Alezane's Diary Archive July 2003
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Dick's vet recordTuesday 1st July 2003
Terrible news today. Dick Brown is dead! SHE was getting lunch ready when a neighbour came to tell her that one of the cats had been in an accident and had been taken to Okeford Vets. She phoned the vets to be told that the cat had died. Of course, SHE didn’t know who, but they had always said, if anything happened to any cat, it would be Dick, because he was so brave and adventurous. When they did a head count, first Tom and then PC were accounted for and, although Harriet was not around, that confirmed it was Dick, as the vets said it was a male. HE went about trying to find Harriet and she eventually turned up, crying out on top of the shed.

the receipt for the Burmese catsEveryone is in a complete state of shock, horror and dismay. Trying to find something to do does not help. Trying to face it and talk about him does not help either. HE dug out some bits of paper relating to Dick, as some sort of mark of respect. It’s not much to account for such a wonderful life. Trying to find photographs of him is equally problematical for, as it was in life, it is nearly impossible to tell the Browns apart.

 

 

HE says he is sorry but HE can’t write anymore today.

 

Dick's PedigreeWednesday 2nd July 2003
HE has asked me to apologise to readers of this diary, but there are things he needs to put down about Dick, that have to be done now. HE obviously knew him better than I did because I am away in the field for half the year or more. But I do remember Dick very well for he spent many nights with me in the stable or next door in the tack room. He was here just over two years before me. He was born on the 12th July 1996 on a farm at Chittlehamholt, in the Taw valley, in Devon . HE can remember going there to buy ONE cat and coming away with THREE. When they got there, the farm was swarming with both cats and dogs, as the lady bred both. They can remember the cats climbing all over the kitchen looking to see what they could steal from the Sunday roast. There was very little to distinguish one kitten from another, only Harriet stood out, as she would always sit up high and watch while the two boys romped about, fought and played. HE was just going to say ‘as they grew up’ but really he wants that changed to ‘as they grew older’ for, until now, they never grew up. But, as they grew older, there were a few ways you could tell the boys apart. Harriet was smaller and lighter and, for a long time, had a loss of hair on her tummy, so she could be physically distinguished. But the only visible way of telling Dick from Tom was he used to have slightly stripy legs light a little tiger. Only slightly, the stripes were still brown but a bit lighter. One other visible clue was a passing thing. Dick was the brave adventurous one. He was not nasty or aggressive but he would defend his territory from all comers and often Dick the Burmesehad torn ears or scabs and battle scars. The real way to tell Dick from Tom was in their different mannerisms. Tom would always jump up on HIM and require to be carried about everywhere. Dick would put his arms up onto HIS knees and ask to be picked up and would often thank you by head butting and purring. But his main distinguishing feature was his voice. Dick had a loud voice and he used it to announce his presence. While Tom would lay about the house or stable all day long, Dick would be off, out and about, and you wouldn’t see him until round about tea time when he would be heard shouting his hellos as he arrived back home from a hard days wanderings. “Hello” he would shout. “Hello” HE and SHE would answer. And this went on and on until someone went into the kitchen and gave him a snack. He was not a greedy cat but he did work up an appetite on his days journeys. It has to be said, that it was this wanderlust that killed him. He had acres and acres of field to roam in, at the back of the house, but he would journey across the road and onto the field in the front. HE told me, however, that HE had no idea that he wandered as far as the very fast road at the top of the hill, underneath Ramsley mine. He must have been going right up there and onto Ramsley Common and no one knew (well maybe the other cats did but they had no way of telling). Both HE and SHE have told me that they cannot think of one bad or nasty thing about Dick, he was a real warm, loving yet independent spirit, a fun companion for the other cats and never nasty in his play fights (unlike Tom who has a darker side). A beautiful, wonderful free spirit who will be missed by us all, animals and humans alike. The good die young. Good Bye beloved Dick. 12/07/96 – 01/07/03.

 

 

 

Thursday 3rd July 2003
“Wicky?”

“Ay, laddie?”

“Why is Alli so sad?”

Four Burmese cats“She’s lost a friend, laddie. She is sad for herself. Sad that she will never see her friend again. Never had a chance to say goodbye. Alli has to be sad, Treg, she has lost a part of herself”.

“Why aren’t we sad then, Wick. I would be if it would help Alli. I don’t know what to do”.

“You are doing the best thing, Treg, being yourself. We are not sad, in the same way because we never knew Dick, as she did. If we didn’t know him, we can’t miss him, can we?”

“But I do feel a bit sad for Alli, Wick. Can’t we cheer her up. You could pretend to bite her ankles or something”.

“I feel sorry for her but I’m not suicidal about it, Treg. Why don’t you bite her ankles and see if it cheers her up at all. I’ll just stand here and watch, eh!”

“Will it really be a good idea, Wick?”

“No, laddie, it would not. You could go to her and invite her to go up the field, though. Or even, invite to race around the rabbit holes or chase a sheep or two.”

“Yeah! We could herd all those silly old woollies up into the corner of the middle field and then chase them …. Oh… That would mean running, wouldn’t it Wick?”

“Ay, laddie, a wee spot o’ exercise, indeed. But it would help Alli to forget about things. Surely you wouldn’t mind doing it for her?”

“I wouldn’t mind, Wick, but my legs would. They’d mind a lot. In fact, they would mind so much that they wouldn’t do it. I know them, I’ve had them a long time.”

“Too long, Treg, I would say. But then, where would you be without them?”

Treg thought about that for a whole day. In the evening, he went up to Wicked.

“I’d still be here, without them, wouldn’t I Wick. You can’t catch me like that! By the way, I think Alli’s a little bit better, now. No need to chase sheep, eh!”

 

Just over the hillFriday 4th July 2003
I really am sorry that I have been a bit of a ratty temper today. I can’t help it. Something inside me is pushing me to rush on and get things done and if anyone (Wicky) gets in my way, I just get all snappy. Even Tregony has had enough of me. When I said to go up the field this evening after supper, he kindly but firmly declined. I expect he didn’t want to be with me and bear the brunt of my devils all night.

I don’t blame him. In fact, I was quite relieved to let him go back to the field shelter and head off up the field on my own. At least up here, it’s just me. I can stand and gaze into the distance or go off into a trance. I can watch the dusk slowly turn to darkness and listen to the birds twittering themselves to sleep. I can doze off myself or I can try to make my mind active to stop myself thinking. What I can do, is just be me. I love both my companions and do enjoy their company most of the time, but sometimes it is good just to get away

All the hustle and the bustle with the others and the birds and the sheep and all that did help to take my mind off things for a while. But then the constant paying attention to the needs of others did start to drive me and worry me. I don’t know what I am going on about now. Quiet girl, slow down, easy now. that’s better. Relax, relax. But don’t think. Slowly now, look at the clouds in the sky. Is that the moon, just starting to appear? The first star peeping from behind the cloud. And what’s that sound. Rustling, moving about in the long grass. A rabbit out at this hour? Why not? And that’s a barn owl going low across the fields, just barely visible now. Of on his nightly hunt for food. Youngsters to feed, I expect.

Looking over the brow of the hill, there are lights. Not natural ones but ones made by humans and for humans. It reminds me when I was in my stable and THEY came to check on me before going to bed. There was already lots of light from the lamp in the street and often the moon. Still, THEY would come in a switch on the light, as if I didn’t know they were there from their warmth and smell. Humans are strange creatures. Do you know what HE said to me today? He asked me if I remembered the three legged cats and dogs we often saw walking up the hill to Nine Fields from my stable. Of course, I remembered. Then he asked me why HE never saw a three legged horse? For all they are friendly and kind and apparently close to us, humans don’t really have a clue, do they? Don’t answer that. Do you know something. Being up here, taking to myself has quite calmed me down. I am really relaxed. I think I’ll just pop down and make sure Wicky and Treggy aren’t up to anything they shouldn’t be, without me. After all, you don’t know, do you!

 

 

Saturday 5th July 2003
We have now been joined by a squirrel. I don’t know his name so I am going to call him ‘Nutty’. It may not be very complementary, but it’s a good name for a squirrel, don’t you think?

I can remember some funny squirrels from my past. There used to be one called Grey Ears who hung about our racing yard. He was always coming along in the evening before a race day wanting to know if we could give him some tips about the next day’s races. Why, I don’t know. He couldn’t place a bet with a human bookmaker. I think he just wanted to appear knowledgeable in from of the other squirrels so he could show off a little. Anyway, we always used to have some fun with him, playing him along and making up the most terrible stories. We’d say, “young Black Streamer will do really well in ninefields squirrelthe 3.30 at Newmarket , tomorrow. He’s been eating this special secret diet which makes him go as fast as the wind”. And Grey Ears would say, “Is he really sure to win? Can I tell the others that I know for certain?”

“Better not, Grey Ears”, we’d tell him, “if you say that, everyone will know and then that will spoil the odds”. “What’s the odds?” he’d ask. “You know, what makes the horses go faster. One side’s evens and the other’s odds. If we get onto the wrong side in a race, we don’t stand a chance. That’s why a lot of us run in the middle.”

Grey Ears would fidget now and look serious, whilst absent mindedly chewing on an acorn that he just happened to have with him. After a moment, he’d brighten up and say. “But he will definitely go faster because of this new food? Fast as the wind, you said?” “Oh, of course, no doubt about it! It’s made from high protein mint sweets mixed with pink sugar beet, painted on in a sort of go-faster stripe. You have to lick it for 24 hours before a race, and then there’s no stopping you. Just one thing though. You can’t bear a jockey on your back. You’ve heard of gum drops and pear drops, well these are jockey drops. As soon as he gets on, you run like the wind and then stop dead. Bang. Off he goes sailing right over the crowd. If you don’t come in first, he does!”

Grey Ears, looked at us carefully, a glimmer of understanding starting to show in his eyes. “Well, er, thanks guys, I better be going now. But I’ll remember what you said about the odd and even sides!”

I’m not sure, to this day, if he really knew if we were playing with him or not. But then, he was only a squirrel. Who cares!

 

 

Young SpikeSSpike and Kiriunday 6th July 2003
I hear that THEY went to see Kiri and her foal, today. His name is Spike and he is five weeks old now. Makes me really jealous. And Kiri is only a year younger than me. I could have several more foals before my time as a dam is over. But they won’t let me, I know they won’t. It’s not that they don’t like youngsters. They tell that they are just scared that something might happen to me. And maybe they’re right? I don’t know. When I was in training, I had all the medical care one could wish for. I was more of an investment than anything else and so it paid them to look after me – or they lost their money. But now the situation is different. We are more like partners or friends, THEY provide me with food and housing and I provide them with endless hours of employment and expense. They provide me with companions and I give them lots of prods and nudges and sometimes some worries as well. So, why do THEY do it? There must be something else they get from me? Something that I provide that they need. They hardly ever ask me to hack out now and I’m never expected to race. And still, I can tell that THEY love me very much and enjoy their time with me. I can understand why someone should enjoy grooming me, I do the same for Treggy and it is nice and comforting (although to hear him moan sometimes, you wouldn’t think so). Altogether, it’s a good life but I still can’t help being a bit envious of Kiri. It will pass. I also remember what a pain a foal can be. I didn’t have boys but I think they are all as bad at that age – all legs and no brains. Still, I think I’ll just close my eyes, let my jaw drop and have a little day dream now.

 

 

 

Monday 7th July 2003
“Wicky?”

“”Ay, ma’ Treg?”

“When are we going to have those sheep races, you spoke about?”

“Why d’ye want tae race sheep, sonny? They’re too fast for you ol’ knees!”

“I don’t want to race them, Wick, I want to watch them race.”

Tregony wants to know“You can do tha’ all day, son,. What’s special abou’ making them run?”

“I’d like to think that I made something happen. All I ever do is stand around with you and Alli and go when you tell me to or stop when you say stop. I want to make things happen, Wick!”

“A mover and shaker, eh, son? What’s put this into your head. You’ve always been content to go along with us before?”

“Things change. And I want to change too. I am a horse in my own right, you know. I had a life, a long while before I met you or Alli. I was a very good riding horse and a good jumper. Just because I’ve got some aches and pains now, it doesn’t mean to say I’m a fool”.

“Whoa, laddie, wait up. Who’s been saying you’re a fool. Not me. That’s for sure. And I’m sure Alli wouldn’t. She may be a bit bossy. But she’s a mare and that goes with the job description. She doesn’t think any the less of you because you’re a bit creaky now.”

“But what about those people who pass by? They are always saying such things as ‘ Look at that poor ol’ grey one’ and ‘what’s wrong with his legs?’ and stuff like that”.

“Treg?”

Wicky has all the answers“Yes, Wicky?”

“What colour is my coat?”

“White, Wicky, you know that!”

“And what do you call a white horse or pony, Treg?”

“Er, Wicked. Wick?”

“The proper name, ye imbecile!”

“Oh, … er, Grey!”

“An’ have you noticed who might be a wee bit challenged in the leg department?”

“You mean, … you mean…. They were talking about YOU?”

“”Aye, laddie”

“But you’re clever, Wick. If they said that, it must have been a compliment after all. Oh, aren’t I a big silly. I wont worry anymore”.

“And no more sheep races, eh Treg?”

“No, Wick, no more sheep races!”

 

 

One evening, just as it was getting dark ...Tuesday 8th July 2003
One evening, just as it was getting dark, I was having a little refreshment in the further field alongside the bridle path, when I heard the sound of two horses coming down from the Beacon. They were a way away yet and I couldn’t smell them yet but I could make out that one was about 15 hands and the other was a very large horse of over 17 hands. This monster was plodding along in a leisurely way with the other horse having to make quite an effort to keep up. The bridle path gets quite narrow in some places and I could tell that the big horse was in front rather than traveling side by side.

Now, I know most of the horses that travel along that path and I could tell that, at least the big one, was unknown to me. Intrigued, I left off eating for a moment to get a better sense of them. By raising my head high into the air and inhaling deeply I could get more information than just sound alone could give me. I did it now. Strange, nothing. Maybe the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and taking the information away. But then, why wasn’t it taking the sound away as well? But it wasn’t. I could tell that they were getting closer all the time. As far as I could tell, they should be passing in just a few minutes if they didn’t stop for a bite or turn away into one of the other fields.

 

.. nothing but he cold, dark nightI walked over to the gate to try and get a glimpse of them. I strained and raised my head as much as possible to seeround the hedge and thought I could just get a glimpse of something moving up along the lane a little. It was hard to make out any detail now, as the light had almost vanished from the sky. Just a faint rosy glow behind me over the Beacon to the west. What were these two doing out alone at this time of night? I say alone, for I could tell from the sound of their hooves that they were not being ridden. Still no scent but the shadows were looming large now in the dark of the overhanging trees.

And then, the pace quickened, from walk to trot, from trot to canter, to gallop and whoosh – they were gone, past into the gloom. I listened for their hooves to hit the road where the bridle path meets the junction. But no sound came. Still no scent. And now the night air turned unseasonably cold. We horses have a much higher temperature than humans but I felt the cold gnaw into my bones. No sight, no scent and no sound. Nothing but the cold, dark night and the distant hooting of the barn owl. There are many unexplained things happen, in nature, than humans can understand. They make up stories about silly horses shying from invisible terrors. If they had been there that night, maybe they wouldn’t be so scornful. I’m glad I’m a horse even if I don’t understand about ghosts!

“Tell us another story, Treg, I liked that one”.

“Alright, Alli”.

 

 

Are you following me Wick?Wednesday 9th July
“Do you remember that time when we first came here, and we got out of the field and into the road? That was your fault, Wick, wasn’t it?”

“That was no body’s fault, Treg, that was an adventure. We went on an adventure, that was all. Anyway, no one asked you to follow me, did they? I was just following my taste buds, finding the best midnight snack, and it just happened to be tastiest up and over the bank.”

“We didn’t know our way about, at all, did we Wick? It was all very different from Winkleigh. We had a nice field there, but it was a bit over crowded with those others. And a bit too close to work. They only had to walk along the path a little way with the bridles and they could bring us back for a spot of hacking.”

“Not me, Treggy. They didn’t ask me to go out hacking, very often.”

“Well, you were known to be a bit of a bad boy, when it came to being ridden. How many riders have you had off, Wick?”

“More than you’ve had juicy carrots, Treg, and that’s saying something. You see, the trouble is that they think just because you are easy to get a leg over, in terms of altitude, that you will be an easy ride, as well. That was their downfall. Literally. As soon as we have gone a short distance from home, all I have to do is move a little quicker and then stop short and drop my shoulder and bang! Off they go to renew their acquaintance with mother earth. It always gave me a bit of a thrill to see what power a little laddie like me has over the biggest of them”

the best bit is seeing hem laying on the grass“But, isn’t that a bit unkind, Wick? It’s not as if they want to be nasty or anything. They just think you would enjoy a ride out.”

“Oh, I do, ma auld Treg, I enjoy it very much. The best bit is seeing them lying on the grass with that surprised look on their faces. Oh yes, I do enjoy it, Treg!”

“You’re not half as nasty as you make out, Wicky. I think you enjoy people liking you as much as the rest of us. You just pretend to be a hard one to make up for your lack of size.”

“Whatever, Treg. It was still a big adventure, that night we got out, wasn’t it?”

“Alli told me afterwards that we were lucky we were not hit by a car that night. She said we should always be very careful about roads.”

“Huh, she can talk. Did she tell you when she walked out of her field, at Wood? In the end she was caught by a policeman, chatting up a couple of local geldings in a field a mile away from her field.”

“Did she? The floozy! ‘Strordinary! Watch out, here she comes, heads down.”

 

towards the streamThursday 10th July 2003
Of course, I heard them, talking about me. They often do it and think I don’t know. What makes them think I am such a terrible person that they would get into trouble if I heard what they were saying, I don’t know. But it’s good that they are a little bit scared of me. For, if they really knew what a softy I am, they would walk all over me. Even Treg, for all he gives the impression of being old and a bit simple is actually a very strong and powerful creature. If he took it in his head to do something there is nothing that I could do to stop him. So, I let him think he must do what I tell him, for his own good. He needs someone to watch over him and make sure he doesn’t get into trouble. I’ll bet he’s not told you of that time when he was standing up on the ridge over the field shelter. HE had put a fence of sheep netting there, I think to stopus falling down the steep bank. (HE also planted over a hundred trees there, behind the fence. The sheep were really grateful and ate about 95 of them!). Anyway, Treg was standing there, daydreaming I think, for he suddenly got it into his head that he wanted to go down into the lower field and just lifted his leg and put his hoof through the wire mesh. He had to wait until suppertime, when HE came along before he could get free (and that was not until after HE had got back in his car and drove home for the wire cutters). I’ll give Treg his due, he just stood there all day until he was released. But then, thinking about it, what else could he do?

Then,what's up the bridle path? there was the time they were talking about. You see, Wicked is no better. He is always going where he shouldn’t and that time Tregony followed him. I often see him climbing up ridges and ledges where no horse has any right going. He is more of a mountain goat than a pony. I expect it’s from his past as a wild moorland pony. Don’t be fooled by that fake Scots accent of his. He is about a Scottish as Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh. He may have Shetland ancestors not too far back but he is born and bred on Dartmoor and sold at Exeter market. Where was I. Oh yes. So Wick goes climbing over a bank next to the bridle path where it only needed a fairly strong nudge from a fat little pony to make the fence give way. Once it was down, Wick saw no reason why he shouldn’t walk over it and Treggy just followed!

By the way, I was not chatting up those geldings. You think I’d give geldings a second look, when I’ve been with the best of stallions? All that happened was I had gone to look for THEM, as I had seen THEM drive off in that direction. I just stopped to ask directions from a couple of nice looking lads when someone split on me and up drives this policeman. Talk about ‘give a girl a bad name’. Now, I’ve got previous!

 

 

 

 

Pepsi, the bossy mareFriday 11th July 2003
THEY told me that they went to see my old friend Pepsi today. She had a bad time recently but she is really doing well again now. I first met Pepsi when I was staying at Wood and SHE and I were out hacking down to the village at South Tawton . While we had paused for a break at the top of the bridle path that leads down to Sticklepath, along came Pepsi with her rider Dot. SHE and Dot got talking and Peps and I looked each other over, scented each other and read each other’s body language (as you do). It was obvious we would get along. A case of mutual respect, I think. Peps is no pushover, like Treg or Wicky but she respected my speed and breeding and I her obvious self sufficiency and bravery. We didn’t bother listening to ... working her way through the grasswhat the humans were saying but, it turns out, Dot had a field and Pepsi had no companion. What was more, Pepsi was prone to laminitis if she ate too much rich grass and there was a lot of rich grass needed eating in Dot’s field. So, we gave it a try and Peps and I hit it off, straight away. I didn’t live there. THEY arranged for a stable to be built next to their house and that was where I spent my nights. In the morning HE would lead me round to Pepsi’s field and in the evening HE came round to fetch me. Or sometimes SHE would ride me round and, on occasion, even HE would ride me in his funny sort of way.

It was Pepsi’s Dot who heard that Michael the farmer was selling some fields (his wife Sue was Secretary in the school where Dot taught) and that, to cut a long story short, was how I ended up in Nine Fields. Anyway, Dot was not able to keep Pepsi for various reasons and she spent some time at the riding stable where she had originally come from and then passed on to a family near the coast. We heard that Dot made one or two visits and discovered that Pepsi had not settled in their at all. She can be a quite wilful mare and needs a firm but loving touch until she respects you. I don’t think the family understood this and just thought of her as a bad pony which did not make relations with Peps any better. She became very unhappy and fretful and, luckily, ended up back at the riding school again. By this time she was a thoroughly mixed up and unsettled pony and made herself very unpopular with the other riding school horses. But, over time, with love, understanding and good schooling, Pepsi has become a favourite in the school, especially with the Riding for the Disabled group and she is now a very happy, contented and physically glowing pony. THEY took a lot of photos of her and she is positively radiant. Still a bossy mare, but what’s wrong with that?

 

am I boring you?Saturday 12th July 2003
I’m practising to shout. That’s right, SHOUT! You see, I’ve noticed that THEY are so insecure that it gives them great pleasure to be noticed. I’ve watched, first HIM, when we used to go to Pepsi’s field. As soon as he used to see her he would make the most awful noise. I thought at first he had hurt himself but Pepsi explained to me that HE thought he was talking horse and that the horrible noise was his way of saying ‘hello’. She told me that she used to answer to make him happy. The only trouble was that it made him do it even more. I mean. Even if HE had got it right and he was saying hello in horse (which was very far from the truth) repeating it like that was like saying “hello” “hello” hello” hello” and on and on like that. So really it was doubly embarrassing. But then, she told me, it got worse, as, if she didn’t reply, HE thought that either she hadn’t heard him or that something was upsetting her (not so far from the truth) so HE would just go on doing it even louder, over and over. In the end, she just answered him to shut him up.

Then I would notice HE would do it to the various horses in the fields on our walks up to Ninefields. That really was embarrassing! I mean. With someone you know, you can excuse him as being well meaning if a bit silly, but with strangers? Well, I just didn’t know where to look. The best I could do was to walk as fast as I could while looking the other way and hope they didn’t think I was with him. I don’t think it worked though as I used to hear quite a few sniggers as I went by. Now, he does it to Wicky. Usually, Wick likes to wait up at the gate or down by the stream for THEM when it is bucket time. It makes him look as though he is really pleased to see THEM (although he really is very pleased to see his bucket!) So now HE does that noise to Wick. But worse. I have got a bit fed up with how Wicky always pushes himself forward so I have taken to standing at the gate or the stream at bucket time. And, you’ve guessed it! Well, all I can do is to try and teach him a few of the rudiments of horse and started by trying to pronounce words clearly and precisely. This has meant that I have to exaggerate the mouthing of the syllables very deliberately. Now HE thinks I can’t make any sound when I talk and HE is trying to teach me to talk horse loudly. My dam always taught me it was rude to make much noise but I am having to overcome my good manners and learn how to shout. Something has to work to SHUT HIM UP!

 

 

 

The swallow family, the day before the disasterSunday 13th July 2003
Another disaster, worse – murder! The whole swallow family appear to have been wiped out. It was only just over two weeks ago that the chicks were born, on the 26th June. This morning, after a night up on the hill, we came down for breakfast. At first, we didn’t notice anything wrong. Maybe we should have, because things were a bit quieter than usual. But then HE noticed some feathers on the ground, just beneath the gate that divides the field shelter from the hay store area. This made him check the nest but he couldn’t see any beaks pointing out. HE should have been able to spot them. As only yesterday, THEY were saying how big the chicks were growing and how they would soon be too big for the nest. You could see all of their heads now, even when they weren’t standing up to be fed.

And now, there has been no sighting of any swallows all day and no sound from the nest. All we have left from those beautiful, graceful birds and their family is a sad little pile of feathers on the ground.

Who knows who did it. We have many buzzards flying above the fields but would they also come in the field shelter and take the chicks from the nest. There are crows and rooks and daws that often visit the area outside the field shelter, for the corn HE throws down. But do they perform like predators or are they more scavengers? And, of course, we are visited by foxes but would they catch a swift bird like the swallow or be able to get to the next in the roof of the field shelter. There is one other suspect. We do sometimes get a visit from various neighbourhood cats. Did one of them notice the swallows flying in and out of the field shelter to feed their young and lay in wait, catching both the parent and then the helpless chicks? We will never know. We can only be sorry and wonder if this is the last year we will see swallows here. And, if they do return next year, will we now always worry for their safety?

 

Tregony's bathMonday 14th July 2003
Tregony was feeling fed up. He was bored and wished something would happen. Other horses get to go out hacking or, at worst, get lead out along the bridle path to be able to eat their way along the hedgerow. Why was it always him that had to stay back in the field shelter. He started to mumble to himself about what a dull and boring life it was. How the others always got to do things but not him. What had brought all this on, was that he had heard two passing hacks talking about the special horse show and gymkhana being held in the nearby town, the next day. They were saying how their staff were busy, shining up all their tack and that when they got back to their stable they were going to have an extra special groom – first a shampoo and then even have their tails platted. Treg was green with envy. No one ever plaited his tail. And it was so long ago that he had had a shampoo that he couldn’t even remember when.

He was walking along, kicking the grass stumps as he went and so deep in gloom, that he nearly missed the little old lady, sitting on a lump of granite at the entrance to the field. She called out to him and he stopped, in surprise. She asked him what was the matter. Why was he in such a sad mood?. He told her about the horse show and how he would love to be going, just this once. ‘Why not?’ she had asked him and he told her that only other horses got to do such things. Not for the likes of Tregonies! ‘And what if I said that you could go to the horse show, what then?’ she said with a twinkle in her eye.

Well, to cut a long story short, Tregony got shampooed, tail plaited and decked out with the finest, softest leather tack that you can imagine and he was shipped off to the local show looking the finest, most handsome gelding you could imagine.

“The trouble was” he explained to me the next morning, as he came limping up the field, “I forgot about the strings”. When I asked, what strings, he looked a bit sheepish (if you pardon the expression) and said.

“Well, It’s my memory, you see. I’m afraid, it’s not what it was. There I was having a great old time at the show, when all of a sudden, I heard the clock start to chime midnight . ‘Course, then I remembered what she had said about being sure to be home before midnight an’ I ran an’ ran as fast as I could. But I tripped and lost one of my shoes”. And with that, and muttering about what I should do if a handsome young farrier came along with a shoe, looking for someone whom it fitted, he ambled off to his little corner of the field, for a snooze.

 

Tuesday 15th July 2003
“Hallo, Cinders!”

Treggy looked up and blushed. “Aw, come on, Wick, it was only a story. Alli loves stories. You know she does”.

“What about the shoe, then? How did you really lose it?”

“Er, that’s the problem. Alli would never forgive me, if I told her the truth”.

“Well?”

behind Alli's stable at home“Well, you see. I was thinking…”

“That’s dangerous, Treg … “

“Oh shut up Wick. Listen. I was walking along the top of the high field, watching the sheep, climbing all over the walls and hedges. An’ I thought. I bet I could run. All the way down this field. I could. I bet I could. It must have been the sun or something. I don’t know what put it into my head. I just sort of remembered when I was a lot younger and I used to run about the fields back in Cornwall ”.

“You come from Cornwall ? I never knew. I just sort of thought that you’d always been at Winkleigh”.

“No. Where do you think I got my name from? From Tregony, in Cornwall , of course”.

“Well. You learn something every day, laddie. Anyway, don’t bother to go on. I can just see it. You got this silly idea into your head and the next minute, whoosh! There you are running at full speed down the hill and then …”

“Yeah. Then, all of a sudden, there was this big lack of field. Sort of nothing under my feet. You know. I was still running but my legs weren’t touching the ground. But then I did touch the ground. First my foot and that tripped on a tuft or something, the shoe flew off and I went down of my knees. Bang! And …”

“I know, laddie, over you went and you had to pretend to Alli that you were just laying down for a nap”.

“Well, you know how she worries, so. She pretends to be bossy and strict but really she is just like a great big mother, worrying about us. Yes, Wick. Us. She worries about you too even if she has to tell you off a lot”.

“Yeah, I know. But don’t let her know that I know. Not for me. For her. She is such a sweet natured thing, I’d hate to upset her.”

“Me too, Wick. That’s why I tell her stories. At least, one of the reasons”.

“Know what you mean, laddie. Know what you mean!”

 

a misty dayWednesday 16th July 2003
I went down the field with HER this morning, after breakfast, to get my treats. We went down to the gate that leads on to the bridle path, as usual. Well. I know I’ve seen some strange spooks there before but this morning. Well. You won’t believe what I saw. Of all the cheek. I couldn’t contain my indignation. We (that’s me, Treg and Wick) very graciously and nobly and without any thanks in return, I might add. We give up loads of our lovely, lush green grass to a load of silly sheep. And what do they do? They climb over the wall and through the hedge and get out into the bridle path and roam around there as if they have every right to. Well. If I could whistle, I would have had every one of Michaels lazy sheep dogs out and on the job, in no time. Get them back to, at least if not where they belong, to our fields for the time being until HE or SHE see sense and boot them out. Really. The ungrateful beggars. It made my blood boil. And SHE just stood there and laughed! I’m sorry. I’m so cross, I can’t write any more today. I’m going back to the field shelter to have a prolonged sulk. And if Wicky dares to make a joke about it I’ll bite his neck so hard that he won’t be able to look up for a fortnight. Sheep! It makes you want to stamp!

 

 

 

getting the carrots at the supermarketThursday 17th July 2003
Did I tell you, the grandchildren are down for a holiday? That’s really nice. Even Wicky says so and he’s the one who got Rachel off, last time she was here. He swears it was an accident. He tripped he said. Well? Maybe? Anyway, he is genuinely pleased to see them, especially Rachel, again. It’s not that he prefers Rachel. It’s just that Ben has chosen Tregony as his favourite. So really, it works out quite well. Wicky has Rachel. Tregony has Ben. And I – I have everyone. Just as it should be. After all, I am a French princess.

“Alli?”

“Yes, Wick?”

“The French don’t have princesses. They don’t have any royalty. kings, queens, princes or princesses. You see. They cut off all their heads during their French Revolution.”

“Oh, shut up, Wick. What do you know? You’ve never been further afield than Tavistock Market. What do you know about anything?”

“Whoops, sorry your highness. Pardonnez moi, si vous plate”.

“And your French is even worse than your Scots, you little moorland midget”.

“Alli?”

“Yes Tregony. You have something to add?”

“Alli?”

“Get on with it man”.

“I told Wicky that you like us, Alli. Don’t you?”

It melts your heart, doesn’t it? Such a great big cuddle!

“Don’t take any notice of me, Treg. Or Wicky. Of course I love you both. We wouldn’t argue like this, if we didn’t care. Go on, get out up the gate and see if supper’s coming. Wicky and I are going to have a bit of a history lesson, while we are waiting”.

“Now, what was that about a revolution, Wicked?”

Punch and JudyFriday 18th July 2003
I’m feeling a bit depressed today. I wish Wicky hadn’t told me about the French Revolution. It’s not just that I can’t be a princess. Really, I never thought I was. But it was a good pretence to put the boys in their place. And other horses passing along the Throwleigh Road . No, it’s not just that. It’s the thought of all those heads being cut off that has depressed me. Just like humans, I suppose. You wouldn’t get horses behaving like that. But then, you wouldn’t get horses behaving in such a way as to put some horses in charge, like kings and queens and make others do all the work. Yes, there is a hierarchy among horses but it is more a sharing of responsibility. Someone has to be responsible for the safety of the herd and the others need to obey and respond quickly for the good of the whole. I mean, where would you be if the herd leader shouted ‘run, danger’ and Treggy were to say ‘where? I can’t see it’ or Wicky were to say ‘ You know lassie, that’s a debateable point. It all depends on what you mean by danger, ye know’. And so on. By the time the herd got moving they could have been eaten by lions or pounced upon by the sprites down the bridle path. Or even jumped on by a plastic bag! There! See where you would be without leadership. But that’s not the same as being so cruel and greedy to the non leaders that they fight back and cut off your head. Only humans are so silly.

Anyway, I’m still depressed. And the midges are not helping. If I’ve kicked one I’ve kicked fifty this morning alone. And still they come. Now that IS a good case for cutting off their heads. Death to all midges, that’s what I say. I wonder what makes them go around biting people. If they left us alone, we wouldn’t go around saying ‘Oh look, a midge. I’ll just run up and bite it!’ Of course we wouldn’t. Humans and midges. That’s what’s silly. “No Treg, I didn’t call, just thinking out load”. Oh dear, I must watch what I say. And if he thinks I am depressed, he’s as like to go off down the filed and fetch me a dandelion or something. And I hate that. I mean, I like dandelions, within reason, but not drooping out of Treggy’s mouth. Or though, it could be worse. Have you seen things drooping out of Wicky’s mouth. In fact, everything droops out of Wicky’s mouth. Oh god! Now I really am feeling depressed!

 

a scout should be preparedSaturday 19th July 2003
Do you have those days when everything is out of routine? That’s what I feel like today. Nothing I can quite put my hoof on, just a feeling of being slightly out of sorts all day. The day started normally enough. Our day starts when the first bird calls let us know that the sun is about to start lighting up the sky, just above the horizon. There is a sort of still in the air, even if it is raining or if there is a wind, the world sort of holds it’s breath for a few moments. Then the black sky starts to become grey, dark grey at first then lighter and lighter grey and then, depending on the weather, all sorts of colours wash over the eastern sky and the birds start their chorus in earnest.

I was saying. Today started normally. As the events that I have just described, commenced, Wicky and I started down the hill from the top field. We were met, in the middle field, by Treg, who has not been feeling so nimble, since he lost one of his front shoes last Monday. Wick and I passed him and wandered through the sheep who were lolling about untidily, all over the place. Treg trundled along behind, slowly and a bit painfully. I stopped for a bit of a chat with Phil, who has started hovering about again, although alone now. We’ve not seen Phlorrie for a few weeks, it seems. Outside the field shelter, we came across Ma and her one lamb. She is a funny old thing. Only one horn and not the prettiest flower in the rose bush, but she has a heart of gold and she is the only sheep who hangs around when HE and SHE come with our buckets. Apparently she has been here for several years now and has got quite used to them.

And, although they came with breakfast, as usual and me, Wick and Treg wandered about all day, as usual and THEY came with the buckets again this evening, I still feel that somehow, all is not right. I’m no longer depressed, like yesterday. I just have a feeling of impending doom, hovering about somewhere. I wonder why?

 

 

 

 

Tregony's bad footSunday 20th July 2003
After supper, last night, Treg refused to follow us up the hill. When I asked him what was the matter, he just smiled faintly and muttered that he was not really feeling up to it and that we should go on up, he would be alright. Well, I didn’t like it, but he insisted and Treg can be very stubborn when he wants to be, so in the end, I followed Wicky up the hill and started to forage. It must have been in the middle of the night that I awoke from a doze with a start and looked around for Treg. Then it came to me that he didn’t come up with us and I got this terrible feeling. Something was wrong, very wrong. I suddenly missed Treg desperately and panicked. Without a work to Wicky, I rushed wildly down the hill, calling Treggy, as loud as I could. When I got down into the home paddock, he wasn’t there. My friend. my best friend. My lovely, soft old Treggy had gone. I new he was not a youngster any more and that the day had to come when we would have to part, but not now, not my darling Treggy. I’m not ashamed to tell you, I just hung my head down and wept, silently.

“What’s the matter, Alli?”

I swung round. I was hearing things. They say that when a loved one dies that you can still see them sometimes, still hear their voice. Poor old Treg!

“I didn’t mean it, Alli, whatever I’ve done. It’s just that my foot hurts a bit”.

The voice seemed to be coming from behind the field shelter. I peered through the gloom. Did something move? Yes, there, down the narrow path between the field shelter and the hedge. A big, bumbling shadow waving its front hoof around in the air.

Well, I could have bitten him hard, I was so pleased to see the old duffer. I rushed up and nuzzled him and then nipped his bottom for good measure.

He wasn’t joking about his foot. He couldn’t come in the field shelter for breakfast, he had to have it left in front of him where he was. HE got Treg a bucket of water, in case he couldn’t get to the stream and later HE, SHE and the grandchildren came back with Roger the vet and his son Angus. And they had quite a party. Treg had nearly half his hoof cut away, he had a needle jabbed into him (which made him nearly nip Roger back) and then SHE did what she loves doing with poultices and sticky tape. But it seems to have done the trick. Treg can now eat grass as fast as ever. I wonder what we’ll get up to tonight?

 

Monday 21st July 2003
“I bet I can get the first carrot, today, Alli”

“You little squirt. You couldn’t get the first anything. Except maybe a bite on the bum”.

“You say that, but I was considered the fastest beggar out of all of us, when I was on the moor”.

“I’ll say one thing for you Wick, your memory must be pretty good, if you can remember that far back”.

what's on the ground?“We used to roam about as free as those birds up there. Just wandered all over the moor. Walls didn’t stop us. We either used to go round them or over them, if necessary”.

“Yes, I’ve seen you scale a few in these fields, I’ll have to admit. Didn’t you ever get hungry?”

“Yeah. Most of the time. The moor isn’t full of grass like these fields, you know. But you get used to it. Eat most things. Gorse can taste pretty good, you know, when you’re hungry. When the new shoot come, even when you’re not so hungry. But then, there was always the tourists”.

“Cheese sandwiches and that sort of thing. Ugh!”

“No. Quite a few of them were quite educated. Apples, mints even carrots. I’d swear that they put them in their cars on purpose to feed us when they came upon us, on the moor. Then I was at my best. I could spot a tourist car before they reached the brow of the hill. I would run down the hill and be in the car park before they’d even spotted it. And there I’d be, looking all hungry and appealing when they opened their windows.”

“I bet you found it hard to reach up that high, eh, Wick?”

“Funny. Of course I* could reach. Even when I was a colt, I learned the art of extracting Polos from a tourist. If I was too short, so much the better. They had to open their doors to get to me and that way, they were at my mercy. I could plead and nudge, push and bully until they had to run back to their cars with empty pockets”.

“But you know they are not supposed to feed moorland ponies. It encourages the ponies to approach the cars and that’s dangerous”.

“And was it my fault, if they stopped. You couldn’t blame me if I ate what they offered, could you?”

“Well, I’m glad I never had to beg. Where I was brought up we were treated like royalty”.

“So what are you doing up here at the gate then, Alli?” Not going to beg, are you?”

“Just waiting to receive my rightful gifts from my subjects”.

“Here they come. I’ll get them first. Ouch. Alli, don’t bite. Ouch!”

“Get out, little squirt, I saw them first!”

 

Tuesday 22nd July 2003
We had the vet again today, for Treg’s foot. It wasn’t getting any better, even though SHE did put a poultice on it. It was Roger, again. He didn’t have little Angus with him this time but hr did bring two nice the crime scenedogs, Amber and Jazz. It was more like a party really than a vet visit. HE and SHE and Roger and Ben and Rachel and the two dogs. And, of course, the sheep. But they are there all the time now. The only one who wasn’t having a good time was poor old Treg, but in the end, even he brightened up. Roger poked about and cut about with his knife again and this time he did manage to find an infected hole and let some pus out which brought poor old Treg some relief after all. He now has to have a poultice again. And, of course, he had another injection which he didn’t like any better than the first one. The jolt was softened a bit by HE with the mints and carrots, trying to keep Treggy’s mind off what was going on. And, I think the succeeded. Then the dogs and (big and) little kids played with the dogs with sticks and the dogs swam in the stream, I got as many distracting sweets as I could, Wicky tried to bite a dog’s nose off and we all had a real good time. And the sun came out for a while. It all bucked old Treg up a great deal and he even got across the stream in to the road field for a while, this afternoon. HE came alone tonight with our supper. I expect the grandchildren were worn out with all the fun and games. HE stood for a long while after we had eaten, listening to the buzzards mewing, as they do and the sheep and lambs calling out to each other and just enjoying the countryside in the rain.

 

 

 

Treg following HERWednesday 23rd July 2003
Good news, the old boy is getting better. He came up the middle fields with us last night and was able to hobble about quite a bit. He even managed to eat some grass (there’s a surprise!). I thought, today, rather than me going on and on, I’d try and see if we could show you some pictures of the old soldier. I’m not sure yet how long they may take to download as this is the first time HE has used what he calls ‘streaming’ video. Up here on Cosdon we are used to streaming. The sky streams, the grass streams and then the stream streams as well. Still, we could do with it (as they say). This is the first year that I have been here when the little stream that runs along the road hasn’t, if you see what I mean. Anyway, you will be pleased to hear that I was forced to nip Wicky again this morning. Treg was having his poultice redone and I was looking on when SHE shouted at Ben that I was getting in the way, Treg backed up, as if I was going to bite him and in the confusion, the little Wicked squirt tried to get the food that had accidentally dropped from my bucket. Well, that made me see red (my favourite colour) and so I gave him a little nip. It did no good though. He just dances round singing’ Silly old Alli, can’t catch me’, has a good laugh and then comes back again. I love him really!

p.s. the ‘streaming’ didn’t work. Never mind, more rain another day!

 

 

 

Wicked gets a wash and brush upThursday 24th July 2003
Thousands of years ago, in a forest in the middle of Europe , a mare stood guard over her recently born foal. He was tiny, not just because he was young but in his build. His dam was of normal height and his sire was a fine figure of a stallion but Mauvais was tiny. His mother gave him the name, not because he was really bad but because whatever he did seemed to go wrong. He was sleeping now, not flat out but on his knees with his nose resting in the leaves. There was a sound on the air that made his mother prick her ears. She lifted her head and listened intently. There it was again and she was sure it was coming nearer. Taking no chances, she nuzzled Mauvais until he opened his eyes. Using her muzzle again, a bit more forcefully she pushed him until he struggled to his feet. She made to move off, away from the direction of the sound. Little Mauvais did not move. She went back and this time gave him a slightly stronger push until he started to walk in the direction she wanted. They both moved on, she walking with strides so long that little Mauvais was forced to trot every few of her paces.

They had been moving now for about fifteen minutes and the colt was getting tired and out of breath. He signalled to his mother that he wanted to stop but at first she took no notice. Then, he fell, not out of exhaustion but because he tripped over something. When he tried to get up again, he found that his leg was caught down a hole with a tree root firmly trapping it so that he could not move without a great deal of pain. His mother came back to see what the matter was and did not see that he foot was trapped, at first. She tried to nudge him again, impatiently, but he cried out with pain as she moved him. Now she saw the problem and started to become very agitated as her ears picked up the sound again. Wolves! She knew their cry and knew the terrible danger they would be in if the pack found and surrounded them. She ran up and down in near panic but on turning to face her son she saw a small creature was hovering over the hole where his foot was trapped. It was a rabbit. When she looked closer she saw that the rabbit was gnawing at the tree root and with his very sharp teeth was getting through it rapidly. A few more moments and the root was severed and Mauvais was free. He climbed to his feet and then bent down to nuzzle his thanks to the rabbit. Then, with a bound, he and his mother were away, escaping the wolves, to freedom.

“And that’s why”, Wicky said to Treg, “we moorland ponies are very friendly with the rabbits. That foal, all those years ago was one of our ancestors and if it wasn’t for the rabbit, none of us would be here!”

“’strordinary!” said Tregony, looking very impressed.

 

Rachel racing AlezaneFriday 25th July 2003
It was in France , in the nineteenth century, there was a young colt called Minuit, which means midnight . He was given that name because of the colour of his coat, a deep, rich black. Minuit was what humans would call a ‘teenager’ and he was full of himself. He was not only very handsome with his black, glossy coat and his long, strong legs and his very fine features but also he could run like the wind. He was always challenging the other colts to race him. He would run anywhere, in the fields, through the forest, along the coach tracks or even up over the high hills. No one could catch him, let alone beat him.

Unfortunately, Minuit grew very cocky and the others started to avoid him. When they saw him coming, they would look away and start to walk off in the opposite direction. Often he would run after them and it didn’t take him long to catch them up but they would ignore him or pretend that they were very busy and couldn’t stop to chatter. Minuit was forced to wander farther and farther afield to find anyone to talk to and to race with. One day, he found himself cantering along on the road from his village to the nearest town. Minuit had never been to town before and was excited at the thought of all those strangers whom he could impress with his speed and his good looks.

The road started to get busier with wagons and coaches and people on foot and on horseback, all heading into town. This hustle and bustle only served to make Minuit even more excited. One of the mounted horses he was passing called out and asked if he was going to market too. Minuit didn’t know what ‘market’ was but he didn’t want to show his ignorance, so he just mumbled something and hurried on past. As he got closer and closer to the town though, the atmosphere changed and Minuit began to get a bit apprehensive. There was noise everywhere and more humans than he had ever seen before. By the side of the road there were buildings with all kinds of noise and smells and smoke coming from them. Then a crowd of youths spotted him and ran round him and some tried to jump upon his back to ride him. Minuit panicked and started first to canter and then gallop. He lost his way, trying to avoid the youths and found himself running through an alley. The next thing, he bumped into a big vat of boiling liquid and felt a terrible pain all over his coat. With a squeal he kicked and ran, faster than he had ever run in his life. He ran and ran and ran until he felt that his heart was going to give out and he could run no more. He fell to his knees, by the side of a familiar lake, and collapsed, unconscious.

When he awoke, hours later, it took him a while to remember what had happened. His coat felt painful and he staggered to get a look at himself in his reflection in the lake. At first he though another horse had come up behind him and then after checking he realised it was his own image reflecting back off the waters. His beautiful black coat was gone and instead it was the colour of the fire that he had felt when the boiling liquid covered him.

“And that”, said Alli, “was how my ancestors got their fire red coats!”

“’strordinary” said both Treggy and Wicky together, although the looks on their faces implied that they were not quite convinced. At least, Wicky wasn’t.

 

two old friendsSaturday 26th July 2003
Back in Cornwall , when I was a lad, we used to have this great big party, once a year. Everyone joined in, all the horses, the cows, the sheep, the chickens and, of course, the humans. They organised it all, if you could call it organised. It would start very early in the morning. The big shires who used to plough the fields and pull all the heavy carts around the farm were brought out into the yard and given a washing down. Then they were dried and brushed all over and their manes and tails were plaited and flowers were woven into their harness. The humans had jugs full of cider and would place them down where they could keep taking a little sip now and then. We all had to get over to the big fields outside of the village manor. The sheep were rounded up by the farm collies, the chickens were put in wicker cages and loaded on the cart that the shires were harnessed to. The cows were put on a rope and tethered to the back of the cart and the young humans and the girls would climb aboard the cart and off it would go, driven by the farmer’s wife. Myself and my friend Truro would be given a real good brushing over and the farmer and his son would ride us alongside the cart, sometimes getting ahead, sometimes pausing to talk to a neighbour and sometimes racing each other in a friendly way, along a quiet stretch.

When we got to the manor fields, there would be crowds of similar families and animals from the other farms in the parish. There was chatter and children playing tag and women greeting each other and farmers getting out their cider jars and telling stories and generally a really nice cheerful atmosphere.

We horses were turned out into a paddock to graze, until it was our turn for the races. The humans set about, first buying and selling sheep, chickens and milk, cheeses, vegetables and the like and then sitting down for a meal. After the meal they all went a little quiet while they had a nap, then it was time for the games. They did all kinds of silly things. They tied themselves together and ran with like only three legs. They got into an open flour sack and hopped about like a lots of rabbits. They drank a lot more cider and then tried to climb on our backs and make us race each other but they just kept on falling off and riding us round in circles. An then, when they tired of that, some men started scraping bits of stretched hair over some strings and others banged on things and they all, men and women, started jumping up and down and turning round and round. I tell you, it was mad and I was glad to get home, in the end.

Alli looked at Wicky. “’strordinary!” they both chanted in unison, and they both fell about laughing on the ground and they rolled and they rolled and they rolled.

 

eating and groomingSunday 27th July 2003
I forgot to tell you, the farrier came on Friday. I was the only one to have new shoes, this time. Wicky never has shoes, only his feet trimmed. Tregony had all his remaining shoes taken off to even him up and give his hooves a rest, as they had been breaking up and were the probable cause of him tripping and loosing a shoe. I say probable, because both the vet and the farrier suspect that he may also have tendon trouble. It is hard to tell whether he is limping now because his feet are a bit tender, without shoes on the granite stones or whether he is limping due to strained tendons or even if a lot of it is in his head and he is just a bit unsure and wary now because of his trip. It’s no good asking him. He doesn’t know and he wouldn’t tell you anyway. He likes to put a brave face on things. He says he will just stay in the home paddock because the sheep have missed a nice bit of grass when, in fact, he is either a bit scared to walk up the field or his feet hurt too much. SHE is doing her best for him. SHE is bandaging his tendons each day, although it is a lot of trouble for her to bend, with her lack of puff. I can only think the whole lot of us are a load of old crocks (well, perhaps not me?) with all our aches and pains.

On to happier things. I hope you liked our stories for the last few days. This is what we get up to during the nights, especially when it is too wet to go out much. The others would go out more but I have such a thin coat, I have to take cover or I catch a chill and they stay in to keep me company. Mind you, it has to be very wet for Wicky to come right indoors. ‘A good drop ‘o weatherr’ lassie’ he says to me with a grin, as the rain runs down over his back. Treg stands half in and half out of the field shelter. I think he would like to get further in but he thinks that might be pushing his luck, considering his lowly status in our herd. And he’s quite right too. Best if he knows his place, better for all of us. Not like that little squirt. I won’t tell you what SHE shouted at him tonight. Water off a Shetland’s back, they call it. He just runs a bit out of range and grins (if you can call that hideous look, a grin!). Oh well, back to the grass. At least the flies go in when it gets dark, I’ve nearly bitten my foot off, trying to ease the irritation. Better be careful though or I’ll end up like poor old Treg!

 

getting darkMonday 28th July 2003
There were seven sleepers in our stable, back in my racing days. You couldn’t tell it from just watching them, and of course, they wouldn’t tell. But, they were there. And somehow, the word got out, among the other horses that is, and although nothing was really said, in the open, all of us knew and we were a bit afraid. It was somehow obvious that it would, sooner or later, come to no good.

The humans were blissfully unaware. I’m not even sure if they would know what a sleeper was, even if they could have overheard any stable gossip. They probably would just think that we were referring to lazy old Parson’s Shadow or Parzy as we all knew him. Or they may have thought of Mrs Jenkins’s Winnings (old Jennie) who was always dozing off, even in the middle of a race. How she got her name nobody knew but it must have been the triumph of optimism over common sense – she never looked even vaguely like winning a race.

No, the humans had no idea. That is, until the day of the big race at Chepstow. The day started out like any other big race day with lots of early hustle and bustle, an extra good feed and plenty of grooming. Those who were not going to race were given to the junior lads to exercise and turned out into the paddocks and forgotten about. I was due to race that day but had damaged a muscle in training and had been withdrawn so I was among those put out to pasture.

I said goodbye to my friends who were racing and wished them good luck and duly found myself out in the field with the others. And among the others were the seven sleepers, although I didn’t know it then for sure, just a funny feeling when I came near one. In fact, it was so odd as to be downright unpleasant. Whether it was that the sensation was magnified with them all being together or what, I don’t know. All I know is that I felt decidedly uncomfortable and so I sort of drifted away from them to a corner of the field where the feeling was not so bad.

After a time of persistent eating, whilst thinking about the race that I had missed and my friend Dodger, who was running in my place, I started to feel the warm sun on my back and feel my jaw slowly dropping and my eyes closing. I dozed standing up and let my head droop a little, with the pleasant buzzing of some insects in the background.

Suddenly it went cold and I shot awake. Pulling myself up I glanced around swiftly to the left and right, high and low, ready to shoot off in flight at the first sign of danger. But there was no danger that I could hear or sense or see. Just a silence. An uncommon silence. A wrong silence. And then I saw them. Seven horses or, at least, seven horse shapes, transparencies shooting up into the darkening sky. No noise. And then, they were gone. Into the dark. Nothing….

When the humans came back from the races, there was an almighty fuss. They couldn’t tell where seven of their prize thoroughbreds had gone. Strayed? No. No fences broken, no gates open. Stolen? They had the police arrive but they could find no evidence, no tyre tracks, no hoof prints and the traffic police had no reports of suspicious vehicles. And, of course, I couldn’t tell them. Even if they could have understood my language, they would never have known about the ‘sleepers’. Maybe one day they will learn. Maybe!

 

Treggy was grumpy this morning ...Tuesday 29th July 2003
Treggy was grumpy this morning. I could tell he was not very pleased with me. I decided to bite the bullet and went up to him.

“What’s the matter, old man?” I asked him, in a friendly sort of way. He looked at me sort of sideways and mumbled something.

“What? I didn’t hear you, Treg. What did you say?”

He glowered and grumbled.

“I didn’t like that story, last night” he muttered. “All about sleepers and funny things. and all that. I didn’t understand a word of it!”

“What didn’t you like, Treg” I smiled sweetly at him.

“I told you, I didn’t like the story last night”. He turned sideways to me and munched on a blade or two.

“I know that. I heard that, Treg. But what was it about it that you didn’t like?”

“The story was what I didn’t like. I don’t like stories that have no sense in them. And that story had no sense. No sense at all”.

“It was meant to be a mystery, Treg”

“That’s what it was, Alli, a blooming mystery. A mystery what you bothered to tell it at all for. Why can’t you tell stories that I can understand?”

If I only told stories that you could understand, Treg, I wouldn’t tell very many, would I? And they would be very short ones!”

“That’s what I like, Alli, short stories. Good, old fashioned, simple short stories. None of this science friction. No wonder it’s called that. It rubs you up the wrong way, that’s what it does”.

“It’s fiction not friction, old Treg” I told him.

“O’course it’s fiction. Wouldn’t be a story if it weren’t fiction, would it?”

I could see I wasn’t going to be getting anywhere, with him in this mood. Better to change the subject.

“What you going to do today Treg” I asked.

“Not blinking goin’ all transparent and floatin’ up into the sky, that’s for sure”, he said, with a half grin.

“Daft. Daft as lights. An’ I thought I was the one who was going senile. Poor old Alli. Never mind gal. They’ll be coming for you soon enough. Just take it easy on those herbs that you keep eating in the hedgerow. ‘s not doing you a whole lot of good!”

And, giggling to himself and shaking his head, Tregony walked away, up the hill.

 

Alezane with HERWednesday 30th July 2003
Just as I went to look to see how Treg was getting on with his breakfast, in a motherly sort of way, you understand, that little brat Wicky took advantage and tried to finish off my breakfast bucket. Of course a couple of swift nips to the posterior end were in order and then he swiftly turned round and went to kick me. I had to charge him, didn’t I? Well! Unfortunately, old Treg doesn’t like that sort of high jinks very much. He’s not really the bravest of soldiers under fire, so to speak. So, what does he do? He moves to get out of the way, naturally. Unfortunately he was having his legs bandaged at the time and SHE was not amused. Most definitely, NOT amused!

Well, I got shouted at and you know how I hate that. More than once, as well. I was shouted at, REPEATEDLY! I had to get out of the field shelter and go with HIM down the field to get my carrot treats. HE tried to make it up to me but I’m afraid it takes more than a bit of orange coloured vegetable to put things right, when I’ve been shouted at. I allowed him to treat me and then walked straight back into the shelter, only to find that the rotten little squirt had finished off my breakfast as he had intended to do, all along. Today didn’t start out well for me. Maybe the others had better watch out or they will find things are not so good for them either. I’m furious!

 

 

 

looking smartThursday 31st July 2003
When THEY came along with supper they found that I had undone Treggy’s bandages and he was trailing them along the floor. That will do for starters, I thought. What will stir them up next? And then it came to me. Ghosts! That will wind them up. So when it was time for my walk down to the gate for my treats, I suddenly pretended to hear something behind the hedge. I stood as tall as I could and I looked and snorted and hopped about from one foot the next. The pity was that the only response I got was that they laughed at me and said what a silly old so and so I was. That did it. I lifted my head real high and started running around the field in the floaty sort of way that I can do when I want to impress someone. Run down to near the gate and then canter back, skid to a halt and snort as loud as I can. Of course, the two old boys knew what I was up to and didn’t take much notice but the humans, well, they were really impressed. Not scared though, I’m afraid. They loved the way I moved but still kept calling me silly and laughing at me. In the end, Treg had had enough and started up the hill for the nights’ eating and as the humans had not taken fright, as I had hoped, I chased the old blighter up the hill and even got a canter out of him. So, maybe all that effort wasn’t wasted after all. And, anyway, it did make me feel better.

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