Ponies in the Hallway!
December 2013

To provide the maximum of sightseeing or shore excursion time, most cruises arrive in the early morning at each port and depart in the evening, sailing overnight to the next destination. Early on we realized that end cabins on lower decks can result in disruptions to one's sleep when the thrusters at the bow and stern that ease the ship sideways to the pier are switched on and off.

Our midship suite on the Seabourn Pride had spared us any such disturbances, but one morning we were awakened by "clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop, ..." in the hallway! There seemed to be a pony, or perhaps a procession of them, since the parade continued for five minutes or so. Of course, when we opened the door there was nothing to be seen in either direction – perhaps they were Ghost Riders?

Several mornings later it happened again, with the same mystifying results. When it occurred the next time, I was prepared and recorded the sound.

However, that morning Betty Lou was in the laundromat at the front of the ship and realized that it was the sound of the anchor being lowered!

It hadn't registered that the ponies only appeared at ports where we would have to anchor offshore and tender in – I guess my powers of observation were also on vacation!

I don't know why I didn't think of this, but I heard from a friend we met on the Antarctic cruise that she was expecting a punch line involving sea horses!

Another friend wrote that he had thought it was too uniformly rhythmic to be a living creature.

However, the hoofbeats of the ponies we rode over the Gap of Dunloe were exactly that rhythmic. They had made the trek so many times that there was no way we could get them to change their pace. Well, we didn't have spurs or whips, but heel nudging, rein flapping, and voice encouragement had no effect.

We later learned that they did have another pace. When riders ahead of us reached Lough Leane, where we'd boat across to Ross Castle and eventually return to Killarney, their ponies were released. As the Christmas Carol says, "the horse knows the way," and they took off at a gallop to get home. Ours, recognizing their mate Shirley as she passed, also shifted into high gear so they could quickly finish and join them, and nothing we could do could slow them!

It's hard to believe that there hadn't previously been mishaps that would lead to changes – but then I don't recall if we had signed releases!

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