Alezane's Diary Archive April 2004
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After the fireThursday 1st April 2004

“’Ere, Wicky, dye see that?”

“See what, my dear Treg?”

“Them rabbits, up there on the Common. I didn’t think we’d see any of them now, after the fire.”

“That’s probably the very reason that we can see them, Treg. Normally, the whole Common is covered with bracken. A whole army of rabbits could hide in it and we’d never know.”

“Do they have armies, then, Wick?”

“I couldn’t say laddie. Probably. I expect they have to guard their territory from other rabbits who want to move in.”

“I never hear them marching up and down. You know, ‘left – right – back left – back right’ and all that.”

“I think you’ll find that they don’t move like that, Treg. It’s more like ‘left & right – back left & right, etc.’ A sort of jerky front then jump back motion, don’t you think?”

“If THEY could hear us now, discussing rabbit gaits. I bet THEY think that we only talk about eating and stuff.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Treg. I don’t usually bother with the stuff. Just the eating, man.”

“I wonder what an army of rabbits on the move sounds like?

“They’re so small, I don’t think you’d hear them at all. That is, unless you were another rabbit or something. Then they would probably sound like a lot of stupid bunnies, hopping about in the undergrowth and then bolting down the nearest hole in the ground if they heard something coming.”

“You don’t think a rabbit army would be brave, then Wick?”

“To be honest, Treg, I don’t think about bunnies at all. Ever. That is, unless you want to talk about them and then I am very kind and patient with you. See. So SHUT UP ABOUT RABBITS!”

Er, that’s kind and patient, is it, Wick?”

“Aye, laddie, that’s what it is. Now, do you want to get to know what unkind and impatient is or shall we stop talking and start eating?”

“But it’s good to see that they weren’t burnt or anything, isn’t it Wick?”

.”One, two, thre…..”

“Sorry. Let’s have supper, shall we?”

“Aye, laddie. Let’s eat!”

 

Going homeFriday 2nd April 2004

It’s getting more like a nature lesson than a diary, these days. Yesterday it was rabbits. And today? Well, as we were walking up the Throwleigh Road , this morning and we turned the corner so that Ninefields was in sight, HE turned to me and said, pointing up above the field shelter, ‘Look, Alli. It’s a dear deer!’ And so it was. A little beige doe was standing, perfectly still, looking our way, all petite and perfect. She was all alone. In fact, I have never seen more than one deer at a time in this area. Deer are herd animals but, for some reason, I have never yet seen a herd on the Common or in our fields. The other thing about them, is how small they are compared with what one expects. It is quite possible that there are more around normally but, like the rabbits Treg was talking about yesterday, you don’t see them because they are hidden in the undergrowth. And, of course, they are quite timid creatures. By the time we reached the gate into our field, she was gone. We never saw the going of her. One minute she was standing there, the next – vanished!

Not like old Phrank the pheasant. He is growing bolder and bolder by the day. He now has three ladies whilst poor old Phlynn has none. Oh, that’s right, I told you that already, didn’t I? However, I also told you what a coward he is. Well, he’s not any more. As soon as HE walks up in the mornings with the buckets for the old boys, Phrank comes right out to greet him and wait for his rolled oats. They were initially intended for the little birds – the finches, sparrows, blackbirds, and so on but now he has to give extra handfuls as Phrank and his three women gobble it up as fast as they can. Phrank has also taken to making that funny ‘oink’ noise again, while he is eating. I say again, because last year’s pheasants made this noise too, all the while they were pecking up the seed. When Phrank first (phirst?) made his appearance this year, he was silent. It is only since he has been courting that he has taken to oinking.

And that brings me to my final animal observation. That Amber is getting really quite friendly these days. Tonight, walking home, she was in her little field by Drybridge and, when she saw us coming, she let out a little squeal and ran over to the gate. I walked up to her quietly and we spent quite a long time rubbing faces and getting to know each other. I could see HE was still a bit nervous, not knowing what we were going to do. In the end, HE parted us and gave us both a mint treat before leading me away. I think if we were let out in a field together we could really have some good running about fun. It would be nice to have a romp with a youngster after being with my old boys for so long.

 

Along the laneSaturday 3rd April 2004

One day, a very long time ago, a small filly foal was wandering along the Throwleigh Lane, crying. She was all alone with no one to comfort her and she was very , very tired and she was hungry as well. It was winter and there was very little to eat, along the lane and the fields on either side of the lane were barred to her by stone walls with hedges built on them. She had been roaming with her herd, with her mother and aunties, much earlier in the day when the skies had started to darken. It was far too early for it to be the coming of night time and there was a strange feeling in the air that made the herd uneasy. In the distance there were strange rumblings and a brisk breeze sprung up, making the animals uneasy. The little foal kept very close to her mother’s side for reassurance and her mother kept turning to make sure that she was still there. The whole herd had been grazing on the moor, up above Shilstone, and then had moved slowly down, by passing Throwleigh and heading west. They had no intention of going along the lanes but, just as they got to the brook below Shilley, a loud noise had frightened them and they had run, blindly, to escape the unknown. The foal had managed to keep up, as her mother had encouraged her and they had not run too far before the herd leader had called a halt. They now found themselves facing away from the moor and onto a part of the countryside that was unfamiliar to them. Mostly the lane was enclosed by granite walls and then there was a long stretch where it was open to a steep hillside, covered with dead bracken. There were some paths from the lane, leading to the top of the hill and some of the young colts were all for exploring. But the herd leader was firm and lead them all even further westward in he search of some worthwhile grazing. It was then that it happened. They were just coming out of the lane to a plateau overlooking a valley when all hell broke loose. From the hillside came a large explosion of white and then red fire, a sound like the gods were very angry indeed and a shower of rocks and earth, hurtling up into the sky before plummeting down to cover the terrified herd. The horses just broke and ran for their terrified lives, knocking the filly down in their haste. They avoided trampling on her but she was winded and could not get up for some minutes, by which time there was not a horse in sight. The little horse stood, wobbly on her spindly little legs, and gazed all around her. The explosion from the mine had ceased, leaving a dark cloud of dust in the air and a strange eerie silence, filling her ears. Something told her that her family and the rest of the herd had mainly headed back in an easterly direction and, painfully at first, the little foal headed back in the direction of the moor. It was after a few moments of trotting along the lane that her isolation caught up with her, causing her to cry unseen tears. Horses don’t cry with teardrops as humans do. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t cry. How terrible to be parted from the comfort of the herd, let alone from ones family. She was just about to give up and sink down onto the hard earth when she heard a voice, in the nearby field, call out to her.

“Evening all”, it said.

She looked up and ……

 

“That’s me, aint it Alli? You made up a story with me in it. How lovely!”

“Load of rubbish, if you ask me, hardly any mention of eating in it, at all.”

“Go on, Alli. What did I do? Go on!”

“Another time, Treg. We’ll finish it some other day. Got to go now.”

 

Wicky and his coatSunday 4th April 2004

“Have you noticed that HE is not bothering to fill our hay nets very often, these days?”

“Not really, I’m too busy with my head in my bucket, when HE is here, usually, to notice anything. I did see that the nets were a bit empty but I thought it was just you eating them, as usual, Wick.”

“Well, there may have been a bit of that as well, Treg, but when I do eat it, HE doesn’t fill it up again.”

“Well, that’s bad. I’ll have to get Alli to have a word with HIM. I don’t know what HE expects us to do, eat up all the hay in those piles under the nets?”

“That’s exactly what it’s about, my man. HE is trying to get us to eat into our reserves. I don’t know what HE thinks we drop it there for, if not to act as a buffer supply. I expect HE just thinks that it falls out of our mouths, when we are eating.”

“Well, it does, doesn’t it Wick? I know it does when I eat hay. Somehow when I pull a mouthful out of the net there is always at least as much falls on the floor. It’s not really stuck together properly, is it?”

“Then HE comes along and kicks it all up into neat little piles under the nets and expects us to eat it. How would HE like it if we kicked HIS dinner about and then expected HIM to eat it?”

“I don’t think I would like to kick HIS dinner at all. Alli has told me about some of the disgusting things THEY eat. Can you imagine putting your feet into a fried egg or a plate of curry? Ugh. Reminds me of wormers!”

“No, you’re thinking of spaghetti. That’s lots more like worms, only very long ones.”

“’Ere, Wick. Have you noticed, we talking about food again.

“Food? I don’t call that food. But, I suppose you’re right. Let’s change the subject. Tell me how your Human Watch is going?”

“A bit quiet, really, Wick. The trouble is, I am too effective. Once it gets around that DS Tregony is on the beat, the villains just give up and go home. We’ve not had a good abduction or bunglery for ages now, Wick.”

“I think you mean ‘burglary’ Treg, don’t you?”

“Oh no, Wick. Bunglery it is. We’re in Devon , you know. Alli was telling me that she heard HIM talking the other day that HE saw in the paper that the Devon thieves were stealing the clothes from Oxfam, you know, the charity shop. Or they steal a car for joy riding and then leave it 50 metres down the road. You see, the trouble is that the crooks is too nice in Devon . They don’t really want to inconvenience anyone. So what chance do I have to shine in the job and get promotion?”

“But, that’s good, isn’t it, Treg? I mean, we don’t really want a lot of crime along the Throwleigh Road , do we?”

“Well, maybe not. But a bit of excitement wouldn’t go amiss, would it?”

“Talking of excitement, Treg. That sounds like HIS car coming. It’s bucket time again!”

 

youngstersMonday 5th April 2004

It’s been a strange time lately. I think it’s because the children are on their Easter holidays. I get so used to seeing them pass my stable on their way to school and then, again, when I am walking up the Throwleigh Road , there are those being driven to school from the outlying places who wave to me as they go by. To be honest, it’s nice to be waved at but it’s much better to meet the ones walking, as then I have to perform my party trick of taking a mint sweet from their grubby outstretched hands. The more the better. There is always one who won’t do it. They are either shy or scared. But that doesn’t matter because another child will say ‘I’ll give her yours’, so I get the sweet anyway. Mind you, they are my sweets anyway. The children never offer me their own sweets. HE has to get my packet out of HIS pocket and hand them round. Sometimes, even the mums, give them to me. They pretend that they are showing their kid how to do it – you know ‘hold your hand flat, like this’ – when all the time they get just as much fun doing it as the kids do. The worst thing about the Easter holiday is that it lasts for three weeks. All that time I am dependent on HIS generosity (ha, ha). He has a set routine for giving treats and that’s it. I think, given HIS way, HE’d walk round a different way to avoid meeting the kids, just so as HE wouldn’t have to hand out the sweets!

It reminds me of a time, when I was growing up in France . There was one little girl, who used to hang around the stable and always had a packet of sweets tucked into one of her socks. I used to look out for her and if I was being walked out in the yard, I would find an excuse to stop near her. I would pretend to have an itch and need to nibble at my leg or something. Then, as I looked up, I would catch her eye and that would be it. She would walk over and, giving my lad a sweet smile, she would get her sweets out of her sock and give me one. I knew what she was after. She was longing for a ride on me, but, because I was in training, they didn’t want to take any chances. If only they knew how careful I would be. Especially with that little girl but also with any human child. Anyway, one day, I had a new lad leading me out and he was not so fussy as the others. I think he was taken by the little girl’s smile and she felt brave enough to actually ask him if she could have a ride. I was so happy when he said ‘yes’, almost as happy as her. We didn’t go too far. There was a grass paddock just outside the yard and the lad took us there. The little girl said she could ride and he trusted her to go on her own, just walking round in a circle. She was as light as a feather, with very gentle hands and feet. When we got back, my lad told her how proud she must be, having ridden a race horse and she dismounted with tears in her eyes. The treats she gave me then were the last she ever gave me. I never saw her again. I overheard some talk in the yard, some weeks later that she had not been well and that we wouldn’t see her back at the stables any more. I’ll always keep her memory inside me and remember, when another child gives me a sweet.

 

primrose bankTuesday 6th April 2004

“In the general run of things, there’s a lot to be said for it, don’t you think Treg?”

“Which part of that sentence do you want me to answer, Wick? You see, the first half, I don’t understand and the second part, well, why are you being so negative?”

“You’re very intellectual today, Treg. What’s brought this on?”

“Well, I get fed up always being the dummy. I’m really very bright, you know. I was the top colt, in my stable, when I was growing up.”

“That’s interesting, Treg. I didn’t know that. How many others were there?”

“Ah! Well, we were a pretty big crowd of horses. There was six geldings, five mares and four filly foals. That’s fourt…, no sixte…, well counting me, sixteen of us!”

“And you were the top colt?”

“Like I said, Wick. Don’t try and confuse me. I know I was because they told me I was. So it must have been true, mustn’t it?”

“Oh, I believe you, Treg. No doubting it. So, back to my original question. There is a lot to be said for it, isn’t there?”

“Oh, a great deal, Wick, certainly. As long as you don’t want me to say it, that is.”

“Oh no, laddie. No need, no need. Really, it speaks for itself, does it not. You’d have to admit that a thing like that needs no further commendation. It is as it is, and that’s that!”

“Thank goodness for that, Wick. You don’t get many of them for a penny, these days, do you?”

“Are you serious? Of course you don’t. Mind you, you wouldn’t want to, would you. Least said and all that. The best things in life are free, after all. I can remember when I was a lad….. Or, maybe not. Best we don’t go into that. Not here. Not now.”

“Or even ever, eh Wick. Maybe never would be best, I think.”

“I suppose it all depends. There have been occasions in the past when it might have been fortuitous. But then, there have also been times when… don’t mention them ..well, let’s just say, ‘there have been other times’.”

“Don’t you think it’s getting a bit late for this kind of conversation, Wick? You never can tell at this time of night, can you?”

“You’re right there, my old lad. Never said a truer word. What say we put things aside for the time being and go and find a wee bite of supper?”

“Now there’s a surprise, coming from you, Wick. But, if you insist. Lead on McWick, lead on!”

 

shoots through the burnt groundWednesday 7th April 2004

We have been looking, every day, for signs that the Common is regenerating and today we saw it, the first green shoot, about 10 centimetres above the blackened undergrowth. That’s nine days after the fire. We didn’t see any more but, what with the rain we’ve had these last few days, it shouldn’t be long before the Common is green again. I say rain. This evening we had large round balls of ice for a while. The weather has been a funny mix of cold winds over a basically warm day. In fact, it’s so warm now, I’m sure I could stay out all night. Instead, THEY still bring me home at about five  o’clock each evening, even though it doesn’t get dark ‘til after eight. I suppose it suits THEIR routine but, I have to tell you, it puts mine out, no end. While Treg and Wicky are back up the fields, after they have had their evening buckets, I have nothing to do but stand in my stable and eat hay. And, what hay! THEY have run out of the nice soft, first cut sort that I have been used to and have now started giving me some old rubbish that they bought just before Xmas, that is much more like straw than hay. It might be fine for youngsters with decent teeth but I have to chew and chew before I can eat it so that, half the time, I just chew it and spit it out. It’s not as if THEY don’t know. When THEY come into my stable in the morning, instead of finding a nice empty hay rack with just a few bits of dust on the floor, THEY find half of what they had put in the hay rack, strewn all over the floor and the other half left untouched. If that’s not a clear enough message, I don’t know what is.

Listen to me. Moan, moan, moan. Well, I’m in a bad mood. I got into trouble again tonight! THEY came to fetch me right in the middle of a heavy shower and I was sheltering under that little tree, in the corner of the Throwleigh Road field, next to the road. Of course, that Wicky went right up to HIM for his biscuit treats. It never matters what the weather is to Wicky, he has such a thick coat. And then old Treg had to go on up to THEM as well, with his head down to his knees, against the rain, in that funny way he has. And how did that leave me? Looking the bad one for not coming up to THEM! And that really made me mad. So when SHE came along to put my head collar on, I just got angry and ran past HER and carried on going until I got to the field shelter. HE just reached it after me, carrying the old guys’ buckets and HE started to shout at me and tell me to go back. Then I got confused and anyway, I wasn’t going away, what with it raining outside and the food buckets inside. So I just ignored HIM and stood there. It ended up, HE found an old head collar, tied me up while HE gave the others their buckets and then lead me unceremoniously back up to the gate. No wonder I’m moaning!

 

may blossomThursday 8th April 2004

It’s not long ago that HE was saying to me that we should look out for the first primrose. Now, it’s violets. They seemed to come all of a sudden, this year. Yesterday there were none and today the bank is full of them. Devon violets, they call them although the best ones are the beautiful perfumed ones but these are just pretty with no scent. I have found some with perfume but usually they are the ordinary variety. It’s nice to be able to mark the seasons, along the Throwleigh Road , by the flowers. After winter one looks out firstly for the snowdrops, then the daffodils, then the primroses, violets and may. The may (hawthorn or blackthorn) does particularly well here and is the only tree to keep a foothold on the heights of the moor. Given a sunny day, when it is not too hot and not too fresh, there is nothing nicer than walking along the lanes past the banks full of primroses and the hedges full of may blossom!

The squirrel has joined our little circle now although in a way, he has never been away. He is not around every day but pops up now and again. We often see him when we are standing in the field shelter, looking out. He tends to pass along the banks of the stream until he gets to the little trees at the crossing. Then he shoots up them and is away, passing from tree to tree along the stream and then up and over the road into the little copse at the bottom of Ramsley Common. That just reminded me of something rather amusing. A few years ago, HE got the idea that it would be a good idea to have some new hedges in our field. One down by the two gates to make a narrow entry into the next field so HE could shut it off, now and again to give the grass a rest. Another up above the field shelter to act as a wind break (and also to make the rather dangerous drop, for HE thought, foolishly, that we might just run over the edge, if we ran down the hill and couldn’t stop!) The third, HE planted along the stream bank, mainly I think, because there are signs that there used to be a hedge there. Anyway, he bought several hundred little trees and made plans for a mixture of different varieties to be planted for a real old fashioned Devon hedge and took quite a lot of time and care planting them. His big mistake was his meanness. Whilst the tree, at that young stage, were reasonably priced, the, so called ‘rabbit guards’ to put round them cost more than the trees. We do have rabbits in our fields but he reasoned that they wouldn’t cause that amount of damage. And they didn’t – the sheep did! Of the over two hundred trees HE planted, I think we may have half a dozen surviving. If HE had only bought those rabbit guards, the squirrel could have swung from tree to tree along the river bank.

 

Alli in the middle fieldFriday 9th April 2004

Treggy told me, today, that the Pheasant has started a new trick. It now waits for HIM up at the Throwleigh Road gate. As soon as HE drives up, Phrank comes running up to the gate and waits for HIM to take the padlock off. He then runs backwards and forwards, as HE comes in the gate, puts down the bag of cleaning out from my stable and proceeds to walk down to the stream. It’s as if the pheasant is encouraging HIM to keep going to get to the rolled oats that HE throws out for them. Of course, Wicky and Treg always greet HIM at the stream, as well and HE always has a few apple biscuits for Wick and a carrot stump for Treg. Then the three of them walk the last few metres up the hill from the stream to the field shelter with Phrank running up and down behind them. These days, HE spends most of HIS time grooming the pair of them. Some days HE will change the hay nets over, but now that the grass has begun to come through, there is no real need to do this unless the weather is going to be particularly bad. HE always grooms Treg first. This is not so much favouritism as being due to the fact that, often, Treggy is dry ,whilst Wicky always manages to get soaking wet. With Wick’s hard, thick coat there is no point trying to get a comb through it. Treggy is a much better bet. And, does he need it? His coat may not be a s thick as Wick’s but it is coming out in handfuls! the nice thing about grooming old Treg is that he never complains. At this time of the year, THEY are prone to use metal combs and wire brushes to try and get through our coats and these can HURT! But, old Treg never actually complains. If SHE tries to pull or scratch me, I get very tall and stop her doing it. But, Treg? The worst that he does is to lift his back leg a little as if to say ‘ this is obviously causing us a problem, shall I remove it?’

Really, I can’t see the point in too much grooming. SHE spends a long time in the morning trying to get the mud from my coat and then I go out into the fields and roll and roll.

 

What’ya doing Alli? We’re waiting to go up the hill.”

“Nearly ready, Treg. I’m just telling HIM what to put into my diary for yesterday.”

“Don’t know why HE can’t write it himself. Why does HE have to keep asking you what to write?”

“I don’t think you understand, Treg. It’s my diary, I just get HIM to type it up for me.”

“Whatever. Come on, Wicky’s won’t wait much longer. Race you up t …Oh, fetlocks, I forgot, you’re a racehorse aren’t you. Right, first one there is a sissy!”

 

Devon violetsSaturday 10th April 2004  

Not a lot to tell you, today. The weather was ordinary, the old boys were ordinary, HE was ordinary, even the pheasants were ordinary. The problem with a daily diary is that you have to write something in it every day and some days are just not special. it gets to be that even a spelling mistake, or much more likely, hitting a wrong key (or, as is often the case, hitting the wrong ket) gets to take on an interest (not interset as often happens to HIM) that is the only feature of the day. As you can see, I am struggling today! So, what did happen? Well, by far the most interesting feature was on the way home, when Amber saw us, stopped for our second carrot break. She must have heard us walking along the road towards her and was probably waiting for us to go by when we stopped. I was just getting to my second carrot when she let out an almighty squeal and started running up her field. Well, I pretended to take no notice and carried on eating but, all the time, I was watching her, waiting to see what she would do next. When we have a second treat stop (really to let him get his breath back), I always finish of with four apple biscuits and a few mint sweets. (I should say at this stage that I always say ‘mint sweets’ because a lot of our readers are in America and other countries and do not know the term ‘POLO’ which is the proprietary brand of mint sweet most favoured by equines. There are a few hardy souls who prefer ‘Trebor Extra Strong Mints’ but these are the masochists of the equine family! I would be interested to know the name of the equivalent  mint sweet favoured in other countries, if you like to e-mail me!)

Where was I? The problem with using HIM to type up my thoughts is that HE is not always 100% reliable. HE does have a habit of having a glass or two of wine with his lunch and, if this happens to coincide with the time that HE decides to type up my diary, well! Read the rest of this day very carefully and see if you can tell the time of day that it was typed into his computer!

I was telling you about Amber! I finished my mints and then decided (jointly with HIM) to walk on. As we approached the gap in the hedge where you can look right into the field that Amber uses, she came charging up to that gap and confronted me. We stood there rubbing faces and transmitting all kinds of news to each other. HE just stood there, not knowing what was going on, but a bit worried that I might jump back, as there were quite a lot of cars and vans going along the road. To try and keep us calm, HE offered Amber part of my last carrot that I had left, in my excitement to get to her. She is young and she is a bit flighty but she is NOT silly! She took the carrot and continued to rub faces with me. Then HE gave her one of my apple biscuits, giving me, my others. Well, I don’t think that Amber has had an apple biscuit before, because she promptly began spitting out everything that she had in her mouth. To finish, HE gave her some mints and then tried to make me walk on. Just as things were beginning to get interesting. I didn’t want to go, obviously. Amber and I could have played for a long while. However, HE made me, and I unwillingly went home to my stable. And, that was my day, really. Nothing much, but interesting at the end.

 

HIS computer.

 

 

 

Wicky by the stone ringSunday 11th April 2004

“Alli, you should have seen Wicky, this morning. He was waiting up at the gate for you, when some tourists went by and he heard them talking.”

“It’s not usual for Wick to bother to listen to people passing by. Why was he so interested?”

“Well, he came rushing over to me, as happy as anything and told me what they said. Apparently, it’s Eater Sunday, today, and he thinks that it means that you can just eat and eat and go on ‘til you pop.”

“Are you sure they said ‘Eater’ Sunday?”

“Well, Wicky is. I didn’t hear them myself. He must believe it though 'cos he’s gone rushing up the hill, not even waiting for you to turn up.”

“Well, even if it were ‘Eater Sunday’, which I very much doubt, what difference would that make to Wicky, that’s all he does anyway?”

“Yeah, but it means that he can do it without people moaning at him for it or laughing at him. To him that is really important. Well, relatively important, anyway.”

“Let’s go up the field and have a word with him. If we can tear him away from his grass, that is.”

“Right ’o Alli, there he is, up there behind that tree.”

…….

“Hallo, Wick. Couldn’t be bothered to wait for me, this morning, eh?”

“Didn’t Treg tell you? It’s Eater Sunday today. Everyone’s got to eat and eat and eat. No time to wait around. I’m only doing my duty.”

“I hadn’t noticed that you are so keen to do your duty on other days. Did you bring me a present on Xmas day or stand for a minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday? I don’t recall that.”

“Yes, but they are human special days. This is the first time that I heard of a special equine day so I thought that I should start as I mean to go on, so to speak.”

“If you could spell, Wicky, you might notice the similarity between Eater Sunday and another phrase.”

“Leave the spelling to the humans, Alli. We won’t write books if they don’t eat grass, that’s my motto. Anyway, what is this other phrase (is that a pheasant word?) that you think I should know about?”

“I just thought that, in your case, it might not be ‘Eater Sunday’ Wick but rather …”

“Don’t tell me, Alli, you thought that today was ‘Easter Sunday’, didn’t you?”

“Hold on there, Wick. That’s not what Alli had in mind, at all, is it Alli?. No, she thought that it was much more suited, in your case, to ‘Fatter Sunday’!”

“Oh, very funny, Treg! The only thing is that, if it was, then it would just be an ordinary day, for all of us, wouldn’t it?”

 

Look at those tourists!Monday 12th April 2004

You going to put that in your log, Treg?”

“What’s that, Wick? Sorry, I was eating.”

“Those two. Look at ‘em. Walking up the bridle path. If they’re not tourists I don’t know what is. Look how they are dressed. If they were locals they’d never put all that gear on, just to go out in the rain. It’s only a tourist who does that.”

“You are clever, Wick. You ought to join the Human Watch with me. You know an awful lot about human nature, don’t you?”

“Just observant, laddie. That’s all. When you’ve lived on the moor, like I have, and have been dependant on knowing how to con treats out of tourists, you learn fast.”

“Do you really think I should put it in the log, Wick? I mean, yes, they are tourists but it is Easter Monday, after all, and you expect tourists then, don’t you?”

“But aren’t you supposed to be “hobservant” as you put it, all the time? You don’t know if they are missing humans, do you. I mean, look at them. They look lost to me.”

“You’re right, Wick. They are looking at a map, aren’t they. That musty mean that they are lost, mustn’t it?”

“Good thinking, Treg. I can see why they want you on the force. How about we go up to them and ask them. Sort of what you might call ‘the direct approach’.”

“Is that where you have to give them directions, Wick? Is that the ‘direct approach’?”

“Very nearly, Treg, very nearly. Come on, let’s go before they get away. You never know, they might be carrying mints, apples or carrots in those great big bags on their backs. Now, don’t forget Treg. Pull your tummy in and try and look starving. Works every time with tourists.”

“O.K. Wicky, like this?”

“Ugh, Treg. We’re not trying to scare them away. Keep behind me, I’ll do the talking.”

……

“Why did they run away, Wick? I didn’t say anything, honest. I just stayed behind you, like you said.”

“But did you have to take exactly that moment to do a wee, Treg? Really, it’s not a pretty sight, I tell you.”

“Sorry, Wick, but you know ‘when you gotta go etc. The urge was just to powerful, I had no choice.”

“How do you think this is going to look in your log, Treg. ‘Saw two very strange tourists acting rather suspiciously so I approached them and did a wee. They ran away as fast as their puny little human legs would let them’. Not very awe inspiring, is it. Not the kind of thing likely to lead to promotion, now, is it?”

“Do I really have to report it, Wick? Couldn’t I just say ‘nothing to report, today’ like I always do?”

“But that would be lying, now, laddie, wouldn’t it?”

“I know, I’ll say that as I approached them, they ran off in a very suspikious manner. That wouldn’t be lying, now, would it Wick?”

“It might not be lying, Treg, but it will make someone’s spell checker very unhappy!”

 

Ramsley mine from the Throwleigh RoadTuesday 13th April 2004

It’s coming to something, now. Phrank the pheasant is coming to supper as well as breakfast. As HE went down to give Wick and Treg their buckets, this evening, up struts that highly coloured show off and follows HIM down to the field shelter. I asked HIM when HE came back, and we were walking along the Throwleigh Road . ‘Did you give that phat old pheasant any supper’ I demanded. And, shamefacedly, HE had to admit that he had. Now, I knew HE was a soft touch. We all did. In fact, as Wicky says, it’s one of the best things about HIM. But really, there are limits. If you are going to treat someone, it really ought only to be horses…oh, sorry Wick… horses and ponies!

Come to think of it, not all horses either. We stopped as usual for our carrot /asthma break next to Amber’s field when she let out a mighty shout to us. So, cutting short my treat break, HE leads me on to the gap in the hedge where she often comes up to join us. Now, there is a very wet patch in the middle of this field and Annette, her human, often places some electric tape fencing round it (not electrified, you understand) to keep Amber out of it. So, while we stood there, waiting for her, Amber comes running up to the tape and just stands there. Anyone with half a brain – even Tregony – would have known to walk round it. Not Amber. She just stands there, looking up at us. And there we are, standing looking down at her. And me thinking ‘ HE cut my treat break short for this?’ Eventually, even HE could see the futility of it and we walked on. Only to come upon two Landrovers talking to each other and blocking the road. At least, the cars weren’t talking but their human drivers were. Normally I wouldn’t have minded, as it would have been an opportunity for me to have a little snack from the roadside verge. It is quite normal in these parts for roads to be impassable while drivers chat to each other or pop into houses making deliveries. One just waits until it is clear or goes around another way, if you are in a hurry. That is one of the beauties of living here in the country. But, today I was already put out by that silly mare, Amber. So I just stood behind the two machines shifting from foot to foot and generally showing my displeasure until the drivers stopped their conversation and drove off.

Just as we got to Dave’s the blacksmith’s, one good thing happened. We bumped into Dori with her little human Katy. They were standing outside Dave’s forge with Katy’s dad who was talking to the smith. I’ve told you before how I like little humans, particularly female ones. And what was nice was meeting Dori, the Bernese bitch puppy who lives just down the road. You can tell that she is just a puppy still, although she is bigger than many dogs, because she was rather nervous of me, even though I put my face down to her. She’ll learn.

Just as I was feeling better, we walked on home to my stable, only to find that he had cleaned it thoroughly. Now I’ve got to work at making it nice and smelly again. Never mind, my bucket’s there.

 

Staying out. Heaven!Wednesday 14th April 2004

Well, I got a big surprise this evening. It had been a very nice day – warm, but no flies, sunny and everyone in a good mood. The only thing was, THEY were a bit late bringing the evening feed buckets and taking me home for my tea. Still, as it was a nice evening, we didn’t mind so much, we just stood around, near the field shelter, have a mouthful or two of grass. When THEY did turn up, I started to get ready to go with HE, while HE took the old fellows their buckets, but instead, SHE waved me off and told me to go with HIM. Now, you may remember, when I did this, only last week, I believe, I got into enormous trouble. SHE wouldn’t talk to me and drove off at a hundred miles an hour (or kilometres or whatever it is now). Now, here SHE was, telling me to do it! Humans, they are so unpredictable. Still, like the good, obedient girl I am, I did as I was told and followed HIM. It was then that I noticed that HE had three buckets, not just two. Now, I’m not silly and it didn’t take me long to realise that I was going to have my tea here instead of at home in my stable. The excitement of eating stopped me thinking any further than that and I was too busy making sure that I finished first and got to THEM for my treats before Wicky and Treg did, that I still didn’t fall in right away. It was only when SHE told me, as THEY started to leave without me, that I realised the full implication of this. I was staying out! No more walking up and down the Throwleigh Road until next Autumn. No more spending the night in my stable, all alone. I was free to roam all over Ninefields all day and all nights for the whole of the glorious Spring and Summer. And the best bit is, THEY will still come and bring me my feed buckets twice a day. Heaven!

 

Thursday 15th April 2004

Well, HE told me a bit of news, this evening. Apparently SHE has been asked to take over the SWEP website (as an unpaid volunteer) as it had been getting too much work for the previous web person and the site was a little bit out of date. If you don’t read the rest of this website, you wont know that Our streamSWEP stands for South West Protection (for equines, of course) and is run by a very nice lady called Maureen Rolls, who spends all her time trying to help distressed, abused and abandoned horses and ponies (and, last time THEY were there – geese!) Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for helping distressed horses, Wicky was one himself, when he was younger. Distressed I mean, not a horse. He didn’t start out normal and slowly wear himself down to the pitiful size that he is now. No, it is a very laudable thing, to volunteer like that. But, let HER just remember, charity begins at home, so to speak. My website must have priority! I insist! It has been bad enough this last week or two, when both HE and SHE have been trying to get to grips with a new piece of web writing software. The problem with the previous package THEY used was that, although it was very lovely and easy to produce pages quickly, with all the extra flashy stuff available, if you wanted it, it did not always work well with all web browsers. At first, THEY were unaware of this, and when THEY got an occasional comment stating that the text and pictures overlapped, THEY had no way of finding out what was wrong. When this comment came back from a web writing professional, THEY had no option but to take him seriously, when he recommended that they change THEIR software package. Coincidentally, THEY found the same problem mentioned in a magazine that they had bought, nearly a year ago, but they had not read this at the time. THEY bought this new top of the range package and reluctantly started the process of reading manuals and doing learning projects, all over again, this time even having to get into a little bit of coding. HE has told me that I wouldn’t believe the amount of bad language and late nights that have gone into just being able to change over THEIR sites from one package to the next. HE has admitted that even this diary has suffered – not getting updated for days on end. I only hope it is worth it. HE is not even sure that HE will get HIS own village site ready in the new software for the May edition as he has about 120 pages to change. I will bear with him a bit longer but I will be watching to make sure my diary doesn’t suffer!

 

 

 

Harry watching out for his humansFriday 16th April 2004

There’s an awful lot of leaves in the field shelter today. Funny! It’s early Spring and the ground is covered with old brown leaves, just like Autumn. I asked HIM about it and, having thought about it for a minute, HE suggested that they might be beech leaves as they hang about on the hedges for an awful long time. HE said that is why humans like beech hedges so much. The leaves turn colour in the Autumn but they stay on the trees so you don’t get bare branches, until the next set of leaves are ready to cover the tree again. So, it would appear that the combination of the timing and some fairly breezy weather that we have had lately, has caused these leaves to turn up everywhere. HE says that THEY even have them in the kitchen in THEIR house, as it has a two part stable door and they often keep the top half open. It seems funny to think that THEY have a stable door on THEIR house. I expect it’s because THEY are such horse lovers!

I don’t want to keep talking about the weather, but it’s strange that, as soon as I come out to Ninefields overnight, the weather turns a bit cold, wet and windy again. Only last week, I was looking over my stable door at some lovely clear and mild skies. Not that it matters much. I stayed out at the end of last Autumn in much worse weather than this and I’ve grown a very heavy winter coat this year.

I expect it wont be long now before we see Adrian around Ninefields again. Adrian is the guy who looks after the fields for THEM (or should I say, for us?) and he comes around in the Spring to see what is needed. It was about this time last year that they started that work to drain parts of the fields. That was a really good job done. The bit of field down by the two gates onto the bridle path was constantly under water. It was more like going for a paddle than a graze when you went there. Now, with the drain in, that part of the field is just like the rest. The other thing they did last year was to spray the weeds, particularly the thistles, so this year’s grass should be more plentiful. Anyway, when he comes round, I hope he comes and asks us what needs doing. As we roam all over it, we can tell him where the bad spots are.

 

Getting our treatsSaturday 17th April 2004

I’m in a bit of a funny mood, today. All Winter, I’ve been longing to be allowed to stay out all night. From the day that I was first kept in, in the Autumn up until the last night that I looked out of my stable and heard the birds singing over the moor, I’ve longed and longed to stand out, under the stars, and spend the nights with my companions, the old boys. And now that I am doing it, I’m missing the human contact that walking up and down the Throwleigh Road and staying in my Stable at night, brought to me. The others think that I am, if not crazy, then a bit strange in the head. But the truth is that, ever since birth, I have been around humans and got to like their strange ways. With me, it wasn’t just a case of being taken out for a hack and then being put back into my box or field until the next time. I had a series of close human ties – with my groom, my owners, my jockey, my lad and now with HIM & HER. They always like to share their secrets with me. Always whisper their thoughts in my ear and tell me stories and so on. Not to mention, of course, the treats. I have to admit that the carrots and mints are very nice, as well. But really, it’s more the company, that is nice. Now, when THEY come along in the morning or evening to bring our buckets, the time seems to just fly. THEY no sooner come along than THEY are going again. I hardly have time to tell HIM all the stuff for this diary, let alone to have a chat about anything else or even have a little cuddle. The old boys are nice (except for the fact that they are always arguing) but I miss those times, in the morning, when SHE would take me for a stroll over the recreation ground, after grooming, and we would meet that black and white cat and have a chat with him. I miss the times, first thing in the morning, when HE would come out, while his morning kettle was boiling and would put his arm round my neck and scratch my ear while HE gave me a carrot. I miss the times (although I had to pretend to hate them, at the time) when SHE would go all over me with the brush, just to get the previous day’s mud out of my coat, so that I could go and put a new layer on, when I got out into the field. I even miss those times when I would watch the late night party and pub goers straggling up Ramsley Lane on their way home or the very early milk people dropping off their white bottles in the crate in our garden. But, thinking about it, not that much. Out here I can watch the early morning rabbits and the late night foxes and badgers. I can talk to the deer and look up at the stars. I can stand in the rain or shelter under a tree. I can brave the wind or hide from it in my shelter. I can even talk to Wick and Treg or I can gallop away from them. It’s just sometimes. Maybe one day, THEY will come and live out, with us. Then, apart from the times when they have to make those shopping expeditions to the feed and treat shops, we could all have a good time together!

 

Treg thinking!Sunday 18th April 2004

“Alli?”

“Well, Treg, what is it this time?”

“Do you ever wish you were something else than a horse? You know, a rabbit or a bird or something.”

“Whatever has got into your head now, Treg? Have you been dreaming again, or something?”

“Well, I was just watching this ant, as it walked along the ground. Do you know that the little bit of rain in that footprint of mine is like a great big lake to it? It stands no chance of walking through it. It either has to swim or make a detour round it.”

“And were you thinking of organising swimming competitions for ants then Treg? Or did it make you happy to see the trouble your great big feet put it to?”

“Hello, you two. Sorry to keep you waiting. Just had to tidy up the field shelter before we go off up the hill for the day.”

“You mean you just had to eat up all the food that Alli leaves, when she throws her bucket upside down. I just don’t know how you can eat so much, Wick.”

“You’re one to talk, laddie. I saw you yesterday morning. As soon as she went out to go with HER for what SHE calls ‘a girlie moment’ up the field, you rushed over and mopped up all the short feed that fell out of Alli’s bucket.”

“I just felt that I should save her from the embarrassment of leaving her corner dirty. You know how she puts on such airs like a princess. She would be mortified if all that food just piled up and made her place nasty and dirty.”

“Aye, laddie. Verra noble, I’m sure. Is that why you rush off so hastily when she comes back to the field shelter. So that she won’t feel obliged to thank you for looking out for her welfare?”

“Come on you two, we’re wasting good grass eating time. Tell Wick about your ideas concerning other lives, Treg. Did you know, Wick, that Treg is going to be an ant in his next life?”

“What makes him think he’s going to get a next life? The way he’s acted in this one, I don’t think that he’ll be given another chance, do you, Alli?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Wick. There’s his police record to take into account. He must get some recognition for that, surely?”

“His police record? Standing around in the middle of the field waiting for something to happen. Well, anyone could do that. It’s not something to be proud of, surely?”

“Anyone could do that. But how many do, that’s the question, Wicky smicky. What have you done for your fellow creatures, that’s what I’d like to know?”

“Steady, Treg. I’m sure Wick didn’t mean it nastily. He was just pointing out that your work in the Human Watch force has not been to arduous of late. You know, since you have been in plain rugs, so to speak. Standing about beneath trees is not really what ‘under cover’ means, surely?”

“Well, that’s just one side of it. You’d be surprised at the work involved in just keeping that log up to date.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Treg, but I think your log’s got wet rot.”

“Right, Wicky, that’s enough now. Don’t get him started on that. Treg talks enough rot, as it is.”

 

flowers in Throwleigh Road hedgeMonday 19th April 2004

It’s one of those days when there is good news and bad news. If you were here, I could ask you which you wanted to hear first but as you are not, I’ll have to make the decision. I think I will have to start with the good news for I have a very bad feeling that the bad news is going to go on well past today. So, the good news is that HE spotted some blue flowers in our hedge, along the Throwleigh Road . Yawn, yawn you say. There’s all colour flowers along the Throwleigh Road , so what is so special about blue flowers? Well, you see, HE planted them there two years or more ago and had forgotten all about them. It happened that, as we were walking up and down to Ninefields, HE spotted some bright blue flowers, growing in the hedge down Ramsley Lane . And, not just in one place but in several places. One of the places was opposite Coopers Cottage, where there are often many flowers in a sort of bed made in the hillside. If these were the only place that HE had seen them, HE would have thought that they were cultivated, admired them and forgot about them. But as HE found them growing wild in a hedge further along the lane as well, where obviously no one tends the ground, HE looked them up in a book and found that they were wild flowers, although HE never told me the name – or, if HE did, I’ve forgotten it. So, what HE did was to pick several stems from the plant and pop them in water, in a milk bottle. HE forgot about them, until one day, HE noticed that they had grown little roots on the end. So the next thing HE did was to pot them up with some compost. Strangely, for HE promptly forgot about them again, they thrived and HE ended up with half a dozen pots of these little plants. HE then decided to plant them in our hedge at Ninefields. The next year, HE looked for them in the Spring but was unable to find any trace of them and assumed that they had died off in the Winter. And that was the last HE thought of them until today when he noticed a touch of blue in the hedge, went back to look and saw it.

The bad news! I’ve got tooth problems. You remember that I had x-rays on my teeth just a little while back. Well, THEY didn’t hear anything from the vets so they phoned up and were told that the vets would get back to THEM. Then, as THEY still had heard nothing, THEY popped in there, and were told that the x-rays showed nothing wrong and THEY were quite relieved. All the while, I have been getting little biting pains as I eat and have become a bit head shy. Well, yesterday and even more so today, the pains have been much sharper and I have trouble eating from my bucket. SHE noticed it, this morning and cut my carrots and apples up much smaller to try and help me. It was a bit better this evening, but I gather that THEY are going to call the vets again. There’s nothing worse than toothache, is there?

 

Alli being sillyTuesday 20th April 2004

Remember I was telling you about my tooth problems? Well, they were even worse this morning. It was like I was eating funny so that the food gets stuck in my jaws and I have to put my head at all kinds of funny angles to loosen it and be able to bite without pain. Grass is not so bad, as I can just nibble that and little bits go down alright. Strangely, after I have struggled with my short feed bucket, I am then able to bite off lumps from a carrot and get that down alright. It is as if I have to practice eating in a new way first and then when I have learned it, things go along better. I say ‘it is like’, I should say ‘it was like’ for I had the vet come along today and he has fixed it. What happened was that THEY turned up with our buckets, this afternoon, a bit early. Wicky didn’t mind but Treg and I were still up the hill, above the field shelter, as it wasn’t time to come down to wait yet. Still, when old Treg saw them, he straightaway started to wander down the hill. He really is a changed horse, this year. Other times he would wait to be told or given permission to go. Now he just does it when he wants. Anyway, we went down but, instead of giving us our buckets, HE put them in the tack room part of the shelter and THEY just gave us a few treats instead. Next, down the field comes Phil the vet, an old friend of mine. Then I fell in, he had come to look at my teeth. Out comes the iron gag and I stand in the shelter while he puts it on and then looks in my mouth. After the looking comes some feeling around and this makes me jump a bit. Things went a bit hazy after that. I can remember Phil giving me an injection and then I felt a bit tired. The next thing I knew was feeling a bit hungry and remembering that I should be having a feed bucket. Treg and Wick have told me that I was very funny. I sort of lolled about and rested my head on the hay net and dribbled. Then I wobbled about a bit and then dozed off again. This was after the worst bit, Treg says. Phil pulled about in my mouth and got out a great big jagged bit of tooth out that had been sticking into my mouth when I tried to eat. Then he rasped all my teeth to get rid of the sharp edges and make them good for eating again. Wick says that I was very funny when I was waking up. They had had their buckets when Phil left but I was not allowed mine in case I choked, until I was fully awake again. THEY stayed with me until I was awake enough to grab a bite of hay and get a drink of water. Then THEY went away for an hour to have their tea and came back when I was fully awake to give me mine. My mouth is a bit sore now but at least I can eat properly again.

 

Wicky feels all upside downWednesday 21st April 2004

I’m feeling much better today. After my bucket yesterday evening, my friends went up the hill with me to the very top and we spent a wonderful evening and night, under the stars. The weather has turned really nice now. A little bit of rain and a little bit of wind at first but we horses can tell when it is going to improve and that time is now. The clouds all went away by the end of the evening and there is nothing better than just grazing about by the light of the moon and stars. There’s just enough light to be able to keep in touch if one of us drifts off and whoever is on guard duty really has an easy time, depending as much on sound as sight. It’s funny but there is a sort of assumption that things get quieter at night. This is just not true. There may be less sounds, at least human ones, but this just allows one to concentrate more and hear all the sounds that are masked in the day. You’d be surprised at how many animals and insects there are about at night. But, although there are so many sounds, it is still much more peaceful. Every sound has it’s rightful place and you would miss it if it were not there. So this detection by absence of sound as well as by it’s presence all goes to make the dark a good place to be.

After we have had a good long graze and we are feeling pleasantly full and comfortable, we tend to get together and have a bit of a chat and a bit of a gaze at the stars. Treg is always gazing up and asking us questions, quite serious ones, about the nature of things and where horses come from and so on. Wicky has this thing about the moon. You could say he is fascinated by it. You see, Wick is a bit of an earwigger. He often stands alongside our side of our hedge, either by the road or by the bridle path, and he listens to the human passers by and what they are talking about. This is fine because you can learn an awful lot that way. You get to hear when the sheep are going to be put into the field or when Clarry is going to spread that stinking muck over his fields and things like that. The trouble is, you get to hear some absolute rubbish as well and poor old Wick isn’t really so very well equipped to tell the difference. Granted, he’s no Treggy, but on the other hand, poor old Treg is so dim that he wouldn’t be able to misconstrue anything anyway, it would just pass him by. Anyway, one day Wick was standing by the hedge alongside the Throwleigh Road and along came this bunch of kids who were mucking about and laughing together. To cut a long story short, Wicky heard one of them say how his mother had told him that the moon was made of cheese and that you could eat it. That’s right, you’ve got it. Poor old Wick has never tasted a bit of cheese in his life, but the thought that you could live somewhere where the ground was edible just blew his mind. And it makes not a bit of difference what I tell him. He might even agree with me that it is really just nonsense. But, somewhere deep, deep down in that tiny Shetland mind, there is this little ray (or should I say, moonbeam) of hope. It’s Treggy’s joke to Wicky that if he were just a little bit taller, he would be able to reach up and bite a bit off to prove who is right. And these are the friends that I live with? My god!

 

Wicky has a fine healthy coatThursday 22nd April 2004

“Just look at those pheasants, Treg. They never stop eating, do they?”

“And that Phiona. She’s just a bully. Even Phrank is scared of her, I’m sure.”

“He’s scared of everyone, that Phrank. Everyone, that is, except HIM. Do you see him chase up to gate, even before we do now. But at least Alli wont stand for it. If anyone wants some lessons in bullying, they should go to Alli.”

“She told med that she wasn’t a bully, Wick. She said that she was just firm. You have to be firm, that’s what she said.”

“It’s pretty firm to tread on a pheasant, at least Phrank  must think so. He doesn’t stand in the way when she is around.”

“True. Where is she now, I wonder? Have you seen her lately?”

“She goes up the field under that bit of hedge. I don’t know what is there but it’s making a real mess of her features. There must be a whole lot of thorns or something there. Her whole face and neck are covered with little scabs. I heard THEM talking about it the other day. You know when THEY stand there giving you treats with THEIR arms around your neck. Well, with Alli, they are picking away at her scabs, at the same time.”

“Ugh! I bet SHE taught HIM that. It’s the kind of thing that female humans do.”

“I though you always preferred female humans, Treg. That’s what Michelle always says about you.”

“I do or, at least, I did. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t notice these little things. Probably more so. I’m some sort of female human expert, you know, Wick.”

“Really, Treg. Is that so? Tell me. What does the word ‘expert’ mean?”

“Well, you know, Wick. It’s sort of, well, you know….”

“Yes, I do Treg. What I’m wondering is if you know, as well?”

“Oh come on, Wick. You’re always picking on me. If Alli bites you, you bite me. Who am I supposed to bite?”

“Well, you could try HIM, I suppose. HE is next down the pecking order, after all.”

“But that wouldn’t be fair, would it Wick? Or kind. HE’s such a puny little thing, HE wouldn’t stand a chance.. Anyway, HE might not be much physically but HE is the source of carrots and mint sweets and stuff. I wouldn’t want to upset HIM and cut off my rations.”

“Aye, laddie. Now you’re getting to the heart of the matter. HE may not be much but HE does have a few good points.”

“And HE brushes us, Wick. Just think where you’d be if HE didn’t try and get rid of all that thick old coat you’ve got. On the other hand, it would be nice if you and HE went far away from the field shelter when HE does it. It’s like the world turns white, worse that the worst Dartmoor snowstorm. It gets into your eyes, your mouth, your food, everything. I don’t know how you can stand it Wick. I really don’t.”

“Do I have a choice, laddie? It grows, I get hot, it falls out. And then HE comes along and tries to hasten the process. Talking of which, what time is it. I’m starting to feel a bit peckish.”

 

The guard cockerelFriday 23rd April 2004

“Wicky?”

“Yes, Alli? I’m over here.”

“I want to tell you a silly story, that HE told me.”

“Is it about horses? But no, it can’t be if it’s silly. Right, Alli. Tell me this silly story.”

“It’s not that kind of story, Wick. Not a made up one. It’s true. It’s something that happened to HIM today.”

“And HE told you, I suppose. I thought you were supposed to tell HIM things for HIM to type for that diary of yours. Are you changing places. Are you going to write HIS diary now?”

“No, nothing like that. It’s just that it made me laugh and I thought you’d like to hear it. If you’d rather not, I can go and tell Treggy, instead.”

“Calm down, old girl. I was only making a comment. Anyway, Treg’s coming over, so you can tell both of us, at the same time.”

“Right. OK Wick, I’ll hold on for a bit. Hi, Treg, we were just talking about you.”

“That makes a change, I bet. Saying what a big strong handsome fellow I am? Saying what a fantastic intelligence I’ve got?. Admiring my equine skills? Or just laughing about me behind my back again?”

“Who got up on the wrong side of the Tamar this morning, Treg, you old grump? We were just saying that Alli has a story and that she should hold on until you got here before she tells it. So, do you want to listen or not?”

“Sorry Wick. I am a bit grumpy this morning. It’s those pheasants. The noise they make. A guy can’t get a wink of sleep.”

“Right you two. Now be quiet and listen. Have you ever heard of the Sticklepath Steeplechaser?”

“A local guy, eh? Is he a friend of Harry’s?”

“No, Wick,. In fact he’s not a real horse, at all. That may not even be his, it’s, real name at all, if it’s got one. It is a king of horse sculpture made out of old motor car parts. THEY spotted it a few weeks ago draped over the gate of a house along the road from Drybridge to Sticklepath, just outside Sticklepath village itself. It’s put there to look like it is jumping the gate. That’s why THEY called it the Sticklepath Steeplechaser.”

“You’d never catch a horse making a sculpture of a human out of lumps of old horseshoes and stuff. in fact you wouldn’t find us doing it out of anything. Daft. humans are, eh, Wick?”

“Aye, Treg. But they mean well.”

“Anyway. As HE was driving along the road to go and get us some more carrots, HE looked over at the place where this tin horse is and HE saw something new. Apparently there is now a peacock sculpture standing in the field, outside of the house, with big bright feathers sparkling in the sunshine. So HE decided to call in to the house, on HIS way back, and find out if there is an artist living there.”

“That would be a surprise, wouldn’t it Wick? Who did HE think had done them then, a farrier?”

“No, listen, Treg. HE got out of HIS car and walked down the drive to the house but it looked derelict. On HIS way, HE passed a motor caravan with its front covered with a camouflage netting. HE could hear loud music coming from inside, so HE went up and knocked on the window. Nothing happened so HE started to walk away, when all of a sudden a cockerel appeared from behind the caravan and attacked him Then it calmly walked away and stood in front of the van and crowed in triumph!”

“Well, I knew HE was a weakling, but really! A chicken!”

“We must just look after HIM, laddie. We can’t have some feathered monster endangering our supplies. Did HE get the carrots home safely, Alli?”

“All safe and sound, Wick. All safe and sound!”

 

Having a bit of a scratchSaturday 24th April 2004

A really bright and sunny day, today. What did I tell you? Us horses can tell about changes in the weather, don’t ask me how. Maybe it’s something to do with the air pressure, maybe it has to do with scent on the wind. Whatever it is, it’s true. And I don’t believe it is just horses. Lots of animals can do the same. In fact, probably only one animal cant and that’s humans! What was nice about the weather today is that it was not too hot. A few flies about but only just enough to annoy occasionally. Not like the Summer when some horses have to have masks covering their whole faces as well as their bodies to keep flies away. No, today was bright and warm, with a gentle breeze, in fact – a perfect day. The kind of day, in fact, where we take it in turns to have a gentle nap, maybe even a full blooded sleep for a few moments. We may not sleep in the big deep sleep that you humans do, for hours and hours. But, what we do enjoy most is that sort of hazy, dopey half world, when we are in between. It is so pleasant to just sit in the warm sun and let everything just pass pleasantly around you, safe in the knowledge that one of your own is looking out for you, as you will look out for him, later on. As you can imagine, when a day is passed as pleasantly as this, there is really not much to talk about. Nothing really happened, or, if it did, I wasn’t aware of it

Let me think. Did I dream? Nothing very certain comes to mind. Sensations drifted in and out of my consciousness. Warmth, foal hood, excitement at the races, maybe even fear, just for a moment, but not real fear. More like the kind of play fear that you humans get from a creepy book or an exciting chase. Scents too drifted through my awareness and, with these, the knowledge of the reality they represent. I don’t know if you ever wonder what dreams are? For me, they are just another way of experiencing reality and, if you can explain to me, or to yourself, what that is, then you are well on the way to becoming the world’s cleverest animal.

 

In good conditionSunday 25th April 2004

“Wick, have you noticed anything funny with our buckets?”

“If you mean have I noticed that they are getting lighter, Treg, then I don’t find that is  anything to laugh about.”

“Yeah. That’s it, Wick. I knew that if anyone was aware of it, it would be you. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling decidedly put out by it. I don’t know what SHE thinks SHE is playing at. Do you think that THEY are getting hard up or something, Wick?”

“I’m not so sure that it has anything to do with money, Treg. In my long experience of the ways and foibles of the human race, I feel that it has much more to do with that bit of tape that SHE put round our tummies the other morning.”

“I did wonder about that, Wick. I’ve noticed myself that SHE seems to think it is important. And there really is only one thing that is important, isn’t there Wick? Food! Eating! So, in my mind there is something about that tape that has to do with food.”

“Or the lack of it, laddie. Or the lack of it. Oh, ‘tis a sad day when the likes o’ HER is responsible for starving us to death. She’ll be sorry, no doubt, when we’re gone. Verra, verra sorry. But, for us, that’ll be too late. HER tears just won’t bring us back to condition, laddie. Only the bucket stuff can do that. And you ken how much the humans put on condition.”

“Yeah. Funny that, aint it Wick. They go on and on about us coming into condition and then, just when we’re brimming with the stuff, they goes and starves us. They’re a funny lot, humans.”

“So why’d you go and join that Human Watch thing then, Treg. Surely they can watch themselves and leave us to get on with putting on condition. Each to his own, you know. Each should do what they are best at. Aren’t I right, laddie?”

“Too true, Wick. Too true. Do we ask them to put on condition? No. Of course we don’t. ‘cos they’d be no good at it. Not like us, eh Wick?”

“And do you see the things they put on their feet? It’s a wonder they last at all. It’s a good job their hooves don’t grow as well as ours, eh Treg?”

“So what we going to do about our buckets, Wick? Go on a hunger strike?”

“You know, Treg. Sometimes you have really good ideas. And then again, there are other times…….. Tell you what, let’s go up to that rather nice patch of grass where Alli is and you can ask her while I have a little snack to put on some condition.”

 

Wicky in chargeMonday 26th April 2004

It’s fine for Alli to ask me to tak’ o’er her diary for a day, but when am I going to get a bite to eat? It’s not as if she was going away or anything. The lassie’s just feeling lazy. She tells me that she canna be bothered to talk to HIM today, she would like to get back up the hill, as soon as she finishes her bucket. I know I like to hang around a bit after breakfast. Just to do a bit of tidying up, ye ken. But she is taking advantage of me. I’ve seen her, hovering about, when Treggy makes straight up the hill, these mornings. She really wants to be up and away with him but she can’t stand the fact that I don’t go rushing up with her. So she hovers and then runs a bit that way and then comes back a bit this way. Sometimes I take extra long over my cleaning up, just to annoy her. Then she’ll finally run back to the field shelter and tell me to hurry along. Finally. she gives up and runs up with Treg. But she doesn’t like it.

So, what am I going to tell you about? You’ve heard about my wretched coat falling out. Not that I mind it falling out, you understand. It’s just that it takes so long doing it. Every day, morning and evening HE does HIS best to brush it out. It comes out in handfuls, literally. First HE uses a special big toothed plastic thing. HE likes that because, unlike a brush, the teeth are cone shaped and so the hair just falls from it when it is full. It is also very strong, so it can get to the knottiest bits of my coat without falling apart. However, the problem with it is that HE cant do my front end without all the hair falling out into my feed bucket, while I am eating. I’m funny like that. I just don’t like mouthfuls of hair, in with my breakfast. So next, HE swaps for a wire tooth dogs brush. This does hold the hair and HE has to keep stopping to empty it, but at least it doesn’t drop in my food. Like everything, though, it too has got it’s down side. Where my skin is most sensitive, under my tummy or on my legs, the wire teeth can be a bit painful. When HE gets too ambitious, I let him know this by waving my leg around in the air and moving away. Finally, HE resorts to just grabbing lumps of hair in his bare hands and pulling it out. This is not so painful as it sounds for the loose stuff just comes away with no problem. And, at the end of each session, we both stand there, in a great big pile of hair, knowing that it is just the tip of the iceberg and HE will have to start all over again, next bucket time. I suspect HE is secretly pleased when it is raining and I am too wet to groom. I really do have a wonderful coat. When it gets wet it goes into tight curls and when it dries out, it is like armoured plating. And all it takes to grow it is some good grass. So, if you’ll excuse me

Treg's favourite treeTuesday 27th April 2004
Hello, I’m back.. Did you miss me? I had some very important business to attend to yesterday. Wicky has been dying to have a go at the diary so I took pity on him and asked him to take it over for a day. I hope he didn’t bore you too much. I know what he’s like. Always pontificating on how they do things on the moor and the advantages of the small in stature and things like that. Always yapping really, just like little dogs. Still, I suppose he’s alright. He has his good points too – I think? Hard to remember them just at the minute but no doubt they’ll come to me.

You should have seen old Treg today. He’s a funny old lad. They decided to let us back up into the top field, for some reason, and Treg made straight for that big floppy umbrella tree, down by the stream. And he just stood there for ages, eating the new leaves. I don’t know if he especially likes the flavour or if it gave him a break from bending over. Another funny thing about Treg, is his ability to keep things in his mouth for a long while after you think he has finished them. HE often gives him a polo mint and then forgets about it, talks to one of us and then when he turns back, Treg suddenly finds this sweet in his mouth and starts crunching.

I cant remember if I told you about our sheep. Not the wanderers, they just come and go seemingly at will. No, Michael the farmer has put some sheep in our field to help us clear up the grass. Wicky wasn’t best pleased at this, I can tell you. But even he has a job getting through nearly eight acres of newly sprouting spring grass. The sheep appear to be in two lots. There is a whole crowd of mothers with their baby lambs. And then there is a gang of rams who sort of stay aloof and spend most of their time up in the road field, the one that we are kept out of to allow the grass to grow. A bit ironic that. There it is and we have to watch this gang of about eight rams munching away to their hearts content. HE read somewhere that it is good for the grass. Well, it certainly isn’t good for Wicky’s temper!

 

Treg is fitter than everWednesday 28th April 2004

Well, it’s here, at last! This is the three hundred and sixty fifth day of my diary, one year of my life, since I started. This time last year, those drain diggers with their noisy machinery and long blue plastic tubes were here, making a muddy mess of our fields. And now, look around. You wouldn’t know that hey had been. That is unless you knew how that field by the two gates used to fill up with water and be more like a boggy lake than a field. I have to say, they did a very good job there. And, what is different since then? Well, I have grown a much thicker coat this year. Being a thoroughbred, I naturally have a very fine coat and this doesn’t change much over winter. But this year, you could see a noticeable difference. Nothing like Treggy’s and definitely far removed from Wicky’s one. But, for me, a very thick woolly coat. I think it could well be due to the fact that, apart from two half days, I don’t think I missed any time from going out to Ninefields over Winter. And that toughened me up so I am now an honorary Dartmoor horse.

The other thing that has changed this year appears to be Treggy’s health, in particular, his arthritis. He wasn’t moving half as well last year as he is this. Last year, I think that THEY lost the battle of keeping Treg’s weight down and, as a consequence, he tended to hobble and stumble about a bit. He never did have a good gait, always kicking his front feet into the ground, but the added weight made it more difficult or him to manoeuvre his old joints about. This year, he is running up the hill like a colt. The only thing that slows him down now is his brain. Once he knows what he has to do, he can and does go at it with a will.

So far this year, Wicky has only had one bad turn with his feet, an improvement on the previous year. And, what else? Last year we had pheasants, this year we’ve got pheasants. Last year Ramsley Common burnt down, this year Ramsley Common burnt down .Last year we had swallows and today I saw the first one making a reconnaissance flight over the field shelter. I don’t know what another year will bring. Maybe just a lot more of the same. If it does, I won’t be sorry for we lead a very pleasant life here. Whether you will want to read about our daily lives, just repeating themselves, we’ll have to wait and see.

 

I came galloping down ...Thursday 29th April 2004

Wicky was thrilled. Treg was laughing fit to split his sides. It’s all one great big joke to them. You see, I think that they planned it all along. They won’t admit it, but that’s my suspicion. Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about, do you? Well, it was like this.

The three of us were up in the very highest part of the top North field having a little snack from some very new sweet grass. One advantage, when you are high up there is that sound carries and I would have heard the sound of THEIR car, coming along the Throwleigh Road . But, as it happens, THEY weren’t in THEIR own car. I did hear this Land Rover coming along the road but in this part of Devon , land rovers are more common than Wonnacotts, well nearly! Anyway, this Land Rover stops, right at our gate, and out THEY got, together with another chap who I didn’t know. As soon as he came into the field, HE called out to me. As THEY were with a stranger, I was curious and didn’t pretend not to hear HIM. I lifted my head to get a good look and then, when SHE called out to me as well, I started off to come down to see what THEY wanted. I got as far as the gateway between the fields when I realised that Treg wasn’t coming. Wicky had started moving when I did but Treg was in a world of his own. He wasn’t asleep, just doing a Treggy, mooning about in a half world, day dreaming of wonderful triumphs in the Horse Watch force. With a little cuss under my breath, I galloped back for him. ‘Er, what, Alli?’, he said, when I galloped up. I told him to pull himself together and get moving down the hill and turned round and galloped back. This got Wicky moving into a fast canter, until he saw the strange chap that was with them. He didn’t look like a vet or a farrier but Wick wasn’t taking any chances and slowed down to a walk. To cut a long story julienne, I finally got old Treg down, by which time HE, SHE and the stranger had climbed up above the field shelter to meet us. Wicky stood in the wings, Treg hovered cautiously several yards back and I galloped straight at them, so the stranger was heard to gasp that I might not be able to stop and would go over the edge of the hill.

When we sorted ourselves out, it turns out that the stranger was from the ILPH (International League for the Protection of Horses). He had had a complaint that I was being mistreated by being left out in the cold with no rug on. After saying some very complimentary things, particularly what good hooves I had (for a thoroughbred! Why do they always have to add that?), we all had a little snack and THEY went off, satisfied that I was unabused. As I said at the beginning, we all had a real good laugh about it and everyone agreed that it was much better for a mistake to be made than for a possible case of mistreatment to go without investigation.

 

Wicky and the farrier MarkFriday 30th April 2004

We should have known that something was up when THEY not only encouraged us to go into the Throwleigh Road field, that we have been kept out of, but also when they shut the gate after us, so that we couldn’t go out of that field. And there, sure enough it happened. They had no sooner gone off after breakfast than they returned again, this time with Mark, the farrier.

Now there is nothing wrong with having ones feet shod (or , in Wicky’s case, trimmed) except for the fact that one has to suffer a half an hour without a mouthful of grass and being relatively good. Each of us faces the problem in our own way. I’d swear that Treg went to sleep, if it weren’t for the occasional grunt, when Mark knocked a nail down a bit enthusiastically. Have you ever noticed that when a human is hitting anything with a hammer, be it a nail in a hoof or a post in the ground, they always go rat, tat, tat, TAT! The last hit is always a big one. That last one is the one that always gets Treg. Humans tend to worry about having nails driven into hooves, at least, the non horsey humans do. But, I assure you, it isn’t the nail that hurts. But, that final TAT! makes your whole leg shudder and old Treg always gives out a grunt.

Where was I? Oh yes, our different attitudes to the farrier. I always try to anticipate, to show off that I know what is going to happen next, that I have been through it so many times before. I like to give the impression of professional nonchalance. After all, I don’t want anyone to forget that I was a racehorse. Not just a common old riding school hack like my two companions here. It always helps to keep them in line, you know. The rest of my attitude depends on who is holding my lead rein. If it is HER, then I stand very obediently, doing what I am told and trying to impress HER. IF it is HIM, then a bit of bullying and a bit of smooching doesn’t go amiss. There’s a good chance that the boredom can be alleviated by a bit of carrot or a mint treat. I always reckon my chances are better than evens on a normal day. I may only have won a couple of races but when it comes to getting treats out of HIM, I am a champion.

When it’s Wicky’s turn, you can tell that you are in for a spell of grumpy toleration, providing it doesn’t go on for too long. Fortunately, while we generally take just under the hour to shoe (depending if they are new or refit shoes), Wicky’s trim only takes about a quarter of an hour. That is about his tolerance level, or, according to him, how long he can go without eating.

And while one of us is being seen to, the rest can wander around eating grass. Having said that, I always like to supervise as well and have to come along and inspect how things are going, from time to time. Of course, when it’s my turn, there is no need, so the other two just eat. That is, unless SHE decides to pull a bit more hair out of them, if SHE gets bored!

And then it rained, for the rest of the day.

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