Hi! Um, yeah, Beyancca here yet again. Man the commission for these stories will be mounting up! Enough of that, have I got news for you! You remember Silver said she was preggers? Well she’s had her foal, it’s a colt and as Josh said:
“It’s tichy!” Another thing, before I go any further with this story, I must draw your attention to a tiny detail. Some of the humans have taken to calling Silver’s foal “Mouse!” Why? Why call a horse mouse? A mouse is a rodent, Silver’s foal isn’t one of those! He’s a horse! I seem to remember something like that happening when Silver first arrived in the yard, You can’t help some humans! I know what you’ll be asking me now.
“If you don’t like the name Mouse, what’re you gonna call the foal?” I don’t really know, better consult Silver I think, see what she has to say, after all it’s her foal. I walked through the barn in search of Silver. As I did so I nearly tripped over her foal! He was standing in the middle of the gangway looking lost and frightened. Josh got to the tiny creature before I did. He looked down at the petrified foal. Josh said:
“you’s tichy ain’t you.” Not the best of endearments, but there it was all the same. The tiny foal stared up into the eyes of the largest horse he’d ever seen in his whole life, um, about a week I think. In a trembling whinny the foal asked:
“What do they call you? What’s your name?” I felt Silver sidle up to me.
“’is first encounter with a large ‘orse,” she whispered. Josh dropped to his knees so that he could talk to Silver’s foal at his level.
“My name’s Josh, what’s yours?” The poor foal looked mystified:
“I don’t really know, the humans started
calling me Mouse, but my mum says I’m a horse, not a mouse, I don’t know what
my name is.”
appeared from nowhere! How did you do that?” The foal asked.
“Don’t worry about that Tich.” I mulled her reply over for a bit.
“Tich, Tich, yeah sounds good,” I thought. Silver seemed to think likewise and put the idea to her foal.
“yeah, well it’s a lot better than Mouse anyway,” he said. Tich it was then. Tich turned to his mother and asked the inevitable question.
“Mum, what do the humans call you?” Silver looked embarrassed at this.
“Midget,” she replied shortly. Tich thought about this for a while and seemed to come to the conclusion that Midget wasn’t a bad name for his mother. He then noticed something else:
“Hang on a bit mum, wait a bit. Why do the humans call you midget, while the horses, well, they call you Silver?” Silver explained about her pedigree name and of her disliking for it.
“The name Silver lady was too fancy for me, I ‘ated it and still do! B’ started calling me Silver and it stuck,” Silver explained. Tich gave his mum an “I’m confused!” Look and asked:
“Who’s B’?” Silver waved a booted forefoot at me.
“That’s ‘er,” she said. Tich strode up to me, obviously taking his courage in his hoof and asked:
“is B’ your real name? Or is it an,,,” here he looked at Silver for assistance,
“What’s the word mum?” Tich asked.
“Abbreviation.” Silver said.
“yeah that’s it, is B’ one of those things, whatever mum said, or is it your real name?” he asked. I told him that my name was Beyancca, and that B’ was the shortened version. Tich looked up into my eyes.
“You leader round here or something?” he asked. I nodded:
“Yeah, sort of,” I replied. Chantilly, who had overheard all this, spoke up:
“What’s this “sort of” stuff B’? You are leader, you know it don’t you? Sometimes I wonder. You’re not ruthless and demanding, not like some leaders.” I watched Silver and Tich wander off. My first impressions of Tich were favourable. He seemed a pleasant enough fellow, with impeccable manners, thanks to Silver. I had not failed to notice that Tich hadn’t picked up the lazy speech patterns of his mother, yet. I hoped he never would. Josh looked at me:
“Sweet little scrap isn’t ‘e,” he remarked. I nodded:
“Yeah, Tich certainly is that. I think Silver’ll make a good role model for him you know.” Josh smiled:
“Even with ‘er swearing as she does?” he asked.
“Even with that Josh. You can’t have everything you know,” I replied.
“True, that’s very true,” Josh mused. We adjourned to my box for something to eat, and a rest.
Josh and I were contentedly munching straw when Silver came tearing into our box, closely followed by Tich. Silver looked frightened, while Tich obviously thought the chase was a huge game.
“Con, Confiada, B’, Confiada found Tich and me, she threatened to kill Tich!” Silver gabbled. I slammed the door and tried to calm Silver. Tich said:
“Wow! Mum, can, can we do that again! It was wonderful!” Of course Tich had no idea of the danger he and his mother were in. Silver’s reply was typical.
“No we bloody can’t!” She panted.
“But mum, that mare meant us no harm,” Tich pleaded. Silver gave her foal a terrible look and left it.
“I’ll explain to ‘im later why Confiada’s not a playmate,” she thought. I managed to calm Silver enough to make her coherent, then I asked her what happened.
“Tich and I were in the field next to the indoor school when Confiada came in. I thought she’d leave us alone, but she came across to me and started making ‘orrid comments about Tich. “Horrid Scrap, snivelling foal, burden on the yard,” you know the stuff. Well then she started running round the field, occasionally running straight at Tich and me, sometimes missing us by inches! She scared the crap out of me B’! So when the opportunity came to get out of there we did! I called Tich after me and ‘e came, luckily for ‘im. Tich thought it was a ‘uge game, this near miss stuff, but I knew different. If ‘e’d understood what Confiada ‘ad said about ‘im before, then I think ‘e’d think different, but ‘e didn’t understand ‘er words. That encounter was too close for my liking, too dam close!” I had feared this might happen. Silver was virtually defenceless against anyone, and with a foal she was more so. I looked at Tich. He was standing beside his mother, eyes shining with excitement. Silver said:
“Could you tell Tich about Confiada? It might sound better coming from a larger ‘orse.” So I told Tich about the most hated mare in the yard. I started with:
“listen to me Tich. You know who I am don’t you?”
“you’re herd leader,” he said quietly.
“yes, and as herd leader my job is to look after you and your mother. Confiada’s not your playmate Tich. She hates you and your mother. She hates every horse in the yard also. Confiada’s not a nice mare to associate with. She’ll hurt you and your mum if she has the chance. Remember that Tich, for your and your mum’s safety, remember that,” I said forcefully. Tich was smart, and grasped the meaning of my words, even if he didn’t quite understand all of them. Confiada suddenly thrust her head into my box and screamed at me!
“Warning the snivelling scrap off me are we Beyancca!” She shouted. Silver squealed with terror and backed away to the rear of my box, dragging Tich with her.
“I only spoke the truth Confiada, you know that. You hate everything on this yard, horses, humans, doves, well we all hate the doves. You hate Polo, Teasel, Scrappy, muffin, everyone! Am I right?” Of course Confiada couldn’t say “yes,” her face said everything I wished to know.
“you’re a danger, a grave danger to everyone on this yard Confiada.” I said quietly. Confiada looked over my box door at the two now petrified Shetland ponies. Tich had lost his carefree air and was now as frightened as his mother.
“You can’t watch them all the time Beyancca, I’ll get Tich one day. I can just about tolerate Silver, but her foal, Yuck! Horrid thing that is!” She blustered. Tich whispered to Silver:
“What’s that mare saying about me? Whatever it is, it’s not nice.” Silver replied:
“Just ignore ‘er Tich darling, she’s worth nothing.” Tich cuddled closer to his mother. Confiada overheard this, whispered though it was, and pounced on it! She tried to break my door in two! I found myself fighting for the lives of two defenceless ponies. I managed to hold Confiada off until assistance arrived in the form of Josh. I hadn’t realised he’d gone, but obviously he had and now he was back and beating the stuffing out of Confiada for the umpteenth time. Josh didn’t stop until Confiada was prone on the concrete and of no danger to anyone, horse or human. He looked over at Silver and Tich.
“I think we’d better keep an eye on those two mum. Confiada ain’t gonna stop ‘er silly games just ‘cos I bashed ‘er for the thousandth time. I think one of us ought to stay with them and make sure they don’t come to ‘arm. Try and get Chantilly to ‘elp. She’d be only too glad to I’m sure, you know what a soppy thing she is,” Josh suggested. Chantilly overheard this and volunteered her services as a bodyguard.
“you ‘ave an experienced ‘orse ‘ere. I’m sorry that I am experienced though, I shouldn’t ‘ave ‘ad the chance to get experienced, but I ‘ave, so that’s it.” Chantilly came across towards us. She looked into my box and whistled.
“Poor buggers,” she said.
“’ow the ‘ell did you do that?” Josh asked.
“Do what?” Chantilly replied.
“Whistle of course!” Josh snapped. I could tell the near miss with Confiada had frightened him badly. Chantilly started whistling the Star Spangled Banner, which caused ruby to lose her temper.
“Shut it Chantilly! I loath that tune!” She roared.
“It’s a free country, I can whistle what I like between the hours of seven in the morning and eleven in the evening, it’s the law,” Chantilly replied. This response was not what Ruby was used to, and it silenced her. Tich called
“Hey Ruby.” Ruby turned towards the sound, she said gruffly:
“Who’s calling, I can’t see you!” meanwhile, Tich had crept through the gap left between the back wall of Ruby’s and my boxes and the partition, this gap was just large enough for him to squeeze through. He stood right under Ruby’s nose, where she couldn’t see him, and called again softly.
“hey Ruby.” Much angered and frightened now, Ruby lashed out furiously with her right forefoot. Silver screamed a warning to her foal!
“Tich! Watch out!” Tich leapt for his life, Ruby’s boot missed him by inches! The foal cannoned into the wall and collapsed on the straw, stunned by the impact. Silver was frantic!
“What the ‘ell’s going on? What’s ‘appened to my foal!” She tried unsuccessfully to get through the gap Tich had five minutes earlier. Meanwhile Chantilly, Josh and I had approached the situation from the other side. We opened Ruby’s door, and while Josh and Chantilly pinned Ruby in one corner of her box, I pulled poor Tich from danger. I carried the tiny creature back to his mother. Silver nuzzled and prodded her foal anxiously.
“’e’s not responding! What the bloody ‘ell ‘appened B’!” She screamed. Josh, unconcerned because he’d seen unconscious horses before, said gently:
“’e’ll be fine Silver dear, don’t worry about Tich.” Silver snapped:
“’ow the bloody ‘ell do you know?” Josh replied:
“I’ve seen it all before, both grown ‘orses and foals used to get knocked out all the time where I used to live. It was almost a daily occurrence.” Silver was sweating with fear. She stared down at her unconscious foal in horror!
“Why did it ‘ave to be Ruby ‘e picked on?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. Silver rounded on me.
“I don’t need that from you!” She bellowed.
“Sorry,” I said contritely. I heard a scraping sound, followed by Chantilly swearing under her breath.
“Shit this thing’s ‘eavy!” Turning, I found her carrying a bucket full of water into my box. I started to ask:
“What’re you gonna,,,” when Chantilly threw the whole lot over Tich. The shock of sudden immersion in cold water brought Tich round.
“Who the hell threw water over me?” he asked groggily.
“it was Chantilly, and don’t swear like that Tich,” Silver replied. Tich struggled to his feet and tottered over to a patch of deep straw. He collapsed onto it and lay there quite motionless.
“Don’t die Tich! Please don’t die!” Silver screamed. She threw herself at her tiny offspring, landing beside him with a thud.
“I never knew she could fly,” Josh thought. For silver had leapt through the air and flown for a few seconds before crashing down onto the straw. She hugged her foal tightly. Silver began to cry:
“Tich, Tich darling, are you all right?” She sobbed. The foal looked at his mother.
“I hit the wall hard mum,” was all he could say. Tich rested his head on his mother’s shoulder and closed his eyes.
“I feel terrible!” he wailed. Chantilly looked at Silver and her foal lying on the straw.
“They need protection more than any other foal and mother I’ve ever known,” she said. She lay down beside Silver, while Josh and I lay down around the two Shetland ponies to shield them from attack. We stayed there for fifteen hours, not moving an inch.
The next day Tich and his mother were fully recovered from their ordeal, and Tich wanted to go exploring. Silver insisted that either Chantilly, Josh, myself or preferably all three of us accompany her and Tich on whatever journey Tich had in mind. We agreed and then came the crunch, where were we going to journey to? This question provoked a lot of discussion between all parties concerned, during which I had an idea.
“Hang about a bit, stop! I’ve got an idea. I’ve heard of this place we could go to. It’s huge this place, lots of humans live there.” Silver held up a boot to stop me.
“This place, ‘ow far away is it?”
“Eight or nine miles, something like that,” I replied.
“Eight or nine miles!” Silver screeched.
“yeah, but I’ve thought of that Silver. You and Tich could travel on our backs. You travelled on mine once, and that wasn’t too bad was it?” Silver thought back to our excursion to Wickham Market.
“No, it wasn’t,” she conceded. Tich jumped at the chance to be carried on a larger horse’s back.
“Wow Mum! Just think of it hey? The view would be great from up there!” He enthused. Silver wasn’t too taken by the idea though.
“yeah, well, the distance is what concerns me. What ‘appens if we get into trouble on route? We can’t use mobile phones!”
“We ain’t gonna get into trouble Silver dear,” Josh said gently. Silver swallowed hard. She could feel the situation getting out of her control and she didn’t like it.
“But what about my foal! ‘e’s only small!
‘e’s only a week and an ‘alf old! Please ‘ave a thought for ‘im will you!” She pleaded. Tich gave his mother a “you fuss too much” look and said:
“Look mum, we aren’t going on this journey with Confiada, so what’s the worry?” Silver caved in then, her foal was too strong for her. Josh suggested something else.
“Before we go into the big wide world, let’s start with exploring the yard ay?” Tich was in agreement, and it wouldn’t have mattered if Silver wasn’t because he would have overruled her anyway. As far as Tich was concerned, if Confiada wasn’t within earshot, all was fine. So we explored the yard.
We first went in search of Fleur. We found her sleeping peacefully in her box. Tich whispered to Silver:
“What’s that mare’s name?” Silver told him. Tich kicked Fleur’s door with all his force and yelled:
“Oi Fleur! Wake up! It’s midday and you’re lazy beyond belief!” There was a groan and the sound of shifting straw, then Fleur’s head appeared in the opening over the half door of her box. She blinked at the light.
“Um yeah, who wants me?” she asked sleepily.
“here I am! Down here!” Tich teased. Fleur looked down and saw the tiny pony. She opened her door and Tich got a full view of a large Shire cross Irish draft mare with massive boots. Fleur looked at the now oar-struck pony.
“you’re small aren’t you,” she observed.
“How many times will people tell me that,” Tich replied. Fleur moved closer to the tiny creature. The fur on silver’s back stood up on end and she warned Fleur off with a warning stamp of her right forefoot. Fleur said agrievedly:
“what’s up? I’m not gonna hurt the little chap!” She protested.
“you’s a bull in a china shop Fleur. I ain’t gonna take any chances with my foal,” Silver replied quietly.
“Can’t I just make friends with him? After waking me up like that, he owes me that surely,” Fleur said. Silver gave in:
“Be `very, very gentle!” she commanded. Tich advanced on Fleur, who dropped to her knees to nuzzle him.
“You’re a massive horse Fleur!” Tich observed. Fleur smiled:
“I like you,” she said gently. Tich rubbed back against Fleur’s pressure.
“you’re funny Fleur,” he replied. Fleur got to her feet and clomped back to her box, we walked along a little to where Muffin, our resident mule lived.
“Muffin!” I yelled. The mule opened her door and came out into the barn.
“Oh hi you lot!” she Brayed.
“What the hell’s that mum?” Tich asked.
“She’s a mule, and don’t swear!” Silver replied. Muffin stared at Tich in incomprehension for a few minutes.
“your foal Silver, you’ve had your foal?” Muffin inquired.
“yeah, didn’t you know?” Silver asked. Muffin replied:
“Well, no I didn’t. information doesn’t get to me you know. I’m not on the same wavelength as the rest of you. I’m disregarded by nearly every inhabitant of the yard, excluding the humans of course. Noone takes any notice of me, no horse does. Well not in the mainstream of things. My only real friends are Beyancca, well all those horses who stand before me.” These were Josh, Silver, Tich, Chantilly and myself. Tich walked up to Muffin and took a closer look at her.
“you’re not a horse, nor are you a donkey, um, you’re a cross between the two!” he said incredulously. Muffin nuzzled the tiny foal gently.
“Will you try and understand me?” Muffin asked. Tich said that he would. We left Muffin, who was obviously sad to see us go, and moved on to the driving yard. Jamie poked his head out of his box and spotted me.
“Hiya B’ dear!” he welcomed. I stopped dead! That was the first time he’d called me something like that for ages!
“Hi Jamie,” was all I could say. I moved off feeling slightly stupid. Jamie nuzzled and thumped Tich with his nose in his most endearing manner. Jamie’s manner caused Silver some concern.
“Be careful with ‘im Jamie!” she pleaded. Then she thought:
“I don’t know why I’m introducing ‘im to you anyway Jamie. You’re a bloody Field ‘orse!” She knew why, the reason was that Jamie was a friend of mine, and therefore he was worth talking to, even if he was a Field Horse. Jamie stopped thumping the life out of Tich’s shoulder and turned to me.
“Look, B’, I need to talk to you about a few things,” he said ashamedly. I nodded:
“here or somewhere less public?” I asked.
“No, not here Beyancca, please not here,” Jamie pleaded. So I excused myself and we walked away up the track. Jamie suddenly looked very tearful.
“B’? Look B’ I don’t know how to say this, and you probably won’t believe me anyway, not after the way I’ve treated you. But, I, I love you Beyancca, I do! When we had that bust up all that time ago I tried to convince myself that I didn’t love you, that I didn’t need you even. But now, well, I know that I do. You can tell me to bugger off if you like, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did, but could you, could you please accept my apology, if nothing else. I didn’t wan’a hurt you at all, but I should’ve known that I would.” I had tried to shrug off Jamie’s departure from my life, but I had been devastated when he’d left, I cried for days on end actually, although no other horse saw me. I thought about Jamie.
“Do you still love him B’?” I asked myself. I knew the answer was yes, a big huge yes! I sidled up to Jamie and hugged him. He said:
“I’ll make the effort, I’ll stop fighting the other Field Horses B’, promise.” Jamie finally broke down utterly.
“Stay, stay with me Beyancca, please don’t leave me!” He pleaded. I hugged and nuzzled him in what I hoped was a reassuring manner, while Jamie wept into my fur. Soon however, Jamie’s tears dried up and we made our way slowly back to the yard. Jamie stuck close to me throughout the whole journey. I made no effort to stop him keeping close to me, for I felt lost myself. Tich ran up to me the moment he set eyes on me.
“Hiya B’!” He welcomed. I dropped to my knees and Tich nuzzled my cheek lovingly. I thought:
“He’s becoming quite fond of me I think.” The truth was that I was growing fond of him also. Josh shook himself hard and declared that:
“It’s getting bloody late, ‘adn’t we better be getting some sleep if we’re going out tonight?” Silver gave him a disgusted stare and stamped off. Tich sidled up to Josh and whispered:
“Mum doesn’t like you swearing.” Josh smiled at the tiny creature.
“She ‘asn’t got a leg to stand on,” he said. Tich countered with:
“Last count she had four.” Josh laughed uproariously at this and thumped Tich’s shoulder. The poor foal was nearly knocked flying!
“Be careful Josh!” I remonstrated. He wined agrievedly:
“I never meant to ‘urt the little chap!”
“Well you might if your not careful Josh,” I warned. We walked round the corner to where Cleo and Carmen were eating grass in the field adjoining the indoor school. Carmen was as far away from Cleo as she could get, while Cleo, from time to time, was attempting to make peace with her.
“Look Carmen you silly horse, I only mean to be friendly. I live in the next door box to you and you’re not used to me yet! I can’t believe that!” Cleo whimpered. Carmen gave Cleo a frightened look and said:
“In your box you’re all right, I can cope with you then, but out here, well you’re huge and scary! Cleo snorted with indignation.
“You call me huge? I am not huge! Look over there!” She waved a boot at josh,
“Josh’s huge! Now he’s a big horse, I’m not! All right?” Carmen was shaking from nose to tail, she whinnied pitifully:
“I can’t cope with this!” Then she bolted! Carmen came scorching past me at a headlong run and disappeared into the barn. Cleo trotted up to us and told us about it all.
“Carmen’s a nervous wreck! She isn’t going to make any headway if she keeps closeting herself up like she is. Carmen was eating grass in this very same field when I came in after being worked silly by some stupid human who thought I was a steam train!”
“Slow coach is more like it,” I thought, but said nothing. Cleo then said something unprintable about the human who’d just ridden her.
“Steady on Cleo!” Josh exclaimed.
“What? I thought you knew every word in the book!” Cleo countered.
“yeah, all right, I admit I might. But to ‘ear you use that word, well it’s not you Cleo, it’s not!” Josh whinnied. Cleo stamped her foot in anger:
“I can use what words I bloody like!” She bellowed. Her sentiments were expressed at such a volume, Chantilly overheard everything and commented that:
“’ere, ‘ang on a bit! Your grammar’s almost as bad as mine! Mind you, I’m always saying that ‘orses should speak proper, like what I do!” Josh laughed so hard he actually fell on the concrete and thrashed about for a bit.
“That’s the most ‘ilarious thing I’ve ‘eard in a long time!” he whooped. Cleo was still angry though.
“I won’t let humans treat me like a steam train, I won’t!” She shouted. Meanwhile, Tich and Josh had dragged Silver back to us. She was protesting loudly that:
“I ain’t gonna associate with a ‘orse that uses such bloody awful language!” Tich aired his view that:
“Mum, you’re a hypocrite!” Silver stopped protesting then, her foal was learning words she’d only just worked out the meanings of. Silver glared at Josh with naked hatred and loathing.
“I ‘ate you! I ‘ated you ever since you turned me down! I detest your breed! Your ancestry and your family, both past and present! I despise the way you make friends with anybody! First you took Beyancca in, now it’s my foal! I ‘ate, despise, and loath you intensely!” Silver screeched.
“Don’t think she likes me mum,” Josh concluded. Silver strode up to Josh and kicked him with all her force! Josh never even flinched.
“Can I ‘ave a go now?” He asked. Josh raised a huge forefoot and lashed out at Silver.
“No!” I screamed. Josh’s hoof missed Silver by inches! I managed to wrestle the massive Shire horse to the concrete.
“What the hell are you playing at!” I demanded. Josh fought madly under me.
“Let me go! Let me go! Get off me!” he yelled. I leant harder on him and repeated my question.
“She ‘it me so I thought I’d give ‘er as good as I got!” Josh panted.
“But Josh, you’re stronger than her, much stronger! You’d have killed her!” I replied shrilly. The fire in josh finally died. He lay there unheeding, as I levered myself off of him and stood up.
“Silver came to have another go, silly mare!
“Keep away from my,,,” was all she could manage to say before Josh lashed out with his right forefoot and caught her a hefty blow on her shoulder. Silver was sent spinning through the air like a toy! She landed in a flailing heap on the grass about fifteen feet away from where I was standing. Josh leapt to his feet and ran after her. He stared down at the prostrate Shetland pony.
“Leave me alone!” Silver pleaded. Josh gave her a terrible look and turned at the sound of someone sidling up to him. Josh stared straight into Confiada’s eyes. She said:
“Silver’s nearly dead isn’t she. I’ve been waiting so long for this.” Confiada drew back her right forefoot to deliver the killing blow. Tich, seeing the danger his mother was in, ran up against Confiada as hard as he could, trying with all his strength to overbalance her. Confiada’s momentary lapse of concentration caused by the tiny foal was to prove almost fatal for her. In the split second afforded by Tich’s gallant rescue attempt, Josh floored Confiada and beat her up for the thousand and first time. The downside to this was that Confiada landed smack on top of Tich! To this day I don’t know how he survived it! While I dragged Silver from danger, Josh hauled Confiada off of Tich.
The poor foal was badly knocked about. Tich recovered slowly from his ordeal, and when he was feeling a bit better, Josh asked him a question.
”’ow are you feeling?”
“Squashed,” Tich replied. Silver on the other hand was up on her feet and squealing her head off.
“What’s ‘appened to Tich! Where is ‘e! I wan’a know where the ‘ell ‘e is! Did Confiada squash ‘im? Is ‘e all right?” All these questions and more I couldn’t answer. I had dragged Silver, against her will I must add, into some trees so she couldn’t see what was going on with josh, Confiada and her foal.
“Josh’ll look after Tich Silver, don’t worry about your foal,” I reassured her. Silver whinnied desperately
“’e ‘ates ‘im! Josh, ‘e ‘ates Tich Beyancca, you know that!”:
“No Silver, no, that’s not right. You hate Josh for irrational reasons. Josh loves Tich almost as much as you do. He wouldn’t hurt Tich for the world, you know that.” Silver whimpered:
“’e ‘it me!” I replied:
“you hit him first. Josh’s a lot larger than you Silver. He was only defending himself. Pick on someone your own size.” This was not meant to offend Silver, but it did.
“’ow the bloody ‘ell can you say that! Do you know ‘ow offensive that is? I ‘ate people saying I’m small! All right I know I am, but that ain’t the point!” Just then Josh and Tich appeared, saving me from a lengthy explanation.
“’ey Silver! ‘ere’s your foal! ‘e’s good as new, though that’s more than can be said for Confiada,” Josh shouted. Silver fussed over Tich, prodding, nuzzling and thumping him until he complained about it.
“Leave me alone mum! I’m fine, Josh sorted me out. Don’t you trust him?” Silver said nothing, but it was obvious she trusted Josh as far as she could throw him. Josh was clearly angry with Silver. He dragged her off into the deepest part of the wood, frightening her badly in the process, and yelled at her.
“’ave you any idea what ‘appened back there!” He bellowed. Silver’s reply was inaudible, but Josh’s next outburst wasn’t.
“You know Tich? Your foal? Well ‘e risked ‘is life for you Silver. ‘e did! ‘e ran at Confiada and distracted ‘er, giving me enough time to bash ‘er senseless. You owe ‘im a lot Silver! I’m sorry ‘e was squashed, but ‘e’s all right now, and that ain’t any thanks to you!” Silver ran back to me, tears streaming down her nose. Josh got to me first and suggested that I:
“Ignore ‘er, she’s only frightened.” Tich watched his crestfallen mother trudge back to the yard. He turned to Josh and asked:
“Why does mum hate you Josh?” Josh told him about Silver’s proposition to him and of his refusal.
“I can see it wouldn’t work,” Tich said. He laughed slightly:
“Can you imagine that? It would be silly!” he said. Silver came back, her eyes blazing!
“Converting Tich to your way of thinking are we Josh?” she asked acidly. Then Silver grabbed hold of Tich and dragged him squealing into the woods! Josh and I fled after them in terror!
We arrived to find Silver screaming at her foal.
“you listen to me Tich! If I see you even close to josh or Beyancca ever again, I’ll, I’ll kill you!” Tich was crying with fear and terror. He said:
“Josh isn’t that bad, and I don’t know why you’re bringing our leader into it anyway! Beyancca’s not the one who refused your invitation is she! Leave her out of it, and lay off Josh! He’s not that bad, if only you took the time to,,,” Silver hit Tich a sickening blow across his nose with her unshod right forefoot. Tich howled in agony! I had seen enough.
“You do that one more time and I’ll send you to the Field Horses Silver!” I warned. This stopped Silver good and proper. She turned to me and I saw real fear in her eyes.
“you couldn’t, you wouldn’t send me to the Field ‘orses would you Beyancca?” I nodded.
“Be you Shetland pony or Irish Draft, or whatever breed you may be. If you are a member of this herd you can still be sent to the Field Horses as punishment if you commit crimes. Freedom has its responsibilities you know Silver.” Silver asked:
“Who would look after Tich?” Josh nodded at me.
“Mum would, that’s ‘er job.” Silver snapped:
“I ain’t letting ‘er ‘ave Tich! If ‘e goes to anyone ‘e goes to Balugue, she’ll look after ‘im.” I reminded her that:
“Balugue, of a high status though she is in her herd, is still a Field horse.” Silver replied:
“But Balugue helped me to overcome my fear of giving birth,,,”
“I basically ordered her to do that,” I replied. I continued:
“Balugue is a Field horse, and was once leader of the yard herd, improbable as it might seem now. She is intelligent and kind, but is still a Field Horse, and is not the leader of that herd.” By now Silver was sweating with fear, I meant her to be frightened.
“Mistreating your foal is a grave offence Silver, whatever the circumstances might b, and it is certainly grave if you mistreat him because he holds differing views to you,” I warned her. Silver gave us a disgusted stare and stormed off, leaving Tich with us. Tich looked unhappy.
“I’m sorry she’s brought you into it Beyancca, I really am. You’re not the one she’s angry with, Josh is, but that’s silly! Really silly! Why be
angry at another horse for refusing to get into a relationship that wouldn’t work anyway? Mum’s foolish if she thinks it would work.” Josh said:
“I know why she wanted to ‘ave a relationship with me. I was a ‘uge powerful ‘orse who she thought would protect ‘er from danger. That’s the only reason.” Tich was furious!
“My mother was using you?” He asked crossly.
“yeah, pretty much I suppose,” Josh replied. Tich looked distraught!
“That’s awful! How could she do that to you?” he asked.
“Quite easily,” Josh replied. I raised my nose to the wind, scenting at it for a few minutes. There was the cent of freshly mown grass, a bonfire somewhere not to far away and wood preservative. I hated the smell of the wood preservative. Josh watched me doing this scenting thing and commented.
“What the ‘ell’re you doing Mum?”
“Scenting the air, what does it look like?” I asked. I shook myself hard and walked back to the yard hoping Tich and Josh would follow. They did and we arrived in the barn to find Carmen and Cleo apparently at the end of a fight, or that’s what it looked like to us. What had actually happened was this. Cleo had walked up behind Carmen, scaring her so much that she tried to run, tripped over her own feet, and fell. Cleo, naturally concerned, stopped to help her. This led to Carmen screaming her head off and begging Cleo not to come within spitting distance of her. Cleo had spent the remaining time trying to make peace with the terrified mare. Cleo had one last try.
“Look Carmen, I’m not gonna hurt you! How many times do I have to tell you that? I harbour no ill will to you at all! Please believe me when I say that.” Carmen gave vent to a moan of terror.
“’ow the ‘ell’re we gonna convince ‘er that we mean ‘er no ‘arm?” Josh asked wearily. I sighed heavily:
“I don’t know Josh Dear, I really don’t.” Carmen fled from the scene.
“Poor bugger,” Josh murmured. Cleo looked at him.
“Silver been giving you hell lately?” She asked. Josh looked shocked:
“’ow did you know?” Cleo smiled:
“I hear things,” she said conspiratorially. Josh started to say:
“Yeah she ‘as, she,,,,” Cleo cut in with:
“I know Josh, I know.” Josh suddenly looked tearful.
“I never wanted to ‘urt ‘er Cleo, never!” He said shakily. Cleo nodded:
“I know that. Silver’s the one who’s being stupid over this. She knows dam well that a relationship with you is out of the question, so I don’t know why she persists in hassling you Josh.” I thought back to the time when Cleo was the most hated mare in the yard. Everybody, including me I must add, feared and hated her. This hate and mistrust was misplaced, as we were to find out later. The horrific accident that killed her mother had scarred Cleo’s mind deeply, and Cleo felt she could draw attention to herself by being unpleasant to humans and horses. That’s a poor way to do it I know, Cleo knows that now. She tried to apologise for her behaviour, some horses had accepted it, others wouldn’t, Domino for example. I walked round to where Confiada was standing on the grass looking bored. She didn’t seem to notice me as I drew closer.
“Confiada?” I asked tentatively. The mare jumped! Her gaze sharpening on my face.
“I thought you hated my guts. That’s what you told me earlier, but now you want to talk to me. Why is this? I’ve heard you brand me a bitch, a cow, a danger to the yard even. So why the hell would you want to talk to me if you hate me so much?” Confiada asked. This stream of quite reasonable questions caught me off guard, so much so that I couldn’t think of an answer. The plain truth was that Confiada looked so lonely, standing on her own as she was, that I had to talk to her. It was my natural reaction to that sort of situation, whether I hated the person I was talking to or not. I asked:
“Can’t I put aside those feelings for a bit? Let’s suppose that I hated you, and you had just fallen in the river and were on the point of drowning. I would still try and help you, for you’re a horse, like me, and as a horse, I would wish to help my fellow horses regardless of my own feelings towards the individual concerned.” Confiada looked stunned!
“So you’ve got the courage to do that? You can put your feelings aside?” she asked incredulously.
“Yeah, pretty much,” I replied. This nearly sent Confiada over the edge, but she managed to hold on. She looked at me intensely, obviously desperate to hear more. I said:
“Confiada, I hate what you do, not who you are. You can be as aloof and stand-offish as you like, I don’t mind that. What I cannot stand is the way you victimise other horses for no reason, at least no reason I can see.”” Confiada was now staring at me, her mouth gaping!
“Why do you pick fights with other horses Confiada? Has it ever crossed your mind that some of the horses you attack have no means to defend themselves? Take Silver and Tich for example. You scared the fur off Silver when you ran at her and her foal! Turn it round, if you had a foal, how would you feel if a larger horse threatened you and your foal?” Confiada thought about this for a while and replied:
“I’d get up and fight them, Thump! Thump! Thump! Finished! The horse wouldn’t stand a chance!” I asked:
“But what if Josh turned on you and your foal? He can beat you up, he’s done it many times already. He could quite easily finish off you and your foal without difficulty Confiada. Have you thought of that?” She clearly hadn’t.
“I’d probably be scared out of my skin,” she replied.
“So why do you persist in frightening and bullying horses?” I asked.
“How the hell should I know Beyancca!” Confiada shouted. She turned tail, and fled as fast as she could towards the lane leading out of the yard. The last I saw of Confiada was flying hooves and an equally airborne tail. The sound of her hooves receded into the distance. When I was sure she wasn’t coming back to finish our little discussion, I turned back to Cleo and josh. Cleo said sadly:
“you tried your best B’.”
“Yeah mum, you ‘ad a bloody good go,” Josh agreed. I shook myself hard and stared down at my boots. Rousing myself, I looked at the stable clock.
“Quarter to four,” it said. I reflected that the day had dragged interminably.
Silver appeared then. She was clearly annoyed to see her foal with us.
“Come on Tich, you’re coming with me,” she snapped. Tich protested loudly
against this, but Silver was unrelenting.
“Come on!” She barked. As he left, Tich turned his head over his shoulder and said:
“See ya! Mum’s taking me away from my friends, boring bugger isn’t she!” Silver was so shocked by her foal’s use of, as she put it, “Chantilly like” language, that she stopped dead, whipped round and nipped Tich’s right ear. The poor foal squealed with shock and pain and fled from his mother as fast as he could! Tich disappeared into the restaurant. Silver turned round and retraced her steps. She rounded savagely on Josh.
“It’s you isn’t it! You’ve taught ‘im all them awful words! You’re a stupid, brainless ‘orse! I ‘ate you, I bloody ‘ate you Josh! You’ve corrupted Beyancca, and now you’ve corrupted Tich! Noone’s safe from your disease! You’s an ‘orrable ‘orse who doesn’t care a bit for your actions! All you want is to take Beyancca, and the rest of us for that matter, for all we’re worth! You came into this yard purely by chance, and you screwed the whole dam place up! You’ve messed up our yard Josh! I don’t see what Beyancca sees in you, I really don’t!” Silver yelled. Before then, I held the view that Silver’s chances of reducing josh to tears would have been about the same as of Confiada actually winning a fight with him. But no, Silver’s vitriolic outburst had broken Josh. He could take insults, yes they were no problem, but when Silver’d insulted me, and decried his reasons for living in the yard, well that was too much. Tears rolled down Josh’s nose as Silver watched.
“I ‘ope your satisfied with what you’ve done to our ‘ome,” she said acidly. Then Silver turned tail and followed her foal into the restaurant. As she left, she said under her breath:
“Better go and talk to Tich. Try and get ‘im out of ‘is current state of mind. When I’ve finished with ‘im ‘e’ll ‘ate Josh utterly. I’m gonna make sure of that!” The restaurant door banged behind her, and after that, apart from Josh’s sobs, all was silent. I sidled up to him and hugged him tightly.
“hey Josh, don’t cry dear, she didn’t mean it love,” I said softly. Josh sniffed and replied:
“Yeah she did. She’s said it often enough for me to know she means it. Silver ‘ates me mum! I can’t see why. I ‘aven’t done anything to ‘urt ‘er! So why does she treat me like this? ‘er foal also, Tich, ‘e’s a nice chap n’all, but she’s conditioning ‘im to see ‘er point of view mum! ‘e won’t be able to ‘ave ‘is own point of view, because Silver won’t let ‘im, well, where I’m concerned she won’t.” I replied:
“I’ll talk to her Josh.” Just then Tich came tearing out of the restaurant, closely followed by his mother!
Tich came scorching down the ramp, skidding on the gravel of the carpark as he turned, and fled across the fields with Silver in hot pursuit! I could see it wasn’t a friendly chase, Silver was bent on catching Tich, and I could see it wasn’t gonna be pleasant when she eventually did. Silver didn’t get as far as the fields mind you. As she tried to turn sharply to follow her foal, Silver’s right hind foot slipped in the gravel and unbalanced her. The Miniature Shetland pony crashed onto the stones! Silver lay motionless on the gravel while Josh and I stared at her in shock.
Silver levered herself gently to her feet. The language she used was so awful I can’t print it. I saw that her nose was grazed and chafed in several different places. The poor pony looked at us.
“Where the ‘ell’s Tich? Where is ‘e! I wan’a know where ‘e is!” She yelled.
“I don’t know Silver. he disappeared across the fields a few minutes ago,” I replied. Silver seemed then to remember what had gone before. She stared at Josh with loathing.
“I blame you for this! If you ‘adn’t been ‘ere none of this would ‘ave ‘appened! You’s a parasite!” Silver screamed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tich returning. He stood beside Josh for a few seconds before turning and flashing the sole of his right hind foot at his mother. Silver squealed with rage and attacked him! Her boot smashed into his right foreleg, sending Tich sprawling! Once he was down Silver left him. Poor Tich, I know he shouldn’t have sworn at his mother, but feelings run high sometimes. Silver stood over her prostrate foal, her fur bristling and eyes blazing! Silver addressed herself to Tich, quietly at first, but with increasing ferocity and volume as her anger was stoked.
“You listen to me Tich, and you make sure you listen good. I never want you to swear at me like that again, never! You do that again, I’ll, I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you I tell you! I know you feel strongly about Josh and Beyancca, but that ain’t any reason to swear at your own mother! I ‘ate people who swear!” Josh asked:
“If you ‘ate swearing, then why is every fourth word you use a four letter one?” Silver lost her cool again and tried, unsuccessfully I must add, to attack Josh. Josh took Silver’s kicks and frothy insults with great calm. Of course, in her anger Silver had forgotten the rule Josh obeyed to the letter.
“If an ‘orse ‘its me, then I ‘ave a right to ‘it ‘im or ‘er back.” So it was. Poor Silver battered josh until she was exhausted and then collapsed onto the gravel. Josh on the other hand was fresh, couldn’t be better in fact, and he was ready! He drew back his right forefoot to carry out what he felt was his duty, and stopped. He dropped to his knees and spoke directly into Silver’s ear.
“Silver? Can you hear me Silver? Or should that be Midget?” Silver squealed in reply:
“Don’t call me that! I ‘ate that name!” josh smiled grimly and said:
“Well Silver, as you are such a midget, I think I’ll spare you this time. You know my rule Silver? I’ll tell you what it is, and mind you don’t forget it. If an ‘orse ‘its me, I ‘ave a right to ‘it ‘im or ‘er back. Got it Silver?” Josh asked. Silver mumbled some sort of reply which I didn’t catch, but josh seemed satisfied and left her. Silver scrambled to her feet and stared at the huge Shire horse.
“you’re probably wondering why I’ve been doing this, well I’ll tell you. I fear you Josh, I worry myself silly that when my back was turned you would attack and ‘urt my foal. You’re ‘uge! I’m only small, and so’s Tich. We can’t defend ourselves Josh! We can’t! I don’t wan’a make an enemy of you Josh, course I bloody don’t! But you’re ‘uge, and scary, and you’ve got large ‘ooves, and you’re tough, bullish sometimes even! I’m only trying to defend myself and Tich.” Throughout Silver’s speech Josh had listened intently with a deepening sadness inside. He’d never wanted to hurt Silver or Tich. He’d loved them as much as he had me. Josh’s overriding urge was to protect the two tiny creatures, that’s all he wanted. Josh replied:
“for my part, I never wanted to ‘urt you or your foal Silver. I know I’m ‘uge, I can’t ‘elp that. But there’s something I never was, I ain’t now, and I certainly won’t be in the future, and that’s a fighter. I can’t fight ‘orses! All right I can beat up Confiada fine as you like, but she don’t really mean what she does. I’ve seen B’ go up to Confiada and reduce ‘er to tears, just by talking sweet to ‘er. I ain’t a fighter Silver, nor am I a murderer. Watch my lips, I would never! Ever! Dream of laying an ‘oof on Tich. I love ‘im as much as you do Silver. Please, for all of us, let Tich ‘ave is own views on me and my mum. Don’t try to influence ‘im one way or the other. ‘e’ll make up ‘is own mind. In cases of danger, then yes by all means guide ‘im, but don’t attempt to restrict ‘im. I know why you do it silver. you don’t want any ‘arm to come to your foal, and that’s natural. But ‘e’s got to find ‘is own way n’all. If ‘e doesn’t, or you don’t allow ‘im to, then where will ‘e be? Down the chute that’s where!” Silver looked stunned!
“There was so much there Josh, I couldn’t take it all in,” she conceded. Josh sighed:
“I ain’t gonna ‘urt you or Tich today,
tomorrow or any time!” He stamped his
foot to emphasise the point. Silver
Tich who was still lying on the gravel where she’d left him ten minutes before. The poor thing looked up at her with a mixture of resignation and fear.
“Are you gonna clout me for my views mum?” Tich asked. Silver’s eyes filled with tears.
“I’m really sorry Tich! It sounds crappy I know, after what I’ve done, but it’s true! Per’aps I was overprotective of you. Per’aps I was protecting you against the wrong ‘orses. I don’t know, I’m only young, I know ‘ardly anything!” Tich pulled away from his mother as she tried to embrace him.
“No mum, don’t. Leave me alone! After what you’ve done I don’t know what I think of you. I’ve been abused for my views, you call that being overprotective, I’ve been shouted at and bitten for liking a horse you hated, I don’t know what to think. Is it a mother’s Job to produce a clone of herself? I think not. I thought a mother’s job was to guide her foal to making his or her own decisions, while letting the foal’s character develop.” This speech was obviously not his own. I wondered if another horse had helped him write it. Maybe he’d expressed his views to Balugue or Jinja, and they’d helped him to formulate them into a cohesive argument. If he’d felt it necessary to have done that, Tich must have been near breaking point. Silver, surprised and scared by her foal’s eloquence, fled into the restaurant. Tich watched her go.
“The humans won’t tolerate her in there for much longer,” he mused. Sure enough, the Manageress came out of the restaurant, dragging a protesting Shetland pony with her.
“you’re meant to be out here,” she said firmly.
“All I wanted was a drink, I was thirsty!” Silver protested. Tich collapsed with laughter as he watched his mum being hustled out of the restaurant.
“What did I tell you? They’re not stupid them human’s aren’t!” He whooped. Silver saw her foal’s mirth at her misfortune and came sprinting across to him.
“Would you deny an ‘orse a drink? Would you Tich?” She asked.
“Well no I wouldn’t, but there’re waterbuckets, troughs and suchlike for us “’orses,” as you so beautifully put it mum.” Silver knew what Tich was doing and it didn’t please her.
“Are you taking the p?” Silver asked ominously. Tich replied:
“What? Making fun of you mum? Would I dream of doing that? I think not!” Josh and I knew he was, Silver did also, but Tich’s reply was so unexpected that she let it go for lack of anything to answer it with. Silver walked off round the corner and into the barn. I heard the clop of a horses hooves coming down the lane into the yard.
“Unshod horse as well,” I thought disjointedly. Confiada came trotting back into the yard and wheeled round to head off towards the top field. I ran to catch her, and when I drew level with her I asked:
“So where’ve you been?” Confiada glanced at me for a second, but said nothing. Then she sighed heavily and said:
“Out, thinking hard about life. I know I’m a wimp, I know I hate being groomed, shod, petted, everything! But I do want to be loved, and to love others, but I can’t. I wish I’d been treated better when I was a foal, perhaps then, perhaps then everything would’ve been so different. I don’t want to be an outcast Beyancca, I really don’t! I want to be able to run with the rest of the herd and be accepted by them. But my first home butchered my chances of a peaceful existence with humans, and horses for that matter. I suppose I can’t rewrite ten years of my life, but I’d give anything, anything! To do so now.” This speech was from the heart, I knew Confiada meant every word of it, and I felt sorry for her. Confiada brightened a little.
“You know what Beyancca? I tried to make a difference to myself today. I let a human stroke my nose and hug me for five minutes or so,” she said quietly.
“Did you enjoy it?” I asked. Confiada’s ears drooped as she thought hard about her experiences.
“yeah, think I did,” she replied.
The sun was setting now and the shadows were growing long. The day had lasted a lifetime and I for one was shattered! Confiada and I trailed back to the yard, she bent on making amends for her mistakes, and me bent on finding my bed! I stumbled into my box, collapsed on the straw and dropped off. I didn’t even wake when Josh came crashing in at midnight, after having a riotous time with Chantilly, Valencia, Cleo, and Jingle in the clearing by the river. Ruby told me that Josh came in singing his head off, but I didn’t notice a thing.
The next morning was clear and bright. I was woken by Tich banging on my door and yelling:
“Get up! Come on Beyancca, the day’s half done! Get up there, come on!” Groaning, I struggled to my feet and opened my door slowly.
“Hello Tich,” I said sleepily. The foal was too full of energy for me, so I sent him away to plague some other poor sleepy horse. Tich wouldn’t go however.
“I’m not gonna be sent away just like that Beyancca, make me go, come on you lazy thing!” Tich coaxed. I wasn’t in the mood for playing games, too dam tired for that. Giving vent to a sound which was half:
“Go away I’m sleeping,” and something else which I can’t remember, I closed my door and settled down in the straw once more. Tich thumped my door and yelled:
“Beyancca’s a lazy horse! Everybody! B’s lazy! She’s even more lazy than Fleur, and that’s saying something!” Being compared to Fleur was not very nice. I burst out of my box, scaring Tich into silence. He looked at me with a mixture of sorrow and fear.
“Look, B’, I’m really sorry, I am! I never meant to offend you, honest I didn’t!” he whinnied. I smiled down at the tiny creature.
“Tich, please listen to me dear. You haven’t offended me in the slightest. Foals will do what you did, I know that. It’s natural to play up the grown horses, as long as you don’t do it too much mind you. Here, Wan’a try something?” I asked. With that I sank to my knees and said:
“Go on Tich, get on my back.” The foal, obviously excited by the prospect of being lifted up to undreamed of heights, asked:
“What’s this for?”
“Our journey, don’t you remember?” I asked. Tich thought for a while.
“Yeah, sorry. You see, so much has happened since we thought about it, that I’d forgotten.” He looked at the leap he’d have to attempt to make it onto my back.
“Um, B’, I can’t get up there, I’m too short, and I can’t jump that high!” I lay down fully, resting on my chest.
“Try that,” I suggested. Tich made a huge leap and landed smack in the middle of my back.
“Now scramble up towards my mane, gently now, that’s better. Now take hold of my mane with your teeth, and hold on with your hooves as best you can Tich, I don’t want you falling off! Your mum would never forgive me!” I said. Tich did as I asked and was soon lying on my back, with as much of my mane as he could get in his mouth.
“All right B’, lift me up now,” he mumbled. As I got slowly to my feet, Tich let go of my mane and squealed:
“yeehaa! I’m going up in the world!”
“Not for very much longer if you don’t hold on Tich!” I warned him. I felt him take a smaller chunk of my mane in his teeth than he had before.
When I was satisfied that Tich was safe, I moved off slowly. Tich pressed himself into my fur as I got more confident that he wouldn’t fall off, and subsequently moved slightly quicker. As we passed the restaurant we met with Silver. She asked me:
“Where’s Tich? I ‘aven’t seen ‘im in ages.” I glanced over my shoulder to where the tiny foal was lying on my back. Silver took a few paces backwards, craned her neck upwards as far as she could, and still couldn’t see her foal. Where is ‘e? I can’t see ‘im.” I gestured towards my back.
“Tich is there, on my back,” I said conversationally. Silver nearly had a fit!
“You what! ‘e’s up there? That ‘igh?” she screeched.
“Yeah, but ‘e’s perfectly safe,” I replied. Silver snapped:
“I’ll be the judge of that, and don’t drop your H’s!”
“Sorry,” I said contritely.
“I should think so! Just because I do it don’t mean you ‘ave to also.” I replied:
“It was meant to be a joke, have you heard of those?” Tich thought this hilarious.
“Well said B’!” he yelled. Silver was unimpressed.
“You’s a fine one to talk. You’s the one who entices my foal to get on your back, just to scare the crap out of me.”
“No Silver, that’s not the reason for it dear. You remember we discussed going on a journey to somewhere?” Silver remembered it all right.
“Yeah, I do. But what’s that got to do with Tich ‘aving a ride on your back?” I sighed with exasperation.
“Silver, do you remember I suggested that you and Tich hitch a ride on mine and Josh’s backs? You wouldn’t make the journey on foot, you’d be exhausted before we’d got half way.” Silver considered this for a bit and replied:
“Yeah, see what you mean, but Tich ain’t travelling on Josh’s back! ‘e travels with you, or ‘e don’t go, and if ‘e don’t go, I won’t neither,” she said firmly.
“Why can’t Josh carry Tich? He’s perfectly safe you know,” I said. Silver screwed up her face with disgust:
“I ain’t ‘aving Tich travel on Josh’s back and that’s final!” She bellowed.
“Well, I see no trouble with that Silver. You see, Josh holds no ill will towards you. It’s you who holds the grudge, and it’s a stupid one at that,” I said. Silver suddenly looked very unhappy.
“Can you set Tich down on the ground? I need to talk with ‘im,” she said faintly. I did so, and both mother and foal disappeared into their temporary home, Fleur’s old box to be precise. Fleur had been moved to the next door one a few weeks previously, but she hadn’t complained, when she realised who’d be renting her home.
Silver collapsed onto the straw and beckoned Tich to do the same. Once they were lying together, Silver looked over at Tich and said:
“Do you love me Tich?” This question startled the tiny foal:
“What a stupid question that is! Yes of course I do mum, why would you ask something like that?” Silver looked close to tears.
“I’ve been a total bitch to you Tich. I ‘aven’t let you find your own way, I know I should’ve, but I didn’t. I’m bloody sorry Tich! I’m gonna try ‘arder from now on to let you find your own way, But if you are at all uncertain about anything at all, you come to me and ask me. I’m not leaving you Tich, don’t think that for one minute, I’m just letting you find out for yourself. Of course, if you are in danger from what you’ve found out, then I’ll warn you off, but apart from that I’m letting you go and find out what the yard’s like. I’ve been stupid about this, really I ‘ave.” Tich stared at his mother in Shock!
“Look, mum, please listen to me. My revolt over your overprotectivness towards me doesn’t mean I want you to leave me totally, I don’t want that! I don’t! Please don’t leave me mum!” Tich begged. Poor Silver, seeing the state her foal was in, tried to comfort him.
“Don’t be silly Tich, I ain’t gonna leave you love! Never! Whatever made you think I would?” Tich was crying now.
“I don’t know mum,” he sobbed. Silver hugged the tiny creature to her.
“I will try ‘arder Tich, promise,” she said softly. Silver added:
“Now dry your eyes dear, don’t cry, there’s a good chap.” She gently brushed the tears away from Tich’s eyes with her muzzle. Tich worked closer to his mother and rested his head on her shoulder.
Josh found them like that five minutes later. He stuck his head in at their door and found Tich and Silver lying in the straw.
“’ere they are! I’ve found Silver and Tich! Proper sweet they look n’all!” he yelled. This unwanted row woke Silver and brought her bursting out of the box.
“Shut it Josh!” She snapped. Josh, realising what he’d done, fled from the scene as fast as he could. Silver stamped back into the box and slammed the door hard! Her banging about woke Tich. Yawning, he said:
“Hi mum, what’s the time?” Silver looked at her foal in astonishment!
“You expect me to be able to tell the time?” She asked.
“Well yeah, I can, and I’m only three weeks old,” Tich replied. Silver had to confess to her foal that she couldn’t tell the time.
“You what? That’s awful!” Tich exclaimed.
“I know, but my mum never taught me. Where the ‘ell did you learn anyway?” Tich thought about it.
“Um, Chantilly taught me I think. Yes, that’s right, she did,” he replied. Silver stretched and yawned:
“What’s this about a journey Tich?” She asked sleepily. Tich explained about the journey, or what he could remember of it at least.
“So we’ve still got’a decide where we’re gonna go?” His mother asked.
“yeah mum, that’s about the size of it,” Tich replied. Silver said:
“B’ said something about a ‘uge place with lots of ‘umans in it, where can that be?” Tich suddenly had a flash of inspiration.
“Hang on a minute mum, I heard the Manageress say something about a large place called Ipswich, where’s that?”
“’ere yeah! That’s right Tich! Ipswich of course! That must ‘ave been where B’ was referring to! Yeah, it is large, and a lot of ‘umans do live there, although b’ says it’s more of a “club and pub town” whatever one of those is.” The foal asked:
“Is it a place where horses go? Do humans like horses in their towns? I use the word because I’ve heard you use it, but mum, what is a town?” Silver smiled at Tich:
“A town is like a ‘uge stableyard for ‘umans. They build them and live in them. Some of them are even larger than Ipswich. The ‘umans call their large towns cities.” Tich was fascinated by this.
“All right, I’ve got it now. But who looks after the humans? They look after us, I know that, but who looks after them?” Silver laughed slightly:
“Noone Tich love, noone. The ‘umans look after themselves.” Tich was mystified.
“But how? They can’t! Can they?”
“Why yes Tich dear, they can, and they do. Whether they do it well is another matter, but they do,” his mother replied. Tich jumped to his feet and ran out into the barn. He cannoned into Confiada who was not very impressed by his conduct.
“Get out of my way scrap!” she ordered. Seeing who he’d crashed into, Tich fled in terror. Confiada, angry and hurt from a run in with Coquin, the resident stallion, was not in the mood for foals, least of all Tich. She stamped off in a raging fury! Tich rejoined his mother and they both went in search of me.
They found me in the top field eating grass. Tich came scampering up to me and skidded to a halt beside me.
“Mum’s worked out that the place you were referring to about the journey was Ipswich, is that right Beyancca?” He panted.
“Yes Tich, that’s right,” I confirmed. Tich asked:
“When can we go there? It sounds a great place!” I smiled at the tiny creature’s eagerness.
“How about tomorrow?” I suggested. Silver looked worried.
“Tomorrow’s Saturday B’. Saturday in Wickham Market’s ‘ell! So Ipswich will be doubly ‘ell won’t it?”
“Yeah, that’s half the fun,” I replied. Silver grimaced:
“No it ain’t! I ‘ate crowded places! I’m short, and crowds make me feel even shorter! I know ‘orses can be tall, but ‘umans are ‘uge! Some of them grow to be nine feet tall I’ve ‘eard!” I laughed, despite my attempts not to.
“No no Silver, that isn’t right. Humans grow to six feet tall sometimes, seven in extreme cases, but never nine dear.” I replied. Silver was uncertain.
“Are you sure? Promise me that?” She asked.
“yeah, promise,” I replied. Silver looked up at the sky.
“Nice day today,” she mused.
“Mmm yeah, is isn’t it.” Josh agreed. Tich asked:
“Mum, who was Rosie?” The question startled Silver and sent me into a cold sweat.
“If Silver suggests he ask Jinja, and he does ask him, well Jinja’ll go mad!” I thought franticly.
“Rosie? I knew her,” I said quickly, hoping Tich would ask me about her and spare Jinja the torment of talking about his wife, which he dislike doing, as talking about her upset him too much. Tich asked:
“Who was Rosie? What was she in the yard? Was she well known?” I asked:
“Where did you hear about her?” Tich thought about my question for a bit.
“An old horse was talking to another about a mare named Rosie. He seemed to know her well,” he replied.
“Tich overheard Jinja talking about her,” I thought. What I said a few sentences back isn’t quite true. It is that if Jinja talks about Rosie on his own terms, he’s fine. But if another horse, a foal for example, asks him about her, well then he’ll go to pieces. I heard someone shouting to me from across the field. Turning round I saw Brydy being loaded into a lorry!
I sprinted across to the fence and leapt it! Josh and Silver did likewise. Until then I’d never seen Silver jump that high, but she did. We landed on the other side just as the ramp was pulled up.
“Brydy, where the hell’re you going?” I shouted. Brydy kicked at the ramp.
“I’m being taken away from here. It’s very short notice and I’m sorry for not saying farewell, but I’ve got to go. Sorry Beyancca, I really am! I only knew five minutes ago, the grape vine failed us this time! I’ve been sold as a companion horse!” The lorry was driving away, Brydy shouted:
“There’s another mare in my place! Her name’s Taliscar, she’s a nut! Totally barmy! Can’t talk any more! See ya! And sorry again!” Then she was gone, for ever I found out later.
Brydy’s sudden departure saddened me greatly. She’d been a great friend to me, sometimes my only friend, and now she was no longer in the yard, sold to another human because that human had a field which was dust free.
“Better for Brydy,” I thought. I wondered what this mare named Taliscar was like. Was she totally barmy as Brydy had said? I didn’t know then, but I know now.
Josh, Silver and I returned to the field, and a very confused foal.
“Who was that? And why are you all looking hacked off?” We told him. Me in resigned terms. I knew Brydy’d never come back. Silver in less guarded tones, she swore a bit, and Josh, well, he let fly with everything he had! He made it quite plain what he thought of Taliscar, for he’d met her, or so he said.
“She’s barmy! I can’t abide ‘er! She’s a step down from Carmen! She’s a cow!” Suddenly josh received a hard shove in the shoulder, actually spinning him round! Chantilly stood there, her fur bristling with anger!
“What did I ‘ear you say about Taliscar? I thought I ‘eard you call ‘er a cow? She isn’t! ‘ow would you like to be branded a brute by every ‘orse in the place when you’d only been in the yard for two weeks and no ‘orse knew you? ‘cos that’s what you’re doing with ‘er, you’ve branded ‘er a cow before you’ve even took the time to get to know ‘er you sod!” Chantilly butted Josh hard in his shoulder, making him stagger backwards!
“Get out of my bloody sight!” She screamed. Josh fled!
“Ignore ‘im Tich, ‘e’s being unreasonable,” Chantilly said crossly. Tich looked into Chantilly’s eyes, well he tried to.
“You been mistreated at your former home?” He asked. The shock on Chantilly’s face was pitiful.
“Yeah, bloody awful it was, but ‘ow the ‘ell did you know? You ‘aven’t told ‘im something you shouldn’t ‘ave, ‘ave you Silver? B’?” Chantilly asked incredulously. Both Silver and I denied having told Tich anything, for we hadn’t. Tich’d just worked it out for himself.
“I can feel it Chantilly, I knew you’d had a hard life the moment you spun Josh round to have a go at him,” Tich confessed. Chantilly dropped to her knees and nuzzled the tiny creature.
“Would you come to Ipswich with us Chantilly?” Tich asked.
“Yeah, all right, if you like,” she replied. I raised my nose to the wind, the smell of wood preservative had almost trebled in strength! Chantilly saw my discomfort and said:
“You ‘ate the wood preservative? I ‘ate that also so you’re not alone, bloody awful stuff that is.” Silver looked at the stable clock, which could just be seen through the trees.
“I wish my mother ‘ad taught me ‘ow to tell the time,” she said to herself. Chantilly asked:
“Instead of ‘inting that you’d like to know what the time is, why don’t you bloody ask?” Silver laughed nervously:
“What’s the time?” She asked.
“Quarter to two in the afternoon Silver,” Chantilly replied. The subject of where we were journeying to had flown out of our minds, so I brought it back, kicking and screaming with protest though it was.
“So where’re we gonna go?” I asked.
“Ipswich of course, I thought we’d already sorted that,” Tich replied.
“YEAH, I know Ipswich, but where in Ipswich? It’s a large place with lots of everything in it,” I said. Tich asked:
“Beyancca, what’s a club and pub town?” I explained that a club and pub town was one where the available space for building was ninety five percent under night clubs and pubs. Although my actual explanation to Tich was longer than that as he didn’t understand planning regulations.
“These pubs and clubs, what do humans do in them?” the foal asked.
“Get Pissed in the first, damage their hearing in the second and take drugs in both,” Silver replied. This reply wasn’t what I, or Chantilly for that matter, would have given ourselves, or expected from Silver, but she had given it, and now the misconceptions on both her, and her foal’s parts would have to be cleared up. Chantilly had a go.
“I’m afraid Silver’s wrong, well in part anyway. There is a drug culture in clubs, some of them at least, but never in pubs. Yeah, they get drunk in pubs, so that is taking drugs in a way. But they don’t take the drugs that Silver’s on about in pubs.” Tich looked confused:
“Chantilly, is getting drunk the same as getting pissed?” Chantilly snorted:
“Yeah it is, and I wish you ‘adn’t used that word Silver!” Silver looked downcast. I heard a horse limping towards us. Looking round I saw Confiada coming towards us. The poor mare looked in a bad way.
“You all right Confiada?” I asked. Confiada turned her head at the sound of my voice, her face was full of pain.
“No, no I’m not. You know I busted my leg when I fell in the yard ages ago? Well that’s become infected, and it’s giving me hell! It’s a disgusting sight, the wound I mean. Having it hosed and then dressed was awful! I went to hell and back in five minutes flat! All right, all credit to the humans, they did their best to soothe me, but carrots couldn’t get rid of the pain. All right, they did for a few seconds, but then I was conscious of the pain again and then, well then it was worse! You know what? I have to go through that every dam day from yesterday to I don’t know when!” Confiada limped across to me and rested her head on my shoulder. The poor mare was shaking.
“Beyancca, I can’t cope with this for much longer,” she sobbed. I tried nuzzling her cheek. Confiada’s usual reaction to this sort of attention was to kick and snap at the horse who was kind enough to give her it. But now, now was different, so much different from those other times. Confiada, for the first time in her life, was truly vulnerable. She was an injured horse herself now, at the mercy of others more fit and mobile than herself, and she was scared, really frightened! Confiada saw for the first time, all the hurt and anger she’d caused during her years of abusing other horses, about to come back at her and slap her hard in the face. She was trying a damage limitation strategy if you like. Josh had returned, I knew he had when he lost his cool.
“’ow the ‘ell can you do that mum! You’s ‘ugging that bitch! You’s ‘ugging our worst enemy! By doing that you’s like ‘er through and through! Why would you ‘ug ‘er when she’s done you and your ‘erd so much damage?” I explained my views that a horse is a horse, and that comes first, despite what their character might be like.
“You ain’t a field ‘orse ‘ater then mum?” Josh asked.
“Well, no I’m not. I was in a relationship with one Josh, still am in fact,” I told him. Josh nearly went crazy!
“you’s in a relationship with a Field ‘orse? ‘ow can you be loving a field ‘orse? I ‘ate them, I’m a yard ‘orse, you’s also a yard ‘orse, so you should ‘ate Field ‘orses also, but you don’t, ‘ow can this be?” I said deliberately:
“‘cos you’s a breedist and I’m not.” Josh nearly kicked me!
“Were you taking the piss out of me? I ain’t a bloody breedist!” he screeched.
No no Josh, I wasn’t taking the P. Why should I do that? Another thing, you are a breedist if you hold those views,” I replied. Josh stormed off screaming something about:
“You can count me out of the trip to Ipswich!”
“Teenagers, who’d ‘ave them?” Silver asked wearily.
“And then there were four,” Tich remarked. I said:
“No Tich, Josh’ll come along with us. I’ll talk with him and make him see sense.” Silver sighed:
“’e’s a breedist then,” she said sadly.
“No Silver, but that’s what it looks like at the moment. I’ll talk with him, he hates Confiada that’s all.” During all this carry on, Confiada had been resting her weight on my shoulder, taking the strain off her injured leg in the process. I hadn’t minded up until then, but I was beginning to feel the elder mare’s weight.
“Confiada, could you, could you possibly stand upright for a bit? My shoulder’s becoming stiff,” I said. Confiada complained:
“But my leg hurts!” I replied:
“I know Confiada, I know dear.” Confiada exploded:
“What crap you talk! You haven’t got a bloody clue what I’m going through Beyancca, you haven’t I tell you!”
“Ah well, if that was true, then it would be true that I haven’t got any idea what it’s like, but I have. I’ve been injured too you know, by you I think,” I said quietly. Confiada’s groan of misery was strangely satisfying.
What’s the time now?” Silver asked. Chantilly shook herself and looked at the stable clock.
“Quarter to five Silver,” she replied. I stretched languidly.
“I’d better get back to the yard, I think I’ve got work to do, worst luck!” Tich said:
“Let them come and get you Beyancca. I don’t know why you insist on going for work, none of the others do.” Chantilly laughed:
“That’s the attitude!” She whooped. Yawning expansively I lay down and stretched out on the grass, The day was three quarters done and I was shattered. Having had one run in with Josh and consoling a tearful and much distressed mare, I was beaten! I know that doesn’t sound much, but it takes it out of you.
“I’ll have five minutes that’s all,” I thought. I drifted off. The next thing I knew was Chantilly bashing the life out of my nose with hers!
“Oi Beyancca! Wake up you lazy ‘orse!” She yelled.
“Ay? What?” I asked blearily.
“You’ve been asleep for hours! The Manageress ‘as been wondering where you’ve got to for the last two!” Chantilly replied. I struggled to my feet, yawning all the time.
“Yeah, thanks Chantilly,” I said dreamily. Stumbling and weaving my way across the field I got to thinking about my work. Was I enjoying it as much as I used to? I didn’t know.
On reaching the yard I found the Manageress standing by the office come tackroom. I could tell, full of sleep though I was, that she was not amused.
“Where the hell have you been! I’ve been looking all over the place for you!” She shouted. I just stood there, I didn’t know what else to do.
“So where were you? What’s the excuse this time?” Ruby asked. She was always getting at me, snide comments, worse than Confiada’s they were sometimes. I tried to ignore her.
“Come on Beyancca, where were you? The Manageress wants to know, and we don’t keep the darling humans waiting now do we,” Ruby teased. I’d had enough! I whipped round and struck out at Ruby with all my force! My boot caught her on her nose, sending her squealing into her box.
“That’ll bloody teach you, don’t mess with me!” I shrieked. The Manageress caught, and held me.
“Don’t be such a bloody idiot!” She snapped. I stood, pawing at the ground and panting hard. Once she had tied me to a ring in the wall, the Manageress attended to Ruby.
“She’s cut your nose Ruby,” The Manageress said.
“Yeah, stupid Bitch she is! I don’t know why we elected her leader in the first place!” Ruby yelled.
“Now that’s quite enough of that!” The Manageress snapped back.
“You elected her so you live with it! Taunting Beyancca like that isn’t right and you dam well know it Ruby! She doesn’t need it, not when she’s going through what she is at the moment with Silver and Josh. B’ needs all the support she can get, not you hassling her over every little thing.”
“You call being late for work a little thing?” Ruby asked. The Manageress replied:
“yes I do. Anyway she’s not that late. I always send out a search party hours before she’s due in for work. I know what being herd leader’s like.” Ruby asked:
“How the hell can you know what being herd leader’s like? You aren’t a horse.”
“I run the stableyard though, that’s a hard job in itself, so I’m leader in a way.” Once Ruby’s nose was bathed, and had a light dressing thing on it, the Manageress left her. She returned to my side and asked what had become of Josh.
“You see, he’s meant to be hacking with you next lesson,” The Manageress concluded. I sighed:
“Last time I saw him, he was running across the fields after a row.”
“Oh yeah? What was this row about?” The human asked. I replied:
“Oh, breedism, the way I treat Confiada, even though she’s done the herd immeasurable damage in the past, that sort of thing. Nothing really, at least nothing I can’t handle with the rest of the herd.” I heard the familiar dead pan clop of Josh’s hooves as he came up and drew alongside me. I wondered fleetingly why Josh hadn’t asked for the same
mountain boots that the rest of us wore. Fleur wore them, so why couldn’t josh? As if he’d read my mind, Josh stopped the Manageress as she left to get his tack, and asked:
“Any chance I could ‘ave a set of them boots?” The Manageress disappeared into the tackroom, and reappeared three seconds later with a hoof knife and a file type thing. Lifting each of Josh’s feet, she filed the hard wall of the hoof down until it was even and rounded, not ragged and scuffed as it had been. Then she grabbed a tape measure thing out of her pocket and measured Josh’s hooves.
“Size ten! You’ve got large feet Josh,” she remarked.
“’ave you ever seen a shire ‘orse with small feet?” Josh inquired. The human ignored him and fled into the barn for a set of boots. Josh had never worn horseshoes in his life, so there was no awkward shoe removal to do. The Manageress appeared with a set of boots and strapped them onto Josh’s feet.
“You’re done now,” she confirmed.
“’ang on a minute ‘uman. What’ll ‘appen when my ‘ooves grow? I can’t file them myself,” Josh said. The Manageress told him that she’d keep an eye on his hooves and he’d no need to worry. Josh clomped about a bit, getting used to the boots. I thought:
“That’s weird, no mention of our disagreement so far.” Josh was tacked up and his rider got on. I had to take a second look, but I was sure the rider was James Neil! I whispered to Josh:
“You know who you’re carrying?” Josh smiled grimly.
“yeah, course I know. Don’t worry mum, if ‘e gives me any shit, I’ll not give ‘im a bloody chance to ‘ave another go,” He replied. We moved off.
It was plain to me why the Manageress had put James Neil on Josh. She knew that Josh didn’t care what he did to unwelcome humans. He had no scruples about bucking or rearing until the human thudded onto the ground. Where I had been trained never to buck, and found it almost impossible to anyway, Josh had no such training. He was wild! He didn’t care what the humans thought of him, and he often told them what he thought of them.
“If they don’t like me, sod them,” was his attitude. We struck out along the track leading away from the yard. I kept in close contact with Josh for as long as I could. James Neil seemed to be behaving himself, so I quickened my pace and ended up where I rightfully belonged, at the front of the string. My rider was a novice, so I had the run of the place, as he couldn’t stop me, he didn’t know how. I wasn’t brutal to the human, no, it was just that herd duties overrode those of hacking by miles.
I caught up with Jinja and indicated to him that he should slow down a bit. This was possible for the Manageress was riding Ruby, and Ruby was giving her hell. This left Jinja and I space to talk without human interference.
“Jinja, Confiada’s in a bad way. She isn’t very happy with her situation,” I said.
“You don’t say Beyancca. I had her banging on all dam morning about it! She’s brought it on herself you know! It was her, not the rider who caused her to fall! She’s a bitch! A total bitch! And don’t let her sway you into thinking otherwise!” I rubbed Jinja’s nose with mine.
“Don’t let her bother you Jinj’,” I said gently. Jinja looked sad.
“it isn’t just Confiada, Tich came to me today, he wanted to know about Rosie. I tried to tell him, but emotion got in the way and I’m afraid I broke down in front of him. Tich was very understanding, he would be, that foal’s got the patience of a saint and the constitution of an ox! I tried to explain why I’d reacted the way I had. But I feel I might have been a little harsh with him. I got angry, with myself mostly, but I made it look as if Tich had angered me with his questions. Now I’ve probably screwed it all up! Blown it out of the window and down the lane never to return!” When I was sure he’d quite finished his lament, I said:
“I’ll talk to Tich and Silver. They both need to know the truth about Rosie, and I know you can’t tell them.”
“I’d never get through it B’,” Jinja admitted. We dropped back into line with the rest of the string. The Manageress was still having problems with Ruby, who saw her light treatment of me over my lateness for work as a sell out, and now was the time that she could make the Manageress pay for her apparent favouritism towards me. Ruby disobeyed every command the human gave her. The Manageress used her crop on Ruby, for the first time I think. Ruby was so shocked by the use of the crop that she behaved from then on, grudging though her compliance was. We completed our hack and returned to the riding stable without further incident.
Once my tack was removed, and Josh was tagging along, I went in search of Tich and Silver. We found them in their temporary home, Silver attempting to console a tearful foal. Seeing us, Silver settled Tich down and came out to meet us.
“I tried to tell ‘im all about Rosie, as much as I knew anyway,” she said. She continued:
“All was fine until I got to the point where she died. Then, Tich just went to pieces! I don’t want ‘im to ‘ave nightmares about it, I really don’t!” Silver wailed. She calmed down a bit and said:
“I know ‘e knows I’m not telling the full truth. I can’t! I don’t wan’a bugger Tich’s mind up for the rest of ‘is life do I!” Can’t you do something? ‘ow about you Josh, you ‘ave Tich’s trust, ‘e might listen to you, ‘cos I know next to nothing about what ‘appened after Rosie died, the ghost thing or whatever it was. I can’t tell ‘im what went on, but you could, and you also Beyancca. Please, try and put my foal’s mind at rest that Rosie’s all right now.” I shook myself hard.
“Right, let’s see what we can do,” I said. I won’t go into huge details about the long chats that Josh and I had with Tich. Except to say that we told him everything, right down to the last encounter with Rosie’s spirit. The part where Confiada got a dressing down from Rosie made Tich laugh.
“She deserved that!” he whooped. Tich’s euphoria at Rosie’s triumph over Confiada was short lived however. He was plunged back into misery when we told him that Rosie had had to leave Jinja for ever.
“That was why Jinja was so upset when I asked him?” The foal asked.
“yeah, pretty much Tich,” Josh replied.
I will now move on to Saturday morning. This was the day that Chantilly, Josh, Silver, Tich and I were due to go into Ipswich for the day. Tich awoke that day, very excited by the coming adventure. Silver on the other hand was dreading it. Despite my promises to the contrary, she was still convinced that humans grew to be nine feet tall.
“Hi mum, sleep well did you?” Tich asked.
“Was that meant to be a joke?” Silver asked.
“Well, no it wasn’t. Why? Didn’t you sleep well?” Her foal asked. Silver grimaced:
“No I didn’t, and the reason why is this. I’ve been fretting about them ‘uge ‘umans who live in Ipswich. Them ‘umans are ‘uge! I know they are! It’s not that I don’t trust Beyancca’s assurances that they aren’t, it’s just that I’m short, you’re even shorter than me, and I don’t want us to be lost in the crowds of ‘uman life! The place is gonna be packed! Is it a match day today? You read the paper Tich, I don’t, I was never taught to read.” Tich thought for a bit.
“yeah, Ipswich Norwich game,” he confirmed.
“You what! That’s worse! Worse than anything! The place’s gonna be full of football ‘uligans! ‘umans will be rolling out of them pubs, which Beyancca assures us cover ninety five percent of the space, throwing up everywhere, fighting each other, and us I don’t doubt, barging, pushing, shouting, and swearing, it’s gonna be ‘ell!”
“you do enough of that for the whole of Suffolk mum,” Tich said.
“What? Do enough of what for the whole of Suffolk?” his mum asked.
“Swear, that’s what mum,” Tich replied. Silver was outraged!
“’ow the bloody ‘ell can you say that!”
“Quite easily, there you go again,” her foal replied. Tich continued:
“Mum, have you ever heard me swear?” Silver thought for a while.
“Once, or twice,” she replied. Tich said:
“You do it at least five million zillion times a day! You drop your H’s as well, that’s a bad habit.” Silver asked:
“Who do you think you are? Beryl Bainbridge?”
“Who?” Tich asked.
“No matter,” Silver replied. the subject flew out of their minds. Silver got up and stretched. She said:
“Time to go and get ourselves trampled under ‘umans,”
“Don’t be so dramatic about it mum, it’s gonna be all right,” Tich said. Silver paused on her way out of the door.
“I ain’t so sure,” she admitted.
The two Shetland ponies found me sleeping soundly in my box.
“Shh Tich, B’s asleep dear,” Silver whispered.
“Not for much longer,” Tich replied. He shouted:
“hey Beyancca! Oi lazy mare! Get up there!” Silver was appalled:
“Tich! Shut up, shut up!” She shouted. In the end it was just as much Silver’s shouts as Tich’s yelling that woke me. Groaning pitifully, I struggled to my feet and weaved my way blearily across my box.
“Yeah, what’s going on?” I asked drowsily.
“We’re going to Ipswich today, you remember that don’t you Beyancca?” Tich asked.
“Oh yeah that thing, but is that all? I thought it was life threatening,” I mumbled. Silver said:
“yeah well, your innocent trip to Ipswich might be life threatening.” I snapped into full consciousness.
“What’s that?” I asked. Tich replied:
“Oh nothing B’, really it isn’t. Mum’s got this idea in her head that she’s gonna get trampled by rampaging humans if she sets foot in Ipswich, she’s really silly!” I shook myself hard. Josh came round the corner from the riding school. He’d just been groomed and looked fabulous. while waving a boot in Josh’s direction: Silver yelled:
“Look at ‘im!” If a horse could be said to blush, Josh certainly did. His embarrassment was plain for all to see. He slunk into my box, obviously wishing the ground would swallow him. Tich sniped at his mum.
“You really know how to embarrass a horse don’t you!” Silver wailed agrievedly:
“Can’t you take a complement Josh?” Josh hid his head in the furthest corner of my box. I thumped his nose with mine.
“Come on Josh you silly thing, pull yourself together mate!” I urged. Josh smiled nervously. He said:
“It’s not usual for a mare to comment on an ‘orse’s appearance when ‘e comes out from being groomed.” I replied:
“Well you’ve got one now.” Josh shook himself.
“That’s better, Back to my old self,” he said. Josh’s shaking fit had succeeded in doing what he wanted. Whoever had groomed Josh had made sure his mane lay in handsome swaths on his neck. After he’d shaken himself it looked like it always had, that is to say it looked not unlike a haystack! Josh stamped about a bit:
“Got’a work these boots in,” he said. Silver surveyed Josh’s work with his mane and sighed heavily:
“You ‘aven’t got any idea ‘ow nice your mane looked before you did that,” she said dreamily.
“I don’t want a relationship with you Silver!” Josh screamed.
“’ave you ever ‘eard of admiration?” Silver asked gently. Josh turned away from her and stalked out of the box.
“’e don’t know what ‘e stirs in me B’, ‘e really doesn’t!” Silver said. I warned her:
“Josh doesn’t want to get into a relationship with you Silver. Why ruin a good friendship?”
“friendship? But he ‘ates me!” Silver protested.
“No Silver, what rubbish you talk. Josh doesn’t hate you dear, he doesn’t. He’ll stand by you and Tich as long as you need him,” I told her. Silver thought about it.
“Yeah, I suppose so,” she said quietly.
“I don’t suppose, I know so!” I replied. Josh reappeared, helped Tich on to his back, and then both of them disappeared while his mother and I watched them go, Silver too surprised, and me too tired to stop them.
“Josh thinks the world of Tich, he won’t hurt him silver,” I reassured her. The heavy clomping of Josh’s feet receded into the distance.
“Where the ‘ell ‘as ‘e taken ‘im?” Silver asked.
“I’m not a mind reader Silver, for all I know they could have gone anywhere.” Silver squealed shrilly:
“What! Don’t say that Beyancca! Josh’s taken Tich away and you ‘aven’t got a bloody clue where? Tell me you didn’t say that! Tell me!” Of course I couldn’t lie to her, I had said what I had, and that was that. Silver exploded:
“You brought ‘im to this yard you Bitch! You’s the one who’s to blame in all this! You adopted that, that monster of an ‘orse! ‘e don’t give a dam about Tich, ‘e don’t! As far as Josh’s concerned, my foal’s a plaything, a toy! ‘e don’t care what ‘appens to ‘im!” I ignored her insults, threats and anything else she threw at me, for I knew them to be all froth and of no substance. I said irritably:
“Look Silver, shut it for a bit will you. Less mouth and more brain is needed from you I think.” Silver screamed at me!
“You bitch! You bloody cow! I ‘ave a right to air my concerns about my foal’s safety don’t I? You don’t seem to think I ‘ave that right. You tell me to shut it! But I won’t, I won’t! I’m gonna keep saying what I ‘ave to, until Josh comes back with my foal! I want Tich back ‘ere with me, and ‘e’d better be safe! Cos if ‘e ain’t, I’m gonna tear Josh to Pieces!” The thought of Silver ripping into Josh was laughable.
“No you won’t Silver, you’d be killed within five seconds. If you make a serious challenge to Josh, he’ll take you up on it, and he’ll win, be sure of that Silver. Be sure that if you pick a fight with Josh he’s not going to be soft on you at all. He will fight you as he would any other horse, and that fight will be very one sided, so I’d back off if I were you,” I cautioned. Silver looked close to tears.
“I don’t mean to be a cow Beyancca, but Tich is all I ‘ave in this world, everything! If I lose ‘im, well I’d go mad, probably eat raggwert or something, it wouldn’t be pleasant anyway.” I knew all what she was telling me. Silver was trying so hard to let her foal find his own way in life, but it was hard for her. She looked down the yard towards the lane.
“I wonder what they’re doing, Tich and Josh. Are they all right? Is Josh frightening the life out of Tich by performing stunts while he’s on his back?” Silver asked herself these, and many other questions. She started to say:
“I can’t stand this any longer! I’m going,,,” when Josh came trotting into the yard with Tich running along beside him. Tich ran to his mother and nearly knocked her flying!
“Be careful Tich!” Silver screeched. Tich swerved at the last moment and cannoned into me instead. He picked himself up and looked at his mum.
“So what ‘appened?” Silver asked suspiciously. Tich‘s eyes lit up.
“We left the yard, and then, well, it was wonderful! Josh told me to hang on tight and then he loaped! It was fantastic! I’ve never gone that quick in my life before!” All through this, Josh was grinning from ear to ear. It was clear he’d enjoyed it almost as much as the foal had.
“’adn’t we better be getting to Ipswich now?” Josh asked. So with that, Josh took charge of Silver, I took charge of Tich and we set off for the wide world, picking Chantilly up on route of course.
We took the quickest route I knew. We went across fields and pastures that ran alongside the A12 that ran through the town of Wickham Market. We cantered, or trotted, or just walked through many fields of rape seed, wheat and other crops. Horses know nothing about land ownership.
We arrived in Ipswich town centre at about midday. Both Silver and Tich were impressed by the size of the place, but Silver said she wouldn’t get off Josh’s back and walk, because she was scared that one of “them nine foot tall ‘umans,” as she put it, would come round the corner and eat her. Tich on the other hand, well he had no worries about walking in the county town. He was soon walking alongside me as we made our way through the town centre. Yes it was crowded, but Saturdays always are, and today was no exception. The sight of four horses loose in the streets caused a lot of constination, I think some busybody called the RSPCA, but they didn’t catch us. Anyway, it was of our own free will that we travelled, and it would be of our own free will to return to whence we came. Nothing much happened for about three hours, and we were beginning to wonder whether anything would, when Chantilly noticed another horse tied up beside, well, you wouldn’t believe it, beside a pub called “the great white horse.” This horse was a Chestnut mare, not white, and she looked at us incuriously, until she saw Tich and Silver, then her interest sparked into life. She said:
“You’s tiny ain’t you,” Tich, and I couldn’t blame him for it, took offence at the mare’s tone.
“My mum and I might be slight of stature, but that’s no reason to talk down to us!” The Mare was obviously caught off guard by the little chap’s eloquence.
“’ow many dictionaries did you eat for breakfast?” Silver asked. Her foal looked at her in incomprehension.`
“never mind dear,” His mother said gently. The mare knew she was unwanted by the two Shetland ponies, and, snapping the rope that tied her to the post, she moved off sulkily.
“Got rid of you!” Tich whinnied.
“Be quiet you stupid fool! She might ‘ear you!” Silver snapped.
“That was the idea mum, I don’t care if she does,” Tich replied. Silver looked down at her foal:
“Why do you insist on walking around this ‘uge scary place?” She asked. Tich craned his neck and looked his mum in the eye.
“Because I want to,” he said. Someone shouted:
“What the hell’re Beyancca, Josh, Silver and Tich doing here!”
Shit! We’ve been spotted!” Josh whinnied. He turned to Tich.
“come ‘ere Tich, and get on my back, quick!” he urged. The foal protested:
“But Josh, do I have to?” Josh stamped his foot:
“Of course you bloody do! Come on you silly bugger!” With that Josh lay down and virtually pulled Tich onto his back. Once the foal was safe, Josh leapt to his feet and bolted! Chantilly and I had already made off at a gallop. Silver hung on grimly to Josh’s mane as we fled. We made home at about two thirty, half an hour after leaving Ipswich in a hurry. The Manageress wasn’t pleased.
“What the hell were you doing in Ipswich!” She screamed.
“Um, standing in the town centre, getting abuse from a Chestnut mare, and then getting spotted by some whistle blowing ‘uman,” Josh replied. The Manageress locked us up in our boxes and fastened the kick bolts, something that she hadn’t done in years! Josh was locked in a separate box to me. So, after shouting insults at the human for about five minutes, Josh, with a couple of hefty kicks, broke the door down.
“Freedom at last!” He whooped. Josh ran round to the office, where the Manageress was doing paperwork. Seeing the enraged Shire horse coming at her, the Manageress barricaded herself in the office, slamming and bolting the door. Josh, seeing his path barred by the door, completely lost his already frayed temper!
“You ain’t gonna get away from me that easily ‘uman!” he squealed. Josh smashed the door down and advanced as far as he could into the office.
“yes Josh, what can I do for you?” The Manageress asked.
“You listen to me ‘uman. I ain’t playing games! I’m furious with you! Why the ‘ell did you lock us up? Expressing our need to escape into the wide world isn’t a crime is it? You couldn’t lock me up anyway, ‘ere I am, free!” He whinnied. Josh whirled round and stamped off to my box, where he undid the top bolt and then left it to me to smash the kick bolt till it was useless for anything. Josh did this for all the horses concerned with the Ipswich excursion, and then went to the top field to eat grass. The Manageress, once she was sure Josh wasn’t coming back, settled down to continue with her paperwork.
“Stupid horse, Stupid horse!” She fumed. Suddenly the light was blocked, the Manageress looked up from her work.
“Hi there,” Chantilly said.
“And what do you want?” The human asked. Chantilly sighed heavily:
“You ‘umans ‘aven’t got a sense of adventure ‘ave you,” she lamented. The Manageress started to say:
“Well, if you’d told me where you were going,,,” Chantilly cut her off:
“Yeah, I know. If we’d told you where we were going you’d let us go, right? Well you know, and I know that that ain’t true is it ‘uman. You’d lock us up in our boxes, as you did when we arrived back ‘ere, and never let us go out on our own again!” The Manageress stepped over the smashed door and stood in front of Chantilly.
“I have a good mind to lock you up in your box, top and bottom doors fastened, and not let you out for a fortnight! That is what you deserve! You know nothing of what it is to run a stable yard Chantilly, absolutely nothing! I was concerned for your safety, and when, when I heard you’d ended up in Ipswich, well that was too much! I know you horses have expansionist ideas, but you ain’t having your own independent state! You’re not!”
“Have Josh, or I for that matter, ever said that we wanted one?” Chantilly asked. Taliscar, overhearing Chantilly’s questions said:
“Go for it Chantilly!” The Manageress rounded on Taliscar:
“Not you as well! I’m not, not! Having horses forming their own autonomous state, deciding where they’re going for the day, or, or even holding their own committees on whether to get rid of the humans! I know what you’re like, and I know that we’re
stronger! We Brought you here, you live here because we put you here. Not because you wanted to be here, not because some enterprising horse decided he was going to put up a stable!” Chantilly asked:
“Why does that horse who puts up the stable have to be male? Mares can do it too you know. Man! What happened to equality!” The Manageress was clearly out of her depth.
“Until now I’ve never met an equine feminist!” She screamed. Chantilly turned away and left the now red faced human. Chantilly said under her breath:
“’umans, who’d ‘ave them?” I joined her as she turned towards the track leading to the top field where Josh was already eating grass. Chantilly smiled at me:
“I suppose you ‘eard everything that was said?” That was a rhetorical question, and I knew it, for it was impossible not to overhear everything.
When Chantilly and I reached the top field we found Josh, Tich and Silver already there. Josh was cropping the grass, while Tich and his mother were lying a little way off from Josh, they seemed to be asleep. Chantilly went over to take a look.
“Ah, now ain’t that sweet? Silver and Tich are sound asleep,” she said.
“they won’t be for much longer if you carry on like that, leave them alone Chantilly!” I urged. Chantilly left them and returned to my side.
“’ave you got work today?” She asked. I thought about it for a while.
“Um, yeah, think I have. It’s a western hack at seven o’clock tonight,” I replied. Chantilly stretched out on the grass and closed her eyes.
“Think I’ll sleep ‘ere, it’s as good as anywhere else,” She sighed. With that, Chantilly fell asleep, leaving Josh and I to our own devices. We left the field and trotted back to the yard in companionable silence.
Josh looked at the sky.
“Did you say you ‘ad work tonight?” he asked.
“yeah Josh, that’s right. I think I’m working with Ruby and a Field Horse,” I replied.
“Field ‘orse? Which Field ‘orse?” Josh inquired.
“I don’t know, I think his name begins with H, something like that. Josh snorted:
“You mean Hibou don’t you.”
“I think that was his name,” I replied. Josh snapped:
“I know that’s ‘is name, ‘e’s an antisocial bugger! ‘e’s always got ‘is ears laid back! ‘e’s no fun to be with, well no field ‘orse is any fun to be with, but ‘e’s worse!” Someone said:
“Did I hear my name mentioned?” Looking round I saw Hibou standing behind me. The Field Horse was in range of Josh’s huge boots. The first Hibou knew of this was when he was sent flying! Without warning, Josh had lashed out at him! Hibou landed with a crash on the concrete and lay stunned for a few minutes.
“Hibou’s done nothing to hurt you has he!” I bellowed. Josh looked sulky.
“’e’s a field ‘orse and that’s enough for me mum!” He shouted back.
“you mean you’d do that to every Field horse in the yard, including Balugue?” I asked.
“yeah, and why not? They’re all Field ‘orses and I ‘ate every single one of them! I ‘ate them I tell you!” I lost my temper:
“You breedist! I hate breedist horses and you’re one Josh! You cannot acknowledge a horse’s right to be different from yourself, and I hate you for it! You’re my foal, I know that, but I hate you for what you say about the Field horses that live in this yard!” Josh yelled:
“But mum, you ‘ate them also, you must do!”
“Why must I hate them?” I asked.
“you’re an Irish Draft mare, you must hate them French ‘orses!” I looked at Hibou who had got up and was pacing about in a drunken fashion. He came closer to me and rested his head on my shoulder.
“I feel sick,” he moaned.
“I don’t care Field ‘orse!” Josh snapped. Hibou leant his full weight on my shoulder. The poor Field horse shook violently.
“He must have hit his head as he fell,” I thought. Of course I couldn’t refuse his cry for help, as I couldn’t refuse Confiada’s. Josh on the other hand was unrepentant.
“I can’t believe you mum. ‘ow the ‘ell can you even think of ‘elping a Field ‘orse? What makes you want to ‘elp scum like that? What ‘ave they ever done for us that’s useful? I’ll tell you shall I? Bloody nothing, that’s what!” I bared my teeth at Josh, something that I’d never done before.
“Get out of my sight!” I yelled. Josh fled as fast as he could from my side. Hibou looked into my eyes.
“You’re in love with Jamie aren’t you,” he said. This was a statement, and a tentative one at that, for Hibou obviously felt that he was intruding in the affairs of another herd.
“yeah, I am that,” I replied. Hibou actually smiled, something that was rare for him.
“That’s good, Jamie needs someone who can teach him what’s what,” he said. I reflected that Hibou might be right, I also wondered if Jamie had given up fighting as he’d promised. I asked Hibou about it.
“Jamie? Fight other horses? Is that meant to be a joke?” I noticed he refused to refer to me by name. As Hibou was still resting on my shoulder, I nuzzled his cheek in a friendly way and said:
“You can call me Beyancca if you like.” The poor field horse nearly left the county!
“No, no I, I’d rather Not if, if you don’t mind,” he protested. For Hibou, being told he could consider himself on first name terms with the leader of the yard herd was too much to take. The Field Horse levered his weight off of my shoulder and walked away stiffly.
“Thanks,” he said. I walked slowly towards the office. The Manageress was doing paperwork when I called.
“Ah Beyancca, there you are, been looking for you for ages,” she said. I was just about to ask about the western lesson when the Manageress cut in with:
“There’s a problem with Muffin, she’s too fat, so the vet says. So we’ve put her in the starvation paddock.”
“Poor Muffin,” I thought. The Manageress continued;
“Muffin was the wrong side of one hundred and fifty pounds. Mules are meant to live in rocky country with next to nothing to eat. So that mule’s been living it up a bit too much. Oh yeah, Fleur’s on probation also.”
“Probation? What the hell for? She hasn’t gone and done something stupid has she?” I asked.
“No, it’s rather what she hasn’t done. Fleur’s timesheet has less hours on it than Silver’s and Confiada’s put together!”
“Silver and Confiada are both out of work,” I pointed out.
“Exactly,” the Manageress replied.
“But why is this the case? Fleur’s got a sweet nature, humans like sweet natured horses don’t they? My experience says they do, so why isn’t she getting any work?” The Manageress sighed:
“Fleur’s got a bouncy trot, humans don’t like that, and she’s as thick as two short planks.” I got furious! I whinnied angrily:
“Come on human! You can’t have everything!” Calming down a little I asked:
“What’ll happen to Fleur if she fails her probation, or to be more accurate, if humans don’t give her the work she needs?”
“I’ll sell her Beyancca, I have no other choice.” I exploded:
“Sell her! Why? She’s done no wrong, apart from not being chosen for work, but that isn’t a crime is it? Perhaps she needs a little one to one training, perhaps that’s it.” The Manageress replied:
“That would be the solution to Fleur’s problems, but we can’t get anyone to even get on her! No one ‘ll ride her B’, absolutely noone!” I began to feel my control slipping, I thought:
“Soon I’m gonna lose it and she won’t like it.” I stamped off, much upset by what I’d heard. I made my way to Fleur’s box.
I found Fleur lying on the straw close to tears. On hearing my arrival she lifted her head and looked at me pitifully.
“You’ve heard, you do know what’s gonna happen to me if I don’t get work between now and the autumn,” she stated. I suppose she knew by my expression that I already knew. Fleur sniffed:
“I can’t help the way I am! I’m me and that’s that, I can’t change anything they want me to! I can’t change my trot, that’s always been bouncy and will forever be that way, nor can I take in as much info as they’d like me to, I’m not a brainbox B’! I’m not like you, I failed every challenge that was shoved my way, and now, well now I’m gonna pay for it. I don’t wan’a leave here, here’s my home! And why won’t anyone give me work? Hasn’t any human got the courage to take me on? I’m not a bad horse, I’m not! I’m just slow, I say that for I am told that, and everyone thinks so, so it must be true, but if I am slow, then it takes me more time to pick things up. Won’t anyone give me a chance! Is that too much to ask? Some humans expect us horses to
be identical in ridability. All right, some differences are allowed for, but when it comes to the horse who’s slightly slow at picking things up, or is a little bit difficult for some reason, then they haven’t got the time to teach the horse. I want to do what the humans wish me to do, if only they’d take the time to teach me!” This impassioned speech would have tugged at the heart strings of any right minded horse, but the humans are different. When I say that I don’t mean the humans don’t love their horses or that they have anything wrong with their minds, no, it’s just that the humans have to weigh up the pros and cons of having a horse who noone will ride now, against selling that horse and possibly acquiring a horse who could be ridden now and forefill their needs. So I can see this from both angles, but as Fleur is a horse and I am also, well that means that I am on Fleur’s side on this matter. I asked:
“Do you understand what the Manageress means when she talks about probation?” Fleur looked at me dumbly for a few seconds.
“Yeah, I think she used that word earlier, it’s a sort of test I think. All I know is that if I fail it I’m out of here. It’s not my fault Beyancca, it’s not! I don’t wan’a be difficult!” Fleur started crying:
“I don’t wan’a leave here,” she sobbed. I tried to comfort her as best I could, but to me my words sounded empty and useless.
“You’re not the one with the threat of expulsion Beyancca,” I thought acidly. I said:
“Try from now on, to show the humans that you can work, that you are worthy of a place in the yard. Show them what you can do. Keep your mind on the job you are doing and don’t let it stray until the job’s done,” I advised her.
“I’ll try,” Fleur replied. Once Fleur was settled, I went in search of Muffin. As I walked up the track I thought of Muffin, and of the mindset she might be in.
“She’s gonna be really pissed off,” I thought. I reached what the humans call the “starvation paddock.” What this distasteful plot of land actually is is a field with spas tufts of grass, where the horse, or mule, or whatever grass eating animal who needs to lose weight is housed until they are within their correct weight. Muffin was given water to drink and that was that until she lost several pounds.
I reached the paddock and found Muffin swearing her head off, she brayed:
“I’m here, all on my own! I’ve got next to bugger all to eat, and I’m tired, lonely, and totally pissed off! I can’t stand much more of this! I’m gonna go barmy!” I must say that this outpouring was before she noticed I was standing there. Muffin stopped her torrent and came across to me.
“Sorry about that, but this really pisses me off, does it piss you off?” She asked. I inquired:
“Have you been talking to Silver lately?” The Mule stared at me in astonishment:
“What?” She asked.
“Oh, I just wondered if you’d been talking with Silver lately that’s all Muffin, your language you know,” I replied. Muffin screamed:
“You’re just like Confiada! She gave me a massive lecture about my language! That pissed me off, and you piss me off also! Get out of my life!” I left hurriedly with Muffin’s enraged braying echoing round my head.
I arrived in the yard to find it deserted. After wandering about aimlessly for a few minutes I found myself by the restaurant where Silver had come to grief four days earlier. What happened next is hard to tell, but I’ll try.
The first I knew of anything happening was the sound of what I thought to be drumming in the restaurant, then the door burst open and Tich came flying out into the open. I had no time to react before the little chap cannoned into me at an alarming speed! He literally bounced off me and collapsed in a heap at my feet.
“You all right?” I asked tentatively. Tich looked up at me drowsily.
“My head hurts!” he whimpered. I bit back my next comment, something like:
“I’m not surprised,” and asked:
“Where’s your mum? And who were you running from?” Tich closed his eyes, he was obviously feeling the worse for wear. After a bit Tich opened his eyes and looked up at me.
“Teasel was chasing me! She was chasing me round and round the indoor school and all over the place! In the end I had to slam a door or two and run for my life! I was frightened! That dog’s a vicious thing!” he replied. I said:
“She was only playing I’ll bet.”
“Only playing? You call chasing me until I was worn out playing? Well I dam well don’t!” He shouted. Silver came skidding to a halt beside me. She panted:
“There you is Tich, I’ve been looking all over the place for you! Where the ‘ell ‘ave you been?” Tich recounted the tale he’d just told me.
“That Bloody dog! I’ll kill ‘er!” Silver screamed. I thought that Silver’s prediction might not be too far from the truth. Silver might be small, but Teasel was smaller still, and I’d place my money on Silver to win hooves down, that is if I had money, and agreed with betting, which I don’t. Silver stamped off in search of the Jack Russell named Teasel. I followed nervously, wondering what was about to happen. Tich begged me to carry him on my back, which I gladly did.
“you see Beyancca, I can get a better view of the fight from here, and I’m safe,” He said. I could see that Tich was looking forward to seeing his tormentor getting bashed.
We found Silver and Teasel facing each other across a strip of concrete beside the indoor school. Silver was waiting for Teasel to make the first move, and Teasel was waiting for the Shetland pony to do the same, one had to give in, and Silver was hoping that the Jack Russell would live up to her breed’s insatiable urge for fighting and break her cover. This teasel did, and paid heavily for it. I’d better fill you in at this point on a few details, or you might not understand why Teasel took the action she did. You see, this is horrible, but Teasel was convicted of, well, eating cats! What a disgusting thing! I don’t think she’s heard of mediation to settle her grievances. Well Teasel had been convicted
of eating cats, and therefore she wore a muzzle all the time as protection for the cats. Because of this restraint, Teasel couldn’t bite Silver as she would have liked to, so the Jack Russell leapt into the air and tried to scratch Silver’s eyes out! Silver disposed of the Jack Russell by chipping her over the gate into the field adjoining the indoor school. Teasel flew! Man did she fly! That dog sailed seven feet in the air, over the gate, and landed on her back with a thud. Silver yelled:
“That’ll teach you to chase my foal! You piss me off dog! I ‘ate you to the depths of my ‘atred for dogs, and man ‘ow I ‘ate dogs!” Teasel was in no state to reply to this outpouring of invective. She lay on the grass, with all four paws in the air. I think she was unconscious, but I can’t be sure. Silver walked up to the gate which separated her from the prostrate Jack Russell, leant through the bars, and spat at the dog in a most disgusting display. Then she stormed off in a raging fury! From his lofty perch, Tich watched his mother go.
“I don’t know, I thought mum’s manners were better than that,” he mused. Teasel started to regain consciousness. I watched the Jack Russell intently, for I mistrusted her as much as Silver did. The dog struggled to her feet and staggered away towards the Manageress’s house. I didn’t know if she was all with us, by the way she was weaving about, I concluded that she wasn’t. Anyway, as Silver said, that’s what you get for chasing her foal. Tich shifted into a more comfortable position on my back.
“you know what B’? I’m Beginning to feel sorry for that dog. Did she really deserve that? She only chased me after all, and that’s not a crime, not really, but then again, I suppose attempting to scratch out a horse’s eyes is, so then it was justified. But mum treated that dog as if she were a football! Wham! Straight over the gate and in the net! Mum tells me she doesn’t like football, then she goes and does that!” Silver came stamping back.
“’as that bloody dog gone? She’d better ‘ave, if she ‘asn’t she’d better watch ‘erself! I’m gonna finish ‘er off next time! You ‘ear me Teasel! I’m gonna finish you off next time! I ‘ate you!” she shouted. Teasel stumbled into the Manageress’s house and we saw no more of her. Silver stamped about a bit.
“I think we’d better try to calm ourselves,” I suggested. Silver exploded:
“Calm down? ‘ow the ‘ell do you expect me to calm down! That dog’s chased Tich, frightened ‘im silly, and you say I’d better calm down! You’re as stupid as that dam dog is!” I ignored Silver’s insults, I was too used to her outbursts to take much notice of them. Silver then noticed that her foal was lying on my back.
“What the ‘ell’re you doing up there Tich? Get down this instant!” She bellowed. Tich replied, quite rightly I felt:
“um, mum, I’m not jumping five feet to the ground, that’s concrete you know.” Silver calmed down, a little and said:
“All Right per’aps I did overreact a bit, but that dog’s a menace! She’s dangerous to all of us ‘orses!” I looked up at the sky. Clouds had started forming in a dark mass over the yard and they looked threatening.
“I think it’s gonna rain,” I said. Silver mocked me:
“Oh no B’, you don’t say! ‘ere Tich, ‘ow about that now, Beyancca thinks it’s gonna rain, well ain’t that something ay?” I shook my hoof at her in mock anger, I said as ominously as I could:
“Shut it Silver!” Silver knew I was playing games and took no notice of my tone. Tich eventually jumped down and
wandered off on his own towards Chantilly’s box. He arrived there to find her drinking from a blue and red waterbucket.
“Has the Manageress gone in for fancy waterbuckets?” he asked. Chantilly hadn’t noticed Tich’s approach, the sound of his voice startled her! Choking on the water she replied:
“No, she ‘asn’t, but, I got it, thought I’d ‘ave a change, knicked it from the livery yard, they ‘aven’t noticed it ‘ave they?” Tich took a closer look at the bucket. Chantilly, now recovered from her coughing fit, watched the foal intently. She said conspiratorially:
“It’s a special bucket, got a special ‘ole in it it ‘as, so I can drink faster.” Then she walked away. When she was a safe distance from Tich, so that he couldn’t see her observing him, Chantilly turned back the way she’d come and watched Tich exploring the bucket.
He turned the thing on it’s side, up-side down, this way, that way, every way you can think of as he searched for the special hole. Chantilly could hardly control herself. Grinning from ear to ear, well as much as a horse can be said to, she retraced her steps to where Tich was absorbed in looking for the hole.
“Tich, stop a minute, I’ve come to put you out of your pain, Cor: I’ve never seen anything so funny! I told you that the bucket ‘ad a special ‘ole in it yes? Well you went looking for that ‘ole, and you looked proper funny doing it! Tich dear, a bucket ‘as an ‘ole in it anyway doesn’t it!” Realising what he’d done, Tich turned on the defensive:
“All right, I’ve been a prat, but you’re not going to tell mum! You tell her, or any other horse for that matter, I’ll, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it won’t be pleasant!” Chantilly couldn’t control herself any longer. She didn’t mean to offend the little chap when she laughed at what he’d done, it was more the hilarity of the situation. Once Chantilly had calmed down enough, she hugged Tich.
“You’re usually so observant, and would pick ‘oles in my reasoning, but you didn’t see anything wrong with what I said, I’m not meaning to upset you Tich, but that was so funny!” Tich, for his part, felt very stupid indeed. He didn’t know whether the horse, who he’d regarded as a friend, had really meant to trip him up, he thought:
“But then again, I was stupid not to see what she was doing, perhaps you have been a prat Tich! Be more careful next time!” Tich decided to see the funny side, and implore Chantilly not to spread the story of his mistake.
“Look, Chantilly, please, please don’t talk to anyone about this, it’s embarrassing! I don’t want to be the laughing stock of the whole yard!” Chantilly dropped to her knees and hugged the tiny creature.
“I won’t tell a soul Tich, promise. But I can’t say that the doves, Polo, Teasel or any of the others won’t.” Tich realised for the first time where he was. He was right outside Chantilly’s box, in broad daylight, with all the business of the yard going on around him! There would be no escape! His little slip would be known throughout the whole yard in a matter of minutes! Tich, image conscious as he was, went about his business all that day wondering if he’d be stopped and asked about his monumental gaff. He reflected that Chantilly had tripped him big time! He decided to come clean to his mother, and find out once and for all if Chantilly had really meant him harm.
That night, Tich told all to Silver, who knew the whole story anyway, as Polo had informed her, with little embellishments thrown in for good measure, for Polo liked a good “scoop” as he put it. Silver couldn’t help dissolving into fits of giggles when she heard her foal’s sorry tale.
“I ‘eard that. Cor’ Tich you’s n’alf put your ‘oof in it ‘aven’t you love!” She whooped. Tich got furious!
“I’m glad you think it so dam funny, well I don’t! I’m embarrassed that it ever happened! Chantilly’s a bitch to do that to me! Do friends do that to each other?” Silver tried to calm her foal:
“No, well yes, sometimes, but only in fun Tich. I’m sure Chantilly didn’t mean to upset you love, she was playing games. You should expect that from ‘er, that’s the kind of ‘orse she is. Chantilly likes nothing more than a practical joke. What you ‘ave to do is admit to yourself you fell for it and then get on with your life. You can’t go round fearing that others will think you stupid, ‘cos they won’t, and if they do, well think this, them’s more stupid than you, ‘cos they can’t let the thing go.” Tich’s pride was in pieces on the floor.
“you don’t think I’m stupid do you mum?” He asked.
“Of course not! ‘ere Tich, you listen to me right, you’s made a mistake, that’s all you did. It ain’t the end of the world is it. You’s not dead, and you ain’t endangered anyone or anything but you’re pride, that’s all that’s bruised, and you got’a let it go, if you don’t, you’s as stupid as Polo, and you don’t wan’a get like ‘im now do you?”
“No,” Tich replied.
Silver’s hatred for dogs was ingrained in her psyche. She, as all horses do, hated the way the dogs ate other living things. She couldn’t see that dogs are born to eat other living things. Of course, we horses don’t consider plants living things, if we did, we’d never eat. I can see that dogs can’t help what they do, but despite my acceptance of that, I still think it barbaric. I’m not going to go on about this because it’s too painful for me to think of all that dogs have done. Despite my acceptance of their despicable habits, I still think dogs are ignorant and have less intelligence than my right forefoot! Even the Dalmatian dogs, with whom we horses are meant to have a particular affinity, are considered scatty and while not as ignorant as the rest, still as barbaric in their ways. I mean, have you looked at the contents of a tin of dogfood recently? It’s disgusting! I hate to think what goes in to that!
Anyway, back to the story. As Silver had said, Tich’s little slip was quickly forgotten by most of the inhabitants of the yard. I say most, because the dogs and doves, like point scoring politicians, were banding the story about to their friends and any dogs who came into the yard from outside. Polo had even got hold of a photo of Tich and shown that to any dogs, and even cats who came by.
Seeing what Polo was doing, Tich was becoming anxious. Not only was his little slip up refusing to go away, he was losing his first coat and it was itching horribly. So, a few weeks later, late one stormy night when neither Tich, nor his mother could sleep, in desperation Tich turned to his mother for advice.
“Mum, I’ve got a problem, several in fact,,,” Silver stopped him:
“So you’s willing to talk now. You’s been bottling it up for weeks, I saw it! I never asked you cos I’ve ‘eard what you colts are like, never tell your mum anything until it’s to dam late, that’s your way isn’t it.” Tich brushed this aside and ploughed on.
“You see, that story about me with the bucket hasn’t gone away as you said it would. All right, within the two herds it has, but polo and the others are spreading it about! That’s one problem, the other is this. My coat’s falling out!” Silver glanced at her foal in the half darkness. She couldn’t see much, so, swallowing her hatred for who she was going to summon, she put her head out of the door and yelled for Polo.
“Come ‘ere you disgusting animal! Oi Polo! Get ‘ere this minute before I ‘unt you down and squash you!” No horse would have responded to that summons, but Polo only listened out for his name and little else, so he came scampering to Silver, his tongue lolling, panting hard and looking every inch the stupid idiot he was.
“yeah, what can I do for you?” Polo panted.
“First put your tongue away, it looks awful! Then go to the Manageress’s house and get a torch from wherever she keeps that sort of thing, right?” Polo disappeared like lightening to carry out Silver’s commands. Tich looked at his mother with admiration:
“You certainly know how to order a dog about,” he said. Soon polo was back with the torch. Silver said briskly:
“Now I need you to do another thing for me, ‘cos I can’t operate the torch I need you to switch it on for me, and don’t say you can’t, ‘cos I’ve ‘eard that you can set an alarm clock, so you can operate a torch.” Polo complied with no protest. In the light thrown by the torch, Silver studied Tich’s coat while he tried to shield his eyes from the bright light. Seeing nothing that suggested malting in any shape or form, Silver sent
Polo away with the torch. She thought:
“’e’s still brown, ‘e was always brown, so I don’t know what the ‘el Tich’s on about.” She said:
“You’s dreaming I think Tich. There’s nothing wrong with your coat.” Tich looked out at the pouring rain. He said:
“Mum, call polo back a minute,,,” Seeing his mother’s distaste at his request, Tich pleaded:
“Please mum.” She did as he’d asked, and when the Boxer dog was back with the torch, Tich ran out of the barn with such speed that Silver couldn’t keep up, that was his intention.
Tich found the track, ran along that to the river and threw himself in. The water was running strongly and it was a stupid thing to do, but Tich wasn’t thinking about that. He swam against the current for about five minutes, clambered out, shook himself dry and fled back to the yard. Panting, sopping wet and very bedraggled, he returned to the barn.
“Now, polo, turn the torch on and point it at me, there’s a good chap,” Tich said. The Boxer, surprised at the colt’s tone, complied instantly. Silver stared at her foal in horror!
“you’s black! You’s gone black! ‘ow the ‘ell did you do that! I swear you were brown, but now you’s black! First you’s brown, now you’s black, what colour are you gonna be in the morning Tich, green I’ll bet! I don’t wan’a green foal!” She wailed. Tich couldn’t stop himself from laughing, Polo joined in and both the foal and the dog rolled on the straw laughing helplessly. The thought of green horses amused them greatly. Silver asked:
“What’s so funny? I don’t want a green foal! Tich, you’s gonna turn green, I know it!” Tich recovered a little and said:
“No, No mum, I’m not going green. I’ve just lost my first coat that’s all.” Polo regained his feet and then stopped:
“Oh no! The Manageress will kill me! I dropped the torch and it’s now busted!” Tich and Silver looked at the smashed remains of the torch.
“you’s gone and blown it polo dear,” Silver mocked.
“Don’t call me that!” Polo wailed. With that he scooped up the remains of the torch and fled. Silver looked at Tich.
“You’s no longer a foal no more!” she wailed. Tich couldn’t believe how sentimental his mother was being.
“What! How sentimental can you be mum? Of course I’m still a foal! I really can’t see what all the fuss is about, that coat was a nasty one anyway!” He retaughted. Silver’s wailing, along with Tich’s protestations, woke Fleur who came sleepily out of her box to see what all the racket was about.
“What’s going on here? It’s two in the morning!” she snapped.
“Tich lost his coat!” Silver wailed.
“So what? I’m doing it all the time! It gets to me sometimes, yes I’ll say that, but it’s not something to wail about, especially not at two in the morning!” Fleur screamed. She kicked the box door with such force that it split in two! Fleur bellowed:
“Now go to sleep!”
“yes mum,” Tich said. Silver fell over, laughing uncontrollably. Fleur stormed back to her box and slammed her door so hard that it came off it’s hinges and fell onto the concrete with a crash! Tich smiled at Silver, Silver said:
“Don’t worry about ‘er Tich, she’s a funny ‘orse that one.” Fleur came flying from her box in a raging fury!
“Oh dear, we’re about to cop it,” Tich remarked. Taking his life in his tiny hoof, he asked:
“you in season or something Fleur?” Fleur screamed and bolted! Jingle, Carmen and all the other horses in the barn were awake now and watching the situation with growing interest.
“I’ll bet my year’s supply of oats that you’re right Tich,” Jingle said. Carmen had retired to the back of her box, so her contribution was slightly inaudible.
“That horse scares me,” Cleo said:
“No change there, everything scares you Carmen.”
“I can’t help that!” She whimpered. Fleur came streaking back onto the scene.
“Will you all, including you Cleo, jingle, and Carmen, go to sleep!” She roared.
“Who got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?” Cleo asked. This resulted in Fleur doing irreparable damage to Cleo’s door. Cleo snapped:
“Look Fleur, just piss off to your box and don’t bother me!” Fleur gave Cleo’s door, or what remained of it a hefty kick and retired.
“Three doors down, five to go,” Misty remarked. Sleep had seemed difficult for Silver and Tich, but now it was impossible. Silver was too worried about her foal’s coat to sleep, and Tich was too full of foalish energy to settle down. After an hour or so Tich got fed up with his mother.
“Look mum, listen to me, my coat, the brown one, that’s no more, it’s gone for good. What happened to it was this. I lose hair, you do it! Even Fleur does it! She said so herself! So what’s the worry? That’s all that’s happened.” Silver looked at Tich in the first light of dawn.
“I like ‘is black coat, it’s nice,” she thought.
“yeah, all right Tich, I’ll say no more about it,” she said.
The day came in clear, bright and exceedingly warm. The yard seemed to shut down utterly, with horses so lethargic that work was done at snail pace. Most of the horses, including me I must add, spent the day lying in their boxes. For my part I either slept or ate straw, there was nothing else I could do! It was too hot for anything strenuous! The heat seemed to sap the strength out of any horse that dared to venture out into the world, and some had to. Although the humans did all they could to make it easier for us, riders still had to be carried, hacks were still embarked upon and grooming still took place. Polo came round to my box later that afternoon. He reported that the Manageress had noticed the broken torch and gone ballistic, and well she might, that was the only torch in the place. Polo said that he’d been given a severe shouting at and banned from the house for the day.
“it’s all right, I never go in there anyway during the day, so it’s no trouble for me,” he said. I had been filled in on the goings on of the previous night and knew of everything, even Fleur’s little outburst had come to my attention. I reasoned that Silver must have been making one hell of a racket to wake Fleur, who was a heavy sleeper, and usually wouldn’t get out of bed for less than a bucket of oats. I looked down at Polo. We all mistrusted dogs, some horses mistrusted them to a greater degree than others, but it was there in all of us. I remembered that Polo and I had once hatched a plan against a horse named Crofter, I’d liked him then, and sort of did now, but he had become a bit of a hoofful to say the least. Polo scampered away, leaving me to think about things. I wondered what caused Silver to be so stupid! Didn’t she know that horses lost hair? I concluded that Silver was so terrified of losing Tich that she worried about him unnecessarily. I heard a tap on my door and Tich came in. He collapsed on the straw beside me.
“Hi’ya Tich, how’s things?” I asked. Tich rested his head on my shoulder and sighed:
“Mum’s being really silly about me losing my coat B’. She can’t get her head round the concept and it’s getting me down! I’m Talking to her n’all that, and she’s not understanding a dam word I say!” This, for Tich, was very strong language. He rarely swore, and that despite his mother’s less than expletive free vocabulary. Compared to Silver, Tich had acquired a P.H.D in the womb. He’d “swallowed dictionaries for breakfast” as his mother put it. Now Tich was getting frustrated and angry. He wanted to express so much, but his mother couldn’t understand half the things he could, and that made things difficult for both of them. Josh came in then. The huge Shire horse towered over us, he seemed to be thinking about something, I couldn’t guess what. I looked into his eyes. Josh’s eyes did not match the image he’d got given. Josh was known as a hard nut who was brutal to those who got on the wrong side of him. Countering that though, to those who he felt loyalty to, well then that was as strong as his aggression to those who angered him. Josh was now looking down at Tich with amazing fondness. It struck me as amazing that such a “hard” horse could display such affection, but then it shouldn’t have seemed strange, or amazing for that matter, for I’d seen Josh’s soft side many times before. For if you can get under
his tough attitude, as has been shown many times in these stories, Josh is as sweet natured as you like.
Josh dropped to his knees and nuzzled Tich’s shoulder. The size difference between the Shire horse and the Miniature Shetland foal was striking!
“I thought mum was large,” Tich said. Josh laughed,
“I’ll tell you something for nothing littl’en, you ain’t gonna get as large as me in a million years,” he said. Tich took Josh to task over his sloppy language.
“Josh, promise not to squash me if I ask you this, promise?” Josh did as the foal asked.
“Well,” Tich said, “Why do you speak the way you do? It’s sloppy, but I expect you already know that. It’s also very heavily reliant on swearing! You, and my mum for that matter rely on this form of speech. I hate it! It’s not easy to understand, I have huge problems understanding many horses in this place, the accents round here are incomprehensible!” I thought:
“Tich’s swallowed the Collins latest edition I’ll bet.” Josh thought for a bit.
“I ‘aven’t got any idea why I talk like I do. I suppose it’s to do with my upbringing, rough it was, ‘ell sometimes n’all. I ‘ave ‘ad to fend for myself for a lot of my life in places where ‘orses weren’t very well spoken. ‘ard, rough places they were, maybe I’ll tell you about them someday when you’s older.” Tich wrinkled his nose at Josh’s use of:
“You’s” instead of the standard “you are.” He couldn’t stand it! Josh saw the little chap’s discomfort and smiled reassuringly at him.
“I’m not apologising for my speech, no ‘orse can do that. Of course, we can try and clear our talk up, but what’s the point? Life’s for living, not for griping about little things, if we were all the same then what would the world be like? Crap that’s what! We don’t need no la-dy-da type talk, I don’t anyway. If you don’t like my speech then you can either learn to live with it or not associate with me, take your pick, it’s no matter to me.” This hard line attitude shocked Tich greatly. I saw the foal’s distress mounting up.
“You’re a brutal horse Josh, I don’t know what to make of you, I really don’t! Your mother’s not like you in any way, Beyancca’s no swearing type. So how did you get like you are? It’s not natural!” Josh explained that I was not his birth mother, and that I had fostered him for about a year and a bit, he couldn’t remember how long it was. Josh went on to describe his last home and the horses he’d had to fight against to survive. Tich was appalled by his tale. He said:
“That’s horrible! How can horses treat their own kind like that? It’s not right, not right at all to steal food from a foal!” I thought:
“There’s worse to come Tich, brace yourself mate.” Josh moved on to the time of his escape from his last home. He told the tiny foal about Petra and of her visits to the yard and liaison with Chantilly. When Josh came to the part where Petra was trampled to death by her former herd, Tich was close to tears.
“It was terrible, I can remember every part of that night, I ain’t gonna forget that in an ‘urry,” Josh said. Tich started to say:
“No, I’ll bet you ain’t,,,” Then he corrected himself: “No I should think not.” Josh had noticed his slip, and smiling broadly he said:
“You’s learning quick littl’en.” Tich was profoundly embarrassed by his momentary slip into sloppy talk.
Silver came in. She noticed her foal lying beside me, and josh towering over both of us. Silver was not happy with the situation.
“Come ‘ere Tich, come ‘ere this instant! I ain’t ‘aving you talking to that bugger! ‘e’s not worth talking to in a zillion years and an ‘alf! ‘e’s not the type of ‘orse you should be talking to love, come with me and you’s gonna be okay.” Tich yawned insultingly at his mother.
“You know what mum, you’re boring me so much. Josh isn’t gonna hurt me. He might swear as if that form of words was his first language, he might be bullish and uncompromising in his views, but he isn’t all that bad. I know the reason why you hate him, and it’s not a very good one. If he refused you, so what! It was probably for the best anyway.” Silver was outraged!
“’ow the ‘ell can you side with that, that bastard! I thought I’d brought a sane foal into the world, but now I think different! You’s insane! You’s not on this planet! You go off with Josh be’ind my back and you make friends with ‘im, I ‘ate ‘im and you should also! I can’t see what came over Beyancca when she fostered that brute! It isn’t ‘er fault, ‘cos she can’t ‘elp who she’s lumbered with, being leader N’all, but Josh’s a menace!” I was furious! I screamed:
“How can you say that!” I leapt to my feet and lashed out furiously at the Shetland pony. My right forefoot caught her in the ribs, sending her flying through the air! Silver’s scream of agony and surprise would have woken the dead. She landed with a crash on the concrete outside my box. I stood there, fur bristling and eyes blazing! Josh yelled at me:
“Mum, why the bloody ‘ell did you do that! There was no need for it!” I told him to:
“Shut it Josh.” Tich was stunned by the events. He hadn’t worked it all out before Silver came staggering back into my box, swearing like mad.
“You’re still alive then,” I said angrily. Silver said something unprintable. Josh and Tich stared at her.
“’aving a good look are we? That cow ’as busted my ribs! She ‘as! I know it!” Josh pinned Silver against a wall and made a quick examination of her ribs. During this, Silver squealed and swore at him. The essence of what she said, once the language had been sanitised was:
“Get off me! You’s a brute! I ‘ate you so much! Why don’t you leave me and my foal alone!” Josh finished his exploration and pronounced:
“As I thought, she’s making the whole dam thing up mum. Don’t listen to ‘er, for she’ll only spout crap at you.” Addressing himself to Silver he said:
“Now go back to your disgusting ‘ole and don’t bother me, my mum or Tich ever again, there’s a good girl.” Silver opened her mouth to protest, but Josh chased her out of the box, into the barn and into her box, making sure he slammed both doors, top and bottom and fastened them securely. Silver’s frothy insults could be heard plainly from where I lay. From time to time she would try to batter down the door, but she never got very far. When josh returned to my box, Tich asked him:
“Why did you lock my mum up Josh? It’s not nice being locked away in a box, you know that, so why did you do it to mum?”
“’orses like ‘er need it from time to time Tich mate. Silver’s a pain in the neck, and that’s putting it politely!” Josh replied. Tich snapped:
“That’s my mum you’re talking about Josh!” Josh said:
“Even so, she’s still a pain in the neck.” Tich sprang to his feet and screamed at the Shire horse:
“Perhaps my mum was right, you are a nasty bugger!” Tich stormed off. I looked over at josh, my expression telling him all I needed to.
“yeah mum, diplomacy isn’t my strong point, don’t say it ‘cos I know it,” Josh said dispiritedly.
“you’ve blown it for good with him I’ll bet Josh,” I said. Josh looked at me, tears welling in his eyes, his voice rose to a tortured screech as he said:
“I know that! I know I’ve screwed things up! Don’t rub it in mum! Please don’t rub it in!” My leg hurt from the high speed connection my right forefoot had made with Silver’s ribs, and to top it off, I felt bloody sorry for Josh. Diplomacy and tact weren’t his strong points, I knew that, but it still didn’t stop me from feeling sorry for him. Silver came back then, she was apoplectic with rage! She shouted:
“Josh, where the ‘ell are you? I want you to know what you’ve gone and done to my foal! ‘e’s a bloody mess now thanks to your bloody antics! ‘e said that you’d called me a pain in the neck, and when ‘e’d pointed out that it was ‘is mum you’s talking about, you never even apologised for ‘olding your views, you went and told Tich that even if it was ‘is mum you were talking about, she was still a pain in the neck! You even ‘inted that that version of your thoughts was the polite version, I ‘ate to think what the impolite version was Josh!” While Silver held forth, I’d noticed Chantilly arrive and stand at a respectful distance from the enraged Shetland pony. Once Silver had finished her torrent, Chantilly stepped forward and made her presence known.
“you mean you can’t take criticism?” Chantilly asked. Silver whirled round and stared at her:
“Not you as well! Every bloody ‘orse in this place is getting at me today!” She screamed. Chantilly shook her head as if Silver’s enraged whinnying hurt her ears. She said:
“Josh is right, you is a pain in the neck Silver. you’s always trying to tell Tich what ‘e should and shouldn’t think. ‘e can ‘old differing views to you on whatever ‘e likes, it’s a free country.”
“Sod your free country!” Silver yelled. Chantilly replied:
“Do they live in a dictatorship in Shetland?” Silver lashed out at Chantilly with all her force. Chantilly dodged the flying boot and got her attack home. Silver limped off cursing everybody under the sun. Chantilly looked at me.
“you’s ‘ad an ‘ell of a time of it today ‘aven’t you B’,” she said. I sighed:
“yeah it hasn’t been the best of days, too warm for one, and then all this. You know what Chantilly, I am beginning to fear that Silver’s turning into another Domino. She’s not letting Tich have his own mind!” I replied. Chantilly came into my box and lay down. This made the space extremely cramped what with josh and myself in there also. Josh squeezed out of my box and disappeared. I reflected that he was spending less and less time with me.
“He probably finds me an embarrassment. You can’t help some teenage horses.” Chantilly fell asleep, she began to snore loudly, I thumped her and she stopped. I got to my feet and stretched. The day was closing now, and with that came cooler temperatures. Leaving Chantilly asleep in my box, I went in search of Annie. This mare, not previously mentioned in any of the stories, lived in a box directly behind Carina’s in the barn. I found her staring at the wall and shaking violently.
“Hey Annie, what’s the matter dear?” I asked. The poor creature looked at me, her eyes like soup plates.
“What’s the matter? Try having a huge man walk up to you waving the longest lunging whip you’ve ever seen! That’s what the matter is! This whip was huge! Longer than any I’ve ever seen before, and the man, well he waved it right at me! Then it folded! The man folded the whip up and tried to hide it, but I knew he’d still got it, then he tried to stroke me! I wasn’t having any of that and told him so! I’ve never been so scared in all my life!” I thought I knew what Annie had seen.
“Describe the whip to me Annie,” I urged. The mare took a deep breath, swallowed hard and replied:
“About two metres long I’d say, with a black thing on one end and a large rolling thing on the other. It frightens me to think of it Beyancca.” My suspicions were confirmed. Annie had seen my male human Friend who had the problem we couldn’t work out. He carried the longest stick I’d ever seen and waved it about from time to time. Most horses had got used to it, and I thought Annie had, but it appeared not. Annie shook and trembled some more.
“I never want to see that thing again!” She whinnied.
“Don’t be rude about my friend!” I retaughted. Annie snapped:
“No! Not that you burk! it’s the stick I meant!” I tried to calm Annie down a little.
“Look Annie, he wouldn’t have hit you with the stick. It’s not used for that! “
“Well, if it’s not used for hitting horses, then what is it used for? Answer me that one!” Annie demanded.
“He uses it to find his way about the place. I’m used to him leading me while he uses the stick. All right, it’s a bit slower than usual, but we get there in the end.” I replied. Annie looked doubtful.
“yeah, right, but I’m not convinced really. That lunging whip, or stick, as you like to call it, it’s dangerous! It folds at the drop of a horseshoe and has a mind of it’s own! Things I don’t understand frighten me Beyancca! Tell you something, if that man comes up to me again, and he’s carrying that scary stick, well, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll kick him where it hurts!” Annie shouted. I got furious with her, fearing that she might just carry out her plan.
“You will do nothing of the sort! You hurt him in any way and I’ll make sure you don’t live to see another sunrise! I threatened. Annie backed down.
“I suppose it was a bit stupid of me to think I could do that Beyancca,” she said faintly. I yelled:
“Stupid! You call it just stupid do you? Well I don’t! I call it plain bloody insanity!” Annie started squealing with terror. I knew then that I’d blown it for sure.
“Shut it Annie!” I bellowed. Annie just kept on squealing. After five minutes of this, I got fed up with the sound and left her.
I wandered about the yard for a while, not really caring where I ended up. As there is no such thing as random wandering, there’s always a decision somewhere in the most aimless wanderer, I ended up in a field with a massive horse! He was huge! Seventeen hands plus at least he was, with massive hooves and a sort of “I’ve seen everything and nothing can surprise me” air about him. I’d never seen this horse before, but I suspected that he might be our now yard famous ex police horse. The humans called him Cruso, and he was worthy of such a name if what I could see of him from fifteen paces was true. He seemed not to notice me, and I felt inadequate as I walked towards him. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so nervous in all my life, and I’m meant to be herd leader! Eventually Cruso noticed me and came across to meet me.
“Err, Hi Cruso,” I said nervously. He stared at me:
“And who are you, hang on a bit, let me guess, Beyancca isn’t it? You’re herd leader or something, or so they tell me,” the massive horse said. I smiled:
“yes, that’s right, I am,” I replied. Cruso looked me up and down.
“You’re not like most herd leaders. You don’t demand respect from people, I’m not used to that.”
“What are you not used to? Leaders demanding respect, or them not demanding it?” I asked. Cruso said:
“you don’t strike me as the type of mare who would lead a herd such as this. You’re not aggressive, threatening, or up in the foal stakes.” How he knew I hadn’t had any foals was beyond me. I felt that to explain all about the way I’d become leader at our first meeting would be pushing it a bit far, so I left it, but Cruso didn’t. In true police fashion he began to question me. At the end of half an hour I was exhausted! That horse certainly knew how to question! He had it all out of me, every last dam thing! I left his field feeling mentally and physically drained. I say physically, for when I didn’t answer a question to his satisfaction, Cruso would nudge me with a forefoot until I did! That was crazy behaviour! In the end I was forced to lie down to ensure that the massive horse didn’t knock me over! Lying in my box later that night, I decided that Cruso would have to stop his nudging. I told Josh about it when he came in around midnight.
“You tell me if ‘e nudges you again mum and I’ll nudge ‘im so dam ‘ard ‘e’ll not know what the ‘ell’s ‘it ‘im,” Josh promised. Cruso came banging on my door about half an hour after this.
“Bugger off!” Josh commanded. Cruso left without a word.
“Was that really necessary Josh? He wasn’t nudging me then, not at that minute anyway,” I said. I stuck my head out of my box and yelled for Cruso. The massive horse came galloping back eagerly.
“Always ready for work, always ready for a summons,” I thought fondly. I thought I’d grow to like this massive fellow.
“yes Beyancca, what can I do for you?” he asked. I replied:
“what was it you came to my box for?” Cruso said:
“I WANTED TO TALK TO YOU a BIT MORE.” Josh yelled:
“Oi police ‘orse chap! You nudge my mum and I’ll boot you from ‘ere to next week!” Cruso ignored Josh, as he was trained to do. I don’t mean he was trained to ignore Josh, for he’d never met josh in his life, but Cruso was trained to ignore shouted sentiments. I said:
“My foal doesn’t like you nudging me when you question me Cruso.” Cruso stuck his head in at my door and swore under his breath.
“I don’t know what you call a foal round here Beyancca, in my book that isn’t a foal!” Josh leered up at the massive horse from where he lay. I didn’t think Cruso and Josh were going to get on somehow. Josh had an inherent distrust of the police, and Cruso, even though he was a horse, he had worked with the police and that was enough for Josh to put him down as authority. Cruso and I left the yard and made our way towards the river. The massive horse asked me questions about the other horses in the yard, both past and present, as well as the places we passed. We came to the place where Chantilly had almost lost her life, and this came up in conversation. Actually I did most of the talking, Cruso just listened and I’m sure took every word in and stored it in his massive memory. I told Cruso about Jasper and of Chantilly’s love affair with him, and of the manner of Jasper’s death.
“I hope you tried Chantilly for killing her husband? Crime of passion though it might have been.” Cruso asked. I assured him that I upheld the law, but I reminded him that equine law did not match up to that of the humans, and that he was governed by equine law now.
We returned to the yard just as dawn was coming in. Cruso was apologetic for keeping me up all night. I noticed something about him then. When Cruso spoke to me, he spoke with a kind of deference, as if he’d accepted my authority as leader, that was strange to me. When he left me, Cruso even dropped his head in a submissive gesture, his nose almost brushing my boots. While this display was taking place, I heard someone say:
I’ve never seen a horse bow down to that cow!” I swore under my breath and turned towards Confiada.
“Shut it Confi’,” I said. This shortened version of her name, “Confi” I mean, was what the instructors sometimes referred to her as. Confiada hated it! I meant to offend her, because she had poured scorn on another horse’s mannerisms. IF Cruso wanted to show deference to his leader, then let him. All right, I found it profoundly embarrassing, but it wasn’t life threatening. Confiada screamed at me:
“Don’t call me Confi’!”
“yes Madam,” I replied. Confiada told me to do something that I cannot print, and stormed off. Cruso watched her go.
“She’s not flavour of the month I see,” he said.
“She ain’t the flavour of any month,” Chantilly chipped in. Cruso looked at her.
“Do all the horses that live here talk as you do?” he asked. Chantilly asked:
“Why do you ask? Is it a problem?” Cruso’s fur stood up on end, he was obviously not a fan of one question being answered with another.
“answer my question!” he snapped. Chantilly, offended and confused by this strange horse’s manner, replied:
“No I bloody won’t! You ain’t gonna get any ‘elp from me if you talk to me like that!” Cruso relaxed, he looked sheepish:
“That’s my Police upbringing coming through again,” he said ashamedly. Chantilly pounced on him and, In a metaphorical sense, ate him for lunch!:
“You’s ‘ad a police upbringing, well even if you ‘ave, you’s not in the police no more! You’s in a yard, with a ‘erd leader, you ain’t in no police force now! Cruiser, or whatever your name is, you’d better watch what you say!” Cruso was upset by Chantilly’s hard line.
“My name’s Cruso, and I didn’t mean to upset you, sorry about that,” he said ashamedly. Chantilly gave our newest resident a disgusted stare and left it.
I could see my new-found friend was upset and frightened by Chantilly’s manner.
“Don’t worry about her Cruso, she’s not usually like that. I’ll talk with her, make her see sense,” I promised. Cruso nuzzled my cheek:
“Thanks Beyancca, thanks for everything,” he said softly. I watched Cruso trudge back to his field. I wondered if Chantilly hadn’t been too harsh on him. I went to her box to have a chat with her.
“’e’s got’a learn! ‘e’s not in the police no more B’!” Chantilly whinnied. I replied calmly:
“I know that Chantilly, but can’t you give him a chance? He’s only been in this yard a few weeks! How long did it take you to acclimatise to your new home? Months if I remember rightly, so you’ve got no grounds to bitch on at him.” Chantilly knew she was beaten. She hung her head and retired into her box.
“Thank you Chantilly,” I thought as she turned her back on me.
I Think I’ll leave it now. The day’s hot and I’m not in the mood for narrating any more of this thing. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on it completely, I feel that this story’s gone on long enough that’s all. I think I’ll go back to my box and lie down. See you sometime later.
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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