Hi!  It’s b’ here yet again.  Can’t anyone else tell these stories?                          Or has the typist got it in for me?  Second thoughts, don’t answer that one.  Here’s another story for you.

 

It all started in the barn on a hot summer’s day in early August.  Tich was trying to reassure his mother that he was a healthy horse, and that hair loss was a natural process to go through.  Although Silver’d assured her foal that she wouldn’t mention the loss of his brown coat again, she had been depressed for ages, and Tich, after much persuasion, had dragged the truth from his mother.

      “I don’t know why you’re so upset about my coat mum, it’s nothing!  Just a collection of hair that’s all you silly horse!”

         “Don’t call me a silly ‘orse!  That ain’t ‘ow you speak to your mother!”  Silver snapped.

      “That wasn’t the worst thing I could ‘ave called you mum,”  Tich replied.  Silver screeched:

       “Don’t drop your H’s!”  Tich turned away so that his mother couldn’t see he was close to falling about with laughter.  Silver got up from where she’d been lying, stretched languidly, shook herself vigorously, turned to her foal, who was now losing control of his emotions, and snapped:

       “You’s laughing at me!  I can see it so don’t deny it Tich!”  Tich finally lost it totally.

       “yeah, Cor’ mum, you are funny!”  he replied.  Silver sighed:

       “Can’t you see this from my point of view?  ‘ere I am, I’ve ‘ad a foal, my first, and I know bugger all about what’s meant to ‘appen during a young ‘orse’s life,”  She pleaded.  Tich asked:

      “You mean you were never a foal yourself mum?”

        “Don’t be bloody silly!  Of course I was!”  Silver yelled.

        “Don’t swear like that!”  Tich remonstrated.  Silver, hearing her own sentiments coming back at her from her foal, fell silent.  Tich nuzzled his mother’s cheek.

       “I love you mum,”  he said.  This, over anything else he could have said, was guaranteed to mellow his mother.  Of course, Tich meant what he said, he never said anything he didn’t mean.  Silver booted her door open and left the barn, Tich following in her wake.  They turned left by my box and trotted up the track leading to some fields behind the stables.  Silver heard a mare talking to a foal in one of the fields, and when she looked through the gate she saw one of the Field mares lying on the ground with a foal beside her!

      “Bloody ‘ell, so Ev’s ‘ad her foal then, I thought she was due to ‘ave it in September,”  she thought.  Silver motioned to Tich to be quiet, for she didn’t want to draw attention to them.  The two Shetland ponies gazed for a long time at the Field mare and her foal.  Suddenly the field mare pricked her ears, she’d heard something, but she didn’t know what.  When Tich had moved alongside his mother to take a look at the two Field horses, his hooves ended up on some dried twigs and leaves.  While he watched the Field mare and her foal, Tich had moved his feet slightly so he didn’t get cramp in his legs.  The movement had caused a twig or two to snap under his weight, it was this which had alerted the Field mare to something amiss in her environment.  Silver and her foal held their breath as the Field mare calmed her now excited foal, and once that was done, she rotated her ears this way and that, listening, listening, for anything unusual.  Silver thought:

       “If she turns round she’ll see us!   But if we move, then she’ll ‘ear us!  What the ‘ell’re we gonna do?”  She decided that the best course of action was to stay where she was and hope the Field mare lost interest.  But when you have a foal only fifteen days old, then anything out of the ordinary sticks in your mind until you’ve sorted it out, so it was with Ev.  Wickering to her foal to stay where it was, she got up and paced the field.  The Field mare looked into Every corner, under Every overhanging patch of bush, everywhere, while Tich and Silver stood as if calved from stone watching the Field mare looking for them, although she didn’t know it.  The swishing thud of the Field mare’s boots came ever closer to the two now petrified Shetland ponies.  Dry mouthed they watched her approach, their hearts beating so loudly that they were afraid the Field mare would hear them.  Ev clomped closer, looked over the hedge and spotted the two watchers.  Ev was furious!  The Field horses are a French breed so, naturally,  their first language is French. Only a few Field horses had learned English, and Ev wasn’t one who had.  All right, maybe she knew a little, but only a little.   So when Ev yelled at the two Shetland ponies in French, gesticulating wildly with her head and one forefoot to make herself understood, the two ponies found this display hilarious and fell about laughing helplessly.  The field mare whinnied angrily and took a few paces backwards to leap the hedge.  Tich and his mother ran for their lives!  Ev, forgetting her foal for the moment, gave chase, only stopping when her foal whinnied with loneliness.  The enraged field mare returned to her foal, sparing Silver and Tich this time.

 

The two Shetland ponies came tearing into my box breathless and frightened.  Silver panted:

        “Ev’s ‘ad her foal, I saw it, but she didn’t like Tich and me looking at ‘er, chased us she did.”  I asked:

       “You saw Ev foaling?”  Silver replied:

      “No!  But that would’ve been something, no, all me and Tich saw was ‘er and ‘er foal lying in the field.  We watched them for ages, but then Tich blew it, silly bugger!”  Tich looked defiant:

       “I had cramp in my leg!  What do you expect me to do, suffer?”  Silver ignored him and turned to me.

       “So there’s one ‘acked off field mare up the track B’.  All we were doing is taking a look!  I ‘ad loads of ‘umans and ‘orses round me and Tich when ‘e was born, and I didn’t chase them off did I!  I let both ‘umans and ‘orses ‘ave a look at Tich, and I think ‘e’s a better foal for it.  But if Ev doesn’t let ‘er foal find out what ‘umans and other ‘orses are like, then where will it be?”  I could see her point.  Ev came stamping round the corner, her foal beside her.  She spewed fourth a torrent of French, which Jamie, who was now stabled in Ruby’s box after Ruby’d been turfed out into the fields with a sore leg, translated for me.

      “She says that Silver and Tich were watching her and her foal without her permission,”  Jamie reported.

       “Ask her, what does she expect me to do a bout it?”  I replied.  Jamie translated my reply back into French.  This brought unmistakable signals of agitation from the Field mare.  She began gesticulating madly with her head and forefeet in a kind of semaphore, while holding forth in French.  Silver couldn’t help laughing out loud.  Yes it did look hilarious!  The tone of Ev’s reply was quite plain to me, Even before Jamie translated it.

      “Ev asks why can’t you bite or kick them from here to next week?  That’s what she’d do, but she can’t as she’s a Field horse.  It’s up to you to do it.  I think it’s disgusting!  Why kick a mare for taking an interest in another mare’s foal?”  I grimaced at the thought of laying a hoof on Silver and her foal and said:

       “Tell her that I will not accede to her demands and that she should try and lighten up a bit, for no horse, especially not a yard horse would hurt a foal.  Oh yeah, and throw in the fact that we yard horses are not as barbaric as the field horses will you Jamie?”  I asked.  Jamie translated my reply, which made Ev gallop off in a raging temper, leaving her foal with us.  The tiny new-born foal looked up into my eyes.  I’m certain that I was the largest horse he had Ever seen.  Ev came galloping back into the yard, scooped up her foal, not literally you understand, and disappeared with it.  Jamie and I watched them go.

       “Tich and I are off B’,”  Silver said.  Without waiting for a reply they disappeared into the barn.  As they passed Misty’s box, Tich caught sight of Misty lying on the straw bedding reading a book!  Banging on her door the two Shetland ponies poked their heads round the door and disturbed Misty.  The Welsh pony scrambled to her feet closing the book as she did so.

        “What’s the matter?”  she asked.  Silver asked:

       “That book, what is it?”  Misty looked embarrassed.

      “Oh, equestrian folk lore, that’s all,”  she replied faintly.  Misty knew Silver didn’t hold with superstitions or traditions, she hated them, and to see an elder of the yard reading such rubbish was almost too much.

      “That’s crap!  Why do you insist on reading that meaningless junk?”  Silver asked.  Misty replied:

       “It’s the latest edition,,,”  Silver cut her off:

        “Yeah, the latest edition of crap!”  Misty was near to tears.

        “I thought you were broad minded Silver,”  she choked.  Silver stamped her foot and bellowed:

       “Where that crap’s concerned I ain’t, and you certainly ain’t!  Remember what you said to Brydy!  That ain’t broad minded is it misty!”  Misty screamed:

       “Get out of my box!  Get out!  Get out!”  Silver fled leaving Tich with the Welsh pony.  Misty and the Shetland foal looked at each other.

       “Can I have a look at your book?”  Tich asked.  Misty drew back from where she’d been standing over the book to protect it.  To Tich it seemed to be her prized possession.  As he slowly turned the pages Tich experienced feelings and emotions which were strange to him.  The book contained accounts of acts of heroism on the part of horses.  He turned to one story entitled “the great fire.”  It told of a mare named Rosie who had apparently saved all the horses in the yard from death.  As Tich read on, for he could read, he became enthralled by the realism of some of the stories, all right there were some which were plainly fictitious, like one about a flying Palomino pony who had boarded in the yard for a while, but others were almost too real for his liking.

      “Could I borrow this?”  Tich asked.  To his utter astonishment Misty shook her head.

       “No,,,,”

      “No?  Why not?”  Tich inquired.  Misty looked about her nervously.  Lowering her voice to a whisper she replied:

       “Your mum doesn’t like it.  If she sees you reading it, well then, well, I don’t know what’ll happen to you, me or the book.   You’re priceless, so is that book, and your mum isn’t gonna think of that when she flies off the handle.”

      “Oh yeah, I see, right.  Um, think I’ve changed my mind,”  Tich said.  Closing the book, Tich left Misty’s box promising her that he’d return when it was dark.

 

When Tich arrived back in his box he was met by a very hostile reception.  Silver, usually so eager to find out what he’d been doing, kept silent and didn’t utter a word all night.  Tich then knew what it was to be really alone.  It was as if his mother wasn’t there, for she would not talk to him, not Even when he tried to provoke a reaction by talking about the book of folk lore.  Silver just lay there motionless.  Tich Even went up to his mother and nuzzled her ear.  Even this drew nothing from her.

       “She’s still alive,”  Tich thought with relief.  For a terrible moment he’d entertained the thought that his mum might be dead, she was so still.  Tich spent an unimaginably painful night lying on the straw next to his unusually motionless mother.  He wondered how a horse could be so still?  Tich, fighting sleep as he was, moved over towards his mum once more.  `Suddenly he noticed that his mother’s body which was once so warm was now ice cold!

 

Tich woke screaming!  Silver had been trying to hold him down whilst he struggled in his sleep.

      “What’s the matter?  What’s wrong Tich?”  His mother asked.  Tich told her all about it, shaking violently as he did so.  Silver explained what had happened.

      “When you came in last night I was furious with you for reading that junk.  So what I did was, I kept very still, not Even moving when you prodded me.  Then you seemed to fall asleep.  The next thing I knew was I ‘ad a screaming foal!”  Tich said:

       “If you only took the time to read the book mum, then you’d see what it contained.  It made me feel strange I can tell you, stories of Rosie, Jamie and many other horses besides.”  Silver replied:

      “But Tich, I can’t read love.”  Tich thought of what Misty had said about him not being able to borrow the book, but now his mother was not going to attack him or the book, maybe Misty’d change her mind?

      “You’d like to take a look at it mum?”  Tich asked hopefully.

       “Yeah, all right, a few minutes, no more,”  his mother replied.  So, with a lot of persuasion from Tich and constant reassurances from Silver that she wasn’t going to do Tich or the book any damage, Misty let Silver and her foal read the book in their box.

 

Tich opened the book and found the story about the great fire.  He started reading it to his mother.  While he read, he thought about the mare named Rosie, who Every horse in the yard seemed to hold in a kind of reverence.

     “Does any horse deserve this treatment?”  Tich asked himself.  Silver took an interest in those stories which concerned real horses, but fictional stories about flying Palomino horses etc, did not interest her in the slightest.

 

Heroism wasn’t the only thing the book had to offer, no, far from it.  The book also had cautionary tales for horses.  Such as the true story of Domino and Dominic.  This was told to mares who had fallen pregnant so that they avoided producing a foal who emulated Dominic.  Most mares felt sorry for Domino, as we all did, for what happened to her Son wasn’t her fault.  All the same, there’s a cautionary tale for you.  The fabled leader of the field horses came into the book on occasions.  This mythical leader, this black horse which Dominic used to beat up regularly was one of the most frightening tales for all horses.  The black horse would always be at the route of all trouble in the yard, from a horse getting stuck in a ditch, as Carmen had been once, to a mare aborting a foal.  If this happened, rare as it is, the mare used to be ousted from the herd, as it was said that she had “been connected” with the leader of the Field horses and therefore was unfit to be considered as a member of the herd.  Fortunately this ostracism was outlawed when I came to be leader.  When horses learned to read newspapers, and then books, the superstitions were blown out of the window.  I am glad to say that now no mare is ousted from the herd if nature decrees that a foal was not meant to be.

 

It’s hard to imagine the torment a mare went through when her foal died either before or shortly after birth.  The mare would have the distress of either giving birth to a still born foal, or watching helplessly as nature, or whatever higher power one might believe in, took the little creatures life.  Not only was there this to deal with, but there was also the stigma of having a dead foal.  It wasn’t, as has already been said, a desirable thing to associate with a mare who had experienced this.  The leader of the Field horses was blamed for

everything bad in our yard, until recently of course.  Now mares are helped through the trauma of losing a foal, and there are no longer the taboos around the subject.  Many mares will push it away to the back of their minds and not talk about it to other mares, but this is less common also.

 

Silver, on hearing the stories about the mares, became thoughtful as she thought about Tich’s birth and of how scared she was before, during and after the event.

        “I don’t think I’ve Ever been so frightened in my life before,”  she thought.  Once Tich had managed to scare his mother silly, he returned the book to Misty.

       “I never knew horses could be so nasty to each other, I really didn’t!”  Tich exclaimed.  Misty took the book from Tich and hid it under her straw bed.

       “They were horrid to any horse who wasn’t “normal,””  she replied.

        “What they did to mares is the worst thing going!”  Tich yelled.  Misty said softly:

       “It’s outlawed now so there’s nothing to get upset about.”  Tich returned to his mother, who was lying outstretched on the straw. As Silver heard her foal come into the box she opened her eyes.

      “Come ‘ere Tich love,”  she said dreamily.  Tich did as his mother asked and lay down beside her.  Silver embraced Tich tightly, something she’d only done during the first few weeks after his birth.  Tich reasoned that the mare stories had frightened his mother so much that she needed reassurance that he was not going to go the way the unfortunate mare’s foals did.  Once Tich had managed to reassure his mother that he wasn’t going to die on her, she fell asleep still hugging him tightly.

 

 

That night a storm broke over the yard.  Thunder crashed and rolled overhead, making Carmen squeal and whinny in terror.  Jingle, who had been moved into the box beside Carmen, tried to comfort her, but Carmen had the fear in her now and nothing Jingle could say would comfort her in the slightest.  The rain beat on the roof of the barn while the horses inside it became more and more distressed.  Soon all the horses, except Fleur, who wouldn’t wake for anything, were kicking their box doors and whinnying pitifully.  As for me, sleep was impossible, what with the rain, squealing, whinnying horses and such like.  I ventured out into the pouring rain to see if I could be of any help to the others.  Carmen, terrorised and maddened by the thunder and rain was rearing and bucking in the confines of her box, her boots smashing against the wood with alarming force.  I yelled:

       “Carmen!  Stop that!  You’ll smash your box to bits!”  The poor mare whirled round to face me.  I saw her eyes were like soup plates in their sockets.

        “I can’t cope with this!  I’m frightened!”  she whinnied.  The thunder first boomed, and then crashed overhead!  Carmen gave vent to a squeal that I hope I’m Never going to hear again!  It was so full of fear and terror!  It was a horrible sound!  I can hardly describe it, but it haunts me Even now.  Then the lightning came, and I can tell you now, I’ve Never been so terrified or enthralled in all my life!  The lightening was a mixture of fork and sheet.  It arced out of the sky giving earthly beings a lightshow that was unrivalled by any laser display imaginable.  What’s more, we could watch nature’s lightshow without getting wet, as we were viewing the lightshow from the barn.  Carmen screeched and squealed with terror!  In the end, the only way we could find of calming Carmen was for another mare, myself in fact, to get into her box with her and squeeze her up against the wall so that on one side of her she saw wall, and on the other she had a horse.  This helped a little, but only a very little.  Carmen whispered:

        “Beyancca, what’s happening?  Is the world ending?”  I stared at her in astonishment!

     “What?  I don’t know what you’re going on about Carmen!”  The poor mare’s eyes were out on stalks.  She swallowed hard and said:

        “I’m frightened Beyancca!  The world’s gonna end tonight, I’m sure of it!”  Silver, overhearing Carmen’s words, strode up to Carmen’s door, kicked it with all her force and yelled at the larger mare.

        “You believe in that rubbish?  Storms ‘appen all the time and the world ‘asn’t ended yet, so I don’t know what the ‘ell you’re worrying about!”  Carmen began to cry.  The rain beat on the roof of the barn with alarming force, the thunder crashed and rolled overhead, and I could see myself getting no sleep that night.  Carmen stared at me, her eyes full of panic.  She pleaded shrilly:

     “Protect me Beyancca, please, protect me from the darkness!”  Silver yelled at her:

      “What!  You’s asking B’ to protect you against darkness?  ‘ave you always been a wimp? A Foal?  ‘ave you Never grown up?  B’s not gonna protect you from the darkness, she can’t!  Where did you get that stupid idea from anyway Carmen?”  I’d had enough of Silver!  I rounded on her:

       “You shut up before I do you damage!”  I warned.  Silver knew better than to answer me back, for she knew who would do the damage if she did, Josh of course.  At the moment Silver couldn’t see the massive Shire horse, but she knew, as soon as there was the slightest smell of trouble, he’d be there.  The rain slackened a little and with that Carmen calmed down.  Silver spoke up again.

       “See what I mean?  Nothing ‘appened did it Carmen.”  Carmen ignored her.  I walked out of the barn, sloshed through the rainwater which had accumulated on the concrete, and finally made it to Jamie’s barn.  He watched me arrive and dragged me inside.

      “I’m so glad you’re safe B’,”  he said.

       “What’s that Jamie?”  I asked.  The Field horse hugged me.

       “I thought, I mean, Jitan told me that you’d gone out on a hack in that storm.  I thought you’d been struck by lightening or something when you Never came back after an hour or so.  Where the hell were you?”  He asked.

       “In the barn keeping dry Jamie love.”  I replied.  Jamie closed the door and joined me.

     “Autumn’s coming B’ darling,”  he observed.

      “yeah, and what of it?”  I asked.  Jamie’s thoughts had turned to Christmas already, I couldn’t believe him!

     “I wonder how Jinja’ll take this Christmas B’?  They say that the second year after the death of a loved one is easier than the first, but I wouldn’t know ‘cos I’ve Never experienced the death of a loved one.”  I asked:

       “Jamie, Jamie darling, why did you fight other horses?”  Jamie looked sick.

     “I, I don’t know, I don’t know!  You know what?  Never a day goes past when I wish I hadn’t done so!  I’m so ashamed of what I did to other horses!  I mean, I’m not talking about Dominic, he had to go, but Chantilly, well she’s different.  I held her down while Confiada beat the stuffing out of her, and then you also!  How could I have done that to you?  The mare who I now love?  I remember holding you down, while, while Confiada tied you up and removed your boots so your feet would become irritated by the concrete in that prison she kept you in.”  Tears filled his eyes, Jamie sniffed:

        “I’m sorry Beyancca, really I’m sorry love!”  he sobbed.  I hugged Jamie tightly.

      “That’s in the past now.  Horses can change can’t they?  As long as you abstain from fighting other horses from now on I’ll be happy.”  I said.  Jamie promised me he wouldn’t fight any more horses.  The rain had stopped, and that meant work!  I was dragged protesting from Jamie’s box and tacked up.

       “Man what a crap day this is!”  I thought as a bumbling idiot of a rider I’d had the misfortune to carry before made himself apparent.

      “Oh no, not again, not again!  Not today, please not today!”  I pleaded.  The Manageress hugged me and said:

     “he’s not that bad.  Come on B’ dear, he’s got’a be given a chance.”  I snapped:

       “I’ve given him plenty of chances, he’s not very good, and that’s the restrained version!”  The Manageress told me to shut it and work, I was outraged!  I remonstrated:

      “How can you expect me to work with a novice who thinks he’s a professional?  He’s got’a learn that he’s a novice until further notice!”  Josh sidled up to me and added his contribution.

       “Yeah mum I know ‘im myself.  I totally agree with you, ‘e’s a novice and no mistake about that!”  I was amazed by the fact that Josh hadn’t sworn once in that whole sentence!  My expression must have registered with Josh, for he said:

       “I can clean up my speech if I ‘ave to, and there’re kids about today.  I ain’t gonna swear in front of them is I!”  I looked fondly at the large Shire horse who I loved more than anyone else in the world.  Josh saw the look in my eyes and said:

     “Mum’s gone all soppy.  Man! You can’t take ‘er out anywhere!”  I thumped him hard and that shut him up.  My rider clambered onto my back and sat there flopped over the saddle horn like a sack of potatoes, I couldn’t believe it!

 

I followed the other horses out of the yard.  Directly in front of me Josh was creating a lot of dust to fly off the road whenever he put his feet to the ground, I found myself wishing he could fly!  The dust was getting in my eyes and ears and that was making my mood worse!  Pulling alongside him, I asked:

       “Josh love?  Could you walk behind me?  You see, it’s not your fault, but,,,”  he cut me off.

      “yeah mum, I know, my feet’re causing dust to fly in your face, I can’t ‘elp that, but yeah, if you like.”  So Josh dropped back and I took his place, much to the annoyance of Josh’s rider.

       “What’s this?  Why has he dropped back?”  The rider asked.  Josh replied:

      “’e ‘as a name! And my name’s Josh by the way.  The reason I dropped back was ‘cos my boots were causing dust from the road to fly in my mum’s face and she didn’t like it, all right?”  Of course, the rider didn’t understand him, if only humans would listen, then they would understand what we horses say!  I think Equous, or Horsetalk as it is referred to here, should be taught in Every school for humans, and that they should be fluent in it by the time their ten years old!  It would stop some humans abusing their horses don’t you think?  Enough of that however, where did I get to?  Oh yeah, on a hack wasn’t I.  Well there I was on this hack type affair, no, that doesn’t sound right does it?  Of course not!  What’s happening to you Beyancca?  Where was I?  Oh yeah, well, Josh’s rider still hadn’t worked out why he had moved to let me walk in front of him.  The female human spoke her question out loud, as some humans are prone to doing:

       “Why did he,,,”  then remembering her horse’s angry whinny, she changed it to:

      “Why did Josh drop back?”  Smiling broadly at the human’s perception, Josh turned his head and replied:

      “The reason, as I ‘ave already said ‘uman, but I’ll go over it again, ‘cos you ain’t too up on ‘orse-talk is you?  Well as you ain’t, ‘ere it is again.  I dropped back ‘cos my ‘uge feet were kicking up dust into mum’s face and she ain’t too pleased about that.”  The human nearly died of shock!

       “Did, did that horse speak to me!”  She screeched.  Josh, relieved that a human had finally understood him said:

       “yeah, course I bloody did.  We ‘orses talk to you ‘umans all the time but the majority of you never listen!” We clopped along contentedly for a bit.  Drama came to the hack when we loped up a hill, for this was a western hack.  As we gathered at the bottom of the hill I got a good look at the other horses in the string.  Besides Josh and myself, there was Jinja, Cleo, Fleur, Carmen, Balugue, Jitan and finally Hibou!  Josh, catching sight of Hibou, remarked that:

       “That anti-social bloody Field ‘orse’s ‘ere again.  ‘e’s a miserable git!”  I told him sharply to keep his views to himself.  Hibou seemed not to have heard Josh’s sentiments, and it was a good thing he hadn’t, for if he had, then there’d’ve been a fight, or a disagreement at best, and that’d really have poured cold water on things.  All the horses were ready to loap up the hill, Hibou was on my right with Josh on my left.  The hill was a straight run to begin with, but turned to the right as the horses reached the top.  This meant that the riders had to be careful their horses didn’t crash into each other as they turned.  No, that’s not what happened!  Hibou was the cause of the drama.

 

Hibou’s rider urged him into a loap and the field horse, full of beans as he was, shot off like a rocket!  Unfortunately for Hibou’s rider, Hibou was and still is partial to lush grass, all horses are, but Hibou’s worse!  He can’t resist a chance to get his head down to a patch of lush grass, no matter where he is.  So it was then.  Seeing his favourite foodstuff passing beneath him, Hibou got the uncontrollable urge to eat!  So he jammed his forefeet into the grass, skidding abruptly to a halt, and depositing his rider onto the grass in the process.  Hibou’s rider fell off sideways, thudding onto the grass while his horse, oblivious to his rider’s predicament, ate grass contentedly.  Hibou’s rider picked himself up off the grass and retrieved his horse.  Hibou made no complaint as the rider remounted and he carried him up the hill at a slightly more sedate pace.  All this had taken about a minute and a half, but it was the most frightening minute and a half I’ve had in ages!  Hibou was directly in front of me when he decided that it was time for a mid-morning snack.  Therefore I had to take evasive action to prevent myself from trampling on Hibou’s rider.  Josh rounded savagely on the Field horse.

     “you bloody idiot!  What the ‘ell did you think you’s playing at?  You’s the most stupid of all Field ‘orses, and that’s saying something!”  Angered by his views, Balugue lashed out at Josh, her boot catching him on his right foreleg.  Squealing with rage Josh attacked her! Josh drove Balugue under his huge feet with no thought for her rider, or his for that matter.  This resulted in both Josh’s and Balugue’s riders jumping, quite literally, for their lives!  The massive Shire horse came very close to killing Balugue that day.  He only left off when Jitan intervened!  Josh stood over Balugue’s prostrate form.  I gave him a disgusted look and said:

       “I hope that satisfies you Josh.  You know what?  You’s acting like Dominic you know.”  Josh was livid!

      “Don’t you Ever, Ever!  Compare me to that bastard!”  he yelled.  Jinja, overhearing all this said:

         “You are you know Josh.  That’s exactly what Dominic used to do.  Yeah, I know Balugue kicked you, but did that deserve the reaction you gave?  Oh yeah Josh, look at it now!  I go up to another horse, have a minor disagreement, lash out in a temper and do very little damage, none at all actually.  Do I deserve to be nearly killed for my actions?  Think about it.  Does Every horse have to live under the fear that if they lose their cool and lash out, which most horses do in their lifetimes anyway, that in the event of a momentary loss of control, they lose their lives for it?  Is that right?”  Josh looked sulky.

       “I ‘ate Field ‘orses Jinja.  I ‘ate them so bloody much!”  He blustered.  Jinja, older than any of us, and therefore able to take a detached view of these things, replied:

      “Josh, answer me this question truthfully.  What have the Field horses done to you personally to merit their destruction?”  Josh couldn’t answer that one.  I said:

         “Ever since I took over the leadership, I’ve been trying to reconcile the differences between the Field and yard herds.  It isn’t easy to do, I’m making inroads, as we all are, and you aren’t helping things Josh.”  Josh hawked and spat insultingly at Balugue.  The Manageress rode up alongside me then.  She was riding Annie, who, seeing the unfolding drama in front of her, kept her human cargo well out of range of flying hooves, spit or anything else.  Annie backed away a good five paces and watched the situation intently.  Josh looked at me, a look of pure spite in his eyes, he shouted:

      “yeah, I knows too much about this reconciliation crap.  Man do I!  My bloody mother’s married to a field ‘orse!”  Josh flew at me!  Forgetting my rider, I reared high in the air, throwing him off backwards!  Wheeling round I fled as fast as my legs could carry me!  Annie, seeing Josh advancing on her, fled also!  Annie is known affectionately as the yard Ferrari because of her amazing turn of speed in a crisis, and man did she go!  Annie, small mare that she is, shot off like a bullet, leaving a dust cloud behind her.        “Cor’ bloody ‘ell!  She can ‘alf shift can’t she!”  Josh exclaimed.   I yelled at him:

       “Josh!  You listen to me!  You’ve behaved disgracefully!  That behaviour’s not suitable for any horse in this yard, least of all you!  You’re meant to be a grown horse now, but you’re acting like a bloody foal! You can stop this antics right now!  Neither Hibou, nor Balugue have done or said anything remotely offensive to you, so you’re treatment of them, “just ‘cos I ‘ate them,” as you put it, is despicable!  I’m loathed at the moment to call you my foal Josh!”  Josh looked miserable.  I wheeled round and then remembered my rider.

     “Oh no!  I threw him didn’t I!”  But the rider was all right, if a little shaken by the experience.  My rider remounted and we continued along the trail.  Josh’s rider, having seen his unpredictability, was unsure whether to get on again.  Josh stood there, all four feet placed firmly on the ground, not doing anything.

        “Come on then?”  Josh coaxed.  The female human said:

       “You forgot about me earlier, what’s there to say you won’t do it again Josh?”  Josh looked offended.

       “I wasn’t angry with you ‘uman!  It was that bloody field ‘orse I was pissed off with.”  The Female rider looked Josh in his eye and said:

      “Isn’t a horse’s job to look after his or her rider when they are a novice?”  Josh looked downcast.

       “Yep, sorry, my fault I think,”  he conceded.   The female human suddenly got angry and hit out at Josh!  Another female human rider remonstrated:

      “Sandy!  You don’t hit out at a horse!”  Josh’s amiable manner vanished in a flash!  He turned rear end on to the female human and lashed out furiously! His boot flew past her head, missing it by inches!  Seeing his attack fail, Josh whipped round and snapped repeatedly at the human!  He’d gone mad!  Josh embarked on a terrifying display of furious kicking!  His feet flailed about dangerously!  Annie came sprinting back, carrying the Manageress on her back.  I wondered where they’d got to, when my question was answered by the sight of the thong of a lunging whip singing through the air towards the enraged Shire horse.  Annie reared, pulling back sharply from any attack Josh might launch her way and fled with the Manageress hanging on with one hand, while the human twirled the thong on the whip above her head in a gesture from the wild west!  Josh stopped lashing out and finally calmed down.  Sandy’s party weren’t best pleased with her for frightening her horse to such action.  Once the Manageress had deposited the lunging whip wherever it was stored, Annie brought her back to the main string.  Josh’s human rider, oh I’m sorry, her name’s Sandy isn’t it?  Well, Sandy remounted Josh without any more protestation.  Josh muttered under his breath:

     “Bloody ‘umans, Cor’ there is some buggers about round ‘ere.”  He trudged off in my wake, head down and ears pinned back.

 

I will not bore you with the mundane journey back.  Josh was in the doghouse and he knew it.  When we arrived back at the yard he slunk away from the string, was untacked by a Lad and then fled.  My rider dismounted, sort of, it was more like falling off actually, but I said nothing.  He walked away while I, after losing my tack, followed the other horses into the fields.  I lay down on the grass, the air was chilly now, so I got up again.  Making my way back to my box, I found Chantilly blocking my path.  It was obvious to me that she was furious.

      “ah, b’, there you is, been looking out for you for ages.  If you’s wondering why I’m ‘ere, not in the fields, it’s ‘cos I got bashed by our Stallion!  ‘e’s brutal when ‘e, well you know.  If you refuse ‘is demands, well, then, ‘e’s worse!”  she whinnied.  I asked:

       “What did ‘e do to you?”  Chantilly grimaced at me and snapped:

      “’e kicked me, and don’t drop your H’s!”

       “Oh sorry sorry sorry,”  I teased.  Chantilly wasn’t in the mood for play however, and she let me know it by kicking me hard with her right hind foot, it hurt!  I challenged her:

       “Was that really necessary?”  Chantilly looked depressed.

       “No, it wasn’t, sorry.”  She replied.  I hugged my friend, Chantilly returned my embrace, her tears wetting my fur as she cried.

       “I don’t wan’a foal B’, I really don’t!”  She sobbed.  After a while Chantilly dried her eyes and looked at me.

      “Thanks B’,,,”  She laughed slightly:

       “You know what?  This is gonna sound soppy, but, well, I don’t know what I’d do without you sometimes.  You’s so composed, mature, all of that, I ain’t any of that!  You can tell a ‘orse what’s what, and they knows that you’s giving ‘em good advice.”  I didn’t know what to say to that.  Chantilly limped along beside me as we made our way back to the fields.  She gasped:

     “Cor’, bloody ‘ell, this ‘urts!  What did that sod do to me!”  Chantilly rested her head on my shoulder, making me stop walking.  I realised she was crying.

       “The stallion’s really hurt you hasn’t he,”  I observed.

       “yeah, too bloody right, ‘e ‘as!”  She sobbed.  Chantilly said:

       “I ain’t walking no more, can’t anyway, ‘urts too dam much it does.”  Suddenly we were interrupted by the Manageress, who told me that Fleur! of all horses!  Had been sold and was being taken away from the yard at seven the next morning! Chantilly stared at me in bewilderment:

       “’adn’t you better go and sort ‘er out?  You was ‘er friend, ‘er closest one per’aps, and you’s leader  after all isn’t you,”  She suggested.  So I made my way to Fleur’s box where she was standing, looking dispiritedly at the wall.  I said gently:

      “Fleur?  Fleur dear, are you all right?”  I knew she wasn’t, any horse, and most humans for that matter,  could have deduced that she wasn’t, without actually putting the question to her.  When she turned her face to me, Fleur was close to tears.

       “What do you mean ”am I all right?”  I’m not!  I suppose you’ve heard the news, it seems everybody else heard it  before I did, and that’s terrible!  I wonder what you’ve got to say for yourself Beyancca?  You said you would help me, you did!  You broke your promise to me, and now, now I’m sold!  I’ve failed!  Apparently I’m going to London, a place far far away from here, from where I’ll Never be able to get back here!  I can’t explain my feelings, I haven’t got the words to do so.”  Another mare whinnied at me in welcome.

      “Hi! um, how’s things?”  Fleur gave her a contemptuous look and stamped her foot in rage!  She screamed:

      “That thing in the box! I will not give it any identity, because it doesn’t deserve it, that thing that whinnied at you is my, my replacement!”  The newcomer, a mare, with a little Irish Draught in her parentage, I could see this much, was upset, and quite rightly by Fleur’s attitude towards her.  She whinnied:

        “What?  I’m not the cause of you being sold am I?  I’ve never met you before Fleur, never!  I’m sorry if my arrival here has upset you, I really mean that, but I don’t know what’s going on!  I was brought over here from Dublin on a lorry, and the human, who horses here refer to as “the Manageress,” picked me from a herd of six.  I was brought here and that’s all I know.”  Fleur shouted:

       “You’ve turfed me out!”  Then she tried to attack the newcomer.  I fought her off and floored her!

      “Now Fleur, you listen to me, you can’t do anything about it so stop your antics now!”  I snapped.  Fleur snapped at the air and flailed about beneath me.  I added:

       “That mare’s not responsible for anything in this, the situation was not of her making!”  I levered myself off of Fleur and she stood up.

       “You broke your promise to me, I’ll Never forgive you for this!”  Fleur yelled.  I couldn’t remember making any promise to her, and I could remember the events clearly, they had shocked me almost as much as they had Fleur.  Fleur turned tail and trudged off.  The Irish Draught mare looked at me curiously.  She said:

       “You might be able to, I mean, could you help me? Um, oh dear, this is sounding silly isn’t it.  I, I don’t know where I am, I’m looking for a leader or some other horse?  Some direction?  It’s all manic!  Oh, well, I’m confused, that’s how it is.”  I replied:

        “If you want the herd leader, you’ve got the right mare.”  The poor thing looked shocked!

       “You what!  I mean, you?  You’re leader?”  She asked.

      “Yeah, no problem with that is there?”  I asked.  The mare looked totally foxed.

       “No, No there isn’t, there’s no problem at all,”  she replied.  I could see panic rising in her.  She’d just got off a lorry into England, been left alone in a strange yard with strange horses, and now she was being accused of things that she couldn’t possibly have known of, or taken part in.  I put my nose up to hers and nuzzled her, trying to reassure, to comfort her.

         “What’s your name?”  I asked gently.  She looked long and hard at me.

       “I don’t know, the humans haven’t thought of one for me yet, what’s yours?  If that isn’t an impolite question, you know, one that a herd member does not ask her leader.”  I felt really sorry for her.

       “My name’s Beyancca, but if that’s too much for you, then just call me B’.  everyone else does,”  I replied.  Carina, angered by the mare’s reference to me as her leader, spoke up:

       “What’s this?  I don’t know you newcomer, but your reference to Beyancca as “your leader” means that you consider yourself a member of this herd, and you’re not!  No horse, besides Fleur, who’s leaving, and Beyancca, has met you yet.  Member of the herd my hoof!  You are not a member yet!”  I thought Carina’s words to be ill advised and less than helpful, I told her so.

       “Carina, listen to me.  This mare is staying here, she’s taking Fleur’s job and you can’t change that, so shut up and leave her alone.”  Carina gave me a black look and kicked her door in frustrated rage.  Turning back to the newcomer, I said:

     “Sorry about that, she’s a little nervous that’s all.”  Carina swore at me.

      “We’ll have less of that!”  I snapped.  Carina burst out of her box and rushed at me.  I stuck out a forefoot and tripped her.  Carina skidded, stumbled and fell!  I said angrily:

     “You deserved that.”  Carina struggled to her feet and limped away.  The Irish Draught mare watched her go.

       “Who is she?  And why was she so angry with you Beyancca?”  I told her of Carina’s conviction that she was herd leader and no election to the contrary would convince her otherwise.

      “Now what shall we do about your name?  What would you like to be called?  I know that sounds silly, but it’s got to be considered,”  I said.  The mare looked at me for a few minutes without saying anything.  Just as I was giving up hope of Ever thinking of a name for her, Sam, our resident badger came lumbering round the corner.  He had taken a course in diction since his arrival in the yard and now his speech was better than it had been.

     “Hi B’, hey!  What have we here?  Or should it be who have we here?”  he looked at the newcomer.

      “You look like a mare I once knew, her name was Shamrock,”  he said.  The mare’s eyes lit up:

      “Yeah, well now, I like that, how about that?  Shamrock, yeah, I like it,”  she said.  That was settled then, phew!  On with the story if you don’t mind!

 

You might be wondering what became of Fleur after our little disagreement.  She had returned to her box to fret and worry over her impending departure from the yard to an unknown place.  The Poor mare was frantic with worry, as I was to find out later.

 

When I called on her later that evening, Fleur was in a hell of a state.  She seemed to have withdrawn into herself totally, at first I couldn’t raise a reaction from her, but as I persisted, Fleur came out of her depression and waved a boot at me to enter the box.  Without saying anything, Fleur came to me and rested her head on my shoulder, pressing herself to me.  There was nothing to be said, I knew what her thoughts were, for mine were very similar.  I would miss Fleur terribly, I knew that, and she, it seemed, would miss me also.  Fleur said softly:

     “Thanks for everything B’.”  I felt a lump in my throat.  Almost choking on my words, I replied:

         “Don’t, Don’t say anything Fleur, there’s no need.”

      “But there is, I caused hell for you!  What with the episode with Brydy n’all, and you stood by me.”  I was close to tears:

     “I’m your friend Fleur dear.  Friends do that for each other,”  I said.  Fleur sighed:

       “I’m just sorry that, now, now I’ll Never be able to repay you, Never.  My chance has gone forever, just like so many others.”  Fleur’s depression was making my mood worse!  I looked at the stable clock and saw its disturbing message.

      “eleven thirty” it said.  Fleur said:

     “Look, B’, I’m telling all the other horses this, but, I don’t want any send off.  I’m going at seven in the morning, take several turns round the field and you’ll sleep through it and not worry about me.  It might sound awful, it probably does, but I couldn’t leave here knowing I’d left sadness behind me.  It sounds selfish and horrid, I know that, but could you?  Please?  Go on with your life as you did?”

     “And forget you Fleur?”  I asked.

       “No, I don’t want that, oh dear!  I’m finding all this hard to cope with!”  she replied.  I said:

      “No, no Fleur I won’t let you go like you say, I can’t!”

      “Why not?”  Fleur asked.

       “Because I’m not like that!”  I was becoming angry, my grief was making me so.

       “I can’t let you go because, because I don’t want you to!”  I whinnied.  Fleur gulped back tears, but mine were flowing freely.  Fleur said;

       “I can’t stop you if you want to.”

      “I do, I do very much,”  I replied.  Fleur said:

      “Meet me in the car park at five thirty tomorrow morning Beyancca, that’s if, if you will of course?”

      “First you say you want no send off, and now your saying you do,,,”  Fleur cut me off:

     “yeah, well no, I, I was trying to be strong, but now, now I can’t!”  With that she finally let go and wept into my fur.  Once Fleur was quiet, to be calm was impossible, I left her and returned to my own box.

 

Half an hour or so later I heard a horse coming out of the barn, stepping lightly though she was, I could tell who it was, for all the horses wore mountain boots, and Confiada wouldn’t go on night-time wanders.  Then there was a light tap, as well as a horse can be said to tap with it’s hoof on my door.

      “Shamrock?  What’re you doing up at this hour?”  I whispered.  The Irish Draught mare hesitated, and then replied:

       “Can I come in?  it’s cold out here, and I don’t want to speak above a whisper.”  I let her in, and when she was settled on a warm patch of straw, which I had vacated, I asked:

        “You heard everything?  I know you did, for if you hadn’t you wouldn’t be here now.”  Shamrock looked ashamed.

       “yes I did, but what was there to stop me, you had the conversation in what could only be described as not very hushed tones,”  she replied.  Shamrock sighed:

        “I, I feel so bad, terrible, as if I’ve done something wrong!”  She was almost crying:

        “I feel like I’ve come here and broken up a friendship B’, I’m sorry!”  I said gently:

      “Hey Shamrock dear, don’t cry, don’t cry please.  You have got nothing to worry about, nothing at all.  It’s not your fault that Fleur’s leaving.  You have nothing to fear from me, or her, because she knows, and I know you couldn’t have known anything about your arrival here.”  Shamrock sobbed:

        “Yeah, but Fleur said things earlier on that made me think.  She said she, she wouldn’t Even accord me an identity because I’d come in and replaced her!”  I replied:

     “Look Shamrock, Fleur was upset, wouldn’t you be?  She didn’t mean what she said.  It was a heat of the moment thing, she didn’t mean it dear.”  Shamrock moved closer to me.  Any other leader would have thrown her out for this, but not me.  I knew how she felt, and I wasn’t about to throw her out.

     “Stay here if you like, and in the morning, I’ll ask Fleur if what I said to you about her not meaning her words is true, I think it is, but I think she’d like to tell you herself,”  I said.  Indeed, Fleur had said something to that affect to me just before I’d left her.  I nuzzled Shamrock’s ear and stroked her cheek gently with my muzzle.  Shamrock, feeling now that she was safe, and that she could trust this new mare, who was so very different to any other leader she’d encountered, fell asleep and didn’t wake until I shook her.

 

As for me, I couldn’t sleep a wink.  I watched the clock creep round to five in the morning, then I could take it no longer, I tapped Shamrock’s shoulder gently with my muzzle.

       “Um, yeah, who’s that?”  She asked drowsily.  Opening her eyes she saw me and remembered all.

       “Five thirty already is it?”  Shamrock asked sleepily.  I replied:

      “No, five o’clock,,,”

      “ But you said five thirty B’,”  Shamrock said.  It was then she noticed my weariness.

       “I’ll bet you haven’t slept at all,”  she observed.

       “Your right there, I( haven’t,”  I replied.  Shamrock got up and stretched.

      “better go and meet Fleur hadn’t we,”  she suggested.  So that’s what we did, making quite sure that Fleur was there before we showed ourselves.

 

Fleur looked small and vulnerable as she stood alone on the gravel of the car park, occasionally stirring the gravel with a forefoot.  When she saw us, she started at the sight of Shamrock.  Then remembering what she’d said the previous night, Fleur walked slowly towards us and stretched out her nose to Shamrock in an unmistakable gesture of friendship.  Rubbing Shamrock’s nose with hers, Fleur said:

       “I’m sorry for what I said about you not being worth anything Shamrock.  I hope you have a happy life here, I know you shall.”  A tear rolled down Shamrock’s nose as I watched.

       “Thank you Fleur,”  She said softly.  Past crying now, Fleur led us to her now middle aged wood.  As we lay down in the dew covered grass Fleur told Shamrock about the wood, and how it had been her sanctuary from harm.  I know many horses who would have laughed at Fleur to her face, and not thought twice about it neither, but Shamrock respected Fleur’s views, and could see, although she only admitted this to me, how a wood like that could do so much for Fleur.

 

Shamrock and I lay, one on each side of Fleur, for about an hour and a half I guess.  Little did we know that Fleur’s new owners had come to pick her up earlier than expected and were now ranging all over the yard looking for her.

 

The Manageress was woken from sleep by the sound of the doorbell ringing.  Wondering who it could be at, she looked at the clock, Six thirty in the morning!  She pulled on a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, a woollen fleece and riding boots, for as she reasoned:

     “you’ve got to look the part, Even if you don’t feel it at the crack of dawn.”  Opening the door she was confronted by a short fat man and his wife demanding to know where there horse was!  The Manageress, still drugged with sleep as she was, replied:

       “She’s in the box, in the western yard, first on the right, where we agreed she’d be.”  Privately, the Manageress had her own ideas as to where Fleur’d be at that moment, and she was Never to know how close to the truth she was.  The man said:

     “she’s not there.  If she was we’d be away by now.”  The Manageress mentally shook herself.  She followed Fleur’s new owners out into the freezing morning, and didn’t regret the presence of mind she’d had in wearing the fleece as the wind made itself felt.  The Manageress and Fleur’s new owners spent the next half an hour combing the yard, all the boxes, waking many horses in the process, and the indoor riding school itself, The Manageress, in one mad moment, even went into the restaurant to see if Fleur’d gone in for a cupp’a.  Needless to say they couldn’t find her anywhere.

 

We got up from our prostrate positions and made our way back to the car park, unaware of all this carry on.  As we made our slow progress back, Fleur hugged each of us in turn and told us to tell the others that she would love them forever.  As we came down the track we saw the horsebox, and of course Fleur’s new owners.  The Manageress seemed to be in acrimonious disagreement with the man.  As we approached I heard him say:

      “I’ve Never heard such tosh!  I’ve Never held with the anthropomorphism with which some people attach to animals.  Distressed horses indeed, they probably don’t know where the hell they are, let alone know their fellow horses!  As to the horse having notions of love and compassion for their fellow horses, well that’s mad!  But not as crazy as this!  I’ve Never held with the view that a horse can tell what humans say, Never!”  The Manageress pointed to us.  She snapped:

        “Look at Fleur!  What do you see in her eyes?  Grief that’s what!  Those others, Beyancca and the mare the horses call Shamrock, either side of Fleur?  They know what’s going to happen to Fleur when she gets down here, that’s why she wasn’t in her box.”  The man blustered:

     “Beyancca’s nowhere near Fleur.  her box is miles away!”  The Manageress replied:

       “Horses do have a very strong family grouping instinct,,,”  she decided then to let this obnoxious man know what she thought:

       “if you don’t know that, you’ve either not kept horses, or you have and have learned nothing from them.”  The man looked at his wife, who was sitting in the cab of the horsebox, preferring to let her husband deal with the Manageress.  He turned back to the Manageress and said:

       “What now.”  The Manageress pointed out that it was now his responsibility, and not hers, to put a head collar on Fleur, lead her into the horsebox, shut the ramp after tying her up and drive away.  We drew nearer to the waiting humans, as we did so Fleur stopped suddenly:

     “B’?  Shamrock?  Stop a minute,”  she said.  We did as Fleur had asked, and she came to each of us, hugging us tightly.  I didn’t catch what Fleur said to Shamrock, but what she said to me was this:

`      “Beyancca dear, please, don’t forget me.  I know that this is what they all say, but, I’ll Never forget you.  You’re a brave courageous mare, and I love and respect you for that, but most of all, you’ve been a dear friend to me, and I’ll Never forget that.”  I couldn’t reply.  As Fleur was led into the horsebox Shamrock went and stood beside the Manageress, while I walked up the ramp to where Fleur was tethered and rested my head on her shoulder one last time.  As I did so, Fleur hung her head, weeping with grief.  I said softly:

     “Farewell Fleur.”  Then I came away, leaving her to deal with her pain as best she could, although I didn’t want to.

 

I watched as the ramp was raised, hiding fleur from us, then the engine was started and the box drove slowly down the drive with me following at a funeral pace.  I watched the tail lights of the Horsebox until it turned the corner onto the main road and disappeared.  Raising my head and pricking my ears for the sound of the engine, I listened to the fading rumble of it’s departure until I could hear it no longer.  Then, overcome for a moment, I raised my nose to the sky and whinnied pitifully for Fleur.

 

Making my way back slowly to the yard, the enormity of what I’d just seen hit me forcefully.  I lay down on the verge and wept into the long grass.

 

Once my tears had dried up, I made my way to the yard once more.  I arrived to see Shamrock and the Manageress standing where I’d left them, I don’t know how long ago.  Shamrock seemed to be doing her best to comfort the Manageress while the human cried into her fur.  As she saw me approaching, Shamrock said, referring to the Manageress:

       “She needs horses round her.”  So the Manageress had horses round her.  As well as Shamrock and myself, the Manageress soon had Josh, Chantilly, Cleo, and best of all for her, Jinja standing round her in the freezing morning.

 

Soon we went back to the daily life in the yard.  Shamrock and I went round to all the horses informing them that Fleur had been taken by her new owners that morning.  Silver and Tich were sad to hear of her departure, Even though Fleur had blundered about and frightened Silver by flashing her huge hooves at her.  I reminded her that Fleur had done this in a spirit of fun.  Shamrock was soon galloping about the yard, rolling on the grass with the other horses and having a great time.

 

Now I come to an episode which resulted in a lot of trouble for many horses in the yard.  Jamie, it had been said, had been sharpening his hooves, making the edge razor sharp.  The manageress, knowing of the Field horse’s tendency to fight others of his breed, became concerned and asked me about it, as I was, um, associating, with Jamie, and could probably tell her more about it than he would ever.  The discussion became heated as the manageress kept saying that Jamie was a menace to his herd  what with his love of fighting, and now his sharp hooves.  She stopped her torrent when Jamie appeared and challenged her:

     “Look, stop hassling her!  What I do with my hooves is up to me, right!”  then he shoed her a bared, sharp hoof.  Jamie suggested:

        “Feel it, feel my hoof human.”  The Manageress felt Jamie’s hoof, it was razor sharp, so sharp that she cut her finger on the edge.

       “You don’t want to get hit by that, make a terrible mess it would, and I’m faster on the draw than you are,”  he threatened.  Jamie’s protective instincts were aroused and he was just about holding them in check.  The Manageress was out of her depth.  She looked again at Jamie’s hoof, Jamie picked  his foot up and let the Manageress feel the sharp edge, weigh his foot in her hand, feel it’s considerable weight, and how powerful the muscles were controlling it, as he wanted to get his message across clearly.  After this, the Manageress  decided that to challenge the Field horse would be a foolish, and possibly fatal thing to do.

       “How do you get your hooves so sharp?”  She asked.  Jamie shook his head:

      “That’s my secret, I’m not about to tell a human that am I,”  he replied.  So later that day, when she was sure Jamie wasn’t about, The Manageress went into his box and searched it for a millstone or something the Field horse might have used to produce the lethal edge on his hooves.  As the Manageress searched without results, for Jamie hadn’t left anything, in fact his hoof sharpening stone was somewhere known only to him, he wouldn’t Even tell me where it was, she thought of how resourceful Jamie actually was.  He’d devised weapons that were deadly in nature, but concealed from prying eyes, as the weapons were his flinty hooves, only slightly modified from those which horses had used to defend themselves for millions of years.

 

She didn’t hear him come in, how could she when he was wearing mountain boots.  The first the Manageress knew of Jamie’s arrival was a soft “thud” as the boot fell off his right forefoot.  The Field horse was furious, and who could blame him?  What with a human snooping about his box!  He asked quietly:

       “What the hell’re you doing here human?”  The Manageress turned to see Jamie brandishing a sharp forefoot at her.  The Manageress tried to play for time, time to escape!

      “Now Jamie, Jamie dear, there’s no need for this,,,”  the field horse cut her off in mid sentence.

       “I don’t like humans poking into my affairs.  What I do with my own hooves is my business and mine alone.  I don’t tell you humans what to do with your finger nails do I?  No of course I don’t, so leave me alone!”  He whinnied.  Jamie chased the poor human out of the driving yard and then retired to his box, slamming his door hard!

      “Just leave me in Peace!”  He thought as he lay down on the straw.  Jamie pulled off his boots, he’d learned how to do it after modifying the boots so that he could operate the release mechanism with his teeth.  The boots on his forefeet were easy enough to remove, but those on his hind proved more problematic.  So Jamie found a piece of wood, that if jammed between the wall and his hayrack, could be used to lever the mechanism open if he caught the lever and pushed forwards.  This he did, flexing his feet once they were free from the boots.

      “Those boots were a good idea Beyancca, but they’re a little restrictive sometimes,”  he thought dreamily.  I found him like this half an hour later, Jamie was asleep by this time.  I watched him, thinking of how much I loved and admired him.  So what if he was a Field horse, Cross herd relationships were becoming accepted now, and what did it matter if they weren’t?  As long as Jamie and I were happy, which we were, then nothing else should matter.  Jamie shifted slightly and then snapped into consciousness.

      “Oh Hi B’ dear,”  he said.

      “Can I join you?”  I asked.  Jamie smiled up at me.

       “You should know by now that you don’t have to ask,”  he replied.  I lay down beside Jamie and he worked closer to me.

     “It’s rather cold in here, and not very private neither, can we go to your box B’ love?”  Jamie asked.  So we uprooted and adjourned to my box.  Josh had been spending less and less time in the yard, preferring to spend his days out with, um, single mares, if you know what I mean.  So when we arrived in my box all was deserted.  We settled down and I dragged out the huge rug Rosie made so famous.

      “That old thing’s still here!”  Jamie exclaimed.

      “Yeah, permanent reminder of Rosie type thing,”  I replied.

     “Rosie was your Friend wasn’t she B’,”  Jamie said.  I sighed:

    “Yeah, she was,”  I replied.  I threw the rug over us and things began to get very warm indeed.  Jamie and I lounged about for most of that day, wonderful it was!  I had a question for Jamie:

       “Jamie darling, where’s the stone that you use to sharpen your hooves?”  Jamie thought:

     “If I can’t trust my own mate, who can I trust?”  He hesitated, and then replied:

      “It’s in the woods, by an old oak tree, I’ll show you sometime,”  he promised.

 

Later that same day Jamie led me into the wood and showed me the place where his hoof sharpening stone lay.  It was flat, with scratch marks where his hooves had scraped against it.  He showed me how to sharpen a hoof without causing damage to it, before leading me back to the yard.

 

       “Not a word to anyone about what you’ve just seen,”  he said.  I promised Never to tell anyone, for if the humans found out, then Jamie’s stone would be removed and that’d be the end of that.

 

Later that day I collided with Silver in the barn, it appeared she’d been looking for me all day.

      “Ah B’, there you is!  ‘ave been looking all over the bloody yard for you’s all dam day and I ‘aven’t ‘ad any luck yet, but ‘ere you is, where ‘ave you been?”  I couldn’t tell her.

      “What can I do for you Silver?”  I enquired.  The miniature Shetland pony hesitated:

       “Um, well, it’s a little embarrassing really.  You see, ‘cos I can’t read, Tich ‘as been reading a book to me.  It’s got stories in it about an ‘orse called Dominic, Tich says you knew ‘im, Dominic I mean, what was ‘e really like?  Was ‘e as ‘orrid as that book says?  Or ‘as some bugger made ‘im into more than ‘e really was?”  I grimaced at the thought of Dominic.  I’d grown to hate his guts, and the showdown with Jamie didn’t help Dominic’s rating.  Our conversation was interrupted by Josh, who came sweeping round the corner nearly running Silver under his huge feet.

        “’ere Josh!  Watch it!  You’s nearly run me down!  Be careful will you!”  Silver remonstrated.  Josh smiled, he was in the mood for messing about, he said:

       “Oh dear, nearly run you down did I?  I’ll make a note to do it properly next time then.”  Silver screamed:

       “Josh!  I’m serious!”  Josh replied:

       “oh are you?  Well so’s I, and I’s gonna make a better job of running you down next time,”  he teased.  To add theatrical affect to his words, Josh raised a huge booted forefoot and shied it at Silver, her squeal of fear was deafening!

       “Josh, no, Josh! Don’t, Don’t squash me, please!”  She pleaded.  Smiling, Josh dropped to his knees and hugged Silver.  Ordinarily, Silver would have resisted and most likely run a mile at any hint of Josh wanting to embrace her, but at that moment, she was so frightened she didn’t know what was happening.  Before Silver knew it she was being hugged by the horse who she considered to be the scum of the turf and she could do nothing about it.  Josh stroked her ears with his muzzle, much as I had done to him.

      “if it worked on me, then it’ll work on ‘er won’t it,”  he thought, and so it did.  Silver relaxed despite her attempts to stay alert.  She thought:

      “’e’s taking over, ‘e’s gonna ‘ave me for dinner!”  Josh must have felt her anxiety for he said soothingly:

       “Silver, Silver dear, tell me this truthfully.  Would I Ever ‘urt you or Tich?”  Silver’s reply was a little indistinct because her head was buried in Josh’s fur.

        “No, I Never really thought you’d ‘urt us,”  Josh replied softly:

      “you’s a silly mare Silver, course I wouldn’t ‘urt you.  I ain’t in that game, I Never was and I Never will be.  I know I’s ‘uge, but that don’t mean I’m evil, far from it.  All I wants to do is protect you, you knows that don’t you?”  he asked.  Silver couldn’t reply for she was in tears. Josh asked gently:

     “Why’s you crying Silver?  There ain’t anything to be sad about is there?”  Silver dried her eyes and said:

        “it’s just that, that you’s ‘ere now, treating me with love, compassion and gentleness, and I’s treated you like shit these last few months.  ‘ow the ‘ell can you do it?  ‘cos I couldn’t, I know that, I ain’t that kind of ‘orse.  If some bugger treats me like shit, they ain’t getting no favours from me, but you’s different, you’s a better ‘orse than me for you can put anger aside and think deeper than that.  I suppose you’s got that from Beyancca, she’s like that.  Josh, I, I’m sorry for everything I’ve said in the past about you being an ‘orrid ‘orse, you ain’t, I can see that now.  Just ‘cos you refused my invitation, well that don’t make you bad neither.  It probably sounds crappy after what I’ve said to you and B’, and I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t accept my apology, cos you’s got Every right not to.  You’s got Every right to call me a stupid bloody mare and walk away from me now.  That’s all I ‘ave to say.”  She concluded.  It was Josh’s turn to cry now, and he was, quite openly.  Silver couldn’t see why he should be so upset.

      “’e’s probably angry with me, and I can’t blame ‘im neither,”  she thought.  But Josh wasn’t in the least bit angry with Silver.  he was relieved that she’d come round to sensible thinking!  He sniffed, tried to dry his eyes on Silver’s fur, as she had dried her eyes on his, for intelligent and resourceful as we horses are, we still cannot use handkerchiefs, and said:

         “I ain’t angry Silver, I’s just ‘appy that’s all.  I Never wanted to makes an enemy of you or Tich.  Tich could see that but for so dam long you couldn’t, it tore me apart Silver!  it ‘urt me to see you ‘urting Tich, both mentally and physically for Even mentioning my name, but ‘e kept coming back to me, despite what you says to ‘im not to.  Tich’s gonna be very ‘appy too Silver.  Josh got up slowly.  Silver watched him with what can only be described as an expression of pure lust on her face, she wanted him, and company throughout the long winter nights wasn’t her main reason for wanting him.  Josh caught her vibes and said:

       “No foals from me Silver, you know that dear.”  Silver sighed:

       “yeah, I know Josh dear, but I can dream can’t I?”  Josh replied:

       “What you’s dreaming of ain’t reality Silver.  you’s probably dreaming of a miniature Shire ‘orse isn’t you.  Well if you is, then it ain’t gonna ‘appen in a billion years dear, not like you wants it to anyway.  Genetics ain’t like what you thinks it is.”  Silver was mystified.

      “Josh, what the hell’re, um, those things you told me about a minute ago?”  She asked.  Josh smiled at her:

       “Genetics is the study of what we’s all made of Silver.  you see, we’s all made of genes, ‘orses, ‘umans, dogs, cats, any living thing in fact.  Them’s the things which ‘old the information which says what, and some ‘umans believe they also says who we is, n’all.”  Silver was out of her depth.

        “All right, all right!  Stop!  I know you’s a brainbox, but I ain’t!  I can just about get my ‘ead round what you’s just told me, but don’t go any further!  If you does, then I’s gonna switch off for good,”  She said.  Josh lay down on the concrete, and without saying a word, Silver clambered onto his back.  The huge Shire horse got slowly to his feet and took a few tentative steps.

       “Is you okay Silver?”  He asked.  Silver stretched out on Josh’s broad back.  She rolled onto her back with all four legs in the air.  When Josh saw what she was doing he nearly had a fit!

       “Silver!  You ‘ang on tight now or you’s gonna fall off dear, I don’t want that to ‘appen!”  He remonstrated.  Cautiously Silver rolled onto her side, scrabbled at his fur with her feet, as gently as she could of course, found she couldn’t get a foothold, grabbed hold of Josh’s fur with her teeth instead, and finally made it onto her chest without falling off.  The Shire horse’s relief was heart felt.

        “Phew!  Cor’ she’s done it.  I’d ‘ave gone mad if she’d fallen off!  Don’t want that now does I,”  he thought as Silver stretched herself along his back, luxuriating in the soft warmth of his fur.  I felt a horse sidle up to me.  Jamie rested his head on my shoulder and said:

        “You all right B’ dear?”  I replied that I was and threw the story of Josh and Silver’s reconciliation into it.  Jamie smiled broadly.

       “Now that’s what I like to hear.  Peace between horses is a good thing, I wish there were more horses who would try that,”  he said.  Silver stared at him in astonishment!

       “You says you want Peace?  If I ain’t mistaken Jamie, you’s a Field ‘orse ain’t you?  Well if you is, then what’s you saying about peace?  Your ‘erd know sod all about it, so where the ‘ell did you learn about it?”  Jamie tried to hide his anger at being lumped with the rest of his breed, swallowing hard he said:

      “I’m young, I decided to change my opinions of the yard herd when I met Beyancca.”  Silver screeched:

       “You mean you’s married to ‘er?”  Jamie replied:

      “yes I is, and there ain’t a dam thing you’s gonna do about it neither!”  Silver didn’t know what to say to that.  I could see the anger rising in the Shetland pony as she realised what Jamie’d said.

     “You, You’s a bloody sod!”  She screamed.  Then Silver actually leapt into the air, from six feet up as well!  She fell, landed right enough, and advanced on the Field horse.  Silver said menacingly:

      “First you’s got the nerve to tell me that you’s married to our leader, then you’ goes and drops your H’s to tell me that you is!  I ‘ate that!  I ‘ate you n’all Jamie!  You’s a Field ‘orse and you ain’t gonna change yourself neither!”  Jamie replied softly:

       “Well Silver, I Never said you had to like it did I?”  Silver screamed at the Field horse!  Jamie waited to see what the tiny pony’d do next.  As he watched, Silver tried to attack him.  She hit him with all of her four feet, turning as she did so.  Jamie waited until she’d finished before rising from where she’d lain him on the concrete, he let the boot on his right forefoot fall to the ground, and showed the pony his bared foot.

     “Look at this Silver, what is it?”  Jamie asked.  Silver gave the field horse a contemptuous look and replied:

      “It’s an ‘oof, what else would it be stupid?”  Jamie advanced a few paces towards Silver, he held out his right forefoot towards her.  He invited:

      “Here Silver, feel my hoof.  What do you feel?”  Silver put out her nose and brushed Jamie’s hoof gently with her muzzle.  The Shetland pony recoiled as the sharp edge cut her:

       “you’ve cut my nose!  You bugger!”  She yelled.  Jamie said harshly:

      “Look at me Silver!  What do you see?”  She looked, and saw that in her onslaught, she’d managed to tear his ear and badly bruise him.

      “But you cut my nose!”  She wailed.

      “Yes Silver, and what if I did to you the same as you did to me?  You’d be dead!  Be thankful for small mercies!”  Jamie shouted.  With that we left quickly, leaving Silver bleeding from a small neat cut on her nose.  Silver screamed:

     “Ain’t you gonna ‘elp me?  Oi Beyancca you’s the bloody leader you is!  You’s got’a come back and ‘elp me!  Come back ‘ere this minute!”  Josh looked down at the enraged Shetland pony.  Before he could say what he wanted, he saw Tich appear from the Western room.  Unknown to any of us Tich had been hiding there since I’d first met with Silver in the barn, and had seen everything.  He said;

       “Mum, that was so stupid of you!  I can’t believe what I just saw and heard!  Are you mad mother?  Do you have any sense at all?  I don’t think you do, for if you did you wouldn’t have said what you did to Jamie.  You’re lucky he didn’t do you serious damage.”  Silver wailed:

      “:e cut my nose!”  Tich looked at his mother with mock pity, he said softly:

       “Oh did he mum, I’m so sorry for you,”  then Tich shouted into Silver’s face:

      “Be grateful he didn’t kill you!”  Tich fled from the scene.  Silver watched him go, unable to do anything to stop him.  Josh said:

       “You is a silly mare Silver.  ‘e’s right you know.  Jamie could’ve killed you with little effort.  One blow from them ‘ooves of ‘is and, well, you’d be a mess, look what a brush from them did to your nose,”  Silver looked at Josh’s boots.  He undid the ratchet thing and pulled the boot off.  Silver looked at his huge hoof in horror.

      “You, you ain’t gonna start sharpening your ‘ooves is you Josh?”  She asked.  Josh strapped the boot on again.

       “No I’s not into that sort of thing Silver.  nature made my ‘ooves like that for a reason and I’s not the one to change them is I,”  he replied.  Silver asked:

      “If you’s of that mind, then why’s you wearing them boots?  Your ‘ooves is useless with them on!”  Josh replied:

       “’cos Every other ‘orse in this place is wearing them, and I doesn’t wan’a be like Confiada does I.”  Silver had forgotten that Confiada Never would contemplate wearing boots of any sort, let alone the heavy duty ones that we, as Confiada saw us, lesser horses wore.  Josh clomped off, leaving Silver to mull over what had taken place.  She reflected that she was maybe a little stupid to challenge Jamie to a fight, but how was she to know about his razor sharp hooves?  Silver was thankful that Jamie’d not kicked her, for if he had, then, well, the consequences were too horrible to think of.  Silver looked down at her own boots, wondering if she would Ever be able to use weapons like sharpened hooves, could she?  Could she bring herself to use them against another horse?  But she had kicked Jamie, just for being a field horse, nothing more than that.  Silver admitted to herself, as she had many times before, that she had a fiery temper, and that sharpened hooves might be dangerous in her possession.

      “My ‘ooves are so small, there ain’t gonna be anything to sharpen anyway,”  she thought as she contemplated the sight of her bared right forefoot.  Putting her boot on again, Silver vowed Never to pick on Jamie, Josh or any other horse Ever again, for they might have four concealed weapons, which she’d only find out about when it was too late for her.  Silver’s last thought as she settled down in her box was:

        “Yeah, Tich, you’s right you know, I’s a stupid mare.”

 

Shamrock wandered into the barn.  Curious to see who lived in the box next to Her’s she put her head in to see.  Silver gave her a searching appraisal and then left her to it.

      “Sorry, Did I disturb you?”  Shamrock asked.  Silver replied:

       “No, you’s okay, but I ain’t seen you ‘ere before, is you the new ‘orse, Fleur’s replacement?”  Shamrock felt bad about Fleur’s departure.  She hesitated, not knowing how to handle this tiny creature.

        “Yes, I’m the new horse, My name’s Shamrock, what’s yours?”  Shamrock asked.  Silver told her.  Shamrock’s eyes lit up:

      “Oh yeah!  I know now!  The Manageress calls you,,,”  She got no further for Silver snapped:

       “I know what she calls me, and I ‘ate it, all right?”  Suddenly the ground beneath their feet seemed to shudder with the blast wave of a massive explosion!  Silver squealed in terror:

       “What the ‘ell is it?  What the bloody ‘ell is it!”  Shamrock knew Fireworks when she heard them, and was unconcerned for she’d seen them plenty of times before.  Silver noticed Shamrock’s unconcerned air and commented:

      “’ow the ‘ell can you be so calm?  There’s just been a ‘uge bang, we knows nothing of what made it, and you’s acting like nothing’s ‘appened!  ‘ow can you do that?”  She asked.  Shamrock shook herself and replied airily:

       “Oh, that was just a firework Midget, that’s all.”  Silver snapped:

      “My name’s Silver!  And what’s a firework?”  Shamrock explained, what a firework was and how it worked.

      “you mean the ‘umans use them things for celebrations?”  Silver asked.  Shamrock replied:

     “yeah them’s used for that.”  Realising what she was doing, Silver screeched:

       “don’t copy me!  You can speak proper, so why’s you speaking like me?  Are you taking the piss out of me Shamrock?  Tell me this instant!”  Shamrock, shaken by the tiny pony’s anger, said:

       “No, no why should I?”  Silver yelled:

       “You was!  You was speaking like me, and you don’t!  Just ‘cos I does it don’t mean you ‘as to n’all does it!”  Shamrock put her nose down to Silver’s.  Nuzzling her she said:

       “Hey Silver dear, cool it.  I’m not any threat to you.”  Silver drew back in confusion.

     “You’s strange!  Do you, I mean, do you always nuzzle strangers?”  Shamrock replied:

     “I was only trying to reassure you Midg,, I mean Silver.”

       “You’s learning quick.  I’s small, yeah I can’t deny that, so’s Tich my foal, but we don’t like being reminded of it too often.”  Silver said.  Shamrock assured Silver that she’d Never meant to offend her, or her foal for that matter.  Silver nodded, she said slowly:

     “yeah, thanks,,,”  Silver paused as she thought about the stupidity of her preoccupation with her stature.  She said:

      “I’s sorry Shamrock.  I know I’s stupid about my ‘eight.  It’s crazy I know.”  Shamrock replied:

     “Come out here Silver and let me take a proper look at you.”  Silver did as Shamrock asked.  She looked Shamrock over as the huge mare, for to Silver’s eyes she was huge, not as large as Josh, for no horse could be as large as Him, but Shamrock was huge all the same, looked her over.  Shamrock said:

      “You are small Silver.  I don’t think I’ve seen a smaller mare than you,,,”  She hesitated as Silver’s eyes blazed with fury.  Shamrock added quickly:

      “But there’s nothing wrong with being small, nothing at all.  I mean, it gives you some individuality, don’t you think?  You know, don’t wan’a be like the rest sort of thing.”  Shamrock felt she was playing for time now.  Playing for time to delay the point when she was sure the tiny creature before her would lose her temper in a big way.  Suddenly Silver’s attitude changed.  She calmed down a little, smiled sheepishly at Shamrock and left the barn, all the while trying not to run!  Silver felt she’d not conducted herself in a very mature way, and wanted to get out of the situation as fast as she could!  Shamrock didn’t try to follow the tiny Shetland pony, for she knew what a difficult thing it was for Silver to overcome her natural caution and mistrust with which she treated any horse larger than her.  Shamrock reflected that she might, if she were as small as Silver, be in a similar frame of mind.  She thought:

      “Silver must have nightmares about large horses, or humans for that matter.  I know she’s confident when humans are about, but inside she’s a frightened mare.  Frightened of what the world’ll do to her, or worse still her foal, if she takes her eyes off him for one second.”  Shamrock reasoned that Silver’s foal must be a nervous wreck.  She didn’t know then, but she was to find out later, how wrong she was.  Shamrock clopped around to the main yard, She was jerked out of her reverie by a horse shouting at her:

     “Hey!  Stop, stop!  Please stop!”  Shamrock looked down and saw a tiny colt standing in front of her.

     “Who are you?  I’ve Never seen you here before.”  She asked.  Tich was furious!

     “No you haven’t, and you nearly killed me before you could see me round here!  You nearly squashed me mare!  Haven’t you got eyes? Or are they useless?  I very much doubt that.”  Shamrock admitted to herself that she hadn’t been looking where she was walking, and had nearly blundered straight into Tich.

      “I, I’m sorry, really sorry!  I didn’t mean to,,,”  Tich snapped:

      “Oh that’s all right, just be more careful next time.”  Shamrock looked down at Tich.  She wondered if the colt before her was Silver’s foal, was he?  If so, he was anything but a nervous wreck.  Shamrock started to ask:

     “Are you Silver’s,,,”

     “Yep, and don’t mention her to me!  I can’t believe what she said to Jamie!  My mother’s an idiot, and that’s putting it politely!”  Tich snapped.

      “Why?  What did Silver say to Jamie?  And who’s Jamie?”  Shamrock asked.  Tich stamped his foot in anger.

     “Jamie’s a Field horse, Beyancca’s married to him, sort of anyway.  My mother decided she was going to challenge the Field horse to a fight, just for being a Field horse, nothing more.  Naturally the Field horse won.  One thing, the Field horses are trained fighters, and two, Jamie’s hooves are razor sharp!  If Jamie’d really meant to do her harm, which thankfully he didn’t, but if he had, well then she’d be dead!  Cut up into little pieces by his hooves I’ll bet n’all!”  Tich paused and then continued:

       “The Field horse herd are notorious for fighting.  They’re a barbaric herd with little regard for their own kind, and absolutely no regard for others of a different breed to themselves!  Most of them hate us yard horses.  Jamie, luckily for my mother, is of reformed character.  He stopped fighting other horses when he met B’.  He loves her, and she him.  Because of this, Jamie won’t fight horses unless it’s really necessary.”  Tich looked Shamrock over from her forelock to her fetlocks before turning and wandering off in the direction of the driving yard.  Shamrock walked up the track to Fleur’s wood.  She wandered among the young trees thinking of Fleur.

     “I wonder where she is now?”  Shamrock’s thoughts were interrupted by a mare screaming at her.

      “Oi!  You over there!”  Shamrock turned her head and caught the mare’s eye.

       “yes, I mean you, get over here now!”  The mare screeched.  Shamrock trotted slowly over towards Confiada.  When Shamrock reached her, Confiada demanded:

      “Who the hell’re you?”  Shamrock told her.  Confiada snapped:

      “Do you know where you are?  And don’t give me crap about “oh I’m in a yard!”  Not that!  I mean, do you know who’s wood you’re in?”  Shamrock felt tears spring to her eyes.  She hadn’t known Fleur for long at all, but she still felt something for her.  Confiada saw Shamrock’s attempt to hide her tears and sneered at her.

     “Crying at the thought of what I might do to you are you Shamrock?”  Shamrock gulped and replied:

     “No, No I wasn’t.”  Confiada lifted her right forefoot and showed it to Shamrock.

     “I want you to see something Shamrock.  Here, feel my hoof.”  Shamrock did so, drawing back in horror as the sharp edge cut her nose!  Confiada gave her a spiteful look:

       “Now you know what’ll happen to you if I find you here Ever again, now get out of here!  This is my property now.”  She commanded.  Poor Shamrock fled from the wood, blood dripping from her nose.  In a sudden fit of rage Shamrock turned back and screamed at Confiada:

       “Fleur wouldn’t have allowed a mare like you to set hoof in her wood, not Ever!”  The next thing Shamrock knew was Confiada coming at her at alarming speed!  Confiada skidded to a halt, stopping herself by lashing out with her sharp forefoot.  Her sharp hoof caught Shamrock on her foreleg, tearing the skin open.  Confiada laid into Shamrock with obvious enjoyment.  All the while, unable to defend herself in any other way, Shamrock squealed for help.  Hearing her squeals Josh charged over, assessed the situation and ran for help.  He busted into my box where Jamie and I were lazing about.

      “Mum!  Jamie!  Come quick!  Confi, Confiada’s beating the crap out of Shamrock!  She’s using ‘er ‘ooves to do it, and I thinks them’s sharp!  ‘er’s gone and copied your method Jamie, go quick!”  he fled from my box and Jamie followed with almost as much speed.  I arrived on the scene to find Jamie having flattened Confiada into the turf, and left Josh sitting on her, while he comforted and gave first aid to Shamrock.  I looked down at her.  Shamrock was badly cut up, it seemed that Every blow had caused some injury or other.  Anyway, there was a lot of blood about.  Jamie was trying to stem the flow by licking furiously at Shamrock’s wounds.  He was making some headway, but I could see that this was a job for the humans.  Confiada’s hooves had caused far too much damage to be fixed by a loan horse.  So I ran and collared the Manageress who, when she saw the damage, said something that I cannot print in a million years, but I couldn’t blame her really.  She phoned the vet, and when he’d taken Shamrock away, the Manageress set about investigating what had taken place.  She looked at Confiada’s hooves, paying particular attention to the mare’s right forefoot.  She found the hoof to be razor sharp.  The Manageress, clearly angered by what she found, ran back to the tack room to get a file, with which she blunted Confiada’s hoof while the mare squealed and snapped at Josh and the Manageress.  Then the Manageress turned her attention to Jamie’s hooves.  he didn’t protest as she blunted his also.  Then she demanded:

     “Jamie, where’s the stone on which you sharpen your hooves?”  Jamie shook his head.

     “Not telling you that,” he replied.  The Manageress ran for the lunging whip.  She brandished it in front of Jamie’s eyes.

     “now will you tell me?”  she asked.

    “No,”  Jamie said.  Then proceeded a stand off between the human and the Field horse which lasted for half an hour or more.  The Manageress daren’t whip Jamie, for she knew that he was dangerous when provoked to fight.  In the end, Jamie gave in, miserably he showed the Manageress where he kept his hoof sharpener.  The human dug the stone up and threw it into the river.

     “There, that’s no use to you now Jamie.”  She said.  Jamie watched his stone sink under the water. He turned away from the river, grief welling up in him as he realised that Confiada had learned to sharpen her hooves, and worse, that she’d used his stone to do it!  He trudged away with his head hung in despair.  The Manageress watched him go, thinking of his amazing resourcefulness as she did so.  She half considered fishing the stone out of the river for Jamie, but decided against it.  She wondered why her horse should be so depressed about a stone?  He could get another one couldn’t he?  Later that day the Manageress approached Jamie and asked him about it.

 

The Field horse looked downcast as he told her of what he’d inadvertently done.

     “you mean you were showing B’ where your stone was, and how to sharpen her hoof, and Confiada followed you?”  The Manageress asked.  Jamie sighed:

      “Yep, seems that way.  Otherwise how would Confiada know how to do it, it’s an art that sharpening is.  Get it wrong and you can do serious damage to your hooves.” He said.  The Manageress put her arms round Jamie’s neck and hugged him.  Jamie responded to her affection by resting his head on her shoulder.  The horse and human stayed like that for five minutes or so, before one of the staff called the Manageress away and she had to leave Jamie.  At that point I entered the driving yard to find Jamie very downcast.

      “Jamie?  What’s the matter love?”  I asked.  The poor Field horse stared straight through me!

     “Oh Beyancca dear, what’ve I done!”  he whimpered.

      “What do you mean “What have you done”  Jamie?”  he swallowed hard and replied:

       “I, You know that stone which I showed you a few days ago B’ love?  Well, well Confiada followed us.  That’s how she managed to find the stone, and well,,,”  Tears welled in his eyes, Jamie sniffed:

     “Now look what’s happened to Shamrock!”  he sobbed.  Hugging him I said:

     “Look Jamie dear.  What happened to Shamrock wasn’t your fault.  Neither you, nor I could have stopped Confiada from following us.”  Jamie swallowed hard and replied:

      “But Shamrock, Shamrock was in a hell of a mess B’!”  I pricked up my ears, was that a horsebox I heard?  Telling Jamie to stay where he was, I jogged round to the car park to investigate.

 

My suspicions were confirmed as Shamrock came sleepily down the ramp of the horsebox and was led into her box, where she flopped down exhausted onto the straw.  After a while I went to visit her.

 

The door squeaked as I opened it.  Shamrock seemed to leap a mile!

     “Get out!  Go on, go!”  She squealed.  I said gently:

      “Shamrock, Shamrock dear, it’s B’.  you remember me don’t you?”  Shamrock calmed down a little.

     “I thought, thought you were,,”

     “I know who you thought I was.”  I said softly.  Shamrock shifted slightly.

     “I needed a lot of blood, or so the vet says,”  She said dreamily.  I wasn’t surprised really, considering the amount she lost.  Shamrock looked at me through glazed eyes, she looked half dead!  I brushed her nose gently with mine, Shamrock hardly responded at all.  I lay down beside her to keep her warm.  At that moment, Jamie came round the corner.  He stared at Shamrock for a long time before dropping to his knees and laying his head on her shoulder.  Jamie wept unashamedly into her fur.

     “what’ve I done to you Shamrock,”  he sobbed.  Shamrock raised her head from the straw and looked round slowly.  She seemed to have forgotten screaming at me.  She said weakly:

     “Beyancca,  Jamie?  I feel awful!”  With that she laid her head on the straw once more.  Jamie looked Sick.

     “What’ve I done?”  he whimpered.  Shamrock looked up at him from where she lay:

     “What, what happened to me wasn’t your fault Jamie,”  she murmured.  Jamie struggled to his feet and shook himself hard.

      “I hope Confiada’s gonna get punished for what she did!  I hate her!  I despise her!”  he screeched.  Getting to my feet and crossing the straw to where Jamie stood, I nuzzled his ear and licked it.

     “Cool it Jamie love,”  I coaxed.  Jamie stamped his foot in anger!

     “No!  No I won’t!  I’m not gonna cool anything!”  He yelled.  Then he relaxed suddenly.  Turning his head my way he sighed:

      “Look B’.  I’m sorry darling, really I am.  Perhaps it wasn’t my fault.  I, I just, Just can’t bare the knowledge that my foolish actions caused another horse so much pain!  It hurts me so bloody much!”  he whinnied.  Silver appeared then.

      “’as anyone seen Tich?”  She asked.  Jamie replied:

      “Yes, he’s gonna turn into a fine Shetland pony one day.”  Silver snapped:

     “No,  No!  not that you stupid Bloody ‘orse!  I knew I shouldn’t ‘ave asked you!  Shall I spell it out for you?  What I means is, ‘as you seen Tich lately?  Not ‘as you seen ‘im in the last six months!”  I said:

      “How can we have seen him six months ago?  He wasn’t born then.”  Silver rounded on me.

     “Not you as well!  I can’t stand this!  Is you a puppet Beyancca?  Jamie does something and you’s got so little brain that you follows ‘im?  Ay?  Is that right?”  I found this offensive and told her so.

      “I’m leader round here!”  Silver, realising what she’d done, was apologetic.

     “I’s sorry Beyancca.  I’s silly I knows that.”

     “Screwbrained n’all,”  Jamie thought.   Shamrock struggled to her feet and weaved her way out of her box and up the track towards Fleur’s wood.  I shadowed her, not wanting her to get into another confrontation with Confiada.  Shamrock turned her head and saw me.

     “Look B’, I wanted,,,”

      “Yeah, I know you wanted to be alone here.  But I can’t let you do that, not at the moment Shamrock.  Please understand me dear.  Confiada’s not gonna stop her dangerous games is she?  Think about it.  She dam near killed you once, and seeing that, she’s gonna have another go, or she might, don’t you think?”  I asked.  Shamrock walked towards me.  She stretched out her nose, rubbing her muzzle against mine.  She said:

      “Thanks for coming,  I didn’t really mean what I said.  You’re right, she might do what you say.”  Shamrock suddenly stamped her foot!

       “I wan’a do something to her!  I want revenge!  What she did to me was wrong, very very wrong!  But I can’t fight her, I’ve got no chance, so there’s got’a be another way, there’s got to!”  She whinnied.  I warned:

      “Be careful Shamrock, for heaven’s sake be careful.”  Shamrock snapped:

      “Confiada, what does she really hate?”  I thought for a bit and replied:

      “I don’t know, um, other horses, dogs, cats, humans, being groomed, getting her hooves dirty,,,”

     “Stop!  That’s it!”  Shamrock barked.  She went on quickly:

      “We could do something like covering her box floor with mud.  Get some in from the fields, mix it with the straw and make a nasty concoction, then spread it on the floor of her box.”  She suggested.  I said:

      “She’ll see the mud and refuse to go in Shamrock, she isn’t stupid you know.”

       “Yeah, all right B’.  What about the Manageress, get her on our side maybe?  Maybe after what she saw in the field, she’d like to try something like that.  You know, get her to put a coat or something over Confiada’s head, for some trumped up reason of course, and then lead her into her box, soft mud on the floor, Confiada’s feet sink into it, hey-presto, four very muddy hooves and a very humiliated mare!  How about that!  Can you do it B’?  Can you talk to the Manageress and bring her round to it?”  Shamrock asked.  The idea of humiliating Confiada had appealed to me greatly, and as leader I know it shouldn’t, but it did.  I longed for the opportunity to really hurt Confiada, but physical means were out of the question, as she seemed to be immune to blows.  So it would have to be her pride, dent that and I’d have her once and for all!  I turned back towards the yard:

      “Come on Shamrock, we’ve got some research to do.”

 

Shamrock and I arrived in the yard to find Jamie pacing furiously round the barn.  He caught sight of me and said:

      “how can we pay her back?”  Guessing by “her,” he meant Confiada, I replied:

      “To the river, now!” after I had warned Shamrock not to speak to any other horse about anything we’d discussed, Jamie and I left her to rest in her box.

 

I led a bemused field horse to the river.  Once we were safely out of Confiada’s territory, I say safely because the ground was slippery with mud, Every step covered our boots in it, I told Jamie what Shamrock and I had discussed.  He smiled grimly as he thought of Confiada’s humiliation.  Then Jamie did something crazy!  He asked me to help him remove his boots, and when he was barefoot, he walked on.

      “Um, Jamie, if it isn’t too much to ask, why are you walking barefoot through mud?”  Jamie ignored me, concentrating on the sensation of mud under his feet.  Then he came out of his trance, looked at me quickly and said;

       “What I was attempting to do B’ love, was to get inside Confiada’s mind, as much as I can Ever do of course.  To see if she really would hate getting her feet muddy and cold.  I hated it, so I think she’ll loath it intensely.  I’m going in the river, cold though it is, to wash my hooves.  Then could you help me put my boots on again?  Thanks.”  With that he stepped into the ice cold river.  Jamie squealed as he felt how cold the water actually was.  Once his boots were replaced, Jamie actually smiled for the first time in fifteen minutes.  I loved his smile, that was what‘d attracted me to him in the first place I think, one of the things anyway.  He said:

       “Yep,  Confiada’s not gonna like what we’ve got in store for her.  But how do we do it?  How do we get her to do what we want?”

     “Search me Jamie, I don’t know,”  I replied.  then I had an idea:

       “Jamie, do any of the Field horses hate Confiada?”  He thought for a bit and replied:

      “No, not one, ah yes!  Balugue!  She does!  I’m sure of that!”  I said calmly:

       “Jamie, can you talk with her?”  He replied quickly:

      “You know I’m not in the field horse herd any more B’, but I can try.  Maybe when she hears what we’ve got planned for Confiada, then she might.  For no horse, field or otherwise, can have failed to hear of what Confiada did to Shamrock.  Yes Beyancca, I’ll have a dam good try.”  He promised.

 

So Jamie, true to his word, approached Balugue at the next opportunity he had, it was while they were pulling a cart actually, but that really doesn’t matter.  Trotting contentedly down a track, Jamie brought up the subject of Confiada’s misbehaviour.  Balugue wrinkled her nose as he reminded her of it.

      “I rarely take the trouble to despise anyone, but I can say that I utterly loath and despise Confiada!  Words cannot do justice to my aversion to her!"” She whinnied.  Jamie said:

      “Well, B’ and I, Shamrock n’all too actually, well, we’ve come up with a plan, but we need you to help us Balugue.  Look, I know I’m not part of the Field horse herd any more, and ‘cos this is so I know you might not help me,,,”  Balugue cut him off.

      “Look, I’m a Field horse in breed alone Jamie.  Okay I did object to talking to Silver about the birth of my foal, but that’s a personal matter.  In the end Beyancca persuaded me to talk with the Shetland pony, but it took some doing I can tell you.”  Jamie asked:

     “Will you tell me what happened?”  Balugue shot him an angry look and snapped:

     “No, no I won’t!  Except to say that it was painful, but no more details!  It’s a personal matter Jamie!  If B’ Ever has a foal, ask her what it was like.  She’ll tell you!”  Jamie smiled to himself.

      “She didn’t fall into the trap then,”  he thought.  He turned back to the matter of Confiada’s behaviour and how to remedy it.  Jamie said:

        “Look Balugue, we need you to get a few of the field horses, they like a fight, and they also like causing others discomfort, so recruiting willing help won’t be difficult.”  Jamie hesitated and then continued:

     “What we want is to make a field as muddy as possible and then stick Confiada in the middle of it, amerce her feet in mud, get her stuck there if possible, then she’ll have difficulty escaping you see, and then she’ll really know what pain is!  I can’t believe she nearly killed Shamrock for going into Fleur’s wood!  What we’re gonna do to her ain’t gonna be enough by any means, but it’s the best we can do.  So Balugue, would you, please help me and Beyancca to cut Confiada down to size?  Please?”  Jamie pleaded.  Balugue, if the truth be known, had always wanted to have a go at Confiada, but she’d not had enough support from her herd, or that of the yard horses.  But now things were different, so much so that she felt she might just be able to pull something off.  She replied:

      “Yeah, I’ll talk to Fabrecai, Canterello, Jitan and the rest and see what they say.  I know she’s B’s friend, but I’m sure Jitan would jump at the chance to have a go at Confiada.  Leave it with me Jamie.”  With that the two Field horses turned to other subjects. 

 

Jamie came back into my box smiling broadly.

       “I did it!  Balugue’s gonna talk to some of the other field horses and see what they say about bashing our chief customer,”  he announced.  He exchanged “Confiada”  for “our chief customer,”  because Confiada, to her disgust, was standing nearby, being force groomed by one of the instructors.  the mare stamped about, tossing her head and fidgeting like mad!  In the end the instructor gave up and let Confiada go.  In her haste to get away, the stupid mare tried to run on the slippery concrete of the yard, slipped as her unshod feet lost grip, and yes, Confiada fell heavily onto the concrete.  She lay there, screaming and yelling:

       “My leg’s broken!  You humans should have put grit on the concrete!  Now I’m not fit for anything!”  She struggled to her feet, which she wouldn’t have been able to do if her leg was in the least bit broken, and shuffled carefully away, cursing fluently under her breath.  Jamie watched her go with an expression of undisguised loathing on his face.

      “Good riddance to you.  How I’m looking forward to getting even with you!”  he thought angrily.

 

Jamie’s plan was a simple one.  He asked Balugue to instruct the Field horses to dig up their field into a swamp.  The renovation would have to be done slowly so that Confiada, who was a regular visitor, wouldn’t notice much.  One day I saw Balugue coming into the yard, her boots covered in mud.

       “’cor, that mud’s cold!  I nearly got stuck in it I did!”  She complained.  Chantilly, overhearing her comments, turned to the Field horse and asked:

      “What’s this?  ‘as the Manageress got you Field ’orses digging ‘oles?”  Balugue gave her a rather flimsy story about a pond.  Chantilly wasn’t having any of that:

      “Pond my ‘oof!  There ain’t no bloody pond and you knows it Balugue.  Come ‘ere a bit, I’m gonna tell you something.”  Balugue did as Chantilly asked and she whispered:

      “’ere Balugue, don’t gets angry with me now.  But one of your Field mates ‘as been spouting off about a plot to give Confiada a mud bath.  Is this true?”  Balugue was clearly angry, but she managed to hold on to her temper.

      “you haven’t told anyone else have you?”  She asked.  Chantilly shook her head:

      “No course I ‘aven’t.  Why should I?  ‘cos if I does then Confiada ain’t gonna get what she deserve is she.  All I’s gonna say is I wants to ‘elp.  I’m pretty good with a bucket of water.”  Balugue smiled at the thought of Chantilly wielding a bucket of water.  Chantilly said;

      “this ‘orse told me that you weren’t just gonna get ‘er ‘ooves dirty, you were planning to shove ‘er in it bodily?”  Balugue looked grim.

      “Yes, I was.”  She replied.  Chantilly smiled:

      “I’s gonna look forwards to that,”  she said.

 

Five weeks later, on a cold winter’s day, the job was complete.  I inspected the field, and found it to be a proper mud bath.  Walking through it I nearly got stuck myself, my feet sank into the mud and I found myself struggling to free them on several occasions.  Fabrecai, after spitting insultingly on the mud at my feet, told me that:

      “We’re gonna lure Confiada over to the middle of the field and then she’s gonna sink into the clay mud.”  He slouched off towards his cronies smiling broadly in anticipation of the coming sport.  I made my way carefully over the field to consult with Balugue as to how we were going to get Confiada where we wanted her.

       “What we’re gonna do is this B’.  We’ll tell Confiada that her wood is being invaded by another horse.  Before that a field horse, Jitan possibly, will call her into a field adjoining this one.  Confiada, on hearing the news will run across this field, not wanting to take the longer route round to her wood, and then, then we’ll have her!”  I doubted that Confiada would be so stupid, but I knew also that she was prone to rages of immense ferocity, and nothing, absolutely nothing would keep her from protecting her wood.

 

Noone knew when Jitan would swing into action, except herself of course.  It happened one day in late November.  Rain had visited the yard with force the previous night and the field was in a terrible state.  Balugue watched Jitan as she yelled for Confiada.

     “Oi, Confiada!  Your wood’s getting attacked by horses, they’re tearing the trees up!”  True to our predictions, Confiada came running over the trap field, and yes, her feet sank into the mud.  She tried to free herself, but the clay did it’s job well and held her feet firmly.

       “I’m sinking!  I’m sinking!  Somebody help me out of here!  Ugh, yuck!  My feet’re cold and wet, and, and, it’s freezing!”  She squealed.  Chantilly appeared then.  She was carrying her bucket of ice cold water, which she’d fetched from the river that same day.  Confiada stared at her.  She asked:

       “you’re not going to, to,  Oh no!  not that!  Not that!  Please, no water!”  Confiada pleaded.  Chantilly picked up the bucket which she’d had ready at her feet:

      “’ere you is Confi’.  ‘ere’s your shower before you’s going in the pool!”  With that she threw the contents of the bucket all over Confiada.  Confiada clenched her teeth as the icy cold liquid hit her full in the face, covered her back, and ran down her legs.  Confiada screamed and tried to lash out, but her right forefoot was held firmly in the mud.  Then Chantilly retired, making room for another horse.  This one was a Shire, a large white Shire horse.  He had large hooves, and was very very angry!

      “’ello Confiada, remember me?”  He asked.  Confiada looked through tear filled eyes at her next tormenter.

      “J,  Josh,  Josh!  Oh no!  No!  No  No this can’t be happening to me, it can’t!”  She sobbed.  Josh said:

       “’ere you is, time for a swim, ‘ope you can, ‘cos I’s useless at it.”  With that he lifted a boot and shoved Confiada hard in her shoulder, making sure that he followed through.  With a sucking noise, Confiada’s right fore and hind feet came free from their muddy prison, and screaming hysterically, she crashed onto her left side.  Confiada landed in the mud with a splash.  She looked up from her prostrate position, her eyes full of fear and terror!  She tried to lash out with her now freed right forefoot, but of course, all targets were well out of range.  All the horses walked away, leaving Confiada to suffer.  All that is, except one.  Shamrock stood, well out of range, watching Confiada struggling in the mud, and wishing that it hadn’t had to come to this.  As Shamrock watched, Confiada caught sight of her.  She said softly:

      “Look, Shamrock, please, please help me!  I’m trapped here, I can’t get free, it’s cold, and wet, and dirty, and I’m scared!”  Shamrock, staying on firm ground, approached her enemy as close as she dared go.

       “Confiada, Listen to me.  What’s happened to you today is in no way justice for your crimes.  What you’ve done to me, and what you did to others before me cannot be underestimated in it’s cruelty.  What you’ve done to other horses in your life is beyond my words to describe, it has been so cruel and despicable.  I am not a violent mare, but it gives me great satisfaction to see you stuck in the mud as you are.  We knew that physical violence could not penetrate your soul, not that you have a very kind one, so we decided to break you in the only way we could.  We stuck you in the mud, dirtying your hooves, your coat and everything you hold dear, if you can of course.  What you hold dear is all superficial, skin deep only.  You hate other horses because they are held in greater affection by humans and other horses, than you will Ever be.  I’ll give you an example shall I?  Silver, and Tich for that matter, take them.  Both Silver and Tich are beloved by everyone in the yard,,,”  Confiada snapped:

      “Jamie, he hates them!”  Shamrock replied:

      “No, no he doesn’t.  If he did he’d have ended their lives ages ago.  Jamie, and Josh, and all the horses who have fighting capability in this yard love all horses with whom they come into contact, and if they don’t they have a good reason for it.  You on the other hoof, did not, have not, and will not.”  I’ve said my piece, good bye Confiada, or is even that too good for you!”  With that Shamrock left, leaving Confiada to think and freeze in her prison.  Confiada wailed:

      “Shamrock, don’t go, don’t go!  Please, don’t leave me here!  Night’s coming soon, and it’s, it’s gonna be hell here!”  Shamrock concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and Eventually she made it to the barn, and out of earshot of Confiada’s squeals.

 

Shamrock lay down in her box and tried to sleep.  But the memory of Confiada, struggling helplessly in a muddy field would not go away.  After an hour of fighting her emotions, Shamrock went in search of me.  I had had no part in the revenge attack, because at the time I was out on a hack, it being Jitan’s role to start proceedings against Confiada.  So when Shamrock came to me, distressed as she was, and she asked me to go and take a look at Confiada, I agreed, thinking that I’d find her in another field, a bit angry and wet, but nothing more.  When I found her flat on her side in the mud, with her left fore and hind feet caught so that she would have no chance of escape, I got very angry!

      “Who did this!  Which unthinking horse did this!  Who shoved her in the mud?  Answer me Shamrock!”  I shouted.  Shamrock looked unhappy.

      “it was Josh,  Josh did it!  There you go, your foal isn’t as clean as

you thought he was!”  she yelled back.  I was furious!

     “yes I gave sanction for Chantilly to throw a bucket of water over her, she deserves that, but not this!  To be stuck in a field, up to your fetlocks in mud is bad enough, and then to be doused in water is worse!  To be pushed over in the mud, so that you can’t escape, well that’s Criminal!”  I went over to wards Confiada.  The poor mare looked into my eyes.  I couldn’t make eye contact with her, and turned my head away.  Shame at what my foal had done filled me utterly.

      “I didn’t mean this to happen,”  I said softly.  Confiada grimaced and said:

     “you didn’t?  Then who the hell did!”  I replied:

     “All I authorised was for the Field horses to dig the field up, get you stuck in it, for Chantilly to chuck water over you, get you cold and dirty, and then we’d let you go.”  Confiada asked:

      “were my feet meant to sink into the mud?”

     “yes, that’s how we were keeping you where we wanted you.  But you were Never meant to be pushed into the mud like this, Never!”  I replied.  Confiada said:

       “Look Beyancca, I, I know I’ve done some terrible, Cruel things in my time to you and many other horses.  Shamrock told me that when I was truly finished and like I am now.  I had no chance of escape once my feet were trapped in the mud, none at all!  Really I didn’t!  I couldn’t move an inch!  Then the water came, ice cold water.  Chantilly threw it in my face!  It ran down my nose, back and legs, it was horrible!  Then Josh, he came, and he pushed me, and then, then everything became worse!”

      “He shouldn’t have done that Confiada.  I didn’t ask him to do that,”  I said.  Confiada asked:

      “Can you get me out of here?”  Without replying, I walked round to her left forefoot and dug it out as best I could.  Then when she could move it I turned my attention to her left hind, digging that out also.

       “Right, I’m gonna have to get another horse to help.  Can you roll onto your chest Confiada?”  She tried so very hard to do so, bringing her legs up beside her, heaving and straining against the mud, but in the end, she failed.  The mud had taken a firm hold on her, and there was no way Confiada could move enough to reach that goal.  Suddenly Confiada gathered the last of her strength, squealing with the effort, she rolled desperately!  With a horrible sucking noise the mud released it’s hold.  Panting, Confiada struggled slowly to her feet.

      “Careful, very careful now Confiada. Put one foot in front of the other, carefully now,”  I coaxed, for the rest of the field was still a potential death trap.  Confiada got safely to the track and firm ground, where Shamrock was waiting and watching her gain her freedom.

 

Confiada looked a sorry sight.  Her whole body was covered in black sticky mud, her fur all matted and caked in the foul smelling stuff.  We walked back, Shamrock, Confiada and I, to the yard where we were met by Josh.  He stared in utter astonishment at Confiada!

      “’ell she’s ‘ad it dealt out to ‘er today ain’t she,”  he thought.  He said:

      “So you’s able to get out then.”  Fighting to keep my feelings under wraps, I replied:

      “No, she wasn’t,,,”  Confiada finished it.

       “it took Beyancca to dig my feet out, and then a hell of a lot of effort from me to get free from your trap!  You decided to shove me in the mud didn’t you  Josh!  You know that all that was meant to happen was for me to get my feet stuck in the mud, but no, you took it to extremes, as you do everything, and pushed me over!  Knowing quite well that I’d have a hell of a job getting out of that,  didn’t you!  Didn’t you know that!  Tell me!”  Josh knew he’d been rumbled.  Miserably he said:

       “I thought by mud bath, they meant shove you in the mud, not just get your feet dirty.”  Josh walked a little closer to his enemy.  He said harshly:

       “I looks at you and I sees my enemy!  Pushing you in the mud is the least I could ‘ave done to you!  I wan’a kill you!”  Then he lashed out at her!  Josh’s boot caught Confiada on the side of her head, she fell without a sound.  Absolutely stunned by Josh’s actions, I stood looking down at Confiada. “Why did you do that Josh?”  I asked.  Josh turned a thunderous expression my way.

      “Why?  You ask me why!  Why do you think I ‘it ‘er?  ‘ave you forgotten what she did to you, Silver, Shamrock and worst of all Tich!  ‘ave you forgotten that?  I thinks you ‘as, ‘cos if you ‘adn’t then you’d not be treating ‘er with what I can only call respect!  You admires ‘er for what she does doesn’t you mum!  Secretly you’s on ‘er payroll ain’t you!  You is!  I sees that now!  I ‘ate you mother!  I bloody ‘ate you!”  I let him blow it off, painful though it was to hear my own foal saying things like that.  I replied:

     “But Josh, there’re boundaries a horse must work within, Even when it comes to dealing out punishment.  For Confiada, having her hooves dirtied by mud was more painful to her than any physical violence could Ever be.  That is why we did that, rather than beat her senseless, which is the course of action which you favour, or seem to anyway.  The trouble with you Josh is that you don’t think.  You don’t think through what affect your actions will have.  Like now for example, you hit Confiada so hard that she’s now unconscious.”  I looked down at Confiada to find her waking up.  She struggled to her feet and stumbled away, not looking back.  Josh watched her also.  He said under his breath:

      “You spares ‘er life mum, and I’m gonna kills ‘er for you.”  He then yelled:

       “Confiada!  Watch out!  ‘cos I’s on the ‘unt for a perfect opportunity for me to kills you!  I wan’a sees you dead!”  Then he turned to me:

     “Mum, I can’t believe you saved ‘er life!  ‘er would be dead if you ‘adn’t dug ‘er out of ‘er ‘ole!  ‘ow can you save a cow like ‘er?  She’s done so much to ‘arm all of us and you goes and saves ‘er life!  I can’t believe your mind sometimes, I really can’t!  I replied:

     “Josh,  let me tell you something dear.  When you’re older, more experienced than you are now,,,”  he cut me off.

      “What!  You’s talking to me about experience?  When you’s a virtual foal yourself mum?”  How could I tell him what I had gone through during my life, I ploughed on.

     “you’ll learn that you might have to be merciful to others.  Sure, I hate Confiada for what she does, but not for who she is.  She can be as disagreeable as she likes and noone has to like her.  But what I will not stand for is seeing horses in unnecessary distress.  What you put her through was clearly unnecessary distress.  Also it was a situation from which she could not remove herself without assistance.  Josh,  she would’ve died in that place if I hadn’t rescued her.  Would you want that?  Really wanted her to die?  I can remember you getting upset when the cows laid her on the grass, you remember that don’t you?”  Josh snorted with indignation:

      “yeah, course I does.  But what’s that got to do with this?”

      “Confiada was bent on destroying me Josh.  She would’ve done that if the cows hadn’t helped me.  And you cried when she was lying on the grass that time, but you knew of her crimes didn’t you?  You knew how horrid and spiteful she could be, but you still wept when you saw her in distress, didn’t you Josh?  Now my question to you is, could you do that to her?  Could you kill her and live with that?  I think not, but it’s for you to decide that for yourself.”  The huge Shire horse thought for a long time.

       “Leave me with it,”  he said.

      “promise me something Josh.  Don’t go after Confiada now, please.”  Josh swallowed hard:

      “All right, ‘cos I loves you mum, and I don’t wan’a ‘urt you, I won’t, promise.”  He replied.  I watched him walk away dejectedly.  Feeling a lot better, I returned to my box, and to Jamie.  The Field horse watched me come in and flop onto the straw.  His first comment to me was:

      “B’ love, your boots are filthy!  What’ve you been doing?”  I couldn’t answer him truthfully, so I bent it.

      “Digging,”  I replied.  Jamie then dropped the bombshell:

      “I saw Confiada walking towards her box a while back.  She looked a hell of a mess, mud all over her.  Do you know anything about that?”  then I told him, all of it.  Jamie listened attentively, before getting up and pacing about the box.  He said:

      “There you go again, compassionate to the last.  I’d’ve let her suffer a bit more, she’s caused us enough harm in her time.”  I leapt to my feet and screamed:

      “How would you like to be trapped?  Your feet encased in mud so firmly that you couldn’t move them!  You tried it yourself, walking on the mud, and you said that you hated it!  Try immersing your feet in it, barefoot n’all, and then see what you think!  I’ll bet you won’t do it, will you Jamie?  No, you won’t!  Try it now if you dare!  The field’s out there, muddy, cold and water logged, go on, do it now.  While your at it, lie down in the mud too! Then you’ll really know what torment Confiada went through!”  Jamie was stunned.

      “I, I Never knew it was that bad, honest I didn’t!”  he whinnied.

     “Well then Jamie, don’t judge something until you really know what it’s like,”  I warned.

 

We left my box and I led Jamie to where Confiada had been imprisoned.  Jamie stared, with what can only be described as horror, at the place where Confiada had been trapped only four hours previously.  He put out a booted forefoot and pressed it into the mud, feeling the deadly substance holding his foot in place until he really wrenched it free!  Jamie’s expression, when he finally turned to me, was one of total astonishment!

     “how, how the hell did they get the mud like this?  It’s like glue!  A horse, no matter how strong he or she was, wouldn’t stand a chance of escaping from that.”  I replied:

     “Clay will hold anything down given the right consistency.”  Jamie snorted:

      “Don’t get all scientific on me Beyancca, I can’t stand it.”  I said:

      “Look Jamie darling, it’s getting cold.  Let’s go back to the yard and get warm shall we?”  So we did, passing Confiada who was being rubbed down with warm water directed onto her body by the Manageress who was using, what looked to me, like a showerhead!  Confiada seemed to be enjoying the procedure, strange emotion for her, Enjoyment, but there you go.  Jamie and I retired to my box and settled down in the straw, pulling our large rug over us.  As we got warmer and warmer we heard my door opening softly,  looking up sharply, I couldn’t believe who I saw.  Confiada was standing in the doorway, looking down at me with what can only be described as pleasure on her face.  Confiada was actually enjoying seeing two horses together in one place!

     “Um, Hi!”  I welcomed.  Jamie said something unprintable, he’d Never trust Confiada in a million years.

      “Shut it Jamie!”  I snapped.  Confiada took a few paces into my box, closing the door behind her.  Confiada opened her mouth to ask something, I motioned to her to stay silent and then patted the straw with my forefoot.

      “Here, if you like,”  I said.  Jamie watched in enraged astonishment as Confiada lay down beside me and I threw the rug over her.  He jumped to his feet:

      “Right, that’s it!  That’s quite enough of that!  I’ve seen all I need to!  I don’t know what you’re doing Beyancca, but I don’t like it, whatever it is!  It looks to me as if you’re letting our worst enemy spend the night in your box!  How the hell can you do that?  Have you gone totally screwbrained?  I think you have!  No, no, no!  I’m not watching my leader cosy up with the enemy!”  I replied:

      “Jamie dear, haven’t you heard of compassion?  Of a good deed?  You might not like the views of another horse, but you can still try to help them when they’re in need, well within reason of course.”  Jamie spat at Confiada’s feet.

      “Reason?  What reason have you applied here?  None!  None at all Beyancca!”  I said:

      “Look Jamie, please, let Confiada have a bit of comfort for once.  She’s had a hard time of it lately, and I don’t think a bit of compassion goes amiss now and again.”  Jamie stormed out.

 

I turned to Confiada.

       “Why Beyancca?  Why didn’t you send me away?”  She asked.  I replied:

     “Because I’m ashamed, ashamed of what my foal did to you.”  Confiada said:

      “Hey, I probably deserved it, Every last bit of it.  I know this might sound stupid to you, coming from me as it does, but while the Manageress was hosing me down, I started thinking of my life, and what a  hash I’ve made of it so far.  All its come to is pain for others, and retribution for me, sometimes in the most awful forms in both cases.  And what for?  What has all my life been for?  All I’ve done is hurt others, and I don’t know why, really I don’t know why!”  With that she buried her head in my shoulder and wept.  I stroked her muzzle with mine, nuzzling and rubbing as gently as I could.  My ministrations seemed to soothe Confiada to a state of semi-consciousness.  She tucked her legs beneath her, worked herself closer to me, and finally fell asleep, her head resting on my shoulder.  Josh appeared then, he stared at Confiada in shocked disbelief!

     “What the ‘ell’s this?  What am I seeing?  Mum, why is you doing this?  Why’s you ‘elping Confiada?”  I didn’t reply.

     “Mum?  ‘as you a tongue in your ‘ead?  Or is you deaf?  Or is you ignoring me!  I ‘ates anyone who ignores me!  I does so bloody much!”  I looked him straight in the eye.  Suddenly Confiada screamed!

       “Josh, it’s Josh!  No!  Oh Beyancca, help me, protect me!”  she whinnied.  Josh stared down at his old adversary with undisguised hatred:

       “You needs protection?  I don’t thinks so!”  he said menacingly.  He raised a huge boot and showed it to Confiada.

      “That’s a  boot, yep?”  he asked.  Confiada whimpered:

       “yeah, don’t hurt me Josh!”  Josh then let the boot fall off his foot, exposing a huge hoof!

       “And there’s my ‘oof Confi’, look at it, notice anything about it?”  Confiada looked, and saw scratch marks on the surface, like it had been sharpened!  She began to sweat with fear.

       “No, oh please no!  Not that!  Josh extended his foot towards her, until the tip of his hoof touched Confiada’s nose.

     “now ‘ow’s you like that?  Turned the tables ‘aven’t I Confiada.  You’s the one who’s frightened now isn’t you.”  Confiada couldn’t answer, she was too concerned about the lethal capabilities of the hoof touching her nose.  Suddenly Josh whipped his foot sideways!  I stared at Confiada’s nose, expecting blood to stream from it, but no!  nothing at all!  Josh smiled grimly:

       “I’s only joking with you Confi’.  My ‘oof wasn’t sharpened.  But it gave you a fright didn’t it?  Ay?  I achieved what I wanted.  You knows now ‘ow it is to be scared silly doesn’t you.”  Confiada began to sob.

      “Go away Josh, you’ve proved your point I think,”  I said.  He put his boot on, and left without another word.  Confiada looked at me.

       “I don’t want to hurt others, I know it sounds false but I don’t!  It gives me no pleasure to cause harm, but that, that’s the only way I can get noticed!  You, Tich, Silver and all the others have earned the affection of everyone under the sun!  but me, I haven’t.  I got to my feet and paced about.  Confiada got up also, and we left my box venturing out into the freezing air.  On our way up the icy slippery track, we stopped by the field which had been a prison to Confiada for what seemed to her to be an age.  The mare looked with fear and loathing at the mud which had held her for so long.  Confiada turned to me, her eyes filling with tears.

      “Beyancca?  Thank you, thank you for rescuing me, for saving my life,,,”  She couldn’t continue.  Confiada buried her head in my shoulder and let it all hang out.  I cradled her, letting her cry.  After a while, her tears dried up and she looked at me with clear bright eyes.

       “I don’t know how you do it, I really don’t!  I treat you and your friends like dirt, and then, you come along, when I’m in trouble and help me out!  Where the natural thing to do is to leave me in the situation.  You’ve been a good friend to me Beyancca, but I don’t deserve it.”  I rubbed my nose against her’s.  Then, as if from nowhere, Jamie appeared, saw what was going on, and squealing with rage, he lashed out at me with a hard boot!  His attack caught me in the stomach, causing me to fall to the ground squealing in agony.  Jamie proceeded to kick and trample me mercilessly, until I was exhausted and screaming for mercy.  In the end, after kicking me some more, he left, running up the track towards Fleur’s wood.  Confiada looked down at me.

       “This is all my fault.  It’s because of me that you’re like this isn’t it.”  She said.  I couldn’t answer her, I was too bruised and battered to do anything.  After an age I got slowly to my feet, and weaved my way towards the yard.  I had to get to a safe place to think.  Staggering into Josh’s box, for he had one now, I collapsed on the straw and tried to make sense of Jamie’s outburst.  I was brought out of my reverie by Josh coming into the box.

      “’ey mum!  What’s you doing ‘ere?  This ain’t your box,,”  His voice trailed off as he noticed my condition.

      “Which bugger did this to you mum?  Who did it!  I’s gonna kill ‘em!  I is!  This ain’t right!  If this is

‘cos you’s ‘elping Confiada, then it’s wrong!”  I thought:

      “You’ve changed your tune Josh.”  I voiced my thoughts.

     “yeah, I ‘as done that.  But I’s got a reason for it.  While you and Confiada was looking at that field earlier, I’s watching you all the time, I’ sees ‘ow Confiada was sorry for what she does, I realises that she needs ‘elp, and you’s giving ‘er it, no matter what ‘appens to you in the process.  That’s bloody good, and courageous of you mum!  I couldn’t do that.  So when Jamie beat you up, I was furious!  You’ll be glad to know that ‘e’s now in a worse state than you is.  I smashed ‘im up good and proper!  ‘e’s now down the vet’s place, and ‘e ain’t gonna come out in an ‘urry neither!  I’s made sure of that!  Now what’s ‘e done to you?”  I told him, Josh got very upset, fighting back tears he said:

      “if you told ‘im why you’s doing what you is, then ‘e’s got’a understand you, ‘e ain’t stupid is ‘e?  course ‘e ain’t!  Of course, ‘e don’t ‘ave to agree with you, but there ain’t no need for what ‘e does to you is there?  There’s no need for violence, not when you’s involved!  I thought ‘e knew that you’d talk it out with ‘im, I thought ‘e bloody knew!”  Josh rested his head on my shoulder.

       “Is you all right mum?  Be honest with me, is you?”  he sobbed.  I assured him that I was fine.

      “Just a little bruised that’s all Josh love,”  I replied.  Josh smiled:

      “I Never ‘ave enjoyed something more than when I bashed Jamie.  ‘e deserved that!  ‘e’s now getting patched up, but ‘cor, if ‘e comes back ‘ere and ‘assles you again, I’s gonna kill ‘im!  I ‘ates ‘im for what ‘e does to you!”  he fumed.  I nuzzled Josh’s ear.

     “Shh Josh darling, quiet now, peace,,,”  I said soothingly.  This usually had the affect of calming him down instantly, and now was no exception.  Josh cuddled up closer to me, resting his nose on my neck, and sighing contentedly, he fell asleep.  I looked at the huge Shire horse, cuddled up to his mum like a foal:

       “I love you dearly Josh,”  I whispered.  We lay there for ages, before Josh, yawning expansively, woke up.  Stretching, he said:

      “Hi mum, cor’ that sleep was good!”  I smiled at him.

      “You know, that whatever happens, you’ve got me, don’t you Josh,”  I said.  Josh gulped back his tears:

      “yeah, I knows that mum,”  He replied softly.  Tears ran down Josh’s nose, he wiped them away angrily:

     “I’s a stupid foal isn’t I mum,”  he laughed.  I replied:

      “No, you’re not stupid Josh.”  Josh got up, shook himself hard and clomped out of the box.  I followed, wondering where he’d go.  He led me towards Jamie’s box, and on reaching it, he dove inside and dragged Jamie squealing with anger and surprise, out into the daylight.  Josh whinnied:

     “’ere you is, you’s a proper bugger you is Jamie!  I thinks you’s an ‘orrid ‘orse!  You says that you loves Beyancca, but you doesn’t listen to ‘er at all!  She do ‘er best to ‘elp another ‘orse, you says you’s reformed, but you’s gone and beat ‘er up for it!  You ain’t reformed!  You’s not worth anything is you Field ‘orse!  I ‘ates ‘orses who breaks their words! And you’s gone and done that, you ‘as!”  Jamie looked miserable.

     “I, I don’t know what to say to that,”  He stammered.  Josh snapped:

      “What you ‘as to say is, “I’s sorry,” and promise that you’s Never gonna do that again.  If you can’t say that, then you’s not fit to be associated with my mum, that’s what I thinks!  ‘er deserves better than scum like you!  It’s gonna be a long, long time before I’s gonna forgives you for this!”  He yelled.  Jamie tore himself out of Josh’s grip, for Josh had hold of his mane in his teeth, and fled.  Turning back to me, Josh announced:

      “’e ain’t gonna bother you no more mum.  If ‘e does, then ‘e knows what’ll ‘appen!  ‘e’ll be dead before ‘e knows it!”  I asked:

      “Josh, Josh darling, tell me truthfully love, did you really enjoy, and I mean, enjoy, beating Jamie up?”  Josh looked startled at my question.  He hesitated, and then replied:

     “you sees right through me doesn’t you mum.  No, not really, I didn’t enjoy it.  I ‘ated beating up an ‘orse you love, really I ‘ated it!  But I ‘ad to do it, doesn’t you see that?”  I walked towards him slowly.  Taking it that I was about to attack him, Josh squealed:

       “No!  Mum, I’s sorry for ‘itting ‘im!  Really I is!  Don’t ‘urt me, please don’t ‘urt me!”  I hugged him tightly.  Josh stiffened as I touched him, but relaxed soon after as he realised what my intentions were.  I released him and we walked to the riverbank.  The water was flowing quickly past us, and it looked very cold, ice covered it in a thin film.  Josh looked at the water.

     “I’d ‘ate to get my feet wet in that,”  he said.  I looked down the track to where Chantilly was trotting towards me.  She seemed to be in a sort of dream, so I yelled:

      “Hey Chantilly!”  The poor mare reared in fright, lost her balance, and squealing, fell into the river.  Josh collapsed, laughing helplessly while I stood, shocked by her reaction.  Chantilly swam to the bank and hauled herself out.

      “What the bloody ‘ell do you think you’s playing at!”  She demanded.

      “Sorry dear,”  I replied.

     “you will be!”  she snarled.  With that she ran to me, and shook her payload all over me!  The water contained in her coat covered me from forelock to fetlocks!  I wasn’t impressed!  I turned and fled, with Josh and Chantilly pounding after me!  I ran into a field, hoping that they’d give up.  The next thing I knew was hitting the ground with terrible force, and then half a second later, Josh and Chantilly jumping on top of me!  I screamed as their combined weight slammed into me.  Hearing my scream they stopped their game.  Josh asked:

      “Mum?  Is you okay?”

     “No I’m bloody not!”  I replied harshly.

      “Did we ‘urt you?”  Chantilly asked.  I gave her a dirty look and said:

      “What the hell do you think!  No, it was a picnic, course it wasn’t!  yes you did hurt me!”  I whinnied.  Josh asked;

       “is you injured?”  I struggled to my feet and flexed my legs.  My body ached all over!  I gave the other two a thunderous look and walked stiffly away.  I heard Chantilly remark to Josh:

      “I thinks we’s ‘urt ‘er.  She ain’t saying we ‘as, but I thinks we ‘as.”  I ignored them totally, concentrating on getting back to my box.  I made it, Eventually, and on opening the door I was unprepared for who I saw lying languidly on the straw.  Confiada yawned expansively:

      “Hello Beyancca, sorry about this.”  She said.  Swallowing my resentment at having my box invaded, I asked as calmly as I could:

      “What the hell’re you doing in my box?  Not only that, what were you doing sleeping here?”  Confiada had the grace to look a little embarrassed.

        “I, I needed security, and here was the only place I could feel safe, but I’ll go now, sorry again.”  With that she got to her feet.

     “Look, Confiada, stop!  I know why you did what you did.  I understand it, I’d probably have done that myself.”  Confiada looked fearfully past me.

      “Where’s Josh, have you seen him lately?”  She asked.  I recounted what had taken place by the river.

      “So you have seen him, is he still after me?”  I told Confiada what Josh had said about him realising that she needed help, Confiada brightened up:

      “That means he’s not after me any more, phew!  That’s a weight off my mind,,,”  Suddenly I felt another horse barging past me.  Josh stared at Confiada:

     “I only says that I understands that you needs ‘elp.  That doesn’t mean I forgives you for anything!  I still ‘ates your guts Confiada!”  Confiada seemed to shrink perceptibly as the huge Shire horse faced her.

       “What’re you going to do to me Josh?”  Confiada asked.  Josh replied:

       “nothing for the moment, but I’s thinking of something.  You’s a ‘orrid mare, I, and many other ‘orses ‘ates you, and I’s gonna puts a stop to you someday.  But not now, not ‘ere, somewhere else, some other day, but I promises you I will bust you someday, don’t forget that!  I’s after your ‘ide and you ain’t gonna get away from me!  You’s gonna wish you ‘adn’t been born you is!”  He screeched.  Jinja clomped onto the scene, he gave Confiada a disgusted glance and addressed himself to me.

      “Um, B’, have, have you noticed something?”

      “What am I supposed to have noticed Jinj’ mate?”  I asked.  The older horse hesitated:

        “Shamrock’s friend’s here.  Another mare, one off the same lorry I’ll bet.”

      “What of it?  Shamrock’ll be glad of the company won’t she?”  I suggested.  Jinja hissed:

      “We’re taking in horses like it’s going out of fashion Beyancca!”  I replied:

      “if the Manageress can keep them, then why not?  Our herd needs expanding anyway.”  Then I knew what Jinja was getting at.  He hated change of any sort, and he was sounding off about it to his leader, not that I could do anything about it.  On the contrary, I was pleased we had added two more to our number.

      “I’ll have to introduce myself, what’s the newcomer’s name?”  I asked.  Turning away, Jinja replied:

      “Limerick I think.”

     “Both Irish then,”  I thought as I walked into the barn with as much of an air of “just wandered in here, not really checking you out,” as I could muster.  I Managed to get as far as Jingle’s box before Shamrock saw me, she whinnied:

      “Hey Beyancca!  Thought I’d better introduce a friend of mine!”  I looked at the mare stabled beside Shamrock.  She was showing acute nervousness, I thought:

       “You’ve got a sweet nature Shamrock, but you haven’t got tact!”  The poor newcomer, Limerick for sure, it had to be, asked:

      “Who are you?”  I told her, and I didn’t fail to notice her disbelief at my reply.  Limerick said:

       “If you don’t mind me saying, you’re too young to be leader,,,”  She couldn’t finish her sentence, for there was nothing she could think of to finish it with.  Shamrock said:

      “Look, Limerick dear, maybe if I show you round a bit?  Then maybe you’d not be so confused about everything.  I know how you feel, I was in the same situation as you only six weeks back, and that wasn’t all!”  Limerick watched in utter astonishment as Shamrock unbolted her door and beckoned her into the barn.  Limerick hesitated:

       “I don’t know, Shamrock, is this legal?  Are we allowed to do this?”  Shamrock waved her questions aside.                      

      “yeah, of course we are,”  she replied.  Shamrock and Limerick disappeared round the corner and out of sight.  The next horse I saw was Ev’s foal.  I hadn’t seen him for fifteen weeks, but he’d grown!  He was huge now!  The humans have taken to calling him Lorenzo, a fitting name for a foal like him I think.  Well there he was anyway.  His grasp of the English language was perfect, he hadn’t been brought up in France, and all the other foals, one other foal actually, were English speakers, so he had learned the language quickly.  Lorenzo saw me and took several paces backwards!

      “Hey!  Nearly ran into you I did!”  he whinnied.  I remarked that he was at least five feet from me, maybe more, but Lorenzo seemed not to hear.  He turned and fled, his unshod feet skidding on the slippery concrete as he ran!  I thought:

      “He’s probably been warned about me.  His mum’s pointed me out to him and told him stories about me, probably untrue ones, and now he’s fearing me.”  I followed the foal into the field barn, and then hung back, watching Ev and Lorenzo.  They chatted a little, Lorenzo filling his mother in on who he’d seen.  I heard my name mentioned in connection with the leadership, and then the two horses went their separate ways.  I tailed Lorenzo until he came to the strawstack.  Suddenly he pricked up his ears, the strawstack was barking furiously!  The poor Field foal whipped round, saw me, and nearly left the county!  Calming down a little he gabbled:

      “Is, what is, that!  It’s a barking strawstack!  Strawstacks can’t bark!  Can they?”  I whinnied at the stack:

      “Who’s in there?  Are you all right?”  Teasel’s angry yap came back to me.  To say I wasn’t surprised at her entrapment would be about right.  Teasel was always getting into trouble round the yard, if a horse was to cause trouble it would be Confiada causing Havoc, and if it were to be a dog, then it was Teasel, or Polo, all dogs are the same when it comes to causing problems.  Lorenzo looked me up and down.  His mother wasn’t here, so he’d have to deal with this strange mare on his own.

      “What are we going to do?  There’s a dog, or I think it is, stuck in that pile of straw.  Are you going to rescue it?”  I thought of digging at the straw with my bare hooves, but decided against it.  Josh appeared then, and was given the state of things by Lorenzo.  Josh accepted the foal with good manners, for as he once said:

      “it ain’t the foal’s fault them’s born Field ‘orses is it.”  Granted, he hated Field horses, but he just about tolerated their foals.  Josh looked at the strawstack.

     “Right, ‘ere goes,”  he said.  With that he took ten paces backwards and launched himself at the stack!  The strawstack came tumbling to the concrete under the weight of the Shire horse.  Teasel was thrown clear of the strawstack and fled from the scene.  Josh on the other hand lay winded on the remains of the stack, his head and forefeet buried in a mountain of straw!  Lorenzo and I ran to him and dug furiously at the straw.  We managed to lift most of the straw off Josh before he came to properly.

      “What the ‘ell ‘appened?”  He asked dreamily.  Lorenzo told him:

      “You hit a strawstack at one million miles an hour!”  Josh smiled at the foal’s overstatement.

     “Yeah, I did didn’t I,”  he said.  Josh got slowly to his feet and stumbled away.  Lorenzo watched him go.

      “Do you know him?”  he asked.  I told him about Josh, and how he’d come into my life.  The foal was appalled by my story.

      “That’s horrible!  How can horses do that to each other?”  I replied:

      “Some horses are horrid to other horses Lorenzo, hasn’t your mum told you that?”  The foal looked at me, fear in his eyes.

     “yeah, she did,,,”  tears began to roll down his nose,  he took a shuddering breath and said quickly:

      “She told me that, and she also told me stories about you, if you’re Beyancca?  I think you are, well if you are, then she said that you were out to kill foals like me, she said you hated us!  You won’t kill me, will you?”  My anger and grief at hearing this news cannot be described properly.  I dropped to my knees and hugged Lorenzo.

      “No, no I won’t kill you Lorenzo dear.  I’m not that kind of mare.”  Lorenzo cuddled closer to me as he felt my touch.  Our peace was broken by an angry squeal!  Looking up I saw Ev looking at us.  She poured forth a torrent of French and then attacked me!  I rolled away, trying to get myself as far from Lorenzo as possible!  The Field horse’s boots smashed into my body.  I couldn’t rise to my feet, if I could I’d have smashed her!  But I was down, and very very nearly out!  It was Josh who saved me.  Hearing the screaming and whinnying, he came to investigate, saw what was taking place, and then waded in.  he beat Ev off me and entangled her forcefully in a hedge before leaving her.

      “What, what the ‘ell started this!”  he panted.  Lorenzo told him.

     “Your mum was hugging me, and my mum came round the corner and attacked her!  Josh, Will she be all right?”  Josh asked:

      “Who?  Your mum or Beyancca?”  Lorenzo said:

      “My mother?  I’m not worried about her!  She started this, no, it’s yours I’m worried about.”  Josh smiled:

       “The little chap’s got some concept of justice then,”  he thought.  He replied:

      “yeah, she’s gonna be fine, but that ain’t no thanks to your bloody mother!  I ‘ates Field ‘orses!”  hearing his declaration, Lorenzo became nervous.

      “You hate me?”  Josh suddenly felt bad about what he’d said.  Dropping to his knees, he said:

      “No Lorenzo, course I doesn’t.”  Lorenzo stared at the huge Shire horse, taking in everything from his nose to his tail.  I think, until that moment, Lorenzo’d never seen such a massive horse.  Josh stuck out a foreleg, exposing a huge boot.  Lorenzo stared at it in amazement!

      “you can get feet that huge?”  Josh smiled, he was proud of his hooves, and didn’t care if everyone knew it.

      “yeah, I’s got ‘em ‘aven’t I?  Them’s what I used to bash your mum with.”  Lorenzo said:

      “But you’re wearing strange boots, like my mum’s.”  Josh removed the boot and on seeing Josh’s hoof, Lorenzo nearly left the county!

      “that’s one huge hoof!  I don’t want to be hit by that!  Josh, promise me you won’t?  Promise me that you won’t hit me with your hooves!”  he pleaded.  Seeing the fear he’d inspired in the foal, Josh relented a little and said:

     “No Lorenzo, I ain’t gonna ‘it you with them, it’s all right mate.”  Josh replaced his boot and stood up.  Smiling down at Lorenzo, he said:

      “now you’s ‘ad a good look at me, I’s got’a go.  See you’s later, and don’t worry!”  With that he turned and clomped away.  Lorenzo watched him go with a mixture of regret and fascination.

    “Would you like me to call him back?”  I asked.  Lorenzo half shook his head, but I knew he really wanted Josh to return.  I raised my head and whinnied:

      “Josh, you’ve got a fan here dear!”  This brought the Shire horse galloping back.

      “Ay?  What did you say mum?”  he asked.  I repeated what I’d said.

     “Ah, now ain’t that nice,”  Josh said.  I could tell, although he was trying to hide it, that Josh was pleased as punch.  He turned on his heel and galloped away.  Lorenzo watched him go with obvious admiration.

     “You’d like to be like him wouldn’t you Lorenzo?”  I asked.  The field colt smiled for the first time in my company.

     “yes, oh yes I would!”  he replied.  I smiled at him:

      “Don’t tell your mother about that,”  I warned.  I looked over at Ev.  She had managed to struggle free of the hedge and was now stomping about in a raging fury.  She addressed herself to Lorenzo.  What she said, I didn’t understand, but the essence of it was plain from the foal’s reaction.  Lorenzo looked sheepish as he said:

      “I, I don’t know if I can say this.  But my mum says “you’re a bloody disgrace” Beyancca.”  I replied:

     “Tell her Lorenzo, that I’m proud of it.”  The foal had a hard job keeping a straight face, but he translated my reply.  Ev, unprepared for this reaction, ran off squealing, leaving her foal with me.  Lorenzo smiled at me.

     “I knew you wouldn’t harm me.  I’d seen you about this place long before my mum told me stories about your herd.  I remember, the first time I saw you was when mum had just chased a couple of Shetland ponies from our field, I remember thinking you were huge!  Then I changed my mind when I saw your foal, Oh dear, he isn’t is he, sorry!”  I replied:

       “Josh is my foal, I think of him as my foal, even though I didn’t give birth to him.”  Lorenzo looked relieved.  I shook myself from nose to tail and stamped about a bit.  This display made Lorenzo laugh.

     “That’s a great trick!  How did you do that?”  I couldn’t tell him, because I didn’t know.  Josh came clomping back.

       “I’s just been stopped by Confiada!  She ‘as the nerve to ask me if I’s forgiven ‘er yet!  I says no I ‘asn’t, and she says, well she’s sorry for everything!  Is I to believe ‘er mum?  Or is she spouting crap again?”  I thought about Confiada.  Could she really be sincere about remorse?  I thought she might, and told Josh as much.  He turned and walked away, my advice not pleasing him at all.  Lorenzo watched Josh depart marvelling at the horse’s massive stature.

 

Carmen came trotting into the yard then, she was pulling a cart and looking frustrated.  I called:

      “Carmen?”  She looked sharply at me:

      “No B’, not now, later, I’ll talk later, got’a get this dam human  back safely, what a mess!  What a bloody awful mess!”  She said as she clomped past.  I made a mental note to speak to her as soon as I could.  Lorenzo noticed her distraction also.

      “She’s not very happy is she Beyancca,”  he observed.  Sensing that Carmen’d just come in from a driving lesson, and therefore would be being untacked, I trotted round to see her.  She was in her box, shivering with fright!

      “Carmen?  Carmen dear?”  I ventured.  The poor mare stared at me, her eyes seeming to see straight through me.

      “Oh, B’, Beyancca, I, I don’t know, I really don’t know anything now!”  She wailed.

      “What’s the matter?  What happened during the driving lesson Carmen?”  She shook violently:

       “If, Beyancca, if it had been a lesson, then, then an instructor could have done something!  As it was, there was me, with a stupid driver!  He knew nothing!  He took me within three inches of a car!  A car I tell you!  It was all I could do to keep calm!”  I thought:

      “Calm? that’s a joke,”  But said nothing.  Carmen continued:

     “I got back, just, and the Manageress untacked me, and now, now I’m here, and, and I can’t work any more, not today!  I’m finished for today, please B’, tell them I’m not fit to work!  Please tell them!  If I work I’ll go mad, I know I will!”  I put my nose up to her’s, rubbing reassuringly against it.  Carmen seemed to collapse within.

      “I’m a failure aren’t I?  I’ve failed!  Just like Fleur had!”  I got angry!

     “No!  No, no Carmen!  Fleur did not fail!  It wasn’t her fault that she was sold!  I resent that!”  I kicked her door in rage! Squealing, Carmen retired to the back of her box.  I stormed out of the barn and nearly tripped over Silver.

     “’ere!  Stop!  You’s nearly run me down!”  She whinnied.

      “Oh, Oh dear, sorry Silver, I didn’t,,,”  she cut me off:

     “No you’s never saw me, yeah I knows that.  There’s been one ‘ell of a screaming and yelling ‘appening about this barn, what’s up?”  I told her.

     “No, no that ain’t right for Carmen to says what she does.  Fleur might’ve been scary, yeah, she was that sometimes, but she ain’t a failure, far from it,”  Silver replied.  I felt something wet land on my nose, squealing, I looked up into the sky to see, snow!  Snow came down thickly from a leaden sky!  Silver noticed it also.

      “We’s gonna ‘ave a white Christmas, ain’t that nice,”  she said dreamily.  I rolled some snow into a ball and kicked it towards her, the snowball hit Silver on her foreleg, bursting and covering her from nose to tail!  She whinnied:

     “’ang on a moment!  That ain’t very nice!  ‘ere!  ‘ave this!”  With that she flung snow back at me, and that escalated into a full blown snowball fight, as much as horses can fight with snowballs of course.  Josh joined us, and we ended up rolling Silver bodily in the snow!

      “’ere, I ain’t a toy!  I’m a pony!  A live pony!  I’s alive, please remember that!”  She pleaded.  Josh fished her from the snow and helped her into his box.

    “Sorry Silver dear, is you all right?”  he asked.  Silver flexed her legs:

     “yeah, I’s fine, but you’s rough Josh!  You doesn’t know when to stop does you!”  Josh nuzzled her shoulder.

       “I never wants to ‘urt you Silver, you knows that don’t you?”  he asked.  Silver smiled:

      “Yeah, I does know that Josh,”  She replied.  Silver added:

      “You’s a softy really ain’t you Josh.”   She motioned for Josh to lie down on the straw, and when he was sprawled comfortably on his side, she lay  beside him, cuddling up to him, finally resting her nose on his neck.  Josh didn’t seem to mind this at all.  The Shire horse and Shetland pony settled down together.  Silver sighed:

     “It’s nice and warm in ‘ere, I likes it ‘ere Josh.”  Josh almost purred with happiness.

       “That’s nice to ‘ear Silver dear,” he replied.  Tich arrived:

      “Cor! It’s freezing out there!”  he remarked.  He looked down at his mum lying beside Josh.

      “What!  Am I seeing things?  I think I am!  Mum, mum lying with Josh!  Is this true?”  Silver yawned:

      “yeah, it’s true Tich darling, I, I’m ‘ere with Josh.  Very nice it is too Tich.”  She patted the straw:

     “Come in and join us if you like.”  She invited.  Bemused, Tich accepted her invitation and lay down beside his mother.  I looked in on them two minutes later and couldn’t believe my eyes!

      “Well, this is a change for the best isn’t it?”  I asked.  Silver replied:

      “What?  It’s Christmas ain’t it?”  Jinja sloshed into the barn then.

     “Hi Jinj’,”  I welcomed.  Jinja looked upset, but he was trying hard not to show it.

      “Hi, Beyancca, how’s things?”  He asked.  I knew what was upsetting him, and going close to him, I hugged him tightly.  Jinja let go totally, crying into my fur.

      “hey Jinja, Jinja mate, don’t cry dear, please don’t cry,”  I soothed.  Jinja sniffed:

     “I’m sorry B’, But you know how it is,”  I nuzzled his ear.  This seemed to upset him more.  Tich stared at Jinja with undisguised curiosity, Silver hissed:

     “Don’t stare at ‘im Tich!  You know why ‘e’s crying don’t you?”  Tich suddenly remembered:

     “Oh yeah, sorry,”  he said.  Silver snapped:

      “it’s not me you should be apologising to is it!”   To tell you the truth, Jinja wouldn’t have noticed Tich staring at him.  The poor chap’s grief was so intense that he wasn’t thinking straight, so much so that he called me Rosie three times without noticing.

 

Jinja levered his weight off my shoulder and walked away dispiritedly.

     “Poor Bugger,”  Josh remarked.  I shot a look at him. I replied:

      “yeah, hey Josh, is there enough room for me in there?”  So with a bit of a shift around, Josh, Tich, Silver and I crowded into his box, after all it was big enough.  We settled down that night to a peaceful and very warm sleep.  The body heat of four horses soon warmed the box up to a comfortable temperature.

 

Silver woke in the early morning, and carefully extricating herself from Josh’s embrace, she ventured out into the freezing air.  Silver regretted going out almost the instant she put her unshod feet, for she’d forgotten to put her boots on, on the snow.  Squealing she ran back into the barn, and slamming the door she worked herself deep beneath the warm embrace of Josh’s fur.  Josh shifted as he felt her cuddle up to him.

      “’ere silver, what’s you been doing up at this hour?”  Silver worked herself closer to him.

     “Don’t, Don’t go out there Josh, it’s bloody cold!”  she replied.  Josh closed his eyes and fell asleep once more.  Eventually we stirred at midday.  The weather was hellish outside, snow and ice covered everything!  The Manageress couldn’t drive her tractor anywhere without using fifty gallons of fuel, and getting nowhere much for it neither, and  horses who wore boots were skidding and slipping all over the place!  Imagine what it was like for Confiada!  I’d hate to think!  Actually I know what it was like, for she came skidding in to our refuge later that day.

        “I nearly broke my neck out there!  It’s hell!”  She complained.  Silver said:

      “Well, if you will insist on not wearing boots then you’ve got’a take what’s coming to you ‘aven’t you.”  Confiada snorted with indignation and glared at the Shetland pony.

      “Shut your mouth scrap!”  She snapped.  Silver opened her mouth to reply, but thought better of it and left it.  Confiada slowly left the barn.  Josh helped Silver on with her boots and she escaped into the freezing outdoors.  Josh followed her after a few minutes, leaving Tich and I alone.  The Shetland foal watched Josh disappear and then turned to me.

       “Beyancca, do you think?  No, it’s nothing, do you think Josh and my mum’re, I mean, do you think there’s something between them?”  I shook my head:

      “Don’t know Tich, maybe there is, can’t really say, ask your mum when you next see her,”  I replied.  I stretched out languidly on the straw and closed my eyes.

      “There’s nothing doing today, so I’ll have a bit of peace,”  I said.  Tich walked out of the box, leaving me alone.  I stretched and got slowly to my feet.  Shaking myself I made my way from the box in search of Josh.  I found him being groomed against his will in the main yard.  A human I’d never seen before was brushing and combing Josh’s mane and body fur.  Josh didn’t look happy!  Despite his aversion to dandy brushes and curry combs, the Shire horse stood quietly until the human started removing his boots and examining his hooves.  Josh hated anyone handling his hooves, and he let the human know it by refusing to lift his feet when commanded.  The human got more and more frustrated until Josh finally waved a huge forefoot at him and reared, crashing his forefoot on the poor man’s shoulder knocking him to the ground!  I stared at my foal in astonishment:

      “Josh?”  I ventured.  The Shire horse gave me a disgusted stare and spat on the ground.

      “I ‘ates anyone ‘andling my ‘ooves!  Doesn’t anybody know that by now?  I ‘ates it!  I ‘ates it!”  He whinnied.  I replied:

       “But Josh, you’ve knocked a human down, what’re you gonna do about that?”  he looked down at the prostrate human.

      “Don’t know what I’m gonna do with ‘im mum.  Anyway, ‘e deserves what ‘e gets!  I’s not letting anyone ‘andle my ‘ooves for one second, not anyone!  I ‘oped that them boots would make it so that I’s not ‘aving to go through this torture no more!  But no!  I’s not so lucky is I!”  I watched as the Manageress came round the corner.  She took one look at the situation, and tied Josh up firmly before yelling at him!

       “What’s this!  You did this?  Yes?  Did you?  Tell me!  Did you flatten that man!”  She screeched.  Josh replied:

     “Will you lets me get a word in edgeways ‘uman?  Now I ‘as, well then, yeah, I’s done that, ‘e deserves it n’all, ‘e was ‘andling my ‘ooves without my permission and I’s not ‘aving that is I?  Not when I’s able to ‘elp it I ain’t!  Now you tells that bloody ‘uman that!”  He whinnied.  The Manageress found she couldn’t think of anything to say to that.  She knew Josh hated anyone touching his hooves, but would tolerate it if he was asked first.  One did not just go in headlong and ask him to pick his feet up, let alone force him to!  The Manageress turned to the male human, who was now leaning against the wall, massaging his aching shoulder.

      “Josh is a little sensitive, be a little more careful next time will you,”  She said gently.  The male human muttered something about:

       “I’m not grooming that bad tempered brute,” and strode away.  The Manageress turned back to the Shire horse, she said:

      “Then I’d better finish the job.  Josh, come over here will you, I’m going to pick your feet up, one by one, and trim your hooves, they’re overgrown despite what you say.”  Josh replied:

      “I would do as you say, but I’m tied up ‘ere!  I can’t move from ‘ere, not yet anyway.”  The Manageress untied him, laughing at her own mistake, and yes, Josh did let her examine, and trim his hooves.

      “What’s all this for?”  Josh asked.  The Manageress hesitated for a minute, before replying:

       “The hoof trim is routine, but there’s something else.  You Josh, are going driving.  I will drive you, on your own.  We’re going to Framlingham tonight, for their Christmas carnival.  Don’t worry that you’ll be the only horse there, you won’t.  Lorenzo and Ev are coming too, along with Balugue, Canterello, Jitan and Hibou.”  Josh snorted with rage!

       “I can tolerates Lorenzo, ‘e’s fine, but them others, cor’ what a bloody awful lot them is!  If you ‘adn’t noticed ‘uman, I ‘ates Field ‘orses, every bleeding one!  I’s not in practise for driving neither, so you’s gonna ‘ave a crappy show ain’t you.”  Josh’s statement about him not being very good at  driving was untrue, he was brilliant at being driven, I think he was trying to make the Manageress think twice about driving him, needless to say, it didn’t work.  The human ignored her horse’s protestations and carried on grooming and talking to him.

        “There will be humans dressed  in all sorts of costumes,,,”  Josh snapped:

       “yeah, and flying reindeer n’all, reindeer can’t fly!”  The Manageress said something about Josh being like scrooge and carried on grooming him.  I don’t think Josh is against the spirit of Christmas, I think he was only protesting about having to work with Field horses, that he couldn’t stand.  Actually, secretly Josh loves Christmas, he’s a big foal really, but don’t tell him I told you that, he won’t speak to me for a week!

 

Josh was finally ready.  He looked magnificent!  His mane and tail were all brushed out, Josh even let the Manageress shampoo his fur!  That’s a first!  Josh, his feet back in their boots, looked a lot happier.  He came slowly towards me, obviously trying not to damage his sheen, for he looked good, and knew it too, he spoke to me.

       “’ere mum, I’s got’a work with them field ‘orses!  I ‘as to!”  I smiled at him:

      “Come on Josh darling, it isn’t that bad.  At least you’re not working with Confiada,”  I replied.  The Manageress interrupted our conversation:

      “Beyancca, Ruby’s gone lame, could, could you cover for her?”  I replied:

        “yeah, what’s she doing?”  The Manageress told me that Ruby was to have gone to the Framlingham carnival, but had gone suddenly lame and couldn’t do it.  Josh snarled:

       “’er’s probably putting it on as usual.”  I ignored him and replied:

      “All right, fine, I’d like that,”  So that was fixed, I was given the same treatment as Josh and was soon ready for the show.

 

Then we came to a problem, a big problem.  The Field horses hadn’t been groomed yet, and it was four in the afternoon.  Not so bad you might think, but the thing was, the show started at five thirty!  The Manageress and her staff had to groom some very muddy Field horses and make them presentable, which if you ask Josh, they never are, clean or otherwise, and get them to the show.

 

So Josh and I were treated to the sight of the Manageress and her staff running about, catching and grooming Field horses in the freezing cold weather, and I heard that one was so dirty, that they had no time to warm the water, and had to use a cold water hose on her!  Not the type of thing Josh and I were treated to.  No, we were bathed under warm water, the pressure wasn’t on then.

 

I don’t know how they did it in the time they had, but the humans turned out pristine Field horses and we fled from the yard in a cloud of dust.  Josh was driven to the carnival, while I travelled with the Field horses in the horsebox.  The disgusted looks and spiteful comments directed at me as I entered are not worth printing here, I wouldn’t even give them space if I had it, which I don’t.  One horse stood up for me, yes, only one.  Lorenzo, dear sweet Lorenzo, untainted by prejudice as he was, told the others to:

      “Leave Beyancca alone!  She’s done nothing to harm you has she?”  The others were so amazed at this that they did indeed keep their views to themselves after that.

 

The journey was uneventful.  At our destination we were unloaded and, “dressed up.”  I didn’t have to suffer this degrading procedure, but poor Lorenzo did.  He had silly little antlers strapped to his head. The other field horses laughed behind their hooves at him, I didn’t.  All in all, to me, and to his mother too I think, Lorenzo looked quite sweet really, but I could tell he didn’t feel anything like that inside.  I felt sure only loyalty to his mum kept him going that night.  Of course, the antlers didn’t hurt the little foal at all, but the humiliation was unbearable.  If only the others hadn’t laughed at him, then Lorenzo could have borne it well, but no, Field horses aren’t like that.

 

I was saddled and bridled and led round a car park with humans on my back.  This wasn’t taxing work by any means, I was so relaxed I spent most of that evening in a donkey doze, if a horse can be said to go into one that is.  I saw Josh prancing past on several occasions, and nearly didn’t recognise him.  The transformation had begun on the yard, but now, Josh was, I’m sure, the handsomest horse in Suffolk!  Holding his head high, and trotting beautifully, he carried out his duty with an air of:

       “Ain’t this cool?  I’s wonderful isn’t I!”  He certainly was that.  I wanted to hug him every time I saw him pass me, but I stopped myself in time.  Soon, much too soon, the carnival came to an end.  The come-down from such a high was difficult.  We were untacked, and all the antlers and other stuff disappeared into the on board tack room.  Field horses chattered all the way back to the yard, amongst themselves I must add, not to me, Christmas didn’t break down herdal differences where they were concerned.  As before, only Lorenzo took any notice of me, and asked me how I’d found the show.  I told him of my evening, and of my many sightings of Josh.

      “yes B’, Josh was brilliant wasn’t he!”  The little foal enthused.  What Lorenzo had seen in Josh that night was everything he wanted to be.  Of course he couldn’t be a shire horse, but the keen driving horse he could be.  We made it back to the yard without incident, and I was turned out into a field.  Lorenzo joined me two minutes later.  He came galloping across to meet me.

      “Hi Beyancca, wasn’t that carnival cool!”  He whooped.  Ev, standing right behind him as she was, wasn’t happy that her foal was talking to a yard horse.  Dragging the poor chap into a corner of the field she had a stern word with him in French.  After what seemed to be an age, he came back miserably.

       “Mum says that I’m not to talk with you Beyancca.  She says you’re a danger to me, how stupid is that?”  I reassured him that I wouldn’t lay a hoof on him, even if he angered me.  I backed Ev into a corner and screamed at her.

      “Look you stupid cow!  I know you can understand English, so listen to me!  Have you ever, ever!  Heard of a yard horse attacking a Field horse without a dam good reason for it?  Have you?  Tell me!”  I demanded.  Ev looked very unhappy as she conceded that she hadn’t heard of any incident of that nature in her lifetime.

      “There you go, then why are you warning Lorenzo about me?  Ay?  Answer me now!”  I yelled.  Ev replied, in heavily accented English, that she wanted her foal to have nothing to do with a yard horse.  I snapped:

      “We yard horses would protect foals, not harm them!  We have no intention of harming your foal, none at all, can’t you understand that Ev?”  The field mare just stared at me, unable to reply.  She knew she was beaten, that her arguments were useless.  Ev suddenly turned, and shoving past me she ran for it!  Her feet drummed on the turf, with a huge leap she cleared the fence and was away across the yard at a horrendous pace.  Lorenzo watched his mother disappear into the Field barn:

      “You told her?  You told her you wouldn’t hurt me?”  he asked.  I replied:

      “yeah, I told her that, and a lot more besides.”  Josh came thundering into our field, his mane and tail flying in the breeze.  He looked surprised to see Lorenzo.

       “’ere littl’en, ain’t you meant to be in your barn now?  It’s late enough for most ‘orses, but you’s a foal!”  he whinnied.  Lorenzo glanced at him:

       “Don’t be a spoil sport Josh.  I’m allowed to stay up as long as I like,”  he yawned:

      “I’m not tired yet,”  he added.  Josh smiled down at him:

      “You says you ain’t tired littl’en, and there’s you yawning your ‘ead off.  I think

it’s better if you does go to bed you know.”  Lorenzo gave in, he admitted he was tired and needed  sleep.  We watched him depart into the darkness of the yard, Josh turned to me.

       “I ‘aven’t felt so good in ages.  This grooming thing’s bloody good, I feel great!  ‘ere mum, is there any way I can get them ‘umans to groom me more often?  I’s liking it a good bit at the moment.  I smiled at my foal:

     “there is a way Josh.  Just be amenable when a human comes to groom you and they’ll get the idea that you don’t mind it.  Try and get used to having your hooves handled too, then when they see that you don’t mind that either, they’ll groom you more.  It’s a two way street Josh.”  Josh didn’t look too impressed when I said that he’d have to get used to humans handling his feet, but then with a sigh, he gave in.  He said gruffly:

       “All right, I’s gonna ‘ave a go at that and sees for myself ‘ow it is.  I suppose I’s gonna ‘ave to gets used to ‘umans picking up my feet, ah well, an ‘orse ‘as to do this sometimes.”  I nuzzled his ear:

       “That’s it Josh, have a go mate, you’ll se that it isn’t that bad,”  I said gently.  Josh clomped away, I followed, and he led me to his box.  Looking back he noticed me and said:

      “I’s all right ‘ere mum, you can leave me ‘ere if you likes.”  I hugged him once more.

      “Josh, Josh darling, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but are you in love with Silver?”  Josh looked startled,  then he turned away as his real feelings showed themselves.  He loved Silver and he couldn’t admit it in front of me.

      “Josh?”  I coaxed, smiling reassuringly at him as I stroked his muzzle with mine.  The poor Shire horse stared into space, unable to conceal his feelings any more.  Suddenly Josh fled into his box and threw himself down on the straw.  He beckoned me in, and when I was lying beside him he cuddled up close to me and whispered:

      “Mum?  What’s I gonna do?  Silver’s so small, and I’s so ‘uge!”  Josh waved a forefoot to emphasise his point, yes compared to Silver he was massive.  Josh continued:

     “Then there’s the matter of foals, I can’t ‘ave foals!”  I started laughing, Josh snapped:

     “What’s you laughing for!”  I calmed down a little and replied:

      “The thought of you foaling is hilarious!  You can’t even take a stone in your shoe, so how would you cope with foaling!”  I whooped.  Josh snapped:

     “No!  Not me!  I doesn’t mean me actually foaling!  What I means is that I’s ‘ad the chop, if you knows what I’s getting at?  I can’t ‘ave foals, and Silver’s gonna ‘ave to learn that ain’t she.  Cor’ mother!  You is a pain sometimes isn’t you!”  I nuzzled his ear and licked it.

      “Good luck to you Josh,”  I said.  I felt a nose poking mine, not a large nose, no a small one, Silver’s actually, she said:

      “’ang on a minute, right, ‘ere goes.  For one, B’, you’s never ‘ad a foal ‘as you, so you’s in no right to say that Josh couldn’t cope with it, and Josh, you never told me you’s ‘ad the, well, the chop!  I never knew that ‘cos you’s never told me!”  Josh apologised to Silver.  She said:

      “Ah well, I’s only intending to ‘ave one foal anyway, so that ain’t really a problem is it now.”  Josh’s relief at finding his sweetheart wasn’t angry with him was plain for all to see.  Silver turned to both of us and said:

     “Now, B’, Josh?  I wants to know everything that went on last night, come on, spills the beans,”  So we told her everything.  When Josh got to the bit where Lorenzo kept staring at him Silver smiled broadly.

      “’e looks up to you Josh.  You’s got’a be careful now, don’t sets ‘im a bad example now.  No loutish be’aviour now,”  she said.  Josh hugged her.

      “Don’t you worries about me, I’s gonna do fine as I is thanks very much Silver dear,”  he said playfully.  Silver nipped his ear, Josh squealed with surprise and bashed her nose with his.  Silver yelped and moved hurriedly away.

     “You’s ‘urt me you ‘as!  I’s not ‘aving this!”  She screeched.  I said:

     “Silver, you nipped his ear, he’s gonna get you back somehow isn’t he.  Think about it for a minute.  There you are, playing a game, and it was a game, Josh retaliates and you get angry.  Now in my book that’s plain stupid, don’t you think?”  Silver, angered by the bruise on her nose, rethought her assessment of the situation and grudgingly agreed.

      “Yeah, all right, I’s sorry Josh,”  she said.  Josh replied:

      “You may be small, but you can ‘alf nip!  You’s got strong jaws Silver, and it ‘urt!  You’s better do well to watch yourself,”  he warned.  Silver, crestfallen now, trudged away not looking back.  Josh watched her go and then turned to me:

      “I’s got the feeling I’s put my ‘oof in it mum,”  he said.  I was about to reply when Silver came flying into the barn.

        “’as you seen Tich?  I ‘asn’t seen ‘im for ages!”  She panted.  Josh and I said that we hadn’t, this sent her scampering away.  Josh looked at the fast darkening sky.

       “It’s getting dark mum,”  he said.  I noticed that when he said that, Josh had a worried look in his eyes.

       “You’re worried about Silver aren’t you Josh,”  I stated.  Josh exploded:

      “Of course I bloody am!  It’s dark, if you hadn’t noticed, and bloody cold too!  There’s Tich and Silver out there, I is gonna be worried for them isn’t I mum!”  I tried to calm the enraged Shire horse.

      “Look Josh dear, you’re going to be concerned for them, after all, you love Silver, and she’s Tich’s mother.  Anything that happens to Tich will affect both of you, I can understand that,”  I said.  Josh smiled suddenly, he said gently:

      “I does love ‘er mum, I loves Silver so bloody much.”  Tich and Silver burst into the barn, running to keep warm.  Josh’s relief at seeing them was so intense that he snapped:

      “Where the ‘ell ‘ave you two been!”  Silver, once she’d got her breath back, explained that:

     “I found Tich talking to Lorenzo.  They was ‘aving a chat in a far corner of the yard, out of sight almost, I couldn’t ‘ardly find them!  Anyway, I finds them in the end,,,”  Tich cut her off, obviously tired of his mother’s misuse of the English language:

      “We were chatting in that place because Ev hates Lorenzo associating with yard horses.”  Tich whipped round as he was nearly run down by Lorenzo, coming into the box at one hell of a rate!  Lorenzo squealed:

      “Close the door!  Close the door!”  Tich slammed and bolted it.  Once Lorenzo was calmer than he had been, Silver asked him what had happened to bring him tearing into the box.  The poor Field foal stared wildly about him before starting on his tale.

        “My mother found me after you Tich, had gone with Silver.  She dragged me into the field herd’s barn, and when I was on the floor she threatened to kick me for my crimes!  When I asked her what these crimes were, my mother said something about talking to yard horses.  Then she said I wasn’t to darken the Field barn again!  She kicked me out and promised that she’d put Fabrecai and Jamie on guard!  I can take Fabrecai, but not Jamie!  He’s violent!”  Jamie, much to the poor foal’s distress, chose to poke his head in at that very moment.  Lorenzo screamed in terror!

      “Oh Jamie, don’t hurt me!  Don’t hurt me!”  The Field horse looked mystified.

       “What Lorenzo?  I haven’t got the faintest idea what you’re on about,”  he said.  Lorenzo cowered in the corner of the box while Josh filled Jamie in on the latest developments.

      “That’s stupid!  Plain stupid!”  Jamie screamed.

     “I knows that Jamie.  You wouldn’t ‘urt a foal, even if you ‘ave it in for
B’,”  Josh replied.  Jamie’s face fell as the Shire horse mentioned my name.

      “Actually, it was Beyancca I’d come to see,”  he said.  I looked steadily at him and said:

      “Jamie, if you’re coming to plead for forgiveness, then you’re not going to get it from me.  No, no and no again!  We’re over!  I thought I loved you, I thought you did me, but it seems that you don’t.  You know the rules Jamie, why not try playing by them for once!”  Jamie trudged away, distraught and beaten.  For my part, I shook from nose to tail, weeping pitifully.

      “I didn’t want to do that to him,”  I sobbed.  Josh replied:

        “I’d ‘ave given ‘im much more, ‘e’s a bloody idiot, just like all ‘is breed!”  Lorenzo looked shocked, he asked:

       “You mean I’m an Idiot?  Maybe worse?  For I know that “an idiot” is the clean and censored version of what you really think.”  Josh, realising he really had put his hoof in it this time, tried to repair relations.

      “Look littl’en, I’s not meaning you is I?  I means all them field ‘orses who makes war with us yard ‘orses.  I doesn’t mean foals, them’s not able to make war with noone.  Field ‘orses  is not thick as planks when them’s foals.  It’s just when field ‘’orses gets older that them’s thick.  ‘opefully you ain’t gonna go that way Lorenzo,”  he replied.  Lorenzo looked relieved Josh hadn’t included him as “Thick as planks.”  Josh switched subjects:

       “So what’s we gonna do with you?  Your mum don’t want you near ‘er, worse luck for you ain’t it littl’en, Christmas n’all, so we’s got’a looks after you ‘asn’t we,”  he concluded.  He added:

      “’cos she ain’t gonna let you back in a month of Thursdays Lorenzo,”  This error on Josh’s part caused Silver, Tich and Lorenzo, quite literally, to fall about with laughter.

       “It’s a month of Sundays Josh!”  Silver whooped.  Embarrassed, Josh snapped:

      “I don’t give a dam what it is!”

 

Lorenzo, Tich and Silver picked themselves up off the straw, dried their eyes and shook themselves, while Josh, mindful of his mistake, kept his eyes from meeting theirs.  Tich broke the awkward silence.

       “So Lorenzo, you’re saying that your mother’s kicked you out, for now?  For Christmas?”  the poor field foal looked depressed, as well he might, he replied:

       “Yes, putting it like that, I suppose she has.”  Silver, appalled by the thought of Lorenzo spending the winter, and Christmas!  Out in the open, spoke up:

       “No, I’s not ‘aving that!  Lorenzo, I can tell you this now, you ain’t gonna spend your winter, let alone Christmas and new year, out in the open.  Ev’s got a lot to answer for, no mother just kicks ‘er foal out does they!  Not for talking to another ‘orse?  Or does they these days?  I bloody ‘ope not!  Well, anyway, talking to Tich as you ‘ave been ain’t a crime is it?  I may sound biased ‘ere, but Tich ain’t the worse ‘orse you could talks to is ‘e.  I can thinks of worse ‘orses than ‘im, Confiada for one, and you wasn’t speaking to ‘er was you littl’en?”  Lorenzo, smiling broadly at Silver’s misuse of English, replied:

      “No Course I bloody wasn’t,”  Silver nearly kicked him!

      “Don’t speaks like me!  You doesn’t do that normally, so why’s you doing it now?”  She whinnied.  Lorenzo began to enjoy himself, he hadn’t had so much fun in ages, he replied:

        “’cos that’s the only language you’s gonna understand ain’t it.”  Silver bristled with rage!

       “You doesn’t speaks like me!  You doesn’t!  I’s not the best speaker in the world, I knows that, but you doesn’t ‘ave to follow my example does you!”  Lorenzo left the box hurriedly, trying hard not to laugh.  Silver asked:

      “Why’s everyone laughing at me?  They is!  I knows it!”  Josh replied:

      “Silver dear, we ‘orses that speak as you, Chantilly and I does, get the P taken out of us ‘cos we’s different, and them others who don’t speak like you and me,` well, they can’t get their ‘eads round our way of talking, you see?  Them’s not laughing at you yourself, they’s just laughing at your speech that’s all.  So don’t gets too worried about it love,”  he said.  Tich yawned:

      “Christmas Eve tomorrow,”  he said.  Silver glanced at him.

      “Is there still snow on the ground Tich?”  She asked.  Tich ran outside, came back just as quick and announced:

     “yes there is, loads of it!”  So We all piled out into the yard.  We watched the snow falling and settling gently onto the concrete.  Silver seemed captivated by the scene.

       “It’s gonna be a white Christmas ain’t it,”  she said.  Josh broke the spell by saying:

     “’taint a white Christmas yet Silver love.  White Christmas’s can only be said to ‘ave ‘appened when a single snowflake falls on London.  That’s miles from ‘ere, and it ain’t gonna be snowing there.”  Silver looked depressed.

       “Why did you say that Josh?”  I asked.  He looked at me:

       “’cos it ain’t a white Christmas is it, not yet anyway.”  He replied.  I said:

      “Look Josh, let her have her fun.  It may as well be a white Christmas, for the temperature isn’t gonna get warmer, or so the weather forecast says.”  Tich tried to cheer his mum up a little.

      “Think of it this way mum.  even if there’s no snow falling on some distant place that no horse here has heard of, that doesn’t matter does it.  What matters is if we get a white Christmas here.  You’ll get your white Christmas mum, I’m sure of that,”  he said.  Silver tried to forget what Josh had said, but I could tell the magic had gone for her.  Knowing about this statistical test as to weather a white Christmas can be said, or said not to have occurred, really dampened her enthusiasm for it.

 

Meanwhile, the snow kept falling, covering everything it touched in white.  Confiada came into the yard, cursing the weather fluently:

      “Dam the snow!  Who needs snow?  It’s a nuisance!  I nearly broke my neck twice on the track, I get here, and it’s little better!  I hate snow!  How I despise the winter months!”  Chantilly asked:

      “So you don’t like snow then Confiada?”  Confiada, bristling with anger, turned on Chantilly and snapped at her!

      “’ey!  There’s no need for that!”  Chantilly whinnied.  Confiada slithered away muttering to herself.  When she was safely out of earshot, Chantilly remarked:

      “That mare’s so disagreeable she could kill Rudolf’s Christmas spirit.”

I made my way carefully across the snow towards the driving yard, in search of Jamie.  I was rounding the corner when I was nearly knocked down by a foal!  It must have shot out of one of the boxes but I didn’t see it coming until it was nearly too late!  I leapt to one side, cannoning painfully into the wall in my attempts not to run the tiny creature under foot.  Valencia laughed as she watched me:

      “Sorry Beyancca, she’s a little lively!”  She said.  I stared at the tiny foal in front of me, she stared back.  I then turned to Valencia:

       “Who’s foal’s that?”  Valencia smiled:

     “Mine,”  she replied.  I was confused:

       “Yours?”  I queried.  Valencia, obviously feeling that I was being a little obtuse said:

       “yes, she’s mine, how many times do I have to say it?  Will I have to spell it out for you?”  She asked.  I felt this to be a little rude and told her so.

       “Look Beyancca, I’m sorry, I don’t mean it like that.  It’s just that a foal is a foal, and you’re acting as if you’ve never seen one!”  I said:

       “But, But you never said anything about being pregnant, not a dam thing!  And here you are now, Christmas n’all and you’ve got a foal!  What a Christmas present she must have been.”  The foal suddenly thumped me!

        “Will you stop talking about me as if I don’t exist!”  she whinnied.  I hesitated for a bit before asking:

      “What’s your name?”  The tiny foal, no more than four days old, looked at me with wide eyes and said:

       “The humans have called me something I can’t get my tongue round.  So my mum’s started calling me Millie for short.”  I could see Valencia practising something silently, I put her out of her misery:

      “Millie’s short for Millennium isn’t it?”  Both Valencia’s and her  foal’s eyes lit up:

      “yeah, that’s it!”  Millie exclaimed.  Valencia looked extremely relieved at my mental leap.

      “Thank you B’, thanks very much,”  She said.

        “Thanks for what?  I did nothing.”  Millie chimed in:

      “You did!  You made it so that mum didn’t have to get her tongue round, that word.”  I smiled at Millie:

     “When were you born?”  Millie stared at me incredulously!

       “I don’t know, my mum says I’m three or four days old, so I suppose I’m that old?”  She asked.  Valencia replied:

      “yes Millie darling, you are four days old dear.”  Millie walked up and down, considering my appearance from all angles.  You see, her sight wasn’t as good then as it would be in later life, her judgement of distance wasn’t too hot.

      “Who are you?  What’s your name?”  She asked.  I told her my name and who I was.  Millie began to laugh:

       “You’re not leader, tell me you’re playing games with me!”  She said.  Valencia showed anger towards her foal then, for the first time in the tiny creature’s life it seemed, for Millie didn’t understand why Valencia yelled at her.

      “Millie!  You don’t speak to your leader like that!  Never!  Ever talk to Beyancca like that again!  You hear me?”  Millie was upset and confused by her mother’s sudden anger.

      “What mum?  What have I done wrong?”  She asked plaintively.  I felt I had to intervene on Millie’s behalf:

      “Look Valencia, maybe that was a little harsh?  You needn’t have gone at her like that.  A quiet word in her ear after the event would have done the job just as well, and probably not scared her so much,”  I said.  Valencia stared at me in enraged astonishment:

      “What would you know about bringing up a foal Beyancca?  Tell me!  What would you know!  Considering the fact that you’ve never had one?”  I snapped:

       “What?  Valencia!  As far as I know, Millie’s your first foal, so what would you know about anything?”  Valencia left it, exhausted by the argument.  Millie ran up and down the driving yard, skipping about like a mad thing!  I watched her, then after a while, I turned my attention to her mother.  Valencia was watching her foal with undisguised delight.

       “You should feel that way, good luck to you Valencia,”  I thought.  All thoughts of Jamie had sped from my mind the second I’d set eyes on Millie, and I hoped they’d stay away.  The silence was shattered by a loud exclamation:

        “Hi mum,  Cor!  What ‘as we ‘ere?  A foal!  It’s a  foal!”  Millie stared at Josh in disbelief.  She turned to her mum and asked:

      “Um, mum, is it possible to get horses that large?  He’s huge!”  Josh smiled down at Millie.

       “I’s ‘uge isn’t I littl’en, but I can’t ‘elp the way I is,”  he said.  Millie stared at him, she spoke slowly, so that Josh might have a hope of understanding her:

      “Er, I’m sorry, but I can’t understand you,,,”  Josh asked:

       “What can’t you understand littl’en?”  Millie gave him a strange look and asked:

       “What’s all this “littl’en” stuff?  My name’s Millie!  Didn’t you know that?”

      “Well I’s not met you before ‘as I Millie.  Now I knows your name, I’s able to use it ain’t I.”  Josh replied.  Millie said:

       “I don’t know your name, but you speak a strange language, I can’t understand it!  Is there anyone who can?”  Josh laughed uproariously at this:

        “you’s not able to understand me!  Course, you’s not been ‘ere long ‘as you littl’en, oh I’m sorry, Millie.  You doesn’t understand me yet ‘cos you’s never got used to me yet.”  Millie wondered if she ever would understand what this strange horse said.  She tried conversing with him.  Speaking slowly, she said:

       “The way you’s learned to speaks is strange to me.”  Josh nearly fell over!  He replied:

       “’ere Millie, I ‘asn’t ‘eard a foal do that before.  You’s learning quick isn’t you!  I can’t ‘elp the way I speak.  There’s a few other ‘orses round ‘ere that talks like me.  You’s gonna get used to it soon, I know it.  Just ‘cos I’s got a terrible way with language, don’t mean you ‘as to too.”  Millie began to enjoy herself:

        “I’s got’a learn this language of yours, how am I doing?”  Josh nearly collapsed with laughter.

      “Why are you laughing at me?”  Millie asked aggrievedly.  Josh, close to rolling on the floor, replied:

       “No Millie I isn’t laughing at you.  I’s laughing ‘cos I thinks it’s sweet that you ‘as a go at talking my way!  I ‘asn’t ‘eard a foal do that before, you’s bloody marvellous you is Millie.”  Millie snapped:

      “Don’t swear!  My mum tells me  it’s bad to swear!”  Realising what he’d done, Josh calmed down a little:

       “I’s sorry Millie, I doesn’t mean to swear in front of foals,”  he said contritely.  Millie said:

       “I don’t know what your name is.”

     “So why don’t you ask me then?”  Josh asked.  Millie looked the huge Shire over.  She took in his huge head, powerful shoulders, long legs, broad back, and finally, huge feet!  She then asked Josh to do something that I couldn’t guess the reason for.

      “um, er, could you, could you please come down here?  Maybe?  If it isn’t too much trouble of course.”  Josh dropped to his knees and asked:

       “That all right?”  Millie said:

      “Now I’ve got a good view of you, you are too tall!  I couldn’t see you up there!   By the way, what is your name,”  she asked.  Josh replied:

      “Wondered when you were gonna ask me.  My name’s Josh.”  Millie looked into his eyes.  Josh stared kindly back at her as she looked deep into them.

     “I thinks I’s gonna like you Josh,”  Millie said.  Josh smiled:

       “I thinks the same about you Millie,”  He replied.  Josh heaved himself to his feet and clomped away.  Millie watched him go with something like regret on her face.  Valencia asked:

     “You liked him didn’t you Millie?” Millie dragged her eyes away from the massive Shire horse.

      “yes mum, I think I do,”  she replied. Valencia said:

      “Millie, come here a moment.”  When the foal was inside Valencia’s box she said:

     “Millie, I’ve got to go and talk with Beyancca for a few minutes.  Don’t leave here, not even with Josh, all right?”  Millie promised her mother she wouldn’t.  With that Valencia led me out into the yard and up the track, far enough away to be undisturbed by anyone.

      “Valencia, haven’t you got to stay with Millie?”  I asked.  She replied:

      “I wanted to, to talk with you about Josh.  I didn’t want Millie to overhear anything we might say, that’s all.  Now Beyancca, be truthful with me, do you know Josh well?”  I was astonished and angered by her question!  Every horse in the place knew about Josh’s arrival, in fact I was sure Valencia had met him before.  I replied sharply:

       “And what’s that supposed to mean?”  Valencia looked hunted, she replied:

       “I mean, what I mean is, is that, that Josh is, or he doesn’t seem to be the kind of horse Millie should be associating with.”  I was furious!

      “Valencia, have you ever spoken to Josh, yourself?  Have you?  I don’t think you have!  All right, he might swear like a trooper, drop his H’s, look like a haystack on legs, all that, but there is one thing he isn’t, and that’s a bad horse!”  Valencia suddenly looked terrified!

      “What’s the matter now?”  I asked sarcastically.  Valencia tried to speak, but couldn’t.  I followed her gaze, Josh was standing by the gate into the field we were in, and he looked extremely unhappy.  As our eyes met, he came galloping across to us.

       “I ‘eard what you’s said about me Valencia, I ‘eard it all!  And I can tells you now that you speaks wrong things about me!  I’s not gonna ‘urts Millie is I?  What good would that do me?  No bloody good at all!  I’s not, not!  In the business of ‘urting foals, let alone sweet natured, Gentle foals like Millie is!”  Valencia, clutching at straws now, replied:

      “But you, you swear Josh.”  Josh snapped:

      “Them’s only words ain’t they.  Actions, what an ‘orse does, speaks better than words, so I’s always thought anyway.”  Valencia favoured Josh with a look of absolute disgust and stormed off.  As she ran she yelled:

       “I think you’re a danger to my foal all the same Josh!  Another thing!  I think Beyancca’s made a big mistake taking you in like she has!  Watch it Beyancca, he’s out to get you my dear!”  Josh flipped!  He ran at Valencia, caught her, overtook and floored her, all in a matter of seconds, or it seemed that way.  The next thing I knew was Josh standing over Valencia’s prostrate form.  Josh said menacingly:

       “No ‘orse insults my mum and gets away with it, not even mares who ‘ave recently foaled don’t gets away with what them says about my mum.  I can tell you Valencia, you ain’t gonna get away with it neither.  I’s gonna teach’s you a lesson you’s never gonna bloody forget!”  Suddenly a tiny voice, very far off, yelled:

      “Mum!  Mum!”  Then Millie came scampering across the grass, very, very distressed.  With a squeal of terror she skidded to a halt several paces from Valencia.  It was clear to me that Millie didn’t know what to make of this situation.

      “Josh?  What’s happening?”  She asked.  He glanced at her and swore under his breath.

       “what the ‘ell’s she doing ‘ere?”  he asked himself.  Meanwhile I tried to comfort Millie, who was crying now.

      “What’s he doing to mum?”  She asked.  I explained about the situation, taking it that Millie could understand what I was driving at.

      “So my mother insulted you, and Josh doesn’t like it,”  Millie said.  I confirmed that was indeed the case.

      “To top it off, she also said some rather unpleasant things about him too,”  I added.  Millie looked over at Josh and her mother, who was now standing, as Josh had permitted her to stand.  They were obviously in heated disagreement.  Suddenly Valencia came tearing over the grass towards us.

      “Come on Millie, let’s go home,”  She said.  Millie followed her mother down the track while Josh cantered up to me, skidded to a halt and flopped on the snow laden grass.

     “’er’s said some ‘orrid things about me ‘asn’t she mum?  ‘er’s been blackening me to you ‘asn’t she?”  he asked harshly.  I confirmed what he’d already heard and Josh seemed to collapse within.

       “I tries to make friends with Millie, then ‘er mother goes and asks you if I’s a criminal or something!  I’s no criminal mum, you knows that don’t you?”  I replied:

        “Look Josh, Josh darling, please listen.  Not all horses can tolerate others of their own species.  Valencia isn’t intolerant in that way, she’s just concerned for Millie.  All right, she shouldn’t have said what she did about you to me, but she’s entitled to her views, just like any other horse.”  Josh’s voice cracked as he said:

      “it’s not ‘er I’s upset about, it’s Millie!  I doesn’t want ‘er to thinks I’s bad.  ‘cos that’s what Valencia’s gonna do ain’t it.  She’s gonna fill Millie’s mind with bad things about me, and you n’all I’ll bet.  I doesn’t want Millie to ‘ates us both, just ‘cos of me.  All I wants is to make friends with Millie.  To shows ‘er that I ain’t a bad ‘orse, that I would defend ‘er to the death.  But now that’s gone, gone and finished forever!  I ain’t gonna get the chance to show ‘er ‘ow I really am, ‘cos, ‘cos ‘er bloody mother’s gonna gets in first ain’t she.  It’s gonna be down to Millie ‘erself, ‘er, only four days old she is, to make ‘er own mind up as to ‘ow she thinks about us.  She ain’t old enough to makes up ‘er mind about them things yet mum!  And we’s gonna end up with ‘er ‘ating both of us for eternity, Just ‘cos I’s large,  Looks like a walking ‘aystack and speaks worse.  Millie’s gonna think I’s terrible!  I doesn’t want that mum,  I doesn’t want that!” 
Someone said:

     “Josh, are you all right?”  it was Millie.

      “’ere Millie

 dear, what’s you doing up ‘ere on your own?”  Josh asked.  Millie replied:

       “you’ve been crying, haven’t you Josh.”  It was true, he had been, and well he might too.  He brushed this aside and repeated his question to the foal.  Millie sighed:

       “Mum has been doing all you said she would.  She’s been telling me things about both of you that I can’t possibly believe!  Horrid, unpleasant things they were, I can’t think of them!  I ran away, into the yard I went.  I ran so quickly that mum couldn’t keep up!  I went into the barn and found a tiny pony who happens to speak like you do Josh.  She told me that all my mum had told me was wrong.  I Checked this with other horses, most of whom I didn’t know, but they were kind to me, all except one.  That one was named Confiada I think.  I know this because another horse told her to leave me alone.  So I’ve come back.”  Josh looked fondly at Millie.

       “Look Millie, I’s not meaning to turn you against your mum, course I’s not!  What I means is that she says some awful things about me and my mum that ain’t true!  I wouldn’t ‘urt you for anything!  You knows that don’t you Millie?”  Josh asked.  Millie smiled:

       “Course I does,”  she replied.  Josh grinned at her.  he hugged her tightly,  Millie laughed and said:

      “Steady on Josh, my mum’ll kill me if she finds out about this.”

      “It looks as if I already have found out doesn’t it Millie,” Valencia said.  Millie whipped round and stared at her mother in total bewilderment.

       “Where, where did you come from?”  She asked hesitantly.  Valencia, now apoplectic with rage, couldn’t answer her for a bit, but once she’d found her tongue again, well, her reply went something like this:

        “I’ve been watching you all the time!  You aren’t  very good at covering your tracks are you!  I saw you asking other horses if I was right, I saw you!  Then, when they told you things that were contrary to what I’d said, you went and told Josh!  How can you do that to your own mother?  I’m responsible for you until you’re old enough to fend for yourself Millie!  What’s more, in your wanderings you nearly came within kicking distance of Confiada!”  I’d had enough of Valencia’s ranting, I said:

      “Look Valencia, maybe you’d do well to find out about Josh yourself?  Talk with him, find out what he’s really like beneath the surface.  Try it sometime soon, and you’ll see what I mean.”  Valencia snorted:

       “I suppose, seven horses can’t be wrong.  If they say that brute’s all right, then there’s got to be some good in him I suppose,”  she admitted grudgingly.  Josh said:

      “Great, now you’s pulled me out of the dustbin, can I try and make friends with your foal now?”  Valencia snapped:

       “Looks like you already have doesn’t it!  Despite what the other horses may say about you, I still hate and fear you!”

       “Ah well, you can’t please everyone,”  Josh said.  Valencia ran away squealing.  Millie stared with admiration at her new-found friend.

      “Josh, I can’t believe you said that to her, I really can’t!”  She said.  He replied:

      “I’s into plain speaking.  If ‘orses doesn’t like me, well sod ‘em.”  I looked at the sky.  It was leaden, just right for another snowfall.  Millie also looked at the sky, the ground, and then at Josh.  She looked down at his boots.

      “Why do you wear those boots Josh?”  She asked.  Josh explained about how they came into being.  Turning to me, Millie said:

      “Looks like you had a good idea for that Beyancca,”  I smiled:

      “Yes, they have helped a great deal.  But there was a lot of resistance to them to begin with.  Have you noticed Confiada’s not wearing them?”  I asked.  Millie replied that she had noticed it, but thought it might be because Confiada had trouble with her hooves and couldn’t wear them.

       “More like won’t wear ‘em,”  Josh spat.

      “Why won’t she?”  Millie asked.  Josh replied:

     “’cos she thinks she’s above us ‘orses in some way, that’s why.  It’s bloody silly ain’t it.”

     “That’s one way of putting it I suppose,”  Millie conceded.  She asked:

      “I wonder, is there any way I could have a set of boots?”  I replied:

      “I’ll get you a set if you like.”  So later that day, that’s exactly what I did.

 

I found Millie roaming about the yard, getting to know the other horses.  When I disturbed her she was talking to Chantilly, and owing to the grounding that Josh had given her in his strange tongue, Millie found she was able to understand what Chantilly said.  When she saw me, Millie whinnied with delight:

       “Hi Beyancca!  Have you,,,”  Before she could finish, I dove into my box and came out with the boots.  Carefully Millie put each of her four feet into a boot and I tightened the ratchet thing.  Millie clomped about a bit,  getting used to the strange feeling of having something on her feet.  Then, without warning, she shot off in the direction of the driving yard.

       “See you later!  I’m going home for a bit!”  she called back.  Chantilly watched her go.

       “’ere B’,  She’s a sweet natured thing ain’t she,”  she said.  I agreed.

     “yes, she certainly is that Chantilly,”  I replied.  Chantilly whispered:

      “I ‘eard from Millie that ‘er mum don’t like Josh much, is that true?”  I replied that it was, and filled her in on the situation.  Chantilly whistled:

       “Cor’, Valencia’s not very ‘appy with letting Millie associate with Josh then.  I can thinks of worse ‘orses she could be associating with.”  I nuzzled her ear.

      “How’s the foal?”  I asked.  Chantilly squealed:

 “Bloody ‘ell B’, don’t, don’t say that!  I doesn’t want a foal!  I bloody doesn’t!”  She whispered:

      “But what if I is?  Then what’s I gonna do, ay?”

       “You’ll look after it no doubt.  Just like Valencia is with Millie,”  I replied.  Chantilly sighed:

       “If I’s in foal then that’s that,”  she said resignedly.  I asked:

       “How’s your foot?”  Chantilly grimaced:

      “Painful still,”  she replied.  Chantilly opened her door and came slowly into the open.  She trotted along to the driving yard.

      “’ere Valencia!  Where is you?”  She whinnied.  Valencia appeared from the direction of the restaurant. Chantilly asked:

      “you been drinking tea?”  Valencia looked at her as if she’d grown horns!

       “I don’t drink Tea!  I’ve never heard of a horse who did,”  she snapped.

      “I was only asking, there’s no need for that!”  Chantilly replied aggrievedly.  Valencia brushed past her and whirled round on me, she demanded:

   “have you seen Millie?”  I replied that I hadn’t seen her for at least an hour or so.  Valencia became frantic!

       “Oh no!  Where the hell is she?  Beyancca, she hasn’t, hasn’t gone with, that, that shire horse has she?”  I asked sharply:

      “If by ”that Shire horse” you’re referring to Josh, then I don’t know.  Perhaps she might have gone with him.  If she has, then she’s in safe company.  Josh’ll protect her with his life Valencia, I can give you my word on that.”  Valencia snorted:

      “I’ll hold you to that.  If anything, anything!  Happens to Millie, then I’ll hold you personally, personally Beyancca, responsible for it!  Do you understand?”  I replied that I understood perfectly what she meant.

 

Suddenly I heard the sound of galloping hooves, and then a voice screaming:

       “Valencia!  Valencia!  I just saw Millie in the river!  I think she’s drowning!”  Shrieking with terror, Valencia galloped headlong up the track.  I turned to the speaker, or screamer, and asked:

      “Confiada?”  the mare, who everyone in the yard took the trouble to loath, stared straight back at me.

     “yes Beyancca?”  she replied.  I asked her:

       “You weren’t playing a sick joke on her were you?”  Confiada looked appalled:

     “No, No Beyancca.  No I wasn’t!  I’ve got a bit more consideration for a

recently foaled mare than that!”  I thought:

      “Pity you couldn’t have shown some of that consideration you profess to have, when you were smashing the lives out of your many victims  Confiada.”  I fled up the track with Confiada following.

 

We arrived at the riverbank to see Millie struggling in the current,  While Josh ran up and down the bank, franticly trying to find a place where he could safely jump in.

       “someone help me!  I’m drowning!”  Millie squealed.  Valencia stood, as all mothers in this kind of situation seem to, immobile on the bank, staring anxiously at her struggling foal.  Josh finally lost patience with finding a safe place:

     “Bugger this,”  he said, and plunged into the freezing water.  The Shire horse swam towards Millie, who was now flailing about in a helpless manner.  Her attempts to stay afloat were causing her to swallow more water, than doing their proper job.  Josh swam up alongside her and panted:

     “’ere, littl’en, climbs on my back now.”  Millie asked:

     “What?  With my boots on?”

    “Yeah, with ‘em on littl’en.  Come on!  Sod your boots Littl’en!  Come on Millie, gets on my back,”  he coaxed.  Millie, despite Josh’s entreaties to her, managed to rid herself of the boots on her forefeet, and one hind before doing as he asked.  As Josh felt the scrape of her shod foot on his back, he wished she had removed all four boots, and not just three before climbing on.  Once Millie was safely aboard, Josh swam back to the bank.  Millie rid herself of the fourth boot about half way across the river, it sailed through the air, splashing down in the water some distance off.  Josh helped Millie onto the bank, and then scrambled onto dry land himself.

 

Valencia was overjoyed to have Millie safely on dry land.  After fussing over her foal for a bit, She did a very strange thing.  Without giving Millie any time to thank Josh for saving her, Valencia turned away, and motioning to Millie to follow, she walked away, leaving Josh and I staring after her.  Once she was out of sight Josh let fly:

       “What an ungrateful cow!  I risked my life for her bloody foal and she didn’t even acknowledge it!  I mean, I don’t want much, course I doesn’t!  But a thank you or something wouldn’t have gone amiss.  Valencia’s a cow!  A bloody cow!”  he screeched.  I nuzzled his cheek, trying to calm him:

       “Come on Josh.  If it’s Millie your worried about, then she’ll probably come to you later and finish it.  But Valencia’s not worth worrying about, really she isn’t.  Millie should be the one you’re focusing on.  She likes you Josh, try and make a friendship with her ay?  She’ll like that,”  I said gently.  Silver came cantering down the track.

        “I ‘eard you saved Millie!”  She yelled.  Josh waited until Silver was standing beside him before yelling:

       “There’s no need to shout!  I can ‘ear you!”  Silver laughed:

       “yeah, point taken, sorry,”  she said.  Josh reached down and nuzzled her ear lovingly.  Silver closed her eyes and rested her head on one side, milking the moment for all it was worth.  She said softly:

     “I likes that Josh, I likes it very much.”  Josh lay down and said:

       “Climb on my back Silver, I’s gonna take you ‘ome my dear.”  Silver, having heard from Millie about removing her boots before climbing on Josh’s back, hesitated and asked:

      “Josh love?  Can you ‘elp me get rid of my boots?”   Josh smiled:

      “What?  Into the river?  Like Millie’s?”  he asked.  Silver wrenched off the  boot on her right forefoot and lobbed it expertly into the river.  Needless to say, the other three followed soon after.  Josh stared at the mountain boots which were rapidly sinking under the water.

      “Silver,  Silver love.  Millie ‘ad a reason for losing ‘er boots, you don’t, not really darling.  The Manageress, while she’s gonna understand Millie’s explanation, ain’t gonna take very easily to yours is she.  “Oh I lobbed them in the river when I was high on passion.”  Yeah Silver, she’s gonna buy that, I don’t think.”  He said.  Silver watched the last of her boots sink finally into the water and disappear forever.

       “yeah, I’s not thought of that.  Ah well, barefoot from now on then,”  She replied.  All the same, Silver climbed on Josh’s back and he carried her home, as he’d promised.

 

That night,  the Manageress came round visiting all her horses.  She’d heard of Millie’s impromptu swim, but hadn’t heard how she’d got into the situation from which she was able to fall in the water.  The Manageress approached Millie to ask her:

       “Oh, Josh and I were playing on the bank, silly games, you know the thing.  Well, I slipped, shouldn’t have done that with the boots on, but I did, and before I could think, well, splash!”  Millie replied.  She then re-counted how Confiada had seen her fall, and ran off to get help.  Millie didn’t find this unusual, as we had, for she didn’t know much about Confiada’s past.  The Manageress walked away, and caught sight of Silver, minus her boots of course.

      “Silver, come over here a minute,”  the Manageress said.  Silver went to her, fearing what she’d say when she found out about the absence of her boots.  The human picked up each of Silver’s feet in turn, making a huge play of examining her hooves, but Silver knew what she was really doing.  The Manageress, while staring at the soles of Silver’s feet, was trying to compose herself enough to keep her cool.  She thought:

       “Millie losing her boots is understandable, but strange, as they’re non removable by horses,  silver losing them too? Well that’s plain madness!  Surely she didn’t fall in the river as well?”  The Manageress finished her examination, and dropping Silver’s right hind foot, she straightened up.

        “What did you find?”  Silver asked.  The Manageress replied:

       “No boots.  Silver, where are they?”  Silver said:

      “It took you five minutes of careful examination of my feet to realise that?  ‘umans are stupid!”  The Manageress shouted:

       “Right now I don’t care if I’m stupid!  What I want to know is where your bloody boots are!”  Silver looked miserable.

       “Threw ‘em in the river,”  she said flatly.  The Manageress asked:

      “Can you speak up a little?  I’ve got a cold and couldn’t hear you,”  Silver squealed:

       “Get this ‘uman!  I,  yes?  Me?  That small ‘orse standing in front of you?  Lost, you know?  The opposite of found, my boots ‘cos I threw ‘em in the river when I was feeling silly, right?  Got it?”  the Manageress stared at the Miniature Shetland pony in utter disbelief  she could be so insolent.

       “How can you speak to anyone like that, let alone me!”  the human screamed.  Silver muttered:

       “I still thinks you ‘umans is bloody stupid.”  The Manageress knelt down and wrapped her arms round the Shetland pony.

       “What, what the ‘ell’re you gonna do to me!”  Silver squealed.  For answer the Manageress put her mouth close to Silver’s ear and said:

        “I’ll get you another set of boots, but don’t you ever, ever lose them!” The Manageress then released her hold, Stepping back she said:

      “Now Silver,  Get out of my sight!”  Silver fled, grateful that she hadn’t been locked in her box for her little transgression.  She trotted round to the driving yard where she found Millie and her mother arguing over Josh.

       “Can I join the discussion?”  Silver asked.  Valencia replied sharply:

      “No!  You’re married to the bloody horse!  If you join I’ll be out numbered!  No you can’t!”  Millie said:

      “Mum, you told me never to swear, you said if I did you’d bite me hard on my ear until I got the message.  Does this mean, that if you swear, I can do the same to you?”  Valencia laughed:

      “No, no Millie it doesn’t,”  She replied.  Millie said:

      “That isn’t very democratic is it.”  Both Silver and her mother stared open mouthed at her.

       “Where, where did you learn that word?  You used it in the right, um, way, as well Millie,”  Valencia said.  Silver smiled:

     “I thinks I know where she got that from.  Tich is always reading.  You’ve been talking to my foal ‘aven’t you Millie?”  Millie smiled at the miniature Shetland pony.

      “Does your foal have a black coat?  I think he said his name was Tich.”  Silver grinned from ear to ear.

     “yeah, ‘e’s my foal,”  she replied proudly.  Millie said:

      “He’s a nice chap isn’t he.”  Silver replied:

      “Of course, I’s not commenting on weather ‘e is or not, ‘cos I’s gonna be,,,”

     “Biased Silver?”  Millie suggested.  Silver nearly fell over with shock!

       “’ere, yeah that’s it!  Tell me littl’en, ‘ow did you learn that word so quick?  I’s only just learnt it myself and I’s a lot older than you is!”  Millie said:

      “Look,  for one thing Silver, my name’s Millie, not littl’en.  For point two, well I don’t know how I learnt the word.”  Valencia disappeared up the track, leaving Millie with Silver.  Silver thought:

       “Now ‘ere’s a strange thing.  Why is she leaving ‘er foal with me when I’s associating with Josh?  I could capture Millie and ‘old ‘er for ransom, using Josh as a bodyguard, there’s nothing to stops me is there.”  Silver looked at Millie, their eyes met and a single thought passed between them.  Millie sidled up to the Shetland pony In a conspiratorial manner.  Millie whispered:

      “Were you thinking of scaring my mum?”  Silver nodded ever so slightly, so that Valencia couldn’t see, that’s if she was watching them, which she wasn’t, but they couldn’t take any chances.

      “yeah I’s thinking that Millie, but ‘ow’s we gonna pulls it off?”  Silver enquired.  Millie replied:

        “All we have to do is for you to drag me a few yards, with me squealing and whinnying something about being taken by Josh’s mare.  My mum’ll come flying down from the fields, just before she gets to me, you release me and do a runner.  By that time, I hope my mum’s gonna be so preoccupied with making sure I’m all right, she’ll forget all about you until later.”  Silver looked decidedly nervous at the foal’s suggestion.

       “’ang on a bit Millie.  It’s the “later on”  bit I doesn’t like.  What ‘appens to me later?  I ain’t getting bashed for a little prank, no I’s not suffering for a small thing like that!  Millie’s mind was travelling further in time though.  She was thinking that if the scheme could be drawn out so that she, Millie, was actually held in Josh’s box, then her mother would have to negotiate with Josh for her foal’s release.  Millie explained her revised plan to Silver, who looked more uneasy than ever as she considered it.

     “No, no Millie, I’s uneasy about the first plan you ‘ad, and bloody uneasy about the second, if you gets what I mean my dear,”  she replied.  During all this talk, Valencia had left them alone, in fact she’d gone further up the track.  Silver whispered to the foal:

      “I thinks she’s waiting for me to does something to you.”  Millie replied softly:

     “Let’s go then, let’s do it!”

    “No!  We doesn’t do it now!”  Silver hissed.

      “But why not?”  Millie asked.  Silver explained that she’d have to talk with Josh if they were ever to pull off Millie’s bigger stunt.

     “You mean you like that plan?”  Millie asked hopefully.

     “yeah, yeah, I does, at least I thinks I does,”  Silver admitted.  Millie cautioned:

      “Silver, don’t whatever you do, tell any horses, or “‘orses” as you say, about any of this, you can tell Josh and Tich, but swear them to secrecy.  It’s on a need to know only, right?”  The Shetland pony nodded eagerly, impatient to get Valencia talking to Josh.

 

That night, when Josh, Tich and Silver were in Josh’s box, lying under a warm rug with the wind howling and screaming outside, Silver explained her and Millie’s plan to the rest of her family.  Josh raised a forefoot to stop her.

      “Silver love, ‘aven’t you remembered what day it is tomorrow?”  Silver replied automatically:

       “yeah it’s Christmas day ain’t it,,,”  Then as she thought of all that meant she added:

        “Oh dear,  I’s feeling bad for even thinking what I was now.”  Tich spoke up:

         “it works two ways mum.  If you want to leave the execution of your plan until the new year, as you seem to, then surely Valencia has to relent a little?  Perhaps that could be a new year resolution for her ay?  “Find out about a horse before you judge them,”  Something like that.  What do you say to that?”  Silver said:

        “yeah I likes that idea, but Millie won’t.  She was all for ‘er idea earlier on.  ‘ere Tich, you thinks you could get ‘er in ‘ere, like now I means?”  Tich considered his mum’s request.  He went to the door, eased it open a fraction and glanced at the stable clock.  Returning to his mother’s side, he reported:

      “it’s half past midnight mum.  You want me to go and disturb Millie and her mother at this hour?”  Silver twitched one ear  and replied:

        “Looks like we won’t ‘ave to disturb ‘em, listen.”  They heard the tiny clop of a foal’s hooves come into the barn.  Millie found the door to their box slightly ajar, peeping in she was confronted by three pairs of eyes staring straight back at her.  Millie nearly shrieked in terror!  Silver said soothingly:

      “’ere Millie dear, it’s only us.  We ain’t meaning you no ‘arm is we?  Come in ‘ere if you likes,” she invited.  Millie, after looking round the box cautiously, advanced into the interior and closed the door.

       “Why isn’t you with your mum?”  Josh asked.  Millie replied:

       “She’s currently pacing about the driving yard in a temper.  I’m sorry Silver,  but she knows,,,”  Millie’s eyes filled with tears, she sniffed:

       “She knows about our plans, and now, now we’re gonna get punished for it, me, and you too!”  She sobbed.  Silver asked:

      “Who knows?  Who could’ve possibly ‘eard us?”  Millie looked round the box at the three horses lying on the straw.  She took a deep breath and replied:

       “there was a dog Silver, I think it was a jack Russell terror!”  Josh smiled at her mistake.

      “you means a Terrier Millie,” he said gently.  Millie didn’t seem to hear him, she continued:

       “The dog’s name was Teasel I think, or that’s what mum said anyway.”  Silver was furious!  She demanded sharply:

      “Where was this dog?  Where was the bloody dog Millie?”

     “Don’t, don’t be angry with me Silver, please don’t shout at me!”  Millie pleaded.  Silver relented:

      “I’s sorry Millie, really I is,”  she said gently.  Patting the straw with a forefoot, Silver invited the foal to lie down, and when Millie was lying on the straw,  Silver unravelled a length of rug from where she’d been lying on it, and threw it over her.  Millie, wanting warmth and security, as all foals do in these situations, instinctively cuddled up to Silver.

        “The poor thing doesn’t know what she’s doing,”  The Shetland pony thought as Millie cuddled closer.  Silver would never have behaved this way when she was a foal, cuddled up to another mare I mean.  Until Millie did it that night, I don’t think any foal in the yard had before.  Millie continued her sorry tale:

       “Teasel was lying in the carriage in the driving yard.  She heard everything!  Then, then I suppose she went and told my mother!”  Millie’s eyes fell on Silver’s face, the foal averted her gaze at the sight of the Shetland pony’s murderous expression.

      “Silver!  your eyes, their wild, and angry, and, well, you look as if you could kill!”  Silver bit back her anger.

      “Save my rage for the bloody dog!”  She thought.  She said:

       “Look Millie, I’s angry ‘cos I’s ‘ad dealing with Teasel already.  She’s a bloody nuisance!  She chases foals, listens in on conversations, and worst of all,  reports what she ‘ears to the ‘orses being talked about!  One day I’s gonna do ‘er fatal damage!  She ain’t gonna live another day after I’s got ‘old of ‘er!  I means that!”  Millie sighed:

      “That’s in the future, but what about my mum now?  She’s told me that I’m not to go back to her at all!  She has to feed me, I’m not weaned yet!”  Silver couldn’t believe that a mare, no matter how angry she was with her foal, would ever deny it food, but then again, she supposed it was possible for Valencia to carry out her threat.  But then her teats would become sore and she’d get depressed because of the lack of a foal to nurse, so that wouldn’t work either.  The Shetland pony turned to Millie and said gently:

      “Your mum won’t deny you food Millie, she won’t, trust me dear.  Now you goes to ‘er, right now and asks ‘er if you can ‘ave a drink.  She’s gonna say yes ain’t she.  If she doesn’t, come back ‘ere and I’s gonna sort ‘er out, right?”  Millie, emboldened by the rock steadiness of the Miniature Shetland pony, went back to her mother, and when she told her what Silver’d said, Valencia daren’t deny her foal food.  While Millie drank,  Valencia thought of the dog who’d started the argument between her and her foal.  Valencia wondered what affect her behaviour was having on Millie.  Taking her courage in her hoof,  Valencia decided, once Millie’d stopped feeding, to ask her out right what she thought of her,  her attitude to Josh, Silver, Tich and all the others.

      “Get an opinion from the younger generation,”  Valencia thought.  Millie finished her drink, and once she was settled on the straw, Valencia asked her what had taken place since she’d last seen her.  Millie re-counted her flight to Josh’s box, and all that went on within.  This tale moved Valencia to tears.  She hugged Millie tightly:

      “You mean all this, the plan you and the Shetland pony made, and all what happened tonight was because of me?  Because of my refusal to talk with Josh?”  She asked tearfully.

      “yep, all of it,”  Millie replied.  Valencia looked away, deeply ashamed.  She said faintly:

      “It’s sad when a foal shows a more mature outlook on things than it’s mother.  But that’s what’s happened here.  I’ve been stupid!”  Millie asked hopefully:

       “So you’ll talk to Josh?”  Valencia hesitated for a minute or so, then she replied:

       “yes, all right Millie darling, I will.”

       “Promise me, promise me you will, before the year is over, please promise me you’ll talk with him, please mum?”  Millie pleaded.  Valencia swallowed hard and said hoarsely:

      “yeah Millie, promise.”

 

Christmas day dawned cold, and, well, snowy too.  Silver escaped into the yard about six in the morning.  As soon as she saw the snow, Silver forgot the time, and squealed with delight:

       “It’s snowing!  Yippee!  Snow!  Then she buried herself in a mountain of the stuff, throwing it about like a mad thing.  Jingle, woken by Silver’s squealing, went outside to take a look at what all the noise was for.  When she received a snowball smack on her muzzle, jingle realised it was snowing, and that Silver’d taken leave of her senses, as she always seemed to at this time of year.  Jingle started to ask:

      “What the hell do,,,”

      “’appy Christmas Jingle!”    Silver whooped.  Then jingle felt something cold and wet hit her between her ears!  She looked up, and saw Silver standing on top of a mountain of snow!  Jingle thought disjointedly:

      “She must have thrown it from the top of that hill!  Silver’s throwing snowballs at me!”  As she watched, Jingle realised how the miniature Shetland pony was able to throw snowballs.  Barefoot as she was, Silver would turn rear end on to her target, and then dig one of her hind feet into the snow, then when she judged the time right, swiftly straighten her leg, so that her foot flew backwards, and the snow held in the hollow of her hoof would be sent flying towards her target.  While Jingle was working this out she received another snowball from Silver, this one hit her smack between the eyes, Jingle’d had enough!  Running to Chantilly’s box, she banged on the door, waking her from a deep sleep.

       “yeah,  What’s you wanting?”  Chantilly asked sleepily.  Jingle informed Chantilly of what was happening, and asked her for help in removing the boots on her hind feet, so that she might pay the Shetland pony back.  Chantilly wasn’t very happy about being woken early on Christmas day, but she undid the ratchet on jingle’s boots, and yanked them off her feet.  Jingle, after thanking Chantilly profusely, escaped into the yard.  Chantilly closed her door, lobbed Jingle’s boots, which she’d agreed to look after, into a corner, and lay down on the straw once more.

      “Them’s all foals!  Every one!  Every  ‘orse instantly turns into a foal at Christmas, no matter what their age,”  she thought as she drifted into dreamland once more.

 

Meanwhile, outside in the yard, jingle was struggling to exact revenge on Silver.  She couldn’t get the hang of throwing snowballs with her hind feet.  The distance between her knowledge and that of the Shetland was brought forcefully home to Jingle when Silver, from the top of her mountain of snow, launched a two pronged attack on her.  Not only was it two pronged, Silver, to Jingle’s astonishment, had managed to fire her two missiles at slightly differing times.  So Jingle received one snowball which hit her nose, and another two seconds later which smashed into her right foreleg with amazing force, shattering itself into a powdery mess on impact.  Jingle watched as the Shetland pony performed her trick once more.  Silver dug both hind feet into the snow this time, and repeated the action which sent her first snowball to it’s target.  Jingle vowed that before the snow was over, she’d get Silver back for her mischievous behaviour.  Jingle tried several times that day to perfect the art of throwing snowballs, but she couldn’t manage it.  In the end, she gave up and returned to Chantilly’s box for her boots.  By this time, about eleven in the morning, Chantilly had dragged herself “out of bed” so to speak, and was enjoying the feeling of relaxation, in the knowledge that she’d not have the prospect of work for a full twenty four hours.  When Jingle returned for her boots, Chantilly asked:

      “’ave you paid Silver back yet?”  Jingle replied that she hadn’t been able to master snowball throwing.  Chantilly smiled:

       “Silver’s a strange mare,”  she said.

      “I don’t think I’d let her hear you say that,”  Jingle protested.

     “I means it in the nicest way jingle dear.  It’s just that she’s a mare who I’s not really got to know yet.  Silver’s a lovely ‘orse, she’s done well with Tich n’all that, but I really doesn’t know ‘er as well as I’d like, that’s all I means,”  she replied. 

 

I didn’t surface until ten in the morning.  The stable wasn’t working today, giving riding lessons I mean, so we had a whole day off, or have I already said that?  Anyway, nothing doing.  The Manageress came round to visit us, wish us happy Christmas, that sort of thing.  She also re-shod Millie and Silver during her rounds, and there was one thing in particular that caught her attention as she stroked Jingle and Silver, their coats were damp, as if they’d been out in the snow.  Little could the Manageress have known of what actually happened, had Silver not inadvertently shown her.  The Shetland pony, forgetting her boots for the moment, had scraped together a mountain of snow and positioned herself to take a shot at the next moving thing that came within range.  Unfortunately, the Manageress was next to pass within striking distance of Silver.  Silver, seeing something passing her range, struck, not thinking of who or what it might be.  This resulted in the Manageress receiving two snowballs in her direction, one hitting her shoulder, and the other knocking her hat off.  For a few seconds the poor human didn’t know what’d hit her.  When she’d regained her poise, she went after the mischievous Shetland pony.

       “Silver!  Get over here right now!”  She demanded.  Silver, realising what she’d done, came slinking across, much ashamed of her behaviour.  When Silver reached her however, the Manageress found it impossible to get angry with her horse.  Angry disbelief turned quickly to intrigue

as she looked at the Shetland pony standing in front of her.  The Manageress asked:

       “Silver, Silver dear, I’m not gonna get angry with you.  Can you tell me?  Show me, how you throw snowballs?”  The Manageress watched entranced as the Miniature Shetland pony shoed her how a horse threw snowballs.  After a few demonstrations, Silver turned to the human and whispered:

      “’ere, I’s gonna ‘it Confiada when she comes out of ‘er box.  Look, she’s undid ‘er bolt.  Wait now, careful now, ‘ere goes.”  Silver cocked her weapons and waited for her opportunity.  Confiada put her head out into the daylight.  Drugged with sleep as she was, she failed to notice the pony standing in a peculiar posture on the snowhill.  Yes, Confiada didn’t realise what was about to happen until she’d been hit twice, bang on target!  Silver’s first shot hit Confiada right between her eyes, the snow bursting into powder on impact. Confiada shrieked shrilly as each snowball hit home!  As well as giving her the shock of her life, Confiada was temporarily blinded so that she had to stop and shake her head to clear the snow from her eyes.  Silver’s second shot went slightly higher than she’d intended and brushed through Confiada’s forelock, bursting with fantastic affect on her back.  Confiada squealed with rage:

       “Who, who, who did that?  Who threw snowballs at me!”  Silver fled before Confiada could come to her senses enough to chase her.  As for the Manageress, she laughed helplessly.  She knew it was wrong to make light of Confiada’s misfortune, but it was the manner in which Silver pulled off her stunt that amused her.

 

As for Confiada, she stamped round the yard, cursing violently.  Chantilly stopped her and, while trying not to laugh herself, for she’d seen everything, asked:

       “What’s the matter Confiada?”  the mare just stared at her, speechless with rage.

      “Confiada?”  Chantilly coaxed.  Confiada kicked Chantilly’s door in sudden anger at her.

       “Stop questioning me!  Always questions, that’s all you do!”  She whinnied.

       “Oh dear, I’s so sorry. is I committing a crime if I asks you questions Confiada?”  Chantilly asked pleasantly.  Confiada kicked Chantilly’s door again, she used  such force that her hoof jammed between two planks.  Swearing outrageously, Confiada wrenched her foot free and fled from the yard.  Chantilly opened her door and inspected the damage.

      “She’s bent my door!  What a Christmas present this is!”  She thought angrily.  Chantilly booted a plank into place.

       “That’ll ‘ave to do for now, I’s not gonna get another door until the new year now is I,”  she muttered.  Chantilly banged her door closed, rammed the bolt home and went in search of Silver.  she found her in my box, recounting how she’d managed to hit Confiada with her snowballs.  Chantilly tapped on my door and asked:

      “Can I join you?”  Silver made room for her on the straw and Chantilly lay down beside her.

      “’ave you seen Jinja lately?”  Silver asked.  Chantilly shook her head, but I nodded, remembering his distressed state when I’d seen him the night before.

 

I went to visit Jinja, only for a few minutes to start with, I stayed for six hours.  He was deeply depressed.  I tried to comfort him in the only way I knew how.  By cuddling up to him, hugging him and gently stroking his ears and muzzle.  This helped by calming him, but did nothing to lift his general mood.  About one in the morning, Jinja fell asleep, his nose resting on my neck.  All through the early hours I gently stroked his ears.  Hoping he’d be soothed by my ministrations.  Around six in the morning, about the time Silver was squealing about snow, I left him sleeping peacefully and returned to my box.  I was so tired I didn’t notice Silver’s antics.  Flopping down I slept until about ten in the morning.  It was now twelve thirty and freezing cold outside.  Chantilly looked at the weather.  Snow had started falling again.  Suddenly the light was blocked by a huge form.  Josh stuck his head in at my door and whinnied loudly:

      “It’s Christmas!”  Chantilly replied:

      “yeah, ‘aven’t you realised that yet?”  Josh snapped:

      “Don’t be so bloody silly, course I ‘as!  I’s just commenting on it that’s all.”  I smiled at him:

      “happy Christmas Josh,”  I said.  He smiled with undisguised pleasure.

      “’appy Chrimbo to you n’all mum,”  he replied.  I got up, went over to my foal, I know Josh isn’t a foal any more, far from it, but I’ll always refer to him as such, and hugged him tightly.  He laughed:

      “You’s a soppy thing isn’t you mum.”  I nuzzled his cheek.  Silver leapt to her feet.

      “’as any of you seen Tich today?  ‘e seems to ‘ave disappeared off the face of the planet!”  We all replied that we hadn’t seen him.  I released Josh and he clomped away.  Silver looked down at her boots.  She said:

     “Now I’s got these, I can’t throw snowballs no more.” She looked sulky.  Chantilly asked:

      “’aven’t you thought of taking your boots off so you can?”  Silver clearly hadn’t, but she tried to cover her mistake up.

       “Yeah, course I ‘as!”  She said defensively.  I got up and escaped into the yard.  The wind whipped round the corner of my box and hit me with savage force.  It had come straight off the river and was ice cold.  I gasped as it took my breath away.  I turned and stumbled towards my box, unable to stand the weather any more.  I threw myself inside, almost trampling chantilly as I did so.  Squealing with indignation she said:

       “Oi Beyancca,  watch where                                              you’s putting your feet!  You nearly trod on me.”

     “Oh, dear, sorry.””  I replied.  Chantilly got up and shook herself hard.  She said fondly:

      “You’s a blunderbuss ain’t you B’.”  I smiled at her and we left the box together.  Leaving Silver to her own devices, Chantilly and I made our way slowly towards the river.  We walked along the bank in companionable silence until Chantilly broke it.

     “’ere B’ dear, you remember Jasper?”  I looked at her quickly.

      “How could I ever forget him,”  I replied.  Chantilly said:

      “Last night, I got to thinking about ‘im and what ‘e’d meant to me n’all.  I don’t know what I think!  ‘e’s, or was, a bad ‘orse, yes, that’s undeniable,  But I still feel love for ‘im, and the worst thing is, I killed ‘im!”  Tears ran down her nose as she remembered her furious outburst which ended Jasper’s life.  She suddenly squealed:

      “I’d ‘ave gladly ‘ad Jasper’s foals!  Yeah, I’s able to cope with that!  If it’d ‘appened, but, but,  I’s not ‘aving Coquin’s foals!  I ‘ate ‘im so much!  ‘e’s just a bloody sex machine, that’s all ‘e wants from a mare B’!  Don’t, whatever you do, let ‘im ‘ave ‘is ‘orrid way with you, or you’ll be ‘aving ‘is dam foal n’all!”  This upset me a bit.  Chantilly bemoaning the fact that she might have Coquin’s foal had got me thinking of Jamie.  Jamie’d been brutal to me recently, but I still loved him!  I asked myself over and over again why this was, but got no satisfactory answers.  I decided then and there that I had to, had to!  Go and speak to Jamie!  I stopped walking and turned back towards home.  Chantilly, startled and angry with me for not paying any attention to her, for, unintentional though it was, I hadn’t shown any reaction to her lament.  As we walked I tried to patch it up, it didn’t work.  I said:

        “yeah, chantilly?  You were saying about Coquin’s foal weren’t you?”  I enquired.  Chantilly yelled:

      “Yeah I was!  Where the ‘ell were you?”  Suddenly tears pricked the backs of my eyes.  Unable to stop them, I let them trickle down my nose unhindered.  I gulped hard, trying to hide them from Chantilly.  My friend looked at me, shock in her expression.

     “you’s thinking about Jamie isn’t you,”  she stated.  I suddenly lost it completely.  Burying my face in her shoulder I wept unashamedly.

       “All your talk about foals got me thinking about my situation with Jamie n’all that.  I know he’s a Field horse by breed, but I still want his foals!  But he’s been so horrid to me these last few weeks that I should hate him so much, but I don’t!  I know he hurt me, yes I’ll be quite honest about that, he did, but most of the time, he’s lovely to me Chantilly!  I don’t know what’a do!”  Chantilly then said something strange.

      “There you is Jamie, sees what you does to B’ now does you?”  I whirled round to see Jamie standing behind me!  I thought:

     “He’s seen and heard everything!”  I rounded on Chantilly:

      “Did you engineer this?  Did you!”  Chantilly looked stunned:

       “No, course I bloody didn’t!  ‘e just came along that’s all B’!  Honest that’s all!  ‘e came up the track while you were ‘olding fourth, not that that ain’t a good thing to do sometimes, ‘old fourth I mean.  Well, Jamie just stood there, I’s not gonna send ‘im away when ‘e could learn so much from you is I?  I’s sorry if that was meant to be a private chat, but now I thinks ‘e’s gonna ‘ave a lot to says to you, or ‘e should at any rate.”  With that she turned and galloped off in the opposite direction, losing herself in the trees.  I looked at Jamie.  I could see he’d been crying:

      “So you should cry, cry  buckets for what you’ve done to me,”  I thought harshly.  I said:

     “Jamie, have you got anything to say?”  He knew that a plain apology wasn’t what I wanted.

      “I don’t know, I don’t know!”  he whinnied.  I tried putting my nose to his and rubbing it gently.  Jamie didn’t flinch away as I touched him, but I saw tears rolling down his nose.  I asked:

      “Do you love me Jamie?”  the Field horse gulped hard and replied:

     “Yeah.”  That was all he could say before he broke down.  Once he’d recovered, Jamie had a lot more to say, and said it.

       “Beyancca?  I know this might sound false after what I’ve done, but I hate myself for beating you up.  I know it was wrong, Silver dragged me aside one day and knocked some sense into me over that.  I thought long and hard about my reasons for doing what I did.  The conclusions I came to are these.  I beat you up because you were showing a trait in you that I haven’t got, I resented you for that.  When you were showing compassion towards Confiada I saw something that I’d never seen before.  All my upbringing was telling me that what I was seeing was wrong, and therefore, should be destroyed.  So I went and did what my stupid training had taught me.  The worst of it is B’, that I beat up someone I loved!  Even my love for you couldn’t overcome my inbred instinct to destroy what I thought to be wrong.  A blind rage you might call it, I know now that it was exactly that.  I hope and plead for forgiveness, please?  I promise you, I’ll never, ever do that again!”  I replied:

       “Jamie, Jamie darling, but I’ve heard that before, you said that in the autumn, and you still beat me up didn’t you.”  He looked depressed, he said:

      “I know, I know I did!  I’m sorry about all of that.  I will change, I will!  Give me one last chance, please Beyancca, please let me show you how we can be.  Will you?”  I thought of all he’d done to me:

      “Let me think for a bit Jamie, I have to think about it, alone too,”  I replied.  With that I walked away, leaving him standing alone on the track.  Jamie didn’t try to follow me as I ventured into the trees.  I found Chantilly standing in a small clearing deep in the woods.  She Whinnied with surprise as she noticed me.

      “’ere B’, what, what the ‘ell’re you doing ‘ere?”  I motioned to her to be silent and told her what had happened on the track.

      “I need time to think,”  I concluded.

     “Yeah, bet you does, I’ll leave you to it then,”  Chantilly replied.  I moved in front of her, blocking her path.  Chantilly squealed in protest:

      “Ain’t this a bit extreme Beyancca?”  I replied:

     “No, Chantilly, please, don’t go, don’t leave me here.”  She looked confused.

      “what?  Honestly B’ dear, you comes ‘ere on your own and finds me ‘ere, then you says that you doesn’t want me to leave.  What would you ‘ave done if I wasn’t ‘ere?”  I said:

      “Please Chantilly, please don’t go dear.”  She stayed with me in the end.  After about an hour of hard thought I made up my mind and went back to the track.  Jamie still stood where I’d left him, waiting expectantly for me.  I couldn’t meet his gaze as I said:

      “No Jamie, I can’t carry on the way we are.”  He turned away and trudged back to the yard.  I watched him go, thinking that in one sentence I’d all but destroyed him.  Chantilly joined me and we made our way slowly along the track and into the barn.

 

At first I thought the squealing and whinnying issuing from the interior  was the protests of an injured horse, but when I rounded the corner into the barn I noticed Carmen staring, and squealing at what seemed to be, yes, a camel!  I could hardly believe what I was seeing!  The Camel stared back at me incuriously, as if being stabled with horses was all he’d ever known.  Carmen squealed:

      “What, what the hell’s that!”  The camel, with great dignity, and tremendous composure, replied:

       “I’m a camel, you know? You know what a camel is don’t you?  I, well, not me actually, my kind are found in the desert mostly.  Read camel in the dictionary,  got it?”  Carmen screeched:

       “What’s a camel?”  The poor camel made a huge effort to hold onto his patience.

       “I’m one, I’m a camel!”  he yelled.  Carmen withdrew to the rear of her box and hid her head.  She had this strange idea that if she hid from whatever was frightening her, it would go away, but this camel was showing no signs of disappearing.  He looked at me.

      “As you can see, I’m not a horse,”  he said.  I replied:

      “No, what’s your name?”  The camel replied:

     “Camelot, and don’t laugh!  I’ve had Candy making feeble jokes about the round table n’all that and I’m sick of them already!”  I smiled broadly at this new arrival in the yard.  He seemed quite a nice chap, I concluded that Carmen was making more of his arrival than was really necessary.  I was distracted by Limerick forcefully kicking her door.  Turning to her, I asked:

       “What’s up with you?”  The Irish mare stopped trying to smash her door and replied:

       “I get very lonely.”

      “And smashing your door is gonna solve that?”  I asked.  Limerick said:

       “No, not really, but it draws attention to me.  I don’t want to be left alone!”  I asked:

      “Where’s Shamrock?  She’s a friend of yours isn’t she?”  Limerick looked startled:

       “Friend?”  She asked dumbly.  Carmen, feeling she should vent her fear on something, asked spitefully:

       “Haven’t you ever heard of that concept?”  I rounded on her:

     “Shut it!”  I shouted.  I looked at Limerick and said:

       “Look, Shamrock was good to you when you first came here wasn’t she?”  The Irish mare stopped me:

      “No, I can’t go back,,,”  Someone beside me asked:

       “Why not?”  I stared straight into Shamrock’s eyes.  I gabbled:

       “Um, Shamrock, this might sound a stupid question, but where did you spring from?”  I asked this crazy question for Shamrock hadn’t announced her arrival until that very moment, not a footfall or anything!  She must have walked over to the barn, up the steps, all that, but I didn’t hear her, no clop of hoof on concrete, nothing!

      “I didn’t want to disturb you two,”  Shamrock said.  She added:

      “I can be light on my feet if I wish.”  I glanced quickly at her feet, she wasn’t wearing boots!  I thought:

      “If your silent on your feet now, what will you be when you’re wearing mountain boots?”  Shamrock, much to my amazement, saw me flick a glance at her hooves and commented.

      “Oh yeah, now I remember what I was going to ask you Beyancca.  Can I have a set of mountain boots?”  I thought of refusing her, she was silent enough already, but I couldn’t.  I replied:

       “Shamrock, go to the Manageress and ask for a set, she’ll get rid of your horseshoes, file your hooves etc, and then find you the right set.”  Shamrock told Limerick not to leave the county and went in search of her boots.  Five minutes later she was back.  The first I knew of her arrival was when a soft muzzle brushed my ear and a voice said:

     “Guess who?”  Screaming with terror I whipped round to see Shamrock collapsing with laughter on the concrete.  I snapped:

       “Shamrock!  Get up now!”  When she was standing upright I yelled at her:

      “You never, ever!  Ever!  Do that to your leader!”  The poor mare looked so unhappy that I regretted my anger.  Calming down a little I said gently:

      “Look,  Shamrock, please, don’t ever do that again.”  Shamrock, a little put out, and somewhat shaken by my sudden outburst, replied:

       “I, I’m sorry,  I didn’t know you’d react so extremely.  It, it was only a joke, a prank I tell you!”  She looked terrified!  By now I felt dreadful.  Stretching my nose out to her and nuzzling her ear in what I hoped to be a reassuring manner, was all I could think of doing to redress the balance.  Shamrock seemed to be calmed by my nuzzling and rubbing.  After a few seconds she relaxed.

     “Feeling better now?”  I enquired.  Shamrock laughed slightly.

     “yeah, thanks.  Beyancca, if you don’t mind me saying, you have a way with distressed horses.  I mean you seem to calm them down, that sort of thing.  They trust you totally.”  Carmen then said something that brought a lump into my throat.

      “That’s part of the reason for us choosing her as leader.”  I turned my face to the wall, unable to let anyone see how close to tears I was.  Swallowing hard I tried to compose myself.  Shaking myself hard I left the barn, much ashamed of my emotional display.  Carmen opened her door and followed me into the yard.  I thought this strange as she usually left well alone, but now, well, she was following me, there was no doubt about that.  Carmen stopped me in my tracks by gently resting her nose on my neck.  Once I’d stopped walking, she said:

      “Look B’, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

     “Don’t worry, you didn’t,”  I replied.  Carmen knew I was liing and told me as much in the look she gave me.  She suddenly came up close and whispered:

      “I said that because I meant it.  I’ve got a lot of respect, and love for you Beyancca.  You’ve saved my sanity on more occasions than I can remember.  I really mean what I say, you are the right mare for the job.”  I smiled shyly at her.

      “Thank you Carmen,”  I said softly.  Carmen then left me and returned to her box.  I turned away and made my way to Josh’s box, which had been moved, and now was slightly off the beaten track, a little up the track from mine actually.  Once I reached it, I banged on the door and he let me in.  Without saying anything, I threw myself onto the straw.  Josh stared down at me, he asked:

       “’ere mum, what’s you up to?  You comes in ‘ere unannounced and flops down, and well, I’s confused!  ‘as something ‘appened?””  something had happened, yes, but not in the way he meant.  I told Josh what Carmen had said:

       “She’s ‘eld a lot of respect for you ever since she got to know you mum.  ‘er’s just letting you know that, that’s all,”  he said.  I replied:

       “That may be so, but I’m finding it hard to deal with.”  Josh crashed his door closed, he never shut it gently.  Turning away from the door, he flopped down beside me.  Cuddling up to me he said:

      “Mum, you’re trouble is that you can’t take praise.  You’s doing an ‘ard job, and you’s doing it well n’all.  ‘orses is gonna comment from time to time ain’t they.  Them’s gonna say ‘ow they think you’s getting on, and if you can’t take a little praise from time to time, well then I don’t know what to do with you.”  I replied:

       “It wasn’t what she said, it was the way she said it.  Carmen’s not given to expressing her views openly.  She keeps herself to herself and rarely adds anything to a conversation which doesn’t concern her.  So when she said what she did, well, it was a shock!  Not only that she’d interjected like she had, but what she said, it was so touching to hear her say that, for all horses to hear n’all!  Carmen must have felt it very strongly to do that, don’t you think?”  Josh nodded:

      “Yeah, she’s impulsive isn’t she,”  he said.  Christmas day wore on, the snow fell intermittently, and the yard dozed through it all.  Josh and I lazed around for an hour or so, letting the world go by.  I turned to Josh and asked:

      “Josh?”  Half asleep as he was, he snapped into full consciousness at the sound of my voice.

      “Yeah mum, what’s up?”  He asked.  I asked:

      “Josh, are you prepared to forgive Confiada?”  Josh suddenly leapt to his feet.  He squealed:

     “No I bloody isn’t gonna forgive ‘er!  Will you stop ‘assling me about that!  I’s not gonna forgive ‘er in a billion years and an ‘alf, more also!  You likes ‘er doesn’t you mum?  You thinks ‘er’s worth reforming doesn’t you?  Well, take it from me, she ain’t worth nothing!  She ain’t gonna reform in a zillion years!”  I noticed the time scale creeping up and asked:

       “So, in your opinion Josh, Confiada won’t come round before the day’s out?”  This question angered him, I meant it to.  He whinnied shrilly:

      “Course I means that!  Can’t you count?  A zillion years is more than twenty four hours!”  With that he stormed out of the box and I heard his boots thudding on the snow laden track as he fled.  I got up and left the box, making my way carefully towards the main yard.  Suddenly something hit my nose!  Shrieking with fright I looked to my left and saw Tich, Millie and Lorenzo having a snowball fight.  Silver’d obviously taught Tich how to throw snowballs and the art had spread to the other two foals.  I watched as another missile came my direction.  This offering hit me on my right foreleg, bursting into powder as it connected.  I looked down at my boots, then ran to Chantilly’s box and got my hind ones removed.  Then, my hind feet bare, I waded into the fight and landed a couple of socking hits on Tich who, squealing with frustration, hit back and landed his attack between my ears.  This really made me angry!  I loaded both hind feet with snow and launched my attack with as much force as I could muster without causing myself problems.  The two missiles flew towards their target, one hit Tich and, on turning my head to see where the second one had gone, I saw Millie’s horrified expression as she saw my second snowball coming at her.  It hit her smack on her muzzle.  She spat snow onto the concrete:

      “That wasn’t very nice!”  she whimpered.

     “Sorry Millie,”  I replied.  Lorenzo said:

      “Lucky for you it was Beyancca who threw snowballs at you.  Have you seen the size of Josh’s hooves?”  Millie looked grim.

     “Yes I have, but he, he wouldn’t, would he?”  someone said:

      “yeah, ‘ere goes!”  Millie stared at the huge Shire horse.  Josh seemed to have appeared from nowhere!  He loaded up and fired!  Both his missiles hit Millie hard!  Squealing, she retired to the driving yard for protection.  Josh replaced his  boots, his job done.

      “I’s been wanting to get back at ‘er.  She kept throwing snow at me!”  he explained.  I put my hind feet in their boots before joining him.  We trotted up the track towards the river.  Suddenly Josh stopped dead, turned to me and looked serious:

     “Oh dear, something big’s coming, wait for it,,,”  I thought.  Josh seldom had this expression unless he was deadly serious, which wasn’t often.  He said:

      “Mum?  I’ve been thinking ‘ard about things, Confiada mostly.  I’s been thinking ‘ow you’s been treating ‘er these last few weeks, despite what she does to ‘orses you love.  I’s thinking that you ‘as a lot of courage to do what you does.  You’s ‘elping ‘er to reform, trying so bloody ‘ard to ‘elp ‘er you is, I sees that now, and wonders why I didn’t before.  You’s right, I’s got’a be a bit more tolerant of ‘er.”  I replied:

     “Josh, you can be angry with her when she does bad things.  But please let her be herself when she’s behaving well.”  Josh looked ashamed:

      “I’s gonna try to do that from now on,”  he said quietly.  I hugged him tightly.  Confiada’s voice cut into our private moment:

      “Phew!  That means I’m off the hook!  Yippee!”  I whirled round and yelled:

        “Don’t think just because he’s agreed to leave you alone for now, that Josh isn’t on the look out for the slightest little thing Confiada,”  I warned.  She trudged away, her head down and ears pinned back.  I watched Confiada’s departure, noting how she dragged her feet as she walked.  After a few paces she stopped altogether and stood motionless on the track.  Curious to find out more, I moved to go to her.  Josh stopped me by crossing my path.

     “No mum, leave ‘er.  She’s a cow and she’s got’a learn that she ain’t the most important ‘orse round ‘ere.”  Despite his advice, I pushed past him and left him standing watching me walk towards his enemy.

 

On reaching Confiada I saw she was weeping bitterly, her tears splashing onto the snow.  I said softly:

       “Confiada?””  The mare looked at me, her eyes red from crying.  She asked acidly:

      “What do you want!  You never cared for me, never!  You’re like him, you’re like that Shire horse!”  she waved a hoof towards Josh.  I said:

      “I want to help you Confiada.””  She squealed:

     “No you don’t!  You don’t want to help me, you never did!  All you want is to lead me into Josh’s range so that he can, can kill me!”  I tried nuzzling her ear, but Confiada screeched at me:

      “No!  Get off!  Go away!  Go on, sod off!  I don’t want you!  I don’t, can’t,  I don’t know who I am, or what I want any more!”  Confiada sobbed.  I tried again:

      “What are the basic things you want?”  Confiada stared at me and replied:

      “Um, to be left alone, to be safe, to know that I am safe.  I want to know that Josh isn’t gonna come after me at the slightest opportunity he has.  I just want to live my life in peace!”  I replied gently:

      “Confiada, do you understand why Josh has been attacking you?”  Sighing with exasperation, she replied:

      “yes I do.  I’ve been attacking horses, and will you stop talking to me as if I was a foal!”  I ploughed on:

       “Confiada, why do you attack other horses?”  Confiada looked as if she would crack under the weight of my question.  I waited, Confiada stared at me, I waited some more.  Then she cracked:

      “I don’t know why I hurt other horses!  I don’t mean to, it’s just, just that I get so angry that I have to hit out at others!”

       “Foals included?  Foals have never hurt you have they?”  I asked.  Confiada shook her head.

     “No, no they haven’t.””  She replied.  I asked:

       “Why did you hurt Josh when he was a foal?”  Confiada’s eyes blazed with hatred at the mention of the Shire horse.  Her voice loaded with spite, Confiada said:

      “Because, because I wanted to hurt you so much!  You’ve got the leadership of the herd, I wanted it and still do, and you, you!  A virtual foal, took it from me!  You seemed invincible, but when a foal came along, well, I had you!  I had you where I wanted you Beyancca!”  I said:

      “And now that foal’s grown up, you can’t win, and you’re sulking about it, aren’t you Confiada?”  The mare looked at me with pathological loathing.

    “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  That’s bloody it!”  She squealed, then she lashed out furiously!  I dodged her flying kick and her hoof missed my head by inches.  Suddenly all hell broke loose.  Screaming hysterically, Confiada was wrestled to the ground by Josh, who’d been watching the unfolding drama from a short distance away.  The Shire horse kicked and bit Confiada until she stopped struggling.  Then he levered himself off her and stood up.

      “Told you she’s a cow didn’t I mum,”  he panted.  I looked down at my adversary and suddenly felt very sorry for her.  Lying on the track, bruised, bitten and bleeding, Confiada looked helpless.  Instinctively, I put my nose down to hers.  Josh sighed with frustration:

      “Mum!  I can’t believe you’re doing this!  That cow ‘as just tried to beat you up, and now you’s showing ‘er kindness!  ‘ow the ‘ell can you do that?”  I knew he was right, but my overriding desire is to help distressed horses, I can’t help the way I am.  Also, I knew from long experience what pain she must be in.  Putting my mouth down to her ear I whispered:

       “Confiada?”  The mare didn’t stir, she didn’t move, not even a flicker of an eye lid, nothing.  Confiada’s eyes were closed so I couldn’t see if they were moving.  Suddenly she opened her eyes and focused on my face.  Confiada swore harshly, repeatedly using words that I cannot print.  Josh snorted with disgust:

      “Listen to ‘er mum!  ‘er’s using words I’d never use in a billion years!”  I agreed whole heartedly that Confiada’s use of expletive was totally out of character for her, and that Josh wouldn’t ever have used the words Confiada used that day, no matter what happened.  After an age, Confiada struggled to her feet and stumbled down the track.  Josh and I watched her go.  He turned to me and asked:

       “’adn’t we better get the manageress?  Confiada looks terrible!”  I replied:

     “No, not yet, Confiada’s not in the mood for horses, let alone humans.  She’d probably snap and kick at any human who dared approach her.”  Josh raced away towards the yard.  I followed him towards Confiada’s box, reaching it we looked in.  Confiada was lying on the straw, curled up as much as a horse can be.  She looked frightened, her whole body registering fear and terror.  I opened her door and went across to her.

       “Confiada?  Are you all right?”  I asked.  I could tell she wasn’t, but there’s no harm in asking.  She bared her teeth at me and snapped:

      “No!  No I’m not all right!  Josh hit me if you remember!”  Josh said:

       “You started it Confi’’.  You tried to kick my mum!  I suppose you’ve forgotten that!”  Confiada wailed with fear.

      “No!  No!  No!  Josh!  Don’t, don’t hit me!  Please, not again!”  She pleaded.  Josh looked thoroughly bored.  he said flatly:

      “I ain’t gonna ‘it you any more, there’s no point to it.  You’s never gonna stop your antics is you.”  Suddenly horrendous squealing rent the air!  Forgetting Confiada, Josh and I raced round to the car park.  We found Carmen screaming her head off, while Lorenzo and Tich pelted her with snowballs!  Carmen, having never in her life seen a snowball fight, or so it seemed, was frozen to the spot with terror, while the two foals took their revenge, goading her to:

     “come on Carmen!  Aren’t you gonna fire back?”  The poor mare stood as if carved from stone, her eyes resembling soup plates.  She saw us and whinnied:

      “Please, please stop them!”  Josh replied:

      “What they wants you to do is to throw snow back.  Them’s only foals Carmen, you ‘ave to remember that.  Go on, remove your boots and get ‘em back!  Mum?  Would you show ‘er ‘ow it’s done?”

      “Why don’t you?”  I asked.  Josh kicked off his boots and showed Carmen how to exact revenge on Lorenzo and Tich.  Fortunately for Carmen, the car park wasn’t too disturbed from the night before, so the snow was still lying thickly on the ground.  Once Carmen had hit the two foals twice each, she gave up.  Lorenzo and Tich retired to warm up, while Carmen scampered into the barn, slamming her door hard!  She stood barefoot on the straw, trembling with fright!  Josh walked past and returned Carmen’s boots to her.

      “Guess you’ll be wanting these?”  he asked.  Carmen didn’t reply.  Josh left her boots on his side of the door and escaped into the main yard.  He retrieved his own, an once he’d booted the ratchets into place Josh joined me in the warmth of the Field barn.  You might be asking why we even considered venturing there.  The truth was that Balugue was a friend, and also a Field horse, and I wanted a chat.

 

We swapped gossip about the two herds, I learned that Ev hadn’t really forgiven Lorenzo, despite her letting him stay with her after all, and that Fabrecai was in deep trouble after attacking Jitan when she came in to wish her fellow Field horses merry Christmas.  Meanwhile, a raucous argument had blown up between Hibou and Canterello.  It was a silly little thing, the price of straw in France I think, but it dragged other field horses in.  Insults started flying.  The volume increased, soon horses were stamping, squealing and  whinnying shrilly, the noise was deafening!  Josh, who had looked uncomfortable from the moment I’d entered the barn, suddenly took a deep breath and squealed:

     “Shut up!  All of you, shut up!  I don’t wan’a ‘ear another word out of any of you!”  Amazingly, the barn fell silent.  Josh shook his head to clear it.

      “Ah, peace.  Ain’t that nice,”  he said.  Fabrecai started to say:

      “I don’t,,,”  Josh cut him off:

     “Shut up, be quiet!  You know what that means?”  Fabrecai snorted with indignation and fell silent.  Josh then went round the barn, chasing field horses back to their places in the barn.  Of course, faced with a huge Shire horse, they went with alacrity.  His job done, Josh made his way back to me, turned to the Field horses and said:

      “Now I’s gonna leave ‘ere.  If I ‘ears any of you, including you fabrecai, say anything, then I’s back in ‘ere quick sharp and you’s not gonna know what’s ‘it you!  Remember that!”  Motioning to me to follow, we left the barn.  Once Josh was out of earshot Balugue turned to Jitan and whispered:

       “He’s like a bull in a china shop!  Josh frightens me sometimes!”  Jitan admitted Josh frightened her all the time.  Balugue turned away and stared through the window on her right.

 

Meanwhile, Josh and I had retired to my box.  Christmas day was almost done now and darkness was falling.  I asked:

      “Josh, why did you yell at the field horses?”  The Shire horse’s eyes blazed.

     “’cos them’s being noisy!  Is that all right?”  I ignored his attitude and asked:

      “It wasn’t by any chance that you wanted to exercise power over them was it Josh?”  Josh looked unhappy.

      “Yeah, all right, a bit I suppose,”  he admitted.  I asked:

      “Why Josh?  Why do what you did?  They’ve not done you any harm have they?  Not the whole herd?”  Josh looked sulky.

       “I doesn’t know why I ‘ate them so much mum, I just do!  Hibou’s a disagreeable bugger, Fabrecai’s worse and, well, they’re all pretty bad.  They fight amongst themselves, fight us, all that and more!  Them’s ‘orrible mum!  Really ‘orrid them is!”  He said defensively.  He tried to lighten the atmosphere.

      “But it worked, didn’t it mum.  It worked well, they listened to me mum, you can’t deny that!”  he whinnied.

     “No Josh I’m not denying it worked, it did, but what were your reasons for doing what you did?  Did you want absolute power over them?”  Josh looked scared, he whimpered:

     “yeah, all right!  I did!  Is that what you wanted to ‘ear?”  I said:

     “I want the truth Josh, only that!”  Josh hugged me tightly.  His fervour startled me.

      “I, I don’t know if you’ll believe me when I say this.  But I wanted to make the field ‘orses fear me, so that, that they’d leave me, and you alone!”  I said:

      “But Josh, Jamie’s the only one who’s ever laid a hoof on me, and you haven’t been hurt by a field horse in your life!”  Josh said:

     “No, and I doesn’t want ‘em to neither.  Them’s fighters!  Them’s ‘orrid ‘orses mum, I’s scared of ‘em, them scares me so much!  ‘ave you seen what they can do to an ‘orse when them’s angry?  It’s ‘orrible mum, I, I can’t think about it mum!”  Josh began to cry.  I wondered if all he was saying was true.  Could it be?  All of it?  I doubted it.  I said:

      “Look Josh dear, why not try talking with them?  I know Jamie did me wrong, but he’s one of many.  All right, I thought he was the sane one of the bunch, but now,,,”  I felt tears prick the backs of my eyes, sniffing I said:

      “I don’t know now.  You know what Josh, sometimes I wish I’d never met him!””

     “Pardon?  What’s this mum?”  Josh asked incredulously.  He said:

     “I thought you loved, no loved Jamie.”  I wiped angrily at my tears.

       “yeah, I did, do even.  I love him so much it hurts me to think he’s being like this to me, but I can’t leave him.  I said I would, but now, now I can’t Josh!”  I felt a nose brushing mine.  Josh noticed the arrival of another horse and bristled with anger!

      “Go away Jamie!”  he snarled.  I turned to the Field horse, who’d crept up unannounced and stood waiting for his chance.  Josh squealed:

      “Well, now ‘e’s ‘ere, I’m off!  ‘ope ‘e does you serious damage mum, ‘cos ‘e will if ‘e ‘as ‘alf a chance, remember that!  Them Field ‘orses is traitorous and loathsome!”  Josh ran off down the track as fast as he could go.  I looked at Jamie.  He stared back, unable to say what he wanted to.  Taking a deep breath he said:

      “Look, B’, I, I know the answer to this already, after I’ve treated you so badly there can be only one, but, I’m begging, pleading with you, please give me another chance, will you please?”  I looked into his eyes, something which he found disconcerting and invasive.  Jamie stiffened as I made my examination of his deepest being.

      “Do you really mean what you say?  Do you mean to stop fighting other horses, and me for expressing views that are contrary to those which you hold?  Do you Jamie?”  I asked.  Jamie turned his head away, averting his gaze from my face.

    “don’t, don’t do that again Beyancca, I can’t stand it!”  he pleaded.  Jamie walked out into the freezing night and paced up and down the yard.

      “I feel as if I’ve been assaulted!  What the hell were you doing?”  he demanded.

      “Seeing if you were true Jamie,”  I replied.

     “Did you have to virtually destroy me to find out?”  Jamie asked.  He added:

     “And what did you find?  Am I true?””

      “yes I think so Jamie.”  He asked:

     “Why did you have to do that?  It was horrible!  I felt as if my brain would explode under the strain!””  I said:

     “I’m sorry Jamie, but after what you’ve done to me, I don’t know what to think.”  Jamie suddenly squealed:

      “You told Josh that you loved me, and now you can’t make up your mind?”  I replied:

       “I love you Jamie, but I’m scared of you.  What will happen if You find me tending to the needs of an injured or distressed horse whom you don’t like?  Will you attack me for carrying out what I feel is right?  Will you Jamie?  Until you can tell me, I’m not leaving myself open to abuse like last time.  I’m wary now, the sad thing is, You’ve made me so.”  On the question of assault, isn’t beating up a horse assault?  You beat me up, had you forgotten that?””  Shrieking Jamie fled down the yard, across the car park and into a field.  I thought:

      “I love you Jamie, but you’ve got a lot of maturing of mind to do before I’ll have you back.”  Josh, after leaving a respectful delay before he reappeared, said:

      “’ave you come to a decision on what you’re gonna do with that ‘orse?  Is you gonna ‘ave ‘im back, or is you gonna tell ‘im to push off?””  I thought for a bit.  I found it strange that no matter what Jamie did to me, I would always consider having him back, maybe I was better alone?  By that I mean without a partner, of course I still had Josh, but he’s my foal.  I looked at Josh:

      “I can’t let him do this to me, I can’t stand any more of this Josh!””  I whimpered.

      “Well leave ‘im then mum, problem solved ay?”  Jamie had returned.  Taking a deep breath I said, my voice rising to a shrill squeal:

      “No Jamie, no, not now, not ever, go away now, leave now!  Get out of my box, go!  Go now!  Leave me!  Get out of my sight, my life!  Go and find another mare!”  Jamie trudged away, realising for the first time I think, what he’d really done to me, that time he beat me up.  Josh watched him go, and then turned to me.

       “Sorry mum,”  he said.  I hugged him tightly.

      “I need you Josh, I need your strength, I need you to be strong for me, I’m not!”  Josh nuzzled my ear reassuringly.

     “I’m ‘ere mum, I’m ‘ere for you,”  he said softly.  I rested my head on his shoulder, feeling his warmth.

      “Warm, safe, I’m safe here,”  I murmured.  Josh whispered:

      “You’re safe with me mum, I’m ‘ere, I’ll protect you.”  After a while, Josh and I walked out into the night.

 

The night was cold, the ice looked like glass on the concrete.  Josh and I picked our way carefully along the track towards the river.  The moon was up and sparkling on the frozen surface.  Josh and I paused for a few minutes to look into the depths.  I looked across at Him.  Josh’s body was concealed in shadow, steam rising in a plume from his nostrils.  I thought of the huge powerhouse standing a few feet from me.  I thought of how he’d come into my life.  Such a tiny foal in need of a mother, and of him now, a confident, fully grown Shire horse.

     “I hope I’ve been a good mum to you Josh, I did my best.”  I thought.  Suddenly I heard another horse coming close.  I listened to the footfalls of the newcomer, trying to judge whether the horse was unshod, wearing horseshoes, or mountain boots.  I decided this one was unshod.

      “Confiada or Limerick,”  I thought.  Josh had also noticed the sound of hooves for his ears were twitching intently.  Suddenly there was a rustling sound and the horse came into the moonlight, it was Confiada.  She stood a little way off, obviously not wanting to intrude on my patch, or perhaps she didn’t want me to know she was there at all.  I called softly:

      “Confiada, come here will you?”  she padded over to me, light on her feet as she always was.  When she reached me I rested my nose against her’s.  I Rubbed her muzzle with mine and said gently:

      “Happy Christmas Confiada.”  Confiada gulped and sniffed:

     “Thank you Beyancca, and the same to you too,”  she said faintly.  Josh watched us with thinly disguised misgiving.

      “I, I want to try and make things better,”  Confiada said.  I replied:

     “That’s good.”  She continued:

      “yes, I want to try harder, I will try harder to tolerate others.  I want to make a new start for the new millennium, you know?”  smiling, I said:

     “I’m sure Millie will be very pleased.”  Confiada laughed so much she nearly fell in the river.

     “No!  Not her!  I didn’t mean Valencia’s foal Beyancca.  I meant the year two thousand!””  then Confiada disengaged herself from my embrace and left my side, disappearing into the darkness.  Silence fell, well almost.  There was the sound of the water running under the thin layer of ice, and the wind in the trees, and now and again the hoot of an owl.  Josh said:

     “Peaceful ain’t it.””  Suddenly my attention was grabbed by a faint rustling in the wood behind us.  I heard a mare whisper harshly:

     “Shh Millie!”  Then, as we watched, Valencia and Millie came out of the night to join us.  Valencia, from what I could see of her in the darkness, looked nervous.  Millie was glad to see me and came running to meet me.

      “Hi B’,”  she said quietly.  I replied in a similar fashion.  Meanwhile, Valencia was sizing up her chances of pulling Josh into a quiet corner and having a long overdue talk with him.  Fortunately for her, Josh guessed what she was thinking, and without saying a word, led her into the trees, leaving Millie and I alone.  The foal looked round her at the big wide world.

     “it’s a beautiful sight isn’t it B’,”  she said softly.  I agreed that the river, trees and everything else were beautiful in the moonlight.  Millie shivered:

      “I’ve noticed something else, it’s cold!”  She said.

      “Come over here Millie,”  I invited.  She came to me, and I lay down on the frozen ground and hugged her to me.

     “how’s that?”  I asked.  Millie laughed:

      “You’re lovely you are Beyancca,”  she said.  I must have fallen asleep for the next thing I heard was Josh’s voice:

      “’ere, Valencia, just look at these two!”  Valencia came across to us and stared down at her foal and myself lying on the frozen ground.  Valencia asked:

       “Millie, what do you think you’re doing?”  Millie shook herself out of sleep and replied:

      “Well mum, it was cold and Beyancca was kind enough to keep me warm.”  Valencia didn’t know what to say to that and left it.  I got up and shook myself.

       “Hadn’t we better get back to the yard?  Work again tomorrow,”  I suggested.  So we left the river and made our way back to the yard.

 

New year’s Eve is the next notable event, well as far as I can remember.  Carmen had been fretting about it since Christmas as she’d heard that there were going to be fireworks and that the river would be set alight at midnight.  The fact that this was in London didn’t calm her at all.  Carmen worries about small things like that, it’s her nature to do so.  Even when I assured her that a fire on a river over seventy miles away wouldn’t reach the river close to our yard, Carmen was still uneasy.  She asked:

     “But Beyancca, how can they get a river of fire?  Water doesn’t burn.”  Jingle, overhearing this said:

     “Pour oil on it and it will.”  Candy snapped:

      “Jingle!  Don’t tell her that, she’ll go mad!”  But the damage had been done.  Carmen, screaming hysterically, ran from the barn and away up the track.

     “Now look what you’ve done!”  Candy remonstrated.  Jingle retired to the back of her box and hid her head.  Cleo turned to Jingle:

      “That was ill advised, not only that, it was also stupid!”  She said.

     “Leave me alone!”  Jingle whimpered.  I entered the barn and was told all about what had gone on.  Needless to say I wasn’t very happy with jingle for frightening Carmen.  Turning to Camelot I said:

       “Was that all that went on?”  Camelot confirmed this and I left the barn intending to find Carmen.

 

I found her some distance from the yard, hiding in a patch of woodland.  I saw her long before she saw me, and hid so that I could observe her without being seen.  Carmen cropped the grass, while every now and again, lifting her head and pricking her ears to listen for any remotely alien sounds.  Either she hadn’t noticed me, or had thought the sound of my arrival unworthy of comment.  Carmen came closer to my hiding place, passing me within a few inches, if she hadn’t been so intent on the grass, she would’ve seen me.  Once Carmen even stood on my toe briefly, but she didn’t notice that either.  Granted, I was standing in a patch of undergrowth, but how concealed can a large Irish Draught mare be?  In the end Carmen stood beside me, tearing at the leaves on a bush.  I leant over and said gently:

      “Carmen?”  She looked round at me sharply.

     “How, how long’ve you been here?”  She asked.

      “Oh, hmmm, well, about ten minutes or so.  You even stood on my foot and didn’t notice me!”  I pointed out.  Carmen looked frightened:

    “Beyancca, please, please tell me, are they gonna set fire to the river?”  I replied:

      “No Carmen, they won’t my dear.”  Carmen leant against me, her whole body shaking violently.  I said gently:

      “Carmen, please tell me what’s upsetting you.”  The poor mare swallowed hard and replied:

      “I, Beyancca, I’m, I’m frightened of fire!”  She squealed:

       “I’m frightened of fire!  I hate it!  I hate it!”  I hugged her as she cried.  Carmen shrieked:

       “Protect me from the fire!”  I said gently:

      “Carmen, Carmen dear, please listen to me.  There isn’t now, and there won’t be any fire, are you listening?  There won’t be any fire!”  Carmen’s squeals  subsided and she hugged me fiercely as she shook and trembled.  With a little more reassurance, Carmen soon calmed down enough to allow me to help her back to the yard.

 

On reaching it the first horse we saw was Confiada.  Spotting Carmen she snapped:

      “Carmen!  Where the hell’ve you been!”  Carmen, already distressed, fled squealing from the yard.  I rounded on Confiada:

       “What did you expect to gain from that?”  I asked.  Confiada just stared at me, saying nothing.

        “Well?  What did you think you’d be able to gain from terrorising Carmen!”  I demanded.  Confiada turned her back on me and walked away.  Realising I wasn’t going to get any sense out of her by talking, I wondered what I could do to bring her attention back to me.  My gaze fell on her feet.  They were bare, Confiada was unshod, she hated wearing boots, even horseshoes irritated her intensely.  I watched her feet, waiting for my chance, my chance to do to her what she’d done to me in that prison of a box she kept me in for two horrendous weeks.  My feet had become sore because my hooves are soft, and were worn down by the hard surface.  Confiada had tied me up securely.  One day she’d called for me, but due to the chains holding me, I couldn’t go to her.  She’d come blustering into the box to untie me, kicking me on the fetlock as she passed.  As I raised my foot clear of the ground, she kicked the sole.  The sole of my foot was sore from the concrete and if kicked, as Confiada undoubtedly knew, would cause me unimaginable pain.  So she kicked the sole of my foot as hard as she could.  It hurt like hell, and now, now I was waiting for my opportunity to get her back.  It’s petty I know, but sometimes it has to be done.

 

Confiada’s right hind foot cleared the ground, she didn’t know she was exposing the sole of her foot to attack.  I waited, and struck!  My boot caught the sole of Confiada’s foot, making her shriek in agony.  She whirled round and I bellowed at her!

       “Now  Confiada, you listen to me!  I won’t have you picking on Carmen!  Never, ever again!  You have no legitimate reason for it, so what makes you do it!  Is it because she’s weaker than you, probably.  Well It’s wrong!  What’s all this crap about a new start ay?  It’s nothing is it, bloody nothing!  You don’t mean to change, and you never will!  I can see Josh was right, you are a cow!  A spiteful mare with an abhorrent nature!  Now get back to your box and don’t come out of there!  I will follow you and lock your top door so you can’t get out!”  I did so, and was locking the bottom door when Confiada said:

       “I want something which you have Beyancca, I want the leadership!  Be warned of this, I will fight, tooth and hoof with you until I get it, you hear me?  You hear me!  You understand me!  Do you!”  She screamed.  I understood her, but ignored her torrent of abusive threats, knowing that, although Confiada wanted the leadership badly, her current run of verbal obscenities were due to me doing to her what she’d done to me, and succeeding at it.  It was my success that she couldn’t stand.  As I walked away, after I had carried out my threats to lock Confiada in, I reflected that life wasn’t going to be any different after all.  Unless Confiada had a change of heart in the next four hours, which was unlikely, then she’d start the new millennium how she’d finished the old.  Confiada would still be the most hated mare in the yard, feared and loathed by horses smaller than herself, and beaten up by Josh whenever she transgressed by the slightest margin.  Confiada wailed:

       “you’ve bruised my foot you cow!””  I replied:

      “you did a dam sight more to me when you removed my boots when you imprisoned me, remember that?”  Confiada stamped a hind foot in anger.  Unfortunately for her, she took her frustration out on the foot which I’d bruised only five minutes previously, so she was in even more pain than when she’d started.  Of course, this made her angry, then abusive, then intolerably abusive, and then, well, Confiada’s ranting and swearing got too much!  I yelled:

       “Shut up!  Confiada, shut it now!  Shut your mouth!”  She did so, finally!  The silence was almost palpable.

       “Ah, now ain’t this nice?  Peace at last in our yard!”  Chantilly remarked.  Confiada glared at her through the bars which made up the top half of the door.  her eyes were hostile and venomous.  The atmosphere was tense, I looked at the clock.

      “ten o’clock,”  it said.  Confiada, seeing me look at the clock, yelled:

       “Two hours until they set fire to the river Carmen!”  I whinnied shrilly:

       “Haven’t you got any thought for others?  Or do you only say you have Confiada!”  Confiada’s eyes burned with hatred for me.  I heard the heavy clomp of a large horse’s feet, which were encased in mountain boots.  The boots could only belong to one horse, Josh.  He came round the corner, saw the look in Confiada’s eyes and said:

       “What did I tells you mum?  ‘er’s a cow who ain’t gonna change, not now, not for the millennium, not ever!  So I doesn’t know why you bothers with ‘er sometimes mum, I really doesn’t.”  If the truth be known, I was beginning to wonder myself.  Confiada spoke the language of reform, but never actually did what she promised.  I should’ve learned that by now, but hadn’t done so.  Josh had known it for a long time, but I hadn’t.  Like an ostrich that had buried it’s head in the sand, the yard’s leader, me in other words, had not noticed what one of her most notorious members was up to, I felt dreadfully ashamed of my short sightedness.  I looked at the Shire horse.

      “Josh Darling, I think you’re right dear.  I’ve been wasting my time, and everyone else’s.”  Sighing heavily I said:

        “I should’ve left her alone ages ago,,,”  Confiada yelled:

      “her has a name!  My name’s Confiada!”  Josh bellowed:

      “We knows that cow!  We knows that too dam well doesn’t we now!  Now shut your mouth before I kills you ‘ere and now!  You want me to do that does you Confiada?”  Confiada stared defiantly back at the Shire horse, who, seeing the expression in her eyes, let the boot on his right forefoot drop to the concrete.  Josh showed his hoof to Confiada.

       “you sees that?  Know what it is?”  Confiada stammered:

      “It’s a hoof, a hoof!  Your hoof Josh,,,”

      “yeah, thanks for confirming that for me, I’d been wondering where it’d come from,”  he replied sarcastically.  Chantilly couldn’t help laughing out loud at this, but she said nothing.  Josh returned to the attack:

      “Confiada, come out ‘ere will you?””  he invited.  I let her out, and when she was out in the open Josh said:

        “Right, now Confiada, feel my hoof.”  Confiada did, and, yes, she received a cut on her nose.  Josh became nasty!  He said harshly:

       “now you knows what I’s got, you wan’a fight me, ay?  ‘cos I’s up for it you know, I is!  I’s looking forward to it I is!””  Confiada began to tremble visibly.

        “No, no, no, you can’t hit me with that, you can’t!”  She protested.

       “And why not?  ‘cos if you remembers Confiada, you ‘it other ‘orses with your sharpened ‘ooves didn’t you.”  Confiada sobbed:

       “yes, all right, I admit I did.  Is that enough for you!”  Josh snorted in derision and raised his foot again, which he’d placed on the ground after showing Confiada the edge he had on her.  Confiada began to sweat as she saw the foot come up.  Then at the last moment, Josh reared and brought his right forefoot smashing down on Confiada’s nose!  She staggered backwards from the blow and then Josh left her.  A small voice asked:

       “Josh, what’re you doing to that mare?””

 

We turned to see Millie standing behind us.  It was clear by the expression on her face she’d seen everything.  The foal repeated her question to the Shire horse.

      “what were you doing to that poor mare?  She looked very scared!”  I thought:

      “Scared?  Confiada was almost frantic!”  Josh looked down at the foal, ashamed of what he’d done, for he knew violence was wrong, but talking to Confiada never seemed to work.  Josh said:

       “Confiada ain’t no poor mare Millie.  She’s a cow of the first degree!”

     “Josh!  Don’t use language like that when Millie’s about please!”  I remonstrated.  Josh hesitated, before concluding:

       “She’s a cow anyway.”  Confiada was seething with anger!  She squealed:

       “Josh, I don’t know how you can blacken my name to this sweet foal!”  Millie remembered her first encounter with the willowy showy mare named Confiada, this memory was one she had tried to forget.  Confiada watched with ill concealed disgust as Millie walked away.  She said under her breath,:

      “I hate foals!  Yuck!  Horrid, squirming rats!  Ugh!  They’re worse in winter, their fur all dirty and caked in mud, horrid!”  She walked away not looking back.

 

Soon only Josh, Chantilly and I were left in the yard.  Josh glanced at the clock.  Twelve thirty, we’d missed midnight!  Chantilly said:

       “Ah well, there’ll be another new year’s Eve.  Anyway, it’s not the millennium proper yet.  Them ‘umans ‘ave got it all wrong, yet again!  Them’s saying that, or at least some of ‘em is, that the new millennium’s not this year but next.  Something to do with there not ‘aving been a zero or something.”

      “Oh yeah?”  Josh enquired.

      “yep, true n’all Josh.  I reads it in a newspaper only today.  Them ‘umans ‘aven’t got a clue ‘ave they!”  I said:

       “Actually Chantilly, they have.  Where do we get newspapers from?””

      “The ‘umans leave ‘em out,,, oh dear, I’s made a mistake ‘aven’t I.  Them ‘umans will know about it already!”

       “Yes Chantilly, they will dear,”  I replied.

 

Well, phew!  That’s that!  Finished at last.  I’ve dealt with five months or so in quite a lot of detail, and to be honest, I’m so
tired I could sleep for a week!  Ah well, back to my box for a well earned rest I think.  Speak to you soon maybe,,,  Where’s my bed!

 

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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