Hi my name's Rosie. I am a large white filly and I live in riding stables just outside the
I awoke that day to the sound and smell of rain. If there's any weather condition I hate more it's rain. I stuck my head out of my loose box and looked round the yard. Another white horse named Figaro munched on hay, I'd better add at this point that nearly all the horses that live near me are white, all white, and I'm no exception. Cleo started banging about in her stall cursing the weather and the world in general.
“Shut it!” Figaro yelled. I looked over at him.
“Same old stuff Rosie.” he said. I suppose the root of Cleo's problem was all my doing. I'm not usually one to express my opinion of anybody but there was one time when I broke this rule.
This was in March this year when we had been brought in from the fields. Cleo has a disliking for work, she is slow to react and cantankerous into the bargain, a thoroughly disagreeable creature. Well, perhaps not as bad as that. I'm being a little harsh there, Cleo's not malicious, no, I couldn't say that about any horse, not even her.
Anyway back to the matter in hand. during our re-stabling Cleo's annual complaints were ringing out over the general chatter.
“I'm not working, I'm not working for children that pull, push, and force me into submission.!” I had become fed up with her ranting and told her to:
“go back to the fields then you stupid cow!” Cleo aimed a kick at me. It connected painfully with my fetlock. As I hopped about on three legs Cleo screamed into my face.
“Rosie, you'd better keep your mouth shut. I'll do worse next time.” she threatened. I knew I'd win if it came to a fight, but, all the same I didn't want it to end up like that. I'm not a very good fighter, I may be large, heavier than Cleo and stronger. But, in a fight between two horses Cleo would have the upper hand. She's smaller, quicker and her aim is near perfect.
I mulled this over as I was led into my stable. My leg still throbbed from Cleo's violent outburst. I stood watching my straw being raked into place and my door closed. I watched in amazement as the kick bolt was fastened on the bottom of the door. All right, I'm one for opening the door, but can't humans recognise talent? I ask you. Enough of that, let's get on with the story.
Cleo was stabled in a stall four doors along from me. She was still kicking out and snapping at her handlers. I noticed all the other horses were distancing themselves from the fracas in box E12. It is considered in horse society to be a very serious offence if a horse kicks out at a handler without good reason. Cleo had no good reason as far as we could see. She wasn't being mistreated, all that fuelled her tantrum was the thought of work. Even though we tried not to listen it was impossible to shut yourself off to the squealing, kicking horse. I knew that I had enraged Cleo with my suggestion. I had broken my rule of not expressing my opinion on anybody.
“Rosie, why did you do that? It had to be Cleo too!” I thought.
In time Cleo's temper cooled and there were only occasional banging sounds from her stall. All this had happened in the space of about fifteen minutes and took place months ago.
Cleo's memory for bad times was enormous, she never remembered anything good. She harbored a grudge against me that made riding out with her almost impossible. It was better when we were out in the fields. I could stay away from her for most of the time. But, in the school it was a different story altogether. Cleo would give me dirty looks whenever our eyes met across the school. I would follow the other horse during the lesson and go through the stages of walk, jog, loap and gallop as my rider instructed. But, when Cleo and I were in the riding school together I wouldn't follow her. No, not for all the oats on planet Earth would I follow her. I would take short cuts, go in totally the other direction, and not move at all. Anything to stop conflict. Today in the rain, I felt it would be a particularly bad day. As the Lads came round sorting out feed for the morning stable rounds my thoughts turned to the day's work. I was happily thinking of my morning ride in the school, keeping dry and warm when my heart stopped!
“Cleo in the afternoon!” I groaned loudly, too loudly in fact. Cleo stuck her head as far out as she could and let fly with a stream of obscenities in my direction. I thought Cleo's use of four letter words excessive and kept my mouth shut. Figaro felt that comment was necessary and aired my views quite well. He said conversationally,
“Nice greeting Cleo, where did you hear that?” His voice was calm but his eyes were angry. Figaro hated four letter words, we all hated them. No horse had ever uttered them. Well, except Cleo that is. These words were part of her every day vocabulary. Jinja poked his head over the half door of his box. He looked at her sleepily. “Cleo, you've got the sweetest wake up call.” Cleo gave him a venomous look and stamped her hoof on the ground. She rounded on me afresh.
“You're going to find this ride hell!” she screamed. Jinja looked at me sympathetically. He won't admit this to most people but I think he's got a soft spot for me. I don't know this for sure but whenever I ask him he clams up and changes the subject. that's my only evidence to support my feeling. Anyway, Jinja will always try to defend me.
“Leave her alone Cleo. Rosie's done nothing to you.” he drawled. Jinja was falling asleep again. He closed his eyes and settled into the straw to sleep. Cleo gave Jinja a look of pure spite.
“I'll get even with you some time later!” she shouted. Jinja didn't even bother to twitch his ears.
We were all getting a bit tired of Cleo and her senseless behavior. I tried to ignore her taunts and abusive remarks, but, it was really difficult. I began to realise that telling Cleo that she could
“Go back to the fields” was a grave mistake. It wasn't that the other horses cared much, they didn't like the bad feeling flying about but understandably they felt that this was a problem of Cleo's manufacture.
Cleo took her fury out on her tethering chain jerking it until she was exhausted. The post shook as she slammed the chain taught. Again and again and again she jerked at the stubborn chain. We didn't know then but found out a few seconds later what Cleo's frenzied attack on the chain was in aid of. The chain tore suddenly from it's ring and Cleo was free to cause problems. She bulldozed the chain across her stall and charged towards me. I couldn't do anything to stop the maddened horse. I retreated to the back of my box and hid my head in the corner. Cleo tore furiously at the bolts on the door. I whinnied at her,
“Cleo, please stop! Please don't do anything stupid!” I implored. Cleo smashed the door within five minutes and surged into my box kicking and biting me. My control snapped! I watched as some of the Lads came round and waded into the fight with sticks and ropes. They pulled Cleo off me and threw her out.
I held my breath until the commotion had died down. I looked at the splintered door in despair.
“Is this what we've come to?” I thought sadly. Jinja had woken up again and poked his head over his box door once again.
“You all right rosie?” he asked anxiously.
“Yes thanks Jinja.” I replied.
I stepped over the smashed door and walked out into the yard.
As I walked through the barn Jingle nudged me.
“Hey Rosie what's happened dear?” Jingle asked. I rubbed my nose against her's in a friendly manner.
“I've been in a fight with Cleo, Jingle.” I replied. Jingle snorted in disgust.
“That stupid horse!” she fumed.
“Tell me about it.” I said wearily. Jingle nuzzled my shoulder.
“Don't worry about her Rosie, she'll blow out one day and it'll be not a day too soon. I don't mind if she hears that! Jingle shouted. Cleo stamped her hoof in irritation. She couldn't do anything because she had been tied securely to two posts well dug into the ground. Cleo swore furiously shaking her chains until she exhausted herself.
“You're a very sad horse.” Jinja said forcefully. Cleo spat at him.
“You're a nasty piece of work Cleo.” Figaro snapped. Cleo had another go at freeing herself from the chains. Now the time had come to tack up and get ready to ride. Our Lads came to get us sorted. I was led back to the shattered remains of my box. I was tacked up in the shattered box, I couldn't stand it. My home, destroyed by a furious horse. I was glad to get out of the box.
My stress levels were getting high, too high. I felt tense and nervous.
“I can't go on like this.” I thought. When I walked into the riding school my problems had only just begun. Unknown to me Cleo's ride out time had changed. She was now in the first session of the day instead of the second. I sighed heavily thinking of my job ahead. I gained a human on my back and jogged round the school my spirits lifting with every pace. I knew that I could be safe from Cleo's poison as long as I kept moving. She couldn't keep up with me. I increased my jog to a loap and really put my soul into it. Charging down the school I ran until I was out of breath. I avoided Cleo's stare all session.
At the end of the session we had a barrel race. I couldn't disguise my delight at seeing those plastic drums. I tried not to race round them, but that was really difficult. I sprinted back to the starting point and watched Cleo's attempt.
She was a lot slower than me. It was clear that she was trying to outdo me for speed and failing at it. Cleo came back to the starting point puffing and blowing.
“I'm not going to give up, I'll win yet!” she panted.
“Oh yeah yeah yeah.” someone said disbelievingly. I looked over Cleo's head. I must say she didn't take kindly to this. The speaker was a horse named Natasha. She's known affectionately as the great snorer. This name was given her by the stable Lads who found her one day on her side snoring loudly. Cleo turned on Natasha in a sudden fit of temper. Butting at her Cleo stormed out of the school dragging her helpless rider. Fortunately for the poor human someone had forgotten to fasten the kick bolt on Figaro's door. He had escaped and now brought Cleo down with one sharp kick from his razor sharp hooves. With a squeal of rage and pain Cleo jerked her reigns out of her rider's grip and shot off down the yard.
Meanwhile Natasha had found me and I helped her by letting her lean against my shoulder for support until she had recovered enough to stand on her own.
“She attacked me Rosie!” Natasha whimpered. I couldn't blame Natasha in any way for what happened. she didn't know about Cleo's long standing feud with me. I told her about it.
“How stupid can Cleo be? She's digging her own hole.” Natasha said.
“Well, yes, it's true she is and I'm sorry you got caught up in it.” I replied. Natasha shook her head,
“No, it's my own fault really. I stuck my long nose in where it obviously wasn't wanted.” she said airily. The slight lifting of the gloomy mood didn't last long. Cleo had disappeared during our chat.
Suddenly Natasha squealed with pain and terror. I whipped round to see what had bitten her. Cleo had sneaked up on Natasha without her realising it. She had taken hold of Natasha's right ear in her teeth and bit down hard. Natasha shook her head violently trying to shake Cleo off. Blood began to drip from Cleo's mouth as Natasha struggled with her. I couldn't watch this any more...
I kicked Cleo in her hind legs until she turned on me, mouth open, teeth bared. Cleo snapped at me furiously while Natasha sprinted for the door. I was amazed that no Lads had attempted to pull Cleo off Natasha. I don't really think they would have stood a chance. Cleo is a real cow when she gets angry.
Within five minutes I had worn Cleo down to a stand off. We stood with four feet of open ground in front of us the threat to each other infinite. Eventually Cleo turned away in submission. I had won, not with teeth and hooves, but with tact.
“Now that's the way to win a scrap.” Figaro remarked.
“Shut up!” Cleo spat. She knew that her social standing was nil. Cleo had been excluded from the social life of the herd. For a horse to be left in the cold is a very frightening thing. Cleo was going to learn what real pain is.
As I walked out of the riding school I passed Natasha. I glanced at her ear. It was mangled and bloody. I brushed against her as I passed. Natasha kept in step with me until we reached my devastated loose box. Natasha looked at the remains in horror.
“I can't see why Cleo did this.” she said. I took Natasha's long mane in my teeth.
“let's go.” I said. We walked down to the field and let ourselves into the pasture. We galloped about feeling better than we ever had before. Jingle had been let out from her box in the barn and now watched us from the other end of the field cutting us up as we ran down the field. We crashed into each other rolling on the grass in pure joy. We surfaced after half an hour Running back to the yard feeling better than we had for ages. The bad vibes of that morning were gone. I ran to where I thought my smashed box stood, and hit the wall. I had ran straight through the door and ended up with my nose pressed against the back wall. This caused the stable Lads and all horses bar Cleo to collapse with laughter. I turned away from the wall greatly embarrassed by my display of stupidity. Jinja nuzzled my cheek playfully.
“You're a funny horse.” he laughed. I now felt that everything was going to be all right. I had firm friends in the yard, Cleo and her stupid games could go to hell. We all retired back to our boxes. We fell asleep that night having had a really varied day all round.
I awoke in the middle of the night. I didn't know what had woken me. I stood up and stuck my head over the half door. The night was pitch black. Balugue moved restlessly in the stall next to me. She had remained silent throughout the whole of the previous day's activities feeling frightened by Cleo's behavior. She put her nose up to mine and whispered,
“I can't sleep, not after what happened yesterday.” she said. I nuzzled her ear. Balugue settled down in the straw and fell asleep. I think she wanted protection from the threat that Cleo posed. I must have slept because I woke in the dawn. I stretched out all four legs and stood up quickly. In the box next to mine Balugue rustled her straw as she stood up. She yawned expansively.
“Ah, that's better.” she said. I looked at Balugue inquiringly. Sometimes Horses have a telepathic sense that transmits thoughts from one to another. This happened now because Balugue nodded and said,
“Cleo's reign of spiritual destruction, are any of us safe?” I didn't know what she was on about. I had wanted only to find out what caused the fuss last night, I didn't bargain for this!
“What the hell are you on about Balugue? You're talking of strange things, you thinking of a career in writing?” beluga looked frightened, I'd never seen her so distressed. Poor Beluga shook from nose to tail, she looked as if she would collapse at any moment.
“What is it Beluga? Cleo's not that strong, she's only a sad horse. She's got no super natural strength!” I didn't really know then and I don't know now whether I said that for Balugue’s benefit or my own. Cleo caught our conversation as she passed on her way to the riding school, and turned to have a go at Balugue.
“You're scared of me are you?” this was more of a statement. Balugue didn't say anything but her expression was enough to tell Cleo volumes. Cleo sneered at Balugue,
“You're a snivelling cow!” she yelled. Natasha shouted from her box.
“Same to you Cleo!” Cleo turned suddenly and tore her reigns out of the Lad's hand tearing off down the yard after Natasha's hide.
I don't know how I did it. I managed to tear my door open and ran out into the yard to kick the stuffing out of Cleo! I caught up with her as she reached the steps into the barn. I cut across her taking a huge risk to myself. My risk paid off, Cleo tripped over the step and crashed down. She lay winded on the ground. I looked down with disgust at the fallen horse. Someone said,
“I don't care if you never get up again!” I looked round at who had spoken. Figaro stood behind me having escaped from his box when Cleo slipped her moorings. Cleo now cursing as she struggled to her feet gave me a baleful look. She opened her mouth to insult me and nothing came out.
“You're beaten then Cleo.” Figaro said. Cleo groaned painfully and stamped her foot in rage.
“I hate all of you!” Natasha poked her head from her box and said,
““Love is very close to hate.” Cleo screamed at Natasha,
“You're a, a, a...” She couldn't find words expressive enough, rude or otherwise.
“Oh well Natasha, you've shut Cleo up at last.” Balugue said.
“Yes, congratulations Natasha.” Jinja chipped in.
It seemed that Cleo was fully out in the cold. Cleo stamped into the riding school in a raging fury. I watched her go feeling no sympathy for her.
“You all right Rosie?” Balugue asked urgently.
“Yeah, I'm fine, Well, a little bruised I suppose.” I replied. I limped back to my box staring in disbelief at the kick bolt. It had been ripped clean out of the wood! I flopped down on the straw feeling very ill. I shook and trembled as the adrenalin rush dried up. I felt weak and sick, worse than I had for years.
I hardly noticed the passage of time, I learned later that I had lain there for about four hours unable to move. I came to full consciousness as one of the stable Lads walked in. I tried to act normally but she knew something was wrong.
Before I knew it I was at the vet's place being checked over from nose to tail. The Lads must have known about the altercation with Cleo, but I heard no mention of it. The vet diagnosed concussion and a fractured shoulder. When I heard this last part my blood ran cold.
“Horses have been shot for less!” I thought. Then as my head cleared I heard the vet say,
“That'll heal on it's own though. She'll be a bit stiff at first.” The relief was enormous! I almost danced out of the door I was so happy. I hardly noticed the journey back to the stables.
My euphoria didn't last long however. The first person I saw as I entered the yard was Cleo.
“What a welcome.” I thought. Cleo saw me and volunteered a comment.
“So you're not dead then.” I was shocked!
“What did you think was wrong with me?” I asked incredulously.
“I thought you'd cracked a major part.” she said. I felt awful, Cleo really knew how to dampen spirits.
As I stood in my box contemplating the events of the past day my new found sadness turned to rage.
“Why the hell should I let Cleo break me!” I thought. I kicked the box door in sudden anger. I felt so upset that I started cursing rather like Cleo. Balugue nudged my nose.
“You sound like Cleo, don't stoop to her level Rosie.” she said gently. She knew how I felt.
“Hey Rosie !” Jinja yelled. I turned towards him and signaled to be quiet.
“It's midnight!” I said urgently. Jinja shook his chain making a lot of noise. Figaro yawned,
“You're a pest.” he said sleepily. Jinja told him to,
“Stop complaining Granddad.” Figaro had earned that name because of his attitude towards other horses. He hated it of course and Jinja's reference to him as “Granddad” didn't please him at all. Balugue started laughing and nearly fell over. Jinja looked at her knowing he'd struck a chord with at least one of us. Figaro bared his teeth at Balugue warning her to keep her comments to herself. Balugue finally calmed down and settled down in the straw.
“Good night all.” She said. Jinja fell asleep feeling on top of the world.
We awoke early the next morning to a crisp, cold day.
“Winter's here.” Balugue remarked.
“Oh you don't say.” Jinja said sarcastically.
“You're sarcasm is boring Jinja.” she replied. Jinja dug his nose into his hay munching a mouthful carefully and swallowing it, he turned to Figaro and smiled at him. Sensing that Jinja was revving up to something Figaro stamped on Jinja's enthusiasm.
“Don't Jinja, don't try it.” he warned. Jinja looked thoroughly hacked off.
“You're always spoiling my fun!” he said aggrievedly. Figaro snorted,
“Fun at somebody else's expense.” he said. Jinja was offended.
“I'm not like that, I don't mean to upset anyone!” he whimpered. Figaro kicked his door in sudden fury.
“Well you're upsetting me!” he shouted. Jinja jumped six feet in the air. I felt sorry for him, Jinja is a bit of an extrovert that's all. Balugue put my feelings into words.
“Let him have his fun Figaro, all right you may not like it, but you are a bit like a Granddad don't you think?” Figaro couldn't answer back, even so he tried lamely.
“You act like a big foal but you don't hear me complaining.” he retaliated. As soon as the words were out Figaro knew he had failed in his purpose. Balugue said,
“I'm proud of it!” Jinja attacked his hay net with sudden ferocity. He gobbled the dried grass as if it was going out of fashion.
“Going for the world indigestion record?” Balugue asked curiously.
“I'm hungry Balugue, don't plague me.” Balugue smiled at him.
“Don't say I didn't warn you.” she said. I nudged her.
“Balugue, you're coming out for a ride today?” I asked.
“Yeah that's right I am.” she replied. I looked out of the opening over the half door of my box at the weather, it began to snow suddenly.
I get very excited when snow's about. I can't help my enthusiasm. I began to thump my door rhythmically with one hoof.
“I didn't know you were a drummer.” Natasha shouted.
“I do my best.” I replied. My thumping attracted the attention of a passing stable Lad. She put her head into my box watching my antics. After a few minutes she left yelling something along the lines of,
“Rosie's got wind of snow again, she's going crazy!” I didn't feel that kicking the stable door qualified for the label “crazy.”
Eventually Balugue and I were Groomed, tacked up and led out into the riding school. I stood in the middle of the paddock almost bursting with energy. I danced on the spot looking like a rather old horse cavorting about in a very unladylike way. I didn't care a jot, life was good and that was that. Cleo's misbehavior and antics seemed a world away. Balugue watched my attempts at dancing with a strange expression on her face.
“You silly fool!” she laughed. Then she joined me in dancing round the riding school. We kept going until stopped by two instructors. I shook my head vigorously, then, feeling that I had not finished, started dancing on the spot again. Our poor riders were unable to mount while we larked about. Our riders produced crops and we stopped our game.
I gained a rider on my back and started to walk round the track. This “track” is the path that we take round the perimeter of the school. I increased to a jog, loap, and nearly to a gallop. I was checked before I could complete the gear change. I slowed to a jog wanting to go a lot faster. I eventually managed to control my wild desire by taking deep breaths to calm myself. This was something that Balugue had taught me a few years before.
“That'll reduce stress and quell any speed merchant ideas you may have.” she said. This was correct, it had done the trick. I now was in full control of my in-bred desire to run free.
“Wait for the summer Rosie.” I told myself. Balugue didn't seem to have the same urge to go like hell.
We ran round the school to the call of the instructors and the signals of the riders. I didn't notice the passage of time, I was turning into the centre of the arena to be relieved of my rider. Balugue and I were led to our boxes and unsaddled. After a ride there is a worldwide custom that the riders give the horses a polo or something. I make a point of not pestering for polos, but for some reason that day, well, I broke this rule. I banged the rider's arm harder and harder with my nose until he produced a polo. My lad said,
“Impatient horse Rosie.” I didn't really worry about that. I took the offered polo and tried not to crunch it too fast. This would have been indecent of me. My rider patted my neck and stroked my nose.
“You're funny Rosie.” I disagreed with this and told him so.
“No, I'm myself.” I replied. The rider didn't understand me however.
“Funny, humans don't understand us.” I thought. I tried to make the human understand. I tried nuzzling, prodding and finally thumping about with my fore feet. Both the instructor and the rider started to laugh uproariously. I was making a deliberate fool of myself. I ended my dance with a leap that nearly destroyed the loose box.
“I think Rosie's feeling the Christmas spirit.” the instructor said. I wanted to tell her that I was but I couldn't. My only mode of communication was to thump about in a happy fashion. I felt a sort of furious elation, an uncontrollable urge to run, dance and be friendly with anybody be they horse or human.
My heart was racing with the strange elation. I couldn't understand it, Balugue didn't seem to feel as high as I did. At least she wasn't showing the symptoms of uncontrollable delight. Eventually the instructor and the male rider left and the stable yard settled down.
Cleo's antics had been forgotten in the rush of snowy adrenalin. But, this forgetfulness was short lived, yes, it was far too short lived. As soon as the yard had settled down Cleo started taunting us again. She raised her voice to a shouting jeer.
“You think you're invincible don't you? You think you're happiness can last? Well, let me tell you, you'll be disappointed, really disappointed. I'll make that disappointment real, so real that you'll wonder what happened.” Balugue shivered visibly, I felt so sorry for her. She was influenced a great deal by Cleo. I don't know why this was. I think Balugue felt that Cleo was the mistress of the herd. I don't happen to share that view. If Cleo has some hold over Balugue it is perceived by Balugue alone. I think if Cleo keeps doing this then Balugue will go insane. Cleo didn't seem to realise how strong she was. Cleo's behavior appalled us, this was true, but, she seemed to have the Lads in a vice like grip. If she didn't like a thing she would shout and swear about it until it was changed. Balugue didn't like this, she felt that things were good enough as they were. Cleo's actions struck fear into Balugue because of the aggressive posture she was taking. I think Balugue is frightened of being attacked by Cleo. She feels that Cleo has a well cultivated desire to end her life. I have tried to talk to Balugue about this. But, she would gloss over the problems and move onto another subject as if she were afraid of airing opinions unpleasant to the offending party. Now, I tried again.
Balugue, please, please tell me what you are afraid of. I may be able to help. If the thing you are afraid of sits in that stall four doors along you need not worry.” Balugue flicked a glance at my cracked shoulder.
“You can't take another bashing like that again.” she said. I waved this away.
“I will if I have to Balugue.” I said. It sounded as if I actually wanted a physical confrontation with Cleo. The truth was I didn't, but, if I had to defend Balugue or any other of the horses from Cleo, I wouldn't hesitate to go for it. Cleo stamped her feet and kicked at the wooden partition separating her from her neighbour. Balugue had been put on the spot by my question. She had wanted to tell me about this problem for a long time. But she couldn't face the cloud of Cleo's hatred hanging over her for her views. I had an idea to help Balugue.
“Balugue, can I help you?” I asked. Balugue was shaking violently now. Her reply was almost inaudible.
“Rosie, if you can do anything.” Balugue was almost sobbing under the pressure of what she was doing.
“Alright Balugue, tonight we'll go to a field away from here and talk this out. We'll have all the time in the world to sort this. I'll do all I can, I promise you that.” Balugue was openly sobbing now. I had expressed her fear for her and now facing up to it was almost too much for her. I nudged her gently through the bars. Balugue didn't respond immediately. She eventually put her nose up to mine.
At about eleven o'clock that night I released my top bolt and put all my strength into splintering the wood along the join between the kick bolt and the door. Three hard kicks broke the door and I pushed the splintered wood aside. I then walked round to Balugue’s door and opened the two bolts as normal. Balugue hung back for a few minutes weighing up the pros and cons of following me. She came to a decision by walking purposefully through the door into the outside air. She seemed to relax as we got further from the stable yard.
We found a deserted field about two miles away from the stables. We jumped the hedge and stood for a few seconds taking stock of our situation. Balugue seemed to be screwing up to discuss her problem. I saw she was having great difficulty in bringing herself to talk about it. I saw that Cleo's threat extended even here.
“I'm so frightened Rosie, I can't deal with it.” Balugue blurted suddenly. I nuzzled her shoulder gently, trying to coax her to tell more. Balugue took a shuddering breath and it all came out.
“I feel that Cleo has a real desire to kill me. She wants to attack me because of our friendship. She wants to get to you ultimately. But failing this because of your size and strength, she comes for me, comes to leave you without a friend. She'll try to kill me someday, I'm sure of that. You saw what she did to Natasha. That was only a taste. If Cleo had been allowed to finish the job she would have killed or seriously injured Natasha. I don't want any other horse to go through that. I knew I would end up having to tell someone about it.” Balugue leant against me breathing harshly through her mouth. When Balugue had calmed down I told her that I had another hard question.
“Balugue, do you know why she wants to get me?” I asked. Balugue sniffed slightly and looked me straight in the eye.
“Cleo wants to overthrow you from your post as head of the herd.” This was news to me! I never had any idea that the other horses felt that I was their leader.
“Leader? how long have I been the leader?” I asked gently.
“Oh, I can't remember when, I've forgotten Rosie, all this thing you know.” Balugue stuttered.
“Why have they seen me as leader?” I asked. Balugue looked embarrassed.
“You're large, quick, capable, experienced, patient, all that and more.” she said.
“Thank you.” I replied. Balugue moved closer to me hugging herself to me as if she were cold. It was a cold night, but, I knew Balugue felt cold in another sense. She was looking for warmth in the spiritual department. I tried to give her all the support I could.
“I won't let Cleo harm you, she can't touch me.” I said confidently. My mind went back to the near fatal attempt Cleo made on my life. It was only because of the stable Lads I survived that. I didn't tell Balugue this. I made a resolve to learn how to fight. I'd have to if Balugue's prophecy was correct. I didn't know it then but the deciding moment was to come very soon indeed. Balugue rested her head on my shoulder.
“If you can break a stable door, you can break Cleo.” she said dreamily. I shook myself mentally and focused my mind on what Balugue was implying. I thought desperately,
“She wants me to dispose of Cleo, I've never killed a thing in my life!” I couldn't face it, killing Cleo, I couldn't. It wasn't in my nature, I didn't know where to start. I breathed in through my nose and exhaled slowly concentrating on the process needed. Balugue felt my anxiety about what she had asked me to do. Balugue buried her face in my shoulder crying uncontrollably.
“You are asking me to kill Cleo aren't you?” I asked gently. Balugue suddenly squealed in terror and ran away jumping a fence into another field. I watched her go wondering if she would last the night. I felt extremely upset by Balugue's predicament. I couldn't let her go on like this. I shook myself hard and followed Balugue to the next field.
I looked at my friend standing on the other side of the field. She was trembling violently. I crept towards her trying not to scare her. Balugue watched me approach. I came up close to her and she shied away.
“I'm unclean, I can't talk to you any more.” she whispered.
“I don't know what you mean.” I replied.
“I asked you to kill Cleo you dumb c ow!” she shouted suddenly. Balugue then collapsed totally.
“I can't cope with this!” she wept.
“I'm going mad, I'm going mad! I might as well end it, go, go and give Cleo what she wants.” I couldn't get round this. Balugue wanted to commit suicide? I didn't believe her for one second.
“No Balugue, you don't mean that.” I said gently.
“No, I don't. That was selfish I know, sorry Rosie.” she said. I felt a lump in my throat. Did Balugue really feel that she couldn't deal with this? Not even slightly?
“Rosie, please, don't get hurt when you do this.” Balugue pleaded. I knew Balugue couldn't take Cleo on herself. She was too small, too insecure, too frightened. I felt honored that she and the other horses should feel that I was worthy of my apparent status.
“I'll see what I can do Balugue.” I said softly. Balugue suddenly stopped me from moving off.
“It's not just me, no, Do this for Natasha, the poor riders, lads and, yourself. Put all the fear, anger and terror you've ever felt towards Cleo in your final assault! Ram the lesson where she can't forget it!” Balugue nuzzled my shoulder and we walked back to the stable yard.
I couldn't sleep, not after what Balugue had told and asked of me. My emotions alternated between rage and fear. Rage at Cleo's actions and fear at the enormity of the task ahead. Before I knew it the dawn was in and I knew that today was the day I would close the book on this episode. I had to do it quickly, Balugue wouldn't last much longer. I stared at my water bucket feeling as if I wanted to crawl into the warmth and safety of my mother's presence. Just as I had for the last time over seventeen years previously. I felt defenseless and foolish, excited and terrorized at the same time. In myself I felt sick, really ill. I wanted to vomit. But, a Horse cannot do so. I looked at my friend in the box next to me.
“Balugue, I'm going to do it now.” I whispered. There was no response from the motionless horse on the straw. I tiptoed from the box as slowly as I could but reached Cleo's stall far too soon. I took a fleeting glance inside and saw Cleo standing up. She was asleep but not as I would have liked. She was on her feet, this means that she is on look out duty. Cleo's dangerous when she's like this!” I crept silently towards her lifting the chain with my teeth and laying it on the ground as quietly as possible. Cleo didn't move, not a muscle twitched on my target.
I crept towards her still further until I was standing beside her. I had decided to kick Cleo in her stomach, To wind her really, nothing more. I aimed carefully with my left fore foot. Like lightening I struck. Cleo squealed in agony! I had not expected this! I felt sorry for what I'd done immediately. But I couldn't, I had to keep thinking of what she had done to us! What pain and torment she had put us through this last six months.
As Cleo squealed I repeated the blow. She whirled round and kicked out at me furiously. I dodged the flying hooves and struck again and again! Yells of terror and pain came from Cleo. I felt so sad, so wretched that I might be doing this to my own kind. I suddenly stopped totally devoid of my previous resolve. Cleo's stomach was bleeding. I stared at her feeling so terrible. I can't explain how I felt, it defies words. Cleo looked at me her eyes streaming with tears of pain and terror. Cleo said,
“Rosie!” then she collapsed on to her side taking me with her. Cleo's head ended up on my neck. She shook with fear gasping for breath as the pain continued.
“You've killed my foal you cow!” Cleo sobbed. I felt the bottom fall out of my world then.
“What foal? I didn't know about this.” I stammered.
“Yes, I think I'm in foal, or was at any rate.” Cleo sobbed. I wanted to apologies, but, there was no use apologizing. Not for this, it was too greater tragedy for words to express. Cleo's wound had now stopped bleeding but the pain still continued. Cleo struggled to her feet swearing justifiably. She stood swaying slightly looking about her dazed and confused by what had happened. I then stared at the place where the wound was situated. My knowledge of the equine anatomy was sketchy and still is, but I thought that the uterus was lower than the wound. I tried to tell Cleo this but it was of little consolation.
“You've possibly killed my foal.” she said. I didn't need reminding of it! I trailed back to my box feeling empty. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I failed to notice Cleo keeping step with me.
“You attacked me because of the problems I caused didn't you Rosie?” she asked quietly. I turned my head away in shame. Cleo stood beside me until I had recovered my composure slightly.
“Why did you want to get rid of me Cleo?” I asked.
“I can't really answer that Rosie.” Cleo replied. Figaro chipped in acidly,
“You'd have to do better than that!”
“Leave her alone!” I snapped. Figaro retired into his box offended. “I don't know why I attacked you, I don't know why I attacked Natasha, I haven't really got an explanation for anything Rosie, Can you understand that? I will understand if you can't.” I took a deep breath and tried to make my mind up.
“How long have, or had you been in foal Cleo?” Cleo looked as if this question would destroy her.
“six months I think.” she replied sadly. I had an idea to explain Cleo's behavior, but, I didn't have any proof.
Cleo, your mind is confused with emotions. You take your frustration out on others. I'm not condoning what you did. I'm just saying there could be a deeper reason than the “oh I flew off the handle.”“ Cleo almost whispered,
“I'm, I'm,” Then she choked.
“I can see we've both done each other injustices in the handling of this. I can't express my feelings in strong enough words. I can't express how sorry I am. To you, to Natasha, To everybody.” I then thought it was time to tell her about Balugue's theory. I knew this would totally dissolve any composure Cleo had mustered.
When I had finished Cleo was incoherent. Unable to cry, she had gone past that her distress was so acute, she stood silently looking towards the box in which the horse she had struck fear and terror into for six months stood. Cleo went closer to Balugue and tried to nuzzle her. Balugue struck her with her nose and backed away hurriedly. Cleo pressed her to hard and Balugue broad sided her in the face. Cleo swore with pain. Balugue looked at Cleo as if she were a snake.
“I'll never forget what you did, I nearly took my life because of you.” Balugue said. Cleo tried again.
“I can't undo what I've done. All I can say is that I'm real sorry for what happened. Can't people change Balugue?” Balugue snorted in disgust and rage.
“You're nothing but a disgrace to the species. I hate you Cleo, I cannot forgive you ever!” I felt Balugue was taking this a bit too far, I told her as much.
“Balugue, you don't mean that do you?” I asked. Balugue looked at me savagely.
“You're defending Cleo now! You couldn't stand her yesterday! What the hell happened?” I told her about the assault. Balugue stared at me in horror!
“You did it? You attacked Cleo!” she exclaimed.
“Well, Yes I did. Remember our talk last night?” I asked. Balugue looked sick.
“I never meant you to really do it! I was unstable, out of control.” she whimpered. I looked sadly at Balugue.
“You asked me to do it, I questioned it, then, you asked me again. I made quite sure you knew what you were asking of me.” Balugue stared at Cleo who looked back at her, her expressionless face giving away no hint of the turmoil within. Cleo realised that Balugue had in affect ordered her dressing down. It seemed that Balugue's plan had backfired in her face. What now? Of course I was involved, I am in control of my mind. So, it stands to reason that I could be held partly responsible for the events of that morning. I looked at Cleo desperately trying to work out her thoughts. Cleo finally spoke her voice trembling slightly.
“I don't know what to say, I know why you did it Balugue, but, it's not easy for me either. I was awful to you and the other's but, to plot to kill someone is a grave thing. I never knew you were like that Balugue. Does this mean that every time someone upsets you, you would order them to be executed? It seems that way.” Sudden fury ran through me at Cleo's attitude. I had told her everything, about Balugue fearing for her life and all that. But no matter what I said, Cleo was still of the opinion that Balugue was a horse who would order contract killing. Cleo suddenly turned on me.
“And you Rosie. You attacked me! You were out to kill me! I can't believe you would do a thing like that!” I retaliated forcefully,
“I can't believe you would do what you did to Balugue, but you did.” Cleo jumped suddenly. She had tried on many occasions to seriously attack other horses. Natasha's ripped ear sprang to mind, and, she had attacked me also. I reminded her of this.
“You would have killed me in my box. All because I expressed an unpleasant opinion of you in January. Remember the root cause of this upheaval Cleo? Don't forget it, I never shall.” Cleo's belligerence came back. No matter what was said, Cleo would always be a cow! This couldn't be changed. I added something else.
“You were trying to get to me all the time. You didn't care how you did it. You wanted leadership where you didn't deserve it.” Cleo's face registered spite. She put her face very close to mine and screamed,
“You are leader? Who says that? Who? Come on tell me Rosie Stupid Cow Rosie!” Balugue reverted to her wrecked state. She shivered and shook from nose to tail cowering in one corner of her box. Cleo looked at the terrorised horse.
“It's her isn't it, she calls you leader.” Jinja suddenly sang out,
“I'd rather have Rosie as a leader any day. She's got a sense of justice. That's more than I can say for you Cleo!” he said. Cleo turned on Jinja and tried to attack him. I held her off finally taking her right ear in my mouth and twisting it until she stopped kicking at Jinja's door. Jinja had retired to the back of his box the minute Cleo advanced on him. I tried to lead Cleo away but she wasn't having any of it. She kicked and butted me until my right shoulder was throbbing. unfortunately Cleo was hitting the same shoulder I had fractured in our last bout. Soon the tender joint began to seize up. I couldn't go on much longer like this! I hit Cleo with all my force knocking her off her feet. She crashed down on the concrete and lay still. I was not taken in by this. Cleo was winded, nothing more. She would wait for me to lean over her to check her breathing and then strike. I had been taken in too many times by this and was determined not to be taken in this time. I watched her, the seconds ticked by. When there was no movement after one minute I nudged her. Cleo sprang to her feet and attempted to kick me, I dodged out of range and flew at her. I tried to fight fast and hard. making sure that she had the least opportunity to hit back. Cleo managed however to kick me in the fore legs a few times rendering me helpless for precious minutes. Cleo stood looking at me with eyes full of hatred.
“I hate you Rosie, I new you were a cow. You've killed my foal, you conspired with Balugue to kill me, now, now, it's your turn to feel pain.” With that she kicked my shaking fore legs from under me and I crashed onto the concrete. All I can remember from then on was pain. I couldn't move, all I could do was feel. Sharp hooves crashed into me repeatedly. I wanted it all to end and end soon. I blacked out after five horrendous minutes.
I awoke from a nightmare some hours later. I felt hard concrete under me and a cold wind blowing furiously. There was no warmth anywhere! I felt so ill and confused I burst into tears. A nose brushed mine.
“Come on Rosie, don't cry dear.” someone said. I looked up at who had spoken. Jinja stood looking down at me in horror. He started to say something.
“Rosie, you're,,,” Another voice stopped him.
“Don't say anything Jinja, it'll distress her even more.” I tried to get to my feet but was held down gently by Jinja.
“Rosie, don't move.” he said gently. I stayed where I was wondering what the hell was going on. I only half heard human voices around me. I didn't listen, didn't want to listen, didn't want to live. I crashed out again for another tortured session. I longed for peace, but this was a long time coming.
I felt myself drifting away on a warm wind. All feeling had been suspended. I felt no pain, just a warm wind blowing across my nose and in my ears. The wind wasn't aggressive, no, just enough force to carry me. I couldn't see anything, pitch darkness all around. I floated on the breeze feeling better than I had for months. I drifted in blissful ignorance of my surroundings. Just this wind, warm, safe wind. I gave in totally. I heard a shout from someone. I thought,
“not close, no matter. I ignored it totally. When the shouting persisted I got really angry.
“Go away! leave me!” I thought furiously. I buried myself in the wind and drifted some more. The shouting was becoming desperate.
“I wish they would shut up.” I thought. I felt a curious sensation of warm wind turning to cold wind, turning to ice. I felt pain, real pain! I came to full consciousness in a mixture of fear and terror, I clenched my teeth trying to fight the pain, this only made it worse however. I gave up wishing for someone to take me back to the warmth of wherever I had come from. I felt a sharp jab in my neck. I shook my head furiously trying to rid myself of the stinging pain. The same voice that had been shouting said suddenly,
“She's awake, only just though!” It sounded panic stricken.
“Who the hell's that?” I asked myself.
“Rosie, can you hear me? It's Jinja!” Now the voice called Jinja was really frantic. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about.
“I wonder if Jinja's in pain also? He may be.” I thought. I felt a nose furiously bashing mine.
“Come on Rosie you stupid cow!” Jinja yelled. Even though he was shouting, to me it sounded like he was a fair distance away. In reality he was standing next to where I lay yelling into my ear with all his might.
I began to feel sorry for this Jinja fellow. He sounded in such distress that I pitied him. I decided to try and help him. My pain wasn't totally consuming. I stretched my nose out to him wincing as my aching muscles complained. This seemed to make Jinja very excited.
“She's responding! She's still with us!” he shouted.
“Of course I am you fool.” I thought. I opened my eyes finally to see if I could see this person called Jinja. As soon as I opened my eyes Jinja started yelling again.
“Shut up you fool!” I told him. I had totally forgotten about my pain by this time. I tried to get up and was jerked back into full awareness of my situation. The pain from both my fore legs was awful. My new found enthusiasm died just like that. I sank back onto the concrete. Jinja came over and nudged me hard.
Come on Rosie, You're fixed now.” he said. I Didn't believe him for one second.
“We'll have to get her into her box, it's freezing out here.” Someone said. With that I was pushed to my feet far faster than I would have liked.
“Hang on a minute, You're hurting me!” I thought. Speech was almost impossible. I was pushed towards a black opening, and through it into a straw filled space. I flopped down onto the straw feeling as if I had just completed the marathon. Resting my head on the straw I tried to sleep. I felt a rug being spread over me. It was soft and warm. I worked my way further beneath it savoring it's warm friendly embrace and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
I awoke in the middle of the night. I had been woken by a sound, but, I didn't know what it was. Then I heard a Rustling sound and a thump.
“Who's there?” I said hoarsely. For answer I received a hard shove in the shoulder and a voice saying acidly.
“I'll finish you off this time!” I remembered that voice from somewhere. Yes, Cleo, I was sure of it! Needless to say I was in no mood for a fight. I felt another crashing impact with my bruised shoulder and let out a yell of fear. There was a crash from somewhere close by, then, a scream from Cleo. I couldn't work out what happened next. There was a sound like an express train and then a succession of four letter words from Cleo. Then I heard a voice I knew.
“I'll finish you Cleo!!” Cleo yelled in reply,
“Not before I've finished your precious Rosie!” The other voice said,
“You'll not have a hope in hell!” Then I heard human voices coming closer quickly. I then heard a cracking of whips and a crash as Cleo sprawled on the concrete exhausted.
I stared at my rescuer. I thought I recognised him from somewhere. He must have Noticed my puzzled expression because he nuzzled my now aching shoulder and said gently,
“I'm Jinja, don't you Remember me Rosie?”
“Yes, I do but why are you here in the middle of the night Jinja? I don't understand.” I replied. Jinja pulled my box door shut and settled down beside me to keep me warm. He began to tell me what had happened.
“You were in a fight with Cleo. She injured you quite badly, so badly in fact that we thought you wouldn't make it. You were taken to the vets and he told us you'd fractured your left shoulder.” I stopped him.
“That was the same one I busted saving Natasha.” I told him. Jinja nodded.
“Well, the vet sedated you and fixed your broken bits. The stable Lads then brought you back here. You were in a bad way. In the end it was decided that you should go back to your box. There was a problem though. You were lying on your side.” Jinja stopped looking slightly embarrassed.
“We don't have a crane.” he said quickly.
“Thanks Jinja.” I said.
“You know what I mean.” he said.
“Yeah..” I replied. Jinja continued:
“Well, The Lads could only get you as far as the concrete because of the absence of a crane. You lay there for a bit still and silent. I wondered if you were dead. I tried to wake you, did you hear me shouting?”
“Yes, I did.” I said. Jinja resumed his narrative.
“After a few hours we managed to get a response out of you. I can't describe how relieved I was to find you still alive. I think if you had died I would have been sad for ever.” Perhaps Jinja didn't realise how much he was telling about his feelings towards me. I listened intently however.
“once I had a response from you I fought to maintain it. Shouting at you and at everyone else to get you to comment or make some physical reaction. You did once and once only. But that was enough for me, I was sure you'd pull through. Now I come to the events of an hour ago. I have been watching Cleo for some time to see if she would make another attempt on you. I watched her leave her stall and go to your box. She undid both the top and kick bolts and opened the door. You then asked her something I couldn't catch. Then she attacked you and that was when I waded in. I ran at her, not really knowing what I was going to do. All I knew was that Cleo should be prevented from harming you any more. I crashed into her and kicked at her until Stable lads pulled her off”
Cleo had been picked up by the illusive crane and deposited in her stall. The stable Lads angry at Cleo were dealing harshly with her. Then they came to deal with Jinja and myself. At first the Lads were intent on separating us. But when Jinja showed in no uncertain terms that he wanted to stay with me they stopped trying to get him to rise from where he lay. When the lads had gone Jinja settled back in the straw under the large rug. The rug was two old king size double duvets sewn together years before. This sort of insulation is good for keeping people warm for long periods of time. This was so with Jinja and myself. We were warm under the rug thank you very much. The rug seemed to never end. It was quite large enough for the two of us and then some. You could have fitted three horses under it comfortably. The night proceeded to get even colder. When I checked the time by the stable clock it was only one in the morning. So I had been attacked at ten o'clock. Jinja and I settled down in the straw under our massive rug and were both soon asleep. We didn't wake until Eleven o'clock the next morning. Jinja stretched out his legs and nudged me carefully with his nose.
“How are you feeling today Rosie?” he asked. I moved a fore leg carefully feeling the stiffness in it.
“Stiff.” I replied. I worked back under the rug.
“And yourself?” I asked him.
“Fine.” he said with enthusiasm. I smiled at that. I think Jinja felt something for me, even if he wouldn't admit it. If I mentioned it Jinja would go all shy on me and keep silent. I nuzzled Jinja's shoulder gently. In the box next to mine Balugue watched us with amusement.
“Don't get too comfortable you two, Rosie's got a ride with me later.”
“Oh shut up.” Jinja murmured. Balugue looked at the clock.
“Eleven fifteen.” she thought.
Before we knew it stable Lads came round to tack Balugue and myself up to ride. Jinja was ejected by the Lads before they saddled us up. Jinja dragged his feet lingering as long as he could in the yard before being locked in his box. He stuck his head out and called,
“See you later Rosie love.” Balugue took this opportunity to engage in banter with me about Jinja's sudden attitude towards me.
“Fancy you does he Rosie?” Balugue asked knowingly. She had her own ideas about it, everyone did.
“I don't know Balugue, I can't say because he doesn't discuss it with me.” I replied. Balugue nudged me.
“I think he likes you Rosie.” she said. I nodded,
“Yes, I think so.” I replied. We entered the riding school and gained our riders. These were two novice riders who had their first lesson today. I had a rider who was so unsure of her training that she gave me conflicting commands so I didn't know what to do. I Just stood there looking hopefully at the instructor. The instructor gave me a command and I followed it. The rider started screaming when I started jogging. I went into a loap and was checked by the instructor.
“Steady Rosie!” she commanded. I slowed to a jog. The novice rider twitched and fiddled with the reigns so much that I lost my temper. I stood still and wouldn't move until the instructor had sorted out the human on my back. I finally felt that all was well and moved off without being told. I stamped round the school feeling deflated and annoyed that Jinja and I had been separated. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I ground to a holt in the middle of the school. I closed my eyes feeling really tired. I felt a slap on my rump and a hand fondling my ears.
“Come on Rosie, let's go dear.” I looked round at the speaker. The instructor patted my neck urging me to walk. I put my nose up to her trying to explain that I was missing Jinja. I finally took off round the school at a furious pace. Balugue watched us race round the track. My rider screamed in fear as I sped round the track. The instructor yelled at me,
“Rosie, slow down, slow down.” She put jumps in my way, I jumped them, she stood in my path, I swerved round her. Finally I stopped in the middle of the arena after five minutes of serious disruption. The rider was taken off my back and led away by an older human. The instructor looked at me curiously.
“What's the matter Rosie?” she asked. I couldn't tell her even though I wanted to. Balugue and I were led back to our boxes. The rug was still there. I crawled under it gratefully. Before falling asleep I heard Jinja coming in to the box, he had escaped again. I heard the box door shut softly and then felt Jinja settle down beside me in the straw. He threw the rug over both of us and then settled down finally. We drifted off feeling better than we had since January.
I, MARTIN WILSHER, here by assert and give notice of my right under section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of the foregoing article.
© Copyright Martin Wilsher 1998-2000
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