Hi it's Rosie yet again. I'm recovering from possibly the biggest nightmare of my life! I'd better set the scene for you. Just imagine the yard, this was a week or two after Domino finished her account. Cleo was still as bad tempered as ever, nothing changes there really. The rain hammered on the roof of my box. It was a thoroughly disgusting day as far as weather goes, wind and driving rain. I didn't want to work in this! I looked out at the day and got a mouthful of rainwater. My spirits were at a very low ebb. I looked at the yard through the streaming rain. Jinja was sensibly keeping well out of the wet, Cleo was resuming her daily banging, Dominic, Poppy and Domino were quiet as usual. As for the other horses they were behaving normally. I couldn't have foreseen the change that was to take place.
The day started off normally enough, working in the school with Domino. She seemed to working Western style with flying colours. Her Son
Dominic and I had taught her this style a few months before. She seemed to really enjoy it too. I know she hated the style to begin with, I must admit I hated it at first. But Domino learned to put those feelings behind her as I had done.
“Hey Domino! You all right dear?” I asked. Domino looked across the school at me.
“Yes, I'm fine Rosie, thanks to you and Dominic I'm learning to cope with a new thing.” I quickened my pace to reach Domino and was checked back by my rider. The instructor yelled at me.
“Rosie! You're meant to walk!” I was caught completely off guard.
“What the hell's she shouting for? All I did was jog! Surely it doesn't merit this?” I thought aggrievedly. I wasn't in the best frame of mind anyway, and, to be told to walk in that tone really got my goat! I was furious with the instructor! I made this plainly obvious by plunging about, bucking, loping when I wasn't meant to, stopping in the middle of the school etc. In short, disrupting events as far as possible. My rider made some inane comment that put the icing on one turbulent cake!
“I think Rosie's angry.” I flipped finally! Racing round the school I looked for anything I could jump or swerve round to give the bloody rider hell. I found a jump, took a wrong line and swerved to jump at the last possible moment. I jumped it, just. I stumbled on landing fighting to regain my feet. Although I was out to give the rider a scary time I didn't want to kill him. It wasn't in my nature to kill anything. I loped round the perimeter of the school until I was forcibly stopped! With a yell of rage I charged off through the open door of the school into the small riding school. I cursed violently as I found the door to the outside world closed. I turned and ran back into the large school. My feeling of rage had turned to a sadness I couldn't explain. I stopped, almost sobbing with frustration. Domino came closer to me and stretched her nose towards me. She rubbed mine gently trying to calm me down.
“It's all right Rosie. Don't cry, please don't cry.” I looked at her.
“It's usually the other way round Domino.” I sniffed. Domino smiled,
“Yes, but the leader of the herd needs to let go sometimes. Anyway, you helped me, this is the least I can do.” she said. I recovered some semblance of composure. I sighed,
“Ah well, I don't know what's getting me down. weather, the instructor, that bloody human on my back, it's a bad day really.” I replied. While Domino and I were chatting the Instructor paced about, she was furious with us.
“I don't know what's come over them.” she said. Domino nudged me,
“I never had the guts to do what you've done.” she said.
“Plunging round the school making a nuisance of yourself is not hard Domino.” I replied.
But don't you think of what might happen?” she inquired.
“When you're feeling as fed up as I do then you don't.” I said. The instructor told the riders to dismount.
“I don't think these horses are going to work any more.” she said. We were led out of the school and put back in our boxes. I felt better but not one hundred percent as yet. I knew something was going to go drastically wrong very soon. I didn't know what this was however. My bad feeling had started when I saw some unfamiliar humans hanging round the yard a few days before. This feeling was so strong that when one of the aforementioned humans came to pat me I stayed at the back of my box.
I looked out at the wind and rain.
“What a fitting day for feeling pissed off.” I thought. I shivered as another gust of wind blasted into my box bringing it's helping of freezing rain. I clenched my teeth as the cold blast hit me and seemed to drive it's way into my bone marrow. I tried to work my way into my rug. The large rug mentioned in the first two stories had disappeared for some reason unknown to me. I had an inadequate replacement. It was a buckle on rug with very little insulation, I shivered violently.
“I'll have a cold soon.” I thought. I called over to Jinja.
“Horrible weather isn't it Jinja.” Jinja stopped munching straw and looked at me.
“Yes, it's not working weather.” he replied. I then realised that I hadn't been given any polo mints! This is criminal!
“I'll plague the next human who comes along. Humans always have Polo mints.” I thought. So I did just that, I nuzzled the pockets of the next human that came towards me. unfortunately the human I picked upon was one of those rare type who do not like horses very much. I put my nose out to him with far too much assertiveness. I received a hard punch on my nose for my trouble. I snorted with disgust and backed away from the human. The human had a partner. This partner seemed more sympathetic towards me, he said,
“Don't hit her Heughey, she's probably looking for polos.” Heughey said,
“I don't care if she's looking for gold, I don't like horses.” Heughey's partner replied,
“That's still no reason to hit a horse.” he put his hand into his jacket pocket and produced a packet I knew well. He unwrapped a couple of polos and held them out to me. I was so surprised that I hung back for a few seconds.
“Come on,,,” The human looked at my name plate screwed to my door. He started again,
“Come on Rosie, here's what you were looking for.” I took the polos with a slight feeling of disbelief. Heughey's partner stroked my nose gently.
“That's better isn't it.” he said.
“Anything's better than a punch on the nose.” I thought. I rubbed back against his sleeve.
“Good girl Rosie.” he said. This form of address really annoyed me. How stupid can a human get? I'm middle aged, I'm not a girl any more. I'd love to be younger than I am, wouldn't everyone? But if it's not possible, even with all those creams and stuff then at least grow old recklessly. I was determined to enjoy my life, I'm eighteen, a horse's life expectancy is thirty years. So I'm middle aged I think. Anyway, enough about age, I’m bored with that. Back to the story however.
I looked round the yard once more to see whether anything had changed. The weather had dried up and water lay in puddles around the yard. The sky still looked overcast and threatened more rain. My gloomy foreboding hadn't left me yet. I wondered what had stirred me up. I thought back to the time I had first got the feeling of doom. It had started that day when I had woken. I had felt unhappy, I didn't know why, perhaps, oh, forget that, it's nothing, really nothing, honest. Oh all right, I'll tell you. You remember those humans I said had given me a bad feeling. The One that had tried to pat me had a cigarette. I don't like smoking and I am frightened of fire. This fear is inbred in all animals. I felt so sure that these humans would cause some type of fire. They looked ordinary enough. One had a blue raincoat and a red scarf. The other wore a leather jacket. I suppose it was the way they acted. Shifty, really uninterested in the horses, all they wanted to see was the boxes. My fear was that they would set light to something. I didn't realise how near to the events I was. I didn't feel right with those people, I can't explain it. I watched Heughey and his partner walk away. I looked at my water bucket thinking deeply. You may ask why when there is a great disaster on the way I always look into the water in my bucket? The reason is not that simple. I suppose I need something to look at while I’m thinking. I thought deeply about those people and the human with the cigarette especially. What were they doing? Why were they at a riding stable if they don't want to see horses? Didn't the Manageress notice them? I didn't know, but I had an idea. I decided to watch the entrance to the yard as much as possible. I kept an eye on the entrance to the yard all that day, and the next, and the next, and the one after that. At night I couldn't sleep, I would wake at any noise. I felt worse with every day that passed. I began to think to myself,
“Why are you doing this Rosie? Nothing's going to happen.” I told myself. But I couldn't get the image of those people out of my mind.
“I'll be in the same situation as Domino was when she went to the vet's after Cleo had attacked her. I'll be dreading their intrusion into my thoughts.” I thought. I stamped about trying to keep myself awake. I felt sleep creeping up on me. Comment had been flying about the yard. I had told the other horses about my fears but to no great affect. Domino and Jingle as usual were the horses who listened. But there were the others. Figaro, Natasha, Even Jinja didn't understand my fears. In desperation I turned to the yard's most notorious occupant, yes I turned to Cleo. She gave me a hard stare, spat on the ground and turned her back on me. You can't please everyone. So my fears were largely unheard. It was up to three horses to guard a yard containing more than fifteen. Jingle and Domino made it their duty to check every human who passed through the barn where they lived. When I made a round of the horses one day when Dominic made comment about my state.
“You haven't slept for days Rosie.” he said. His adopted sister Poppy added,
“You're looking awful.” I knew this, it was obvious to me. My eyes felt like sandpaper, my legs were leaden, and my appetite for food was reduced. The lads noticed this and reported it to the Manageress. She came round one afternoon to check me over. She felt my legs, yanked my mouth open to look at my tongue and looked into my eyes. Hell! what happened to the vet? Well, the Manageress didn't find anything wrong, she wouldn't, my problems were psychological. I couldn't sleep, not even when I had the other horses looking out for those humans. My health began to really get affected. I was worrying constantly about what those men might do. I developed the cold I forecast and to add insult to injury a cough flew into the act. I had never been ill in my life before, is this what stress does to a horse? I began to feel very sick. The Manageress was becoming concerned. I heard her say once.
“I think Rosie's going down, she'll be dead within a few weeks.” I thought,
“We might all be dead within a few hours.” I spoke this last thought out loud. It stirred a reaction in Jinja.
“You mean to say this is real Rosie?” he asked.
“Yes Jinja I believe it is.” I replied. Jinja looked at me with real concern.
“I don't want you to die Rosie.” he said. That night I fell asleep with the help of a tranquillizer.
I was woken by a strange sound, a crackling sound like breaking branches. I looked round me at the empty loose box. All was dark, all normal. I could still hear the distant crackling sound. Then I smelt something else other than straw.. Smoke? It can't be, can it? My fears were realised! The human had come back and had set light to something! What though? Where? Was anyone in danger? What should I do? My fear was getting almost too much to bare. I swallowed hard and tried to concentrate.
“Get out of your box Rosie.” I told myself. My legs wouldn't move, I forced them to move, to carry me over to my door. The smoke was thick in my box now, breathing was becoming impossible. I stuck my head out over the half door and breathed clean air. I opened my door and walked out into the yard. It was dark, really dark. Suddenly I saw a light! I stared up at the light, it was flickering...
There was an enormous explosion! Fire came leaping out at me from the roof space above my box! Flames leapt from the roof! I squealed in terror and ran for my life. Jinja and the other horses were panicking, kicking franticly at their box doors in an attempt to get out. I stopped half way down the yard.
“I can't leave my friends. They'll die!” I thought numbly. I can't say for sure what happened next. All I know is What I was told after that night of terror. Apparently I came to each box in turn and kicked down the door. All the horses then walked off down the yard. There was a lot of yelling and some grown horses even cried as they watched their homes burning. The roof fire had engulfed the whole block by now. The flames were so large they had leaped to the other buildings. The fire brigade turned up and started putting the fire out. But the damage had been done, The stables were written off. I looked at the remains of my box. The box had disappeared and the empty yard stretched away in front of me. The office was destroyed, the tack rooms were destroyed, the riding school was all that was left. Fortunately no horses died that night. Some of them including me had slightly singed manes and coats apart from that we were unscathed. The Manageress hadn't noticed the commotion until the evacuation of the horses was well under way. She had come out of her house, seen the flames and phoned the fire brigade. She seemed very cool about the whole thing. I knew she would be very upset when the adrenalin rush died down. But there was one good thing, no horses died.
The rain came in the early hours.
“Too late for us.” Jinja observed.
“Tell me about it.” Natasha replied. Cleo spat on the ground.
“Bastards!” she fumed. Natasha nudged her.
“That spitting is a disgusting habit Cleo.” she remarked. I looked round the devastated yard. The fire brigade had cleared all the burned timber away leaving great expanses of concrete. This was a depressing sight. Twenty years of the Manageress's work, eighteen of my life spent here. Now all gone in a matter of hours, I felt sick.
“What are you going to do now Rosie?” Cleo asked spitefully. She sniggered,
“Look into your water bucket?” she added. Natasha kicked her hard on the backside. She screamed at Cleo,
“Leave Rosie alone! Remember it was she who rescued us! I remember her kicking your door down to release you!” I looked at Natasha.
“Thanks.” I said. My real feelings were too complex to explain in words, Natasha knew this. I walked round the yard for a long time thinking deeply. I thought of my first days in the yard, of the year of terror, of Domino's and Cleo's foals, of my dread of this event. I then had a funny thought. What if I was asked to identify humans? That would be fun, but I doubted they would ask me. I knew then and I know now that I'll never forget their faces, not as long as I live. My walk ended back where it had begun. At the old entrance to the yard. The Manageress was doing much the same thing. She put her arm round my neck as she passed me. We walked on together. As the yard's oldest occupant I think this was rather fitting for me really. I kept my head down so she could keep abreast of me. Suddenly the Manageress hopped onto my back and we walked on in silence. She knew I wouldn't go charging off. I plodded round at my usual slow pace. I didn't stop until we had completed a circuit of the yard. Then I came to a stop and the Manageress dismounted.
“Thanks Rosie.” she said sadly. Then the realisation hit her that even though she had lost all documents and wooden buildings in the fire, all horses had survived. The Manageress had recently had one conversation with us. She decided to have another one, to find out what went on during the fire. She approached me. The Manageress patted my neck.
“Rosie, can I have a chat?” she asked. I put my ear down to her and listened intently.
“What happened during the fire?” she whispered. I tried to tell her that I had smelt the smoke and had battered down my door. You know the rest. When I had finished it looked like the Manageress had not understood me. I was really frustrated about this.
“Why can't we have something like a bablefish like they do on Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy?” the Manageress asked. I laughed, I knew this invention. The Bablefish was an organism that Douglas Adams had invented, you put it in your ear to translate foreign languages. I told the other horses about The bablefish.
“Sounds a decent invention.” Jinja remarked. The Manageress looked at us. She approached Cleo.
“Who rescued you.” she asked. Cleo looked at me spitefully and stamped her foot. The Manageress said,
“So Rosie rescued you, you don't like that then Cleo?” she asked. Cleo butted at the Manageress's shoulder.
“I thought not.” the Manageress said. She came over to me and put her arms round my neck. I put my head down to her so she could hug me properly. I knew that was what she wanted to do. All humans try it, I don't let them all do it.
“Thanks Rosie, you've saved my stock.” she said. I rubbed my nose against her cheek. I sighed heavily letting myself go totally.
“I'm sorry.” I said. The Manageress seemed to understand my sadness.
“You couldn't have saved my stables.” she said. She suddenly had a vision of me holding a hose in my teeth directing the water on the stables. The hilarity of the thought started her laughing.
“Just imagine you holding a hose Rosie!” the Manageress said. I laid my head on her shoulder shaking with laughter. I recovered from my paroxysm and stood upright.
“I suppose I could start again and Rebuild my Stables.” The Manageress said. I felt so sorry for her, so upset, so dreadful.
While there was unlimited damage to the buildings on the site of the riding school the horses and other animals were saved. Some members of the herd were saying that I had saved them single handed. I couldn't take this, I felt like I think a rock band feels at the beginning of a concert. The adulation and praise got too much for me. I tried to talk this through with Domino.
“I understand what you're driving at Rosie. I'll try to stop the horses from mobbing you. But you must understand that you've become a celebrity overnight. You cannot stop horses from knowing this. Rosie, you saved the occupants of the yard. Don't you realise what you've done?” Domino asked.
“Yes, I didn't think about it though.” Domino looked steadily at me.
“I know you didn't. I know you were just doing what you felt was right. How right you were Rosie.”
“Cleo doesn't think so.” I said. Domino showed a sudden rush of venom that surprised me.
“Cleo can go to hell!” she said harshly.
“Well yeah, I know Domino but she still doesn't like it.” I said again. Domino said,
“Cleo doesn't like the fact that you did what you did. She wouldn't have done what you did.”
We were stabled in the indoor riding school until the other riding schools could be notified of our problem. Meanwhile the local Police had started their investigation into the fire and scoured the site for anything that might lead them to the arsonists. I knew who the arsonists were, or I thought I did.
We didn't sleep and were still lively in the morning. Dominic and Poppy followed me about all day asking questions.
“Were you frightened?” or,
“Were you burnt at all?” or,
“Did you see the people who did this?” I didn't answer any of these and was finally rescued by Domino.
“Dominic! Poppy! Rosie's under enough pressure as it is! Who do you think you are? Paparazzi?” she asked angrily. Dominic and Poppy slunk away.
“Thanks Domino, thanks very much.” I said with relief.
“You don't need those two badgering you Rosie.” she said.
In time the stables were re-built in brick, Non-combustible brick. Now I am recovering in my new box. I am known as a heroin by horses far and wide. I find it hard to cope with sometimes. Most of the re-building was paid for by donations and a large slice of cash from the National Lottery, whatever that is. All the lost documents were re-drawn up and we were fully operational within three months of the fire. Among new acquisitions the Manageress took ownership of a computer. We're now on the Internet, whatever an Internet is. The Records are stored in this computer in a brick built office.
The fire setters were caught five weeks after the fire. A police van drew up in the car park and two Police officers came into the yard. They held two men with handcuffs. I recognised those men instantly. I whinnied at the officers.
“I think that's all the proof we need.” one said.
“You mean the horse recognised us?” one man asked.
“Yes.” the other officer said. With that the officers led the men away having taken statements from the Lads and the Manageress. It appears my statement was all they needed.
The men were sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay ten thousand pounds in compensation to the Manageress.
Well, that's it. It's a bit of a nightmare don't you agree? I don't want to be a heroin ever again.
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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