†††††††††††

 

††††† Hi!my name's Ellen,You haven't heard of me before.That's not surprising really because I've only just arrived from Ireland.I am now getting used to my new home with Rosie, Jingle and the rest of the horses in the yard.†† I'd better introduce myself properly.You know my name,I am an Irish Draft horse, whatever one of those is.All I know is that I am much larger than most of the horses in the yard. .I still have not been able to outdo Rosie for sheer massive presence but I'm making in roads very slowly.It amazed me at first that nearly all the horses are white here.I think it's something to do with the preferences of the owners.Anyway,I'm not going to go on about that.I have been told that there have already been six other stories about life here.I have been told about these.I have only had time to meeta few horses in the week I've been living here.I have heard about Cleo's reputation.†† But I don't believe it, Cleo's all right.

 

†††† I come from a village near Dublin.I am a born and bred Irish Draft horse.I have heard that Rosie's the same breed as me.That's good,We can be massively oversized together then, ha ha!

 

†††† I had better tell you about my life.I am four years old but have had a wealth of good and badexperiences.My mother was very good to me.Because of this my first year was a happy one.Butsadly,after that,my life went down hill rapidly and only picked up a week ago. .I was sold,I hate that word being applied to living things.Humans don't sell each other so why do they sell horses?Oh well,I was sold anyway.I was transported across Ireland to a stable on the other side of Dublin.I walked in to that yard feeling uneasy with the situation.

†††† "I'm missing my mother,that's all."I told myself. .But that didn't explain away my feeling of fear.I was stabled in a box with a scant covering of straw on the floor..I knew that I must be in one of the worst stables in Ireland.The Irish are famous for the quality of their horses.I watched as the door was closed and the miserable stable Lad walked away.

†††† "what a bloody awful place!"I thought miserably.As I had forecast,my time in that stable was probably the worst experience I had ever had of riding stables.I am not libeling most or even some stable owners in Ireland,no,the majority are very good and I have got no complaints against them.But the owner of this stable establishment was possibly the worst in Ireland.The box I lived in had a minimal amount of straw on the floor.Conditions in that place were awful!It upsets me to think of it.My condition fell off rapidly.I went from being a healthy mare to a wreck of my former self.Within three months I was declared unfit for work by the vet.

†††† "I'd better sell her then."The owner said.The vet gave the owner a strange look.

†††† "This horse was a picture of health only two months ago.Have you been mistreating some of your horses?"The owner became very distracted.

†††† "Oh no!There's nothing wrong with my horses.They're fine, just fine."The owner said hurriedly.I could tell that the vet wasn't convinced.I felt sure that within two years the stables would be closed down and I would be on my way to another home.I was taken back to my awful hell hole of a stable.I desperately wanted to escape.I tried to tell some of the other horses.

†††† "I don't know what you're talking about."One said.

†††† "you were born here weren't you?"I asked.The large dappled horse I had confided in said,

†††† "Yes, I was."

†††† "So you Wouldn't know anything different then."I said.

†††† "No, I suppose I wouldn't." he replied.I wondered what they would think if I arranged an escape attempt.I wondered how some of these horses survived it.I was determined to get out.I had had a better life than this!I was not going to throw my life away in this hole.So, one night about a year and a half later I opened my door and walked out into the yard.Some of the horses watched me go.

†††† "Where are you going?"one grey rather dispirited filly asked.

††††† "Away to a new life."I said.The filly's eyes registered huge interest.

†††††† "Can I come with you?"she asked.

††††† "Well, yes if you like.But it's going to be dangerous.We're likely to be captured and put back here, but there's no harm in trying.I released her door and she and I escaped veer a field and a back road.

†††† "What's your name?"I asked the filly.

†††† Pippa."she replied.

†††††† "Well Pippa, Iíll be open with you and tell you that we're in great danger here."Pippa gave me a sideways look.

†††† "You mean we're being followed?"she asked nervously.

††††† "No, I don't think so, but we'd better be careful.Travel at night if we can, avoid populated places.That sort of thing aught to get us through all right."I had never seen a horse look so frightened.Pippa's eyes were as wide as soup plates.She swallowed hard and fought with fear and terror.

††††† "I'm beginning to wish I hadn't accepted your invitation."she said.

††††† "You can go if you like.†† I'm not stopping you."I said neutrally.If I had put any expression in to my voice Pippa would have turned back and that would have been that.I wanted her to stay.I knew she wanted to get out, but quite naturally she was terrified.Pippa looked at me steadily.

†††††† "I, I, I don't know."she faltered.Pippa swallowed hard again.I knew she felt sick.I felt sick, fear and dread of what might happen if we were captured haunted my thoughts.By this time we had reached a river.

††††† "No bridge, how are we going to cross it?"Pippa asked.I thought this a stupid question but let it pass on account of Pippa's mental state.

††††† "Swim it."I replied.Pippa's expression told me she was frightened of water.

††††† "I can't swim!I'm frightened of water, always have been.Let's find a bridge Ellen."she whimpered.I looked up and down the river, but as Pippa had said, there was no bridge.

††††† "Either we swim across, or I swim across and leave you here."I said.This sounded brutal, I know it did.But I had to tell Pippa that this was serious.Pippa gulped.

††††† "I suppose."she said.I found a peace of bank and we walked into the water.Pippa gasped as the cold water closed over her legs.

††††† "You're saying we'll have to swim this?"she asked through clenched teeth.With that the river floor dropped from under her feet and she almost sank out of sight.

††††† "Help!"she wailed.I swam back to her and took the weight of her head on my shoulder to keep it out of the water.

††††† ""Now Pippa, swim!"I commanded.She made a feeble effort at it but it only served to slow us down.Putting all my strength into swimming I managed to get us over the river.Pippa was a dead weight on my shoulder.She got to her feet when we reached the other side.I struggled onto the bank feeling more tired than I had for ages.I flopped onto the wet grass totally exhausted.

††††† "Come on Ellen!Let's go!"Pippa urged.

†††††† "I'm shattered."I moaned.

††††† "If we stay here then we'll get caught."Pippa stated.

††††† "I know that, but I can't go on now."I replied.Pippa's eyes held desperation.

††††† "You're not giving up are you Ellen?"she asked.

††††† "Let me rest for a few minutes."I replied.

 

†††† We pressed on after I had rested an hour and reached Dublin city centre at five in the morning.

†††† "Where are we going Ellen?"Pippa asked.

†††††† "Back to my old home."I said.

††††† "Is it nice there?"Pippa asked.

††††† "Yes, it's lovely."I said with feeling.We reached Paddy Murphy's place at seven o'clock.†† As we walked into the yard I heard a whinny I knew well.

†††††† "Hey Ellen!"My mother kicked at her door until I came level with her.She hugged me tightly.

†††††† "I'm so glad to see you!"she said.I nuzzled her ear.

††††† "I've been so worried about you Ellen."my mother said.

††††† "Where did you get to?Why are you here?"she asked.I told her about the disgraceful stables on the other side of town.

†††††† "So you escaped, that's good."she said.My mother then caught sight of Pippa.

††††† "Who's that?"she asked.

††††† "Oh I nearly forgot.This is Pippa mum."I replied.My mother took a closer look at Pippa.

†††††† "You're hoping to escape from that place also."she stated.Pippa replied,

†††† "Yes, Ellen helped me."Pippa looked from me to my mother and back again.

††††† "You look so alike it's confusing."she said.I smiled at my new found friend.

†††† "We have been mistaken for each other before."I said.My mother opened her box door and let us in.Three fully grown horses in a box designed for one is a bit of a crush but we didn't mind.

††††† "The director of the stable will be surprised to find you back here."my mother said to me.

††††† "Yeah, I suppose so. But he won't turn me out and send me back to the hell I've escaped from."I said certainly.My mother rubbed her nose against mine.

††††† "I'm glad you're back with me."she said sincerely.

 

†††† I felt happier than I had for a year.Being back with one's family is the best cure for illness.I was extremely out of condition, my hooves were in a state, I had one shoe missing.But inside the shattered exterior I knew I was fine.All parts worked as they should.

 

†††† The director came round to look at his horses.He had to take a second look when he saw me and Pippa.

††††††† "Oh well Jess, your Ellen's returned then."he said.But he took another look at Pippa.She wasn't white like my mother and I.She was a chestnut filly and stood out in a stable yard full of grey and white horses.

†††† "You're not from round here."he said.Pippa looked at the director pleading with him.

†††††† "

Don't send me back there!"she pleaded.The director didn't seem to understand however.He took a pace backwards and removed his mobile phone from his belt.

†††††† "Hello, is that James Neil's?I've got one of your horses here."He looked at Pippa's identification markings.

†††† "Yes, number 1233-DK."he said.There was a rumble from the other end and then the director spoke again.

††††† "All right,I'll see you in an hour."Pippa squealed in pain.

††††† "Don't send me back there!It's hell!"she sobbed.The director might have been uneducated in the equine language but he knew a distressed horse when he saw one.

††††† "All right dear, don't cry."he said.

†††††† "You don't understand!That place is awful!Ellen escaped from there, I came with her.Please don't send me back there!"she whimpered.The director stroked Pippa's nose and ears coaxing her into silence.She eventually calmed down and we waited for the arrival of James Neil's horse box.It arrived sure enough and the moment Pippa saw it she began to scream.

†††† "Don't make me go back there!"she sobbed.The pain in her eyes was almost too much for my mother.I noticed that her eyes had tears in them.

†††† "All right, let's be having you."the man from the hated James Neil stable said roughly.He took hold of Pippa's mane and tried to urge her forward.The stupid bloody man had forgotten a head collar.Pippa raised her head in the air and dug her hooves into the ground.She wouldn't move.The man from James Neilís lost his cool and shook Pippa's head roughly.

†††† "I'll fix you."he said.Pippa shook from nose to tail by now.

††††† "Ellen, do something!"she pleaded.But what could I do?I couldn't attempt some heroic rescue.That man had a whip and who knows what else in his van.I think his resourceseven ran to a captive bullet, and I felt that he wouldn't hesitate to use it.The man came back with a whip in his hand.Pippa shrieked with terror!

†††††† "No!No!No!"she yelled.The man then did something I'll never forget as long as I live.It was so cruel that it left a deep impression on me.He whirled the whip around his head and slammed it down across Pippa's neck.There is no protection there.If Pippa could vomit I think she would have done from the pain of it.I saw it in her eyes.As the leather whip connected with a hard crack Pippa gave vent to the most awful scream I have ever heard from a horse.It was full of fear, pain, terror, anger, and hatred.The man pulled on Pippa's mane ripping out handfuls of hair as he did so.Pippa kicked out at him.The man ran back to his van and dived inside for something else.He came out with a long tube.

††††† "That's a bolt!"my mother wailed.

††††† "Bolt?What's a bolt?"I asked.

††††† "A captive bullet Ellen!Don't you realise what's going to happen?"I needed no telling!

††††† "I'm not going to let him do this!"my mother said.The man ran back into the box brandishing the tube.My mother stepped across Pippa's path and shielded her.The man lost his temper totally.I watched in horror as he placed the barrel against my mother's head and pulled the trigger!

††††† "Mum!"I yelled.There was an awful bang!then a flash, then I saw my mother flopping on the straw.I nuzzled her shoulder coaxing her to get up.She never moved.With a sick feeling I realised that the man had killed my mother."The man from James Neilís had since made another attempt to force Pippa into the horse box.She wouldn't go.

†††† "Pippa, go with him!If you don't then you'll end up like my mum!"I told her.Pippa looked at me and I saw her devastation.

†††††† "I'll never forget you or your mother.Thanks for everything."she said sadly.I watched her be taken away in the horse box.The director looked down at his dead horse.

†††††† "Why?Oh why?"he asked.He looked at me.I felt grief and anger.Tears rolled down my nose despite my attempts to stop them.

†††† "I know how you feel Ellen."he said.I put my nose up to him and let myself go totally.I must have cried for a good hour.The director tried to comfort me as best he could.

†††† "She died saving Pippa's life."I sobbed.The man didn't understand however.

 

†††† A few days passed.During that time my poor mother's body was taken away and that was the last I saw of her.I still felt that my world had been destroyed by that man.I had cried enough.I couldn't cry any more.I just felt a gnawing sadness that I couldn't shake.I was three years old now and apart from the first year my life had been hell.

†††† "Now my mother's dead."I thought.

 

†††† The director decided to sell me.I was transported to a horse fair a month to the day since the death of my mother.I waited in the sale ring looking at all the buyers looking at us.I tried to present a happy image but I was so depressed I couldn't put any go into it.In the end I reverted to my down cast state.The woman I now know as "The Manageress"came along to see me in the early afternoon.She quizzed the director on all sorts of things.

†††††† "What was my breeding like?How did I react to being in harness?What was I like towards children?Did I have any health or psychological problems?"and that was just for starters.I instantly warmed to this newcomer.She seemed to have a pleasant nature and an understanding of horses that went far beyond just caring for them. I felt I might want to stay with this female human.I made this quite plain to her.

†††††† "I'll take her."the Manageress said.So that was that.I had been sold to a stable owner from England.I heard she lived in a place called Suffolk, wherever that is.I was transported from the fair to a waiting D.C. 4.I was loaded onto the plane and boxed in with wooden panels.These were lashed into place with steel bars, and pins secured the whole lot together.I stood on a tray filled with peat.I watched the men building my prison.In time the last banding bar and pin were locked together and I heard the outside door slam shut.

†††††† "Here we go."I thought resignedly.I had never flown before,I was scared and excited at the same time.Then I Heard a voice I thought I recognised.The woman who had bought me suddenly appeared from nowhere.

††††† "That's good."I thought.She came into my box and started stroking me.

†††† "You'll have to come out of there when we take off."another Lad said.The woman looked at him.

†††††† "I know what I'm doing, I've been doing this sort of thing for longer than you've been out of nappies."the manageress said crossly.She turned to me.

††††††† "Ignorant sod isn't he."she said.I butted at her playfully.

††††† "You're a good horse aren't you."the Manageress said.I rubbed my nose against her coat.I didn't know why but I was anxious to tell this stranger everything about my life!Without warning it just poured out.I told her about the year with my mother, about the nasty two and a half years at James Neil's place, about my escape with Pippa and finally about my mum's death.It all rushed out, and, do you know what?The human seemed to understand Every word I said!

†††††† "It's good to have a human that understands your language."I thought.In time the Manageress had to leave me.

 

†††† The plane took off and we climbed towards the sky.I began to feel strange as we gained height.Then I felt the plane turn to the left out of Dublin airport.We increased speed and flew on.After an hour we dropped down and thumped into the tarmac at Stansted airport.I braced my legs against the pull of the aircraft as we slowed down.Then the miniature prisons were dismantled and my new owner led me from the plane to a waiting horse box.We travelled through countryside not unlike that of my native Ireland.In time we pulled up in a car park next to a stable block and a restaurant.We were right out in the Suffolk countryside.I was led out of the horse box and led into my stable.†† I am between Natasha and Candy.They're great company and I'm getting along fine.Rosie's taken to teasing me about my Irish up bringing.She's not offensive about it.She keeps reminding me of the fact that I'm a "proper" Irish Draft horse, while she is not.Well, she wasn't born in Ireland.

††††† "You've got several pints of Guinness up on me."she said once.

†††††† "Guinness?I hate the stuff!"I replied.

 

†††† So to the present day.I am still getting over my mother's death.I'll never forget how she died.The other horses in the yard are amazing.They listen to me and never judge if that was the right or wrong thing for my mum to do.Natasha must have heard the story a thousand times but she never tells me to stop telling it.

†††††† "It helps to talk it out of your system."she said.I have been filled in on the history of the yard.I have been filled in on Jingle's operation to restore her sight, the year of terror, the leadership contest, the fire and much, much more.Hang on,I'm getting the life bashed out of my nose.

††††† "Hey Ellen."I look round to see Jingle standing there watching me.

†††† "What can I do for you Jingle?"she looks at me strangely and then replies,

††††† "Nothing muchI just wanted to see how our newest resident was getting on."

††††† "Oh just fine thanks.I'm telling this story at the moment."Jingle nods knowingly and walks away.I decide that I like this herd and want to stay here in England.

 

††††† Phew!That's that.


 

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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