Hi, Beyancca here again. I’ve got yet another story for you, this one starts in early June.
It all started one morning when I was woken from a pleasant dream of fields of lush grass stretching to the horizon. What brought me out of dreamland I couldn’t at first pin down, but then the sound of banging at my door registered itself in my brain. I got slowly to my feet and went blearily to the door to see who it could be making all that noise. Opening my door I saw Silver standing there. Until half a second before, she had been vigorously kicking my door. Yawning I asked:
“Silver? What can I do for you?” The Miniature Shetland looked at me.
“What can you do for me?” She asked.
“Yep,” I replied. It was plain to me Silver was suffering a bout of severe confusion. She looked round quickly, and then whispered:
“’ere B’. I’s ‘eard Teasel’s ‘aving pups. Is it true?” I nodded.
“Yeah, it’s true Silver,” I replied.
“Oh bloody ‘ell. Why does she ‘ave to do that? Reproduce ‘erself I means. One of ‘er is bad enough, but now there’s gonna be fifteen of ‘er!” I smiled to myself at Silver’s overstatement.
“No Silver dear, not fifteen, more like six,” I replied.
“Even one’s too much for my liking,” she snarled. With that Silver walked away. I watched her go, all the while trying to work out why she hated the Jack Russell Terrier so much. I came to the conclusion Silver was so frightened for Tich’s life that she immediately despised anyone who chased or upset him. Well, I knew something, that if Silver got to hear, would terrify and upset her even more than dogs chasing her foal. You see, the Manageress is thinking of selling Tich. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s going to soon I’ll bet. As I’ve said already, humans have a special attraction towards small animals, so Tich will have a new home in no time flat. All I do know, is that when Tich is taken from the yard, Silver’s not gonna take it too well. You see, in the usual run of things, a young colt or filly is separated from it’s mother, in one form or another, from a fairly early age, so they get used to being apart, without being apart, if you get what I mean. These horses are those who can do the usual work that a horse does. Silver and Tich on the other hoof, well, they’re almost incompatible with any usual work! This means they’ve been kept together for ages, and splitting them up is gonna be difficult. My guess is it’ll be harder for silver than it will for Tich. I’m not saying Tich won’t miss his mum, I’m sure he will, but he’s got an urge to be independent, and this will make it easier for him. Whereas Silver’s quite different. She gets upset if she hasn’t seen Tich for three hours, so how will she cope with him leaving? To be honest with you reader, I’m dreading the time when that bridge has to be crossed.
I left my box and meandered along
to the barn where Cleo was stabled.
As I approached, I noticed she looked confused and a little worried.
“Cleo? Are you all right?” I asked. The mare turned her gaze my way and replied quickly:
“I, I don’t know, I don’t know! You see B’, something happened to me yesterday, a strange thing, I can’t explain it.” I asked gently:
“What happened?” Cleo took a deep breath and replied:
“It’s probably nothing, but a group of humans, could’ve been a family of them, I don’t know. Well, this group came to the yard, and they had a really good look at me, that’s all. They had me trotting up and down, they examined me, well, it was strange, almost as, as if I was about to be sold to them,,,” her voice trailed away. I suggested:
“Maybe they want you for Charity work. You helped out with fund raising to help train a guide dog, whatever a guide dog is.” Cleo smiled at the memory of eight years ago, but her expression quickly reverted to anxiety.
“No B’, it wasn’t like that time,” She replied. To change the subject I asked.
“Cleo, what’s a guide dog?” Cleo looked a little surprised at my sudden question.
“A guide dog? Well, I don’t know much, but I think they do a similar Job to the stick your rider uses. Of course, you can train a dog, you can’t train a stick. I think the dogs are trained to keep people like your rider safe. Don’t ask me why, if this is the case, why they don’t all use these dogs, because Beyancca, I don’t know why. But these dogs are highly trained to keep humans safe. Something like that anyway.”” Cleo hesitated and then continued:
“I once raised some money for the humans who train these dogs, that’s all I know.” I asked:
“You’re sure what happened yesterday wasn’t like that?” Cleo nodded:
“yes, I’m sure it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t anything to do with guide dogs this time.”” I nuzzled Cleo’s cheek.
“Don’t worry Cleo dear,” I said gently. Cleo blinked back tears. Sniffing hard she said:
“I, I’ve got to get used to the idea that I’m soon to leave here.” I knew how right she might be. I walked away from Cleo, out of the barn and along to the top field where Silver and Tich were grazing peacefully. Silver looked up as she heard me coming near. She shouted to me:
“’ere B’! You knows something? Teasel’s ‘ad ‘er pups already! ‘er as! I’s not ‘appy with that! No I bloody isn’t! First there’s one of ‘er, now there’s bloody five more! Now me and Tich ain’t gonna get no peace!” Tich listened to this with a mixture of boredom and resignation. He’d heard all this before, and now was sick of it. He rounded on his mother:
“Mum! Shut up! I’m sick of you banging on about Teasel’s pups! She’s got the right to have them if she wants. She didn’t stop you having foals did she? No she didn’t! so leave the subject alone!” Silver, unused to this treatment from her foal, stared open mouthed at him for a minute or so, before stamping off in a raging temper. Turning to me, Tich said:
“Sorry about that Beyancca. I don’t know what’s got into mum lately. She’s been sulking for days now, ever since she heard about Teasel having pups I think. What’s the point in that? Sulking about it I mean. Yeah Teasel might have pups, and good luck to her. Just because Teasel chased me and did all those bad things mum goes on about twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, doesn’t mean that her pups will grow up to do the same does it? I hope not.” I agreed that his reading of the facts was correct. Tich then said something which made my blood run cold.
“I’m being sold aren’t I?” I stared at him!
“How did you know?” I asked. Tich replied:
“Oh, I’ve known for weeks, kept it from mum though. Cor’, she’d go up the wall if she found out! Let’s go somewhere private, and I’ll tell you how I found out. So Tich and I went to the riverbank and walked along it, safe in the knowledge Silver wouldn’t find us for at least an hour.
Tich waited until we were some distance from the yard before unburdening himself of the information he’d kept under wraps for so long.
“Well,” he began, “I happened to wander into the tack room one day. The humans have installed a computer in there and one of them was working on a website. The human was typing my details onto it. I could read them, and I knew what I looked like, having seen myself in photos and in several mirrors, so I knew. Also I had a suspicion I was to be sold when my coat went black and then bay. All you lot are white! Mum is, even Polo is! So, well, I didn’t fit in, and therefore I must be sold.” I asked Gently:
“How do you feel about that?”” Tich sighed heavily:
“I’ll cope,” he said. I looked at his face, I could tell he was far from coping with his new-found knowledge. Swallowing hard he said:
“It, it’s not me I’m worried about, it’s mum. How’ll she take it? I’ve seen her go to peaces just because I went into a field she couldn’t get into herself! She squealed and whinnied for assistance from the humans until they managed to coax me back.” I asked:
“Why didn’t you go to Silver when she asked you to?”
“Rebellion I think. All foals do it, and I’m no exception.” I saw his point. Tich’s eyes filled with tears. He tried, and failed to blink them back. Tears rolling down his nose, Tich said:
“I’ve known this for a week or so now, but it, it’s seemed like a year! It’s as if I’m waiting, dreading every hour that passes in the certain knowledge that some human will see the website and buy me. I know a little about this internet thing. It’s worldwide isn’t it. Someone in America can view the yard website can’t they?” I nodded:
“Yes Tich, as far as I know they can,” I replied gently. Tich continued:
“What if I’m taken to America? I’ll never come back, never!””
“Are you worried about foreign travel?” I asked. Tich snapped:
“No! I’m quite looking forward to a new adventure. I want my independence, but, but, it’s gonna upset my mum, me leaving I mean, and I don’t want that! I don’t want to leave here knowing I’m leaving mum to fret about my safety. I know this might sound strange to you, but I’ll be as dead to her, as no news of me will get to her will it.”” I shook my head:
“The manageress keeps tabs on all the horses she sells. Silver’ll know how you’re getting on. There’s e-mail you know.”
“Even in America?” He asked.
“yes Tich. Americans are crazy about the internet. E-mail is big news over there.” This seemed to reassure him slightly. He said:
“But mum can’t read. Who’ll read her the e-mail, even if I did manage to send one.” I replied:
“yes Tich,” I said. Tich dried his eyes and sighed:
“I’m looking forward to exploring the wide world. It’s mum I’m worried about though. Beyancca, promise me something else will you?” I nodded, Tich continued:
“Will you reassure mum for me? Tell her all’s fine? Please?” I nodded, reinforcing my intention to keep my promise to him by dropping to my knees and nuzzling his shoulder. This broke Tich’s control. The young colt hugged me tightly, crying into my mane. After a few minutes, Tich dried his eyes and said:
“I, I know I shouldn’t cry, but I don’t want mum to be upset when I leave the yard, and she’s gonna be isn’t she. I know all mares get upset when their foals leave them, but Mum’s gonna be torn apart! She’s always looking for me, and one day when in an unconscious action she tries to find me and can’t do so, she’ll go crazy B’!” I said:
“We’ll have to tell her Tich. We can’t leave your mum in the dark over this, she has to know.”” He replied:
“I know that, but she’ll fret about my departure. She’ll be like me, but worse! She’ll be pacing about, wondering if the next time she tries to find me I won’t be there! Oh Beyancca, what am I gonna do? What can I do?” I said:
“First we tell Silver about it. Let her know what’s going on.”
I turned back towards the yard, Tich following miserably. Unfortunately, the first horse we saw was Silver. She’d been looking for Tich, as always, and immediately noticed his doom laden manner.
“Tich! Where the ‘ell ‘ave you been? I’s,,,”
“Looking all over the dam place for me mum?” Tich asked. Silver seemed not to notice what her foal had done and said:
“yeah I ‘as. Now where’s you been, and why’s you looking so un’appy? Life ain’t that bad is it?” Tich swallowed hard and said:
“Mum, I, I, I mean, the, the Manageress has decided to sell me, I’m being sold.” Silver stared at Tich in incomprehension.
“Sold?” She asked. Tich replied:
“Yes, you know how it works don’t you? A human comes to look for a horse, finds the horse they want, then money changes hands. A few days or weeks after that, or even on the same day sometimes, that horse is taken from the yard.” Silver looked scared:
“But not you Tich, not you. You isn’t going to be sold is you?” Tich sighed heavily:
“Wait here mum,” he said. Tich led me to the restaurant and asked me to open the door as he wasn’t quite tall enough to do it. I did, and we both walked in. A notice board hung just inside the door. Pinned to it were several notices, one listing horses for sale. Tich asked me to grab the “horses for sale” notice, and once it was in my possession, we returned to Silver. Tich spread the paper out on the ground, placing his right forefoot on it to stop it from flying away in the wind. Silver looked at it, trying to make out the words on it. After a few minutes however, she gave up.
“Can you tells me what that says Tich? I’s not too good at reading.” Tich read the paper. He then told Silver what it meant.
“You see mum, what I just read was a description of myself. My description is under the heading “HORSES FOR SALE!” You see now?” Silver shook with fright!
“Oh, oh dear, but no! no no! Them’s can’t bloody do that! They’s not gonna sells you Tich?” Tich nodded and replied:
“They are, in time they will.” Silver raised her head and whinnied:
“No! No no no! I’s not gonna let ‘em do that! Why’s they selling you?”
“I don’t know mum,” Tich lied. Silver saw through his lie and snapped:
“You does know! You does! Tells me now! Right now!” Tich looked sad.
“Well, one I’m a stallion, and two, well, I’m not white. Look at me! I’m bay!” Silver looked at him closely:
“Well yeah, you is bay, but what of that?” She asked. Tich replied:
“What colour are you? What colour fur has Beyancca? What colour fur have the Field Horses? What colour fur has Josh? Grey, grey, grey, grey! I’m bay, not grey! That’s why I’m being sold!” Silver was terrified! She thought:
“’ow can we stop this? We ‘as to stop this! I doesn’t wan’a lose my foal!”” Silver then suggested something which lightened the mood a little.
“I’s got it! What we does is this. Get ‘alf a tone of flour and dump it over you Tich. Then you’s gonna be white isn’t you? We keeps this up until the danger is past, and then back to your old markings!” Tich smiled lovingly at his mother and said:
“Nice idea mum, but it wouldn’t work. You see, the humans aren’t stupid. They’d see straight through your flour in no time.” Silver wailed:
“Can you come up with a better idea?” Tich had to admit he couldn’t. Silver looked triumphant!
“So that’s what we does then. Now where’s we gonna get the flour from?” I suggested:
“Why not ask Polo. I’m sure he can get endless supplies of the stuff.” Silver grimaced at the thought of asking Polo for anything.
“Ain’t there anywhere else we can get some without asking that bloody dog?” She whimpered. Tich remarked:
“Beggars can’t be choosers.”
“Shut it!” Silver squealed. The air was suddenly rent by horrendous squealing and whinnying for mercy! Silver, Tich and I turned as one to look in the direction of the sound. Silver said:
“That’s Limerick over there ain’t it?” Tich replied:
“yeah, but I can’t see what’s happening.” Silver snapped:
“I tells you what’s ‘appening! Limerick’s getting beaten up by Confiada, that’s what’s bloody ‘appening Tich!” With that she bolted in the direction of Limerick’s squealing. Tich and I followed her.
As we ran, Silver yelled:
“’ang on in there Limerick, we’s coming!” Tich wondered how far his mother would get with clobbering Confiada, he asked her as much.
“No Tich, I isn’t gonna take Confiada on is I!” Silver panted, “I’s just giving Limerick reassurance that’s all. As for me, I’d already decided what to do. Josh had been teaching me how to outmanoeuvre Confiada, and now I was going to put what I’d learned to the test.
I waded in, biting and kicking. Confiada, feeling as well as seeing the new threat, turned to attack and finish it. As she reared away from Limerick, at the same time trying to kick out at Limerick with a hind foot while turning to have a go at me, I turned rear end on and lashed out furiously with a hind foot. My foot caught Confiada in the ribs, the momentum of my kick and her rear conspiring together to overbalance her and send her past the vertical, and on, on, on down, down, she lost her footing, her hind feet left the ground, and then, screaming, Confiada crashed onto her back, but not before she’d managed to kick out with a hind foot, catching my right hind leg just below the knee. I swore viciously with pain but the day was won! Confiada lay, winded and helpless for the moment, while poor Limerick limped away, unable for the moment to think of thanking her rescuer. Confiada screeched:
“You sod! You big bitch Beyancca!” Silver couldn’t help laughing out loud at the impotence of Confiada’s rage. The pony’s laughter enraged Confiada to massive proportions. Seeing the mare stoking up for a gargantuan explosion Silver fled from the scene, calling Tich to follow her.
Silver and Tich made their way to Josh’s box, where Tich decided to go his own way. As for Silver, she opened the door to find Josh lying on the straw. At the sound of someone opening his door, Josh roused himself from daydreaming. When he saw who’d come in, well, things got better!
“Hey Silver darling!” The huge Shire whooped.
“yep, I’s ‘ere josh,” Silver replied softly. Josh nuzzled Silver’s ear, which he knew she enjoyed. Soon they were lying together on the straw. Silver laid her head on Josh’s shoulder and asked:
“Josh, can you tells me about your mum?” Josh said automatically:
“you knows Beyancca doesn’t you?” Silver replied:
“yeah, but ‘er’s, well, your step mum ain’t she.” Josh looked sick. Silver said quickly:
“Look, I knows you thinks of ‘er as your mum, I would if I was in your place! But could, could you tells me about your, um, real mother?” Josh turned his head away, fighting with his emotions. After a while, he turned his face towards Silver, she could see he was close to tears. Silver nuzzled Josh’s cheek, this broke his control. Josh let the tears roll down his nose, no longer bothering to hide them. Seeing her mate’s distress, Silver tried to wipe the tears away with her muzzle. She said gently:
“Don’t cry Josh, please don’t cry darling. I doesn’t mean to upset you, you doesn’t ‘ave to tell me if you doesn’t want to dear. I’s sorry for upsetting you love, I doesn’t mean to.” Josh sniffed and said:
“It’s all right Silver, I, I’s never discussed it with anyone before.”
“Not even B’?” The Shetland pony asked.
“No, well, she saw it, she knows what ‘appened to my step mother, my first one that is.” Silver’s shock registered with the shire horse.
“yeah, I’s been through it twice. Settle down, I’ll dry my eyes, and then I’s gonna tell you all of it,” Josh said quietly. Silver said:
“Come ‘ere Josh,” Josh moved to her, and Silver gently wiped away the tears from his eyes. When She’d finished, josh lay down, and Silver cuddled up close to him. Josh took a few deep breaths and began his tale.
“My mother, my birth mother that is, she died foaling. My birth was a difficult one, or so the mare who looked after me until I was three months old told me. The mare, Petra ‘er name was, she said that my mum ‘ad gone through a long labour, longer than any mare ‘ad ever done in the yard before. This exhausted ‘er, put strain on ‘er ‘eart which shouldn’t ‘ave been there, and, well, she died shortly after the vet delivered me. There was nothing anyone could do for my mother. Now I comes to Petra,,,” Josh took a deep breath, looked at Silver, who’s gentle expression seemed to give him courage, and carried on with his tale. Josh sighed:
“Petra, what a good, kind mare she was.””
“What ‘appened to ‘er?” Silver asked.
“Later, I’ll tell you in a bit, let me go at my own pace. Please Silver love, don’t rush me,” Josh said softly. Silver felt wretched:
“Jumping the bloody gun Silver, silly cow you is!” She thought angrily. Josh continued:
“Petra was a Shire ‘orse who was used as a dray ‘orse. You seen one of them before?” He asked. Silver shook her head:
“No, I ‘asn’t,” She replied.
“A Dray ‘orse is used for pulling a brewer’s dray, hens the name you see? Petra was a shire ‘orse, just like me. She fed and cared for me for three short months. During that time Petra was working part time in ‘er job as a dray ‘orse. ‘er driver was a complete sod who cared bugger all about ‘is ‘orses, and this led to Petra loathing the ‘uman. Soon she got to thinking about ‘ow she could get out of ‘er work, but get something back before she did. One day some of the ‘orses from ‘ere visited the pub ‘er driver ‘ad taken beer to. They got chatting, Petra and the ‘orses from ‘ere I mean, and that was that. Then one day Petra tracked this place down and approached Chantilly to ‘elp ‘er steal beer,,” he stopped because Silver was laughing:
“Beer? Why the ‘ell would she wan’a steal any of that foul stuff?” She asked.
“I’s got no idea Silver dear,” Josh replied. Silver calmed down, and he continued:
“it seems Chantilly sent Petra away with a flea in ‘er ear. Soon however she was back ‘ere, wanting to get away from ‘er yard. You see, the ‘orses in that yard were ‘orrid to ‘er and me. They would steal my food! I would find ‘ay gone one day and oats gone the next, I couldn’t win! So Petra went back to Chantilly and asked ‘er to ‘elp us escape. She did ‘elp us, Chantilly told B’ and a few others and them ‘elped us. On a dark night it was. Petra guided them back to ‘er yard and collected me, then we tried to escape. Them ‘orses in that yard were an ‘orrid bunch, as I’ve already said. When them ‘eard other ‘orses in their yard, well, they ran after us! We ran for our lives! Petra made it as far as a rain swept field before ‘er feet slipped from under ‘er and she fell.” Josh gulped and hugged Silver close to him. Tears rolling down his nose, he continued:
“The ‘orses from Petra’s old yard weren’t too kind to deserters. They came thundering over the field and, and trampled Petra under their feet!” Suddenly he raised his head and shouted:
“They made sure she was dead! They made sure they killed ‘er! But they left me, the buggers left me watching the whole thing!” the fire in Josh died as quickly as it had arisen, and he settled back, weeping uncontrollably for Petra. Silver stroked Josh’s ears and muzzle as gently as she could. She whispered gently: “’ere Josh love, I’s ‘ere. I’s gonna look after you, don’t cry, please, Shh dear.”” Josh clung to her. He held Silver in a fierce embrace, his tears wetting her fur. Tears don’t often last for long, and josh soon calmed down. He released Silver and flopped onto the straw, exhausted from crying. Looking at Silver he continued:
“I’s never gonna forget what ‘appened in that field, never!” Josh paused and then said:
“Silver, Silver love, thanks for being there for me.” This almost reduced Silver to tears. She managed to keep herself under control, but it was a close run thing. Silver touched Josh’s muzzle with hers. She said gently:
“(I’s always ‘ere for you Josh, always.”
“Thanks,” Josh choked. Swallowing hard he asked:
“Silver darling, would you tell me something? Did you know a bit about my mum before you asked me?” Silver thought for a bit, and then replied:
“Well, yeah, I knows you ‘ad been looked after by another mare who wasn’t your real mother before B’ met you. I knew that, no more.” Josh stretched out all four legs and relaxed.
“Well now you knows all,” he said heavily.
“Yeah, I knows it, and it’s ‘orrible! I’s never ‘eard anything so awful!” Silver suddenly remembered something and looked very unhappy. Josh asked softly:
“What’s the matter Silver dear? What’s up?” Silver sniffed hard and blinked back tears.
“Silver?” Josh coaxed. The miniature Shetland pony looked at her mate and then said:
“I, I now know so much, so much!”
“So much about what?” Josh asked gently. Silver sighed heavily, trying desperately to keep a lid on her feelings.
“I knows now why you burst into tears when I was yelling at you after you and Tich ‘ad been talking together, remember that? Well, I know now, I know why you reacted like you did to me insulting Beyancca. I knows why you cried like a foal! You felt I was ‘urting the mare who you relied on for protection. Not only that, but B’ was your protection and you’d lost so much in the past, that you couldn’t cope with anyone threatening ‘er in any way. Josh, I knows I’s said this before darling, but, but, I’s sorry! Really sorry for what I did! Can you forgive me? Please? I’m begging you!” this torrent of remorse from Silver caused Josh almost as much distress as telling her about his life had. He looked at her, unable to reply. Silver hugged the massive Shire horse to her, pressing her face into his mane. Silver inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent that was more comforting to her than any other. Josh said softly:
“I forgives you Silver.” With that he lay down, Silver rested her head on his shoulder, and both horses fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Limerick and I had bullied Confiada to her feet and shoved her swearing viciously into her box, locking the door top and bottom. Once she was safely behind closed doors, I turned to Limerick and asked:
“Are you all right?” Limerick grimaced and replied:
“Me? No! no I’m not! That bloody mare kicked me on my foreleg and now my knee’s stiffening up.” With that Limerick limped away, cursing Confiada and all her ancestry. I walked down the yard, ignoring Confiada’s entreaties to me to:
“Stay with me! Oi Beyancca! Are you out there? Come back! Come Back! I’m scared!” I kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually Confiada’s squealing reseeded into the distance. I made my way along the track towards the top field. The sun was shining out of a blue sky and everything was peaceful. I heard the heavy tread of a large horse behind me. Thinking nothing of it I walked on, logging the presence of another horse, but not giving it much thought. The next thing I knew was a horse’s muzzle gently brushing my ear. I stopped and turned my head. At first I couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me. Apparently, in front of me stood a large Irish Draught cross Shire mare with a steel grey body, white face and tail, and large hooves. I said dumbly:
“Fleur? It is you?” The large mare smiled broadly and thumped my shoulder.
“Yep! I’m back!” She replied. I stammered:
“Oh, oh, yes, I can see that. Um, how?” Fleur laughed at this.
“how? I came in a lorry of course. As a general rule of hoof, I hate lorries, but when they’re taking me back to my friends, I can make allowances,” she replied. I found myself close to tears. Fleur noticed this and teased me about it.
“Come on B’. It’s only me, I’m no long lost stray you know.” I nearly said:
“But you are, to me you are!” But I managed to stop myself. Instead I said:
“I’m so glad to see you Fleur! I thought I’d never see you again ever!” Fleur smiled and replied:
“here I am, and will be for the next few weeks.” I asked:
“So what’ve you been up to at your new home?” Fleur disengaged herself from my embrace and I followed her to the top field. There we settled down on the grass, just like we had in times past, and Fleur began her tale.
“I now live somewhere not too far From London. My owner likes me to compete against other horses in horse shows and other equestrian events. I love it! Well, now I do. I didn’t to begin with. On my first night in my new home, I felt so depressed that, squealing my head off, I smashed my door, finally crying myself to sleep. Then, when I realised what I was in for, I began to enjoy myself hugely. Horse shows are wonderful things! We do show jumping, dressage etc, you know the stuff. I must admit to one dislike in all this. That is having to travel from place to place in a lorry, I hate it! The swaying and vibrating of the trailer makes me feel ill! I just about cope with it, but I so wish I could travel some other way. I don’t know, in a helicopter perhaps? That’d be really nice!” I smiled at the thought of Fleur travelling in a helicopter and asked her:
“Where have your boots gone?” Fleur looked down at her feet.
“Oh, those. After a while my owner took them from me, preferring that I went barefoot or wore conventional horseshoes,” she replied.
“Are you settled in your new home now?” I asked. My question must have triggered an unhappy memory for Fleur, for her eyes filled with tears. Sighing heavily she said:
“now, now I am. But the first few weeks were terrible! I couldn’t sleep at all most nights. I kept remembering the day I left here, you, and Shamrock and everything else. I remembered how when the horsebox pulled out of the yard, you followed it. I’ll never forget the look on your face as you finally realised what was happening. The last thing I heard was a horse whinnying, it sounded in terrible pain. Was that you?” I was amazed she’d been able to hear me. I replied:
“yes Fleur.” Fleur cuddled up to me and buried her face in my mane. She let herself go totally, crying unashamedly into my mane.
“I’m so sorry, so sorry!” Fleur sobbed. Very gently, I said:
“Hey Fleur, don’t cry dear, here, let me,,,” With that I gently brushed her tears away with my muzzle. Fleur nuzzled my ear and said:
“You’re a good friend to me Beyancca. Even if I’m in London, I’ll always remember you my dear.” I didn’t know what to say to this. After a pause I said:
“I’m now acclimatised to you not being here Fleur. That’s not to say that I like it, I don’t!” Fleur got slowly to her feet.
“Come on B’. let’s go to my wood,” Fleur suggested. I followed her up the track.
Fleur opened the gate and drew back so I could walk through, she finally walking through and closing it firmly behind her. Fleur and I cantered across the field and Fleur, excited at the prospect of seeing her beloved wood again, pulled away from my side and was soon lost in the trees. Suddenly I heard a terrified squeal and then the sound of running hooves, hooves, not boots! I’d forgotten fleur didn’t wear boots any more. I listened, yes the sound was of two horses, not one! With a stomach churning lurch I suddenly remembered Confiada claiming the wood for herself.
“Confiada! No! no! Please no!” I thought. I whinnied:
“Fleur! I’m coming Fleur, hang on!” I galloped through the trees. The next thing I knew, something heavy had crashed into me, I was knocked off my feet, thrown off balance, and then I felt the pain of my head hitting a tree! I blacked out.
When I came round, At first I couldn’t remember what had taken place. I knew I was lying on the forest floor, my head resting against the tree I’d hit, my legs crumpled under me, and my whole body aching horribly. I thought dimly:
“I feel like I’ve been trampled by a horse! Several horses in fact!”” I shifted and groaned as the pain hit me.
“How did I get like this? Surely tripping, if I had indeed done that, couldn’t have caused all this?” I thought. By degrees, trying not to send myself through the ionosphere, I got to my feet and tottered away from the wood. I thought:
“Fleur, I’ve got to find Fleur, and quick too!” This thought spurred me on to the edge of the wood, into the open field,,, I stopped dead! I looked down at Fleur, or I thought it was her, there was a mare lying on the grass in front of me anyway, and I’d nearly trampled her under foot. Looking down, I realised for the first time I was barefoot. All four boots had vanished! This realisation however, didn’t distract me from the condition of the mare in front of me, neither should it have. This poor mare, if it was fleur, or even if it wasn’t, had been to hell and back. I said sharply:
“Fleur? Fleur!” the mare in front of me raised her head from the grass, opened her eyes and looked at me. My vision clearing, I saw that this mare was indeed my friend. Fleur asked hoarsely:
“Beyancca? It’s you b’?” relieved to hear her voice I replied quickly:
“yes, yes Fleur, it’s me, you’re safe now my dear.” Reassured, Fleur laid her head on the grass. I dropped to my knees. This was a painful business but I didn’t care. Nuzzling Fleur’s cheek I said:
“Come on Fleur, you’ve got to move from here.” The poor mare looked into my eyes.
“I don’t know if I can get up B’,” She whimpered.
“Try, please try Fleur. I’m here, I’ll help you,” I coaxed. Fleur rolled painfully onto her chest and put her feet to the ground, heaving convulsively upwards. The pain in her eyes made me regret urging her to have a go, but she kept going. Up, up, up. Eyes closed in concentration, teeth clenched with pain, Fleur made it to her feet, splaying her legs to take her weight once she was upright. Panting she whinnied:
“I did it! I bloody did it!” Rising to my feet, I went across to Fleur and nuzzled her cheek.
“You did it, well done Fleur!” I whooped.
“Can, can you walk B’?” Fleur asked. I nodded:
“Enough to get us out of this field Fleur,” I replied.
“What do you mean? Are your feet sore Beyancca dear?” Fleur asked, real concern for me showing on her face.
“yes, they’re hurting me Fleur, but it’s nothing I can’t handle,” I replied positively.
“Let me take a look, please,” Fleur pleaded. I didn’t see why not, I’d seen her worst injuries, so I’d better let her see how bad mine were, so both of us knew what the other had to face, if you see what I mean. I lifted a hind foot and showed fleur the sole. As I already knew, but fleur confirmed, the sole of my foot was badly bruised from being kicked. When Fleur had finished inspecting all four of my feet, she asked:
“So, so Confiada pulled your boots off and kicked the soles of your feet so you couldn’t walk?”
“Seems that way Fleur,” I replied. This almost reduced Fleur to tears.
“But, but she knows, Confiada knows how soft your hooves are,” She wailed.
“Knowledge is power fleur,” I replied. All right, in the past Fleur might have been seen as a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, but now wasn’t one of those times. My words actually broke Fleur’s control over her emotions. Fleur rested her head on my shoulder and cried.
“I’m all right fleur, honest I’m fine,” I reassured her. Fleur sniffed and said:
“But B’ dear, you’re bruised all over, and what about your feet! I’m surprised you can even think about walking, let alone do it! But you have, you’ve walked to me!” I said:
“It’s my body, and they’re my feet,” This made Fleur laugh.
“yeah, you’re right,” she replied. I led the way out of the field and down the track.
“Does the manageress know about this?” I asked. Fleur shook her head:
“No, well, I haven’t been able to tell her, and I don’t think Confiada would, do you?” I shook my head. Eventually we made it to the yard and on to my box.
“All right fleur, get into my box and lie down,” I commanded. Fleur hesitated:
“But my owner, she’ll go ballistic!”” She whinnied. I replied:
“No Fleur, I’ll deal with your owner. Just go and lie down.” Fleur protested:
“But, what about you? you’re as beaten up as I am.””
“The difference between me and you Fleur is that I’m on my feet, while you look like you’re about to collapse. Now be a good girl and do as I say,” I said firmly. Once Fleur was ensconced in my box, I went in search of Chantilly to see if she was able to give Fleur some first aid.
I found her in a field with several other horses, some of whom I didn’t know. When Chantilly saw me she galloped across to meet me.
“hey B’! She welcomed. I noticed something was different about her. When Chantilly stopped beside me I asked:
“So you’re in foal?” Chantilly grimaced and replied:
“yeah I is. I’s not ‘appy about it neither. All your jokes about me ‘aving a foal is now true! Anyway, that’s in the future, what’s ‘appening now?” She asked. I told her everything. Chantilly said something that was quite justified, but which I cannot print in a million years. All I can say is that I agreed with her. Chantilly said:
“So Fleur’s injured, and so’s you. you’s been knocked out by a flying tree, while Fleur ‘ad the crap kicked out of ‘er and so did you, Confiada finishing you off by removing your boots and kicking the soles of your feet. Is that it? All of it? Or is there more?” I shook my head:
“No more, or at least I don’t think there is,” I replied. Chantilly swore again and said:
“Well, I’s at your service, let’s go.” We returned to my box to find Shamrock and Limerick standing guard at the door. Over time, I’d come to the inescapable conclusion that Limerick and Shamrock were inseparable, and this joint guarding over Fleur proved this to be the case. When they saw us approaching, they returned to their boxes. Chantilly looked down at Fleur.
“Shit, that bloody mare ‘as done bad things ‘ere,” She murmured. Then raising her head, she said vehemently:
“if I wasn’t in foal I’d kill the cow right ‘ere and now!” Chantilly checked Fleur over and treated her with the pressure treatment she’d first used on me when I’d been clobbered by James Neil. Once Fleur was asleep, Chantilly turned her attention to me.
“Now B’ dear, let’s take a look at you,” She said.
“I’m fine, just fine,” I protested, but Chantilly was hearing none of it.
“Lie down on the straw Beyancca,” she commanded. Feeling as if she would be wasting her time, I lay down on the straw beside Fleur. Chantilly took a long time assessing my condition. She examined my whole body, from nose to tail, my legs, and then my feet. Chantilly whinnied:
“Confiada’s bruised the soles of all four feet B’!”” I replied drowsily:
“I know, I know,,,””
“is you falling asleep B’?” Chantilly asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. What I was experiencing felt like weightlessness. I couldn’t control anything! I drifted away, further and further away. I heard someone squealing for help, but didn’t take any notice. I settled into a comfortable limbo, drifting everywhere but nowhere. I’d found a place where it was safe and warm, where noone could harm me. I was dragged back reluctantly from my private paradise, regaining full consciousness with Chantilly and the manageress looking down at me. The manageress looked concerned, while Chantilly looked terrified! The poor mare screamed:
“What the ‘ell’s ‘appening to ‘er!” The manageress told Chantilly to:
“Calm down, you shouldn’t stress yourself in your condition.” Chantilly snorted with indignation:
“My condition? What’s my condition?” The manageress replied:
“You know what I mean.” Chantilly snapped:
“Yeah, I knows what you’s on about ‘uman. You’s talking about my foal isn’t you? Is you frightened to mention it in case I goes off the ‘andle? ’cos you knows doesn’t you that I’s not ‘appy about my situation, doesn’t you ‘uman.” The manageress ignored Chantilly’s tone and turned to me. She asked:
“Beyancca, are you awake?”” Shifting painfully on the straw I replied:
“Yeah, sort of.””” The Manageress knelt down and stroked my ears, scratching the roots. Then she straightened up and asked:
“What happened B’? Chantilly and Fleur say you hit a tree! How can this be? Didn’t you see it coming?”
“I don’t know, can’t remember really,” I replied drowsily. The manageress asked gently:
“What do you remember Beyancca dear?” Chantilly lost her temper.
“’ere! Stop! What does you think you is? You’s acting like you’s the police or something, asking B’ all these questions,,,” Before Chantilly could say any more, the manageress had picked up a whip and driven her back to her field. Slamming the gate, the manageress turned to Chantilly and yelled:
“I know you’re concerned, but you’ve no right to talk to me like that! I’ve looked after horses all my life, in all weathers! I’ve nursed sick horses back from the edge and much more! I don’t need you to tell me how to look after Beyancca!” With that she strode away, leaving Chantilly crestfallen and anxious.
The manageress returned to my side and sat down on the straw. I laid my head in her lap and closed my eyes. The Manageress fondled my ears and talked softly to me.
“So what can you remember?” She asked. Taking a deep breath, I replied:
“I was walking up the track to the top field when Fleur joined me. We stood on the track for a bit, talking about this and that, and then went to the top field. There I asked Fleur about her new home, and after a bit, she suggested we go to her wood. Of course, if I’d remembered what Confiada had done after Fleur’s departure from the yard I’d never have let her go there! What happened was my fault! I should’ve remembered everything, but I didn’t.” The manageress said:
“From what fleur tells me, when you were talking on the track, you said you’d thought you’d never see her again, is this right?” I let my ears droop as a sort of positive response, the human continued:
“Fleur said you were weeping with joy into her mane.” I replied:
“yep, I was.””
“So you went to the wood, then what?” The human asked.
“Fleur opened the gate into the field and I walked through, she following, closing the gate behind her. As we neared the wood, Fleur got excited about seeing her old bolthole again and cantered away. It was then I remembered Confiada’s brutal conquest. Suddenly I heard a squeal of pain from deep in the wood. I fled towards the sound, whinnying to Fleur that I was coming and to hang on. Then, well, I suppose I tripped, or was knocked down, something like that,,,” My voice trailed away. After a pause, the manageress finished it.
“You were knocked down by fleur. Seeing Confiada coming at her, Fleur turned, squealing for you to help her, and fled. In her flight, she cannoned into you, falling over you and, unable to regain her feet, rolling the rest of the way out of the wood.” I opened my mouth to ask a question, but the human seemed to read my mind.
“you want to know how you got all those bruises?” I nodded.
“Well,”” the manageress said, “you were trampled on. Confiada trampled you and then, as an afterthought, removed your boots and finished the job. Luckily for you you were unconscious at the time, or she might have killed you. As it was you were pretty bashed up. While you were lying here drifting in and out of consciousness, I had the vet look at you. The verdict was that if you’d been able to fight back, Confiada would’ve finished the job finally. It was Fleur pleading with her to leave you alone that saved you.” I sighed:
“So she left me, only to start on Fleur instead.” The human nodded:
“That’s about it,” she confirmed.
“utter bitch!” I squealed. Calming down a little I asked:
“What became of Confiada?” The manageress replied:
“She ran back to the yard and locked herself in her box as if nothing had happened.” My anger at this news was almost too much to keep control of. I felt like crying and squealing, and smashing my door, and a thousand other things, but found I could do none. The Manageress must have felt the throbbing anger in me, for she gently lifted my head off her lap and stood up, going well out of range of flying hooves.
“Don’t worry, I’m not about to lash out,” I reassured her. Even with this reassurance, the human still kept her distance.
“How’s fleur?” I asked.
“Oh, fine. Shamrock’s looking after her for the moment,” the Manageress replied. I got up and wished instantly that I hadn’t done so. My legs shook under me and I felt lousy. The Manageress came to my head and I rested it on her shoulder.
“I feel terrible,” I whimpered. The human stroked my nose gently, and when I was recovered enough to stand alone, she let me go. I staggered towards the door, which the Manageress held open for me. Stumbling outside I turned right and cautiously made my way to Shamrock’s box. On the way I passed Limerick, who was at her usual pastime of enthusiastically kicking her door. The sound hurt my ears. Now I know I shouldn’t have done this, but I rounded on her viciously:
“Limerick!” I yelled. The banging stopped abruptly. I ploughed on:
“Why the hell do you do that! Tell me! You’re always making a racket! Too much bloody noise! Stop it right now!” The poor mare looked so upset that I regretted my outburst.
“I, Beyancca, I, I don’t know I’m doing it, honest I don’t!” Limerick protested. I relented:
“No Limerick, I’m sorry, please forgive me, I’m not feeling well, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you my dear,”” I said contritely. Shamrock looked at me:
“Has Confiada done the same to you as she did Fleur?” She asked. I didn’t have to say or do anything, Shamrock already knew the answer to her own question. She opened her door and came across to me. She nuzzled my cheek and hugged me. I returned her embrace. Shamrock asked:
“How are you Beyancca dear? I mean how are you really feeling?” I sighed:
“I’m sore all over, my head aches and I’m footsore.” Shamrock asked:
“But how can you be footsore?” Then she glanced down at my feet.
“Oh, now I understand everything. Where are your boots B’?” I replied:
“Confiada removed them and probably threw them in the river. Any rate, I won’t see them again. I’ll have to get another set.”
“Why not go barefoot like the rest of us?” Shamrock asked.
“My hooves are comparatively soft. All right, if you touch them they aren’t, but they are, if you see what I’m getting at. I wore horseshoes because if I didn’t I’d be footsore within a week and unable to work, so now I have to wear boots, or the same thing’ll happen.” I turned to see the Manageress coming towards me. She carried a head collar attached to a rope, a hoof-pick and a rasp. I asked warily:
“Shoeing horses are we?” The manageress smiled and replied:
“yep, shoeing, or rather fitting you with new boots.” I groaned in misery. I protested:
“I hate having my hooves examined, you know that!” Without a word, the manageress put a head collar on me and tied the rope to a ring in the wall. Then, dropping the rasp, and running her hand down my right foreleg until she held just above my foot, asked me to:
“Pick it up!” I refused, leaning on that leg. The manageress squeezed the tendons at the back of my pastern, this would cause me discomfort which would only be relieved by lifting my foot, but I didn’t want to! In the end, as the human well knew, the discomfort became too great and I had to lift my foot. The manageress gently cleaned out the hollows of my hooves with the hoof-pick, a process which I hate intensely. During this nasty procedure, I managed to pull which ever foot she was working on out of her hand, each time slamming it down on the concrete. Once, I even managed to kick the bucket which the human was using to catch the debris from my hooves. I waited, and gauged the distance from my hind foot to the bucket and the bucket to the wall of the barn. When the manageress had got into a rhythm of cleaning, I wrenched my foot out of her grasp and lashed out backwards, sending the bucket sailing through the air, to bounce off the barn wall and come flying back at the human! The manageress leapt sideways, and the bucket landed with a dull thud beside my door. Cursing me under her breath, the manageress righted the bucket and, lifting the hind foot which had sent it spinning into the wall, checked the sole to see if it was clean. Satisfied that my foot was cleaned to her liking, she dropped it and tried to get me to pick up my left forefoot. I’d had enough! I picked my foot up right enough, but then jerked it from the Manageress’s hand and placed it in the bucket, leaning on that leg so that the Manageress couldn’t lift my foot. She snapped:
“I’m only trying to help you! Now pick that foot up Beyancca!” Miserably I complied and the foot was cleaned. Then the manageress put some soothing medicated cream into the hollows of each of my hooves, packing it in tightly and finishing the job with a tight dressing. Then she helped me put on a new set of boots.
“That cream’ll sort the bruising,” She said. I looked at her:
“You know what happened?” The human nodded:
“yes, I know,” she said heavily.
“What’re you gonna do?” I asked. The manageress replied:
“Well, what’s going to happen to Confiada is not a direct result of what happened to you and Fleur. You see, as Confiada hasn’t had a foal yet, and she’s refusing to let Coquin near her, I’ll have to sell her.” Trying not to sound too overjoyed at this news, I asked:
“Has anyone been found who wants her?” I thought:
“I can’t think of any human who’d want a mare like Confiada,” but kept that to myself. The manageress replied:
“No, not yet, but I’m looking.” She finished my treatment and I galloped away.
“Come back in three hours and I’ll take the dressings off!” The Manageress yelled. I registered her request, but only that, my mind was elsewhere. Josh was standing eating grass in a field to the right of the track and he raised his head when he heard the sound of my feet.
“’ello mum, ‘ows you?” he asked. I grimaced:
“Sore, bruised and battered,” I replied. I walked into the field and Josh caught sight of my feet.
“What’s this? Mum, what’ve you got on your feet!” I lifted a hind foot and showed him.
“Under the boots my feet’re covered by a dressing to keep some pain killing stuff on the soles. I suppose you heard what Confiada did to me and fleur?” Josh nodded:
“yeah, I’s ‘eard all about it all right. That Confiada’s a proper bitch!”
“have you heard the latest though?” josh shook his head:
“No I ‘asn’t.” I said:
“The manageress is thinking of selling Confiada.” Josh couldn’t help smiling.
“Now that’s what I likes to ‘ear. We’s gonna get some peace round ‘ere then. But what’s she gonna do about what ‘appened to you and Fleur? Surely the Manageress can’t leave that?” I replied:
“I don’t know josh dear, I really don’t know.” Josh shook his head, making his mane fly in the breeze. He said:
“I’s ‘eard Chantilly’s ‘aving a foal, is it true?” I replied that it was.
“Poor thing, she didn’t want a foal did she mum.” I shook my head and We walked together to the river, and on down the track leading into the wood.
“I found Carmen here once,” I said. Josh pricked his ears:
“What’s that?” He asked.
“You remember don’t you Josh? That time just before new year when Confiada made Carmen bolt into the woods by telling her that the humans were about to set the river alight?”” At the mention of Confiada and what she’d done, Josh laid his ears back with disgust.
“Yeah, now I’s remembered. You means you found ‘er ‘ere?” I nodded.
“I hid myself in the bushes, that was a hard thing to do, but Carmen didn’t seem to notice me. She even stood on my foot once and still didn’t notice me until I spoke to her.” Josh sighed heavily and said:
“Poor Carmen, she must ‘ave been pretty screwed up in ‘er ‘ead not to ‘ave noticed you mum.”” The sound of galloping hooves reached us distantly. I recognised the sound of two horses, one a lot smaller than the other. Suddenly Millie and Valencia burst out of the trees, and seeing us, slowed to a walk before coming up to us. Millie was overjoyed to see Josh, but Valencia tempered the foal’s enthusiasm with a look which sent Millie sulking into the trees. Josh asked aggrievedly:
“Why the ‘ell did you do that?”
“’cos I still doesn’t trust you Josh,” was Valencia’s reply. Josh lost his temper.
“You doesn’t speak like me! And I’s never done Millie any ‘arm ‘as I? No I bloody ‘asn’t! You’s being silly, so bloody silly Valencia! I’s ‘ad enough of you treating me like I’s no better than Confiada! Now ‘er’s who you’s better being careful of, not me! I’s not gonna ‘arm your foal Valencia!” Valencia glared at him. Josh raised his head and whinnied:
“Millie! Where is you?” The foal came cantering out of the trees.
“I’s ‘ere josh,” She replied. Smiling, josh nuzzled Millie’s ear. Millie laughed at the large Shire horse’s behaviour and rubbed his nose with her’s.
“I can see Millie likes you Josh, but I hate you!” Valencia squealed. Josh glanced at her and drawled:
“See if I care.” He turned to Millie and asked:
“You coming in the river?” The weather was hot, and Millie was only too glad to join him. Josh and Millie ran to the river and josh pulled off his boots.
“Why’re you doing that?” Millie asked.
“I thinks I’d better get some water on my ‘ooves Millie. Does you want me to ‘elp you remove your boots?” Millie replied:
“yeah, Okay!” Millie lifted each of her feet and Josh released the ratchet and pulled the boots off her feet. Once she was barefoot, josh chased her into the water. They plunged about in the water, and I seriously wanted to join them! Tearing at the ratchet on my boots, I removed them and leapt into the water. The dressings on my feet were soaked off and the water did it’s work, soothing the soles. Josh and Millie splashed each other, and me! By the end of five minutes, I’d got so wet that I decided to lie down in the water. I lay down carefully, leaving only my nostrils above the surface. Closing my eyes I drifted off into a dream. I suddenly felt my head being forced under the water! Shrieking in terror as my nostrils filled with it I fought for air. I writhed about, kicking out furiously in a desperate bid for air! Suddenly I felt a nose pushed under my chin, lifting mine clear of the water. Sneezing and coughing I got shakily to my feet.
“What the bloody hell happened!” I demanded. Josh, rising out of the water like an emerging rock, replied:
“Millie was mucking about and she landed on your back, managing some’ow to push your ‘ead under the water. I’s managed to save you just in time.” Looking round, I couldn’t find Millie anywhere.
“Where’s Millie?” I asked. Josh looked disgusted:
“As soon as I’s telling ‘er to get off you and gets ‘erself out of the water, she does and I’s not seen ‘er since,” he snorted. Josh looked at me closely.
“Is you all right mum? I means really okay?” he asked gently. I nodded:
“yeah thanks Josh. I’m a little shaken up that’s all.” Josh turned and left the water, I followed. We walked through the wood looking for Millie.
Josh and I found Millie hiding in the box she and Valencia lived in during the winter. It seemed that her mother had not returned yet. Seeing me Millie said:
“I’m really sorry Beyancca, I really mean that!” Josh snapped:
“Yeah, course you bloody is. I’s told you to be careful ‘asn’t I Millie!” The foal began to cry.
“Don’t be angry with me josh, please!” She sobbed.
“Why shouldn’t I be? You’s just nearly killed my mum and You’s telling me not to be angry with you? ‘ow the ‘ell does you expect me to be anything else? Answer me that!” he yelled. Millie shrank back, cowering at the back of her box. I felt Josh had gone too far. Millie had learned her lesson, I could see that. I said:
“leave her now josh.” The Shire horse rounded on me.
“leave ‘er? ‘ow the ‘ell can you say that! I’s just seen ‘er disobey my instructions, you’s nearly killed, and now you’s tell me to go soft on ‘er is you? Well, No I’s not gonna do that! ‘er’s got’a learn, and believe me, when Valencia ‘ears about this, Millie certainly will learn.”” At this Millie squealed with terror!
“Oh no! Please Josh, don’t tell mum! If you do, then, then I don’t know what’ll happen to me! She’ll say that I shouldn’t have been playing with you and that you’re being a bad influence on me, and then she’ll bite and kick me, and then you, and then things will be awful! Please, don’t tell her, I beg you!” Josh looked down at his hooves.
“All right, I’s gonna keep this a secret from your mum Millie, but you’s remembering this, and makes dam sure you remembers it good. When me, or Beyancca, or any ‘orse gives you instructions like I did today, you obeys them, right?””
“Yes Josh, I’ll remember that,” Millie said quietly. Josh turned to me and asked:
“is you all right now mum?” I nodded.
“I could do with my boots though,” I said. Josh led the way back to the river and we retrieved our boots.
“’ow’s you feeling now mum?” Josh asked. I replied:
“All right thanks Josh dear, but it would’ve been nice to have had a relaxing soak in the river.” The shire horse snorted:
“yeah, I agrees with you there.”
Meanwhile, Valencia had returned to her box and realised something was wrong with Millie. When she finally coaxed the whole sorry tale from the foal Valencia felt anger and fear in equal measure. Anger at Josh for letting her foal get into a situation where she could nearly drown me, and fear of him in that he might drown Millie herself. Millie said:
“I didn’t want to tell you mum, but since you asked I did. I don’t want you going after Josh mum. He didn’t put me in a position to drown B’, It was all my own fault. I disobeyed his instructions and an accident happened. I’ve learned my lesson mum.” Valencia swallowed her fear with difficulty and said:
“All right Millie, but if he ever, ever! Does anything to harm you, you come and tell me straight away and I’ll smash him! I’ll kill him!” Millie didn’t like her mother’s tone.
“You’re saying mum, that you’re waiting for an opportunity to harm josh. Isn’t that right?””
“I never said that!” Valencia snapped.
“But that’s what you meant wasn’t it mum,” Millie replied flatly. Valencia looked away, knowing that her foal had seen through everything. Millie’s voice became sharp, she said harshly:
“If you harm Josh in any way without a good reason mum, I’ll hate you forever and ever and ever and ever!” This outburst gave Valencia pause for thought.
Josh and I returned to the barn and were stopped by Cleo. I could see she was distressed.
“It’s happened again Beyancca,” she said quickly. I replied:
“What? Oh has it?” Cleo said:
“Yes, yes it has, and,,,” Cleo’s eyes filled with tears,” “And I think those humans want me B’! The worst thing is, I haven’t got a choice in the matter,” she sobbed. I cradled Cleo’s head on my shoulder while she cried. After a while, Cleo straightened up and said:
“I can’t cry over spilt milk, only cats do that. Neither can I mope about leaving the yard, but I shall, I know I’ll cry buckets. My whole life’s been here, and leaving will be hard, very hard. Retirement comes to every horse sooner or later, and I suppose my time has come. It’s such a pity that (I’ll have to leave here though, here, where all my friends are.”
“You’s gonna make new ones where you’s going isn’t you Cleo?” Josh asked. Cleo smiled at him.
”Not like I have here Josh. I’ve got so many friends, so many horses who I’ve known since I was a virtual foal, and now, now I’m nineteen and retiring, and I’m gonna miss you all so very much.” With that Cleo hugged me, and then Josh. Then she went round all the horses in the barn saying her farewells. She went to Candy, Misty, Camelot, Jingle, Muffin, and Carmen. When Cleo approached her door, Carmen opened it and let her in, something which she’d never usually do. Once Cleo was over the threshold, Carman hugged her tightly. She Whispered into Cleo’s ear:
“Goodbye Cleo dear, come here a minute.” With that Carmen rubbed Cleo’s nose with hers. This moved Cleo to tears. Cleo Sniffed slightly and said:
“I’ve got’a go now, thanks for everything.” With that she left the barn and disappeared from view.
Suddenly the air was rent by screaming! Josh and I left the barn to investigate what made such a racket!
We found Teasel running up and down the yard screaming for someone to help her save her pup which was drowning in the river! Without thinking josh fled to the river with me following as fast as I could. The poor Jack Russell terrier ran up and down the bank in panicked indecision, while Josh looked for a place to leap in. he didn’t notice as Silver appeared and watched the proceedings with disgust. Josh leapt into the water and dragged the frightened and half drowned pup from the water. Back on dry land, Teasel took over, while Silver fixed Josh with an icy stare.
“I can’t believe what I’s just seen! You’s saved the life of a dog! Why the ‘ell did you do that josh! Teasel ‘asn’t done nothing for us and you goes and does something like that! I’s furious with you!””
“Oh dear, I wouldn’t have known that if you ‘adn’t told me Silver. I’d think that you were praising me,” josh replied sarcastically. It was plain he didn’t care what his mate thought of his actions. Silver yelled:
“First you’s saving dogs, then it’s gonna be bloody Field ‘orses I’ll bet!” Josh didn’t reply. Silver turned her back on the Shire horse and stormed off. I hugged Josh and asked:
“Josh, why did you save that pup? I thought you hated Teasel.” Josh’s reply was:
“yeah, I ‘ates ‘er big time, but that don’t means ‘er pups ‘as to suffer for what ‘er does, does it mum?” I shook my head.
“No, they don’t have to suffer for the mother’s actions.” I asked:
“Silver’s outburst about the Field Horses, would you save them too?” josh smiled:
“yes, I would. Well, their foals I’d save, not them fully grown ones. No, them fully grown field ‘orses is too full of ‘ate for us yard ‘orses for me to thinks of saving ‘em.” Josh paused and then added:
“Mind you, I’s not likely to get the chance to save a Field ‘orse. Them’s good swimmers. They comes from marshland doesn’t they?” I nodded.
“Yes they do josh. The Field Horses come from a place in France called the Camargue. Their real breed title is “Camargue horse.” But we yard horses have referred to them from time immemorial as Field Horses, on account of them living in the fields rather than in stables like ourselves.” Josh had a few attempts at pronouncing the word Camargue, but failed. Sighing with exasperation he said:
“I’s gonna keep calling them Field ‘orses. I can’t get my tongue round all that French stuff.” As if on cue, Lorenzo trotted into view. I called to him:
“Hey Lorenzo! Got a minute have you?” The Field Horse increased his trot to a canter and skidded to a halt beside us. Turning to Josh I said:
“here josh, your First Camargue horse.” Josh growled:
“’e’s still a field ‘orse mum, no matter what you’s calling ‘im.” Lorenzo laughed and asked:
“What’re you telling him B’?””
“I was educating Josh on the finer points of your breed Lorenzo dear,” I replied. Josh snorted:
“Them Field ‘orses ‘as no finer points mum. Them’s all traitorous.” Lorenzo looked concerned.
“When you say Field Horses are traitorous, do you mean all of us without exception?” Josh snapped:
“You knows dam well I doesn’t mean all of you Lorenzo! I’s liked you ever since I’s first met you. You knows that doesn’t you mate?” Lorenzo smiled with relief.
“yes Josh,” he said. A thought seemed to strike the Field Horse.
“Josh, I’m sorry to say this,” Lorenzo said, “but my mum still hates you for what you did to her last year.” Josh spat contemptuously onto the ground.
“You can tell ‘er from me that I’s fine with that. She can ‘ate me as much as she likes. It still don’t mean You’s ‘aving to ‘ate me too does it?” The Field Horse shook his head decisively.
“No Josh, course not,” he said. Josh looked round at the sound of an approaching horse.
“Dam, ‘ere she comes too!” he snarled. Ev came towards us along the riverbank. Seeing her foal talking to josh Ev poured fourth a torrent of French which Lorenzo translated.
“She says that you’re a bad horse josh,” he said. Josh was unimpressed, he scoffed:
“Is that all? A bad ‘orse ‘ay? Well, I’s gonna go and cry! Oh dear, boohoo! I’m a bad ‘orse!” Ev might not have understood all josh’s strange brand of English, but his tone was clear enough to her. Squealing with anger Ev rushed at josh and tried to attack him. Josh lifted the Field Horse off her feet and hefted her into the river. Lorenzo almost collapsed with laughter. “Well done Josh, well done!” he whooped. Ev scrambled out of the water, cursing josh fluently in French.
“What’s ‘er saying?” josh asked. Lorenzo hesitated:
“um, I don’t know if I can say what she’s saying. It’s too rude!” Josh said:
“Right, you remembers what she said and you tells me later when we’s alone.” Lorenzo nodded.
“Okay,” he said. By now Ev had made it to dry land and had stamped away in a raging fury.
“That ‘orse is never ‘appy,” josh observed. Lorenzo sighed heavily and said:
“Mum’s locked in the past. She comes from a different generation to Jamie and myself. We can put away the feud and try to get on with other breeds, but mum and others like her find they can’t do that so easily. Silver emerged from amongst the trees.
“’ello Josh, Beyancca,” She hesitated favouring Lorenzo with a distasteful look:
“And you Field ‘orse,” she said flatly. Josh looked at his mate.
“is you okay Silver?” he asked. Silver replied heavily:
“No I’s not all right! There’s you talking to a Field ‘orse for one thing, and for another, well, I doesn’t know if you’s ‘eard, but the manageress is thinking of Selling Tich, and that’s worrying me. I doesn’t want ‘im to leave!” Josh went to Silver and hugged her tightly.
“’e’ll be fine Silver love, you’ll see. Tich will get on fine where ‘e’s gonna live, wherever that might be. You’ve done a good job with ‘im, and that’s gonna put ‘im in good stead for later life Silver.” This praise made Silver smile briefly, but soon she was anxious again. She rounded on Lorenzo.
“And what the ‘ell’re you doing ‘ere? you’s a bloody field ‘orse you is!”
“Thanks for confirming that for me Silver,” Lorenzo replied. Silver nearly attacked him, while Josh and I rolled on the grass laughing helplessly.
“I ‘ates Field ‘orses!” Silver screamed.
“You helped me once Silver. Remember the time last winter when I came to your door asking for assistance because my mother had thrown me out? Remember? Do you also remember how you reacted to my news? If I remember rightly, you were incensed by the treatment I’d been given. Why are you now hostile to me Silver?” Silver stared at Lorenzo unable to think of a reply. She turned her back on the Field horse and made as if to walk away. Lorenzo circled quickly in front of her to block her path. He asked:
“Silver, do you really hate me?” The Miniature Shetland pony looked at him for a long time.
“You? Course I bloody doesn’t ‘ate you! It’s them others that’s ‘orrible. Them other Field ‘orses, you knows?” Lorenzo hesitated a second and then asked:
“Even Balugue? You hate her TOO?” Silver thought for a minute. She remembered how Balugue had helped her to overcome her fear of labour. Her ears drooping, Silver said quietly:
“No Lorenzo, I doesn’t ‘ate Balugue.” Lorenzo let Silver go. The Miniature Shetland fled down the track as if the hounds of hell were snapping at her heels. Josh watched her go.
“I’d better go after ‘er,” He said. Josh cantered away after Silver. Lorenzo cuddled up to me.
“Beyancca, tell me this truthfully. Do you think Silver really hates me? She says she does, but then she denies it! I can’t work it out!”
“Lorenzo dear,” I said gently, “Silver gets herself into holes like that all the time. She says things which she doesn’t really believe. I think it’s a fear thing. Silver loves Tich very much, and so she should. But she feels that everyone is against her and her foal. We know this isn’t true, and Silver does when she comes to her senses, but for that period when she’s not thinking straight, she’s not worth talking to really.” Lorenzo said:
“But B’’, you haven’t answered my question. Does Silver really hate me?” I shook my head.
“No Lorenzo,” I replied.
Meanwhile, Josh had caught up with Silver.
“What’s you meaning by telling Lorenzo that you’s ‘ating ‘im?” Josh panted. Silver replied:
“You knows I ‘ates Field ‘orses doesn’t you Josh!” Josh said sadly:
“But Lorenzo’s just a foal! You doesn’t ‘ate ‘im does you? If you does, and ‘ow you can after what you says to ‘im last Christmas I’ll never know, but if you does ‘ate ‘im, then why? What ‘as ‘e ever done to you or Tich?” Silver swallowed hard and replied:
“It’s not Lorenzo, It’s ‘is mother I’s scared of Josh love. You see, where ‘e goes ‘er’s not far be’ind, and ‘er’s dangerous!” Josh shook his head:
“No Silver, Ev’s not dangerous,” The Shetland pony cut him off.
“If ‘er’s not dangerous, then why did you throw ‘er in the river?” Josh replied:
“Ev was saying things about me, ‘orrid things that I couldn’t let go. So I ‘efted ‘er into the water, after she attacked me of course.”
“Oh, right, um, yeah, okay,” Silver stammered. Josh led the way back to the yard, Silver followed.
They arrived in the yard to see Carmen and Candy harnessed together as a driving pair. Josh noticed Candy was asleep and made sure he whispered to Carmen.
“ello Carmen dear, ‘ow’s life?”” Carmen, having long overcome her fear of Josh, smiled at him.
“I’m okay, but shh Josh, Candy’s asleep.” Josh replied:
“I knows that, why does you thinks I’s whispering? I ‘asn’t lost my voice, wants me to prove it?” Carmen, fearing Josh would let go at the top of his voice cautioned quickly:
“No, no Josh, don’t!”” Josh smiled broadly:
“I’s got more consideration than that,” he said. Silver on the other hoof, saw Candy sleeping on the job, as she saw it, and was very angry! The Shetland pony strode up to Candy and screeched into her ear:
“Wakey wakey! Oi you lazy ‘orse!” Poor Candy squealed in terror and tried to leap into the air, nearly taking Carmen with her! Carmen whinnied shrilly:
“Candy! Candy! For heaven’s sake, calm down! Calm down before you kill us both! Please Candy, it’s all right!” When Candy had come back to earth, Carmen explained everything to her. Needless to say, Candy didn’t take kindly to Silver’s intrusion on her sleep.
“There I was, having a few minutes slumber, when I get some horse screeching into my ear!” Silver replied:
“You’s a lazy ‘orse Candy. I knows no other ‘orse who sleeps on the job like you does! You’s no bloody good! You’s no good as a representative of this yard is you Candy! Go on, admit you isn’t! What’s a ‘uman, or a group of ‘umans gonna thinks if them sees an ‘orse from our yard sleeping on the job? What’s them gonna think Candy? Well, I’s gonna tells you what them’s gonna think. Them’s gonna think:
“What a lazy ‘orse!” The yard’s reputation will be damaged and it’s gonna be all your fault!” Silver stormed back to her box. Once she was out of earshot Josh said:
“I’s sorry about that Candy. Silver don’t know what she says sometimes.” During this apologetic speech Silver had returned, making sure she was concealed by the carriage. She’d heard everything he’d said and didn’t like it one bit.
“Does you think I’s insane Josh? Does you think that I doesn’t know what I says? Well I’s not insane, and yes I knows what I bloody says! Candy’s a lazy ‘orse! If a ‘uman, or a group of ‘umans sees ‘er sleeping on the job, then what’s them gonna thinks ay? Them’s gonna think that the Manageress’s ‘orses is a lazy lot who doesn’t give a dam what them’s looking like when them’s working! That’s what them ‘umans is gonna thinks! Does you want that Candy?” Candy shrieked:
“Shut up Silver! If I can remind you of a few things. One, I’m older than you, and two, I’ve been here longer than you, so the yard’s reputation would’ve been in the dumps long before now if my sleeping had meant anything!” Silver ran off screaming at the top of her voice. Candy turned to Carmen and Josh:
“Sorry about that,” she said. Carmen suddenly stiffened, staring wildly at the entrance to the yard. Confiada cantered into view, and skidded to a halt beside her. Confiada snapped:
“I’ve heard I’m going to be sold! Is this true?” Frightened now, Carmen gabbled:
“I, I don’t, don’t know! I don’t know! Why don’t, Can’t you ask someone else who might know?” Snorting with derision, Confiada left, lashing out at Carmen with a hind foot as she turned to leave. Candy snapped:
“If you treat horses like dirt, I’m not surprised the Manageress is selling you! You’re the scum of the turf Confiada!” Josh watched Confiada leave, spitting contemptuously on the ground as he did so.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo and I had left the river and were walking along the lane which led into the yard when Lorenzo was nearly run down by Confiada. Lorenzo had to jump for his life as the willowy mare blundered past.
“She’s in a hurry,” Lorenzo remarked. Confiada whirled round on the foal and shrieked:
“Shut it!”” She lashed out with a hind foot, catching Lorenzo on his shoulder. The foal squealed with pain and bolted for cover. I stopped Confiada and bellowed at her.
“What was all that for! Lorenzo did nothing to harm you did he?” Confiada blustered:
“Beyancca, you know I hate foals! I hate them! Worst of all, have you heard the latest?”
“What’s the latest? I asked crossly. Confiada screeched:
“Chantilly’s having a foal, another squirming disgusting foal is coming into our yard! That’s what the latest is! I can’t stand any more foals! Foals, ugh yuck! I’ll never ever, ever, ever have one!”” I nodded and replied:
“Yep, I know that. Chantilly’s quite near her time now you know. I think the foal’s due in august.” It was July now. Confiada spat on the ground:
“That’s gonna be right in the middle of pony camp! How inconsiderate can she be? Haven’t the humans got enough to worry about with forty humans a week and more coming into the yard, without Chantilly foaling too?” Sensing danger I grabbed hold of Confiada’s mane in my teeth and shook it hard! I yelled:
“I don’t know what your planning you disgusting creature, but whatever it is, you can stop planning now! You do anything to harm Chantilly or her foal and you’ll not live to see another sunrise! Is that clear?” Confiada tore her mane from my grip and said acidly:
“Isn’t that a bit strong for you Beyancca? I mean, harming a pregnant mare, I couldn’t do that! You’ve got me all wrong!” I looked deep into Confiada’s eyes and replied quietly:
“So, You think I’ve got you wrong? Well Confiada, I know, and you know I haven’t, I’m dead right about you, I know you too well. Now get out of my sight before I do you serious damage!” Confiada left at a slow walk, not daring to meet my eye. Turning, I made my way back to the yard.
As soon as I got there I saw two horses, one was Cleo, the other Chantilly. Cleo looked resigned to her fait, and Chantilly looked concerned about something.
As soon as they saw me, both mares started talking at once.
“Hang on, stop! Both of you!” I commanded. The confusion sorted itself into silence. I continued:
“Now, Cleo, you first, what’s up?” Cleo looked unhappy.
“It’s official now, I’m sold! I’m leaving here tonight!” She replied. I had suspected this ever since Cleo had told me about her first encounter with the strange humans over a month previously. Needless to say, the shock of this news wasn’t lost on me. I asked:
“sold?” Cleo snapped:
“Why don’t you rub it in hard! It’s bad enough as it is without you being insensitive about it too!” My shock and grief increased:
“What? Who? Who is also being insensitive? And I’m sorry if you took my incomprehension to be insensitivity, it wasn’t meant to be like that!” I whinnied. Cleo gave the reply I’d feared, but suspected.
“Confiada got to hear of my impending departure and taunted me about it earlier. I don’t need that! It’s hard enough leaving your friends, your home, everything you’ve ever known, and then some spiteful, bigoted, horrid mare, who doesn’t give anything to the yard and takes what she can, comes to your door and starts mouthing off about how I’m an old, decrepit, slow coach who was no use any more!” I felt shattered! I said:
“”No Cleo! No! that’s not the reason for you leaving here, it’s not! I know the real reason, and I might as well tell you now. You see, the Manageress has got so many young horses that she needs to train that she can’t keep any more. So, hard decision though I think it was for her, she had to sell some. Think of it, an overcrowded stable yard, not good news for anyone, horse or human. I know it’s difficult Cleo, but can’t you see how it is? Look at Chantilly, she’s in foal, would you wish that foal to grow up in an overcrowded place?” Cleo looked at Chantilly and replied:
“No, no I wouldn’t. Cleo trudged away not looking back. Chantilly sidled up to me and said:
“’ere B’, I’s worried about something I’s seen. You was talking to Confiada wasn’t you?” I nodded:
“Yes, but that’s my business, not yours Chantilly.” Chantilly replied:
“I knows that Beyancca, but I’s thinking I’s ‘eard my name mentioned, and Confiada looked mad! I, I’s scared B’!” I looked sympathetically at my friend.
“I think I’d better tell you what she said. Confiada was angry at Lorenzo. She kicked him for no good reason. My remonstrating with her made Confiada blow off about foals and how she wasn’t ever gonna have one. Then she told me you were going to have a foal soon, I knew this of course. Confiada harbours a pathological hatred of foals. She was put in Coquin’s field and she wouldn’t let him near her.” Chantilly looked frightened:
“Is she gonna do me ‘arm? Is she planning anything?” My answer upset Chantilly greatly.
“Only Confiada knows that Chantilly, I don’t.” The poor mare squealed:
“But you must know! You must! ‘ere’s me, in foal, due in only a few weeks, and Confiada’s planning to ‘arm me, or worse my foal, and then you goes and says you knows bloody nothing about it! I’s scared B’, bloody frantic! I can’t stand any more of this! If you must know, it’s been getting to me for a few days now. I’s seen Confiada angry as anything about me ‘aving a foal, and I’s worried! Can’t you understand my problems?” I hugged Chantilly tightly.
“Look Chantilly, don’t worry about a thing dear, Confiada won’t get the chance to harm you or your foal, promise. I’ll make sure she doesn’t get within spitting distance of you. I’ll put a guard on duty, something like that, I’ve got to think about it though.” Chantilly replied:
“Yeah, but while you’s thinking, ‘er’s planning, and Confiada might be quicker than you B’.” I hadn’t thought of that. I said:
“Look, I’ll put Josh on duty, he can guard you for a bit.” Chantilly squealed:
“But ‘e’s got Silver to looks after! And you’s unable to guard me yourself ‘cos you’s leader and you’s got’a look after other ‘orses as well as me! I knows that if Josh’s put on duty to guard me, then all Confiada ‘as to do is get one of them ‘orrid Field ‘orses to attack me while she’s attacking Silver, and Josh’ll go after Confiada ‘cos Silver’s ‘is mate, and I’s gonna get done in, and then it’s gonna be useless ain’t it! I’s gonna be dead, my foal is too, and so will Silver! There’s nothing you can do! I’s just gonna ‘ave to ‘ope that my foal is born soon, and then I’s able to protect it myself!” I knew Chantilly was right. Josh’s loyalty would lie with Silver, and he would go to her defence first if anything happened, that was only natural. I looked at Chantilly’s face. Her frightened eyes and tortured expression saddened me. I realised she was close to tears.
“I’ll do my best to protect you Chantilly, promise,” I said. Chantilly nuzzled my ear.
“Thanks B’. I, I needs you, Josh, Silver even.” She laughed slightly:
“Silver’s been wonderful, telling me everything she knows about, well, you know.””
“Why didn’t you ask Valencia?” I asked. Chantilly snorted:
“Now ‘er’s a pain in the backside ‘er is! Valencia was so off ‘oof with me when I’s asked ‘er for ‘elp that I’s telling ‘er to piss off before ‘er’s got too far with insulting me! Valencia wouldn’t talk about anything to do with pregnancy or foaling, she said she’d tell me nothing! Silver though, well, ‘er’s lovely B’. Silver answers all my questions straight up, tells it ‘ow it is, good or bad, and that’s what I likes.” I thought about how Silver had been when she realised she was pregnant, and how frightened she’d felt when she realised noone knew anything about it, and then she’d realised she’d have to ask a Field Horse for advice, even if it was a friendly Field Horse. Just then Silver came trotting round the corner. Seeing us she whinnied:
“’ello Chantilly! and you b’!”” Chantilly smiled at the tiny horse. Then, dropping to her knees, which was quite difficult for her, Chantilly nuzzled Silver’s shoulder. The miniature Shetland pony laughed:
“You’s soppy ain’t you Chantilly.” Chantilly cried into Silver’s thick mane. Realising something was seriously wrong, Silver asked gently:
“What’s up Chantilly dear?” Chantilly couldn’t tell her, so I filled Silver in on what had gone on. Silver exploded:
“The bloody cow! Just ‘cos Confiada don’t wan’a ‘ave a foal don’t mean she’s got’a stop us all ‘aving them does it?” I shook my head:
“No Silver,” I said. Silver became thoughtful. She said:
“But what you says about Josh is right B’. If I was in trouble, ‘e’d come to my aid before anything else, and right now, ‘e’d need to concentrate on Chantilly. But I’s in danger too! If Confiada sees Josh is protecting Chantilly, she, or one of ‘er recruits, is gonna come after me ain’t they, and what chance ‘ave I got against ‘em, none at all! I’s too bloody small, I can’t defend Tich and myself!”” Silver looked over towards the indoor school, from where Josh was just emerging, after having been ridden in a Western lesson. Silver whinnied:
“Hey, josh! Josh!” The huge Shire horse turned his head, made eye contact with her and replied:
“Yeah Silver love?””
“When you’s free, can you come over ‘ere a minute? We’s got a bit of a problem ‘ere,” Silver said. Josh nodded:
“Yeah, in a bit, I’s got’a lose my tack, get my ‘ooves checked over, and then I’s with you quick sharp, okay?” Silver raised her forefoot in acknowledgement and Josh was gone from view.
We saw him fifteen minutes later coming fast towards us. Josh said to anyone who would listen:
“I’s just ‘ad my ‘ooves ‘andled by a bloody novice! ‘e took ages to pick ‘em out and ‘elp me put my boots on again! I ‘ates ‘aving my feet ‘andled, don’t everyone know that now?”” Silver ignored him. She was used to Josh’s ranting about how he hated having his feet handled, and now she was blasé to it. To change the subject she said:
“We’s got a ‘uge big problem ‘ere Josh dear. You see, Chantilly’s in foal, and Confiada’s threatening to ‘arm ‘er or ‘er foal. We’s got’a stop ‘er from doing this to Chantilly or ‘er foal, B’ thought you’d be able to ‘elp us protect ‘em. Will you ‘elp us do it?” Josh nodded:
“Yeah, course I will. There’s gonna be one other ‘uge problem ain’t there? That problem is you Silver. Not you yourself, no! It’s just,,,”
“That I’s your mate and Confiada knows that?” Silver asked.
“Yeah Silver,” Josh replied. He looked fondly at her.
“we’s gonna ‘ave to puts you and Tich in a box and keep you there until Chantilly foals.” Silver looked unhappy at this suggestion. Stamping his foot to emphasise the point, Josh whinnied:
“It’s the only way! Confiada’s got it in for all of us! I’d do anything not to shut you up in a box, but it’s got’a be done, can’t you see that Silver?” Silver nodded sadly:
“Yeah, I sees that Josh. I suppose a bit of imprisonment for a few weeks while all this sorts itself out ain’t too much to ask.” I asked:
“When will this happen Josh?””
“Now mum. We knows of the threat now, so let’s take action to prevent something ‘orrible ‘appening ay?” So we did. Silver and Tich were locked in their box. Tich insisted on taking in two books with him. One was the book of equine folk lore, the other was a book on Falabella horses, which he’d got Polo to steal from the Manageress’s house.
Silver settled down in the straw.
“Does the Manageress know about this?” She asked. Tich, his nose in the book on Falabella horses, started at the sound of his mother’s voice.
“ay? What? Oh yeah, she knows, I told her about it. Mum, look at this!” He pointed with his tiny right forefoot to a passage describing Falabella horses.
“Listen.” Then he read:
“ The Falabella is a perfectly proportioned miniature horse, resembling the
Thoroughbred or Arab, of under 34" (86.5 cm.) Although the Falabella will
produce a good, thick coat, once acclimatised for the British winter, in
summer the coat is sleek and fine, as one would expect of any
thoroughbred. True proportions may be imagined as looking through the
wrong end of a telescope.
Falabella miniature horses should never be confused with Shetland ponies.
Shetlands are generally ponies of a stockier build, and do not possess the
good nature of the Falabella.” (Quote from the IFMHS International Falabella miniature horse society website.”
Silver stared at her foal in incomprehension.
“Yeah, so what does all that stuff mean? I’s got no Idea what you’s just read.” Sighing heavily Tich replied:
“Look mum, this book is about the Falabella horse, yes?””
“Well yeah, if you says it is Tich, I can’t read, so what you reads goes.” Tich continued:
“Right, as this is about the Falabella horse, the Manageress must have got the book for a reason,,,” Suddenly he stopped, and re-read a chunk of the book.
“True proportions may be imagined as looking through the
wrong end of a telescope.” (IFMHS WEBSITE.) Tich looked at his mum.
“You’re pretty small, and now I come to think of it, you do look a little like a thoroughbred, sort of,” he said. He then turned to the front of the book where a picture of a Falabella horse could be seen. Tich studied the picture with great care, and then yelled:
“Has anyone got a mirror round here!” Silver nearly leapt into the air with fright!
“’ere! You’s nearly scared me out of my fur! What’s all this yelling about?” She snapped. Tich said quickly:
“Never mind that mum! Get Polo, someone find that bloody dog!” Silver carefully opened her door and looked round. She spotted Camelot and yelled at him to:
“Go get Polo, now!” Frightened by the tiny horse’s tone, Camelot tore open his door and fled! A few minutes later, Polo came into the barn with Camelot following behind. The Camel asked:
“What was all that yelling about? And I’d never have thought you a rude pony Silver, but there you were, ordering me about like I was a dog!””
“Yeah, point taken, I’s sorry Camelot dear,” Silver said contritely. Polo asked:
“What’s all this about?” Tich asked:
“Do you know where a mirror can be found?” Polo replied:
“There’re plenty of them in the indoor school.””
“Ah, hmm, slight problem there Polo. You see mum and I have been shut in here for a reason,” Tich said. He then outlined the situation to the Boxer dog.
“Oh, I see now. Well, we’ll have to find you a mirror from somewhere else then, but I can’t think of any reason why you’d want a mirror.” He suddenly pointed at the book with a forepaw and barked:
“That book! That’s the Manageress’s book!”
“And you stole it for me, remember?” Tich asked. Polo nodded:
“Oh yes, I did didn’t I,” he said. Polo then expanded on another thought he’d had.
“Now the reason why the Manageress got that book was so she could read up on Falabella horses before she bought one.”
“Did she buy one?” Silver asked. Polo replied:
“Yes, of course she did Silver. She bought you.” Silver hesitated for a minute, before asking:
“So I’s a Falabella ‘orse is I?” Polo replied:
“Yep, and so’s Tich. Every little bit of both of you, from your ears to your hooves is Falabella Silver.””” Silver squealed:
“But, ‘ang on a bit! I’s always thought we’s miniature Shetland ponies!” Polo smiled broadly and said:
“That was a mistake Silver. You’re of a far more distinguished breed than a Shetland pony.” Polo rifled through the book until he came to the text he wanted.
“Read that Tich,” he commanded. Tich read:
“ Although the origins of the Falabella are still somewhat unknown, there
are several tales of how this rare breed came to the attention of it human
counterparts. One such story is that the Indians, indigenous to the South
American Pampas, had had these miniature horses living within their herds
of Croillo horses for many years. Falabella Miniature Horses have also
been suggested to have a closer relationship to Eohippus, the ancient
dog-sized horse, than the larger breed of horses. The most credible
history to date is that a European settler, grandfather to the Falabella
family of Argentina, came across a Falabella Miniature stallion drinking
at his ford. Capturing the little stallion, the Falabella family have
continued to breed for over 130 years, what is known today, as the most
documented breed of miniature horse in history.
In 1977, Lord & Lady Fisher, of Kilverstone Wildlife Park, visited Senor
Falabella at his ranch in Argentina. After discussing their plans for the
Latin American Zoo, and desire to create the first Falabella Stud in
Europe, Senor Falabella agreed they could purchase four stallions, and
some mares, all of the smallest sizes, including some of the rarest
colours. Subsequently, three weeks later, the beautiful, rare appaloosa
stallion, Menelek came to reside at Kilverstone, much to the delight of
visitors to the wildlife park.
Menelek of Kilverstone was, by reputation, the most famous Falabella
stallion to grace the shores of England. Menelek was one of the most
prolific sires of Falabella Miniature Horses in England, and Europe. With
great regret, Menelek, imported in 1977, met his untimely death, as the
direct result of an irate mare's violent kick.” (Quote from the IFMHS International Falabella miniature horse society website.”
“So we is a very ‘istoric breed then isn’t we.”
“It would seem that way mum,” Tich replied. Silver relaxed into the straw and closed her eyes.
“So we’s Falabella ‘orses,” She murmured. Polo and Camelot crept out of the barn, not wanting to wake Silver. Tich closed the box door, and then the book, hiding it under the straw. He stretched and shook himself. He said Out loud:
“Falabella horse, hmm, yeah, I like that. Sounds better than Miniature Shetland pony any day.” Silver Shifted slightly, opened one eye and asked:
“What’s that Tich?”
“Nothing mum, go back to sleep,” Tich whispered.
That weekend Pony camp started. I think I’d better describe what pony camp entails for anyone who doesn’t know. It’s seven weeks of non stop work for riding instructors and horses, where the riding instructors try to teach other humans about horses, the care and maintenance of a horse, and of course, also how to ride us. I got turfed out of bed at unheard of times on many occasions throughout the seven weeks of pony camp.
I particularly remember one day in late July. I was woken by a human who came busting into my box at I don’t know what time, dragged me out of bed, and then, here it gets worse, he picked out my hooves! What a wake up! I fought him like mad, trying to pull each foot out of his grasp as he tried to pick it out. I even managed to kick the bucket across the yard, much as I had when the Manageress had tried the same horrid procedure on me a few months previously. I even stood in the bucket, firmly anchoring my feet to the floor, so no matter how he tried, I wasn’t going to lift any of my feet for him to examine! Needless to say, he got the job done in the end, the humans always win! I’d lost, he just picked up my feet, one by one and used the hoof pick on them regardless of what I thought about it! They’re my feet after all! Of course, I tried telling him that, but he didn’t listen, humans never listen to us horses where hoof care is concerned, and it drives me crazy! I know they know I hate having my feet examined, I’ve heard the Manageress telling numerous humans about it. If they know, then why don’t they take notice! Don’t ask me why it is. Humans are crazy beings, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Meanwhile, in Chantilly’s field, days and weeks had passed since the conversation with Josh and Silver about guarding Chantilly from Confiada. Chantilly was becoming very agitated about something, and Josh told me that he thought she was due to foal any day now. This was the middle of August, in the fourth week of pony camp, and Chantilly was indeed showing signs of impending foaling.
The next day I arrived to see Chantilly standing proud and erect by a tiny foal! I called over to her.
“Chantilly!” She looked over at me, then slowly came over towards me, all the while keeping an eye on her foal.
“’ello B’ dear, ‘ow’s things?” She asked.
“I was just about to ask you that,” I replied. Chantilly looked fondly down at her foal.
“’is name’s Mistral, I ‘ad ‘im last night,” She said. I looked down at the foal, who looked back at me with wide eyes.
“That’s Beyancca, she’s ‘erd leader Mistral,” Chantilly said. I asked:
“Why are you introducing your foal to other horses so early Chantilly? Mistral’s only fifteen hours old, if that!”
“I’s wanting ‘im to meet as many ‘orses as ‘e can. I’s not forcing ‘im to meet you though. ‘e’s been asking about who was leader n’all that, so I’s told ‘im and ‘e says ‘e wants to meet the ‘erd leader, so now ‘e’s met you b’.”
“that disgusting foal’s met the herd leader, now he’s gonna meet his death!” Chantilly turned and screamed in terror! Confiada stood glairing at Mistral.
“So Beyancca, your guard didn’t do much to warn you of my arrival did it bitch! You thought you’d covered everything, but you hadn’t. You’d not watched Chantilly’s back. I got in by jumping a hedge, it was so easy! Now, now I’m gonna have my fun, and it’s gonna be just that, real fun! I’m gonna enjoy this hugely! Now Chantilly, I want your foal! Give him to me!” Chantilly began to shake with fright!
“You, you, you can’t, can’t do this! You can’t bloody do this Confiada!” She shrieked. Confiada barged past Chantilly and made a grab for Mistral. She got hold of his mane before I could think properly, I think I was as shocked at Confiada’s arrival as Chantilly had been. I admitted to myself that I had been extremely complacent. I watched as Confiada dragged poor Mistral away, the poor foal, only just on his legs, tripping and stumbling over the grass, while Chantilly ran after him, unable because of weakness after his birth to do anything remotely strenuous. Chantilly floundered after her foal, squealing obscenities at his abductor. Then I felt, rather than saw a horse jump the fence beside me. I felt the wind of its passing as it cleared the fence. Then all hell broke loose! The air was rent by screaming and yelling, and then silence reigned. Josh looked down at Confiada sprawled in a heap on the grass.
I opened the gate and went across to investigate the situation for myself. Chantilly stood nearby, weeping pitifully. Josh stood over Confiada’s prostrate form, while Mistral lay some distance off where he’d landed when Confiada kicked him. I went across to the tiny foal.
Mistral looked up at me with wide frightened eyes.
“Mistral?” I coaxed. The foal looked round him and spotted Confiada. The poor thing began to shake with fear.
“I want my mum!” he whinnied. I called:
“Chantilly! Mistral’s safe! Over here!” Chantilly came quickly over the grass and began franticly nuzzling her foal. During this attention, most foals would have protested, even the youngest do, but Mistral didn’t! He just lay, inert and to anyone looking over the hedge, lifeless! Indeed that was what the new-born foal meant Confiada to think. He was frightened that if he moved, Confiada would come after him. Unfortunately, Chantilly wasn’t informed of this, and thought her foal dead. Chantilly’s distress was so acute she forgot all the life signs she could look for. Raising her head she wailed:
“’e’s dead! You’s killed ‘im Confiada!” Confiada snapped:
“That disgusting scrap isn’t dead Chantilly. The little bugger’s bluffing, he thinks I’m stupid! Well I’m not! You listen to me Mistral, I know what your doing, I’ve seen it before, and I’m not taken in for one second!” She thrashed about beneath Josh who was pinning her down with his massive forefeet. Confiada screeched:
“If only I could get free, I’d kill you scrap! You hear me Mistral? I’d murder you!” Mistral whinnied shrilly:
“Protect me mum! That mare’s gonna kill me!” Chantilly, now convinced that her foal was indeed alive, lay down in front of him to shield Confiada from his view. Josh looked down at his adversary.
“Confiada, I’s got a good mind to squash you ‘ere and now. You’s a menace to all us ‘orses, and I’s looking forward to the day you’s left ‘ere forever! You’s no good for anything!” Confiada tried to bite Josh’s foreleg, but the mass of hair around his fetlock protected him. Confiada ripped a huge chunk of hair out with her teeth. She spat the hair out with disgust, she screamed:
“Ugh! That’s horrible! I tried to bite that bloody horse and got a mouthful of hair!” Josh looked down at his foreleg.
“You’s ruined my fetlock you bitch!” He yelled. Confiada began to scream! Josh got fed up with the sound and placed his huge right forefoot on the mare’s nose. Confiada squealed:
“No Josh! Oh no, no! no! don’t crush my nose, please, I’m begging you, don’t crush me!” Josh snarled:
“You’s worth about as much as something I’s finding on the base of my ‘oof Confiada! Maybe even that’s too good for you! You’s a disgrace! A total waste of space!” Confiada struggled beneath Josh.
“I want that foal! Give me that foal! I want him, and I want him now!” She whinnied.
“If you thinks Mistral disgusting, then why’s you wanting ‘im?” Josh asked. Confiada replied:
“Are you stupid? I want to kill him!” Josh snorted and dug the toe of his boot into Confiada’s shoulder, she screamed with pain.
“You’re hurting me Josh!” Josh mocked her:
“”You’re hurting me josh!” Oh dear Confiada, I’s ‘urting you is I? I’s really mega sorry for that. Boo-hoo, I’s crying big time about you getting ‘urt. Thinks of what you’s done to other ‘orses over all this time! Wile I’s been in this yard you’s been ‘orrible, and you was ‘ere long before I was, so you’s been ‘orrid to other orses for so dam long! I’s thinking it’s payback time! If mum ‘adn’t dug you out of the mud swamp you’d be dead now! When she dug you out I’s making an ‘ard decision to gives you another chance to prove yourself, but you’s lost that now Confiada! I despise you mare! I loath you intensely! In fact I can’t think of the words to describe ‘ow much I ‘ate you!” Josh turned his head my way and said:
“Mum, get Chantilly and Mistral into a safe place will you, then comes back to tells me you’s got ‘em there, right?” It felt strange being ordered about by my own foal, but I complied all the same, taking Chantilly and her foal to a box in a secluded part of the wood, where in previous years, horses at livery had stayed at a premium rate. I yanked at the bolts on one of the doors and let Chantilly and Mistral into the now disused stabling. Chantilly looked about her.
“What’s this place? There’s no straw, no water, nothing! ‘ow the ‘ell does you expect me and Mistral to live ‘ere for any time at all?” Her question was a valid one.
“You two have to stay here for a bit. I don’t know how long, so don’t ask, but it’s gonna be until it’s deemed safe for you to return to the yard. I’ll tell the Manageress where I’ve put you, but you’ll have to stay here, and no arguments, okay Chantilly?”
“Yeah, all right B’,” Chantilly replied.
I returned to Josh, walking past him so he saw me, but not stopping. He released Confiada who tried to kick him as she rose, Josh having to dodge her kick.
“You’s never gonna learn is you Confiada,” Josh said as he walked away.
Josh found me looking for the Manageress. We found her grooming Lorenzo, who was clearly enjoying the experience. Seeing us, Lorenzo tried to come to me, forgetting that the Manageress was trying to pick out his hooves. This caused the human to get annoyed with him.
“Lorenzo! Stand still will you! I’ve told you too many times already!” Lorenzo complied, but kept his eye on us, looking alternately at Josh and myself.
“Who d’you want? The manageress or me?” Lorenzo asked. Josh pointed his nose at the human.
“We’s wanting ‘er,” he said. I told him not to be so disrespectful, and said quickly, as if to cover up Josh’s slip.
“Um, yes, we’re having a few problems.” Josh snapped:
“Problems, them’s crises, they ain’t just problems! ‘we ‘as a ‘uge big problem, and ‘er name’s Confiada!” The Manageress let go of Lorenzo’s right hind foot and straightened up. She asked:
“Confiada again ay? Well, what’s she done now?”
“I’d rather tell you somewhere private, not here,” I replied. The manageress asked:
“My house do?” I nodded, and she led the way to her vast back garden. Opening the gate, she said:
“I don’t usually let horses in here, but as it is a matter of great secrecy, I’ll make an exception.” Josh and I entered, trying not to tread on the flowerbeds. Josh looked down at the grass, sizing it up for edibility.
“No you’re not eating any of that!” The Manageress said. Josh looked at her pleadingly.
“Oh go on, it’s lush and green, just ‘ow we ‘orses likes it,” Josh said. The manageress was unbending.
“No Josh.” Beaten, Josh walked away to sulk. Turning to me, the Manageress asked:
“Right Beyancca, what’s all this about?” I told her everything.
“So you’re saying Confiada knew Chantilly was in foal?” The human asked.
“Yep, and Chantilly herself did nothing to hide the fact neither. She was quite upset about it too. Of course, now Mistral’s born, Chantilly would never see him come to harm,” I replied. The Manageress said:
“So now you’re trying to protect Chantilly and Mistral from Confiada. Beyancca, where have you hidden them? There’s no place on this yard Confiada doesn’t know, and now Josh has released her, you can bet your years supply of polos that she’s ranging all over the place looking for them. All I can hope is that for their sake you’ve hidden them very well indeed.” I looked over at Josh.
“I know this might sound like I’m overreacting a little, but I’d rather tell you, and you alone. Josh can’t know anything, in case Confiada gets hold of him.”
“How’re you gonna tell me without Josh hearing, or worse still, Confiada finding out?” The Manageress asked. I replied:
“When is it most dark in summer?” The human looked at me strangely, but answered my question.
“About two in the morning, but why?”
“Because I’m gonna take you to Mistral and Chantilly, that’s why. In the meantime though, they need food, water and straw. As you don’t know where I’ve hidden them, and I’m not going to tell you now, I have to take the things they need to them. Fill a carriage with enough straw, food and water for three days, then harness me to it and I’ll take it to them. Be warned though, you try and follow me, and I’ll never forgive you! I know this sounds harsh, but noone must know where Chantilly and Mistral are, not even you until it’s time. The safety of a mare and foal depends on absolute secrecy.”
The manageress called to Josh who followed us out of the garden, where she locked him in his box. Josh kicked furiously at his door, yelling that:
“I’s not gonna tell Confiada where Chantilly and Mistral are ‘idden is I! I ‘ates ‘er to the rafters! I thought everyone knew that!”
Back in the covered driving yard, the manageress busied herself by filling the carriage with emergency rations for Chantilly and Mistral. She threw what looked to me like half a tonne of straw, hay and oats into the storage space, weighing the whole lot down with what looked like dustbins, but were in fact buckets of water with lids on. These buckets were of the type where the lid was held on by clasps at the sides, but when these were released, the lids could be knocked off easily. I could release them, I’d done it many times before.
When the human had finished her work, I eyed up the carriage, trying to judge it’s weight. I knew there was no time to practise pulling it, so the first time I pulled the carriage would be for real, and if it was too heavy, then I’d have to get on with it, no matter how hard a struggle it might be. I knew there was a steep hill to climb just before I reached the turning into the wood, and I dreaded that climb. I positioned myself between the shafts of the carriage, and the harness was fitted to me. Once that was adjusted to my liking, it was taken off and laid ready for use that night. Then, only carrying what I could in two saddlebags, I returned to Chantilly and her foal, making sure I wasn’t followed.
I dumped the two bags at the door of the stable, Mistral watching me intently.
“You look very tired Beyancca,” He said. I nodded and replied:
“Yes Mistral, I am, but don’t worry, I’ll be all right.” I turned away and returned to the yard, leaving Chantilly to deal with the Saddlebags.
When I arrived back at the yard, the Manageress was there to greet me, and she quickly removed my tack and groomed me, yes she even picked my hooves, before letting me go back to my box for a rest before the nights excursion.
I settled down in the straw and tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. My mind was full of dreadful possibilities. Had someone followed me without my knowledge? If that someone wasn’t a horse, could it have been a squirrel, a badger, or something smaller such as a mouse? If so, and someone other than I knew where Chantilly and Mistral were hidden, would they tell? And who would they tell? If the woodland inhabitants were partisan in any way, would they be on Confiada’s side, or mine, and would it start a war between the two factions if they were? I didn’t know, but all these questions milled around in my mind, making sleep impossible. After an hour of trying I gave up. Getting up I stretched and made my way to the barn where Silver and Tich were locked up until the danger to them from Confiada passed. As I walked into the barn Silver saw me and whinnied with delight:
“’ey b’ dear! I ‘asn’t seen you in ages! Where the ‘ell ‘as you been?” I told her all that had gone on, without divulging Chantilly and Mistral’s whereabouts of course. Silver was not amused.
“So Confiada’s on the ‘unt for Mistral is she? You’s saying you’s ‘idden ‘em but you’s not telling me where. I’s un’appy about that, but I can see why you says that.” Tich said:
“You know what Beyancca, we’re not miniature Shetland ponies.” Mystified, I asked:
“What do you mean you’re not miniature Shetland ponies? That’s your breed isn’t it? How can you not be what you are?” Tich smiled broadly:
“You see,” he said, “Before we were imprisoned in here, Polo managed to raid a book on Falabella horses from the Manageress’s house. I got reading it, and realised that there were similarities between mum and the descriptions of the horses in the book. So I got looking further into it, and found a picture of a Falabella horse, and guess what? It looked like mum! We’re not miniature Shetland ponies Beyancca, we’re Falabella horses!” I stammered:
“Oh, right, yeah, that’s great.” Tich yelled:
“Don’t you care? We find out what our true breed is after all this time and you don’t care?” Almost in tears now I replied:
“No Tich, it’s not that I don’t care, I do! Very much! But I have other more pressing things on my mind at the moment. I’ve got’a look after Chantilly and Mistral. It’s proving difficult enough to keep everything from Confiada as it is. Please, don’t get angry with me for being a little distracted. I’ll give you my full attention when the danger to you, your mum, Chantilly and Mistral is over.” Silver rounded savagely on her foal:
”’ave you been listening Tich? As you taken in a word of what B’s just told me? I thinks you ‘asn’t! ‘cos if you ‘ad, then you’d not be making them comments to ‘er would you!” Realising he was in the wrong, Tich hung his head in shame and retired to the rear of the box. Suddenly a voice behind me said:
“Hi!” I leapt a mile and nearly trod on Sam, our resident badger.
“Hey, watch where you put those huge feet of yours Beyancca!” Sam remonstrated. I looked down at him.
“I, I didn’t see you come. You frightened the life out of me!” I squealed. Sam replied:
“Apologies for that, but I have news for you. Chantilly and Mistral are safe, I checked on them five minutes ago and they’ve got the bags you gave them open and are using the contents.” At the Badger’s words my blood ran cold!
“How, how do you know where they are? How the bloody hell do you know Sam! Tell me!” I shrieked. Sam said:
“I’ve known about the place for ages, and so has Silver. She knows where Chantilly and Mistral are as well as you and I do. That’s not because I told her though, Silver’s known about the place for ages, she went there during her pregnancy to get away from Confiada, much as Chantilly and Mistral are doing now.” I looked at Silver’s face. Smiling, she nodded:
“I did too. We’s known about that place for ages, me and Sam that is. Tich don’t know about it yet, and I isn’t gonna tell ‘im about it neither. It’s an ancient place where mares go to ‘ave their foals, or to protect their foals from ‘arm. You knows something about that place?” I shook my head.
“No, tell me,” I urged. Silver continued:
“Well, it’s said that there’s a ghost there. A few years back, a mare died in that place shortly after foaling. It’s said that on the night she died, any ‘orses who stay in that place will ‘ear and some say they even see a mare standing in the stall trying to revive ‘er dead foal. Then, when she doesn’t manage it, she dies too. It’s scary, I was told the story and I couldn’t sleep for three nights after.” I asked:
“When did she die?”
“What time of year you mean?” Sam asked. It was the middle of October then. The Badger thought for a bit and gave the answer I’d feared.
“About now. Around this time anyway.” I looked up at the sky and saw black clouds coming our way. Then the Manageress appeared and asked me to work.
I was then thrown into activity which quite honestly, I didn’t want to be part of. This involved loads of humans grooming me over, and over again until they got it right. My hooves must have been picked a hundred times or more, even though they were clean. I suppose they have to learn. I thought:
“there are other horses with dirty coats and hooves aren’t there? Why not groom them and pick out their hooves?” I asked Jinja this question. He was being given the same treatment, he’d been groomed a thousand times and his hooves were now among the cleanest in Suffolk. Jinj’ said that all the others were groomed and they flatly refused to be groomed any more, so it was down to the more obliging horses to go through the endless grooming and picking of hooves that was going on. Soon however, all the hoof picking, tail and mane platting, brushing, combing and other activities associated with grooming a horse finished and eventually Jinja and I were allowed to go our own way. The rain had been falling for ages, and was still doing so, so my trip to Chantilly’s emergency bolt hole had to be postponed until the track became less of a death-trap.
I returned to my box that night, having reasoned that I’d given Chantilly and Mistral enough food and bedding to last the night. I didn’t give another thought to the ghost mare.
Meanwhile, back in their hide-out, Mistral and Chantilly were settling down for the night.
“I wonder how long Beyancca will keep us here mum?” Mistral asked. Chantilly looked over at her foal.
“I suppose it’ll be until Confiada’s sold Mistral dear.” Yawning, Mistral asked:
“When’ll that be?” Chantilly, who was drifting into sleep replied:
“Soon, if I ‘ave anything to do with it.” Seeing his mum was asleep, Mistral closed his eyes.
He was woken by the sound of a horse in the next stall. Lifting his head, he listened intently. Mistral twitched his ears this way and that, listening, listening, yes, there it was again! The sound of a horse’s hoof on straw! Then Mistral saw something that made him stop in his tracks. A mare stood, quivering and panting, as if she were in a lot of discomfort. Then as he watched she lay down, and, as the foal watched, she gave birth to a beautiful jet black filly foal. When the mare had recovered, she got up and nuzzled her offspring. Mistral watched her all the time, not daring to speak to her in case he was rebuffed. He could see something else now. The mare was sobbing into her new-born foal’s wet coat. He came to the sad conclusion that the mare’s foal was dead. Then after a while of weeping pitifully for her lost foal, the mare lifted her head and whinnied shrilly. The sound chilled Mistral to his marrow. The poor mare seemed so alone, isolated and helpless. She whinnied:
“I’ve gone through so much, so much pain, so much anxiety, so much fear, and now I’m lost in the world, my only joy has been taken from me!” Then she squealed and collapsed. Mistral now knew he had to do something for this poor creature. Running forward to her he said:
“I’m here now, it’s all right. I’ll help you!” Mistral was suddenly paralysed by a shriek of terror from his mother. Chantilly had woken and seen the ghost mare, and had heard her foal talking to it!
“Come, come ‘ere Mistral! Get ‘ere now!” Chantilly snapped. Mistral replied:
“But mum, this mare’s in pain, she needs help!” Indeed the mare was lying on the straw, pedalling her limbs and groaning painfully. Mistral returned to Chantilly’s side, but kept an eye on the mare, who was now silent. As he watched, Mistral witnessed the first death in his lifetime, that of a mare who’d died ten years previously. Needless to say, neither Chantilly or Mistral could sleep.
I woke late the next morning and only got out into the yard just after midday. Because of this, I couldn’t deliver the food to Chantilly and Mistral until later that day. When I was eventually harnessed up and pulled the carriage out into the yard, I realised how heavy it was. I could just about manage it, but I knew getting up the hill would be a trial. I pulled out onto the lane, went along that at a walk and started trotting to get some momentum up for the hill. As I hit the hill, I realised afresh how heavy my load was. Digging my feet into the track at every step, I managed to get safely up the hill, turn right into the lane, and pull the carriage along that to the stabling.
I was shocked by what I saw when I finally made it. Mistral and Chantilly were huddled together, both shaking violently. I asked Chantilly to help me remove my tack, although she complied, she was shaking so much she could hardly do it. Once I was free, I asked:
“you two look as if you’ve seen a ghost. What’s happened?”
We, we ‘ave, we ‘ave seen a ghost B’!” Chantilly stammered. Mistral said:
“There was a mare, she foaled and then realised her foal was dead. I think she died from grief, something like that.”
“Mistral was talking to the mare!” Chantilly yelled.
“I couldn’t let her suffer!” Mistral wailed. I said:
“Look you two. I know something about that mare. She had her foal, and it died as you saw, so did she. I know of it because Silver and Sam told me about it.” Chantilly snapped:
“So Silver knows about this place? Why did you tell ‘er Beyancca! I thought it was a secret place!”
“It seems not to be though. Silver knew it as a place where mares have come for generations to have their foals, or to protect their new-born foals from harm. I know also that the Manageress kept horses at livery here for a bit, but I think she stopped after some had gone mad after seeing the ghost mare.”
“Aren’t you gonna bring the Manageress here Beyancca?” Mistral asked.
“Yes, I will. I would have brought her here today, but she’s away from the yard at the moment. Maybe tonight I’ll bring her.”
“I doesn’t know if I want to spend another night ‘ere B’,” Chantilly said.
“You’re gonna have to Chantilly.” As her fear increased, I said:
“That mare won’t be here tonight! It’s only on the night she died that you see her.” I could see my words were little comfort to the two horses. I returned to the yard after making sure they were comfortable, even if I couldn’t do much for their state of mind.
Returning to the yard I found the Manageress pacing about. The moment she saw me she demanded to know where the cart was.
“It’s where it’s meant to be, up at the place of course,” I replied.
“You must have been out very early to have delivered it without being seen,” The human said. I stopped:
“Oh, um, oh dear. I, I moved the carriage in broad daylight! Where’s Confiada? Where the hell is she!” I yelled. The Manageress looked across the yard towards a horse-box with banging and swearing issuing from it.
“Fortunately for you Beyancca, she’s in there. I had to take her for a check up because Jamie beat her up earlier today.”
“Thank you Jamie,” I thought. I said:
“Oh, right, what was all that about? How did it start?” The Manageress replied:
“It seems Confiada had tried to find out the whereabouts of Chantilly and Mistral, Jamie didn’t like it and smashed her into the earth.””” I made a mental note to thank Jamie when I saw him. I went over to the horse-box and looked in. Sure enough Confiada was there, kicking and screaming to be let out. As I watched, the mare turned rear on to the ramp and attacked it with her hind feet. I watched for signs of damage to the ramp as Confiada’s hooves smashed into the wood. There seemed to be very little from the outside, that was a relief. Confiada caught sight of me watching her. She turned a look of pure hatred on me and shouted:
“I loath you! It’s you that has caused my injuries! If you hadn’t hidden Chantilly and her bloody foal up I’d not be limping round with a bruised hock and God knows what else busted! Jamie laid into me like it was going out of fashion! He even bruised the soles of my feet! I can hardly stand!”
“You seem to be smashing the box up right enough,” I said. Confiada spat:
“Oh yes yes yes I know that! It’s anger that’s spurring me on! The pain I’m in can’t be imagined, and you’re the cause of it all! If you’d given me Mistral in the first place none of this would have happened!”” I said:
“If I’d given you Mistral Confiada, a foal would be dead, a mare would be mourning the loss of her foal, and the whole yard would be depressed. I can’t have that. You would have killed Mistral wouldn’t you Confiada?” Confiada said nothing, she knew to admit what we all knew to be true would have been suicidal. Confiada started kicking and squealing once more. I turned away, with the mare’s squeals of damnation for me and all the herd ringing in my ears.
“What are we gonna do with her?” I asked. The Manageress looked at the horse-box. She noticed the door shuddering with every crashing impact of Confiada’s hooves.
“We’ll have to sedate her and put her into a secure box where she’s no danger to anyone.” The human said. The Manageress ran towards her house. Five minutes later she appeared with a dart gun! I looked at the weapon with trepidation.
“You, you aren’t gonna kill her are you? I hope not! All right, Confiada might have done some bad things, inexcusable things in her time, but she doesn’t deserve to be shot!” I shrieked. The Manageress looked at me sympathetically.
“No Beyancca, this isn’t going to kill her. The thing is, in normal situations I would go and give her an injection. The only problem is that she’s enraged, and to go in there would be dangerous to me. So I have to shoot a dart into her to sedate her before we can do anything else.” I saw what she meant.
The Manageress took careful aim and fired. Confiada screeched with pain and indignation.
“What the hell are you doing to me!” She demanded.
“Sedating you Confiada, that’s what!” The human yelled back. Sure enough, Confiada started feeling the affects of the drug. She lay down on the floor of the horse-box after about five minutes, and then the Manageress went in, tied the mare’s fore and hind legs together, muzzled her, and then made a call on her mobile phone for assistance. When it came, the two humans dragged Confiada, now semi conscious, out of the horse-box and onto a low loader used for transporting injured horses. I watched as Confiada was driven away towards the security of Josh’s box. Reaching it, the Manageress was confronted by Josh, who was still locked in his box, and furious about it!
“What the ‘ell’s this! Why is you bringing Confiada to me?” Josh asked. The Manageress looked at the massive Shire horse.
“I’m going to have to lock Confiada in your box Josh. I’m sorry about this, but you’ll have to vacate your box.” Josh whinnied:
“I’s been locked in ‘ere long enough already! It’s time for another ‘orse to take my place!” The Manageress let the chain hang loose from the bolt and Josh opened the door by drawing the bolt back and giving the door a kick. He left the box, turning to see the progress of Confiada’s imprisonment.” The Manageress said:
“This box was specially designed for a large [powerful horse, such as you Josh. It was made so that you couldn’t do it enough damage to escape. If you can’t, Confiada certainly won’t be able to.” With that, she locked the door with bolts top and bottom and chained the door shut with the same thick sturdy chains that had kept Josh captive. Josh watched her doing this. Turning to me he said:
“When the Manageress locked me in ‘ere, I used all my strength against them bolts and chains. She’s right you know, I couldn’t get out.” When all was secure, the Manageress left us alone. Despite his aversion to her, Josh couldn’t resist a look at Confiada through the bars that made up the top half of the door. Confiada, half conscious though she was, took exception to Josh peering at her.
“Go away! Go on, get lost! Piss off! I don’t want you Josh! Why is it that when I was free you couldn’t stand the sight of me, but now I’m captive you want me?”
“I doesn’t want you Confiada, all I wants is to see that you’s out of our manes forever! I ‘ave been looking forward so much to this day! This box is strong enough to ‘old you, I knows that, and because of it, Chantilly and Mistral can ‘ave a peaceful life at last! They can do what a mare and foal ‘ave been doing for generations, without the fear of being ‘ounded to their deaths by a repulsive mare! I ‘ope you’s satisfied with what you’ve done Confiada, ‘cos it’s got you nowhere, nowhere at all! You might blame Beyancca for everything that’s ‘appened to you, but you’s brought everything on yourself. The cows beat you up because she asked them to, the mud swamp was ‘er doing also,,,” Confiada cut him off.
“I always thought Beyancca to be a placid mare who didn’t know the first thing about violence! Have I been mistaken all this time?” Josh replied:
“Well, you ‘as and you ‘asn’t. Mum ‘as ‘ad to change the way she thinks because ‘er’s now leader of the ‘erd. She ‘ad to protect all ‘orses from ‘arm, not just them that she cared for directly. Mum ‘ad to use methods that were alien to ‘er, but she used ‘em well. I’s sorry to say that the world ‘as changed since Rosie’s time as leader. It’s a more violent place, simply talking through a situation don’t work no more. I’s sad about that, very sad indeed, but there it is.” Josh softened his manner. Opening the top half of the door, he continued:
”Mum and I ‘ave given you loads of chances to reform yourself Confiada. You says you was gonna do it, and you didn’t! You says you wants to be respected and loved like the rest of us but you keep on doing ‘orrid things to other ‘orses! That be’aviour ain’t gonna get what you want for yourself is it! In the past I’s asked you to think about what you does, but that’s got nowhere. I knows you ‘ad an ‘ard time as a foal, and I’s sorry for you, but I can’t change what ‘appened. You ‘as to rise above what went on then and start afresh. It’s gonna be ‘ard for you, bloody ‘ard indeed, but you’s got’a do it if you wants to be like the rest of the ‘erd. If you wants to run with us, you ‘as to act like us. Obey our laws, respect the lifestyles of other ‘orses, although you might not like them, all of that and a lot more! I can’t say it any more simply than that Confiada. Now you ‘as to think about what you wants. Does you want to carry on the way you ‘as always done? That is terrorising other ‘orses so they’re living in fear of their lives? Or does you want to forge new relationships with others. There’re foals ‘ere now, new-born and yearling foals who might, if they see a permanent change in your attitude and be’aviour, be prepared to forgives you what you’s done in the past. Yes, even Tich might do it. I suggest you takes this time to think deeply on what you ‘as done, and what you wants to do in the future Confiada.” With that Josh closed the top half of the door, turned tail and walked away, leaving Confiada crying into the straw.
I followed Josh to my box, where he opened the door, walked in and flopped exhausted onto the straw. He said:
“Mum, could you do me a ‘uge favour? Go and tell Silver and Tich that the danger is over?” I left the box, closing the door gently behind me so that I didn’t disturb Josh, who was now asleep.
I went to the barn and spoke to Silver.
“So we’s able to ‘ave our lives back! Yippee!” She whooped. Tich, overhearing this, remarked:
“yes mum, that’s true, but what of Chantilly and Mistral? Are they all right? Has our freedom been achieved by the death of another horse?” Well Beyancca, has it? Are Mistral and Chantilly safe? Another, but no less important question is Confiada’s whereabouts. Where is she? Is she any danger to us?” I replied that Chantilly and Mistral were safe, and that Confiada was in no state to harm anyone, horse or human, and that if I were to divulge her whereabouts, that neither Silver or Tich were to harass her. As Silver told me she felt she couldn’t give her word that she would never get the urge to taunt Confiada, I decided to keep the mare’s location a secret. Tich suddenly said:
“Hang on a minute B’. Talking of secretive places, where have Chantilly and her foal been staying this last week and a half?” I replied:
“your mum knows.” Tich snapped:
“Yes, I know she does, but she isn’t telling! It’s infuriating! I get so far, then she clams up! Won’t tell another thing, you know?”
“Yes Tich dear, I know what clamming up is, and I’m going to do it too,” I replied. Tich stamped his tiny forefoot in frustration.
“Not you too! I can’t get any answers anywhere!” He yelled. Silver tried to calm her frustrated foal.
“Look Tich darling, I’s already told you that it’s a place where mares go to ‘ave and look after their foals. If stallions got to ‘ear of the place, mare’s wouldn’t get any peace. You see now ‘ow it is?” With a defeated sigh, Tich gave in.
“Oh all right mum, you win,” he said flatly.
The Manageress appeared then. She demanded:
“Where are Chantilly and Mistral Beyancca? Now Confiada’s locked away, you can tell me, no, you will tell me!” Tich caught the human’s eye and said:
“If Beyancca treats you like she has me you won’t get anything out of her.” The Manageress made signals to me that she wanted to mount. I let her get on my back, I saw no harm in that. It was when she told me to take her to the place that I literally dug my toes in. I said forcefully:
“I will only take you there if I’m assured that Confiada, or one of her disgusting recruits is not hiding round the corner to discover this place. It’s very special to mares and foals. According to Silver it’s been used for generations by mares to keep themselves and their foals safe in times of crisis.” At this news the Manageress looked down at Silver and asked:
“Is this true? Have horses used the place you know for generations?” The Falabella mare pricked her ears and replied:
“Course they ‘as. I’s not into telling tales about places that ain’t true you knows. It’s all true, at least it was until about ten years back, when that mare died in there. Then it wasn’t used until I found it while wandering about on my own.” The Manageress commanded:
“Beyancca, take me there, and Silver, you come too, but Tich, stay here!” Downcast, Tich shuffled away muttering something about how the yard was becoming similar to the secret service. Silver told him to stop complaining and followed me out of the yard. She guided me, not that I needed it, to the place where Chantilly and Mistral’s hide-out was.
When the Manageress saw where we were taking her she exclaimed:
“Surely you haven’t kept them here! I stopped using this place for livery horses because they all went crazy! I ended up with shrieking sobbing horses who couldn’t work for days! I don’t know why they were reacting like this, but I took them out of here and it stopped over night.” Silver said:
“There’s a ghost ‘ere you knows, that ghost came last night, I saw and ‘eard ‘er this time. Yep, it was scary, Chantilly, Mistral and I was terrified!” We stopped by the door of the stable, having overheard Silver’s words, Mistral asked:
“Were you here last night Silver? If you were, I didn’t see you, and it would have been nice to have another horse to talk to. Mum was frightened, I was too! We needed you!” Silver felt terrible.
“Look, I’s sorry Mistral dear, I’ll think more carefully next time,” She said flatly. Mistral replied:
“Oh it’s all right now, it’s over. Hey, Silver, if, if it’s all right, can I ask something?” The Falabella horse replied:
“Well, yeah, all right.”
“Not meaning to be rude, but you’re rather small, are you a foal?” Silver laughed:
“No Mistral, I’s not a foal my dear, far from it. It’s just that I’s an ‘orse who’s a lot smaller than you’s gonna be now I’s fully grown.” The poor foal stared at her!
“You? You’re fully grown? Now? Right here?” He asked.
“yeah, I’s that. I’s the smallest ‘orse in the world, my body is the smallest, my ‘ooves are the smallest, look at me.” With that Silver turned this way, and that while Mistral looked on in fascination. She even lifted up her right hind foot and showed Mistral her hoof.
“Tichy ain’t it!” She whooped. Mistral stared at her in total amazement!
“How, how on earth can a horse be so small?” He asked. Hugging him, Silver replied:
“You’d ‘ave to ask Tich about that. I doesn’t know much about my breed. You see, I’s only just been told I’s a Falabella ‘orse.”
“A What? What was that you said?” Mistral asked. Silver grinned:
“I said I’s a Falabella ‘orse. It’s a breed of ‘orse. I knows we’s small, but we’s still ‘orses, not ponies.” Mistral nuzzled Silver’s ear.
“I like you very much Silver,” he said. Silver laughed with delight. She replied gently.
“I likes you too Mistral.” Chantilly asked:
“Where did you put Confiada? Is she still a danger to us?” I reassured her that Confiada was no longer a threat to her or Mistral.
“That’s great! But ‘ow did you do it? Confiada’s not the easiest mare to control.” I replied:
“The Manageress locked her in Josh’s box.”
“Poor Josh,” was Chantilly’s response. Mistral asked:
“Is Josh that huge horse who guarded me and my mum a few weeks ago?”
“yes, that’s ‘im.” Chantilly replied. Silver said:
“Josh is lovely to me ‘e is. I loves ‘im very much.” At this news Mistral’s eyes opened wide with shock!
“You mean you’re, um, you’re that huge horse’s mate?”
“That’s it,” Silver replied, “There’s nothing wrong with that is there?” Mistral opened his mouth to reply, but thought better and closed it. Seeing the foal’s hesitation, Silver said:
“I knows what you’s thinking. You’s thinking “’ow can Silver ‘ave a mate that’s more than twice the size of ‘er?” That’s what you’s thinking ain’t it Mistral.” The foal nodded dumbly. Silver continued:
“If you’s wondering who’s foal Tich is, ‘e ain’t Josh’s but ‘e is mine. You see, I ‘ad a short relationship with an ‘orse of my own breed and Tich was the result. Now I’s ‘ad one foal, I’s thinking I doesn’t want any more.” She laughed slightly:
“I knows trying for a foal with Josh would kill me, but it’s impossible anyway.”
“Impossible? How can having a foal sired by Josh be impossible?” Mistral asked.
“’e’s a gelding, that’s why,” Silver replied.
During all this the Manageress sat on my back listening to our conversation. She dismounted and went into the stable. She said:
“I remember a bay horse who came out of here one day in a terrible state. She was sweating and crying with fear. I know seeing something unusual can upset a horse, but surely not to that extent?”
“You should have seen Chantilly and Mistral when I got to them,” I said. Silver released Mistral and made her way back to the yard. The Manageress remounted, and, followed by Chantilly and her foal, we also made our way back to the yard.
Josh saw us walking down the track and ran to Silver.
“’ello Silver my darling!” He whooped. Silver smiled with pleasure and nuzzled the massive Shire horse’s foreleg, for that was as high as she could reach when Josh was standing. Josh lowered his head and rubbed his nose against the Falabella mare’s. Mistral looked on with amazement!
“I didn’t know a huge Shire horse could love a tiny horse! It seems it’s possible, and also it’s possible for love to happen the other way round!” Josh and Silver walked away, leaving us alone. The Manageress watched them go.
“I don’t know what holds those two together. Their relationship works, but I can’t think how.” She dismounted and followed us into a field.
“I’ll leave you lot to it then,” she said.
Meanwhile, Josh and Silver were roaming about the yard looking for an unoccupied place to sleep. Josh hadn’t told his mate why he hadn’t led her to his box as was usually the case. Silver was wondering why, and after ten minutes or so of fruitless searching for a private place, she asked Josh about it.
“Why can’t we go back to your place?” Startled by her sudden question Josh stammered:
“Oh, well, um, it, it’s occupied.” Silver was incensed!
“Occupied? Why did you let another ‘orse take your box! ‘as you gone soft Josh?” Josh replied:
“No I ‘asn’t! It’s just, well,,,” Silver suddenly squealed:
“I know who’s in there! I knows where Confiada is now! Of course! What a bloody idiot I’s been!” Josh motioned to his mate to be quiet, but Silver, outraged noone had told her, wouldn’t comply:
“I wan’a know why B’ was so dam secretive about Confiada’s whereabouts! I knows I’s saying that I can’t give ‘er my word on leaving the bloody mare alone, but would you?”
“Yeah, I would leave ‘er alone Silver dear. I ‘ates Confiada very much. I isn’t gonna make an ‘abit of talking with ‘er is I,” Josh replied. Silver shook her head and said:
“Course you wouldn’t. You’s been protecting me and Tich from Confiada for ages now, and I thanks you for that.” Josh smiled at her:
“You doesn’t ‘ave to thank me for anything Silver dear,” he said.
It started raining.
“Oh great! ‘ere we is with no dry place to go to, and it’s started to bloody rain!” Silver whimpered. Josh looked about him.
“We’s gonna ‘ave to find a place then ain’t we,” he said.
“yeah, but Josh, where is that place? Everywhere’s taken, the Manageress ‘as got all ‘er ‘orses in for the winter, and because Confiada’s dangerous, the Manageress ‘as given ‘er your box! It’s understandable because we’s sure Confiada’s securely locked in there, but it leaves you in the rain!” Josh replied:
“hmm, yeah, well, tells you what. You goes back to your box and shelter,,,”
“No I’s not doing that! Who does you think I is? I’s not leaving you out ‘ere to suffer! If you’s out ‘ere then so’s I! I’s not leaving you Josh and that’s flat!” Silver whinnied. Josh looked lovingly at his mate. He said:
“Thanks for your concern Silver love, but I’ll manage. Please, go back to Tich till this rain stops.”
“No Josh! ‘aven’t you ‘eard what I’s said? Is you deaf? I’s not leaving you out ‘ere on your own!” While they were discussing this, Silver and Josh were getting soaked to the skin. Shaking himself hard Josh said:
“We’s got’a find somewhere.” He led Silver towards Confiada’s box.
“You ain’t getting me in there!” Silver squealed.
“Why not, Confiada ain’t gonna need it, ‘er’s got my place! So why can’t I take ‘er’s?”
“I’d rather stay out in the rain than stay in that ‘orrid mare’s box!” Silver whinnied. The Manageress came round the corner.
“You two look awful,” She said. Josh replied that:
“I’s tried telling Silver to go to ‘er box till this is over, but ‘er won’t ‘ave it.” The Manageress tried pleading with Silver, but the Falabella mare was having none of it.
“Better go to the driving yard then,” the human suggested.
The driving yard was full, It appeared Hibou’s box was being repaired, so he was stabled next to Jamie. This arrangement, coupled with the Field horse’s argumentative tendencies, made for an explosive atmosphere. Jamie, stabled next to Hibou was finding the going very hard indeed. So when Josh and Silver came in, the pair were close to blows.
“I can’t see why you’re so miserable Hibou! I know it isn’t the most ideal set up, but noone can predict the weather. Can’t you let things drop for now?” Hibou, who suffered from bouts of depression during the winter months, turned a shattered expression on Jamie.
“I can’t help how I’m feeling. I’m under the weather, I know that, but I can’t help it Jamie.” Josh looked at Hibou with sympathy.
“Does you feel better during the summer months?” He asked. The Field horse took a few seconds to decipher what the Shire horse was saying, but managed it in the end. Smiling a little, Hibou replied:
“Yes, I think so.” Josh looked out at the rain.
“I suppose you Field ‘orses is wondering why Silver and I ‘as come in ‘ere,” he said. Jitan said:
“I was about to ask that. For it is well known by us Field horses that you don’t particularly like us Josh, and, so I’m told, neither do you Silver. So there has to be a good reason for you coming in here, because you wouldn’t do it in other circumstances.” Silver looked about her nervously and asked:
“Is there any chance of me and Josh staying ‘ere until the rain stops?” Emmie, stabled next to Jamie, spat on the concrete outside her box with disgust.
“Now you are plundering the depths Silver. Why should we Field horses give you any help at all? After all, you’ve done nothing for us! I for one am not allowing you to spend another minute in here! I hate you! You’re a scrap, just as Confiada says! As for you Shire horse, hmm, well, you’re merd! I think less of you than I do Silver, and she’s the lowest of the low!” Josh, feeling Emmie had copped out by insulting him in French, asked:
“Emmie, what is merd? I don’t know what that means.” Emmie snapped:
“Yes you do Shire horse! You know what that means!” Josh looked at Jamie:
“Can you translate for me?” He asked. Jamie did so. Josh was unimpressed, he whimpered mockingly:
“Oh, is that it? I thought it was something really juicy!” He proceeded to give examples of insults that are too obscene to mention here. Now Silver wouldn’t ever have considered herself prudish, but some of the epithets Josh came out with even managed to shock her!
“Josh! Please don’t use them words!” She pleaded desperately. Josh smiled down at her.
“Sorry Silver love,” he said contritely, “but I’s feeling these Field ‘orses needs to know what I’s capable of.” If the Field horses had any illusions as to what vocabulary Josh knew, they were in no doubt now. Even the most foul mouthed Field horse was left bemused and slightly offended by the Shire horse’s knowledge of invective. Jitan whinnied:
“Josh, that, that’s disgusting! Some of those words you used were utterly disgraceful! If you use those words you’ll lose your mate, because she won’t stand for it!” Silver, feeling Jitan’s words to be a bit strong, snapped:
“’ang on a minute Field ‘orse! Josh don’t use them words all the time. Course ‘e bloody don’t! Even if ‘e did use ‘em, not that ‘e does, but if ‘e did, I’d still love ‘im like mad! I knows ‘e‘s not the cleanest speaker in the ‘ole yard, but ‘e’s a dam sight cleaner than some of you lot is in what ‘e says about other ‘orses!” Feeling the Falabella horse was overstepping her station, Emmie decided to take her to task.
“Silver, answer me this. How is it you can love a Shire horse? He’s so unlike you! If you and he tried to, well you know, you’d be dead! Having his foal would kill you! I can’t see why you’d have him as your mate, there’s no point to it!” having her reasons for loving Josh questioned in such an off hoof way offended Silver. She yelled:
“What does you know about anything Emmie! Does you know why I loves ‘im? Does you know what went on between us in the early days? I don’t think you does know! Relationships between ‘orses of different breeds is not unusual, that’s ‘ow we gets cross breed ‘orses ain’t it. I knows I can’t ‘ave a foal with Josh, ‘e’s told me that, anyway, ‘e’s a gelding! ‘e’s ‘ad the chop!” At this revelation, Jamie shifted nervously.
“’er, yes, okay,” he said abruptly. Silver turned to him and asked:
“What’s the matter Field ‘orse?” Jamie stammered:
“Oh, um, well, it, it’s like, like this. I, I mean, you see, I’m intact, if you know what I mean.” Silver said:
“Yeah, but what of it?” Jamie shrieked:
“You talking about Josh having the chop makes me nervous!”
“It’s josh who’s ‘ad the chop, not you Jamie. So why’s you worrying?” Silver asked.
“How would you know if I’d had the chop!” Jamie wailed. Feeling the field horse was being stupid, Silver ignored him. Instead she put her head out into the open to look at the weather.
“It’s stopped raining!” She whooped. Josh made submissive gestures to the Field horses in the driving yard and said:
“Thank you for letting us stay ‘ere while it was raining.” Emmie, realising he was mocking them, spat in the Shire horse’s direction.
“The bloody sod was using us!” She screamed. Hibou, who didn’t care much for Emmie’s views, drawled:
“He wasn’t using us Emmie, he was using the shelter. If we weren’t here then he’d still have used the shelter.” Emmie stamped her foot in anger!
“No Hibou you stupid horse, I didn’t mean that!” Hibou, bored with Emmie’s ranting, cut her off:
“I know what you meant, and quite honestly, I couldn’t care less about it. Sure, we all mistrust the yard horses, but if we leave them alone, they leave us, it’s simple really.” Snorting with derision, Emmie turned her back on Hibou.
There is something about Hibou that only I know, and it’s this. Although he has a deep mistrust of us yard horses, Hibou is grateful for any kind words from us. The poor horse suffers from severe depression during the winter, and at these times, Hibou values any horse’s sympathy, even Josh’s. That’s not to say Josh wasn’t genuinely sympathetic towards Hibou’s predicament, I’m sure he was, but some Field horses, no matter how awful they feel, will never accept a yard horse’s sympathy, let alone be grateful for it. So when Josh and Silver left, Hibou felt lost once more. You might be asking why he didn’t talk to Jamie? The truth is that Jamie doesn’t understand Hibou’s problems. I think he could if he tried, but he doesn’t try.
Hibou lay down as best he could in the box. Jamie looked down at him.
“If you’re so depressed Hibou, then why did you smile when Josh asked you whether you felt better during the summer?” Hibou replied:
“I smiled to let Josh know I was grateful for his concern about me, that’s all Jamie.”
Josh was indeed concerned about Hibou. Although he still held the view that the Field horse was a:
“Thorough pain in the backside,” as he put it. Josh couldn’t help worrying about him. In fact, he was so concerned that, that very night, when Silver was asleep in the place where the mares had their foals, Josh went to see Hibou.
The Shire horse approached the Driving yard with caution, not wanting to meet Emmie either on route or while he was communicating with Hibou. Josh walked round the corner and into the covered yard. Stopping outside Hibou’s box he whispered:
“’ere ‘ibou! Is you awake?” Hibou shifted in the straw and got up carefully, so not to wake Jamie.
“Josh, is, is that you?” He asked.
“Yeah, who the ‘ell else would it be?” Josh asked. Hibou opened the door carefully and stepped out onto the concrete, making sure he placed his feet down carefully, as he was not wearing mountain boots. Sensing the Field horse’s caution Josh looked down at his feet.
“Why is you not wearing boots?” He asked. Hibou glanced at his hooves. Almost sobbing, He replied:
“I, I can’t tell you here, not here,,,” Josh led the Field horse up the track to the top field.
It so happened that I was passing that way around the same time, having just returned from a late hack. Seeing the two horses I galloped across the field and jumped a fence that separated us.
“Howdy!” I whinnied.
“What?” Hibou asked. Josh shot me an angry look and said:
“Ignore ‘er ‘ibou, ‘er’s going on about Western crap that’s all.”
“I can’t help what riding style I’ve been working!” I protested.
“No, maybe not, but you can try to speak proper!” Josh snapped. I said playfully:
“You’re a fine one to talk Josh, you drop your H’s and get your tenses mixed! Is that a long enough list for you?”
“All right, Okay, okay! Point taken!” Josh whinnied. He [paused for a moment and then asked:
“’ow did your western lesson go?”
“All right thanks, you know, the usual.” Josh left it. I asked:
“Josh, um, you do realise your in the company of a Field horse?” Josh nodded:
“Yeah, I’s noticed that too,” he replied.
“Right, but Josh, you hate Field horses. So why are you in the company of one?” Josh couldn’t explain this away without letting on his concern for Hibou’s state of mind. Even so, that didn’t stop him trying.
“Um, er, you sees, I’s walking up ‘ere on my own when ‘ibou ‘ere comes towards me, we’s just met on the track when you comes.” I knew he was liing.
“No Josh, that’s not the truth. Let me fill it in for you. You and Silver were sheltering from the rain yesterday. During that time you got talking to Hibou. You didn’t finish your conversation due to Emmie being her usual loathsome self. Am I right?”
“yeah, you is! But ‘ow you knows so much I doesn’t know!” Josh replied. I said:
“Silver told me.”
“Silver told you? Why should she do that?” Then Josh remembered the highly secretive nature of his mercy mission for Hibou.
“’er’s woken up, found me gone, and then you’s come along, Silver’s asked where I’s got to and ‘as you seen me. You says you ‘asn’t, and then Silver tells you all about what ‘appened yesterday, is I right mum?” He asked. I nodded. Josh sighed heavily:
“I knows ‘ibou’s a Field ‘orse, I does know, but, well, ‘e’s not feeling too ‘appy and I’s, well,” Here Josh looked away, unable to meet my eye, he said:
“I’s concerned about ‘im. I knows I shouldn’t be if I ‘ates Field ‘orses n’all that, but I is concerned.” Unsure of what was going to happen to him now there were two yard horses in close proximity, Hibou was trying to watch Josh and me simultaneously. Seeing his agitation I said:
“It’s all right Hibou my dear, we’re not dangerous.” Hibou managed a shy smile.
The sound of drumming boots on the track made me turn. Silver was coming towards me at a gallop, and she looked furious! Silver whinnied:
“What the ‘ell’s this! Josh! What the bloody ‘ell does you think you’s doing? That’s a bloody Field ‘orse you’s speaking to! When you says you’s concerned about ‘it, I’s thinking you’s joking, but now I knows it’s true! ‘ow can you be concerned for scum like ‘ibou! I’s ‘eard you say ‘e’s a miserable git, and now you’s changed your tune so much that you’s ‘elping ‘im!” She skidded to a halt and confronted the Shire horse.
“Well?” Silver demanded. Josh replied:
“What I does, and who I talks to is my business Silver, I’s not stopping you from talking to who you wants to is I? No I isn’t! So, please, leave me to it.” Silver turned tail and trudged away, her head hung in shame. When she was out of earshot Josh exploded.
“I loves ‘er dearly, but I isn’t gonna let ‘er dictate my life!” I looked at the Field horse who had caused the Falabella horse’s outburst. Hibou watched me inspecting him from nose to tail. When I glanced at his hooves his distress increased. Seeing this I asked:
“You’re barefoot Hibou?” This was unusual for Field horses. Hibou looked shell shocked.
“yeah, um, I, I am,,,” his voice trailed away.
“Why are you barefoot Hibou? You Field horses always wear boots.” Hibou self consciously raised his right hind foot and looked down at it.
“I, I was attacked. Emmie and Confiada, they, they dragged me out into the yard and took my boots!” The poor horse looked at me with sudden realisation.
“It’s you! You were that horse who had her boots removed some time back! So, so I suppose you’d know what it’s like to be footsore.” I knew too much about sore feet. Hibou then made the connection between me and Josh.
“You Josh, you’re Beyancca’s foal, sort of, I think.” Josh couldn’t help smiling.
“yeah I is,” he said softly. Hibou looked down at his hooves once more.
“I’ve been barefoot for ages, months I think.”
“Does the Manageress know about this?” I asked. Hibou replied:
“No, but, but I couldn’t tell her! You see, Emmie or Confiada are always with me when the Manageress is about, and if I let on about how I felt, well, either Confiada or Emmie would kill me!” I felt sorrow and anger in equal measure. I knew how painful a sore foot could be and I’m not ashamed to say, though the Field horses are our enemies, that I felt real sympathy for Hibou.
“We’re gonna have to find you some boots then,” I said. Hibou’s eyes lit up.
“Would you? Please?” He pleaded. I went to him and hugged him. Gulping back tears, Hibou returned my embrace. Josh watched us incuriously, as if he’d seen this behaviour countless times before.
It was about three in the morning when we made our way back to the yard. Hibou was still taking things gently on account of the state of his hooves, so Josh, as he now felt was his duty, supported the Field horse. In this manner Josh managed to get Hibou across the concrete and into my box. Once the Field horse was lying on the straw Josh turned to me and said:
“’e’s gonna be all right for the moment, but what the ‘ell’re we gonna do about ‘is ‘ooves till morning? ‘e’s in a lot of discomfort, you’d know more about that than anyone! Is there anything you can do for ‘im in the meantime mum?” I thought for a moment, and then remembered the unusual treatment Chantilly had given me when I was in pain after I had been beaten by James Neil.
“I know something that might help, for the moment at least. Chantilly knows a method of pain relief that she learned from her mother,,,” Josh cut me off:
“We can’t ask ‘er! Chantilly’s got Mistral to look after now! She’s got ‘er ‘ooves full as it is, without treating Field ‘orses, which I’d doubt she would do anyway.” A voice off to Josh’s right suddenly said;
“You should ‘ave more faith shouldn’t you.” At the sound of Chantilly’s voice, Josh literally jumped a mile. He leapt into the air, his hind feet clearing the ground! He landed some way off and leaned on the wall, shivering with fright!
“Don’t, Chantilly, don’t you ever do that again!” He squealed. Chantilly emerged from the shadows smiling broadly.
“That’s the first time I’s ever seen you scared Josh,” she said. His pride dented, Josh tried to bluff his way out.
“Scared? No I wasn’t!” Chantilly nuzzled the huge Shire horse’s shoulder.
“Yes you was,” she said, “I doesn’t think leaping into the air is an expression of total composure, do you?” Josh gave in.
“All right, okay, okay! You frightened me, I’ll admit it,” he conceded.
Chantilly looked towards the place where she’d been hiding out. Guessing her thoughts I asked:
“Mistral?” Chantilly pointed with her nose.
“Over there. ‘e’s with Carmen, I’s left ‘im with ‘er while I’s doing this job. It’s sort of like this. I’s coming through the barn when I sees you ‘ere with ‘ibou. I listens for a bit, realises what’s going on, and wants to ‘elp. Carmen stops me and asks ‘ow I is and ‘ow Mistral is getting on. We’s chatting away when Mistral lets on that I’s going to ‘elp ‘ibou. Carmen looks at me as if I’s bonkers and says that, if I’s gonna get myself busted up by a Field ‘orse, then wouldn’t it be better if I left Mistral with ‘er? I says yes it would, and now I’s ‘ere and Mistral’s safe.”
Meanwhile, in Carmen’s box, Mistral lay on the straw looking about him, while Carmen, overjoyed that Chantilly should honour her by letting her look after Mistral, watched over him. After five minutes or so of lying on the straw, Mistral decided that he wanted to go and see what was going on outside. He told Carmen this, who immediately forbade it.
“Oh please!” Mistral pleaded. Carmen thought:
“I must be strong and not give in. I must treat him as if he were my own foal. I’m going to do that!” Carmen said as firmly as she could.
“No, and no again mistral.” The foal was defiant.
“I’ll go to the barn steps, you can see me there, I’ll be safe.”
“NO!” Carmen snapped. Mistral, who knew Carmen to be a nervous mare at the best of times, did then what all foals do at some time in their lives, he tried to push his luck as far as Carmen would allow before she disciplined him, or he broke her resolve.
“Look, I’ll go to the barn steps, I’ll be safe Carmen. I’m old enough to go a short distance, mum lets me.”
“I don’t care what your mum lets you do Mistral, I’m looking after you for the time being, and you play by my rules, right?” Mistral whimpered:
“But what if mum’s in danger? How would you like it if because of your stupid rules my mum came to harm? What would you feel then Carmen?” Carmen realised what the foal was doing and tried to defuse the situation with the only trick she knew.
“Mistral, your mum’s safe. Now settle down and I’ll tell you a story my mum told me.” Always one for a good story, Mistral hesitated for a minute, just long enough for Carmen to come over to him, lie down beside him, which in normal circumstances she would never have done. Once she was lying comfortably and had reassured herself that she was safe, a process that Mistral mistook for reflection on Carmen’s part, Carmen began her tale.
“It was a long time ago when the first horses walked on Earth. The first horse was named Eohippus, and he is the horse from whom we all are descended, we’re his Children Mistral, you see?” Mistral nodded, but was only half concentrating on what Carmen said, he was also watching her demeanour, and that was anything but relaxed. Mistral had seen Chantilly in a relaxed state, and when she was, Chantilly’s ears were flaccid and she would lie flat on her side, allowing Mistral to rest his nose on her neck. Carmen was anything but relaxed. She was only half lying down, not flat as Chantilly did. Carmen’s head and neck were upright, as if she was preparing to leap to her feet at any moment. Mistral stopped listening to Carmen, actually interrupting her.
“Carmen, You’re not relaxed at all! You’re scared, really scared! You’re no comfort to me at all! If anything, I’m braver than you, you silly mare!” Carmen knew he’d rumbled her, but tried valiantly to cover the fact.
“No, I’m fine,” she lied. Mistral replied:
“When mum’s relaxed, she lies right down, flat on her side. You’re not doing that. Also your ears aren’t floppy like mum’s are, they’re pricked, and worse, twitching! You’re on the look out! You’re terrified Carmen! Go on, admit it!” Carmen swallowed hard, trying desperately to control a situation that was now getting out of hoof. She said as airily as she could:
“Now where was I? Oh yes, I was telling you about Eohippus wasn’t I?” Mistral wasn’t listening however. Seeing Carmen’s almost total loss of control over him, he disobeyed her instructions. Leaping to his feet he ran for the door, and before Carmen could even get to her feet to chase him, Mistral had leapt the door and escaped!
Carmen scrambled to her feet and ran to the door, she started battering the door with her forefeet and shrieking hysterically:
“Mistral, come back! Come back! For heaven’s sake, come back! You’ll be killed out there! The Field horses will kill you!” Then, feeling she could do nothing else to save Mistral, Carmen, for the first time in her life, lay down on the straw and prayed to Eohippus that he might keep the foal safe.
Back in the main yard, Chantilly was just about to administer the treatment to Hibou when Mistral came running to her. Seeing him, Chantilly became angry!
“What’re you doing here!” She demanded. Mistral replied:
“I thought you were in danger!”
“yeah, right! So you says that to Carmen and she lets you out?” Mistral didn’t say anything. Taking this as confirmation of her fears, Chantilly went ballistic!
She ran round to the barn and streaked through it like a whirlwind! When she came to Carmen’s box, she found the poor mare prostrate on the straw.
“Get up! Get up now! On your feet now!” Chantilly commanded. Miserably Carmen obeyed, finally standing shaking like a leaf. Chantilly opened Carmen’s door and faced the panic-stricken mare.
“I thought I’d left Mistral in your care Carmen!” Chantilly yelled. Before Carmen could reply Chantilly continued:
“If I remembers rightly too, it was you who suggests that I does that, right?” Too frightened to reply, Carmen kept silent. Chantilly shrieked:
“Am I right Carmen? Answer me you disrespectful ‘orse!” Carmen sobbed:
“yes. Chantilly, please, please don’t hurt me!”
“You expects me not to ‘urt you after what you’ve done? I puts my foal in your care, trusting you to keep ‘im safe, and you betrays that trust you ‘orrid mare! I’s never never! Gonna do that ever ever again! I loathes you Carmen! I’s thinking before now that you’s a nice ‘orse, that I could trust you with my foal, that you’d keep ‘im safe! What does you go and do? You lets ‘im out into a dangerous place! I’s gonna ‘urt you big time!” With that Chantilly turned rear on to Carmen and loaded up to strike!
Camelot was stabled to Carmen’s right, and had seen everything. It was then that he managed to get a word in and ultimately save Carmen from injury, or worse. He shouted:
“Stop! Hold it right there!” Chantilly hesitated for a few seconds, long enough for Camelot to start his account. He demanded:
“Chantilly, turn and face me!” Chantilly did so. Camelot then said:
“Right, now Carmen, you tell what happened. I’m impartial on this matter as I am no party to your agreement, and nor am I a horse. I’ll adjudicate.” Chantilly looked into Carmen’s terrified eyes and said:
“Right, but if you tell any lies about anything Carmen, I’s gonna ‘ave you on the floor begging for your life!”
“There’s no need for that talk Chantilly!” Camelot snapped. Carmen stared wildly about her and then began her account.
“After, after you left Mistral with me Chantilly, about five minutes after, he asked if he could go outside. I said he couldn’t, and he tried to overrule me by saying you would have let him, and what if because of my rules you came to harm! I kept telling him no, and then tried telling him a story, more to distract him than anything else, and he noticed that when I lay on the straw I wasn’t relaxed, but would you be when you were looking after someone else’s foal? I’m sorry to say I lost control of the situation then. Mistral knew I was scared, told me so too! Then he, he ran to the door and leapt it! I couldn’t stop him Chantilly, honest I couldn’t! I was frantic with worry!” Chantilly snorted:
“A likely bloody story. I suppose Mistral then grew wings and flew Carmen?” Carmen sobbed:
“No no! Don’t be so stupid Chantilly, of course he didn’t! What’re you saying? Do you think I’m making all this up?” Chantilly replied:
“I gives you my foal to look after and you fail in your duty! What am I meant to think? Mistral could ‘ave been killed if ‘ibou wasn’t so depressed. ‘ad you thought of that?” Carmen screeched
“Yes I had! I told Mistral that he’d be killed if he left my box, I told him that Chantilly! Have you asked him about any of this?” Chantilly hesitated:
“Well have you Chantilly?” Camelot asked.
“No, no I ‘asn’t asked ‘im yet,” she conceded. Carmen said faintly:
“I did the best I could Chantilly. I tried to keep Mistral from harm, but he overruled me.” Chantilly looked into Carmen’s face. She saw an emotionally shattered mare looking back at her. Chantilly threatened:
“If I finds that you’s liing about this Carmen, I’s gonna bust every bone in your body!” With that she walked away, leaving Carmen distraught.
Once Chantilly was out of sight, Carmen turned to Camelot and implored him to help her. Camelot took Carmen in from nose to tail. He saw a frightened mare, who had done all she could to protect another mare’s foal, and was now being punished for it. He opened his door, walked out into the barn and closed it behind him, with Carmen watching him all the time. Facing her, he then asked:
“Can I come in Carmen?” Wordlessly Carmen unbolted her door and kicked it wide. Camelot advanced slowly, with Carmen retreating to the back of her box, not because there wasn’t enough room, but because she was frightened of what she was doing. Realising the horse in front of him was terrified, Camelot asked:
“Do you want me to come in? I’m not forcing you to let me in Carmen. There’s no pressure on you at all.” Carmen thought for a minute and replied faintly:
“I, I think I want you to,,,” her voice trailed away. Camelot advanced a little further, so that he was right inside the box. He deliberately left the door open so Carmen had an escape route if she wanted. The horse and Camel regarded each other over the short distance that separated them. Carmen was cowering against the wall shivering with fright! Camelot asked gently:
“would you like me to leave Carmen?” Carmen stammered:
“Er, no, no, don’t, don’t go,” Then she said quickly, her words falling over each other:
“I don’t want you to leave, but I’m so scared! I’m scared of you, of Chantilly, of what I’m doing, of letting you in, of not letting you in, of everything! I’m so confused Camelot, I can’t think straight!” Suddenly Carmine shrieked:
“I did the best I could! I couldn’t help what happened to Mistral!” With that she dissolved into tears. Camelot moved to hug Carmen, who didn’t make any move to stop him. Embracing her tightly he said:
“Nothing happened to Mistral Carmen, he’s safe.” Carmen sniffed and asked:
“Is he? How wonderful! I thought Hibou would kill him, I really thought he’d be dead! But He’s not, oh I’m so glad about that!”
Meanwhile, Chantilly had returned to us in the main yard intent on questioning her foal. She rounded Mistral up and asked him what had taken place in Carmen’s box.
“Well, um, well, it’s like this,” Mistral began, “After you left me with her, I got bored, Carmen’s not the most outgoing of mares, and she was boring me silly! All she did was watch me! So I said I wanted to go outside, to see what you were doing, and the stupid mare told me I couldn’t! So I escaped, but not before Carmen had tried telling me a silly story about Eohippus. I mean, how crap is that?” Chantilly snapped:
“Eohippus ain’t crap Mistral, and don’t swear!” Mistral ignored his mother, ploughing on with his tale.
“I suffered this story for five minutes or so, when I realised Carmen wasn’t concentrating too hard on that, her ears were all over the place mum! She wasn’t relaxed like you are when you tell me a story. So I asked her about it, and she said she was fine. Would you call twitching ears relaxed? I wouldn’t! So I got fed up with Carmen and left her. Oh mum, I haven’t heard a mare shriek and squeal so much in my life before, Carmen went mad! All because I jumped the door of her box. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but she needs to get a life!” Chantilly didn’t’ fail to notice the foal’s tone. Suddenly she rounded on him!
“I can’t believe what you’s done! Does you ‘ave any idea what ‘as been going on Mistral? I puts you in Carmen’s care, yeah, granted, she’s not as outgoing as some ‘orses might be, but she’s kind, thoughtful and gentle! She might not have had a foal yet, but I left you with ‘er, and what did you goes and done?” Getting the idea that things were getting worse for him, mistral replied faintly:
“I escaped, I overruled Carmen, but mum, I couldn’t stand her! She was so anxious, she could never be relaxed!” Chantilly asked coldly:
“Does you know what you’s caused to ‘appen Mistral?” The foal shook his head. Tears welling in his eyes he replied:
“No mum.” Chantilly shouted:
“You’s caused me to go running to Carmen and scare the fur off ‘er!” Shamrock, who’d woken and overheard some of this said:
“No Chantilly, it wasn’t him that caused that, it was you.”
“Me?” Chantilly snapped.
“Yes Chantilly, you. When you saw Mistral, you went flying round to Carmen’s box and terrorised her. I didn’t see it, but I heard everything, it was difficult not to! Mistral might have escaped, but you should, as a sane horse, have gone round and found out the reason for him escaping. Now we know it wasn’t Carmen’s fault, but what now? You’ve left Carmen in a hell of a state! I advise you to go round to her and see what’s happening. While your at it, why not take Mistral, and then you can both apologise profusely to her. After what both of you have done to her, Carmen deserves that at least, and probably a whole lot more besides.” Chantilly stormed off, Mistral following at her heels.
When they were out of sight Limerick turned to Shamrock and asked:
“How did you manage that?” Shamrock smiled:
“I know a few things about mares,” She replied.
“What things?” Limerick asked.
“Well, hmm, like the way they always take things at face value once a foal is involved, that sort of thing. Sometimes Limerick, it takes someone else to tell them what needs doing. I’ll bet you half a tonne of oats that if I hadn’t told her what was what, Chantilly would never have forgiven Carmen, whatever the real events were that led up to Mistral’s escape.” Limerick said:
“You have some nerve though Shamrock. Chantilly’s legendary for her fighting capability, don’t you know that?” Shamrock thought for a minute and replied:
“No, but I would’ve done the same thing. She was acting by instinct, I know that, but I also know that once she’d seen things in the light of day, she would never have apologised to Carmen. You see, we horses fear what we don’t understand, Carmen’s a prime example of that. Because some other horses cannot understand, or don’t make the effort to understand Carmen, they fear and mistrust her.” Limerick stared open mouthed at Shamrock.
Meanwhile, on a small patch of grass just outside the barn, Chantilly and Mistral stood together. Chantilly was engaged in a fight with her emotions, as well as trying to gather enough courage to apologise to Carmen. Mistral watched his mother’s torment while not understanding the reasons behind it. Chantilly’s ears flicked back and forth as her mood changed while she mulled over events, situations and possible resolutions. Mistral also noticed Chantilly shifting from foot to foot in her agitation.
In Carmen’s box however, the situation had improved to a great extent. Carmen had relaxed to such an extent that she felt like eating for the first time that day. While the horse ate, Camelot watched her, while thinking about horses. He came to the conclusion that they were nothing like camels in their outlook on life. He was sure that not even the steadiest horse could claim that. Horses would rather run from a situation than confront it, and Camelot felt Carmen was the embodiment of such extreme behaviour. Camelot watched Carmen’s ears intently. He noticed that, even though she felt safe enough to eat, Carmen was still listening, listening to everything going on around her. Suddenly Misty, asleep in her box, lashed out with a hind foot, her hoof smashing into the wooden wall of her box. At the sound, Carmen looked up, assessed the situation and did not continue her meal. Camelot said gently:
“It’s all right Carmen dear. That was Misty, she’s asleep and in the midst of a vivid dream that’s all. The sound you heard was her hoof smashing into the wall. It’s nothing to worry about.” As Camelot watched, Carmen suddenly raised her nose to the wind, twitched an ear and tensed every muscle in her body. Then she leapt for the cover of the rear of her box, hugging the wall as closely as she could. Camelot was about to ask why she was acting in such a strange manner, when he got his answer.
Chantilly and Mistral walked across the barn to meet him. Instantly Camelot moved to protect Carmen.
“What do you want?” He demanded. Chantilly replied:
“It’s Carmen we’s wanting to talk to, and when did you become ‘er protector?” Camelot snapped:
“After the disgraceful way you treated Carmen earlier, I felt she needed some protection as you were using her as cannon fodder! You played on her fear Chantilly! You know dam well she didn’t let Mistral out of her sight! It was Mistral himself who disobeyed the rules!” Chantilly said:
“I knows that, that’s why I’m coming to apologise.” Camelot yelled:
Apologise? You need to get on your knees and beg for forgiveness Chantilly!” Chantilly moved round Camelot and faced Carmen, who didn’t meet her eye. Chantilly saw that Carmen was shaking with fright, and moved to comfort her.
“Carmen, please, please listen to me, will you?” At first Carmen didn’t move or reply. She suddenly made direct eye contact with Chantilly! Chantilly backed hurriedly away, crashing into Misty’s box! It was plain to Camelot and Mistral that Carmen’s expression, which they couldn’t see, terrified Chantilly. Then, for the first time in their lives, the camel and the foal saw a horse submit to the will of another. Chantilly opened her right ear to Carmen, then she began a licking, chewing action. This signified to Carmen, now dominant over Chantilly, that she, Chantilly was subservient. Carmen was waiting for this, she dropped her eyes, and Chantilly began to move toward her. As Carmen removed her gaze from Chantilly, Chantilly got more and more confident, finally walking right up to Carmen. Carmen knew she’d done what she intended, Chantilly was now repentant for her crime. Carmen looked directly at Chantilly, and she couldn’t take it.
“No, please, Carmen, don’t, don’t do it again! That was ‘orrible!” Chantilly pleaded. Carmen said nothing. Trying not to meet Carmen’s eye Chantilly said:
“I’s sorry Carmen. I now knows what ‘appened earlier. I doesn’t know why I didn’t believe you in the first place. I realise what Mistral was doing, and ‘e should never ‘ave done it. ‘e now knows what ‘e did wrong. ‘e knows ‘e should ‘ave stayed with you, listened to you, all of that. I thinks ‘e wants to apologise to you n’all.” Mistral came forward, showing submission to Carmen in every gesture. Carmen said:
“Well?” Mistral tried to bury his face in her neck. Carmen refused him at first, making the foal beg for forgiveness, but then she dropped to her knees and let him hug her. Mistral whispered into her mane:
“I’m very sorry Carmen, I didn’t know that what I was doing was wrong. I thought you were saying what you were because you wanted to be nasty to me. Then, when you ran to the door shrieking and squealing, I thought you were angry, I didn’t listen to what you were saying, and I’m very, very sorry.” Carmen licked and nuzzled Mistral’s ear, telling him all was forgiven. Even though Carmen had forgiven Mistral, she still kept the cloud over Chantilly. Camelot saw this, and he couldn’t really blame Carmen for it. Making direct eye contact with Chantilly Carmen asked:
“Have you treated that Field horse yet?” Chantilly suddenly fled!
Meanwhile the Manageress had caught up with Hibou and had begun giving him medical attention. At last he was able to tell her what had been going on during the last few months. The human said gently:
“I thought you didn’t like the boots and had decided not to wear them. I didn’t know they’d been taken from you.”
“I couldn’t tell you before now. If I had, either Confiada or Emmie would have killed me!” Hibou wailed. The Manageress replied:
“Confiada’s out of the way now, she’s locked in a special box from which she can’t escape. Even when she’s exercising she’s watched to make sure she doesn’t go after other horses. I know that’s normally Josh’s box, but he can manage without it until I can find him another. He’s used to living out in all weathers anyway.” Josh listened to this and, for once, agreed with the human.
“Yeah, I’s gonna be okay. It’s more important that Confiada’s locked up safe now there’s foals about.” The Manageress reached up and put her arms round Josh’s neck. The huge Shire horse lowered his head and rested it on her shoulder. The strange thing about this was the fact that the human, not Josh, had initiated the contact. Josh is a rather independently minded horse who hates being imposed upon. If he wants affection, he’ll come and get it, but if a human tries to hug him without him being ready, he’ll refuse them, brushing them off quite harshly. Now however, he was enjoying the attention. The Manageress ran her hand down Josh’s neck, massaged his ears and rubbed his forehead, while Josh lapped this attention up. Soon however, the Manageress had to break the spell and release Josh. Wearing an expression of heart felt regret Josh watched her go.
“I was enjoying that,” He said. I hugged him, and, purely because I felt like doing so, I groomed him too, something that I hadn’t done since he was small. Josh tried to ignore me, pretending that nothing was happening, but he couldn’t.
“Hey mum, stop it!” he whinnied. I continued grooming him, starting at his neck, moving to his body, and then his legs. Once I’d finished that, I moved to his mane, using my teeth to untangle the long swaths of hair. I didn’t notice the audience that had grown around us, but Josh did. Looking acutely embarrassed at my actions, he suffered my ministrations, pretending he couldn’t care les, but I knew the truth. In any other place, Josh would now be almost comatose with pleasure. In fact, I noticed the battle raging between his outer:
“This ain’t ‘appening to me,” attitude, and his true feelings. The humans noticed this too, one commented that:
“Josh looks like he’s trying his best not to notice what Beyancca’s doing.” Another said:
“yes, maybe, but he’s gradually succumbing to his real feelings, just look at him!” Sure enough he was. The single action that tipped the balance was when, after grooming him, I touched Josh’s cheek with my muzzle, rubbing it gently. Josh rested his nose on my neck and closed his eyes. His flaccid ears and the toe of his right hind foot resting on the ground confirmed to the watching humans that he’d given up the fight between his pride and his true emotions. Josh was now a fully relaxed Shire horse. Suddenly a voice from the depths of my box said:
“Ah, ain’t that nice to see.” Josh straightened up and glared at Silver, who had been hiding in my box watching everything. Josh’s surprise and embarrassment was so acute that he couldn’t do or say anything for about two minutes. Then he tried to slink away, avoiding his mate’s eye. Turning to Silver I asked:
“How long have you been here?” The Falabella horse smiled broadly.
“Since you first came into the yard with that Field ‘orse. I’s seen and ‘eard everything, and I thinks that Chantilly and Mistral’s punishment fitted their crime too! Josh ain’t gonna talk to me for a good long time now. ‘e’ll be too embarrassed to do that.” I asked:
“If it isn’t too much of a personal question Silver, do you and Josh groom each other?” The Falabella horse looked startled!
“Um, er, yeah, we does! But, B’, that’s rather personal!” She replied.
“You didn’t have to answer the question Silver, I did ask if it was personal.” I said. Silver, realising her mistake, tried to change the subject.
“So you’s saying that Confiada’s out the way?” I nodded.
“Yep, she’s now imprisoned in Josh’s box.”
“Oh right,” Silver said faintly.
That night heavy rain visited the yard. I slept through it, and would have gone on sleeping, if I hadn’t been woken by furious banging on my door. I barely had time to collect my wits about me when the Manageress came busting in! She looked rather concerned, she asked:
“Can you help me Beyancca? You see, the water’s rising in the foal field and, well, I’ve managed to get Lorenzo, Millie and a few of the yearlings out of danger, but Josh and Silver said they weren’t coming! It was Silver mainly, she said they’d be okay, but I don’t think that’ll be the case for much longer! Can you go and talk some sense into them?” I promised the human that I would go as soon as I could.
I waded across the yard, fetlock deep in water, eventually making it to the field where Josh and Silver had a covered Shelter. Actually, this was Josh’s, but ever since the time when Silver had insisted she stay out with Josh in all weather, she’d used it too, much to the concern of the Manageress, who had told Silver on many occasions that it would be better if the Falabella horse stayed in the dry of her own box with Tich. Tich had said much the same thing to his mum, but Silver wasn’t having any of it.
The Field was in a terrible state! The water had built up in the grass, so that when I walked across it, my feet sank into the mud! There was no surface tension at all, and I nearly got stuck twice! Eventually I made it to Silver and Josh, who were sheltering from the rain. The Shelter was down a slight slope in the field, the thinking behind which was so that it could act like a wind-break. The net result was that the water ran off the field, collected at the bottom of the slope and was now invading the shelter itself! Josh was already fetlock deep in water, Silver was nearly knee deep, and looked worried about the situation. She asked:
“What the ‘ell’re we gonna do?” I asked:
“why didn’t you go with the Manageress when she asked you to?” Josh looked fondly at his mate and replied:
“Now ‘ere’s a thing. Silver ‘ere, well, she says that we’s just fine, tells the Manageress that too. So the ‘uman, tries to persuade Silver otherwise, but she ain’t ‘aving it. ‘er says that if I’s out ‘ere then so’s she and that’s flat. So the Manageress leaves us to it. Now look what’s ‘appened! We’s ‘aving to wade through water, and that’s in the shelter! This is a bloody awful situation if you asks me! Silver looked down at the water, which was now up to her knees, it was rising! Seeing her horrified expression, Josh looked down at his feet. He saw the water had risen to just above his fetlocks. Josh said Sharply:
“Silver, listen to me! What I wants you to do is this. Remove your boots, and do it now! I’ll ‘elp you.” With that Silver lifted each foot and Josh yanked off her boots. Soon Silver was standing barefoot in the water.
“Now what? Does you want me to ‘elp you get rid of your boots?” She asked. Josh ignored her question and said:
“Right, Now Silver, I’s gonna lie down, you gets on my back.”
“But Josh, you’s gonna catch cold! I’s not ‘aving that!” Josh snapped:
“And I’s not ‘aving you drowning in the water on our way over the field, now does as I bloody tells you!” With that he lay down, gasping as he felt how cold the water really was. Silver clambered onto the Shire horse’s back and held on with her teeth. When he felt she was settled, Josh got carefully to his feet, his teeth clenched, and whole body shivering with cold.
“Right, ‘ang on Silver. Mum, get out of my path,” He gasped. I did so, with as much speed as was safe. Josh took a few careful steps out into the now pouring rain. He had to be careful that he didn’t trip, or get stuck in the water. The huge Shire horse, with his precious cargo, made careful progress across the field, inching his way to safety. Silver lay on Josh’s back, not daring to move in case she upset his balance. The Falabella mare marvelled at the way he managed to carry her. Silver decided that no matter what, she would stay with Josh forever. She decided that she’d tell him that the next opportunity she had. Josh managed to get to safety, Once they were on firm ground, Josh lay down and Silver slid off his back. I ran to get the Manageress, who ran to the tack room for horse blankets and other equipment to help Josh. While I was away, Silver looked at her mate. Josh was Shivering more than ever and could hardly stand. As she watched, he stumbled and nearly fell. Silver said anxiously:
“Josh dear, is you all right?” Josh couldn’t answer her. Silver willed the Manageress and I to return quickly with whatever we had gone for. Soon we arrived, but not before Josh had lost his footing and fallen, ending up sprawled on the concrete. When the Manageress saw this she ran for more human assistance, and together, they managed to get Josh to his feet, and quite literally drag him to my box, where he collapsed onto the straw, utterly exhausted. The Manageress and two of her staff began rubbing Josh down, towelling him off like mad, trying to rid his fur of the cold water that could kill. Once they’d done all they could for him, the Manageress posted one of her staff outside my box to keep an eye on Josh and then left us to it.
Silver lay down beside her mate.
“Josh darling, can you ‘ear me?” She asked. Josh didn’t even twitch an ear, he lay inert and seemingly lifeless. Silver put her muzzle close to his and was relieved to feel his breath. She rested her head on josh’s neck and burst into tears.
All that day, and the night which followed, Silver, The Manageress and her staff kept constant watch over Josh while he lay unconscious on the straw.
For two days Josh remained in much the same state, that is to say unconscious for most of the time. Then, very gradually, he began to claw his way back. It was on the fourth day after the events described above that Josh recovered enough to spend long spells conscious and was able to think clearly. Silver had told the Shire horse many times of her love for him, and now he was fully awake, she told him again.
“I loves you too Silver,” Josh replied hoarsely. The Manageress put her head round the door and saw Josh sitting up and far more alert than he had been.
“So you’ve returned to us,” She said. Josh replied:
“yeah, just.” Turning to Silver he said:
“I thinks, if the Manageress says we’s got’a get into a dry place, we doesn’t argue with ‘er, right?” Silver, realising the Shire horse was ticking her off, replied faintly:
“yes Josh. I’s sorry for all that, it’s all my fault.” Emmie, overhearing this, remarked:
“If I were you Josh, I’d leave that mare. Her advice is terrible! It almost cost you your life!” Josh laid his ears flat on his neck and made to get up. Silver tried to restrain him, but Josh was furious! He advanced on Emmie, who was in the midst of being tacked up, and at the very last moment, he ran at her, knocking the Field horse off her feet, and causing the human tacking her up to leap for her life! The rope holding Emmie’s head collar to the wall snapped under the strain of her weight as she pitched sideways, crashing onto the floor with Josh standing glairing down at her. Emmie looked into the Shire horse’s face and couldn’t meet his gaze. Josh yelled:
“Right, Emmie, now you’s gonna gets what’s coming to you! I’s gonna pay you back for what you’s done to ‘ibou, and what you’s saying to me about Silver! I knows she’s made a mistake and so does she, I doesn’t need you to tell me that too! I’s never gonna leave ‘er, and you’d do well to remembers that!” Emmie tried to roll out of danger. But Josh put a huge forefoot on her shoulder, pinning her down.
“Don’t, don’t hurt me Josh! Please, don’t hurt me!” Emmie pleaded. Josh kicked off the boot on his right hind foot and turned rear on to the Field horse. Raising his hind foot, he showed it to Emmie.
“See something?” Josh asked. Emmie squealed:
“It’s a hoof, your hoof Josh!”
“yeah, it is, see ‘ow large it is?”
“Yes, I, I do, It’s huge! Much larger than mine!” Josh smiled grimly, but Emmie couldn’t see that. He said:
“Right Emmie.” Then he placed his toe on her nose.
“Feel that?” The Shire horse asked. Emmie could just about see his hoof on her nose, and she didn’t like the sight or feel of it.”
“I can feel it, and see it too! Josh, please, please, don’t hurt me! I’ll do anything, get on my knees to you, even apologise to Hibou, anything! Just don’t harm me, take your foot away! Please!” Josh snorted:
“You’s said that before if I remembers right. You’s also lied about it too! What makes this time any different Emmie? You’s one ‘alf of a double act who ‘as terrorised other ‘orses for so dam long. We’s locked your ‘elper up, but what to do with you? I ‘ates you so much!” Emmie closed her eyes against the sight of the Shire horse’s foot on her nose. Even so, she could still feel it’s potential for her destruction. Josh knew how far he could go without causing a horse permanent injury, and he did so now. He leant a little weight on his right hind foot, making Emmie Shriek with fear. Then he left her, lifting his foot clear so that he wouldn’t inadvertently step on the Field horse. Keeping his foot clear of the ground he commanded:
“Emmie, get up!” Emmie did so, never taking her eye off the Shire horse. Once she was on her feet, Josh turned to her and said:
“Right, you says you’ll do anything for me Field ‘orse, well you can start by doing this. You goes and gets your boots removed, right?” Emmie shook her head.
“No, not that, anything but that! I’ve got soft hooves, I’ll be footsore within a week!” Josh snarled:
“And ‘ibou ‘asn’t?” Emmie knew she was beaten, but still refused point blank. The Shire horse lost his temper! He knocked Emmie down once more and sat on her! Then he said:
“Mum, come and remove ‘er boots will you?” I advanced on the Field horse, who was kicking and squealing in rage.
“This isn’t fair! You can’t do this to me!” She shrieked.
“Shut up!” Josh commanded. I circled round Emmie, trying not to get hit by her flailing hooves. Josh felt he’d seen enough of Emmie’s flailing about and to remedy it, lay flat on top of her, pinning the Field horse to the concrete. He left Emmie’s head free so she could keep it clear of the water that still lay about the yard. Once she was immobilised, I managed to remove Emmie’s boots. Once I was out of range, Josh released the Field horse, who ran off screaming something about Josh and I not getting away with what we’d done to her. The Manageress looked down at Emmie’s boots. Turning to Silver she asked:
“Where are yours?” Silver looked downcast.
“Them’s probably floating in that field we left in an ‘urry,” she replied. Sighing with exasperation the Manageress went to the tack room to get a new set for the Falabella mare, her second in one year. Once Silver was reshod, the Manageress spoke to Josh.
“Why did you risk your life bringing Silver over the field?” The human asked. Josh was clearly surprised at her question.
“Because she’s my mate and I ain’t gonna let ‘er drown in the water is I. Anyway, it was the only way to do it after ‘er ‘ad disobeyed you.” The Shire horse replied. The Manageress seemed to accept this and left us to it. Silver went in search of Tich, and shortly after, Josh and I followed.
At first Silver went to her box, didn’t find Tich there and hared off in search of him. Josh turned to me and said:
“She ‘asn’t checked on Tich for four days now, I thinks that’s a record for ‘er.” It must be noted that Tich was a year and a half old now. After a few minutes Silver was back, extremely agitated.
“”’as anyone seen Tich?” She asked. We were in the barn, so many horses besides Josh and myself heard the Falabella mare’s anxious question. One of those horses was Jamie, who’d come in to shelter from the rain.
“I’ve seen him,” he replied. Silver whipped round and Demanded:
“Where!” Jamie said:
“Well, he was down by the river, but that was over an hour ago. Now the river’s burst it’s banks and, if you don’t know what to look for, you can end up in the river without realising it.” Jamie imparted this information without realising the impact it would have. Silver squealed:
“’e’s gone to the river?” Jamie replied:
“I didn’t say that,,,” He got no further before Silver was off, streaking through the barn and away towards the river. Jamie swore viciously and gave chase.
He caught up with Silver on the lane, which was fast becoming a river.
“Silver!” He shouted. The mare stopped.
“What the bloody ‘ell does you want!” She demanded. Jamie said:
“Well, I, I thought that it’d be better if I carried you, you see, I know the terrain here, you don’t, and, well, if the worst happens, I can swim too!” Silver spat at the Field horse.
“No I doesn’t want your ‘elp! What ‘as you ever done for me or my friends in the past Jamie? Bloody nothing! What is there to say that when I’s on your back, you doesn’t swim out in the middle of the river and roll? I’s gonna be drowned ain’t I! That’s what you want ain’t it!” Jamie was deeply hurt and horrified at the Falabella mare’s words.
“No Silver! I wouldn’t do that! You know I wouldn’t! Look, if you want to find your foal, then do as I say! This is my territory, not yours, and I know things you don’t. So please, trust me will you?” Silver had to admit Jamie knew more than she did about the fields surrounding the river.
“All right, I’ll go with you Field ‘orse, but I’s still ‘ating you a good bit.” Jamie’s overriding concern was not for this bad mannered, foul mouthed little mare in front of him, but for her foal, who’d never said anything against him in his life.
“Silver, help me remove my boots, then I’ll remove yours,” he commanded. Silver hesitated and asked:
“Why?”” Jamie snapped:
“Because if you don’t you’ll be heavier on my back than you otherwise might be, and if I don’t, if I get stuck I’m stuffed, right?” Silver didn’t argue, but helped the Field horse remove his boots. Then she let him remove her’s, but didn’t like doing so.
“Them’s my second set in a year,” Silver warned him.
“They’re gonna be all right where I’m putting them,” Jamie replied. He threw the boots into a bush, where they caught in the branches and stayed. Immediately this was done, a huge badger burst angrily from the bush and yelled at the Field horse.
“You bloody idiot! That’s my set in there! You nearly knocked my cub senseless!”
“Very sorry about that Sam,” Jamie said sincerely. The badger looked at Silver.
“I’ve seen your foal, I think he was yours?” Silver looked round but couldn’t see Sam anywhere.
“Where the bloody ‘ell is you badger?” She yelled. Sam appeared from the depths of the bush off to Silver’s left. Jamie was glad to see the Badger, he hadn’t spoken to Sam in ages. Silver on the other hoof feared and mistrusted him. As she watched, Sam came closer to her.
“Where the ‘ell is my foal badger!” She shrieked. Carefully Sam approached the Falabella mare, intent on making friends with her using grooming as his method. He managed to get to her side, Silver watching him all the time.
“Once I’m up there, she’ll understand what I want,” he thought. Silver asked:
“What the ‘ell’s this?” Sam judged his time, and sprang for the Falabella mare’s back! He scrabbled at Silver’s fur with his paws, finally managing to make it onto her back. Feeling the badger’s paws gripping her fur Silver screamed hysterically, rearing and bucking furiously!
“Get off me! Go away!” She squealed. Sam hung on until Silver stopped her antics.
“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” he said. Silver turned her head and glared at the badger on her back. She yelled:
“I’ll bet you and your tribe ‘ave buried Tich ‘aven’t you! I tells you what I’s gonna do, I’s gonna trample you into the bloody earth!” Sam risked a look down at the mare’s hooves, they were the smallest he’d ever seen!
“You’ve got tiny feet you know,” he said. Silver shrieked:
“I knows that! Now where ‘as you seen my foal? Where is ‘e!” Sam gently ran his paws through the fur on Silver’s back, which she hated, and let him know by bucking, rearing and twisting, trying to throw him off in every way she knew. In a desperate attempt to get rid of the menace on her back Silver tried rolling, attempting to crush Sam under her, but he was too quick for her. He’d had training on many larger horses, and knew how to survive. Sam loved the rodeo lifestyle, and had the title of the only cow-badger in Suffolk.
As Silver rolled, Sam rolled away. Regaining his feet, Sam watched Silver kicking and squealing in rage about ten feet away from him. He remarked:
“Silver, your feet are tiny aren’t they.” This remark was meant to enrage the Falabella mare, and it had it’s desired affect. Silver regained her feet and began chasing Sam in an attempt to get at him. The Badger kept well out of Silver’s way, taking refuge in bushes, on her back, anywhere to get out of range of her hooves.
Jamie, who knew Sam well, knew that this badger wasn’t malicious. If he had bad news for Silver, he’d have told her it without all this messing around. He knew by the badger’s behaviour that there was nothing wrong with Tich. Jamie knew Sam’s family, who ranged all over Suffolk. In the badgers, the Field horse knew he had one of the best contacts to the outside world.
After five minutes of screaming and running about on Silver’s part, the undergrowth beside Jamie shifted slightly, and Tich emerged into the open. He favoured his mother with a furious look and commanded:
“Mum, stop terrorising Sam!” Silver whirled round, saw Tich and ran towards him, almost knocking him down. Weeping with relief, she nuzzled and fussed over him as if she hadn’t seen him in weeks.
“Where the ‘ell ‘ave you been Tich?” She sobbed.
“I’ve been here all the time,” was the colt’s reply.
“for four days?” Silver asked.
“Oh no, about three hours, it started raining you see. Sam here was good enough to keep me company while I sheltered from the downpour. He’s a good friend,” Tich replied. At that moment, Sam came over and slapped Tich’s tiny forefoot with his paw. Tich lay down and the Badger climbed onto his back.
“I doesn’t know ‘ow you let’s that badger do what ‘e does,” Silver grumbled. Tich Smiled:
“He’s teaching me western,” he said. Silver’s eyes widened, she asked incredulously:
“What? ‘ow the bloody ‘ell is you able to do western Tich?” Tich replied:
“As I said, Sam’s teaching me,” Silver stared at her foal in astonishment! Fearing her foal had gone crazy, Silver said:
“yeah, ‘e might be doing that, but you’s too small! No ‘uman will ever be able to ride you, so who will?”
“Sam,” was the answer she got. Silver came to the conclusion that Tich was losing his mind.
“Tich, please, tells me you’s joking, tell me that!” Tich glanced back at Sam.
“Shall we show her?” The badger asked. For answer Tich walked away from his mother, eventually coming to rest in the space between her and Jamie.
“Right Sam, it’s over to you,” Tich said. As Silver watched, the badger began to control Tich’s movement. As she watched the badger controlling the horse, Silver thought:
“If ‘e’s acting then it’s bloody good.” While Silver was sceptical, Jamie was openly impressed by the communication between badger and horse. Sam said nothing, controlling the Falabella colt by pressure on different parts of his back. To make him jog, Sam lay flat on Tich’s back, his forepaws resting on the horse’s withers. He then worked his way forward a little, to where he could get hold of a chunk of Tich’s mane in his teeth. Once that was done, and the Badger felt secure, he gave the horse a light tap on both shoulders with both forepaws. Tich jogged. First he went away from the two watchers, and then Sam turned him and Tich came right back, accelerating to a loap as he passed Silver, Sam riding proud on the Falabella colt’s back. Once that was achieved twice more, frightening Silver every time, Sam brought the colt back to a jog, a walk, and then a halt. Sam stood up carefully, and at that signal, Tich lay down, allowing the Badger to dismount. Jamie, sensing the performance was at an end, applauded by thumping the track with his right forefoot. Silver favoured him with the same disbelieving expression she had Tich and Sam.
“Is you all mad?” She asked. Jamie replied:
“No we’re not. Wasn’t Tich brilliant!” Silver snapped:
“’ow would you know Jamie! You’s never done Western!” Jamie sighed heavily.
“Just because you hate me Silver, doesn’t mean the humans do too. I’ve done western style work loads of times.” Silver knew she’d made a huge blunder. Jamie asked:
“Who won the last western show held in the yard Silver?”
“You did Jamie,” the Falabella mare admitted. Jamie’s control suddenly snapped:
“Did I look like a horse who’d never done western before!” He screamed. Silver knew the Field horse had lost his temper, and she was the cause.
“No, no you didn’t, you were perfect, really good!” Silver stammered. Jamie advanced on the shorter horse, threatening her with serious damage. Silver took one look at Jamie, turned tail and fled! Jamie hared after her, leaving Sam and Tich standing looking after him. Tich said:
“Mum’s always doing this!”
“Doing what exactly?” the Badger asked.
“Getting herself into trouble with Field horses who, if she’d left them alone, wouldn’t have been any danger to her!” Tich whinnied. Sam went up to Tich and stroked the colt’s muzzle with a forepaw.
“Don’t worry about your mum Tich, she’ll be fine,” he soothed. Tich lay down so Sam could carry on with the muzzle massage. Closing his eyes, Tich let Sam work his magic over his whole body, from nose to tail, from ears to feet Sam worked on the Falabella colt, soothing and unscrambling his mind with every considered action. Lastly Sam removed Tich’s boots and worked on his fetlock joints and feet. By this time Tich was too far gone to respond. By the end of half an hour Tich was in a deep sleep. Sam went to find a few of his strongest family members, and together seven badgers lifted Tich off the track and carried him into the large entrance of their set, setting him down gently in the warm dry area. Throughout all this the colt slept, not even stirring when he was lifted from the track. Lastly, Sam ran out and collected all the mountain boots he could find. Matching them to how many feet each horse had, he should have twelve, or so he thought. He was right, there were twelve mountain boots lying around the bush that shielded the set from view.
Tich woke slowly. When he opened his eyes and saw a group of badgers lying round him, Tich wondered where on earth he was. Then he remembered Sam rubbing his muzzle, but that was all. What had that badger done to him? Tich moved his left foreleg, then his right, left hind, then right, testing to see if they’d done anything to him physically. He thought:
“Even if they are enemies, the sleep was worth it.” He didn’t really believe Sam would harm him, and he was right.
Seeing the Falabella colt was awake, Sam went up to Tich and asked:
“Did you have a good sleep?” Tich replied that he had and thanked Sam and his family for helping him to achieve it.
“That be no problem,” Said an old sow badger who seemed to be lying off to Tich’s right, he couldn’t be sure. Tich found he was able to stand in the set without difficulty. He didn’t think this unusual as he knew he was the smallest horse in the world, and being so, why shouldn’t he be able to do things other horses could never do? Sam introduced his family. First he coaxed forward a cub, who eyed Tich with interest.
“This is a horse?” the cub asked.
“yes Furcone, that’s right. He’s a very special horse though.” One of the older badgers, to Tich she looked like a grandparent, said:
“yes, he be a Falabella horse Furcone. They is very special horses, the smallest horse in the world so it be told.” Furcone smiled at the elder badger’s language. It suddenly hit Tich how alike his mothers and the badger’s languages were. He was glad to hear no swearing in the language of the badgers. Furcone went close to Tich and rubbed noses with him. Tich returned the complement.
“Would you mind if I took a look at you Tich?” Furcone asked. Tich marvelled at how up front this cub was, he liked that. Tich assented, and Furcone walked round him, first one way, then the other. Then he asked Tich to lift up each foot so that he could take a close look at his hooves. Tich obliged, feeling that if this cub knew all there was to know about him and his breed, he’d carry the knowledge to future generations of badgers. Furcone finished his examination of Tich and thanked him most graciously for letting him in on the secrets of the Falabella horse. Tich smiled warmly at the badger cub, and decided he liked Furcone a great deal. Sam came into the large chamber and suggested that Tich might like to eat. Tich was hungry, but didn’t like to impose that on his benefactors. Tich had to lower his head to get into the dining chamber, where the badgers had got hay, oats and water ready for him. For Tich, used to eating straw, hay was a great delicacy. Tich stood waiting for the signal that he could start eating, while the badgers waited for him to start eating. After a few minutes of this Sam said:
“Go ahead Tich, you can eat if you want.” Tich did so, and the hay was wonderful! He couldn’t eat it all, and wondered if leaving some would be considered an affront to his hosts, but he reasoned that if he couldn’t eat it, he couldn’t eat it and that was that. Once Tich had eaten and drunk all he could, he thanked the badgers for their generosity. A large heavy looking boar badger lumbered across to him and asked:
“You like food, yes?” Tich, thinking the badger was offering him more, replied:
“I’m sorry, but I really can’t eat any more.” The badger shook his head.
“No, you no understand me. You enjoy food?” To emphasise that he was talking about the food Tich had just eaten, the badger pointed at the colt’s belly. Tich got the message.
“Oh yes, the food was wonderful, thank you,” he said. The badger seemed satisfied and moved away.
Meanwhile, back at the yard, Silver and Jamie were arguing over Tich’s right to associate with Sam.
“Leave the poor chap alone Silver,” Jamie whinnied.
“What!” Silver exclaimed.
“What I mean is that Tich is old enough now to look after himself. He’s a very streetwise horse.” Silver nodded:
“yeah, ‘e’s well educated and knows a lot about this and that sort of thing, but I’s still worried about ‘im. ‘e’s my foal and I loves ‘im dearly,” Silver replied.
“If you love him Silver, let him go,” Jamie advised. Silver snorted:
“What does you mean? Not all that absence makes the ‘eart grow fonder n’all that crap. Surely you doesn’t mean that Jamie?”
“Sort of Silver,” The Field horse replied. Silver asked:
“Where’s Tich?” Jamie replied:
“He’s fine, and I don’t know where he is before you ask.”
“’ow can you know ‘e’s fine if you doesn’t know where ‘e is?” The mare asked.
“I left him with Sam. They get on well, real friends they are.” Silver snapped:
“That bloody badger’s wild! ‘e’s gonna ‘ave Tich eating strange food and doing all sorts of funny things! My foal’ll be into funny potions and be talking a strange language before ‘e knows what’s ‘it ‘im!” Jamie refrained from pointing out to Silver that her language wasn’t exactly conventional.
Back in the badger’s set, Tich had been invited to take a tour of the rooms. Sam took the colt down many passages, which took him deeper and deeper underground. Tich found he could see quite well, even in the darkest places, so he wasn’t worried. Sam took him to the far reaches of the set and showed him where he would be sleeping that night. When Tich asked the reason for him sleeping so far into the set, Sam replied that this was because Tich was their guest, and badgers are fiercely protective of their guests, and if the set should be invaded, then he would be protected. Tich liked that idea. He said:
“It’s the same for horses.”
“Quite so,” Sam replied. Sam said:
“As you can see Tich. We badgers are very clean. We change the bedding in the chambers once a day and never leave dirt about the set.” Tich commended Sam and his family for the cleanliness of the set.
“I wish some horses would keep their boxes in as immaculate condition. The humans do their best, but some horses always ruin it. Limerick box walks, and then complains she hasn’t got a bed to sleep on! The humans can’t keep raking her bed into shape for her can they?” Sam shook his head.
“No,” he said.
Meanwhile, Back at the yard, Silver was fretting about Tich’s safety. She came to my box and asked me where he could have got to.
“I don’t know Silver dear,” I said. The Falabella mare was close to tears by now.
“I ‘asn’t seen ‘im for eighteen hours now, ‘e could be anywhere! ‘e could even be dead for all I know.” At this thought she fell silent for a few minutes.
“Does you think Tich is dead B’?” She asked. I replied gently:
“No Silver, I don’t think he is. Tich knows a lot more than you think he does, he’ll be okay.” Silver walked away dispiritedly.
I didn’t know Sam that well, so when Silver told me Tich had gone with him I couldn’t give her any reassurance as to how the badger would treat the colt.
That night Silver lay in the seclusion of the place where the mares had their foals and thought about Tich. Josh came in and asked:
“Is you all right Silver?”
“Apart from ‘aving no idea where Tich is, yeah I’s fine,” Silver replied. Josh tried to reassure Silver that Tich would be fine.
“’e knows what’s what. From what Jamie said, Tich and Sam seem to be good friends.” Silver sighed heavily:
“yeah, I suppose them is good friends, but I’s still worried about my foal Josh.” She thought for a minute and then said:
“I’s gonna go and look for ‘im.”
“On your own?” Josh asked.
“yeah, if you doesn’t mind Josh. You sees, I wants to spend as long as I can out there, and the Manageress needs you ‘ere more than ever.” Silver’s statement was true enough. The yard had so many humans wanting to ride horses that things were hectic. Josh thought for a minute and then said:
“All right, but you promises me you’s gonna be careful Silver,” he said. Silver promised to take care, and as the stable clock struck midnight, she left the wood and made her way along the track towards the place where she and Jamie had met the badger earlier that day.
Silver made her way to the bush where the badger had emerged from the undergrowth.
“The bloody badger said ‘is set was ‘ere,” she thought. Silver pushed aside the bush and forced her way through.
Back in the badger’s set, Tich lay sleeping peacefully while Sam and his family held a conference as to whether they wanted to put it to Tich that he stay with them forever. Furcone said that he’d love the Falabella colt to stay.
“He’s really gentle,” was the cub’s verdict. The elder badgers were indifferent, Sam knew this wasn’t a problem. The elders seldom overruled the up and coming leaders of the family. So it was decided, if Tich agreed, that he should be allowed to stay with the badgers for as long as he wished.
Silver pressed on through the undergrowth, cursing the fact she was barefoot as her hooves gave her little grip on the slippery ground. She managed to scramble up a small slope, and then was confronted by a huge badger.
“What do you want with us?” The badger asked. Silver, upset and anxious, attacked the badger with all the force she could muster. Silver turned rear on to the guard and lashed out with a hind foot. The guard badger rolled away from the mare’s kick, getting to his feet and sprinting for the inside of the set.
“We’re being attacked!” He shouted.
Silver followed the badger into the first chamber of the set. Her eyes had just adjusted to the darkness when she was set upon by a gang of badgers!
Tich was woken by an urgent commotion as all the fit badgers went to battle stations.
“What’s going on?” he yawned.
“Our set’s being attacked!” one of the sow badgers replied. Tich stretched and then went to take a look. As he pressed through the throng of badgers going to their stations, he wondered what was attacking the set. Many badgers tried to send Tich back to his bed chamber, but he’d have none of it, and they couldn’t spend time persuading him, or force him, they had too much else to do. Tich managed to get to the centre of the action, and what he saw made him feel physically sick.
A gang of badgers had closed on a mare and they were throwing stones and sticks at her. Tich instantly recognised Silver and tried to shout over the din of battle:
“Stop! Please stop! You’re attacking my mum! She’s no danger to you! No danger at all!” But the badgers didn’t hear him. The sticks and stones hit Silver from every possible direction, two badgers had even managed to climb onto her back and were trying to bring her down. Tich saw the attack shifting to Silver’s legs. Some of the larger, heavier badgers were trying to pick up her forefeet and overbalance her, while Silver struck out at them with her hind feet. Tich tried to intervene, but was wrestled to the ground by two badgers, before he knew what was happening, he was bundled into a bed chamber and told that if he ventured outside, he’d be killed by their enemy. Tich tried to explain that this enemy was no enemy, but his own mother. The badgers, single minded creatures that they are, set themselves to protecting him, and nothing he said would dissuade them from that end.
Back in the main entrance to the set, Silver was now on her side, with the wind knocked out of her and eight badgers tying her legs together. Although she kicked and snapped, Silver found she couldn’t get hold of any of them. She scored once, lashing out furiously with her right hind foot. Her hoof caught Furcone square on his nose, killing him instantly. Once one of their number was dead, the Badgers didn’t give Silver another chance. They bound her legs together the ropes tied just above her fetlocks. Then a huge badger came to her head and muzzled her. Squealing hysterically, she was dragged out of the set. The badgers dragged Silver to a tree, and with the help of a couple of grey squirrels, they tied the ropes to a couple of sturdy branches, hauling Silver off the ground a few inches. They finished the job with a rope under her back, which was tied to the tree to support her so her legs wouldn’t get damaged from holding her entire weight. Once she was immobilised the badgers stood back and admired their handiwork. One then released the muzzle and stood back. Silver began to scream in anger and fear. She yelled:
“What ‘ave you done with my foal!” The badger who’d asked Tich if he liked the food squared up to the Falabella mare and replied:
“You attack set, that colt our guest, we defend set and guest like crazy. You learn no mess with badgers, yes?” Silver snapped:
“Your guest? Where the bloody ‘ell is Tich!” The huge badger replied:
“Is Tich name of bay colt?”
“yes yes yes! That’s ‘is name you stupid idiot!” Silver shrieked. The huge badger caught hold of Silver’s right ear and twisted it. She screamed in pain.
“You no call me an idiot! Me be best fighting badger in the wood, yes?” Silver threw her head around, trying to free her ear, but didn’t manage it. The badger persisted.
“me fight, you want see?” He asked. Silver, crying with the pain from the grip of the vice like paw on her ear replied:
“No, no, please, let me go!”
Meanwhile, Sam had returned to Furcone. The badger looked down at the lifeless cub in sad disbelief. Tears rolling down his face Sam whispered:
“My dear Furcone, my only cub, rest in peace.” Sam then went to take a look at Tich. He found the colt in the bed chamber where he’d been thrown. When Tich saw Sam’s face he asked:
“What happened?” Sam swallowed hard and replied shakily:
“My cub, Furcone’s dead, that mare killed him Tich!” The colt’s devastation was almost as acute as the badger’s.
“I, I’m so sorry,” Tich stammered. Sam tried not to cry in front of Tich, but didn’t manage it. The colt, feeling that he was in part responsible for the cub’s death, hung his head in shame. Feeling he could do nothing else to help, Tich embraced Sam, while the badger wept into his mane. There was a movement in the passage, and the big badger whom Tich had first met in the dining chamber came in. The badger watched Sam’s grief with a troubled expression. He said gruffly:
“I know what happened to cub in fight, I punish mare for crime. No mare kill badger and get away with it while me alive, I make mare pay for crime like crazy! She pay till dying day if I want her to.” Tich watched the huge badger walk away.
“What’ll he do to Silver Sam?” Tich asked gently. Sam sniffed and replied:
“Who knows, Alfonse is ruthless when dealing out justice.” Tich released Sam and followed the badger down the passage and out into the open.
The sight of his mother tied by her feet to a tree caused Tich great distress. Turning to Alfonse Tich asked:
“What’ll they do to my mum? They won’t kill her will they?” Alfonse replied.
“me no say what court decides. All I know is that court punish mare lots for killing cub. I no know what punishment be.” Silver caught sight of Tich and squealed:
“Tich! Oh Tich my darling!” hearing his mother’s anguished cry, Tich moved to go to her. Alfonse’s huge paw on his shoulder stopped him.
“You no go to her. You go, I make you pay for interfering with prisoner. That mare our prisoner, see? If you go, we make you like small mare.” Tich stepped back from the pressure of Alfonse’s paw.
The court convened. Evidence was taken on how Silver, Jamie and Sam had met on the track. The badgers discussed going to speak to Jamie, but ruled him out. Then Tich took the stand and gave an account of what he could remember of the western display and what followed after. Sam filled in the gaps in the colt’s account, so a full version of what happened came to light.
Then came Silver’s turn to give evidence in her defence. Alfonse marshalled all the badgers round her and then asked the Falabella mare to take the oath of truth.
“You listen to me mare,” Alfonse snapped. Silver cocked an ear in his direction. Alfonse said:
“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” Silver replied:
“yeah, I does.” Alfonse warned:
“If you lie, I smash you into dust!” Silver squealed:
“I understand you! I will tell the truth!”
“Go ahead,” the presiding badger said. Silver was about to give her account when there was the heavy sound of a large horse coming near. Silver instantly recognised Josh’s step. Sure enough he came into sight, and when he saw Silver and the badgers crowded round her, he demanded:
“What the ‘ell’s this!” Tich replied:
“Mum came looking for me, attacked a badger, got into a fight with the whole family, she killed a cub, and now they’re trying her for her crime.” Josh looked horrified!
“’ow can this be ‘appening!” He whinnied. Alfonse approached the huge Shire horse and said:
“That mare, she make big crime against badgers. We try her for killing cub. You no interfere with trial, or you end like mare, right?” Josh had never been spoken to like this before, and certainly not by a badger. Josh lost his temper, running forward, trying to trample the badgers under foot. Of course, the moment the new threat was perceived, the badgers closed ranks and defended themselves. Before Josh knew what was happening he had been knocked off his feet, falling painfully onto the track. Then his boots were removed and thrown away, before they bound his legs together and muzzled him. Now the Shire horse was immobilised, Alfonse called all the badgers to him.
“We defend set for second time in day. First against small mare, then against large bad tempered gelding. We do very well, I much proud of all badgers. Now we decide what do with small mare and large gelding. I think punish them both. We no kill them so learn from their mistakes. Me teach large bad mannered gelding lesson. How say you badgers?” All the badgers agreed.
Alfonse went to Josh’s head and untied the muzzle. As soon as the muzzle fell from his nose Josh snapped at the badger. Alfonse dropped the rope and took hold of the Shire horse’s left ear in both paws, twisting it sharply. Josh squealed in agony and threw his head about, with the badger hanging on. Josh yelled:
“If I could get free, I’d murder you Badger! You ‘ave no right to do this to me or Silver! I ‘ate you and your family!” Alfonse walked round Josh, touching his ears, his hooves, and his tail, showing the Shire horse that the badgers were in charge. Alfonse looked closely at Josh’s right hind foot.
“You have large feet shire horse,” he commented. Josh was proud of his hooves, and the badger’s comment made him smile briefly. Alfonse then said:
“That small mare and her foal have small hooves.” Silver yelled:
“Stop saying ‘orrid things about my ‘ooves! Them’s good for me and that’s all there is to it!” Alfonse went to Silver and said:
“me not putting hooves down, me impressed with hooves, both yours and big geldings.” Silver asked:
“Please, could you tell us what our punishment is?” Alfonse looked into Silver’s eyes. He asked:
“Tell me mare, you repent of crime? You sorry for killing cub? You no do that again?” Silver replied faintly:
“It was a fight, I was scared, I wouldn’t usually harm anyone! I is sorry, truly I’s sorry for what I’s done to your family.” Silver’s eyes filled with tears:
“All I want is to cuddle my foal,” she sobbed. Alfonse went back to Josh and asked:
“You gelding, you love small mare, yes?” Josh replied:
“Very much.” Alfonse then asked:
“In normal life, she dangerous? She kill other foals?” Josh was appalled!
“No! No ‘er doesn’t do that! Where the ‘ell did you get that from? Silver’s gentle! She wouldn’t ‘urt a fly!” He protested. Alfonse went to find Sam, who came out to Josh. Sam said:
“Alfonse doesn’t believe you Josh. He needs more proof. Where’s your leader?” Josh hesitated:
“’e don’t believe me?” he asked.
“No, sorry,” Sam replied. Josh snorted with derision.
“Beyancca’s back at the yard, but who’s gonna get ‘er?” Sam went away to consult with Alfonse. After five minutes he returned and said:
“We will send a badger. It has been decided that neither you, Silver or Tich may leave here.” Josh was angry!
“What! Does you think I’s gonna leave and never return? That’s my mate and my foal you ‘as with you!” Sam asked:
“Tich is yours?” Josh snapped:
“No, not in that sense, but I loves ‘im like ‘e’s mine.”
Back in the yard, I had begun to wonder where Josh, Silver and Tich had got to when a badger came into the yard and asked me to follow him. As I had nothing doing, I complied. The sight that greeted me when I reached the set shocked me.
“What happened!” I demanded. Silver, tears rolling down her face, told me what had taken place. I walked up to Alfonse and told him that Josh and Silver were extremely sorry for what they’d done, and could they please go free. Alfonse took one look at me and consented.
“Let mare and gelding go,” he commanded. Silver was lowered to the ground and untied by Sam and his mate, while Josh was freed by Alfonse. Josh got up and flexed his legs.
“Where is my boots?” He asked. Alfonse retrieved the Shire horse’s boots and helped him on with them. I asked:
“Where are Silver’s, Tich’s and Jamie’s boots?” These were quickly found and stuffed into a saddlebag for me to carry back to the yard. Silver staggered over and leant against me panting hard. I put my nose down to hers and rubbed it.
“You doesn’t know ‘ow glad I is to see you B’,” Silver said. I asked:
“what’s gonna happen to Tich?” Silver shook her head:
“Don’t know,” she replied. Tich then appeared and came across to his mother. The two horses hugged each other tightly.
“What’re you gonna do Tich?” Silver asked. The colt replied:
“I’m coming home mum. I like the badgers very much, but I want to go home now.” Suddenly he buried his face in Silver’s mane and sobbed:
“Take me home mum!” Silver caressed her foal, nuzzling and fussing over him.
“You’ll be ‘ome as soon as possible,” she promised. Josh picked up the saddlebag in his teeth, flung it over his shoulder and walked away. Silver, Tich and I followed, leaving the badgers watching our departure.
When we got back to the yard Silver, Tich, Josh and I had a conference in my box.
“What the hell happened back there?” I asked.
“It’s a very long story B’,” Tich replied.
“It’s also very strange,” Silver said, “’ave you ever seen a badger riding on an ‘orse’s back B’?” I shook my head:
“No, I’ve never seen that,” I replied.
“Well that’s what I saw!” Silver whinnied.
“What badger and what horse?” I asked.
“Sam and Tich, who else could ‘ave done something so silly?” Silver asked.
“Sam?” I asked. Silver replied:
“yeah, ‘e’s a badger, Tich seems to ‘ave struck up a friendship with ‘im.” The name Sam triggered off a memory, very far back in my mind. I thought:
“Sam, Sam, a badger, badger, hmm.” Then something else:
“One dark night, Chantilly had asked,,,, yes!” I was so excited that I cried out:
“Yes I know Sam!” Both Silver and Tich leapt a mile!
“You know him?” Tich asked. I recounted the story of my night time wander with Chantilly, Jasper and Brydy.
“He’s the same badger isn’t he?” I asked.
“yep, one and the same,” Tich confirmed. I asked:
“What happened at the badger’s place? Please let me in on what went on,” I pleaded. Silver looked at Tich:
“You tell ‘er Tich, I’s still unable to believe what I’s seen!” Tich began his tale, and when he came to the point where Silver attacked the badger, setting all other events in train, I asked:
“So those badgers really took a shine to you Tich.” The colt smiled:
“Yes they did, and I did them too. If mum hadn’t come looking for me I’d have spent a few more days with them. I’d have come back of course.” Then he became sad:
“During the fight,” Tich said, “Mum lashed out and killed Furcone. She didn’t mean to, but that led to her trial, and everything else.” Tich then finished the tale, ending when I’d come on the scene.
“It sounds incredible!” I whinnied.
“It might, but it really happened,” Tich replied. Silver said:
“I can’t believe what ‘appened! It’s totally mad, screwy even!” I asked:
“Tich was being ridden by Sam?” Tich smiled at the memory and said:
“yes he was riding me.” Silver snapped:
“You’s a silly foal Tich. ‘ow can you expect Sam to ride you in competition? You’s a silly ‘orse!” Tich turned and walked out of the box.
“I think you’ve upset him,” I said.
“I’s only protecting ‘im, ‘e’s all I’s got. I only wants to protect ‘im B’, ‘e’s my foal!” Josh said:
“’e needs to be left to find ‘is own way now Silver. Tich is nearly two years old now! Please my darling, let ‘im experiment with things. Working Western style with a badger on ‘is back isn’t the worst thing ‘e could get into is it?”
“No,” Silver admitted.
“Right, tell you what you’s got’a do now. You goes to Tich, tells ‘im you’s sorry and try to make amends for what you’s said. Then you let’s ‘im do what ‘e wants. What was that you said ages ago about guiding but not restricting ‘im?” Silver turned and fled after her foal.
When he was out of the box, Tich ran, he galloped down the track to where he knew Sam’s set to be. Panting hard he flung himself through the now trampled undergrowth, landing on his side and ending up prostrate in the entrance to the set. Hearing the crashing arrival of something in the entrance, Alfonse went to take a look and found Tich shivering and sobbing on the floor.
“You in bad way colt?” The badger asked. Tich sniffed and replied:
“yes, I’m, I need, need sanctuary! Please, can, can I stay for a while?” Alfonse thought:
“It wasn’t colt who caused cub’s death. He good colt, he worthy of our help.” He said:
“Yes, we help you, no problem, come.” He beckoned Tich into the interior of the set. Passing the dining chamber, Tich caught sight of Sam. The colt and the badger made eye contact, Sam said:
“hey Tich, are you all right?” Tich flung himself at the badger, attempting to hug him.
“Hey! What’s up Tich mate?” Sam asked. Tich sobbed into the badger’s fur:
“I’ve got’a get out of there, mum’s treating me like a foal, and I’m not! I want my own life and she isn’t letting me have it!” Sam nuzzled the colt’s ear.
“Come in here Tich, then we can talk,” he said softly. Tich followed the badger into a chamber with a soft flooring.
“Our council room,” Sam explained, “we won’t be disturbed here. Lie down here Tich.” He patted the floor with his forepaw. Tich lay down beside him.
“Now what’s been going on?” The badger asked. Tich sniffed and replied:
“I’ve had enough! My mum, she keeps checking up on me, and I’m sick of it!” Sam said:
“Maybe she’s concerned about you Tich. You’re all she’s got in the world, and she’s frightened of losing you.” Almost sobbing Tich said:
“I love her dearly, I’d never hurt her, but I’m my own horse! I need my own space to do what I want to do without my mum interfering. That’s all I want Sam! Is that too much to ask?” The badger replied:
“No it’s not Tich. Maybe if you discuss your problems with her, then she might understand.” Tich sighed heavily:
“yes, she might, but I can’t do it now! What I need now is peace and quiet. Sam, can, can I stay with you for a bit?” The badger was delighted!
“yes, please do! Furcone will be so happy.” Tich held up a forefoot to stop him.
“Sam, Furcone’s dead,” he said gently. Sam stopped abruptly.
“Oh, yes, he is isn’t he,” He said sadly.
Meanwhile, back at the yard, Silver was racing all over the place looking for Tich. Josh found her lying up in the secluded stabling, resting after an hour of charging round in search of her foal. Josh asked:
‘ave you found Tich yet?” Silver exploded:
“No I bloody asn’t! Does you think I’s gonna be in this state if I’d found ‘im?” She was close to tears.
“Where could ‘e ‘ave got to Josh?” Silver wailed.
“Maybe Tich went to the badger’s place Silver,” Josh suggested. Silver was horrified!
“No! ‘e can’t ‘ave gone there! Could ‘e? Then why would ‘e?”
“Why not if ‘e felt Safe there Silver. Maybe you ‘asn’t been listening to what ‘e’s been saying to you. Tich wants freedom! ‘e wants to live ‘is own life, make ‘is own decisions, you know?”
“I loves ‘im Josh! I doesn’t want ‘im to come to ‘arm!” Silver squealed.
“’e won’t! Tich ‘as a brain in ‘is ‘ead don’t ‘e? Anyway, ‘e’s a nice ‘orse, noone will wan’a ‘urt ‘im Silver,” he reassured her. Silver asked:
“Why did Tich leave? Is it because I’s a bad mother? Look at me! I’s not the cleverest ‘orse on the planet, I’s unable to read, Tich taught me all I’s knowing about things. I’s failed ‘im Josh!” Josh was becoming irritated by his mate’s pessimism.
“Silver! Now you listens to me! Tich love you as much as ‘e always did! You ‘as been a good mum to ‘im, ‘e’s proof of that! Now stop worrying will you!” he yelled. Silver ran away screaming.
Josh followed her down the track to where the badger’s set was. Silver threw herself into the undergrowth and disappeared from Josh’s view. Two seconds later Silver exploded from the undergrowth, a shower of sticks and stones following her. She staggered over towards Josh and collapsed in front of him. She squealed:
“My foal’s in there! Now you sees what I’s got’a deal with Josh!” Josh nuzzled Silver’s ear.
“It’s all right Silver darling. Tich’ll be fine love, you’ll see,” he said. Suddenly there was a commotion in the undergrowth and Alfonse came lumbering into the open. Favouring Silver with distaste he said:
“That mare, she interfere with badgers. We no like mare, mare get out of badger’s lives or mare die, right?” Josh snapped:
“Silver’s worried about Tich! ‘er’s got the right to be worried about ‘er foal ‘asn’t she?” Alfonse grunted:
“yes, she has right to worry about colt, but she has no need. Colt very safe! We like colt, so he in no danger from badgers.” Tich scrambled into view.
“Mum?” he said. Silver raised her head and looked at her foal.
“Tich!” She whinnied. She started to rise, but Alfonse pushed her back.
“You no move mare. You move, we attack you like crazy!” Whimpering with distress, Silver lay back on the forest floor. Tich said:
“Look mum, I want you to listen to me. I love you dearly, I don’t want to hurt you, but I want my own life! I want to make my own decisions. Can’t you understand that?” Silver looked into her foal’s eyes.
“I, I knows you’s older now Tich, course I does, but, well, I’s finding it ‘ard to let go. I’s sorry that you feel’s that way, I’ll try ‘arder not to come after you all the time.” Tich went to Silver and hugged her.
“Thanks mum,” he said. Alfonse released Silver and she got to her feet. Once she was standing, Tich and Alfonse disappeared into the set. When they’d gone, Silver turned to Josh and said sadly:
“Suppose we’d better get back to the yard ‘adn’t we.” Wordlessly Josh followed Silver slow, foot dragging progress back the way they’d come. About half way, Silver stopped and lay down weeping on the track. Although he suspected he knew what was troubling her, Josh asked:
“What’s the matter Silver love?” The Falabella mare replied:
“I’s feeling rejected!” Confused, Josh asked:
“Yeah,” Silver said, “Tich ‘as left me, and ‘e’s not coming back, ever! I suppose I should’ve known this would ‘appen, stallions are all like that, and Tich is no exception. Them’s always leaving their ‘erds, where the mare’s don’t! They stays till them’s dead!” Josh said gently:
“But Silver darling, that’s natural, Stallions do move from their birth ‘erd, you can’t change that. Tich ‘asn’t found ‘is ‘erd yet, but ‘e will someday, just like Stallions before ‘im ‘ave in the past.” Silver struggled to her feet and stumbled forward. Seeing his mate’s distress, Josh asked:
“Silver darling, can I ‘elp?” She looked up into his eyes.
“I, I means, could, could you just stay with me Josh? It don’t sound much I knows, but that’s what I need.” Josh looked at the sky and saw black clouds.
“Look Silver love, it’s gonna rain soon, ‘ow about if we get into somewhere dry ay?” Mechanically, Silver walked down the track. Josh watched her struggling forward, and it upset him.
“Look, Silver, please, please listen to me love! I can sees you’s in trouble. ‘ere, let me carry you ‘ome. I can see you can’t walk.” Josh lay down and Silver clambered onto his back, boots and all. The Shire horse got to his feet and walked back to the yard carrying Silver.
Once they’d reached the yard, Josh lay down and Silver slid off his back. They wandered aimlessly round the yard unable to think of anything to do, when Confiada, who’d been let out of her prison on rare licence, spotted them from her field and came towards them. Both Silver and Josh stopped walking, letting Confiada come right up to the electrified fence that kept her confined. Feeling he must make a move, Josh asked:
“’ow is you Confi’?” Confiada glared at the Shire horse and spat on the ground at his feet. Angered by her actions, Silver asked crossly:
“Why doesn’t you reply! Josh ‘as been kind enough to asks you ‘ow you is and you’s being disrespectful!” Confiada leered at Silver and snapped:
“I’m not replying to anyone who refers to me by that, that bastardised version of my name!” Silver was unimpressed by this excuse.
“What’s wrong with it? Beyancca’s name is often shortened, to one letter even, and she don’t mind. Even my name’s shortened,,,”
“Shortened?” Confiada asked, “How can you shorten Midget?” Snorting with indignation, Silver replied:
“No, I means Silver! It’s shortened from Silver Lady, you sees now?” Sighing heavily, Confiada replied:
“Shortening a name is so common! And you are a midget! A snivelling scrap! You’re no good for anything! Noone can ride you, you can’t pull a cart of any size or weight, you’re no use! No use at all! All you are good for is a crowd puller! The humans say, “Come and see the smallest horse in the world,” Come and see her do what? Nothing! You don’t do a dam thing! Face facts Silver, you’re useless! As for that foal of yours, where is he by the way? I haven’t seen him lately, not that I really want to. Anyway, he’s as useless as you! Oh, while I’m at it, I read that book your disgusting offspring had nicked from the Manageress’s house. It’s interesting, you’re all inbred! Every dam one of your breed is inbred! No wonder your so useless! Anything of use was bred out of you years ago.” Where is your foal Silver? You should know better than anyone, you keep track of him pretty much twenty four seven, he must be sick of it, what a bloody awful life for him!” Silver hesitated:
“’e’s, ‘e’s in the wood,” She replied. Confiada caught the scent of a cover up and asked:
“Where in the wood is he? I ask this because I heard some silly tale from a rat that he’d seen a badger and a small horse attempting what looked to the rat like western style on a track not far from here. Is it true Silver? Was that horse your foal?” Silver couldn’t deny it. She thought:
“If Confiada knows all that, then ‘ow much else does she know?” She said:
“Yeah, that was Tich.” Confiada smiled maliciously:
“Well,” she said, “Isn’t that nice for you. Your foal got in with a load of badgers. I’ve also heard that this badger managed to seduce your foal to such an extent that he went into their set and is now considered one of them. You’ve not done a very good job of bringing up your foal if the first thing he does is go off with a band of badgers Silver! You’re useless, and that proves it!” Silver was devastated:
“’ow can you say that! I done the best I could with what I knew! Tich ain’t a bad ‘orse, ‘e’s kind, gentle, knows all ‘e needs to, all that and more! ‘e taught me a lot too, and as for ‘im going off with “a load of badgers” as you put it, ‘e’s not gone forever, at least I ‘ope ‘e ‘asn’t,,” Confiada pounced upon Silver’s uncertainty:
“You mean you don’t know? You’ve no idea whether your disgusting foal is coming back?” Silver, now realising for the first time what happened on the track, replied faintly:
“No, Confiada I doesn’t know whether ‘e’s coming back.” Satisfied she’d achieved her objective, Confiada withdrew to the other side of the field, turning her back on Josh and Silver.
Josh looked down at Silver.
“Don’t worry about ‘er Silver, she ain’t worth worrying about my dear.” Silver turned and walked away, Josh following in her wake.
She led Josh up the track and into the wood where the secluded stabling stood. When they reached the door, Silver yanked it open and beckoned Josh inside. Hesitating for a minute, Josh asked:
“You want me in there?” Silver replied:
“yeah, I does Josh.” The Shire horse protested:
“But Silver, that’s your place, not mine! You told me that stallions weren’t allowed in there! All right, I ain’t a stallion, but I’s male, and that’s enough for me to be excluded ain’t it?” Josh regretted his words the minute they were out. The look Silver gave him would have killed him ten times over. She yelled:
“I knows I’s said that in the past, but now I’s saying I wants you ‘ere!”” Silver’s expression softened suddenly. She said, her voice almost cracking:
“I, I need you ‘ere, now. ‘ere is the only place we can get peace, and I wants it with you, not without you Josh. I need to get a few things straight in my ‘ead, and I need you to ‘elp me, if you will. So, please Josh, come in ‘ere and lie down.” Josh did so, lying down on the straw. Silver pulled the door closed behind her and settled beside her mate. She cuddled up close to Josh, hugging The Shire horse tightly.
“Josh, I, I need to talk to you, sort something out,” She said. Josh nuzzled the Falabella mare’s ear.
“Yes Silver darling, go on, tell me,” he said gently. Silver sighed heavily and replied:
“About what Confiada said, all that about my breed being inbred? Well, it’s true! I’m sorry to say it, but she’s right! Tich read me that book, and it says as much!”
“Yeah, you might be, but that ain’t your fault Silver. Confiada’s blaming you for your in’erritance, and she can’t do that! It ain’t your fault my love, you ain’t useless,,” Silver shrieked:
“But I is! I’s unable to do work, not work like you does anyway. I’s unable to pull a carriage, unable even to carry riders! So what’s my job? My reason for being ‘ere?”
“Only the Manageress knows why your ‘ere Silver, and she’s the only one that needs to ‘ave a reason for you being ‘ere. As for me, I doesn’t mind what you does to earn your place ‘ere, I loves you too much to worry about things like the work you does.” Silver buried her face in Josh’s mane, tears rolling down her nose. Josh nuzzled her neck saying gently:
“I’s never gonna leave you Silver.” After a short while, Silver’s tears dried and she calmed down a little. Josh was wondering if his mate had anything else to discuss when she asked:
“Why does you think Confiada says what she did?”
“Jealousy maybe,” Josh replied.
“Jealousy? Why should Confiada, a mare who ‘as everything a mare could want, be jealous of me!”
“Because you ‘as something she’d love to ‘ave Silver. You ‘as the love and respect of all the ‘orses ‘ere. Confiada ‘as none of that, and she can’t ‘andle it. That was what drove ‘er to say what she did. Confiada tried to get to you in the only way she knew.” Silver squealed:
“Yeah, and she was right n’all! It ‘urt me to ‘ear my breed dragged through the mud like that Josh! It ‘urt me big time, and the worse thing is, I’s thinking she knows it did. I doesn’t want ‘er to ‘ave that Satisfaction, but she knows that I’s given it ‘er.” Josh hugged Silver tightly and said:
“I think you’s beautiful Silver, and what anyone else thinks is no matter.” Silver gulped back a fresh rush of tears.
“Josh, stay ‘ere, please, stay ‘ere tonight, I want you ‘ere with me,” She said. Josh settled down in the straw, feeling contented with his lot, safe in the knowledge that he loved Silver and she loved him. Silver settled down beside the huge Shire horse and rested her nose on his neck.
I found them like this some time later when I passed the stabling on my way back to the yard using the scenic route. Hearing my approach, Silver and Josh scrambled to their feet looking acutely embarrassed.
“I know what you were up to, and I think it’s lovely,” I said.
“’ow long ‘ave you been ‘ere?” Silver demanded.
“Oh, only a few minutes, long enough to take stock of the situation though,” I replied. Josh looked lovingly at Silver and said:
“It shouldn’t matter what anyone sees, it ain’t no secret is it?”
“No, I ‘ope it ain’t,” Silver replied. Jinja appeared through the trees. Seeing him Josh whinnied:
“’ow the ‘ell did ‘e get ‘ere!” Jinja clearly didn’t expect to find anyone in the wood for the poor horse leapt a mile when he realised there were other horses around.
“Have, have I interrupted something?” He asked anxiously.
“Oh no, it’s just Silver and Josh having a lovy dovey moment,” I replied. Jinja smiled with genuine pleasure.
“That’s nice. It’s nice that horses can still do that,” he said softly. Josh suddenly exclaimed:
“I love Silver so much, and I don’t care who knows it!” Jinja’s eyes shone with youthful delight, as if he were in love with the Falabella mare. Josh saw this and smiled broadly.
“;e’s ‘appy, that’s made ‘is day I’ll bet,” he thought. As for Silver, she was trying not to cry. Josh looked down at her:
“Silver darling, is you all right?” He asked gently. Silver laughed slightly:
“Yep, I, I just, well, it’s silly really, but I thinks you’re the greatest ‘orse on the planet!” Turning to Jinja I said:
“You know what Jinj’? I think they’re in love.” Josh nuzzled and licked Silver’s ear. She cuddled close to him and sighed contentedly.
The spell was broken by the sound of cantering horses. Valencia and Millie came racing through the trees, pulling up sharply when they realised they weren’t alone. Millie had grown considerably since I’d last seen her about four months previously. Seeing me, she came towards me and moved to hug me. Valencia warned her off.
“She’s herd leader Millie! You can’t approach your herd leader like that without permission!”
“But mum, Beyancca’s my friend, I’ve known her ages!” Millie protested. Valencia replied sharply:
“That’s no matter. You were younger then, you knew no better. You didn’t understand about protocol. A horse may not approach his or her leader in a familiar fashion until they are told they can do so Millie! I think hugging Beyancca is too familiar, don’t you?” Moving towards Millie I said:
“How about if I make the first move, then maybe that’ll be seen as correct in your mother’s eyes Millie.” Millie smiled at my tone, Valencia was furious!
“How can you say that! You’re leader Beyancca, young horses need to be told to respect you!”
“Told to respect me?” I asked, “Why should young horses be told to respect anyone? Respect is earned, not taught. If Millie feels respect for me, then that’s good, but this is due to her wanting to respect me. If she doesn’t want to, then that’s her right.” Valencia snapped:
“But it’s protocol! It’s the way it’s always been done! It’s traditional!”
“Traditional? Valencia, is it traditional to show false respect?” Valencia stared at me. I said:
“I don’t think treating a herd leader like she’s a god or something is a very good way to go. I’m as fallible as the next horse, despite me being leader. Valencia, remember this, just because I am leader, doesn’t mean that I should be made into some kind of super-horse!” Valencia snapped:
“But you are! You defeated Confiada over and over again, remember that? Then there’s Josh, your foal, he’s able to control Confiada, no other horse can do that!”
“I’m not Josh’s natural parent Valencia,” I said. She stared at me in confusion.
“You’re not? How can that be? He calls you mum, you look after him n’all that.” I said:
“Josh’s birth mother died shortly after he was born. His first foster mum was trampled by a rampaging herd of Shire horses, and now I’m looking after him. Although sometimes I think it’s the other way round.” Millie said:
“I think Josh is wonderful! He’s so kind and gentle to everyone,,”
“Are you sure you’ve got the right horse?” Her mother asked sharply.
“Oh yes mum, I’ve got the right horse. Josh is kind and gentle. Well, to those who don’t cross him he is.” Valencia grimaced and walked away. Millie watched her go.
“Just because you don’t like him doesn’t mean everyone else has to think the way you do mum!” She yelled.
My attention was distracted by Candy who was picking her way carefully through the trees carrying the Manageress. Catching sight of Josh the Manageress reigned Candy to a halt and dismounted, leaving Candy to do what she liked. The Manageress approached Josh and walked round him several times, seeming to appraise him from all angles. She then went up close to the massive Shire gelding and ran her hand down his left foreleg. Knowing instantly that this meant she wanted him to pick his foot up, Josh leant on that leg, absolutely refusing to do as the human wanted.
“Come on Josh, don’t be a sod,” the Manageress remonstrated.
“I knows that you knows I ‘ates people ‘andling my ‘ooves!” He squealed. The Manageress stroked his neck, trying to coax him to do as she wanted. In the end Josh complied, lifting his left forefoot clear of the ground. The human removed his boot and looked at his hoof. She then dropped the foot and proceeded to examine the other three. The Manageress left Josh’s boots off, so by the end of her examination he was barefoot. The human then checked him all over, not missing an inch. By this time Josh was getting a little concerned about all this attention.
“What the ‘ell’s going on? Why is you checking me over like I’s got the plague or something ‘uman? ‘ere candy! Can you tells me what ‘er’s up to?” Josh whinnied. Candy stopped cropping the grass and looked up.
“Oh, um, well, the Manageress wants to show you,” she replied.
“Show me what?” Josh asked. Candy laughed:
“No! What I mean is, she wants to put you in a show for Shire horses.”
“Does I get a choice in this?” The Shire horse asked.
“Um, er, no,” Candy replied. Josh asked Gruffly:
“So what’s your verdict then ‘uman? Is you gonna show me to all them other ‘umans? ‘as I passed your inspection?”
“I’ll ignore your tone, and for your sake, and that of the yard’s, I hope the other horses do too Josh. As to your question, yes I am going to show you, but there’ll have to be some changes.” Josh’s suspicion was aroused:
“Changes? What Changes is them ‘uman?” The Manageress replied:
“As to your attire, those boots will have to go.”
“My boots? You’s only just given ‘em to me, now you’s taking ‘em away? Why is you doing this to me? I likes my boots!” Josh complained. The Manageress put her arms round his neck and hugged him.
“Look Josh mate, if it were up to me you would go as you are, but it’s not up to me. I have to abide by the rules of showing Shire horses.”
“So what is I gonna wear on my feet? Nothing? Is I gonna be barefoot like I always was?” Josh asked.
“Um, no, not quite. You have to wear horseshoes,,,” Seeing the look of disgust on Josh’s face the human added quickly:
“But they’d be special ones, just for you, your own set!” Josh yelled:
“’ow does you expect me to wear ‘orseshoes? I’s never worn ‘em in my life! ‘ow is I gonna ever get used to ‘em!”
“You’re gonna have to aren’t you,” the Manageress said finally. With that she mounted Candy and departed, taking Josh’s boots with her. Josh watched his boots disappearing into the wood.
“Oh well, I’s barefoot for now,” he muttered. Turning to Silver he asked:
“Silver love, ‘as you ever worn ‘orseshoes?” The Falabella mare shook her head.
“No I ‘asn’t Josh. I’s always been barefoot like you. Well, until I got the boots of course.” Josh turned to me and asked me the same question.
“I’ve worn horseshoes, yes Josh,” I replied.
“What’s it like?” He asked.
“Like having four heavy feet for a bit,” I said. Josh grimaced and snorted:
“Bugger that! I’s not ‘aving that! I’s been barefoot for my ‘ole life so far and I’s not wearing ‘orseshoes for anyone, not even the Manageress!”” Silver reminded him that:
“You’s been wearing boots for the last few months Josh.”
“All right, I ‘as that, but that’s been my choice, I wasn’t forced into wearing them boots was I!” I saw what Josh wanted. If he came to the decision that wearing horseshoes was a good idea, then he might wear them on the day. I thought maybe if he saw me wearing them, then he might. It was a slim chance, but it was there.
The next day I went to the Manageress’s house and banged on the door until I got an answer. The Manageress was surprised to see me on her doorstep, for it was Jinja’s privilege to come this close, not mine. Even so, she didn’t seem to mind me overstepping the mark, after all, I am herd leader.
“What do you want?” The human asked. I explained my plan to get Josh wearing horseshoes in time for the show, whenever that was. The Manageress listened to my plan and seemed to agree with it.
“Let me get this straight,” the human said, “You want me to fit you with horseshoes so Josh sees you wearing them and might think of wearing them himself?” I nodded. The Manageress reminded me that:
“Last time I tried to shoe you you fought me like mad! I take it that you won’t do the same again?” I shook my head.
“I’ll try not to,” I said. The Manageress came up close to me and ran her hand down my left hind leg towards the fetlock. Gripping gently she commanded:
“Pick it up!” Immediately my mind and body seized up with naked panic. I don’t know what causes this, but whenever I think of having, or get to the stage of having my feet handled the thought repels me. I think it’s the sensation of the hoof pick being run over the sole of my foot that I hate. It must be stated here that a hoof is just horn, but the frog of a horse’s foot has a degree of sensitivity still. The feeling of the hoof pick on the sole of my foot makes me tense up and really want to kick whoever is putting me through the torment! So I knew that to let the Manageress handle my hooves without complaint was a great struggle for me. I lifted my foot with trepidation, waiting for the fear and unpleasantness to kick in. The human undid that boot, and then turned her attention to the other three, that was all right. Once I was barefoot she got a hoof pick, the sight of which made me clench my teeth involuntarily. I could feel the tension building in me and it hadn’t even started! Taking a few deep breaths I tried to control the rising panic. The Manageress Asked me to pick my left forefoot up, then she sensed my growing agitation and dropped the foot she was working on. Straightening up she came to my head and began stroking my ears and neck, trying to soothe me.
“I don’t like it! I can’t stand it!” I wailed. The human hugged and petted me, trying to calm me enough to continue her task, but I was too upset to let her continue her work.
“It was your idea Beyancca,” she reminded me.
“I know that, I know that! I thought I’d be able to cope with the treatment that has to be gone through to make my hooves suitable for shoeing, but I can’t go through with it, I can’t!” I yelled.
“All right, I’ll stop then,” The Manageress said. Looking down at my hooves I replied:
“yeah, please stop, I don’t think I can cope with it.” The human hugged me once more.
“You are so funny Beyancca,” she said.
“Funny?” I queried.
“Yes, you say you want something and then when you get it you hate it,” she replied. I said:
“I so want to see Josh win in the Shire horse show, and if he won’t wear the proper shoes, someone has to make him see that it is only right that he should. I so want to show him that it’s the only way, but I hate having my hooves handled by anyone. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is.”
Meanwhile, Josh had gone to the livery yard to find out more about the art of showing horses. Entering the yard he felt all the inhabitants were staring at him thinking:
“Oh no! Here comes a rough looking horse. How uncouth, how disgusting!” Josh approached a fine looking Arab mare, who to him looked the most approachable of the horses he could see. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves he asked:
“Excuse me, can you tells me a bit about showing ‘orses?” The Arab mare stared at him in incomprehension.
“Pardon?” She said. Josh tried again.
“Can you tells me what showing ‘orses is like? You sees, the Manageress ‘as told me ‘er’s thinking of entering me in a show for Shire ‘orses, and I’s never been to a show before, let alone been shown to other ‘umans in the way them likes. So would you please tell me ‘ow it’s done? What does I ‘ave to do to get through it?” The Arab mare turned to the horse on her right and asked:
“Do you know what this walking haystack is saying? I can’t work it out!” The Arab mare had addressed her question to a Welsh Palomino mare who favoured Josh with interest. The Welsh Palomino mare said:
“I don’t know what you’re going to think of me when I do this Sasha, but it’s got to be done. You asked me to translate what the Shire horse said, well I’ll do it. Please let me put his mind at rest first.” With that she dropped her H’s and said:
“You’s got no need to worry about it mate. By the way, what’s your name?” Josh, relieved that someone spoke like he did, replied:
“My name’s Josh, what’s yours?” The Welsh Palomino smiled and replied.
“Tequila.” Sasha snorted with disgust!
“How can you drop your H’s in that awful manner! I’d never have thought it of you Tequila! You’re just as common as that haystack!” Tequila replied:
“Sasha, you know nothing of where I came from do you? Well, I’ll tell you. I was born into a rough herd of Palomino horses, who had broken away from the main herd in a livery stable and gone wild. I was rounded up with a load of others and sold by the owner of the land on which we lived. Josh here is not a bad horse just because he talks the way he does.” Sasha snorted and averted her gaze.
“Don’t be such a stuck up bitch Sasha!” Tequila yelled, “Josh only wants to know what horse shows are like! It’s not his fault that he’s been entered for one. The humans must have thought him worthy of it or they wouldn’t have done it!” Sasha snapped:
“He’s disgusting! He’s a walking haystack, and he speaks like he’s got no education at all! Horses like that should be made to stay on the scrap heap of life where they belong! Josh, in my view you’re a common riding horse and little else! You’re too big for precision work like dressage, you probably couldn’t be used for vaulting in a million years, and as for your aesthetic qualities, well, let me tell you this! All you’re good for is, well, I don’t know what your good for! You look awful! You’re a mess! Your mane is a disgrace, your hooves look awful!” She turned to her friends and scoffed:
“Look at his hooves! Pick up your feet you disgusting reprobate!” She commanded. Upset and humiliated, Josh did as Sasha commanded, lifting each foot for inspection. All the horses round the yard got a good look. If the truth be known, a fair proportion of the onlookers would have given anything to have hooves like Josh’s. As has already been stated, a horse considers his or her hooves like a status symbol. The better formed a hoof is, the more highly it is thought of. Rather like a human’s nails if you like. We horses hold great store by how our hooves look, and for Josh, to have his hooves derided in such a manner was painful. In truth his hooves were strong and he had very few problems with them. Sasha snapped:
“Turn round so that I can see your right side!” Josh turned, and as he did so, lined up a kick. As he turned rear on to Sasha he lashed out furiously! Josh’s foot caught Sasha a crashing blow on her nose! She retired into her box screaming and yelling with pain. Josh whipped round and shrieked:
“I ‘ate you all! All you’s done is make a bloody exhibition of me, and I’s not ‘aving it!” With that he stormed out of the yard.
I met up with Josh on the track. From ten paces I could see he wasn’t in the best of moods.
“What’s wrong Josh love?” I asked gently. The poor shire horse was close to tears.
“I went into the livery yard to see if anyone could tell me about ‘orse shows. I asks an Arab mare who takes the piss out of me as soon as she look at me! ‘er’s saying things like:
“Oh, he’s a walking haystack.” N’all that, mum, I’s not ‘aving that! Then ‘er turns to ‘er mate and asks if she can provide ‘er with a translation of what I’s just asked ‘er, the bitch! The Arab mare’s mate, a Welsh Palomino named Tequila, well, she does what the bloody Arab mare asks and then, then it gets worse! The Arab mare starts saying that I’s no good for anything and that I should be left on the scrap ‘eap of life where I belongs, and then, then she started criticising my ‘ooves! I likes my ‘ooves mum, you know I does! The Manageress and I keeps ‘em clean, oils ‘em regularly, you know ‘ow it is. Well, that Arab mare, ‘er name was Sasha by the way, well Sasha says that my ‘ooves looks awful! I’s pretty upset by this time and when Sasha asks me to show the rest of the yard my ‘ooves, I does, but there was no pride left in me! Sasha’s a bitch! Now, well, I’s thinking of refusing to be shown if I’s gonna be treated like that by the ‘orses there. I is who and what I is and that’s flat! I’s no bad ‘orse mum, at least I tries not to be. I’s made my mistakes, but so’s us all. I does the best with what I ‘as and that’s all I can ever do, and there’s Sasha mocking me as if I’s nothing!” I moved close to Josh and hugged him. I said gently:
“Look Josh love, please listen to me. Some horses feel that because they are of a certain breed, they are superior to another breed. I’m afraid some livery horses feel that way because they are used exclusively by those humans that have the money to keep them, while riding school horses carry those humans who maybe do not have the money to keep horses of their own. Think about it for a minute. In fact, we riding school horses have the harder job, for we take what comes to us, whereas those livery horses do not have to do this. We riding school horses know what it is to be ridden badly, and what it is to be ridden well. Livery horses don’t know this. All they know is that they have a human, maybe two humans that own them. Some of those horses don’t see their owners from one day to the next, the Manageress and her staff look after them, the owners don’t. That is what livery is. Shall I tell you what the worst thing is, and don’t go thinking that I think this of the owners that board their horses here Josh. The worst human is the human that buys a horse as a status symbol. There are those humans who think that just because they have a horse, they are a cut above the rest, no matter how they might treat their horse. I’m afraid that kind of mentality leads to horse abuse. I’m afraid that the attitude of some humans rubs off on their horses, and this is what you found today. So I wouldn’t take it too personally Josh.”
“But Sasha insulted me mum! She knew what she was says to me! That mare ‘urt me, and she meant it too!” Josh whinnied.
“Sasha is probably owned by a human that thinks in that way. Whereas Tequila is probably owned by a human who is more on our level. It seems Tequila comes from humble beginnings.”
“Yeah, she said she was a wild ‘orse once. ‘er was sold and then trained to be snobbish. But ‘er’s all right I suppose, a dam sight nicer than Sasha by any measure,” Josh snorted. He looked down at my feet. The Manageress had restored my boots to me. Josh asked:
“I thought you’s getting ‘orseshoes fitted mum?” I nodded:
“Um, yeah, I was, but,,,”
“But What?” Josh asked suspiciously.
“Well, Josh, I, I couldn’t go through with it. I wimped out, I was so frightened!” Josh looked at me with genuine sympathy.
“I knows you doesn’t like ‘aving your ‘ooves examined. I don’t either, but I doesn’t mind it if ‘umans ‘asks me first. Then, well, I quite enjoys it really.”
Meanwhile, back in the livery yard, horses were whispering covertly about the huge Shire horse they’d all seen. One willowy white mare, the same breed as Confiada, but infinitely more agreeable of nature, commented that she’d never seen such a handsome Shire horse before.
“What Sasha said was quite false. Josh is the perfect Shire horse. He’s large, strong, and best of all, he’s got huge feet! I’ve never seen hooves so massive in all my life! I’ll bet he keeps them in top condition.” Tequila reminded the mare that:
“Josh was very upset by Sasha’s denouncement of him. I could see that clearly.” The willowy mare’s ears drooped as she considered this.
“hmm, yes, he was upset wasn’t he,” she murmured. Tequila looked nervously round her, searching for Sasha who’d been taken from the yard by her owner earlier that day. Tequila looked at the nameplate on the willowy mare’s door and saw she was named Sofia. Tequila was eager to ask Sofia about her name, and felt now was the time to do so.
“Um, Sofia, how did you get your name? I think It’s quite nice.” The willowy mare’s eyes blazed with anger!
“I, I don’t want to talk about it!” She snapped. Sofia thought for a minute and then relented:
“Oh, all right, I’ll tell all,” she said gruffly. Tequila’s ears pricked up.
“It’s like this,” Sofia began, “You see Tequila, my owner thought Sophia would be a nice name for me, but she misspelled it, and now it’s spelt like the capital of Bulgaria!” Tequila tried so hard not to laugh, but she couldn’t keep the merriment out of her expression. Sofia squealed:
“It’s all right for you Tequila! You’ve got a nice safe name, one that couldn’t be bollixed up by an inattentive human, but I’ve got some silly bloody name, and I detest it!” Sofia looked round her. Calming down a little she asked:
“I wonder where that Shire horse is now?” Tequila smiled and said:
“You liked him didn’t you Sofia?” Sofia hesitated:
“um, er, yes I did,” she admitted.
Meanwhile, Josh had tracked Silver down. He found her lying under a bush sheltering from the rain.
“Silver, what’s you doing ‘ere?” He asked gently. The Falabella mare looked up at him.
“I’s thinking, that’s all Josh, just thinking,” She replied. Josh lay down on the track beside his mate to shelter her from the rain a little. Nuzzling her ear he asked gently:
“What’s you thinking Silver love?” gulping back tears Silver replied:
“Tich, who else. Josh, I doesn’t wan’a lose my foal!” Josh hugged Silver tightly.
“Silver, Silver love, please listen to me,” Josh said, “You won’t lose Tich, ‘e’ll come back to you in ‘is own good time. ‘e loves you, ‘e told you that, all ‘e wants is a bit of space. Can’t you understand that?”
“Yeah, I does understand what Tich wants,” Silver replied faintly. The two horses were disturbed by the sound of hooves on the track. Josh looked down the track in the direction of the sound, Silver, hoping fervently that Tich would come round the corner, followed the Shire horse’s gaze. The sound of hooves got closer, but neither Josh nor Silver could see who’s hooves made the sound. Then Josh saw it, a deer! The Shire horse caught a glimpse of it as it flitted across the track, all the while, looking nervously at the two horses watching it. Silver whinnied softly:
“That was lovely, what we sees of it anyway. Why is them deer so dam secretive?” Josh shook his head:
“’aven’t got a clue Silver darling. I’s not got close enough to one to ask it.” Suddenly the deer reappeared, closer this time. Silver and Josh lay motionless on the track, hoping the deer wouldn’t take fright and bolt. Josh couldn’t identify the deer’s breed for certain, but he thought it was a Fallow deer. The doe came forward, nervousness showing in every movement. The doe stopped in front of the two horses and looked down.
“Can we ‘elp you?” Josh asked. The poor deer looked startled at his question.
“Oh yes, well, no, um, I, I, I think it might be the other way round, sort of. You see, I think I’ve seen your foal, someone’s foal anyway. He was bay, small like you,” here she waved a forefoot at Silver.
“Yeah, but what of it?” Silver asked. The doe hesitated, and then replied.
“Well, he was acting really strangely, He’d got a badger on his back! I’ve never seen anything so unnerving!” Silver asked:
“That badger, what did ‘e look like? Did ‘e ‘ave stripes on ‘is face?”
“All badgers have stripes on their faces silly!” The doe laughed. Silver realised how stupid her question must have sounded.
“Oh dear, I’s sounding a proper idiot ain’t I. What I means is this. Is that badger named Sam?”
“How should I know what the badger’s name is? I’ve never spoken to him!” The doe snapped. Silver asked:
“Please, could you tell me, is Tich safe?” A voice in her right ear said:
“Why don’t you ask me?” Silver turned her head and nearly left the county! Tich lay beside her on the sodden ground!
“I didn’t even notice ‘im arriving,” Silver thought. She asked:
“’ow the ‘ell did you do that!”
“Do what?” The colt asked.
“Appear like that!” His mother snapped.
“Oh, well, that was easy. That doe, who’s now walking off into the distance, was a decoy. Both you mum, and Josh were so engrossed in quizzing that poor doe that you didn’t notice me.”
“You means you set the whole thing up?” Josh asked.
“Er, yes, I suppose I did.” Tich admitted. Silver snapped:
“You’s deviant you is!”
“I think the word you’s wanting is devious Silver love,” Josh said softly.
“I doesn’t give a dam what the proper word is, Tich knows what I’s meaning.” Tich hugged his mother tightly. Silver’s anger at what her foal had done abated and she returned his embrace. She asked:
“’ow’s them badgers Tich?” The colt’s reply was a little indistinct because he had his muzzle buried in his mother’s mane.
“”Them badgers,” as you put it mum, them’s fine.” Realising what he was doing Silver squealed:
“Stop taking the piss out of me!” Tich sighed with exasperation.
“I’m not taking the P out of you mum, I wouldn’t want you to clear up your grammar, I think it’s lovely. I know I get at you for swearing, dropping your H’s n’all that, but really and truly I wouldn’t want you to change anything. I love you the way you are.” This sort of soppy stuff was guaranteed to move Silver to tears, and now was no exception. Seeing his mum crying, Tich tried to comfort her.
“Hey mum, It’s all right, don’t cry, please don’t cry. It upsets me to see you upset like that! I shouldn’t have gone away with the badgers, I’m sorry for that!” Silver sniffed and said:
“No Tich, you don’t ‘ave to be sorry for that. You wants your freedom, and I’s now coming round to realising that for myself. I knows now that you’s gonna come back to me from time to time. Leave if you want to, but promise me you’ll come back soon.” Tich felt dreadful.
“I, I don’t want to leave mum. I want to be with you and Josh, those badgers aren’t my thing mum, I couldn’t stay there any more. They wanted me to live an underground life and I’m not willing to do that! I’ve realised that badgers aren’t my cup of tea, and here I am, right back where you said all that time ago I belonged. I’m a horse, not a badger.” There was a crashing noise and Alfonse came into view. The huge boar badger favoured Tich with disgust and snapped:
“Why leave us colt?” Tich replied:
“Look, Alfonse, I’m grateful for all you and your family have done for me, but I’m no badger and never could be! I’m a horse! It took me a little time to realise what I was, that’s all. I could never live underground, and that’s what you’re asking of me isn’t it Alfonse, I can’t do that!” Alfonse got angry!
“You desert us? You leave badgers forever?” he asked.
“Yes Alfonse, with you is not my place,” Tich replied faintly. Alfonse bellowed:
“What repayment this is! You colt come into our family, colt’s mother kill cub, and now you leave family! You nasty colt, you deserve big trouble! We badgers very close, we make big danger for you and small swearing mare!” The Badger waved a paw at Silver. Then he turned to Josh:
“You, big bad tempered gelding, you deserve little better for what you done to badgers. You nearly kill us, we tie you up so you no kill badgers. I make big problems for you too! Be warned, colt, swearing small mare and big bad tempered gelding, me and badgers look out for and punish you for making badgers lives into hell place!” With that he stormed back into the woods. Silver, Tich and Josh looked at each other.
“Does ‘e really mean what ‘e says?” Josh asked.
“yeah, ‘fraid so,” Tich replied despondently.
“Oh what I’d give to have Jamie here now,” he remarked.
“You wants a Field ‘orse ‘ere?” Silver whinnied.
“You see mum, we might need one, several maybe, you see, those badgers are a fierce lot, and they really do mean us harm.”
“Don’t Jamie know Sam?” Josh asked hopefully.
“Yes he does,,,” Tich replied slowly. He suddenly yelled:
“That’s it! Josh, can you convince Jamie to have a word with Alfonse? Please?” Josh hesitated:
“Well, I doesn’t know Tich. You sees, Jamie and I ain’t on very good terms.””
“I’ll go, he ain’t got nothing against me,” Silver said. Tich replied hesitantly:
“All, all right mum, if you really can convince him to help us.”
Silver led the way back to the yard and collared me in my box.
“B’, please, can you ‘elp me, Tich and Josh n’all actually.”
“I’ll try,” I replied. The Falabella mare explained her problem. Once she’d finished, I called Jamie in. He’d still do anything for me, and he owed me one anyway.
“Silver, tell Jamie what you told me,” I said.
“Well Jamie, it’s like this. Tich went with them badgers, although I thinks you know that. Well, ‘e came back to me permanent, and now we’s got Alfonse and ‘is cronies wanting to do me, Tich and Josh serious damage. We’s wondering, ‘cos you knows Sam, and might be able to talk to Alfonse, could you do something to ‘elp us out of this shit we’s in?” Jamie snorted:
“I don’t see why I should help you Silver. All you’ve done is persecute our breed,,,”
“And all you’s done is created crap for us Jamie!” Josh snapped. Jamie looked down at his boots.
“I don’t know what to do, I feel I need to help you sort this because I’m a horse and so are you, but the way you’ve treated me, well, I’m having second thoughts.” The Field horse looked at me.
“Is this threat real Beyancca?” He asked. I nodded:
“You didn’t see what they did to Silver did you Jamie?” I asked.
“I heard a silly story about some badgers tying Silver’s legs together and suspending her from a tree, but that’s impossible!” Seeing the looks Josh and Silver were giving him, Jamie hesitated slightly and said:
“Isn’t it impossible?”
“No it ain’t impossible Field ‘orse,” Silver replied, “I was tied up by my feet, I was scared! Them badgers was serious about what they’s doing! I’ll bet my year’s oats that them badgers is gonna try to finish me and Tich, and if them’s really seriously pissed off, they might ‘ave a go at Josh n’all!” Jamie’s ears drooped as he thought deeply.
“What exactly did they do to you Silver?” He asked slowly. Silver squealed:
“Them bloody badgers! Them total sods! I’s going in to find Tich when them goes and attacks me big time! I get ‘it by sticks, stones and other woodland crap, then them badgers goes and knocks me off my feet, I doesn’t know ‘ow they does it, but I’s on my side before I’s knowing what’s ‘appening! I lashes out in all directions and manages to ‘it one of ‘em. Only problem was that that one badger was a cub, I killed the cub. Didn’t mean to though! I lashed out and my foot caught the poor bugger on ‘is nose! ‘e died instantly, well, I ‘ope ‘e did.” Jamie looked long and hard at the Falabella mare.
“If you’d just let him go Silver, then none of that would have happened!” He yelled. Jamie continued:
“Something tells me Confiada was right! You are a domineering bitch Silver! Tich must have been close to insanity, what with you chasing after him twenty four seven! No I’m not going to help you get out of this mess, it’s all your fault!” Jamie’s eyes blazed with hatred for the Falabella mare.
“Look, Silver, I’ll have a go,” I said.
“You?” Silver asked, “Alfonse, I think that’s ‘is name, well, ‘e don’t know you do ‘e?” “Doesn’t matter,” I replied.
“Why not? Alfonse ain’t gonna listen to anything you says is ‘e! Think about it b’! If them badgers can ‘ave josh on the floor, then them’s gonna ‘ave you for certain ain’t they!” Angered by Silver’s assertion, I snapped:
“No Silver, and whatever gave you that idea in the first place!” Realising what she’d said, Silver looked down at the ground. I continued:
“The reason why the badgers laid Josh on the track was because he attempted to crush them Silver. I will not attempt to crush them, so they won’t harm me, do you see?”
“Yes Beyancca, I sees now,” Silver replied faintly. I drove her away, then left her. I made my way out of the yard and down the track towards the badger’s set. Drawing near I was met by Sam, who, seeing me, demanded:
“What the hell do you want!”
“Look, I don’t need this!” I squealed, “I’m here to try and sort out the problems Tich, Silver and Josh are in.”
“Are you?” The badger snorted, “Well,” he continued, “I don’t know why you agreed to help those horses, do you know what they’ve done to our family!”
“Yes Sam, I do, absolutely nothing. Tich’s departure did nothing to your family. Have you been talking with Alfonse?” I asked. Sam Started to reply:
“Yes, he said that,,,”
“Alfonse is an extremist thug,” I snapped. Sam’s fur bristled with anger!
“How can you say that!” He yelled.
“Quite easily, I just have haven’t I? Anyway, Alfonse’s threats are all bluster and bullshit Sam, and you know it only too well. You also know that if you tried to attack us, you’d be smashed into the earth before you’d got half way up the yard.” The badger looked uncertain:
“Fleur was sold wasn’t she?” He asked.
“Yes she was, but she wasn’t a real fighter. Large yes, big hooves yes, but she was no fighter. Fleur was as soft as a horse could be Sam.”
“I don’t know which horse you’re talking about Beyancca, but it’s not the one I’m on about! I mean that big Shire cross Irish Draft mare, you know, white face, steel grey body, white tail? Remember her?” I nodded:
“Yes Sam, I’m talking about her,” I replied.
“If I remember rightly,” Sam said,” You had to rescue me from her didn’t you!” I conceded that fact.
“But she was gentle for the most part, just clumsy that’s all,” I said. Sam ignored this, preferring to focus on the main problem.
“Well, Fleur aside, that bloody Falabella colt, his mother and that oversized Shire horse have caused us pain and suffering!” The badger screamed.
“How can that be?” I asked. Sam replied:
“When Tich left, all the badgers went into mourning, like he’d died or something.”
“Tich is a horse, he’s no badger Sam, and you know it!” I snapped.
“Who made him leave?” Sam asked acidly.
“Tich made the decision, noone forced him to leave Sam,” I replied. Sam thought for a minute or so and then said:
“Bring Tich here,,,”
“I can ask him Sam, I can’t tell him to do anything,” I said. Sam hesitated and rephrased his request.
“Beyancca, please, ask Tich to come here will you?” As if in answer, the undergrowth to my right shifted slightly and Tich emerged from the depths. His ability to camouflage himself was well known, and his sudden appearance on the scene didn’t surprise me in the least.
“Here I am Sam, and yes, I decided to leave your family without any pressure from mum or Beyancca,” he said. Then Tich shouted at the badger:
“Now leave me, my mum, and Josh in peace!” Tich then turned rear on to Sam and lashed out at him, his boot missing the desperately rolling badger by inches! Sam scrambled to his feet and fled! Tich watched him go.
“I don’t think we’re gonna hear from them again B’,” the colt said.
“What about Alfonse? Will we see anything of him?” I asked. Tich thought for a minute and then said:
“No, he’ll not trouble us again.” Silver appeared from the trees.
“I ‘ope you’s right Tich,” She said. The sound of heavy hooves on the track announced Josh’s arrival. The Shire horse looked down at the two Falabella horses.
“So them badgers is out of our manes now Tich?” He asked. The Falabella colt nodded:
“How many times do I have to say it Josh? I think we’re clear, but there’s no certainty!”
“Oh bloody ‘ell,” Josh groaned, “We’s gonna be in fear of our lives for ever more isn’t we?” Tich went up close to the Shire horse.
“Josh, listen to me mate. You and mum can sleep soundly tonight. Alfonse won’t trouble any of us any more.”” I said:
“Josh, you do know that if the badgers try anything the Field horses will help defend the yard don’t you?” Josh stared at me in astonishment!
“Is I ‘earing you right mum? You’s saying that them Field ‘orses is willing to defend us if the crunch comes?”
“Yes Josh dear, they will, to the death too.” Seriously confused now, Josh asked:
“’ang on, ‘ow can that be mum? Them Field ‘orses is our enemies ain’t they?”
“Um, er well, we’ve had a rivalry with them for time immemorial, but enemies, no, they’re not mine.””
“Oh yeah, I’s forgetting, you’s ‘ad a relationship with one ‘asn’t you mum.” Josh grumbled, “Is Jamie, or whatever ‘is name is still trying to win you back mum?” I hesitated before replying:
“I think so, I don’t know really Josh.”
“Does you still love ‘im mum?” The Shire horse asked.
“Um, ‘er, ‘er, yes Josh I do,” I admitted. Silver’s fur bristled with anger!
“B’, tells me this straight, you’s still in love with that bloody Field ‘orse is you?” I nodded:
“Yes Silver I am.” The Falabella mare squealed:
“But, but ‘e beat you up! Remember that Beyancca? Surely you can’t forget what Jamie did to you! I wouldn’t let ‘im ‘ave another chance if I was you!” I could see Silver’s point. Josh said:
“If Jamie can’t accept what you feels you ‘as to do, then ‘e ain’t worth nothing in my view.” Silver yelled:
“I can’t see what you sees in Jamie anyway B’, ‘e’s a proper sod!”” I hesitated, and then said:
“Well, he has wronged me in the past, but,”
“You’s thinking of ‘aving ‘im back isn’t you Beyancca,” Silver said sadly.
“Well, I was, sort of, I think.”
“’e’d only beat you up again b’. Take it from me, ‘e ain’t gonna change ‘is ways now. When ‘e was younger, then ‘e might ‘ave done if you’d caught ‘im quick enough, but now, well, ‘e’s a dead loss in my view. ‘ow did you and ‘im get together anyway?” I told her. Silver looked astonished!
“You meets ‘im when ‘e’s lying in your path, ‘e gets up, apologises to you like ‘e should, and you’s now fallen for that shit of an ‘orse? B’, just because a Field ‘orse shows ‘umility to you don’t mean ‘e really means what ‘e says. Jamie probably wanted to take you for what ‘e could and leave you bitter and twisted.”
What could I say that would explain to Silver what I saw in Jamie? I tried explaining things.
“Jamie is lovely,,,” Seeing the look Silver gave me on hearing this, I said hastily:
“In himself he is, you see, it’s his Field Horse upbringing that makes him fly off the handle from time to time. Whenever he doesn’t understand something it angers him.” Silver squealed:
“’e beat you up though b’! Surely you can’t forgive ‘im for that!””
“Why can’t I forgive him for that?” I asked.
“Because, because you can’t, ‘e needs to know ‘ow shitty ‘e’s been to you!””
“You didn’t see the look on his face when I refused him,” I said, “Jamie knows how I feel about his behaviour Silver.”
“Well, as long as you ain’t gonna get yourself ‘urt again B’,” she said. Josh suddenly pricked up his ears:
“I thinks we’s got company,” he said. Sure enough Jamie came slowly towards us down the track.
“Talk of the devil,,,” Silver mumbled. Jamie stopped at my side and asked:
“Look Beyancca, can I talk with you? Please! I need to say a few things, sort out things once and for all, you know? So will you please listen to me, then I’ll go, promise, I won’t trouble you again after this.”
“Watch out for yourself B’,” Silver thought. I hesitated for a minute, thinking deeply.
“All right Jamie,” I said.
We walked away from the others and once we were out of earshot, I asked:
“What’s all this about Jamie?” The Field Horse looked unhappy.
“What you said, about us being over I mean. Is it true? You don’t want to see me any more? That’s all I want to know! If you say you don’t want me, then as I said, I’ll go and leave you alone forever. Please tell me Beyancca, I can’t carry on like this any more! It’s driving me insane!” I looked deeply into Jamie’s eyes, making him feel uncomfortable, so much so that he looked away.
“What the hell’re you playing at? What’re you doing to me Beyancca! That was horrible!” He squealed. I snapped:
“I don’t know if I can trust you! What you’ve done to me in the past is inexcusable! How can you expect me to consider having you back when you’ve done so much to harm me?” Jamie gave me a shattered look.
“You mean you won’t have me back?” He asked.
“I don’t know Jamie. If I have you back, is there any guarantee that if I do something you don’t approve of, that you’ll refrain from beating me up again?” The Field horse looked down at his hooves, so did I, Jamie was barefoot.
“Your hooves, are they sharpened Jamie?” I asked coldly.
“No Beyancca, they’re not,” He replied.
“Then why are you barefoot Jamie? There’s no other reason for you not wearing your boots, than that you intend to do damage with your hooves!” Jamie’s eyes were wild!
“No Beyancca, No! The reason is this, I wanted to show you that I had only good intentions towards you, by showing you my hooves, unsharpened, I thought you’d see that I’m not hiding anything from you! You know what a sharpened hoof looks like, I showed you once?” I nodded and replied:
“You did, and I remember what one looked like,”
“Well, look at my hooves now b’. I’ll show you they’re not sharp. See for yourself I’m telling the truth!” Jamie showed me his hooves, and as he’d said, they were unsharpened.
“Okay, all right, you’re telling the truth, for now at least.” Jamie squealed:
“No! not just now! I’m going to make the effort to tell you the truth, not to fly off the handle at you, and that’s gonna be from now until the end of all things.” I looked into Jamie’s face. The Field horse stared anxiously back.
“What’s your decision Beyancca?” He asked. I looked him over, trying to gauge what his real intentions were. Jamie’s body was side on to me, his head lowered and his left ear turned to me in a sort of submissive gesture. Jamie’s unshod feet were flat on the ground. All in all he looked pretty depressed. I moved towards him, Jamie immediately shied away, screaming hysterically:
“No! Beyancca, don’t hit me! I’m begging you, please don’t hurt me!” Jamie threw himself on the ground and lay prostrate before me. I commanded:
“Jamie, get up, and come over here!” The Field horse struggled to his feet and came across to me. When he was standing beside me, much to his amazement, I sidled up to him and began nuzzling and grooming him. At first Jamie couldn’t believe what was happening to him, soon however, disbelief was overtaken by pleasure and I could see Jamie beginning to enjoy the experience.
Josh interrupted my ministrations by walking past swearing under his breath:
“’er’s gone and done it ain’t she, bloody ‘umans, now I’s ‘aving to wear them dam ‘orseshoes after all! I ‘oped they’s forgotten, but no!”
“Josh?” I enquired.
“Yeah, what is it?” the shire horse snapped.
“What’s the matter with you?” I asked. Josh sighed heavily:
“You know the Manageress ‘ad ideas of putting me into some dam ‘orse show? Well, just look at my feet! Look at ‘em mum, what d’you see?” I looked, but couldn’t see anything unusual, I saw Josh’s hooves.
“No boots?” I volunteered. For answer Josh turned tail and lifted his right hind foot clear of the ground. I saw a shiny new horseshoe fixed to the base of his hoof.
“You’re wearing horseshoes Josh,” I said.
“Yep, I’s wearing ‘orseshoes, and I don’t like it! I’s never worn ‘em in my life before, and I’s ‘ating it!” He lowered his foot to the ground, turned and looked at me.
“You wouldn’t believe what ’appened mum. There I was, minding my own business when some bloody farrier comes up to me and drags me off to a ring in the wall where ‘e removes my boots! I protests like mad, pinning my feet to the floor n’all that, but the farrier wins. Before I knows what’s ‘appening I’s barefoot and then things get worse! I’m led over to another place, where Each foot is lifted and the Farrier does something to my ‘ooves! Don’t ask me what ‘e did, but it involved my foot being rested on a cradle sort of thing,,,”
“Trimming your hooves,” Jamie said.
“Whatever Field ‘orse, all right, ‘e was trimming my ‘ooves. Well, once ‘e’s satisfied that ‘e’s done ‘is job well enough, either trimming my ‘ooves or pissing me off to ‘is own satisfaction, ‘orseshoes appear and are nailed to my feet! It didn’t ‘urt, but afterwards my feet felt like them ‘ad ‘uge weights on ‘em, them didn’t seem to belong to me any more, them’s just coming back to me four hours later, I think.” To soothe him, I went up to Josh and set to nuzzling and grooming him. Josh, conscious of his image, shook me off:
“Sod off mum!” He whinnied. Mistral trotted into view, closely followed by Chantilly, looking very harassed.
“Mistral! Can’t you slow down?” She panted. The foal obviously wanted to see the world, and Chantilly wasn’t up for chasing after him, although she felt compelled to.
“But mum, everything’s so wonderful!” Mistral whinnied. It was raining hard. Chantilly snorted:
“Wonderful? Mistral, I doesn’t know what’s got into you, it’s raining and you wants to ‘ave a look round the yard!”
Mistral ran to me.
“Hi ya b’! He whinnied. I nuzzled the tiny foal while his mum looked on in bewildered silence.
“Is you being too familiar with your leader Mistral?” Mistral replied:
“Well, if she’s got a name, why not use it?”
“Fair Point Mistral,” Chantilly replied. Mistral returned to the attack.
“So where is, I mean are we going to go? I want to explore the world mum, the trouble is, I don’t know where to start.” Chantilly gave her foal a severe look.
“Did I ‘ear you right Mistral, did you just speak like me?” The foal looked mystified.
“I don’t know mum,” he replied. Chantilly hesitated a minute and said:
“I doesn’t want you to speak like me! I wants my foal to speak proper, not the sloppy talk I’s got into. I’s trying to brings you up decent Mistral. I doesn’t want you to end up speaking like you’s a common cart’orse!” Josh turned and glared at Chantilly.
“Watch it Chantilly, I’s a cart’orse, remembers that.”
“No Josh, you’s a shire ‘orse, you pulls beer drays, not carts.”
“Dray, cart, same bloody thing really,” Josh snapped. Seeing the Shire horse’s anger, Mistral walked across to him and tried to nuzzle his shoulder, but could only reach to the top of Josh’s leg. Laughing with delight Josh leant down and let Mistral rub noses with him. Mistral whispered into the Shire horse’s ear:
“I’s sorry Josh, mum don’t know what she says ‘alf the time.” Josh grinned.
“don’t let it worry you Mistral, Chantilly’s a funny ‘orse sometimes.”
“That’s my mum you’re talking about Josh!” the foal whinnied.
“I know Mistral, I was there when you’s born.” The foal looked startled:
“Was, I mean, were you?”
“I was, although you didn’t see me. I was keeping Confiada out of your mum’s way.” The mention of Confiada made Mistral hesitate a minute or so. Then he said:
“That name, it frightens me, although I don’t know why it should. I’ve never met her.” Josh looked about him, spotted who he wanted and yelled:
“Oi Fabrecai! ‘as you seen Confiada lately?” The Field horse slouched over to Josh, Mistral edged closer to Josh for protection.” Fabrecai squared up to Josh and spat contemptuously at his feet.
“You ‘as disgusting manners Field ‘orse, now answers my question!” Josh commanded.
“I have seen her, she was in the top field earlier. What do you want with her though, you hate her, and she hates you!” He then noticed Mistral cowering beside the Shire horse.
“As for that thing, well, Confiada wants that dead!” Mistral began to cry.
“Doesn’t you worry yourself Mistral my dear, Fabrecai’s just bluster, ‘e won’t ‘urt you while I’s ‘ere.” Mistral saw the Field horse getting angry at the Shire horse, and he didn’t like it.
“don’t hurt Josh Fabrecai!” he squealed. Fabrecai turned rear end on to mistral and lashed out at the foal. Josh threw himself sideways, knocking Mistral to the ground! Fabrecai’s boot caught Josh a sharp blow on his shoulder. Fabrecai ran away from the scene not looking back. Josh lay winded on top of Mistral, while the foal struggled beneath him. Coming round a little, Josh carefully levered himself off of the foal, managing to stand by himself, his legs shaking violently. Mistral struggled to his feet and looked at the huge Shire gelding.
“What happened?” Josh took a deep breath and replied:
“Fabrecai lashed out at you Mistral. I managed to stop ‘is kick from doing you damage. Mistral looked Josh all over, and saw blood on his neck where Fabrecai’s boot had grazed him.
“You’re bleeding Josh,” Mistral stated. Josh dismissed it.
“It’s only a graze Mistral, I’s gonna live.” With that he turned and went back to the yard, we followed.
As soon as he could get into the riding school without being noticed, Josh went in and looked in one of the mirrors that were placed so that riders could check the progress of horses. Aligning himself with the glass, Josh saw to his relief, that the damage from Fabrecai’s kick was as he’d thought, only a graze, and nothing else. Josh then turned rear on to the mirror, lifted a hind foot and looked at the reflection of the horseshoe nailed to his hoof.
“Dam ‘orseshoes, I’s ‘ating ‘em now and forever!” He thought. Lowering his foot to the ground, Josh stood for a moment collecting his thoughts, before making his way out of the school.
Josh walked out into the yard deep in thought, so preoccupied was he with his thoughts that he nearly ran straight into another horse. Indeed, it was only when the horse yelled at him that Josh noticed him.
“Hey! Watch out!” Josh stopped dead, startled by being shouted at.
“Um, yeah, what’s the matter?” Josh asked. The horse, dark brown with a white star on his forehead and two white socks on his hind legs, considered the huge Shire horse before him.
“What’s the matter? Well, I’ll tell you, you nearly ran into me!” He whinnied.
“I’s very sorry, I was thinking ‘ard about things, very sorry indeed,” Josh stammered. The dark brown horse looked Josh over, and the Shire horse did the same to him.
“’e’s got a bit of thoroughbred in ‘im,” Josh thought. What the dark brown horse thought of Josh, Josh never found out. Josh realised immediately that the dark brown horse wasn’t resident in the yard. He thought:
“Maybe ‘e’s a livery ‘orse, but then again,,,” Josh looked round, there was another horse standing shoulder to shoulder with the dark brown one, this one was a skewbald horse, a little smaller than the dark brown one. Josh stopped scanning his surroundings and asked:
“Is you livery ‘orses?”
What’s he saying Ben? I can’t understand him!” The skewbald horse snapped. The dark brown horse replied:
“He’s, um, well, I think he’s asking us if we’re livery horses Stroller.” The skewbald horse named Stroller looked hard at Josh.
“Can you speak English?” He asked. Josh saw that the horse named Ben was embarrassed.
“Look, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry. Stroller doesn’t know what he’s saying sometimes,” he said quickly. Josh smiled:
“My name’s Josh,” he said. He continued:
“If you is livery ‘orses, then why is you out ‘ere, free, without ‘umans with you. No livery ‘orse does that, them’s always got ‘umans round ‘em, pampering and generally spoiling ‘em rotten.” Ben, obviously the spokes horse for the pair, replied:
“Well, we are, but we’ve decided to have a look round.”
“Does your owner know you’s roaming free?”
“No, she doesn’t, and with a bit of luck, she’ll never know. The horseshow’s tomorrow, we’ve been bedded down already, and I heard that we’d not be needed until tomorrow because our owners were doing things in the local village today. That means free time for us,,”
“Yes Ben, but only in a field, we can’t do this!” Stroller said anxiously.
“Why not? All the other horses are doing it, I’ve seen them, there was one, she looked quite important, a huge Irish draft mare. She was talking severely with a willowy mare who seemed to be up to mischief.”
“Mum talking to Confiada I’ll bet.” Josh said. This caused both Stroller and Ben to stare at Josh.
“Hang on a bit,” Ben said, “So you’re saying that you’re that mare’s foal? Of course, you’re no foal now, but, well, you can’t be, oh dear, what I mean is, well, you’re a Shire horse, not an Irish draft! Oh dear, I’ve put my hoof in it haven’t I!” Josh smiled reassuringly at Ben.
“No you ‘asn’t. I’s not ‘er foal, well, not in the usual way. You sees, I’s adopted. I know it sounds amazing, but that’s what ‘appened,” he said. It was now Stroller’s turn to ask a question.
“Why do you speak like you do? I can’t understand it.” Josh replied:
“What is it you doesn’t understand Stroller, my speech, or the reasons why I speaks like I does?” Ben laughed, he knew what the Shire horse was doing, and it amused him. Stroller’s control snapped:
“No you stupid horse, I doesn’t, I mean don’t mean that!” Stroller’s error compounded the situation. He tried desperately to extricate himself from it.
“What I mean is this. Why can’t you speak like Ben and I do?”
“If we’s all speaking the same, then ‘ow boring the world would be,” was the Shire horse’s answer. Stroller said angrily:
“Well, if you are insisting on speaking the way you do, can we have a translation book?”
“You means you can read?” Josh asked. Stroller decided he didn’t like this haystack of a Shire horse. He snapped irritably:
“yes of course we can read! What do you think we are, stupid?” Ben decided he wasn’t going to apologise for Stroller any more. Rounding on his friend of eighteen years he squealed:
“I don’t know what’s got into you Stroller, but stop it now! You are a dear friend, but I’m fed up of explaining away your prejudices! In the true run of things, I’ve got more breeding in me than you have, so it should be me who’s snobbish, but no, I’m part thoroughbred, and you’re a riding school horse! A mix of everything, none the worse for that, but if we’re bitching about breeding, then that’s the way it is! Now stop harassing Josh, he’s got along fine the way he is, and you’re not going to change him. Anyway, this is his home, not ours, and I think we’d better respect his knowledge.”
“What do you mean? Ben, please tell me you’re not saying we should kiss that bloody Shire horse’s hooves!” Ben held onto his control, just, and replied:
“No Stroller, all I’m saying is that Josh knows how it is round here, we don’t! So we should stick by him, if he’ll let us, because he knows how things are. The same as if he was to live in our home, he’d do the same to us.” Stroller felt angered by Ben’s reference to him being a riding school horse, and also took exception to the way Ben seemed to have already made friends with the haystack of a shire horse in front of him.
“So we’re not meant to be out here, but why are you?” Ben asked.
“The Manageress lets us roam free. Yes this is a riding school, but we ‘orses knows when we’s needed, and we comes in for our work on time.”
“Commendable I’m sure,” Ben said. Stroller said under his breath:
“What use a haystack like him would be I can’t guess.” Josh heard this, but being well mannered as he was, didn’t strike out at the skewbald horse.
“Josh, If you will, turn side on to me so I can have a look at you,” Ben said. Stroller stared at his friend as Ben looked the huge Shire horse up and down, and then walked round him, assessing him from all angles. Good naturedly Josh asked:
“’as you finished your inspection?” The manner of Ben’s reply angered Stroller.
“Yes I ‘’as, and you’s a true Shire ‘orse, no doubt about it. If you’s in the ‘orseshow, then them other Shire ‘orses will ‘ave some competition.” Josh smiled at Ben who averted his gaze when he saw Stroller’s expression. Josh turned to Ben and asked:
“So you’s in the ‘orseshow n’all?”
“Yep, Stroller and I are.”
It was then that I interrupted their conversation.
“Hi Josh,,, and,,, I’m sorry, I don’t know you two,” I said uncertainly. Josh told me who the two horses were.
“Oh, right, which one’s which Josh? You didn’t say,” I said. Both Ben and Stroller made themselves known to me. Ben started to ask:
“Who are you?” Then he stopped and looked me up and down before exclaiming:
“You’re the herd leader aren’t you!” Stroller could have clobbered his friend. Ben continued:
“You’re Josh’s, um, mum, sort of,,” his voice trailed away.
“Yes I am,” I replied. Stroller yelled:
“Ben! Stop before you do yourself harm! You don’t address the leader of a herd like that! That mare’ll kill you if you’re too forward with her!” I turned to Stroller and said:
“In a normal herd situation then yes, I might, but this is not normal. A stable yard is not normal herd conditions, so things are different here.” Stroller looked up at me, stepping back a few paces as he took in my general appearance.
“How, um, how, how tall are you?” Stroller stammered. I replied
“I’m sixteen three, and Josh is seventeen two.”
“Seventeen two ay?” Stroller said nervously.
“’as you a problem with that Stroller?” Josh asked. Stroller, startled at the Shire horse using his name, replied;
“No I haven’t, I’m okay, fine with that.” Josh advanced on Stroller, who was now terrified! Not wanting to meet the larger horse’s gaze, Stroller looked at the ground and saw Josh’s hooves. They were huge! Or so Stroller thought, and this frightened him even more.
“Josh, you, your hooves,,,” Stroller gabbled.
“Yeah, them’s my ‘ooves, ‘as you never seen an ‘orse’s ‘oof before Stroller, ‘asn’t you got ‘ooves yourself?”
“Yes, I have, of course I have!” Stroller whinnied.
“Then what’s you worried about?” Josh asked. Stroller couldn’t speak for a moment because his mouth was dry. When he’d recovered a little he said:
“Well, Josh, you see, your hooves, well, they’re huge, and, well, I’m worried about what you might do with them.” Josh took this as a sign Stroller thought he, josh didn’t know how to look after his hooves. As has already been said, Josh took great care of his hooves, and this apparent denunciation of his hoof care angered him.
“What does you mean skewbald ‘orse?” Josh asked menacingly.
“What do you mean what do I mean?” Stroller asked nervously. Josh said slowly:
“I thinks that you’s taking the piss out of my ‘ooves ‘orse, and I doesn’t like that!” Ben, who’d been watching the growing crisis, suddenly realised what was happening. He said quickly:
“No Josh, please, please listen! Stroller didn’t mean that!”
“What did ‘e mean then?” Josh enquired.
“Well,” Ben replied, his words nearly falling over each other in his haste to save his friend from a kicking, “It’s like this, you see, you’re, um, a lot larger than either of us, and your hooves are massive, much larger than Stroller’s or mine! Stroller’s scared of you Josh, to him you look, well, big, and, well, powerful,,,” His voice trailed away, Then Ben whinnied, his eyes wide with fear:
oh I don’t know! All I know is you’re frightening him! You’re frightening both of us!” Josh couldn’t believe what he was hearing:
“Me? You’s saying I’s frightening you?” He asked incredulously.
“yes you are Josh,” Ben replied.
“Well, I doesn’t want to do that, I doesn’t mean you no ‘arm, I’s just large, I can’t ‘elp that, noone can ‘elp what size them is can they? No they can’t!”
“Too bloody true that is,” Silver said. She came round the corner, causing Ben and Stroller to stare at her in astonishment!
“She’s, she’s too small! Is she a horse at all?” Stroller asked himself. The next thing Silver did made Stroller nearly fall over with surprise. As he watched, the tiny horse went up close to Josh, the Shire horse sank to his knees and hugged her!
“What the hell’s going on here,” Ben asked himself. “This isn’t right!” As Ben and Stroller watched, Josh got to his feet and looked at both of them, Silver also scrutinised the two newcomers to the yard.
“I sees you’s a bit surprised at me,” she said.
“Surprised?” Stroller replied, “That’s putting it mildly, Who, no, what are you!” Ben snapped:
“Stroller!” Ben took it upon himself to mend relations. Approaching Silver showing all the deference he could, after dropping to his knees Ben said:
“Dear lady,” At this rather formal mode of address, Silver said:
“Noone’s called me that in ages.” Ben ploughed on:
“I’m sorry, for my friend’s manners I mean. You see, he’s never seen the likes of you before, and what he doesn’t understand frightens him. Please, on his behalf I’m asking you to forgive him for his foolishness.” Silver laughed merrily at this:
“’ang on a bit mate, who does you think you’s talking to?” Silver asked.
“Well, you’re, I mean, you’s special ain’t you?” Silver let Ben get away with imitating her speech.
“After all, ‘e probably thinks Josh and me speak a totally different language,” she thought.
“Well, we’s all special in our own way,” she replied. Silver continued:
“I’s a Falabella ‘orse, it’s obvious to me that you ‘asn’t seen us before, so go on, ‘ave a look, everyone else does.” Ben did as the tiny mare suggested and had a good look at her. Ben couldn’t believe what his eyes were telling him.
Apparently, in front of him stood a tiny mare, about three feet tall at her shoulder, with the smallest hooves he’d ever seen! Ben found he was staring open mouthed at Silver, embarrassed, he closed his mouth and averted his gaze. Silver smiled at him and said:
“You’s really lost for words ain’t you Ben.”
“How do you know my name?” He asked.
“I was listening to your conversation before I made my appearance. If you ‘ang on a minute, my foal’ll be ‘ere in a bit.” Ben had the uncomfortable feeling the world was spinning out of control and he couldn’t stop it.
“Your foal? You have a foal? How can you have a foal!” he asked.
“Like any other mare ‘as a foal of course, except Tich was tiny when ‘e was born.”
“Yes, he’d have to be,” Ben replied.
“Of course, now ‘e’s two years old ‘e’s a lot bigger,” Silver said. Ben felt he’d intruded enough on Silver’s time and got to his feet. He said hesitantly:
“Nice to meet you, um, can I call you Silver?”
“Why d’you ask? Silver’s my name ain’t it?” was the Falabella mare’s reply. Ben decided he liked Silver a lot. He had one last question for her.
“You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to Silver, well, um, are, are you and Josh, well, what I mean to say is,,,,”
“What you means to ask Ben is is we an item, right?” Ben looked acutely embarrassed.
“Yes, that’s it,” he conceded.
“We’s an item, if that’s the way you likes it put,” Josh said. This news seemed to cause Stroller some distress.
“How, how can you be having, um, liaisons with that mare Josh, she’s too small! Having your foal would kill her! Surely you don’t want that!” Silver snapped:
“For your information Stroller, me and Josh ‘ave thought of that! We’s come to the decision that we’s not gonna ‘ave a foal, anyway, ‘e can’t do what ‘e ‘as to ‘cos ‘e’s a gelding, but even if ‘e weren’t, I know that Josh wouldn’t ‘urt me at all, and ‘e’d ‘ave the sense not to put me in danger.”
“So it’s a protection thing, you’re so small that you’re useless for anything, so Josh feels he has to protect you?” Stroller asked.
“That’s ‘ow it was to begin with, at first I’s scared of ‘im, but then I’s seen that all ‘e wants is to protect me and my foal, it started like that, but now it’s more serious. Stroller, get this into your thick ‘ead right now, I might be small, but I’s not useless!” Silver replied. As for Ben, well, he couldn’t keep his eyes off Silver. He gazed at her as if she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Indeed, he thought she might be. Josh noticed this too.
“Watch it Ben, she’s mine,” he said, turning rear on to him and raising a hind foot slightly in mock attack. Ben took the hint and averted his gaze. Ben then saw the horseshoe on Josh’s foot. He looked at his own hooves, then at mine, and finally at Silver’s.
“Another question I’m afraid,” Ben began, “what are those boots your wearing Beyancca? silver?” We told him all about them.
“So they’re special boots,” Ben mused.
“Yeah them is,” Josh spat, “and I’s ‘aving to wear bloody ‘orseshoes! I ‘ates ‘orseshoes! I’s in this bloody ‘orseshow and for this so called pleasure I ‘as to wear these dam ‘orseshoes!”
“We wear them all the time though Josh,” Stroller said. Josh sighed heavily:
“I was barefoot until them boots came along, them was all right, I could remove ‘em if I wanted to, and I often did. ‘orseshoes can’t be removed, so I’s stuck with ‘em.” Suddenly a voice seemingly from nowhere said:
“Actually they can.”
“How can they be got rid of, and where is you?” Josh asked. At first nothing moved, but then Stroller swore viciously as a squirrel leapt from a nearby tree onto his back, and from there onto the ground.
Seeing the squirrel Silver spat on the ground.
“What did you do that for?” Josh asked. Silver snorted:
“She’s one of the team that tied my legs to that dam tree, remember?” Josh did, but he dismissed all hostile thoughts when he heard what the squirrel had to say.
“It’s like this,” the squirrel began, “You see, I can remove horseshoes, It’s easy, I once removed all four shoes from a sleeping mare, and she never stirred while I was there.”
“You must have a hell of a lot of good luck,” Ben said.
“I should think so too!” The squirrel replied, “I’ve collected enough horseshoes in my time, I’m due some good luck now and again.”
“So what’s involved in this shoe removal?” Josh asked.
“Well, you lift up your foot, I get a wedge that I’ve got hidden up, then I prize the shoe loose, finally asking you to pull your foot away sharply, freeing the shoe.” Josh thought about this.
“What ‘appens if ‘em’s fresh on. Them’s gonna be a sod to remove ain’t they?” The squirrel was dismissive:
“No no no, It’ll take a bit longer that’s all, I’ve never failed yet,” She said. The squirrel turned to Ben and Stroller.
“I notice you’ve got horseshoes on too, do you want me to get rid of them forever?” Stroller declined her offer straight out, but Ben, always up for trying new things, accepted the offer. Stroller tried to dissuade his friend:
“Ben, please, don’t do it! Our owner will go mad! They’re forty pounds a shot! You’ll be in serious trouble!”
“All right Stroller.” Ben said soothingly. Turning to the squirrel he asked:
“What do you propose to replace my horseshoes with?”
“Mountain boots of course, what else did you think I’d use?” Was the reply. Ben had no answer for the squirrel.
So, later that day, Josh and Ben went into the wood, well out of sight of the yard to have their shoes removed. The squirrel ran up a tree and scampered down five minutes later with a stick flattened at one end.
“This stick hasn’t failed me in two years,” she said. Ben was the first to have his shoes removed. While he rested his leg on a low log the squirrel worked away at the shoe, eventually jamming the wedge between the metal shoe and Ben’s hoof.
“When I say, pull sharply away from the log Ben,” the squirrel commanded. When the word was given Ben jerked his foot away from the log, his shoe flying into space and landing with a clatter some distance away.
“Easy isn’t it,” the squirrel said.
“If you say so,” Ben replied. Soon, in the same fashion, all four of Ben’s shoes were removed and he stood barefoot on the forest floor. Josh’s shoes soon followed.
“Now what?” Ben asked. Josh looked at him:
“What do you mean “now what?” He asked. Ben snapped:
“I hate horses who answer a question with a question!”
“Sorry,” Josh said. Ben sighed with exasperation.
“What I meant was, where do we get the boots from? I can’t remain barefoot for long, I’ve been to used to horseshoes, I’ll be footsore in no time flat!” Josh replied:
“We gets ‘em from the Manageress, ‘er’ll sort us out with boots, don’t worries yourself Ben.” With that they made their way back to the yard.
Josh and his new-found friend made their way to the yard via a back route, so not to meet any humans. Ben was still seriously worried about what his owner might think if she found him without his shoes. Peering furtively round the corner of my box, Josh saw a human grooming Stroller. He turned to Ben and asked:
“That ‘uman, is ‘er your owner?” Ben looked and froze! There his owner was, only twenty paces from him, and she was grooming Stroller, had she been looking for him? Ben didn’t know. Ben turned to Josh and asked:
“What’re we gonna do?” Josh’s reply gave him no real answer.
“The decent thing is to walk out there and show yourself, face the music. Or you could just run like ‘ell Ben. I can tell you now, your ‘owner ain’t gonna be ‘appy with you when she finally catches up with you.” Ben forgot where he was, turned and yelled at Josh.
“Some help that was! I’m relying on you to get me out of this!” Josh said mildly:
“I’s suggested what you does, but now I thinks things ‘as been taken out of your control Ben.” Sure enough, the minute Stroller heard his friend’s voice, he’d pricked his ears, alerting the human grooming him to Ben’s presence. Ben’s owner went over to him looking perplexed and a little angry.
“Where have you been?” She asked. Ben didn’t reply, he just followed her to a ring in the wall where she put a head collar on him and went back to grooming Stroller.
“So Ben, how did the shoe removal go?” Stroller asked. Ben snapped:
“It was all right,”
“No need to be like that Ben, after all, I did try to warn you about what you were doing,” Stroller replied. Ben turned his head away and waited for the explosion to happen. The nearer his owner came to grooming him, Ben’s fear increased.
Soon she came to him.
“I don’t know where you’ve been lately, but you’re here now,” She said. Ben didn’t reply, his mind was numb with fear. He knew how expensive horseshoes were, and he didn’t know where he could get mountain boots, and everything was going wrong! Ben had the uncomfortable feeling that the world was spinning out of control, much as he’d had when he’d first met Silver, but this feeling wasn’t one of confusion, it was one of stomach churning fear. It was the fear of being reprimanded for losing his shoes, Ben didn’t like it at all. His owner asked him to pick his foot up, miserably he complied, knowing what she’d find. His owner said:
“Hmm, no shoe, Ben where is your shoe?” He didn’t answer.
“Ben?” His owner persisted.
“I lost it, all four of them actually, um, they, they were stolen by a squirrel!” he blurted. Ben suddenly had another thought:
“Ask Josh, his were taken too!”
“Who’s Josh?” His owner asked.
“He’s a Shire horse, huge he is, you can’t miss him,” Ben replied quickly.
“Is that right?” His owner said.
“Yes, very true, you can’t,,,” Ben’s reply was cut short by his owner screaming! Looking over her shoulder he saw Josh standing behind her.
“Josh! You great big sod! Are you into terrorising humans?” Ben whinnied.
What Josh had done is this. He’d gone back to the tack room and, with Polo’s help, got his old boots back. Then he’d crept up on Ben’s owner, she being so intent on Ben that she didn’t notice until the huge Shire horse rested his chin on her shoulder.
The human and Shire horse looked at each other for a long minute.
“This is Josh?” the human asked.
“yes, I’s Josh,” Josh replied. Ben’s owner said:
“I see you’re wearing boots.”
“Yeah, I is,,,” Josh’s reply was cut short by the human running her hand down his leg towards his foot. Realising what she was going to do, Josh lent on that leg.
“Pick it up!” She commanded.
“Not on your Nellie ‘uman. What gives you the right to ‘andle my ‘ooves without asking me? I’d like to be consulted first! I will let you ‘ave a look at my ‘ooves if you’s wanting to, but only when you asks me!” Josh replied crossly.
“Oh all right,” Ben’s owner said, “can I have a look at your boots please?” For answer Josh lifted his left forefoot. The human looked down at the boot, then she tested it with her hand to see if it would stay on, of course it did.
“What happens when your hooves grow? These boots don’t give much,” the human asked. Josh replied:
“Our ‘ooves is checked regularly. Them boots gives us ‘orses more purchase, so we’s not falling over in bad weather. One set of boots will last a long time, and when them’s worn out, them’s recycled. Best of all, I’s ‘eard them’s cheaper than ‘orseshoes by ‘alf. Them boots never get loose neither, not like ‘orseshoes.”
“I get the impression you don’t like ‘orseshoes, I mean horseshoes Josh,” the human said.
“I bloody ‘ates ‘orseshoes ‘uman,” the Shire horse replied. Stroller gave Josh a severe look and said:
“I can’t understand what that haystack of a horse is saying! His speech is awful, mixing tenses, misusing grammar, that’s the mark of an uneducated horse!” Ben turned as far as his rope would allow and replied:
“I’m sorry Stroller, but I have to say this. You’re a dear friend, but you’re so bloody intolerant! Josh’s speech is understandable, when you get used to it. I don’t know what the problem is, he makes himself understood, that’s all that’s necessary.” Suddenly Ben’s control on his temper snapped:
“Stop bitching on about it Stroller! Give the poor chap a break will you!” Stroller untied his rope from the ring and walked away, rope trailing. His owner chased after him, unhooked the rope and then let him go.
“If he wants to be alone, let him,” she thought. Ben also watched his friend leave.
“Give it an hour or so, and he’ll have forgotten all about it,” he thought. As for josh, he’d wandered away from the stable yard in search of Silver.
Josh found her lying up in the place where the mares had their foals. He must have startled her for she snapped at him:
“What’s you doing up ‘ere Josh!”
“I’s come looking for you my dear,” he replied.
“I’s come up ‘ere to think about things,” Silver said, “that ‘orse, the one with the white star on ‘is fore’ead, well, ‘e was weird, took a bit more interest in me than I’d like, as if, as if I was a strange thing.”
“Maybe to ‘im you is Silver darling. Not saying you’s strange in yourself. You sees my love, Falabella ‘orses isn’t so common as other breeds is, so you’s rare, well, in England you is. In America, well, there they trains Falabella ‘orses to guide blind people, a sort of guide ‘orse if you likes.” Silver stared at her mate in incomprehension.
“Guide ‘orses, what’s them then?” She asked. Josh explained what a guide dog did, and then explained that for some blind humans, dogs weren’t an option.
“Why ain’t them good for all ‘umans who’s blind then?” Silver asked, her interest sparking in to real life.
“Because them’s allergic to dogs, so they uses ‘orses, but them ‘orses needs to be small enough, dog size really,” Josh replied. Silver looked uneasy at this.
“You means we’s used in towns, like Ipswich?” She asked.
“yeah, London n’all I’ll bet,” Josh said conversationally. Silver yelled:
“London! That’s a ‘uge place ain’t it? Well ‘ow’s we gonna get on in London, with all them ‘umans, cars, trains and all that stuff?”
“Ask a guide dog how they get on,” was the answer. Josh continued:
“Silver, just because you ‘ate crowds, don’t mean other Falabella ‘orses does do it. Look at Tich, ‘e loves Ipswich, so ‘e’d be good for a guide ‘orse, but I thinks ‘e’s a bit old now. Then again, maybe not.”
“You means ‘e might be a guide ‘orse in America?” Silver asked.
“Anything’s possible Silver love,” the Shire horse replied. Silver looked up into josh’s face.
“You does know that I loves you doesn’t you Josh,” She said softly. For answer Josh lay down beside Silver and drew her close to him, nuzzling and licking her ear. Silver relaxed enjoying the warmth and security of the Shire horse’s presence.
They were disturbed by the sound of a horse coming near. Josh twitched an ear and pronounced that:
“It ain’t Confiada.”
“That’s a relief,” Silver said. Josh got up and peered round the end of the wall.
A skewbald horse came towards him along the track. Josh called out to him:
“’ello! Stroller ain’t it?” The skewbald horse almost left the county! He replied, his words falling over each other:
“oh, yes, yes it is. It’s me, stroller. You’re Josh aren’t you? Silver here is she? You and her are never far from each other are you.”
“’ow did you find us ‘ere!” Josh demanded. Stroller replied hastily:
“I didn’t, I mean, not really, I mean, I didn’t mean to find you here, I don’t know this place, where is this place?”
“You’s talking a load of crap Stroller, you’s known about this place for ages ‘asn’t you, tells me you disgusting ‘orse!” Stroller looked very unhappy:
“No Josh no! I don’t know where we are! I was walking along the track when you called me, that’s all! I don’t know where I am and that’s the truth! I’m lost, and, and I need your help to get back! Why are you so defensive of this place anyway? It’s just an old stable block, there’s nothing to it at all!” Silver let Stroller in on the reason why Josh was so protective.
“You sees Stroller, this is a place of seclusion where mares can ‘ave their foals in safety. Not many ‘orses know about this, not many stallions or geldings does anyway, but Josh does, and now so does you, but you ain’t to tell Ben about this place, right? ‘cos if you does, and this ain’t an empty threat neither, Josh’ll smash you into the earth. This place is so precious to mares.”
“Safety from what? Surely you’re safe here? This is a stable yard!” Stroller replied.
“Safety from whom I thinks you means,” Josh said gravely.
“That still doesn’t tell me who you need to be kept safe from though,” Stroller persisted. Silver asked:
“’as you ever ‘eard the name Confiada round ‘ere?” Stroller admitted he hadn’t.
“’er’s a ‘orrid mare who does as much ‘arm as she can to anyone who she feels like doing ‘arm to,” Josh said. Stroller looked at Silver.
“Are you in danger from this Confiada mare?” He asked.
“Yep, so’s Tich my foal, So’s mistral, so’s any other foal or small ‘orse that might live ‘ere. The ‘umans can’t do anything about it neither, Confiada imprisoned Beyancca a while back, and it was only because of B’s courage that she got free. Confiada ain’t nice, and I ‘ope you never ‘as to meet ‘er,” Silver replied. Stroller looked long and hard at Josh and Silver. He started to say:
“I don’t know if I can say this,,,”
“It’s never stopped you in the past Stroller,” Josh remarked. Stroller looked away, finally feeling embarrassment at his own actions.
“I don’t mean to be rude, It’s just that I can’t, well, I can’t believe what I’m seeing here. A relationship between two so very different horses is impossible!”
“Impossible to you maybe Stroller, but not to us,” Josh said.
“Yes, I can see it’s not impossible for you, but isn’t a relationship between two horses of opposing sex meant to produce the next generation?”
“Not if they doesn’t want to,” Silver replied.
“Oh yes, yes of course. I forgot, you can’t do it anyway,” Stroller said.
“Let’s ‘ave a bit less of what Silver can’t do and more of what she can shall we Stroller?” Josh asked. Taking the hint, Stroller asked:
“Um, er, well, what can you do Silver? I mean really do?” The Falabella mare thought for a minute or two.
“Well, does you mean me personally, or does you mean what can my breed does?” She asked.
“What you do yourself, here,” Stroller replied.
“Well, I pulls carts, small ones, but them’s carts all the same. I can carry small ‘umans on my back, but I’s never done that yet. I’s also involved in regional shows, like the Suffolk show. There I, well, I walk round the place talking to other ‘orses, you knows the sort of thing.” Stroller asked hesitantly:
“Don’t they think, some of them think, well, that you’re a little unusual?”
“Them think I’s unusual? No them don’t! If they says that to me, then I tells ‘em that them’s funny for being larger than I is. Anyway, I’s never come across that yet. Other ‘orses is very civil to me. There is one thing I’s accused of sometimes, and that’s being a foal. A foal! No I bloody isn’t! When I tells ‘em I’s ‘ad one myself, well then them shuts up sharpish I can tell you. Then comes all the usual stuff like, well, like what your friend Ben said to me about Tich,” Silver replied. Stroller felt he’d been foolish to judge this mare so soon, there was obviously more to her than he had originally thought. He thought:
“Ben was right, Silver is an amazing horse!” Josh got up and stretched. This seemed to unnerve Stroller, who backed away slightly.
“You, you’re huge Josh! I can’t get over the size of you, everything about you is massive, your ears, legs, and as for your hooves, how d’you get feet like that!” Josh, immensely proud of his hooves as he was, took this as a sign that Stroller wanted to take a closer look. So he turned and showed Stroller a massive hind foot, almost frightening the life out of him.
“Josh, please, please don’t do that! I can’t cope with you flashing your hooves at me!” Silver laughed:
“Listen to me Stroller,” she said, “Josh might be ‘uge, but ‘e ain’t dangerous. Well, ‘e ain’t if you doesn’t threaten anyone ‘e ‘olds dear. If you does, then you’s better off watching your back, for ‘e’s a danger then.” Stroller looked again at Josh, trying for all he was worth to sort out in his mind where the huge Shire horse fitted in. Stroller saw in Josh a cross between a carer and a terrorist. Stroller knew that his next job was to find where the boundary line was, he wondered how Ben had found it, or had he really found it?
Meanwhile, Josh had turned face on to Stroller and was now observing his mental gymnastics as the skewbald horse tried to place him in a recognised slot. Stroller came out of his reverie to find the huge Shire gelding looking at him with, what seemed to him, amazing tenderness for such a usually brash mannered horse. Josh said softly:
“You doesn’t know what to make of me does you Stroller.” Stroller’s world began to spin horribly! He thought:
“That Shire horse’s reading my mind! Hang on Stroller, he can’t do that, well, I hope he can’t! Oh no, no! What if he can? No, he can’t, no horse can, it’s just my expression that’s been giving things away, yes that’s it. I hope that’s it!” Stroller’s shock must have registered with Josh for he went to him and nuzzled his ear. With the huge Shire gelding standing beside him, Stroller felt smaller than ever. At that moment, he was sure Silver felt larger than he did. Stroller suddenly couldn’t take any more, he said quickly:
“I’m sorry, I’ve got’a go, find Ben, talk with him, sort of,,,” his voice trailed away.
“If you goes back, makes dam sure you doesn’t tells anyone about this place!” Silver warned. Stroller looked at the Falabella mare lying on the straw in front of him.
“For all I know, she’s got powers that I’ve never seen the like of in my life, and if I disobey her, then I don’t know what she’ll do to me!” He thought.
“Yes, I mean no, I won’t tell, promise you that I won’t tell,” he whinnied. With that Stroller turned and fled.
When he was out of sight, Silver turned to Josh and asked him what he thought of Stroller.
“I gets the impression that ‘e’s a conservative type ‘orse. ‘e wants everything to be as it ‘as always been, and something slightly unusual, like us, for you can’t deny it Silver love, our relationship is unconventional. Well, Stroller finds that ‘ard to come to terms with, whereas Ben don’t find it so ‘ard. I think you’s seen that for yourself.” Silver replied:
“Too right I’s seen it. Ben was so curious about me, ‘e couldn’t take ‘is eyes off me! Stroller though, well, now ‘e’s scared by it all. ‘e probably thinks I’s a witch’orse or something.” At Silver’s suggestion Josh began to laugh:
“You’s thinks ‘e thinks you’s what?”
“A Witch’orse Josh. It ain’t too far fetched really,” the Falabella mare replied.
“You ain’t no witch’orse Silver, is you? Is there something you ‘asn’t told me?” Josh asked.
“No, course there isn’t, but who knows what Stroller thinks,” Silver replied. Josh looked at the sky:
“It’s getting dark Silver love, ‘adn’t we better get back to the yard?” He asked. Wordlessly Silver got to her feet and followed the Shire horse back to the yard.
When they returned it was about ten in the evening and the stable yard was settling down for the night. Only a few horses were still awake, I was one, and I noticed them arrive. Quietly opening my door, so not to disturb Ruby who was sleeping soundly in the next box, I went to greet the two horses.
“’as you seen Stroller?” Josh whispered. I nodded:
“’e, I mean he came back in great agitation about an hour ago,” I replied, “he was going on about witch horses! I don’t know what he was on about.”
“Me,” Silver said.
“You? Why should Stroller think you’re a witchhorse Silver?”
“If I knew that B’, I’d be a wiser ‘orse,” was Silver’s reply.
Meanwhile, in the livery yard, Stroller couldn’t sleep. His pacing and general banging about meant Ben, in the next door box, couldn’t sleep either.
“Stroller, please, go to sleep mate,” he yawned. Stroller replied:
“But Ben, I can’t sleep, not after what I’ve seen tonight. I can’t work any of it out! Until I do that, I’ll never sleep.” Ben, resigned to not getting any sleep that night, opened his door, went out into the yard and closed it behind him. Turning to Stroller he said:
“Right let’s go and sort this out for good.”
“What? Now? Now’s too late!” Stroller protested, “It’s too late today, let’s do it in the morning.”
“No,” Ben replied, “It’s eating at you now, and I’m not going to get any sleep as it is with you banging about in your box as you are, and if we sort it, then you’ll be a lot happier Stroller.” Ben took the bolt of Stroller’s door in his teeth and drew it back.
“Come on,” he urged.
“Where are we going Ben?” Stroller asked.
“To see the leader of this place, and also, if they’re still awake, Silver and Josh too. They can sort this out once and forever! I can’t bare to see you chewed up about things, and I know you are now. Also, if we’re going to compete in this horseshow tomorrow, well, I for one want all my mind on the job, and it won’t be if I know you’re feeling uneasy about things.”
“You’re a dear Friend Ben,,,” Stroller said.
“Don’t get all sentimental with me mate, you know I can’t stand it,” Ben replied airily.
So it was that five minutes later, the two friends and I were standing outside my box talking about the situation.
“I know how you must have felt Stroller, I felt much the same way,” I said.
“Did you?” Stroller asked, “What, about the witchhorse n’all that?”
“Not quite that far, but Silver was a curiosity to me all the same. Now she’s just Silver, a dear friend of mine, but she’s herself.” Stroller seemed to accept that.
“What about Josh though, he’s a strange one,” Stroller said.
“No, he’s not so strange when you know the reasons why he is like he is,” I replied, “you see Stroller, Ben, Josh had a hard start in life. He had things happen to him that I’d wish on no horse, no matter how much I hated them. Josh’s birth mother died shortly after he was born, another mare looked after him, I think she’d lost her foal, so she still had milk to feed him with. Three months down the line, she was killed when she tried to escape from that yard after persecution at the hooves of the Shire horse herd that lived there.”
“How did she die?” Ben Asked.
“She was trampled by the herd, They chased us,,,”
“They chased you, you were there?” Stroller asked.
“Yes I was, and I don’t really want to relive what happened that night, suffice to say that it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I think the image that will stay with me forever,,,” I hesitated, trying not to burst into tears at the thought of what I was about to tell these two horses. Ben and Stroller couldn’t have failed to notice my distress, but they waited patiently for me to compose myself. I wanted to tell them about what happened in that field, so Stroller might realise what had made Josh how he is. After a few minutes, I managed to compose myself enough to continue:
“The image that will stay with me for the rest of my life is this. The mare, Josh’s adopted mum, his first, well, she’d been killed under the hooves of about ten Shire horses. The worst thing about it was, they left Josh alone, didn’t touch a hair on him. I suppose it was to make him suffer, they were like that. And, well, after that, Josh poor thing, well, he didn’t know what’d happened. He went to the mare and tried to, tried to get her to rise, but she would never get up again. The leader of the Shire horse herd was of despicable character. He told the poor foal that there was no point in trying to revive his mother because she was dead, and there was no point in crying over her death neither. Then, then that disgusting horse kicked Josh! I lost it then and flattened the sod into the grass, making dam sure he wouldn’t get up in a hurry!” At this point my eyes must have blazed with hatred for the Shire horse, for Ben and Stroller both looked away, unable to meet my gaze.
“Then, after that,” I said, “well, there we were, a few horses from this yard, one dead mare, and this tiny foal. I went over to him and looked down. This poor colt looked up into my eyes and asked me if, if I would look after him. I couldn’t refuse him could I! So Josh came to live here. I had a few problems at first, getting used to being called “mum” by a foal who wasn’t my own, but that wasn’t a problem after a while. I like it, although I don’t know why,” I concluded.
“Now we know,” Ben said.
“Yes, but Josh is a good horse really, it’s just that he’s fiercely protective of anyone he loves, doesn’t want to lose them, like, like he did his own mum,” I replied.
“He evidently thinks a lot of you Beyancca,” Stroller said.
“Yes he does, we’ve had our problems, disagreements and that sort of thing, but nothing really serious,” I replied. Ben said:
“Well, Josh and Silver seem to get on well don’t they.”
“That’s a relationship that still mystifies me. I know it shouldn’t after all this time, but, well, it’s not the usual thing, but what is these days. I’ve done things that are considered taboo here,,”
“Like what?” Stroller asked rather too eagerly for Ben’s liking.
“Well, I got into a relationship with another horse. Nothing strange in that you might think, until you realise this horse was a Field horse. You’ve seen them round here I think.” I described a Field horse to them and both horses nodded in comprehension.
“Correct me if I’m misreading the situation Beyancca,” Ben said, “but isn’t there a little animosity between um, well, I suppose you’d call them the yard horses and the Field horses?”
“You’d call them that, and so do we. Yes there is some animosity, and well founded it is too. It’s mainly a language thing, they speak a different language to us,,”
“Yeah, and Josh speaks a different language to all of us, including the Field horses I’ll bet,” Stroller muttered.
“What was that?” I asked. Stroller denied having said anything, but Ben had overheard his friend and relayed it to me.
“Josh’s language is a bit unconventional, but he’s understandable,” I said. Ben tried to wave the subject away:
“What about these Field horses Beyancca, tell us more about those, what’s so bad about you getting into a relationship with one?” I replied:
“Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen him yet, but, his name’s Jamie.”
All horses look the same round here,” Stroller said.
“Do they? Not that I’ve noticed,” I replied.
“Yes you are, every dam one of you is white!” Stroller squealed.
“Hey Stroller, don’t get into such a state about things mate, it doesn’t really matter what colour these horses are does it? What really matters is if they’re kind and gentle, which they seem to be. As long as they can tell each other apart, we don’t have to, although it would be nice,” Ben said soothingly. Then, right on cue, Jamie came round the corner from the track leading to the river. Seeing me he quickened his pace and nearly flattened me with his welcome.
“Hi Beyancca!” He whooped.
“Hang on a minute!” Stroller snapped. Jamie glanced at him.
“What is it skewbald pony?” He asked. Bristling with anger at being classified as a pony by this new horse, Stroller snapped back at him:
“What the problem is is this horse, one I’m a horse, not a pony, and two, what business is it of yours to come crashing into a civilised conversation like you did!” Jamie squared up to Stroller.
“Listen to me mate,” he said menacingly, “I’ve got no quarrel with you at the moment, but I can soon have one if you carry on like you are doing! Have you heard of my sharpened hooves?” Jamie turned and brandished a hind foot at Stroller. I said forcefully:
“Jamie! Jamie! Don’t! Leave him alone! He’s not your problem!” Jamie left Stroller alone. Turning to me he asked:
“Who is this obnoxious horse Beyancca, I’ve never been spoken to like that by a newcomer to this yard?” I told him who Stroller and Ben were.
“So you’re Jamie?” Ben asked.
“It sounds like it to me,” was the Field horse’s reply.
“Um, and, and what, what was that about your sharpened hooves?” Stroller asked nervously.
“I can, although they’re not now, but I can sharpen my hooves Stroller, and I don’t need to tell you what I could do then!” I got the impression Jamie didn’t like Stroller.
“Jamie, Stroller, stop it now!” I commanded. Both horses looked at me. I continued:
“Right, Stroller, you have to learn something,,,”
“That bloody horse needs to learn a lot of things if you ask me,” Jamie snarled.
“maybe so Jamie, but Stroller, what you have to learn is that this is our place, not yours! You could’ve got yourself seriously injured, or worse!”
“You mean Jamie’s your bodyguard?” Stroller scoffed.
“No, he’s not, but his breed are excellent fighters. Jamie’s reformed, most of his breed hit first and ask questions later, if they ask questions at all. Jamie, fortunately for you Stroller, can be gentle, but not if you anger him. You didn’t know who he was when you went at him like that! For all you knew he could’ve been another Field horse, and then I wouldn’t have been able to stop him!” Ben looked down at Jamie’s feet. He was barefoot, and Ben couldn’t see how a hoof could be sharpened at all.
“How d’you sharpen a hoof Jamie?” He asked. The Field horse considered the question for a moment, looking Ben up and down.
“I’m not showing you that, the last time I showed anyone all hell broke loose. I’m not taking that kind of responsibility again!” He replied Firmly.
“How do humans sharpen knives?” Jamie asked suddenly.
“I don’t know,” Ben replied.
“It’s how you’d sharpen a hoof, and if you don’t know it, it’s better that way,” Jamie said. I said:
“Jamie’s right, all hell did break loose when he showed me how to sharpen my hoof.” Jamie turned to Stroller and said:
“If you ever, ever! Sharpen your hooves, I’m gonna come and smash you! That goes for you too Ben! I don’t wan’a be responsible for any more trouble!” Jamie suddenly shrieked:
“I wish I’d never mentioned it now!” With that he ran off.
“Why get in such a state about a sharp hoof?” Ben asked.
“You doesn’t know what went on then Ben,” someone said. Squealing with surprise Ben whirled round to find Chantilly standing behind him.
“What the bloody hell do you think,,, I mean, where did you come from?” He asked. Chantilly smiled, this angered Ben as he didn’t feel the situation to be very funny at all.
“I’s ‘ere all the time, Jamie’s right you knows, you doesn’t wan’a sharpen your ‘ooves Ben, trust me,” she said. Ben looked at Chantilly, and found he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Chantilly played with Ben a little, straightening her mane by flicking it over her right eye, a gesture that almost made Ben want to run and embrace her. Then she lifted a forefoot, resting her toe on the concrete. Ben found he had to dig his toes into the concrete to stop himself doing anything unreasonable! Ben’s admiration for this mare increased, I could see it, and so could Stroller.
Suddenly Chantilly advanced on Ben, she quickly nuzzled his ear, and before he could do anything, she was off, streaking away down the yard, her mane and tail flying in the breeze.
Once all was quiet, apart from Ben’s panting as he came down from the stratosphere, I asked:
“Like her did you Ben?”
“Piss off Beyancca,” Ben moaned, “she was playing with me, the bitch!”
“D’you know how old that mare was Ben?” Stroller asked. Ben snapped:
“Old enough to torment me!” Stroller said:
“That mare was half your age Ben. I wonder why you didn’t take it any further, she obviously wanted to.” I knew Chantilly was only playing games. She loved to flirt with the stallions, and even tried it on with a gelding or two, that’s how Mistral was brought into the world, she picked on Coquin, and he took full advantage of her. I thought I’d better have a chat with her before Ben got really upset by her antics. I excused myself and left to find Chantilly. As I left I heard Ben say to Stroller:
“I’m too old for this!” Before he lay down absolutely exhausted on the concrete.
I found Chantilly in the top field with Mistral. When she saw me she ran to me, but when she saw my expression her enthusiasm died instantly.
“You know why I’m here don’t you Chantilly,” I said.
“I’ll bet Ben’s got something to do with you being ‘ere,” she replied.
“Yes he has. Chantilly, why do you do it? Not only to stallions and geldings but also to yourself?”
“I suppose I like the chase, I like doing it. Some mares is like that B’. Not all mares is one relationship with one ‘orse until foaling time, no, some mares ‘ave more, um, experience if you like.”
“And you’re one of those who like to have, “experience,” as you put it.” Chantilly nodded.
“yeah, I suppose I is.” I said:
“Chantilly, you know what that experience leads to, and you complained about it like mad to me once.” Chantilly looked furtively round her.
“Don’t say anything Beyancca, don’t say anything! I know I’s said things in the past, but them’s not true now right? Got it? Have you got the message Beyancca! Does you understand me!” Chantilly squealed crossly.
“I get your drift,” I replied flatly. I ran away from there, Chantilly’s squeals of indignation following me.
I arrived back in the yard to find Ben back on his feet, with Josh and Silver leaning on the wall chatting animatedly to him and Stroller. It was now five in the morning, and I could see no point in going to bed, so I joined the four laughing chatting horses. As soon as I joined them, all the laughter and merrymaking ceased.
“Just because I happen to be here doesn’t mean you have to stop,” I said.
“It was more your expression that stopped us,” Josh said.
“’as you been up to see Chantilly B’?” Silver asked. I nodded and looked away in shame. Josh, sensing that his mum was greatly upset, came to stand by me and comfort me.
“What’s up mum,” he asked, nuzzling my ear in that endearing way he’s got. I told him.
“Well Josh, It seems like I’ve put my hoof in it good and proper with Chantilly. You see, I don’t know if Ben told you,,,”
“Yeah, ‘e told me Chantilly tried to lead ‘im on earlier today,” he said.
“Well,” I continued, “I went to the field where Chantilly was and told her what would happen if she carried on the way she is doing.” I let it hang in the air, Josh grasping exactly what I meant.
“You means Mistral was, um, an accident? Chantilly never meant to have a foal in the first place?” Josh whispered.
“She wasn’t exactly overjoyed when she found out she was in foal, no Josh,” I replied.
“Oh shit,” Josh said harshly.
“Not that she’s abandoned Mistral, no, now she’s got a foal, well, Chantilly loves it like any mare would, but Mistral’s birth wasn’t planned. That’s what I was referring to.” Josh hugged me tightly:
“You’s right, Mistral mustn’t know anything about this,” he said. Stroller came up close to me and said:
“Um, excuse me Beyancca, but, is that Field horse going to be in the horseshow today?” I nodded:
“Yes he is,” I confirmed. Ben spoke up then.
“You see, Stroller and I don’t think we can go through with the show, if , if, if he’s there. I know he’s your mate n’all that Beyancca, but, well, he scares us both silly!”
“You means I doesn’t scare you as much as Jamie does?” Josh asked hopefully.
“No, no you doesn’t, I mean don’t scare us any more Josh.”
“One thing though Josh,” Stroller said, “please, could you refrain from flashing your hooves at me? I know you’re proud of ‘em, I mean them, and that’s commendable! But can you please stop scaring me silly?”
“’ow can I show you that I means you no ‘arm Stroller?” The Shire horse asked.
“Um, I really don’t know Josh,” Stroller replied, all the while watching Josh’s massive feet to make sure they were still flat on the floor. Silver had a possible solution to Stroller’s problem.
“Josh, let Stroller walk round you, look at you from all angles, see that when ‘e’s in kicking range that you ain’t gonna kick ‘im.” At this Stroller protested:
“Oh, no, no I couldn’t, just the sight of you Josh makes me shake with fear!” At this, Josh kicked off all four boots and stood barefoot in front of Stroller.
“Look at me Stroller,” he invited. Stroller did so, taking in Josh’s whole body, from his head and ears, to his neck and body, then down his legs, such a very long way down, so Stroller thought, to the Shire horse’s massive feet. Josh lifted a forefoot, then, turning, he lifted a hind, showing the nervous horse what he looked like from every angle. Then he turned side on, lay down and rolled onto his back, waving all four feet in the air! This rather foolish behaviour made Stroller laugh, it was meant to.
“Now Stroller, come over ‘ere,” Josh invited. Stroller found his legs propelling him towards the enormous horse. When he was standing beside Josh, the huge Shire horse, still lying on his back, extended his nose towards Stroller in a friendly manner.
“Now I’s showing you that I’s vulnerable to you. Not in the normal ‘orsey way I knows, but it’s the same thing,” he said softly. Stroller cautiously stretched out his nose and touched Josh’s nose with his muzzle.
“That’s it,” Josh coaxed, “I’s not gonna ‘urt you Stroller. Try touching my ‘ooves now, see that I’s no danger, and that I doesn’t wan’a be.” Stroller hesitated, but Managed to touch all four of Josh’s massive hooves. Ben watched Josh’s antics trying not to laugh. When Josh rolled onto his back and waved his legs in the air it was too much for him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked. At first, Josh ignored Ben preferring to concentrate on Stroller, but now the skewbald horse’s treatment was over, Josh got to his feet, reclaimed his boots and went across to Ben.
“I knows what I did was strange Ben, but Stroller was too far gone for talking, I ‘ad to do something else! So I thought showing ‘im that what ‘e feared ‘eld no danger for ‘im could ‘elp.” Ben looked fondly at Josh and Silver.
“If you don’t mind me saying, I like you both a lot,” He said.
“Why should we mind?” Silver asked.
“Don’t’ know really,” Ben replied. Silver went to Ben and rubbed noses with him. Ben’s shock at her actions was visible.
“What’s the matter Ben? Been electrocuted ‘as you?” She asked playfully. Silver couldn’t have had any idea what she’d do to Ben by nuzzling him.
“She’s Josh’s! Ben, she probably wouldn’t have you anyway, couldn’t have you! You’ll get yourself smashed up if you do this!” He told himself. Silver saw at last what her friendly display had done to the dark brown horse:
“I’s sorry, but no Ben,” she said softly. Ben looked away, ashamed at what he’d implied. Unfortunately for him, Ben turned his head away from Silver, only to meet Josh’s gaze. Ben’s immediate reaction on seeing the expression in the Shire horse’s eyes was to run to him, prostrate himself on the ground, and invite just punishment for his crime. Josh held no anger in his expression, although Ben knew he couldn’t have failed to realise what had happened. Ben suddenly guessed the reason why there was no anger. Josh was secure in his relationship with this tiny mare. Other horses would’ve smashed him to peaces the moment he’d shown any liking towards their mare, but not Josh.
“Perhaps he knows he’s so powerful that if he used any force, he’d regret it,” Ben thought.
Ben had never seen the other side to Josh, the side which encompassed the highly dangerous horse with huge feet and a deadly kick. Little did Ben know then, but he was soon to see this side, and be thankful for it.
Josh went over to Ben. When he saw the massive horse coming towards him, Ben’s expression changed from shock to naked fear.
“What’s you looking like that for Ben? I’s not gonna ‘urt you,” Josh said. He continued:
“Now you’s saying something about not competing in this ‘orseshow wasn’t you?” He asked. Ben, startled by Josh’s sudden change of tack stammered:
“Yes, yes, I was, we both were! Stroller and me that is.” Silver asked:
“’ow does you propose to get out of this ‘orseshow then?”
“Hadn’t really thought of that,” Stroller admitted. Stamping his right hind foot in anger Ben declared that:
“I don’t know how we’re gonna get out of it, but Stroller and I are not competing in that show if that horrid Field horse is there!”
“You is passionate isn’t you,” Silver observed.
“Yes we is, I mean are, I mean is. Oh no! I don’t know what I mean now! Why d’you have to corrupt the English language Silver!” Stroller whinnied.
“You’s so funny you know Stroller,” she laughed. Stroller smiled at her.
“So what’re we gonna do? Where’re we gonna go?” Ben asked.
“We can’t stay here all day,” Stroller replied.
“Thank you Stroller,” Ben said sarcastically.
“I knows where we can go,” Silver said.
“Where?” Ben asked eagerly.
“Felixstowe,” Silver replied.
“Felixstowe Silver?” Josh asked, “That’s a bit drastic ain’t it just for a few hours?”
“You come up with a better solution then!” Silver snapped.
“Sorry Silver, but, well, I ‘aven’t got one,” Josh admitted. It was the middle of March now, Christmas and all the other festivities had passed off without much note by us horses, so Silver’s suggestion that Stroller and Ben remove whole sale to Felixstowe was not as crazy as it first sounded.
“Anyway, I ‘ates the smell of chip shops,” Josh moaned, “Them smells of frying fat and I ‘ate it!”
“Right, Silver said, “’ow abo