get the exclusive Dartmoor herd she was counting on ruling. Grace likes to mingle with everyone as the peacemaker and Hope dances to her own tune and is often happily found by herself. Only a week later Epona experienced her first workshop with people, a lovely group of Equine Touch Practitioners in the morning and Equine Facilitated Learning/Psychotherapists in the afternoon. It made us smile that she joined in with Grace and Hope and some practitioners got well and truly ‘Dartmoored’.  The term most often used by visitors when describing the dark bay mare (with a slight roan) is ‘sassy’ which we kinda think goes with her namesake.  She is still living out and at the moment its 24/7.

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