Hi, Rosie here again!  I'm armed with yet another story for you.  This story starts at Christmas.  I need not tell you that Jinja and I get on well.   This is an understatement really, our relationship grew from friendship to something deeper.  You could say Jinja and I are to use the human phrase, “an item”.  Alright, stop it! I know you're yelling about Jinja being so different to me, we don't really worry about that.  Jinja and I are getting on well, very well thanks very much.

     I looked across the yard to where Jinja's stable stood.  I saw he was asleep.

      “Oh well, Jinja's out still.”  I thought.  I whinnied at him.

     “Jinja, wake up dear.”  I watched for a reaction.  Jinja twitched his ears, shifted slightly on the straw and finally struggled to his feet.

     “Hi Rosie, shouting at me again?”  Jinja asked.

     “Yeah, but I wouldn't call it shouting.”  I replied.  Jinja shook his head making the tethering chain rattle.

     “Let me out of here Rosie.” he pleaded.

     “All right.”  I replied.

       “Thanks.”  Jinja said.  He watched me smash my bolted door to pieces.  He smiled as I walked towards him.

     “Haven't lost the knack then Rosie.” Jinja mused.

      “There's nothing to kicking down a door Jinja.  Try it sometime.”  I replied.  Jinja helped me push his door wide after I released the top an kick bolts.  We came up against our first problem, this was in the form of a chain holding Jinja to his post.

     “Pull the chain taught Jinja.”  I said.  He did this and I snapped it with a well aimed hoof.

     We returned to my box.  The large rug mentioned in the closing stages of the last story was still in evidence.  Jinja and I loved this rug, it was large, warm and couldn't be matched by any amount of straw.  We settled down beneath the rug feeling slightly strange.  As if we were doing something illegal, well, we were.  We had destroyed the door of one box and broken the tethering chain in another.  As we relaxed under the rug we felt the thrill that we thought all criminals must feel after completeing a job unnoticed.  Jinja suddenly shivered.

     “Cold Jinja?”  I asked.

     “Well, yes, I am actually.  The wind's blowing in through the smashed door.”  he replied.  The way we cured this was simple.  The rug was so large we threw it over our heads.  So in effect all that could be seen of us was two humps under this enormous blanket.  We were warm now, quite comfortable thank you.  We shared each other's body heat and the rug helped conserve it.  Jinja laid his head on my neck and closed his eyes.

     “I'll be able to sleep now.”  he murmured.

     “Can't you sleep in your box then?”  I asked.

     “No, it's cold, I hope to spend the nights with you.”  he replied.  We ended up falling asleep with very similar thoughts.  On my part,

     “I wonder if loving me for my mind is all he means?”  On Jinja's part,

     “I love her for both her mind and her body.”

     We were woken from our sleep by a stable Lad.  She stared at us for a few seconds and ran off laughing.

     “Come and look at Rosie and Jinja!  They're together under Rosie's rug!”  We stood up quickly and waited for developments.  Two Lads came with grooming brushes to sort us out.  Jinja and I were groomed and tacked up.  We were led out into the yard and towards the school.  Jinja cut across towards me and nudged me.

     “I'm very cold.”  he said.  I looked across at him.

     “You don't look too well.”  I observed.  Jinja sneezed suddenly.

      “Yeah, a cold on the way I'll bet.”  he snuffled.  He sneezed twice more before we reached the indoor school.

     “Bloody weather.” Jinja snorted.  I rubbed my nose against his.

     “You'll get time off for this.”  I said soothingly.  Jinja rubbed back against me.

     “I feel terrible Rosie.” he said.  I tried to keep abreast of him to keep warmth between us.  The instructors saw this and investigated further.  They pulled Jinja off the track and sent   him back to my box.

     “There's a rug in there that'll keep him warm.”  the instructor said.  I couldn't keep my mind off Jinja.  I kept wandering across the riding school while I was thinking of him.  A jab in the ribs and a kick from a rider soon set me back on the right wave length.  I couldn't concentrate however and was turfed out of the school for my inattention.  I felt a lot better when I was back in my box with Jinja..  We settled down in the straw with the rug over us feeling shaky and frozen.  Jinja worked down into the rug working closer to me.  I made sure that the rug was draped over our heads.  We sank into a deep sleep with Jinja shivering against me.  Before finally drifting off I lay in the darkness exploring the sensations I was feeling.

     I felt the straw under me, Jinja's nose on my neck, the rug over us, the warmth of the rug, the warmth of Jinja's body and his constant shivering.  I rubbed my nose against Jinja, he shifted slightly and responded a little.  He was still very asleep despite his apparent reactions.  I settled down and finally fell asleep.

     I was rudely woken by a stable Lad shouting that:

     “They're asleep! totally spark out!”

     “Not any more, you've just woken us up.” I thought sleepily.  The lad came in and nudged me.

     “Come on Rosie, get up.” he urged.

     “Sod off.” I thought.  I tried showing him that I wouldn't work.  I turned away so he had to lean over Jinja to get to me.  The Lad might have been pushy but he wasn't so low as to step on Jinja.  The Lad had an idea and tried to move him.  Jinja suddenly struck out at the unfortunate human.  The Lad dodged Jinja's flying hoof and brought a riding crop from nowhere.  The Lad brought the leather thong hard down across Jinja's nose, he squealed in pain.  I knew from experience that the nose is very sensitive and it is very painful if a branch whips back against it.  A leather riding crop is meant to be used gently on the padded rump of a horse to urge it forward, but, Used with force on  a horses nose it can cause unimaginable pain.  This Lad was a novice.  I could tell this because no trained stable Lad would ever use a crop on the nose of a horse, no matter how irritated he or she was.  Jinja jumped to his feet and struck out at the Lad once more.  The Lad was now running for his life.

     “Jinja's gone mad!” he yelled.  The manageress of the stables came round the corner at this point.  Jinja said,

     “She'll sort him out.”  The manageress told the Lad to shut up and then asked what happened.  The Lad blurted out that he had used a crop on Jinja.  He omitted to say where he had used it.  The manageress turned to have a look at Jinja and saw the red wheel on his nose.  She touched the place with a careful finger and watched Jinja flinch away.  The manageress turned back to the Lad.

     “You cropped Jinja on the nose didn't you?”  she asked ominously.

     “Well Yeah, I mean, what else was I to do?  The sod kicked out at me!”  The manageress lost her temper.

     “What ever happens you don't, ever, ever hit a horse across the nose with a crop, understand that?” she shouted.  The Lad seemed to shrink as we watched.

     “Serves him right.”    Jinja remarked.  The manageress came towards him and took hold of his head collar.  She led Jinja out into the yard and across to his box.  She stared in amazement at the state of the chain.

     “This chain's been snapped.” she said to no-one in particular.  She then looked at the dangling end of the chain attached to Jinja.  She married the two ends up and guessed what happened.

     “I never thought you could snap your chain Jinja.” she said.  Jinja made the stupid mistake of looking back at me.  The manageress followed his gaze and came to the only conclusion possible.  My smashed door was almost a permanent fixture, but a snapped chain wasn't.  The manageress walked over to me and took hold of my head collar.  She shook it roughly and yelled at me.

     “Rosie you stupid cow!” Then she swiped at me.  I knew when I had been told off.  I knew in no uncertain terms that she didn't approve of me breaking Jinja's chain.  From that day on I was chained in my box.  I had a chain running from the wall to a head collar.  This was degrading in the extreme.  I watched as my door was repaired for the umpteenth time and realised that my freedom was over, I felt awful.  I whinnied at the Lads as they locked my new door with three bolts.

     “Shut it Rosie!”  one Lad said savagely.  Jinja was tied up in his box once more and his door was closed.  He began shouting about the situation.

     “All right, Rosie broke the chain but what the hell, why does it matter to you?  We wouldn't escape from the yard, Cleo would, but we wouldn't.”  Cleo stamped her foot in rage.

     “Remember what I did to Rosie Jinja.  You'll be next.” she said coldly.  Jinja continued:

     “How would the humans feel if we locked them up with chains?”  Natasha stopped munching hay and asked,

     “Who's been reading Animal farm?”  Figaro said,

     “We wouldn't have a hope in hell, anyway, why would we want to do a thing like that?  We'd never survive in the open.  Cleo kicked at her box door until a Lad yelled at her.

     “Cleo! stop it!”  She swore viciously at him.  If horses could use money Cleo would have put more money in the swear box than all of us put together.  No, scrap that, she wouldn't, her reaction to a swear box is unprintable.  Cleo kept up the torrent of abuse until the Lad walked off.  She then turned her fury on us.

     “What's this about breaking out of the yard?  I think you wouldn't have a  hope in hell.”

     “You've made your point Cleo.”  Natasha said sharply.  Cleo snorted and rounded on Natasha.

     “Who's this talking to me? Did I hear someone speak to me?  No, I must have imagined things.”  Then Cleo shouted suddenly.

     “You talk to me like that again Natasha and I'll break every bone in your body!  It won't be just your ear that'll suffer!”  she yelled.  Natasha jumped a mile.  I knew Natasha's memory of the mauling Cleo gave her was fresh, too fresh for her liking.  For my part I felt that a rebellion against human domination was unworkable whatever plans Jinja might hatch.  We'd all be caught within an hour or so.  I told Jinja this as gently as I could.

     “Jinja, you can't expect us to escape.  We're not equipped for the outdoor life.  Humans have taken our instinct away from us.  We're not fit to do it.”  I said.  Jinja's eyes held a wild look in them.

     “We're not fit?  Of course we're fit.  You're saying you don't want to upset the humans because they'll give you a whipping.  I'm going to take that if it comes.  I can't stand them any more!”  I knew Jinja's mind.  He would go for what ever took his fancy at the time.  The Lad had struck him with the crop, so he hated humans.  Cleo insulted him, so he hated her.  This point was universal I think.  About the only thing that was constant with Jinja was his love for me.  This was one thing he would defend at all costs. 

Jinja watched as the stable Lads came round with the evening feed.  He watched the Lads carefully, when the Lad who had hit him approached his box he snapped at him.  The Lad shrieked in terror and ran out of the yard never to be seen again.  Jinja said with evident satisfaction, 

     “That fixed him.”  I smiled at Jinja wondering how he managed to keep his fury under control.  Jinja must have been totally incensed by the Lad's actions.  I watched my door being opened and in growing confusion as my chain was released and dropped on the straw.

     “You don't need that any more.”  The lad then picked up the chain and walked out.  I watched him go with amusement and bewilderment.  The door was closed and I turned to my bucket of food.  It was warm and tasted slightly alcoholic.  I wondered why this change had taken place.  Then I remembered,

      “It's Christmas!” I thought.  I finished the food and lapped water.  Then feeling revived I raised my head and yelled,

     “It's Christmas!”  Jingle remarked,

     “Oh God, who invited Slade in here?”

      “Shut it Jingle.”  I said.  Jingle started laughing.  Balugue piped up then,

      “Rosie's too enthusiastic.  You've fuelled her fire Jinja.”  she said faintly.  I looked at her.

     “You're not feeling good?”  I asked.  Balugue looked at me sadly.

     “I can't get worked up about anything, you know that Rosie.”  she said.  I nuzzled her gently.

     “Come on Balugue, cheer up, it's Christmas.”  I said.  Balugue smiled suddenly.

     “I'm sorry Rosie, I'm being a sad depressing horse.”  Balugue said.  I decided to help Balugue and opened my door.  I walked out into the yard and booted my door shut.  I opened Balugue's door and then turned my attention to Jinja's door.  I released Jinja and we both trooped into Balugue's box.  It was a bit of a crush but we felt really happy.  We all huddled together to keep warm and then remembered something.

     “What about your rug Rosie?  Can't we use that?”  Balugue asked.  I walked back to my box and retrieved my rug.  We managed to throw it over all of us.  We settled down to a warm night watching the snow fall.  Cleo and the others looked at us in amazement.

     Let's all do this.” Jingle suggested.  So all horses gathered together in the largest boxes and settled down.  The transfer took half an hour.  The only things that suffered were a few stable doors.  We were all high on something.  Alcohol was probably the drug that gave us the kick.  We were becoming warm and we knew that our elation wouldn't leave us.  We started singing.  A human wouldn't give our attempts at Once in Royal David City, We wish you a merry Christmas, Merry Christmas everybody and other well known festive tunes a second airing.  We didn't care however and kept on singing through the night.  We weren't to sing for long however.  The manageress came out of her house and yelled at us.

      “Stop it! shut up! Oi you lot, shut up!” she shouted.  We sang louder.  We didn't care any more, it's Christmas.  Humans always make noise at Christmas, why can't we?  Also,  humans: throw up everywhere, drink and drive, kill each other, beat each other, beat horses etc.  We didn't feel a bit of singing harmed the environment.  We kept up the festive discord.  About two thirty in the morning we began to wind the celebrations up.  By three in the morning we were going to sleep.  We didn't wake until lunchtime the next day.  The Lads didn't either by the look of things.  They came trailing round at two in the afternoon.  The only person who seemed to be dry was the manageress.  She was really annoyed with the Lads.

     “These horses need looking after.  We can't leave them, come on you lot!”  She bustled round sorting every box out and appeared not to notice that we were in groups around the yard.  I think the manageress had ceased to be surprised by anything we did.  We were led back to our boxes by Lads who muttered and cursed having to work on Christmas day.  We ate our hay and drank our water in a subdued mood.  The Equine version of a hangover took hold.  We felt lousy in the extreme.  there were no hangover cures for us however.  We had to suffer in silence.  Cleo was quiet for once, this was heaven indeed.

     “How you feeling Rosie?”  Jinja asked.  I shook myself slightly and raised my head from where I lay on my straw with my rug slung over me.

     “In short I feel awful Jinja.”  I replied.  Jinja rustled his straw as he shifted a bit.

     “You would be the best hangover cure.” he said sincerely.

      “Well come over here then Jinja.”  I invited.  He tried opening the door of his box and found it gave.  He sauntered across the yard in front of the Lads, opened my door and walked in slamming it behind him.  Jinja settled down in the deep straw and threw the rug over himself.  We both lay in the darkness feeling terrible.  The alcoholic stupor dulled our senses.  Jinja and I became warmer and warmer, sleep was round the corner.  We finally fell off black cliffs into oblivion.

     “Rosie? Rosie, you in there?”

Balugue asked.  There was no answer of course.  Balugue started stamping about furiously trying to wake me up.  Natasha heard the commotion and told her to shut up.  Balugue took no notice.  Natasha lost her temper.

     “Leave them alone Balugue.  Rosie and Jinja want to sleep.”  Balugue finally stopped thumping about.  Jinja and I had slept throughout the disturbance.

     I drifted off into a warm world where light was suspended.  Safe Darkness surrounded me.  I felt warm, safe and contented.  I drifted in a world where my feet never touched the ground.  I swam through oceans of velvet darkness, Relaxation was the order of the day.  I let myself go.  Jinja and the darkness were the only things that mattered.  I felt something nuzzling me gently.  Surfacing slightly I noticed Jinja poking me carefully with his nose.

     “Rosie.” he whispered.  I didn't answer him, I moved towards him for an answer.

     “I love you Rosie dear.” he said softly.  I rubbed myself against him for a reply.  Jinja settled back in the straw with me, We drifted off again into slumber.  I can hear you shout already,

     “All you horses do is sleep, eat, make sexual advances to each other and work.”  Well, isn't that life?  Humans are doing it all the time.  We slept all Christmas day, boxing day came far too soon.

     Cleo started on us again. She seemed to call a  truce at Christmas, but, now Christmas was over she was back in full cry.

     “What're you lot doing to stop me this year?  I'm gonna get the leadership of the herd if I have to kill all of you to do it!”  she shouted.  Jinja kicked his door in fury.

     “Can't you accept that you'll never become leader as long as we're here?”  he asked.  Cleo didn't have to answer that one, Jinja's question was self answering.  Cleo kicked at her door until a stressed stable lad came round to put an end to her despicable behaviour.  He took a rope and tied her up so she couldn't move.  This put an end to any ideas she might have of attacking us.  Cleo clenched her teeth in rage and swore at the Lad, the management, us, the Christmas season and everything else.  The other horses distanced themselves from Cleo's yelling as they always did.  Natasha gave the feeling words.

     “Cleo's draining the spirit of Christmas.  I can't stand it!”  She was nearly sobbing.  Jingle tried to comfort her.

     “Natasha, don't cry dear, please don't cry.”  Tears ran down Natasha's nose and dripped onto the straw.  She suddenly burst out.

     “I wish Cleo would just piss off!”  Jingle stared at Natasha in amazement.  She had never heard her swear before, never in her life.  Natasha leant against her box door breathing hard to calm herself.  I felt so sorry for her, She was only young, younger than most of the horses in the yard.  Natasha felt the bad feelings more than most.  I tried to comfort Natasha from where I stood but felt inadequate.

      “Please try to ignore Cleo Natasha, please try.”  I pleaded.  She couldn't see me from where she stood but she could hear my words.

     “I'll try Rosie, I'll try.” she said.  Natasha opened the bolt on her door and walked round to the main yard.  She stopped beside my door and put her nose up to me.

     “Can I come in?”  she asked.

     “Yes of course Natasha.”  I replied.  So there were three horses in a box designed for one.  That was a tight squeeze, but we were comfortable.  We used the rug to keep us warm.  Natasha buried her head in the rug and settled down in the straw.  Jinja and I  squashed up in the box to keep her warm and safe.  Cleo noticed what affect her words had on us.  She raised her voice to a shout.

     “You're all sad! All so sad!”  Jingle turned the tables on Cleo.

     “We're not malicious, we're not spiteful, we're not throwing insults.” she said.  Cleo strained at the ropes holding her and snapped them, Natasha screamed in terror.

      “Cleo's going to kill me!” she squealed.  Cleo came round the corner like an express train.  She smashed into my box demolishing the door.  Cleo started kicking at us.  I decided to finish her for good.  I didn't give a dam about any foal this time.  I hit her with all my force to end her reign of terror.  Cleo stopped hitting me after a good five minutes.  I watched Cleo stalk away feeling exhausted myself.

     “Thanks Rosie.”  Natasha said.  Jinja stared at me.

     “You're feeling awful aren't you Rosie.”  This was a statement not a question.

     “I feel like I've been run over by a train Jinja.”  Natasha let me lean against her to recover.  Cleo disappeared from view.  After an hour or so we began to wonder where Cleo had got to.  After three hours we went out looking for her.  The day was closing and night was near.  The darkness was coming.  I led the others out in a search party to look for Cleo.  We searched the fields near the stables.  Then we searched along the riverbank.  I heard a shout from someone to my left.

     “I can see something in the river!”  We all ran towards the shouting horse.  The horse making the racket was Natasha.  When I reached her I saw she was distressed.

     “I think it's a horse Rosie.” she said.  I waded into the ice cold water gasping as it closed over my hooves and legs.  I forced myself towards the horse feeling the pull of the current.  When I reached the motionless form in the river I had to take a second look.  I thought I saw Cleo, it had to be, surely it was.  As I came along-side her I looked at the horse who had been the bane of our lives the last year.  Cleo looked at me sadly.

       “I'm waiting for death to overtake me.  I'm not wanted here any more, I can see that.  You've made it quite clear.  You were coming to see if I was dead weren't you.”  I couldn't believe this.

     “Cleo, we came to look for you because we care for you.”  Natasha snorted.

     “You might, I don't.” she snapped.

     “You do care for her Natasha, I wonder what you'd feel if Cleo really were dead.” Figaro said.  Natasha looked at the horse she hated.

      “You don't know how much grief you've given me Cleo.” she said.  Cleo leant against Natasha shivering violently.  We helped Cleo out of the river and back to the yard.  We tried to warm her up as slowly as possible to avoid shock.  We tried to make sure she didn't die, but, we could so easily have killed her.  Just a bit too much hot water and she would have died from shock.  This shows I think that no matter how someone treats you if there is a family bond between that person and others the other members of the family would pull together to save the ailing member.  We knew we would have missed Cleo greatly if she had died.  Natasha's hatred of Cleo was real enough, but, we knew that she wouldn't see any harm come to her.  The war of words was furious and the war did occasionally come to blows, but,   The fights that ensued were only to teach one or other of the fighters a lesson.  In the last story I spoke of how difficult I found it to attack Cleo.  I couldn't really do it with enough force to do real damage.  Cleo's foal didn't suffer anything in the attack.  All that Cleo suffered was a laceration across  her chest, not her stomach as I first thought.  Cleo joined Jinja and myself in my box as it was the largest in the yard.  She huddled close between us for warmth.  I knew she wouldn't cause any trouble.  I think Cleo was undergoing a change in her opinions.  Alright, I can't say she wasn't still pushy, loud mouthed, abusive to the Lads, her riders and instructors, and the occasional horse. but since the rescue from the river she seemed to calm down.  Her swearing seemed to have tailed off also.  This was a relief to Natasha who could tolerate it less than all of us.  I wondered why Natasha used one really awful swear word.  Perhaps she had been driven to it.  Cleo's antics had maddened her to breaking point.  Balugue was cynical about the whole episode.

     “I wonder if Cleo's gonna start her torrent of rubbish again.”  she asked.  Cleo looked really worked up about something.

     “Am I not able to change?  Is this impossible?” she asked.  Balugue couldn't meet her gaze.  I think for once Cleo had got one over Balugue with good reason.  I nudged Balugue carefully.

      “Balugue, give Cleo a chance please let her have another chance.”  Balugue stared at me.

     “You expect me to do what you ask?  How can I do it?  Have you forgotten what that cow did to us?  Have you forgotten the year of torment that we suffered?  I think you have!  You're a...”  Balugue suddenly shouted!

     “You're a bloody disgrace Rosie!  You cannot see what hell we've gone through!  No!  I'm not gonna give a chance to that loathsome horse, never, ever ever!” she yelled.  Cleo looked distraught.

     “Can you ever forgive me?  I hope you can find it in you to do this.”  she whimpered.

     “Oh shut up Cleo you stupid horse!”  Balugue shouted.  I looked at her in disbelief.

     Balugue, what's   going on?” I asked incredulously.

     “I hate Cleo, I will never forgive her for her year of hell!”  she yelled.  Cleo was almost sobbing with frustration.

     “I'm not gonnaa listen to this!” Balugue shouted suddenly.  She bulldozed her door and thundered out into the yard in a raging fury.  It was now Cleo's turn to appeal to me.

     “Can't you do anything to make her see?”  she pleaded.

     “You're forgetting the fact that you subjected us to hell this year.” Cleo suddenly collapsed.

       “I can't ask you for any help really Rosie.” Cleo said.

     “You can say that again!” Balugue said sharply.

     “Shut up Balugue!” I snapped, she looked hurt.

     “I'm supposed to be the leader of the herd, so, as leader I must be impartial and help anybody who needs assistance.” I said patiently.  Balugue sneered at me.

     “You're like Cleo, you're too easily influenced by the heat of the moment.” she said quietly.  I stamped my foot in anger.  I walked out carefully towards Balugue.  She watched me coming with an icy stare.

     “What you gonna do with me then Rosie?” she asked ominously.  I thought quickly.

     “I have to punish you really.  I cannot do anything much to you because the only way of punishing you would be to nip or kick you.  I cannot bring myself to do it.”  I knew I couldn't lead the herd like this.  Horses need firm discipline and a show of authority now and then.  My mother had told me this when I was a year old.

     “You will be a leader someday.  I can't say what sort of leader you will be, but I know you'll be a leader.” she had said.  I thought of this now over sixteen years later.  How right she had been.  I shook myself in sudden wakefulness and realisation of where I was.  I noticed that Jinja was talking to me.

      “Rosie?  Rosie, are you in there?”

     “Oh yeah, sorry Jinja.”  I replied.  He looked at me strangely.

     “You were miles away Rosie, I was worried you wouldn't surface.  What were you thinking about?”  I looked at him with a mixture of loving affection and pride.  I knew that Jinja was M.R. Right.  I smiled at him feeling slightly foolish.

     “Yes, I was thinking about leadership.”  Jinja looked shocked.

     “You thinking of giving up?”  he asked.

     “No, I’m not, I'd never think of giving up the leadership.”  I reassured him.  He looked relieved.  Cleo stared at me her face registering real admiration.  All she really wanted was guidance, all along she wanted me to say I was leader.  To confirm my status, that's all.  Now I had done this Cleo would leave me alone.  I felt so relieved, but now, I had to deal with Balugue.  My friend who I had trusted outright.  Now, she was challenging my authority.  I decided then, I wouldn't allow Balugue to upset my judgement.  Cleo didn't need this, I was going to give her a chance.  I stared at Balugue challenging her to defy me.  I stared at her until she spoke.

     “You're going to give in to Cleo's empty promises then.  You're going to help her aren't you.” she said.  I didn't have to say anything, Balugue suddenly turned on me.

     “You're an utter bich Rosie!” she screamed.  Cleo suddenly spoke up.

      “I don't know what you're going on about Balugue.”  she said.

       “Oh £^%$ off Cleo!” Balugue snapped.  Natasha looked round her and turned to Figaro.

     “I don't know what's come over Balugue Figaro.” she whispered.  Figaro nodded.

     “yeah, I see what you mean.” he said.  Jinja looked at me.

     “I'm still with you Rosie.” he said.

      “Of course you are, you're her bloody husband.” Balugue spat.  Jinja looked at Balugue in utter disgust.

      “What's the matter Balugue?  You're being hostile to Rosie and everyone else.  Is it that Rosie's made a decision you don't like?  For God Sake girl, you were the first to tell her that she was your leader!  Now three weeks later you're challenging her.”  Balugue exploded in Jinja's face.

     “Rosie's given the green light to Cleo!” she screamed.

     “Good luck to her.”  Figaro remarked.  Balugue stamped back into her box furious with all of us.

     “You'll realise what I mean when Cleo turns sour on you.  Rosie won't ever be able to defend her corner in a leadership battle then.”  I was totally destroyed by Balugue's outburst.  I couldn't understand why she hated Cleo so much.  After all, it was Natasha and myself who were clobbered by her, and we didn't hold anything seriously bad against her.  Balugue however seemed to harbour the grudges that Cleo had left behind.  I felt so sad, so drained of energy, so hurt by Balugue that I couldn't think of anything to say.  Balugue butted me savagely.  All her friendly manner had evaporated.

     “Oi, you listen to me!  You help Cleo and I'll, I'll hate you forever Rosie.” she hissed.  I looked at her quickly.

     “I couldn't give a dam about you Balugue.”  I said conversationally.  I knew that would break Balugue.  she was counting on me still regarding her as a friend.  Now I made it plain that I didn't, her ammunition was useless.  Balugue tried to smash the wall separating us.

     “That's brick, you'll not be able to kick that down.”  Cleo commented.  I watched Balugue's attempts at demolition with amusement.

     “You're finally showing your true colours Balugue.  I'm sorry to say you were ever my friend, I don't know how I was taken in by you.”  Balugue screamed,

     “You cannot ever break me Rosie, I'll win yet.”  Cleo shivered.

     “I said that and look what happened.” she said faintly.  I then realised what Balugue had done.  She had used me to get rid of Cleo so she could have a stab at me herself.  I couldn't believe it!  Balugue had wanted the Leadership all along and I hadn't seen it.  Cleo was going through great changes. She thought she knew everything and needed to be told otherwise.  Balugue on the other hand was the real competition for my post.  She wanted it, how she wanted it.  I decided maybe I would test the water.  Hold an election, why not?  I told the other horses about this.

     “We cannot hold elections Rosie.”  Natasha said.

     “We can't use ballot papers for a start.  How else are we going to do it?  Fight?”  Figaro asked.  Jinja kept out of it, he always did.  I didn't know quite how we were going to do it.

     This election was not only to see what the others thought, it was also to show Balugue that I was still able to hold office without trouble.  If I lost office, well, that's that.  We decided to elect a new leader by chalking the candidates on the concrete of the yard.  Horses who wanted to vote would put a chalk mark by the horse he or she supported.  but, then yet another problem cropped up.  There was the small matter of impartial vote counting.  Who would be trusted enough to do it?  I thought about this for a long time.  I then came up with a candidate for the job.

     We had an assortment of other animals living with us on the site.  These consisted of numerous Doves,  a Goose and a Boxer dog.  I thought that the dog might be suitable for the job.  Alright he was young, inexperienced and hard to get hold of, but I thought he might do it.  Dogs can count can't they?  I put my idea to the other horses.

     “I don't know about this.”  Figaro said thoughtfully.

     “Come on let's give Polo a chance.”  Jingle said.

     “What's this about Polo's?”  a horse named Domino asked.

     “No not Polo's, we meant Polo the boxer you stupid horse!”  Natasha corrected her.

     “Oh, that's who you're going on about.” Domino said lamely.  Domino wasn't one for getting in on affairs like this.  She was only young and being new to the yard, she was not used to yard life.  Other horses thought of Domino as being slightly backward.  I knew from long chats with her that she wasn't.  Ill informed sometimes and a little inexperienced, but not backward.

     So I watched out for the little Boxer dog every day until I spotted him racing at his usual pace round the corner towards me.  I stopped him.

     “What do you want of me?” he asked nervously.  I knew I must look enormous to him.

     “I'm wondering if you could help us in an election?”  I asked tentatively.  The dog's face brightened.

     “You mean like what they have on the Tele?” he asked hopefully.

     “yes, something like that I think.”  I replied.  The dog nearly danced with delight.

     “hey, think of that, “and the winner is...””

     “Shut up Polo.” I said quickly.  His attention switched from a passing Dove back to me.

     “What do you want me to do Rosie?” he asked eagerly.

     “Count that's all.”  I replied.  Polo looked depressed.

      “Is that all?  I was hoping you would let me announce the winner or something.  I'm not just a calculator!”

     “I know that Polo dear, I want you to help us because you've got no preferences as to the winner of the election.”  Polo seemed to catch on.

     “You mean to say Rosie that you're giving up?” he asked.

       “Well, I might have to if the election goes against me.

     “Oh like the general election.”  he said knowingly.  Jinja chimed in,

     “Yeah, but she's not been in power for as long as the Conservative party.”  Polo looked at him.

     “Who's that?”  he asked.

     “That's Jinja, my husband.” I said.

       “Hey love's in the air!” Polo said excitedly.

      “It's been like that for about two months.”  Balugue snapped.

     “You the other Candidate?”  Polo asked.

     “Yes.”  Balugue replied.  He looked at her with misgiving in his expression.

     “I think I'd rather have Rosie for a leader any day.”  he said.  I almost laughed, Polo had been listening in on our conversations and had made his mind up already.  He would not be suitable as an impartial vote counter.

     “So when's this election taking place Rosie?”  he asked.  I looked fondly at the dog who had just unwittingly blown his chance of being a returning officer.

      “It won't now.”  I said gently.

     “Why not?”  Polo asked.

      “You've made your preference quite clear.”  Jinja said gently.  Poor Polo looked so confused that I pitied him.  Natasha put him out of his misery.

     “Because you've told us who you'd vote for you're not impartial any more.  You've taken a side in the election.  This means you may influence the result.”  she explained.  Polo looked disappointed.

     “Oh well, sorry for all that.”  he said.

      “Nothing to be sorry about Polo.  You've just decided the outcome of the election for us.”  Jingle said.

      “Well can't one of the other animals adjudicate for you?”  Polo was growing in confidence, his vocabulary was getting steadily more complicated.

      “The doves never hold elections, the Camel's not here and the Goose is too stupid.” Domino said.  Balugue then asked a question that had been bothering her ever since Polo had revealed his allegiance.

     “Why did you choose Rosie over me?”  she asked carefully.  Polo turned to her.

     “Can't say Balugue, not allowed to.” he said.  Balugue stamped her foot in sudden anger.

      “Why not?”  she asked coldly.  Jinja came to the pup's rescue.

     “You don't have to tell her Polo, not if you don't want to.” he said.  Polo said,

      “I don't really want to say.”  He looked so small standing in the yard with us towering over him that Natasha took pity on him and opened her door to let him in.  Polo went in to her box and settled down on the straw.  I think this made us realise how young Polo really was.  He might have the mind of an older dog but in reality he was only a pup.  I watched Natasha as she nuzzled him gently.  I think Balugue's fury had frightened the little dog so much that he had ran to the nearest source of refuge.  Natasha was more his size, and female.  I fitted one of those categories but I was too large.  Jinja watched Polo go into Natasha's box.  He turned back to Balugue.

     “You really know how to put the wind up somebody don't you.” he said acidly.  Balugue didn't reply, she just snorted and kept silent.

     The manageress came round the corner and saw Polo in Natasha's box.

     “Whatever next?” she asked nobody in particular.  She rescued Polo from inside the box and they both turned the corner and walked out of sight together.

     “Nice dog Polo, isn't he?”  Natasha remarked.

     “yeah, but Balugue scared him off.”  Cleo said.  Balugue kicked her door in frustration.

     “I only wanted to know why he turned me down for leader!” she growled.

       “You stepped on him once, I remember that.”  Cleo said.

     “Oh yes, now I remember.”  Balugue said.

     “Dogs never forget.”  Jinja said.

     “That's elephants you fool.”  Balugue said.

       “Since when has Polo been an elephant?”  Domino asked.  I couldn't help smiling at that.  domino was so inobservant it was almost comical.

     “It's a figure of speech Domino dear.  Jinja changed the expression to “Dogs never forget” to fit the occasion.”  Jingle said softly.

      “Oh that's what it is, is it.”  Domino said.  I hoped Domino was not going to get grief for being unobservant.  Experience had to be gained.  She didn't have much, not yet.  A pity really because I would love to see Balugue and Domino in a discussion and Domino winning, that would really put the wind up Balugue.  In her younger days Balugue was much as Domino is now.  That is young and inexperienced.  I knew that other horses could be awful to a newcomer.  Cleo had been awful to us, Domino had seen this.  Now Balugue was the aggressor and Domino's experience was growing every day.  This was experience of bad things however.  I was determined that our newest recruit would be able to cope with the things that life threw at all of us, be these things good or bad.  I thought Domino had had a really rough time so far.

      That's really all I have to tell you.  Cleo didn't re-offend and the new year is well in.  Domino is expecting a foal around the same time as Cleo in the spring.  Jinja and I are still together and going strong.  Well, that's it.  Thanks for reading my account.



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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