Alezane's Diary Archive September 2005
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The day to day life of an ex-racehorse and her companions in Dartmoor UK and Mayenne France
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possible shepards' hutThursday 1 st September 2005
To begin at the end, at least, at our evening bucket time. THEY turned up and, as always, HE went on up to the field shelter while we followed on and lastly, SHE came behind to shut the stream gate after us. Now the first of us to get there is always Wicky who acts as if his nose is tied to the feed bucket. I follow on, in the middle, after having shown HER all the new things in the area this time (more on that later). Lastly, old Treg stumbles up, by which time HE has unloaded all the buckets and bags that HE is carrying and usually gives old Treg a friendly pat as he goes past to his bucket. This time, however, HE notices Treg has some kind of large area of rash on his offside fore coat. Great areas of raised hair which brought to mind the time Treg fell in the nettles and nearly left us for good. SHE hadn't seen this as it was on Treg's side facing away from HER so when HE called out to HER, SHE came up for a close examination. The good thing was it didn't seem to trouble Treg in any way. The bad thing was that she discovered a few similar patches on me, as well. I must say I never knew I had them so it didn't seem to be as serious as with Treg last time. In fact, me having some as well made the whole thing more acceptable in some way. There being nothing that SHE could do, that is exactly what was done – nothing.
Now, let us go back to this morning. Yes, you've guessed, Treg was having a bit of a rest. SHE put her coat down to lay beside him for a while and he turned and lay on her coat. For once SHE decided to let him sleep as he has now put on enough weight for it not to matter if he misses a bucket. He did roll over before THEY went so SHE was able to retrieve HER coat.
And the bit I said I would come back to? Our friend Maxwell has returned. He has been away for a period of training and generally building up his condition. THEY met his human, Faith, earlier in the week who told THEM that Maxwell would be coming back at the start of the month. And, sure enough, THEY saw Faith riding him earlier in the day as she passed by THEIR house. And, when THEY brought the suppers up to Ninefields, Maxwell was there in the field next to ours and I gather he is going to stay out at night until the weather turns colder. THEY stopped on THEIR way home and SHE went and gave him one of our carrots so I expect SHE has made a friend now, not to mention a habit.

Wicky did that ‘pinch, punch' thing on Treg this morning, so whether he really was sleeping or just sulking and planning his revenge, I'm not really sure. Whatever, Wick had better watch out. Cobs may not be quick but they have long memories!

baby swallowsFriday 2 nd September 2005
As I think I mentioned yesterday, Maxwell was out in his field this afternoon and evening but, instead of hanging around at the wall for THEM to give him a treat he was right over on the far side and ignored THEM completely. Looking at him made me realise what a complete lack of flair and style males have. It may not be just males but particularly British males. Whatever the case may be, you only have to look at my two old boys and Maxwell and then compare them with me, a superb French female to know what I mean. Oh, didn't I mention it, I'm talking about fashions in wearing fly collars. I think for a start we have to rule Wicky out of it. He doesn't wear his at all. Straight to the gate and a good vigorous scratching on the post and, hey presto, there it is on the ground. But the other two, Treg and Max simply go around peering through these long dangly strands and looking complete fools while they are doing it. I mean, they remind me of Wicky before he had his mane trimmed. And what could look worse than that? No, for style you can't beat the French way of wearing them. What you do is fidget around by a fence or gate but not enough to make the thing fall off but just enough for it to swivel round your neck so that it hangs in a very chic sort of colourful beard. Vive la France !
We had a visitor this afternoon. It has been a hot and sunny day with flies by the thousand so, of course, there is only one thing to do in these circumstances. We were all standing in the shade of the field shelter (well Treg was almost all in it) having a bit of a doze when we heard the noise of HIS car turning up at the Throwleigh Road gate. A few minutes late HE emerged at the stream, crossed over and came up, as I thought, to join us. As it happens I was mistaken for, aside from a fairly formal ‘hello guys', HE just ignored us and went to the back o the shelter, looking up at the swallows nest. I should have known. HE had his camera with him and proceeded to take photos of the three swallow chicks, sitting looking really silly with those great big wide open mouths of theirs. HE took about half a dozen and then just stood there waiting for one of the parent birds to arrive and start feeding. None came however and eventually he went out of the shelter (by this time Treg had wandered right out into the sun) and took some mint sweets out of his pocket. Treg thought this was such a good idea that he persuaded Wick and me to join him and generally we mugged HIM until he had to get out of the field with no sweets left.

HE hung about a bit longer taking photos of the blackberries and then HE was off as well. By that time we were all out in the sun, so it seemed like a good idea to just have a little something to eat to tide us over until supper.

Wicked coming homeSaturday 3 rd September 2005
“Ere, Wick?”
“Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, it's my best friend, isn't it? Decided to stand up at last, have we?”
“So would you if SHE came at you with a great big stick to beat you with.”
“If I recall, Tregony my lad, that was no big stick that was a dried up foxglove stem.”
“Well, foxes can hurt you as well, can't they, even if they have gloves on?”
“Never mind you old cobby butter, what was it you wanted to ask me?”
“Ask you? Oh, yes, I remember. What would you do if Ninefields got flooded all over like that French place in America ?”
“Slowly Treg, one thing at a time. French place in America ? I didn't know that you were aware of anywhere further than Spreyton. Where are you talking about?”
“Er, well, I'm not really one hundred percent sure but I heard HIM talking about it and I think it's, well – not even in Devon .”
“If it's the same America that I'm thinking of Treg, you are absolutely right. But why French then?”
“Well, it was Alli. When HE was telling her all about this flood there, I hear her say ‘Orleon, but that is in Fronce.' And because of her funny accent I assumed she meant France .”
“Ah. I see, well you are almost right laddie. But I think you didn't hear the ‘New' and from the sound of it, Alli didn't either.”
“Now it's you who's got to go slower Wick. What do you mean ‘New'? Are you saying that they had floods before and now this is a new lot?”
“No, Treg. It's New Orleans , that's the name of the place in America .”
“Are you sure Wick? How do you know that?”
“I may be younger than you Treg but I've been around a bit and I do keep my ears open. You pick up an awful lot by listening to people.”
“I bet it's better now you've been clipped. Keeping your ears open I mean. Easier without all that hair that you used to have in them.”
“If you say so laddie. Anyway, Ninefields will never get flooded like that. I mean, it's flooded every winter to a certain extent. Do you remember that year when we first came here? That bridle path field was like a lake. You put your foot on a bit of green and it was waterweed not grass and you splashed up to you ankles in water. But it will never get worse than that.”
“It won't? How can you say that so confidently with all this gloamal warnings about?”
“Global, Treg, global. And it's warming. Getting hotter, see.”
“I thought it was a bit fresher today.”
“No Treg. Not just today, it's a trend. They say it's caused by humans burning lots of oil and coal and wood and stuff.”
“Why are hey doing that? They used to burn the bracken once but they seem to have stopped doing that. Does that other stuff burn better?”
“Don't let's go there Treg, it's too complicated. Let me just reassure you that as Ninefields is quite high up, even if there were floods, the water would all run down to the valley below us. That's what water does. It runs downhill. You never see our stream running the other way, do you?”
“Ere, I never thought of that before. You don't, do you? Ooh, you are clever Wick. What else do you know?”
“I know that my tummy tells me that it is suffering from acute grass deprivation. Come on old lad, up the hill we go.”

food pleaseSunday 4 th September 2005
Do you know what THEY did today? THEY went for a ride to look at somewhere possibly new to live. And why would THEY do that? Because THEIR house is not in the same place as our field but half a mile away. The idea would be to have a house in Ninefields. There is plenty of room for it but, because Dartmoor is a National Park, THEY would never get planning permission for it. The house THEY went to look at was tiny compared with where THEY live now but that really doesn't matter. All THEY need is one bedroom, one living room, a kitchen and possibly a study (and, of course a bathroom and toilet) so THEY would be quite comfortable with one of the modern mobile homes tucked round the corner, out of sight in Ninefields. No, the important thing is to be able to open their door (a stable door, of course) and give us treats all day long. What a noble ambition, I support it wholeheartedly!
We've had a thunderstorm today, a strange one without much lightening but with great big bangs right in your ears. There was rain as well but, as it was not at all cold, it didn't really matter much. At least it kept Treg on his feet instead of snoozing in the sun. Maxwell was out in his coat. He's probably going to stay the night and he hasn't got trees or a field shelter like we have to keep himself dry.
The squirrels have started burying some of their peanuts now. They sit for a little while chewing away and then they pick up another and they are off down the field towards the stream. When they do stop, you can see them looking all around to see if anyone is observing them before they bury the nut. It makes me wonder if we are going to have loads of peanut trees or whatever they become when the squirrel forgets where he has put them.
We are all waiting for the swallow chicks to fall out of the nest now. They have grown so big that there really isn't room for the three of them anymore. They seem to spend an awful lot of time readjusting themselves, two facing one way and one the other. Tregony told me the last thing he would ever want to be is a swallow parent. They have to work continually, both flying in and out to feed the chicks..
One final item. SHE called HIS attention to a large bird flying overhead. At the time SHE wasn't sure, but doubted, if it was a young buzzard but when SHE checked up later SHE found it was in fact a sparrow hawk (which SHE had suspected but wasn't really sure, as it was hard to distinguish from the angle it was observed). Although all creatures (even cobs) have a place in THEIR hearts, it was hoped for all our other friends' sakes that this one's place was somewhere other than Ninefields!

what to do with old hay balesMonday 5 th September 2005
Have you ever heard of poo raiders? No, neither have I. I was just trying to make some sense out of what HE has been doing today. You've heard about the invasion by William the Conqueror, when he came here from France and started building castles all over the place. We even have one in Okehampton. Well, that's what HE has been up to as well. But instead of guarding towns or cities or anything HE has been constructing defences around our poo piles. As far as we are concerned, Treg, Wick and I all agree that anyone can have them. After all, we have finished with them. I have heard that humans tend to make use of them for their gardens – particularly good for tomatoes so I am told. “No, Wick, I don't know about carrots”. Sorry about that.

Anyway, We were having a gentle snacking sort of time in the bridle path middle field (remind me to get these field names sorted out, by the way) and we heard the sound of HIS Suzuki driving up. Usually this means trouble – the vets or in the good old days, the farrier or worse, SHE's just remembered the wormers. But no. HE just drove in. I say ‘just drove in', I forgot to tell you that Michael and Helen were just in the middle of taking the sheep off. So, in fact, HE drove in, got out and stood waving HIS arms about to terrify the sheep into going out of the gate. So, the sheep and farmer out of the way, HE gets into his jeep and drives over to the poo pile in the Throwleigh Road field. Then, he ejects hay bays from the car and starts building the fortifications around the pile. HE doesn't do it in one go but drives backwards and forwards two more times before HE is satisfied that the protection is adequate. I think HE must have been feeling as foolish as we thought HE was because, before HE drove away for the last time, HE came over to us and handed out a few mint sweets.
Not satisfied with this, it must have occurred to HIM this evening, when HE brought our supper buckets, that the poo pile by the field shelter was unguarded. While we were eating, he took the few remaining hay bales out of the hay store and surrounded the poo pile there. I am afraid HE didn't have enough bales to make such a secure job and I note HE hasn't sacrificed the bales that THEY sit on, while watching us eat. Still, HE has done the best HE could and I expect HE is relying on the fact that we are often in the shelter so we can give added protection. Watch this space for news of any security breaches!

no flies on meTuesday 6 th August 2005
First, a mystery. THEY drove up his morning and, instead of just undoing the padlock and taking off the chain on the Throwleigh Road gate, HE messed and messed about with it (saying a few unrepeatable words at the same time) and finally, SHE took herself off down the bridle path while HE climbed over the gate to bring us our buckets. Then, while we three started tucking in, HE took himself off down to the bridle path gate to let her in. At first, something similar occurred at the first of the two gates so HE left that one and took himself off round the corner to the second gate. He apparently had more success here for finally SHE emerged and the pair of THEM walked back to the field shelter. That wasn't the end of it however for HE had had trouble opening the gate even after HE got the lock off because it had become overgrown with brambles so HE grabbed the cutter thing that HE used to use, to cut Treg free from the wire fence when the old fool used to put his foot through it, and HE made HIS way back to cut all the brambles back so the gate swings open and shut properly. Finally, HE came back and I asked HIM what all the fuss had been about and apparently the padlock on the Throwleigh Road gate had got its opening code changed. How and why HE didn't know. Yesterday evening was one of heavy rain and thunderstorms so you wouldn't expect a prankster to be out in it, even if they did know the old code and how to change it to another. On the other hand, locks don't usually change their own codes so really it is a bit of a mystery.
The other event of note this evening was really down to me. Being a warm and muggy day, SHE had put our fly collars on again. And, again, my somehow got to dangle round my neck and under my chin. So, when THEY came along with our evening buckets, SHE came over to me to sort the collar out. Now, I don't know if some memory of an old unpleasant event in my past concerning my ears came to mind of if I just felt like a bit of a laugh but, as SHE approached me to reach up to my ears, I just ran away. This made HER chase me and sort of whoosh me along so I ran and bucked and reared until HE got in the way. I veered away and when I came back to cross the stream, SHE tried to catch me again so I jumped and bucked out of HER reach again. Of course, THEY had the last laugh because when I finally stopped in the field shelter for my feed, HE wouldn't give it to me until SHE had finally reached up and got the fly collar off my ears. Well, it brightened up a dull evening, didn't it?

Wednesday 7 th September 2005
Alright, I know you've not heard anything from Treg and Wick for a few days but you are going to have to wait at least until tomorrow. Today has been take ….

“Ere, Alli?”
“Shut up Treg, go away!”
“Oh … “

swallow chicksAs I was saying, today has been the day of the swallow. The chicks have been getting instructions in growing up and in flying. It has been a sunny and quite warm day today so Treg and I spent a lot of the time sheltering from the sun in the field shelter. I don't know if I have described it before, but the swallows second nest is just over the centre of the field shelter entrance (their first one was on the same side of the shelter but deep in the shadow of the hay store part). Up until yesterday, the three chicks have been crowded together in the nest but they have grown at an enormous pace and yesterday it was obvious that something had to give. This morning it did. One of them came out of the nest and sat on the angled beam that is one of the triangle sides supporting the roof at the front. At first this appeared to be a bit of a mistake for him/her (lets say him from now on because we'll never know) because although he had much more room, as did the remaining two, the problem was that the parents returning with food tended to ignore him. This may have been a deliberate ploy, as he had to start moving along the beam to get any food. At one point the parent was seen to deliberately fly round him and settle further up the beam and call out to encourage him to follow.
There was another bit to his training in that the construction of the woodwork involves some vertical struts every couple of feet and these make the beam into a narrow ledge for a few inches. The parent was moving to the other side of the vertical struts so that the chick had to negotiate them which he could only do by flapping his wings for balance. All the while the other two were watching this performance with great interest and talking among themselves. It was at this point that HE turned up, of course, with his camera, but also (like the wise person that HE is) with a few mint sweets for us. It wasn't long before we heard the patter of tiny feet and I don't mean the swallow chicks as Wicky came cantering down the hill to make sure he didn't miss out. The usual happened then. Treg moved himself out of the way and into the sun to make room for Wick. I would have felt sorry for him but, even before Wick came along, he had been standing with his back in the shade but with his head out in the sun. Daft old fool. What with all the moving about and pushing and shoving we lost contact with the swallows for a while but after HE had gone and we settled down again I noticed we were now at the stage where all three of the chicks were out of the nest, standing along the beam. There was much more parental encouragement to move about now in order to get fed. A couple of times one climbed over the top of its sibling to get to the parent with much more wing fluttering for balance. Then came the great moment. By this time it was evening bucket time and THEY were able to share the moment. The original chick who had left the nest first, in its anxiety to get to its parent, flapped his wings so hard that he flew. Admittedly only about six inches but he definitely flew for the first time. He found himself clutching like mad at the vertical strut for a few moments and then fluttered down to the beam. After that the parent went into overdrive showing him by flying a couple of feet off the beam and then back again. It's not going to take much longer before they are all flying – tomorrow for sure. I will let y …..

“Ere, Alli?”
“Oh, what is it Treg?”
“Tell ‘em about the birdies, Alli.”
“Oh, good idea, thank you Treg.”

mushroomThursday 8 th September 2005
“Alright Treg, your turn to do the diary today.”
“No. Shan't. Don't want to.”
“Oh come on. Don't be such a booby. Just because SHE made you get up his morning and eat your breakfast. You're not going to sulk all day, are you?”
“Might!”
“I'll get Wicky to come and nip your knees, if you don' behave.”
“Well, alright. But I'm still not happy. It's alright for you Alli, SHE never gets her whip out to you, does SHE?”
“That's because I'm not a stubborn old cob like you Treg. You know SHE worries if you don't eat up, particularly breakfast because its got your medicine in it.”
“All the same … Oh well. OK. Let's forget it, shall we. What shall I talk about? Did you tell them about the birdies? You know, them swallows wot was learning to fly?”
“Only up to last night, Treg. They don't know what happened today yet.”
“OK Right. Here we go. This morning, the chicks were woken up very early. As soon as it was light. By the time they got to sleep last night they had all three done a little flight, just round the posts in the field shelter. But it was enough to give them some grand ideas. Took ‘em ages to get to sleep they was so excited, chattering amongst themselves. Their parents went out for the night. I think they wanted to get a bit of a rest from the chicks after the days and days of feeding and looking after them.
Anyway, this morning the parent birds lined them all up on the beam above the field shelter entrance and, one at a time, they escorted each chick on its first proper flight. Not too far, just drop down from the beam, turn, fly through the doorway, right turn round the back of the shelter and they stop for a rest on the fence going along the back. Next it was follow the parent back the way they came and up onto the beam again. You can imagine the excitement as that chick landed after his first proper flight. Not a little showing off, as well. Then, when the commotion settled down, the next chick repeated the procedure, following its parent out and back. Again the excitement and then the third chick followed on. When they were all safely back again it was time for the health and safety lecture. They were warned what to do if they heard the cry of the buzzard – fly straight into the depths of the nearest hedge and don't come out again until the parent gives the all clear. Magpies too, and sparrow-hawks. One by one the parents described the dangers and emphasised the need for watchfulness and care. By this time, the young chicks were getting a bit impatient and even a little bored. They can fly! What's all this talk about, come on, let's go!
Sensing their impatience and also not a little proud of their brood and wanting to show them off to the rest of the flock, the parents got the chicks ready for their very first family outing, all together. And with a one, two, three and away, all five dropped off the beam and sailed off through the doorway. We three just stood and watched them. Up, up, up and round and round, the parents gliding gracefully, the chicks having to work hard with their wings but loving every minute of it. And really, with a few rests in between, that's how the rest of the day went, each flight a little bit higher and a little bit longer. Sometimes the family joined up with other families who are all in the first stages of preparation for the long flight back to Africa . Then they were made to behave properly and with some dignity. Other times the three chicks were just left to play by themselves and they whirled around and around, each time building up their stamina and expertise. We three horses could have watched them all day except that you can't eat grass with you head in the air. But it was a really lovely day.”
“Well done Treg. You forgot your accent there for a while in your enthusiasm.”
“But it was tiring Alli. Is it alright if I go and have a bit of a lay down now?”
“Best now Treg, before SHE comes along in the morning.”
“Ugh! Don't remind me. ‘Night!”

Cat Flap arrivesFriday 9 th September 2005
Did I tell you the other day about the vet, when THEY took the old cat PC to see him, after falling down the stairs? The vet, who had previously been treating Tregony for his cut leg said “Haven't you any young animals?” Well, I think that remark must have hurt for do you know what THEY have gone and done now? Let me start at the beginning.

A couple of nights ago, HE got up early at 4am because HE couldn't sleep. One of the reasons was that HE thought he heard the baby across the road crying. But then, as HE lay there, HE decided it didn't quite sound like the baby after all. But anyway, it was one factor that made HIM decide to get up. Later during the day, the neighbour, across the road, asked HER if we had lost a kitten because there was one shouting outside her house wanting to come in but her dog Ted had other ideas. SHE said ‘no', it was not THEIR kitten and left it at that. Last night, the crying was louder and louder and THEY went out to call it in but, although the crying went on, no kitten appeared. This morning the crying started again and, as SHE went out to look, the kitten came rushing into THEIR house. According to HIM now, the kitten has assessed THEIR accommodation and food and has declared them satisfactory foster parents and has moved in. PC and Tom, the other two cats are not what you might call thrilled but, after an initial bout of some very unrepeatable language, they have decided the best defence is to ignore it.
There is a little more to this story. For quite a long while now there has been a stray cat who lets itself in through the cat flap, steals the food left out for PC and Tom and then lets itself out again. At first it was just the levels of food going down which made THEM suspicious. Then THEY heard the noise of the cat flap banging and went to look, only to see a tail vanishing out of the flap. Eventually, although he never let himself be touched, the stranger did listen to THEM talking to him and did exit in a more casual manner. Now they had had a good look at him, THEY named him Stripey on account of his colouring and markings. The point of this story is that the new kitten looks very much like son of Stripey. In fact that was almost his name, that or abbreviated to SOS. However, before THEY came to live in Dartmoor , THEY had a kitten who was run over by a car. His name was Cat Flap and now this new kitten has been handed down that name, Flap for short, Cat Flap for formal and Cat Flap Son of Stripey for full identification. And you thought ‘Alezane' was weird!

Saturday 10 th September 2005
A wet day!

rabbits? foxes?By that I don't mean that it rained hard all day. It did rain quite a bit and it drizzled a lot but really what I mean is that today's diary theme is water. Water at home near my stable and water here at Ninefields both in and behind my field shelter.
Let's start with here. When THEY had our field shelter built, THEY were asked if THEY wanted rain guttering. HE was just getting over the cost of the shelter and went all mean and said ‘no', THEY didn't need it, thinking that if it rained the water could just drip off the roof onto the field. And, in times of normal rain, that is just what it does do. But when we have a downpour, not unheard of on Dartmoor, the amount of rain is too much to just filter away normally and so the level rises behind the field shelter and then starts gushing through the inside of the shelter making a collection of nice big puddles which is alright for us to drink from but not much fun for horses like me who like to empty their buckets all over the floor.
Today it went into downpour mode again. I say again because only a few days ago we had large indoor puddles which HE had to sweep away. HE was indoors when the heavy rain started and, probably feeling guilty for his meanness all those years ago, HE decided to come up to Ninefields and dig a deeper trench behind the shelter until HE gets round to buying and installing the guttering which is the real solution. HE got dressed up in his waterproofs and went to the shed to get HIS best spade. HE was just passing out of the passageway between the house and my stable when HE noticed that the drain there was blocked and not running away. Thinking it was some rubbish the house painters had left (did I tell you THEY are having the outside of the house woodwork painted?), HE bent down and tried to clear it with the spade. Nothing happened so HE put the spade down and got on HIS knees and lifted the cover. The cover though dirty was not blocked; the problem was in the drain itself. I will try and make this story shorter. HE got his drain rods and pushed and pumped and plunged but nothing happened. HE had the master drain cover open and found that underneath was full of water (for the sake of a nice word to cover a questionable substance). The drain rod was used the other end but seemed to hit an obstruction. A pick axe was brought from the shed, then a wheelbarrow and then the spade dug a whole the contents of which went into the wheelbarrow, only to find that there was nothing wrong with the pipes leading to the master drain. The hole was refilled. The problem was in the sewage drain in the road backing up and the water authority needed phoning. All of this action had occurred in the pouring rain and HE was more than a trifle wet. Getting HER to phone the water company, HE put the spade and pick axe into the jeep and came up to sort out our problem. Our problem became HIS problem as the ground behind the field shelter is not earth but an earth/stone compound compacted by the shelter constructors to make a nice hard base for the shelter.

I will stop now. Enough to say HE went home in a state of complete soaking exhaustion and, by the time HE had brought our supper this evening, THEY were still waiting for the water company to arrive. As I said – a wet day!

sun flowerSunday 11 th September 2005
“It aint just bein' forced to get up or nuffin, it's been a rotten day and that's that!”
“I know, Treg. It has been a bit overcast, hasn't it?”
“A bit? More like livin' in a great big dark cloud. And I don't know where the swallos ‘ave gone?”
“I wouldn't blame them if they have set out for Africa already. At least they would get a bit of sunshine.”
“Where Hafrica, Wick?”
“Er, well …, it's where the swallows go when it gets too cold for them here.”
“Yeah, I know that. But where is it? Where do they go to get a bit of sunshine?”
“Well, I asked one of the parents, the other day. But it's hard to remember all that they tell you because they will insist on giving you directions and I gave up listening after Chagford.”
“Everyone gives up listening after Chagford Wick. If you have to go there then you might as well stay at home.”
“They did tell me a bit about what it's like when you get there.”
“Oh, I've heard all that before. All ironmonger's shops and traffic jams, ain't it?”
“Not Chagford Treg, Africa .”
“Oh. Do they have ironmongers shops there too?”
“Not the bit the swallows go too. But they have a lot of sand.”
“Oh good. What's sand Wick?”
“Sand is … well when there's a lot a sand it's like … Oh yes, sand is what is at the bottom of our stream.”
“Funny. Wouldn't think the swallows would want to fly all that way to go to a wet country. Isn't Dartmoor wet enough for them?”
“Oh, this sand is dry. From what they tell me it's very dry.”
“How can it be dry if it's at the bottom of a stream? I think that swallow was having you on Wick. Still, let 'em go if that's what they want to do. Would you like to go away somewhere every winter Wick. Maybe up to the Shetland Islands or somewhere? You know, for a holiday like?”
“Treg, from what I've heard, I wouldn't want to go to the Shetland Islands ever. There's no grass to eat and it's cold, wet and windy all the time.”
“Yeah, well I suppose there's no point in going somewhere that's no different from here, is there? How about … How about … About Cornwall ?”
“No offence Treg but no thank you. All little people there talking funny so you don't know what they are saying. And it's even worse when they talk Cornish. No, I know it's your old home but I think Ninefields will do me fine.”
“Yeah. Me too Wick. You can tell it's a nice place because the swallows always come back, don't they?”
“I think they just enjoy sitting in the field shelter listening to us two talking, don't you Treg?”
“Could do worse Wick. Could do a lot worse. Eh?”

the stable door ...Monday 12 th September 2005
I'm afraid all the news is about THEM again today. Well, apart from the fact that Treg was laying down again this morning. THEY reckon the worst thing about Treg having his lay down is that when he tries to get up, he quite often falls back several times and in the process usually falls in something that is best left alone making him something less than fragrant when he finally comes in to eat. HE did his best to save the situation this morning by kicking all the piles of you know what well away from Treg's vicinity before SHE arrived with HER encouraging stick.
Back to Them. Just as THEY were getting ready to bring our buckets along this morning, a lorry pulled up in front of their house and men started unloading shovels and other tools. THEY knew that the builders were due to come and replace all their broken old crazy paving in front of the house and my stable with nice neat and level brickwork but, judging by the performance of most of the craftsmen around here THEY didn't expect then to come when they said they would. What it meant is that THEY have had to move their cars down to the car park for a week or two while the work is going on. By the time THEY got back from feeding us, a digger was in the garden ripping all the slabs and earth up and making a big heap ready for a tractor and trailer to come along and carry it away. While all this was going on, Mehmet, the house painter arrived to finish painting the house but he had to park his motor scooter up the road as well.
There is no point stressing the constant noise and dirt of the day but one little story is worth telling. Two of THEIR neighbours were out side talking and HE went out to return some books HE had been lent. While talking about the building work, the new kitten, Cat Flap, appeared climbing over the rubble and under the digger which had stopped working for a while. HE picked the kitten up so that it would be safe and just at that moment one of the builders started to cut through some stone slabs with a very noisy machine. The kitten panicked but HE didn't want to let it go in case it ran away so now HE has a very colourful lacerated arm where the kittens laws scrabbled to get free.
HE told me that having to walk backwards and forwards up and down the hill to the car park is sort of like practicing for when HE and I will be walking up and down to Ninefields from my stable. From the look of HIM, I think HE could certainly do with the practice as HE does tend to get a bit out of condition in the summer months when HE doesn't get the exercise. Having said that, HE tells me that I shouldn't look in any mirrors either!

bridle pathTuesday 13 th September 2005
“Ere, Wick, why's that Maxwell wearing a tent?”
“Sorry Treg, I don't understand.”
“Well, look at ‘im. You'd hardly know there was a horse inside all that material, would you?”
“Oh, you mean his coat? Very smart I think. And that neck piece will keep him very clean and keep the rain or flies off as well.”
“You haven't got one. I haven't got one. Even Alli hasn't got one like that. Why is he so special?”
“Well, you see Treg. We are retired but Max is a working horse so he has to be kept looking smart.”
“Are you saying I'm not smart?”
“All things are relative Treg. Compared with Max or all the working horses that pass by here, no, you're not smart. Nor am I . Nor Alli. We're sort of … well … grubby.”
“Oh, I like that! Grubby! You speak for yourself Wicky. Didn't we have our tails trimmed this morning so's we'd look the bees kness?”
“We had our tails trimmed this morning to stop us falling over them Treg. To be honest, there's not a lot of point in keeping you groomed when you lie down and roll in all that muck and on the wet grass, is there.”
“I do that for my hygienes Wick. It's to improve my body hodor an that. It's very hard to remain smelling nice in all this rain. I do my best you know.”
“And so you do, old lad. I wasn't criticising, just pointing out the reason why we don't have smart coats like max.”
“Well, and anyway. He's not so smart. Did you notice that one of his straps was undone? Makes him look as scruffy as us, that does, don't you think?”
“Never mind Treg. Let's leave it. What else have you been doing today that might interest the readers of the diary?”
“Maybe you should have left that last bit off Wick. That bit about hintresting. You see, I don't think anything I do is very hinteresting. I mean, I like it, at least most of it apart from being beaten up by HER when I'm having a bit of a rest, but I couldn't hoof on my heart, swear that it was hinteresting to anyone else.”
“Have you been eating?”
“Course I've been eating.”
“Well, there you are then. I find that interesting. And I expect Alli would find it interesting as well.”
“Yeah, well, OK. But I've not done anything else apart from walking about. Up the hill, down the hill, over the stream, back to the other side.”
“Whoa, wait there Treg. You know, you could be a travel writer. Lots of people make a living doing just that, saying where they have been and how they got there.”
“Do they. Blimey! And people find that hinteresting? Well I never. Tell you what Wick, I'll have a bit of a think about that while we wander up the hill to graze, shall I?”
“Good idea Treg, good idea!”

Wednesday 14 th September 2005
PC rests with Cat FlapA solemn unhappy day today. The cat, PC has gone missing. He has done this before. Sometimes, in his youth, he would vanish for days on end and then return as if nothing had happened. It became almost a regular thing, so that THEY came to expect it once a year. But not now. He is now an old cat. A very old cat who waddles rather than walks, with his knees bent to support him. He suffers from numerous twitches and involuntary shakes and, of course, he had that fall down the stairs only a few weeks ago. So now, although they are clinging to a last hope that he will walk back through the door, with his old familiar cry, it now seems less and less likely.
He was around in the night or at least in the early hours of the morning because since THEY have had the new kitten, the doors to upstairs and the bedrooms have been left open as the kitten sleeps with them and may need to go outside to be clean. Two things happened last night. At some time, PC appeared and did his usual trick of falling down and rolling over just out of reach so that you cant pick him up or stroke him. The last couple of nights THEY have got him and put him on the bed with the kitten but he didn't stay. Last night, although invited up, he declined and just rolled over looking very pleased with himself. They dozed off again only to be woken at five o'clock with the sound of the kitten jumping about and playing wildly. Eventually, th racket went on so long that SHE got up and found that Cat Flap was playing with a dead mouse. Observation has taught THEM that it was most unlikely (as yet) that he had caught it himself and he had been starting to follow PC about a lot so the theory is that PC took him hunting and showed him how to catch the mouse and then gave it to him to play with. So the mystery is, where did PC go after that? HE has been out walking in the rough ground of the playing fields behind THEIR house but HE could find no sign of him. THEY have been hoping that he might have got himself shut in the garage of some early riser and would now, this evening be released and wander home but so far no good. The other theory is, of course that he suffered a heart attack while he was out or even that he wandered away to lay down and die under a hedge somewhere.
As a said, a very unhappy day. I only hope I may have better news tomorrow.

Thursday 15 th September 2005
HE had to go to a meeting last night. When HE returned, some time after nine o'clock , he put his papers down on the table and walked into the lounge.

Cat Flap rests with PC“He's back”, SHE said!

No one knows where the cat, PC had been, but just before nine o'clock , he walked back into the house. He was very hungry and even more thirsty but apart from that he appeared to be alright. Aren't humans funny? THEY both cried.

However, as a result of the mouse game at five in the morning, the kitten was locked downstairs with the other two cats last night. THEY decided that after all the worry it would be very nice to get a proper night's sleep for a change. But, worse than that, as far as the cats were concerned, they went to bed with no food being left out for those times in the night when one gets a little bit peckish. We horses can deeply sympathise there. I mean, after all, what is there in life, particularly if you have no work – sleeping and eating – we do it all the time. Was it vindictiveness on THEIR part then? Well this time, no. Cat flap had an appointment with the vets this morning and, if all was well, he was going to have a little operation, what we horses would call a gelding.

So, can you imagine the commotion this morning when THEY got up and PC and Tom placed themselves on the table as usual for their breakfast, which HE usually puts out while HE makes the tea. This morning they sat there and they sat and they looked and they sat. Cat Flap, who has not yet got permission to sit at the table with the big boys was going frantic on the ground, rushing around looking for his food bowl. In the end, THEY had to give in for the older cats as it wasn't fair that they should miss their breakfast after all. It wasn't their anatomy that was the cause of the problem so why should they starve. Cat Flap was locked out of the kitchen and the old guys were given food as normal. Of course, when they came in from the kitchen, they smelled of breakfast which made Cat Flap even more frantic.

I wish I could say that there was a happy end to this story but I am afraid it is only shame. Before THEY had THEIR breakfast they bundled Cat Flap up in the cat box and drove to the vets. They were lucky to go in immediately and the nurse brought along the operation consent form. Then the vet examined Cat Flap and guess what? He is too little for the operation. Just because he has big ears and big limbs apparently doesn't make him as old as THEY had thought. Looking in his mouth, the vet declared that he still has his baby teeth, go away and come back in a month or two!

Driving home, THEY let Cat Flap out of his box and he started his training on how to ride properly in a car. Interesting, Flap thought but he found his previously missing breakfast much more interesting when they got home.

Wicky and TregFriday 16 th September 2005
Farrier day today. And what a change? In the old days (not medieval times, just a few months ago) when we still had our shoes on, farrier day was virtually farrier most of the morning. Even though it was only Treg and I who had shoes, this still involved Marc in taking off eight shoes, trimming 12 feet and reshaping and fitting eight shoes, either new of those taken off depending on the wear (of if we had lost them). Now he has only to trim 12 feet which takes far less time. In some ways that is much better. It is for THEM because THEY have to stand around for the whole time which is pretty boring and often cold or wet. For each of us, the waiting is not so bad because, as it is your feet there is a certain degree of interest there. Also Marc carries around lots of horsey smell information which makes him very useful when you are trying to catch up with things. I mean, it's alright for you humans who have radio, TV, internet and papers to get your information from but we horses have only what passes our eyes and noses.

I am afraid that we haven't been doing anything else o interest today. Well, apart from Treg deciding to lie down at teat time this evening. He really is a picture when he comes running away from HER, where SHE has been threatening with a schooling whip. He comes dashing along, stops just in front of the field shelter wondering if he needs to go the toilet before he eats and then, seeing his bucket waiting, changes his mind and comes rushing in. The problem with that is usually he has not been too careful where he has lain down and his fragrance is not really an appetite enhancer. But, he is an old guy now so everyone makes allowances for him.

Oh, one thing of slight interest. We are up to four squirrels now. Two of them appear quite small so could well be this years youngsters. Between the four of them they seem to spend more time squabbling than eating. As soon as the newcomers arrive, the other squirrels chase them but the visitors seem to manage to just keep out of harms way and come round another corner to grab a peanut. It's funny but at this time of the year these grey squirrels seem to have developed quite red faces. Maybe it's the exertion of running around burying he nuts and then coming back for more. Some of them seem to go to quite the other side of the field before stopping, looking round and then digging a small hole, dropping the nut and covering it up again. Treg recons he is glad he is not a squirrel as he would never remember where he had hidden what. I think the squirrels have much the same problem.

leavesSaturday 17 th September 2005
“Ere Wick, I remember that stuff.”
“What stuff's that, Treg”
“You know, when you go to have a mouthful of grass and it's all cold and slippery and all's gone white.”
“Ah, frost! That's what it's called Treg, frost.”
“Yeah, I've not tasted that for ages now. Froth. Not really a good name for it, is it. Not a bit frothy. S'more sharp and bitey really, ain't it?”
“It's frost, f-r-o S-t, not froth, Treg. Really, it's only water that's gone a bit hard, so to speak.”
“Oh, s'that all. I thought it was something special. If its water, why does it taste like grass when you warm it up a bit in your mouth?”
“Silly. That bit is grass. The bit that tastes like grass. The hard water just sticks to it and you eat it all together.”
“Well, whatever it is, I had some this morning and I just thought that it reminded me of something.”
“What did it remind you of Treg?”
“Wednesday.”
“Sorry? Wednesday. Why Wednesday?”
“Dunno. It just did. Some things remind me of sheep, some things remind me of scratching and that frothy stuff reminded of Wednesday. If I started to wonder why it might take me all day and all night and I would still never know, so I don't bother.”
“Right Treg. Of course. I understand, I think. So anyway, and what was so special about Wednesday that you were reminded of?”
“Nothing.”
“Nothing? Was it something happened or is going to happen on any special Wednesday?”
“Dunno Wick. I don't really know much about Wednesdays either, just that they comes after Mondays.”
“Tuesdays, Treg. Wednesdays come after Tuesdays.”
“Look, you're not always right, Mr Small Legs. I do know some things. And I do know the days of the week. There's Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and … and … well so Wednesday comes after Monday and so does Tuesday, so there!”
“Oh, well yes. If you look at it like that Treg, I suppose you're right. By the way, did you see that little girl riding past a little while ago. With her adult walking along in front of her.”
“Course I did. Reminded me of something, that did.”
“Would I be silly if I asked what?”
“Aint sure that's a proper sentence, Wick. It's one of those that if you strand back and look at it and say it over a few times, it seems sort of … well, not right. You know?”
“Absolutely!”
“What?”
“I said ‘absolutely'.”
“Why?”
“Haven't you noticed. Everyone says ‘absolutely' nowadays. All you have to do is ask a rhetorical question and they have to answer ‘absolutely'.”
“Why?”
“Because … er … Oh, that reminds me of something.”
What's that Wick?”
“December.”
“That's rubbish Wick. Absolute rubbish. I can see there's no point in talking to you anymore. We're better off going up the hill to do a spot of eating, don't you think?”
“Absolutely Treg, absolutely!”

Treg and AlezaneSunday 18 th September 2005
An interesting but sort of bitty day, at least that's what HE tells me. For us, the morning was normal. No problems – Treg was upright, the sun was shining and we all behaved impeccably (as usual). What happened then was partly at THEIR house and partly here at Ninefields.
At THEIR house, THEY went home and had breakfast and decided to take a trip to Exeter to look at refrigerators. As THEY have a large refrigerator/freezer plus another freezer in THEIR house, you might ask why THEY were doing this. It would seem that THEIR own fridge is so full of our carrots that SHE can't find room to put HER own vegetables and salads etc. HE said “why don't WE buy another fridge for the tack room” and SHE thought this was a really good idea. (So I'm told). Anyway, THEY were about to leave the house when SHE remembered that the man who was going to mend the windows had arranged to come today, so THEY couldn't go until he had been and finished. So, after cutting up our vegetables (something THEY have to do every 3 days), THEY went to do something on THEIR computers until the man should turn up.

THEY had just given up hope when he arrived and then there was another ring on the bell and guess who should have turned up?

Now, if I switch to us up at Ninefields for a moment. Wicky was off up in the top fields doing what Wicky does best – eating, while Treg and I were down by the field shelter and I was teaching Treggy some of the more advanced parts of mathematics (like which leg he needed to move after number three). We then heard a car draw up by the Throwleigh Road gate. I looked up and saw two people, a lady and a boy and it came to me in a flash that it was one of my old mums who looked after me when I had finished racing and who still looks after one of my daughters. The boy, her son, took a few photos of me and after a while they left. Back to the house in Ramsley Lane .
Yes, the people who turned up were my old mum Caroline and her son. I heard later that she had told HER that I was bullying Treg. Fancy! She just doesn't know how much managing he needs. I was teaching, guiding and informing Treg but then, she was not to know. One exciting thing came out at the visit. It appears that my daughter, Mimms, was due to come and stay with us for a while on holiday a couple of yars ago but events proved otherwise. She has now invited THEM down to her place to see Mimms and then maybe arrange a visit for her next summer. SHE has also promised that if ever Caroline cannot keep Mimms anymore, she can come and stay with us. You should have seen Tregony's face when I told him. I think he was delighted. I think! All he could say (or really, mutter) was ‘two of ‘em!' in a really ecstatic way. I didn't really know how deeply Tregony felt about me. How nice.

reflectionsMonday 19 th September 2005
I was standing, having a few blades of grass, while waiting for my supper and my eye fell upon the crossing to our stream. Then I saw, waddling down the pathway to the water, a rather round pigeon who was coming to help himself to a drink. This set me thinking, that of all the good things about Ninefields (and there are quite a few), probably the best thing of all is that stream. To have running water, always fresh, whenever you want it is a pretty wonderful thing. THEY bring us buckets of food for breakfast and supper but it would not be easy for them to keep us supplied in water. Even if THEY were fortunate to have access to a tap and could run a hose pipe into the field, it wouldn't be the same as our lovely fresh spring water running down off Dartmoor and flowing through our field. And, it's not just us. As I said, the birds drink there, so do the rabbits, squirrels, foxes, badgers, deer and sheep not to mention the millions of insects which support the bird population and spend the rest of the time flying into our eyes and biting our legs. The marvellous thing is that in the winter when the heavy rains come, the stream fills up but never floods and in the summer, even when we do not have rain for weeks and weeks, it may get pretty low but it never stops flowing.
We have had a pretty god day today. The nights and mornings now are pretty fresh but we horses don't mind that in the slightest as we have a higher body temperature than humans. And anyway, by breakfast time, the sun rises and floods our field shelter with light and warmth. After breakfast. Today, the weather was so lovely that we didn't feel like doing a lot, just grazing about the field by the second bridle path gate (I still haven't sorted out names for the fields yet, have I?) and watching the cows in the field up by Mathew's place and listening out for when Maxwell comes along to his filed next door. Did I say that Wicky, of course, goes of on his own and usually climbs up to the top or the middle fields and grazes away while acting as a sort of sentry, as you get such a good view from up there. Anyway, there we were, when I heard the familiar sound of HIS jeep pulling up. I kept my eyes open but didn't move my head so that HE would know HE was being watched. But, instead of coming over to us, HE vanished behind the field shelter with a metal thing in his hand. HE must have been there for nearly ten minutes when HE came out and then came over to where Treg and I were grazing. While we were working on HIS treats hand, HE told me that HE had been measuring up for some brackets to put guttering up behind the field shelter to stop the overflow spilling into the shelter when it rains heavily.

Of course, we followed HIM when HE started to walk away and were just in time to see Maxwell ride up with Faith, have his saddle and tack taken off and then do what all sensible horses do – have a roll. Both Treg and I were glad to see that he had his rug off on such a lovely day and we commented that the green grass stains must look lovely on his nice clean grey coat!

Tregs fly fringeTuesday 20 th September 2005
Well, HE told me that the yard outside my stable is finished now and I shouldf enjoy walking on it because it is just like cobbles only not so slippery. The builders finished today and now HE will have no excuse for not getting on with all the jobs HE had to do but couldn't get at. One of the most important ones is to fit down the new rubber matting in my stable. It's the kind that locks together because it has all shapes cut out of the edges. The problem is that this matting is not new so it has already been cut up and HE may have to try and cut out the shapes himself to make it fit. I don't really care if HE doesn't get it down as there was nothing wrong with my old matting except the sheet by the door always used to curl up at one edge, I think where the sun came in over the door. This meant that HE had to buy one new sheet every year to replace the curled one. We will see if HE can do it or not.

It has got a bit drier and warmer again. When I say drier, I mean in the air. There was not much dew this morning and THEY didn't have to wipe the car windows down. However, we did have a couple of showers which cheered Wicky up enormously as he was able to go off and roll on some dirt which turned it into mud and has really decorated his coat well (on one side). I could tell SHE was pleased when SHE saw him this evening as SHE kept remarking on it to HIM. I don't know whether it is the season or just in HER hormones but SHE has started on a ‘groom Treggy' campaign. This has been going on for a few days now and he was nearly afraid to lay down. I say nearly because this morning, before breakfast, he gave in and we had the big whip routine to get him to come and get his bucket. However, apart from a few wet grass marks here and there, Treg is gleaming. So much so, in fact, that the other night he thought he was going to be ridden again, with all the attention and after his bucket he just stood waiting for his tack to be put on.

Wednesday 21 st September 2005
You know, I'm getting old. I can't remember if I told you the story of the hay. I expect I did but, even so, I expect you have forgotten it so I will refresh your memory. When we first moved to Ninefields, it was a terrible wet year and a couple of our fields were pretty near under water. Not only that but THEY were not well organised either, as far as our hay was concerned. THEY had none in store in the field shelter and HE had to keep driving to the man who sells it and bringing 6 bales at a time back in his old Suzuki jeep. Because of the wet fields (I think or maybe HE was just silly) HE made a sort of sled to pull them, two at a time, from the bridle path gate to the field shelter. It was not a great success. Apart from being hard work, quite often the home made sled would overturn or get stuck in the mud. I cant remember now why he didn't just drive up to the shelter, the jeep is four wheel drive, after all. Whatever, that is all lost in the clouds of history. The following year, THEY blackberriesarranged for a shelter full of hay to be delivered in the autumn ready for the winter. This was much better except for the fact that THEY didn't quite know how much to order so that, by the end of that winter, HE was having to drive over to the farmer to get top up loads again. The following year, THEY ordered more and that year it seemed to work out alright so THEY did the same last year as well.

Now, a couple of things happened last year. First of all, I had been getting bad breathing as soon as I was brought in from Ninefields at night and given hay to eat instead of the grass I was used to. THEY made a decision to switch me from hay to haylage which, apart from giving me bad tummy ache the first time I ate it because I pigged myself badly, did solve my breathing problems. It meant, however, that THEY had a stable full of hay that was not needed. ‘Never mind' THEY said, ‘WE can take it up to Ninefields when the two old boys start to run out.' The other thing that happened last year was that the two old boys didn't run out. In fact, part from stealing a few bites over the shelter gate to the hay store, they hardly ate any hay at all. No one knows why. It must either have been an exceptionally easy winter or the stuff that was put on the grass the year before made it grow later and longer so that they ate grass instead of hay. In the end, THEY gave away as many bales as they could and used the rest to build walls around the poo piles just to get rid of them.

And why am I repeating this story now? Well, today we had delivery of this year's hay consignment. None for my stable because I will still be eating haylage when I come in and only half the amount for Ninefields, in case it doesn't get eaten again. It was good for HIS asthma as he only had to stack half as many. Let us hope it is not a long, bad winter or HE will be driving to the farmer again to have to frequently top up as HE did in the early days!

Thursday 22 nd September 2005
fence on skylineToday we had two extra visits. First HE drove up and drove into the field but instead of coming up to us HE reversed down to the little castle HE has built with the old hay bales around the Throwleigh Road poo pile. HE then opened the rear door of the jeep and unloaded a lot of old branches and leafy cuttings and stuff and threw them on the pile. Nut then, instead of driving out again, HE proceeded to drive up to where we were watching him, above the field shelter. It was as HE approached I realised why the car looked strange. On the roof and bending over the windscreen were four quite large trees. I am surprised HE was able to see to drive what with the leaves covering the screen. Anyway, HE stopped and started to undo the rope that was tying the trees to the car. Wick went right up to HIM to remind HIM that we could eat any treats that HE may have about HIS person but all he did was to ruffle Wick's mane and hen go back to his trees. One by one he unloaded them and put them over the fence on the shelter side. Then he got his spade out of the rear of the car and proceeded to dig four holes. He put the trees in but it was quite windy and they soon fell over so HE had to go back to the car for some wite to secure the trees to the fence. HE filled in the holes again and then got back into the car. We all thought that HE was going then but instead HE stopped at the field shelter and got a large plastic container, drove down to the stream, filled it and then came back up to the trees to water them in.

It was then that I knew we were going to get treats because he stopped and got out of the car and went round to the little cupboard on the passenger side. But no, after opening it and rummaging around HE found the mint sweets that HE was sure HE had were not there. HE came over to me and gave me a pat and apologised and then got back into the car and drove off.

Later in the afternoon, HE was back again with another pile of leafy cuttings to put on the pile but this time HE didn't come over and we watched HIM drive away again. There was just one more notable incident this evening when we went to get our buckets. HE varied them up to the field shelter as usual and I was just about to go in when I noticed this ragged white thing fluttering from the hedge. I walked very carefully up o the shelter with one eye on it but HE just laughed and called me on so I had to trust HIM and go to my bucket. Now I don't know it it was seeing the white thing or if it was watching me but Treg just took one look and turned round to walk away again. It was only when HE went up to it and scrunched it up into his pocket that Treg would come and eat. When SHE came up, HE explained that it was a plastic bag that he had stuffed down the bird feeder because the squirrels had bitten through the wire at the bottom and were stealing the nuts very quickly. Now they had bitten through the bag and pulled it out of the holes making it dangle and flap in the breeze. Of course, I knew that all along but Treg was really scared!

cloud on the BeaconFriday 23 rd September 2005
“I feel sort of empty today Wick.”
“Aye laddie, know what you mean. I feel that most days”
“No, I don't mean food. Just life. You know?”
“Oh dear. Do you think it's the weather? It has turned a bit dull and miserable, hasn't it?”
“Could be. Could be my aching joints. Or just maybe, old age. There doesn't seem much fun in anything. Not much to look forward to.”
“Oh, I don't know laddie. Soon be bucket time.”
“Is that all you think about. Wick, food?”
“Of course not Treg. There's … er … well and then I think about … er… you know?”
“And they call me simple? What is it makes you so single minded Wick?”
“Ah, well son. It goes back a long way to when I was a wee colt. In those days we lived rough, very rough. There was nothing like ‘buckets' then you know. But worse, there was hardly any grass, only rough old scrub and gorse. On top of that there were a lot of us. A whole herd all competing for the same little bit of food. It makes you single minded that does.”
“But that was ages ago. They came and took you to that riding stable then. There was food enough there, wasn't there?”
“Aye, of course there was. There had to be. You know, when you're working you use up all that food in burned energy. So, yes, there was enough food there, of course. But it was there that I developed a taste for treats. You know how our riders used to give us a little bit extra. As a sort of thank you. I'd never had treats before. Food when you didn't need it. That was very nice. Very nice indeed.”
“Do you miss not working? Don't you get bored?”
“Well, I sort of miss it. Not that I would want to go back to it. It's not that kind of missing it. I can do without all those little kids learning to ride and kicking holes in your sides. But, yes. I do think about the old days. There was a good sense of comradeship, wasn't there? You could all get back to your stable and have a good old moan and discuss the day's incidents. That is something we don't get here. Really, it's exciting if Mathew drives his tractor down the bridle path. Funny, isn't it. Doing nothing can get so boring it's tiring. Anyway, old lad. It wasn't me who was doing the moaning. You came to me and said you were flat.”
“I feel a bit better now, talking to you Wick. Maybe it's good to share things sometimes.”
“Now you're talking Treg. Let's make a start with your bucket tonight, shall we?

rose hipsSaturday 24 th September 2005
I hate it when THEY do that! We three are having a perfectly normal day and then THEY turn up just to spy on us. You can be having an interesting mouthful when you hear the familiar sound of THEIR car, drawing up at the Throwleigh Road gate. The trouble is, you never know if THEY want you to come to THEM, if THEY have some ulterior motive in mind such as a vet ot a wormer or if THEY just want to stand and stare. Why the last one I'll never know. I mean, we don't feel the urge to go trotting down Ramsley Lane and stopping to gawp through THEIR window, do we? I thought humans had television or DVDs to fill their minds if they are feeling particularly vacant. There's no need to go messing up our day just for the sake of it. And another thing, it always seems to coincide with a day that either THEY have been out shopping or after THEY have been down the Taw River Inn for lunch. I mean, it's not even intentional, more of an afterthought so to speak. Anyway, I don't like it.

And it wasn't the only time today that we had a visitation. I will admit we were standing up by the gate a bit early. Two and a half hours early, actually. But that was because our natural rhythm had been interrupted by the earlier spying mission. Anyway, there we were, watching the world pass by, and along comes HIS jeep full of green stuff in the back. You could see that seeing us there, standing by the gate, presented HIM with a few problems. If HE was going to drive in, HE was going to have to get out of the car and come and open the gate. And what would we do, being faced with a wide open gate, before HE could drive in and lose it again? You could see the various alternatives flashing before his eyes. Stampede down the Throwleigh Road ? Wicky run over at the gate? Treg barging past and denting his car even more than it is? In the end however, HE had to make the decision to take a chance and just do it. We all watched, patiently, and waited until HE had got back out and gone back to shut the gate again. At least that performance deserved a mint sweet or two? But no, he just reversed the jeep down the hill to the poo pile (which is now becoming more of a garden waste disposal pile) and started to unload the sharpest kind of sword shaped leaves that you can imagine. And then I recognised it. It was the great big plant that had stood in the front centre of THEIR garden that I would pass twice a day when I was walking up and down to Ninefields. That gave me a jolt, I can tell you. I can tell by the feel in the weather that those days wont be long before they are back again! Still, HE did give us some mint sweets before HE drove away again so things weren't all bad after all!

vintage tractorSunday 25 th September 2005
HE went to a thing called ‘Vintage Farming' today. ‘Oh, that must have been interesting', I said, ‘how were the horses?' And, do you know what HE said? ‘Oh, there were no horses!'

Now, I don't know about you but in my opinion you can't have an event about the old ways of farming and not include horses. It was horses that made the farms. Without us their nice fields would just be scrub. It was horses that pulled the ploughs, that collected the wheat and straw in carts, that took them to market, that went for the doctor, delivered the milk and a million other jobs that man needed to live and farm. And when they needed to go longer distances to the city, what did they use? A horse drawn stage coach. It's really only about fifty years since the household deliveries were done by horse and cart. Maybe the same amount of time since tractors were introduced into farming. Even then, until a decade ago when quad bikes evolved, horses were still used to cover the rougher terrain for bringing in the sheep from the moors etc. And now, they still do not have an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) to take them over hedges and gates or along very narrow tracks and paths or even across rivers. Maybe they should be called Nearly All Terrain Vehicles.
Three years ago, when HE first started going to this event, there were at least a few heavy horses there. These strong giants could be used to pull tractors out of the mud when they got stuck. I know things change and I know that machinery can do many jobs that horses can't do and do those that we can do better in a lot of cases. Also, we are not sorry that we no longer have to perform so much hard labour for our living. The horse's life today is, in most cases, that of a treasured pet than a thing to be used and that is a good thing. But this was an event purporting to be about vintage farming (or Vintage Working as they have renamed it this year). Don't get me wrong, I think it is a good show which brings pleasure to many aficionados of old machinery and brings back memories for the ordinary older farmer who used to work with these machines. I just think that, while they were changing the name, they should have chosen one that more accurately described what this event is really all about. It is not vintage farming or vintage working if it does not include horses – only a small part of it. HE tells me that there were quite a few other machines like pumps, generators and the like and also a selection of hand tools, both manual and motorised. I would think that a better name would be something like ‘Vintage Farm Tools and Machinery' but I expect that is a bit long to paint on their sign posters.

Monday 26 th September 2005
cagedWhat a day I've had today! And THEY wondered why I was biting Treg's bottom when THEY came along with supper. It all started with breakfast when, yes, you've guessed it, Treg was having a bit of a lie in. If you could see his face when he heard THEIR car pull up. It was a picture. You could read all the emotions – Oh fetlocks! – I won't get up! – Go on, just five more minutes – What if I just flop down, do you think they'll think I'm asleep and go away? – Oh, fetlocks, double fetlocks!
Of course, SHE took no notice of any of this. Just ent into the hay store and got the schooling whip and set off with a very determined look on HER face. Wick and I just got down to eating our breakfasts and it wasn't very long before Treg appeared round the corner, muttering under his breath. We all ate up then and it was a bit of a puzzle why THEY should put our head collars on while we were eating – mine and Tregs that is. I should have twigged then, when Wicky was left alone but I didn't. What is it that Treggy and I don't like but Wicky is not bothered about? Not the farrier. None of us mind the farrier and anyway, they only put head collars on us when he turns up, not before. The vet? Well none of us are in love with the vet but usually it is only one of us that is seen and then, only when we are not well. As far as I knew, there was not an illness that both treg and I had that Wicky was free of. What then? We finished our buckets and nothing happened. I went with HER down to the bridle path gate as usual for what we call ‘a girlie moment'. Treg finished his bucket and then went over to my place to mop up anything I may have dropped. And Wicky just carried on eating (it always takes him longer, being dentally challenged). After this, I came back and went to HIM for my treats and Treg went down to where SHE sat waiting for him by the stream. And then it happened. There was a commotion, we looked up and there SHE was squirting a wormer down Treg's throat. The minute SHE let go he was off. Down the field like a sulky rocket. Then it was my turn. Now, I hate the stuff too but I don't make the same fuss as Treg. We have to have it so I endure it although I can't eat anything, no carrots, no mints, no sugar afterwards until I can get the taste out of my mouth. And, as usual, Wick had his and looked around expectantly to see if there was any more. He is a wonder, that pony, where food is concerned!
Then it started. I went over to gather up Treggy and take him up to the middle field but when I got to him – moan, moan, moan, mutter, mutter, mutter! It started then and it went on all day. ‘Wormers! Hate them! Hate HER! Fetlocking wormers. Ugh. Horrid, mutter, mutter, mutter. Well, by the time our supper buckets arrived I had had just about enough. I looked up and called out to THEM as they turned up, looking forward to my nice tasty supper. And what did Treg do? Moan! ‘I hope THEY haven't brought any more of that nasty tasting ugh!' Well, that was it. I just flattened my ears, stretched out my neck and gave his bum a good hard nip. I only hope THEY appreciate what I have to suffer on account of THEM. If he is no better tonight then he can just find his own way up to the grazing and stay there and mutter to himself. I might even join Wicky for a change. Er … on second thoughts …

ale in vatsTuesday 27 th September 2005
“Wick?”
“Aye Treg. What can I do for you now?”
“Wassa broory?”
“Taking foreign language classes now are we old fellow. Is it that University of the Third Age?”
“What are you going on about Wick. I simply asked you a straightforward question. If you don't know the answer just say so. I'll go and ask Alli”
“A question was it, Treg? Oh right. Well maybe if you would be so kind as to repeat it a little slower, I'll see if I can help you.”
“A broory. You know. What is it?”
“A broo … ah yes, I see. You mean a brewery. Right?”
“S'wat I said, innit?”
“Well, sort of Treg. A brewery? Why do you ask?”
“HE told Alli that THEY were going to a broory after THEY fed us this morning. I was just checking that it's nothing that I wouldn't like. Nothing to do with wormers and vets and stuff.”
“Oh, I see Treg. No, you're quite safe laddie. A brewery is where they make beer and cider. You know, the stuff humans drink when they can't get proper stream water like us.”
“Oh, THEY didn't need to do that. I wasn't that angry with THEM. THEY could have as much of our stream to drink as THEY like. There's plenty of it.”
“THEY didn't go there to get a drink Treg. It's something HE's filming again. HE's gone with his video stuff to get pictures of it.”
“Wouldn't they let HIM have some? It must be very precious if HE can only have pictures of it. That won't quench HIS thirst much.”
“No, I tell you. THEY didn't want to drink it. At least, that wasn't why THEY were going. I expect THEY will drink it sometime. But for now HE just wants photos so HE can put them in with the stuff HE is doing for that Church House project.”
“Oh, I see. Wick?”
“Yes Treg?”
“Wassa projeck?”
“Do you really want to know Treg?”
“Yes, of course. Do I?”
“Right Tregony. Listen very carefully. This is even harder than counting you feet. Are you ready?”
“Er … harder than counti….. er …. Can you tell me the easy version Wick?”
“For you Treg, of course. Right. Well, what is it you are wearing today?”
“I got my nice mauve rug on today Wick. That was easy, wasn't it?”
“Not quite finished yet Treg. But good. Right, you've got your rug on. And why have you got your rug on?”
“They do get harder, don't they Wick? Er … because .. er .er .. because SHE put it on!”
“Well done Treg. Do you want to go on?”
“I could stop while I'm winning, couldn't I Wick?”
“You could Treg. But then you would never know what a project was.”
“Ah! Do you know Wick, I'm beginning to lose hinterest in that a bit.”
“Really? Well what do you suggest?”
“Could we maybe go for a little stroll up to the top field and have a little graze? How about that?”
“Splendid Treg. Let's make that our project for today, shall we?”
“You SAID it Wick. I understand now. It's easy isn't it after all. Yeah, we'll make it our projeck just like the broory is THEIRs. Thank you Wick. D'you know, you're a very good teacha. Soon I'll be as clever as you, won't I?”
“You know Treg, I wish I was going to the brewery, I really do!”

AlezaneWednesday 28 th September 2005
I know it's only autumn but today was like the first day of winter. Not too cold. Just sort of miserable. It didn't start off too bad. A bit rainy but not enough to stop Treg having a lie in again. But after breakfast, the weather got progressively worse with high winds as well as heavy rain. I will say this though, the work HE did, digging the trench behind the field shelter seems to have paid off as, fo all the heavy rain, none came through the back of the shelter. I stayed indoors for a while but when it eased off, I did go outside although keeping under the trees for the most part for shelter.

Treggy's alright because he has his rug on now and Wicky doesn't care anyway. Although his own coat is clipped now, it has re-grown and is very thick if not long. By the afternoon things calmed down and the sun even came out for a while but then, by our supper bucket time, the rain had started again.
I'm not sure if HE knows something that we don't but HE filled our three hay nets up for the first time this evening. I have to admit they smelled really very nice and the hay looked it too, nice and green like tasty grass just gone a little bit sweet. HE offered me some while we were having our treats tonight but I wasn't falling for that. Time enough to eat hay when there are no more carrots or mint sweets around.

Just to change the subject from the weather, HE told me that THEY had taken Tom the cat to the vets today for a booster injection. He should have had it quite a while ago but these things tend to get overlooked (so HE tells me. Funny how THEY never overlook the wormers though!). Anyway, when THEY took the new kitten Cat Flap down to the vets the other day THEY were asked if the other cats were up to date with their jabs as you never can tell what the kitten (who was a stray) might be carrying. So the appointment was made and off he went today. It's funny really, Tom never even noticed the injection but he did protest against the car journey even though he was not restrained in any way. THEY are rather proud of training THEIR cats to act like dogs. Dogs are not put in baskets or cages when they go to the vets, they just walk in. So the same should apply for cats THEY reckon only the cats are carried in, as is their right. If you ask me I think it is a close run thing between us horses and the cats as to who is the most spoiled. I hear that the kitten is on about three or four packets of kitten food a day. When Wicky heard this he volunteered to become a surrogate kitten but Treg said THEY would soon find out as Wicks claws aren't long enough.

Thursday 29 th September 2005
“Ere, Wick?”
…………..
“Wick? Wicky?”
…………..
view from the tree‘Where's he gone now? He's always just a few metres away. Very strange.'
“WICKY, WHERE ARE YO…”
“ALRIGHT< YE DINNA NEED TO SHOOT!”
“Oh! You gave me a turn, Wick. Where've you been. I wasn't shooting at you, really.”
“If you think I've come all the way up this hill for you to make fun of my accent you can just carry on, on your own laddie.”
“I didnae … er … sorry, didn't make fun of your accent Wick. I just couldn't see you.”
“That's because Alli and I were down in the bridle path field and you've taken yourself all the way up here to the top of the top field.”
“Yea. It's so nice up here, isn't it. I don't know why. I just felt so good this morning that I just kept going. I did notice Alli wasn't here but I thought she was just dawdling and would be along presently.”
“In a little world of your own, aren't you. No though for others.”
“Sorry Wick. I don't know what got into me, honest. I think it might be that new food THEY've got me on. It's not only tasty but it gives me so much more energy.”
“Aye, Alli told me that she smelled your bucket the other day and thought you must be getting something special. What is it, rocket fuel?”
“I don't think so Wick. I think it's called Number 17 or something.”
“Sound like a perfume to me. Still, if it's doing you good that's alright. What was it you wanted me or?”
“Er, did I? Oh, yes, I remember. Did you see what Alli did to her foot.”
“No, I've not seen Alli since bucket breakfast. You two went of, if you remember while I had to stay behind and tidy up the shelter.”
“Don't make it sound like a chore, Wick. You know by ‘tidy up; you mean eat up all the bits of breakfast Alli and I have left.”
“If it didn't get cleared up it would go all mouldy and then the shelter would be nasty. Someone's got to do it.”
“Alright, I won't argue with you. Anyway, Alli's got a nasty cut on her foot. She was running up the shingly bit and she skidded and grazed herself on a bit of granite. Made quite a nasty little nick.”
“I should have know. Those thoroughbred types are just not bred for it. She can claim to be a wild Dartmoor horse as much as she likes but she'll never be as hardy as us real Dartmoor types. For a start her feet are no good. Did you ever see a thoroughbred with decent feet? Alright I suppose for running round a grass or all weather track but useless for clambering around in granite covered hills and valleys.”
“Yeah, I have to agree with you there Wick. Still, I don't suppose she will be staying out all night much longer now that he evenings are getting darker and the weather is worsening.”
“And then it'll be just you and me again, won't it Treg?”
“You've got to promise not to keep nipping me. Or stealing my food, eh Wick?”
“Oh Treg. What a terrible thing to say. All I do is give you some positive directions and maybe save you from laminitis. It's all for your own good, laddie.”
“That's what Alli says. Come on, let's go down and see how she is.

Tregony and AlezaneFriday 30 th September 2005
Well, it's been a sort of catty month, September, and it's ending that way too. I know this is supposed to be a diary about horses but today's news is too good to pass up. I will tell you what HE told me this morning but first I need to give you a little bit of background.

THEY share THEIR house with three cats. The oldest is a lilac Burmese called PC which you can say stands for Puss Catt or Personal Computer or Purry Cuddles or what you like. PC is an eighteen year old veteran who came to Devon to live with them from Essex ten years ago. Before he came here, PC very rarely ate with them, preferring to catch his own food. In the farm field behind the house where THEY lived then there were many, many rabbits and PC would go and join them in the field when he was hungry. THEY had a theory that the rabbits thought he was one of them because of the colour of his coat. And he was always generous. Often he would leave a half eaten rabbit on the stairs for THEM when THEY got up in the morning. Now, to some of you rabbit lovers this may seem cruel but the good thing about PC was that he only killed to eat, he never played with his prey.
The second cat is called Tom or, to give him his proper name, Thomas. When THEY came to Devon , THEY had just lost two other cats (also Burmese) to road traffic accidents and THEY decided that THEIR new house needed another to keep PC company. THEY went out to a place called Chittlehamholt with the intention of getting another Burmese and THEY returned with three called Tom, Dick and Harriet. Unfortunately, as readers of my diary will know, Dick was run over and Harriet succumbed to a breathing illness leaving Tom, the fattest and idlest one, the sole survivor of that trio. Diary readers with also have read of Tom's bloody encounter with a giant rat a few months ago.
And then, of course, there is the new kitten, Cat Flap, who wandered into their lives this month. I can't tell you where he came from, no-one can. He just walked in and disrupted PC and Tom's lives forever. They spent the first two days hiss and swearing at him. Then they took to ignoring and avoiding him if they could. But his voracious appetite and the multiple packets of food it has produced persuaded them that he was more of an asset than a liability and they started to take him under their wing. And now to the crux of the story.
This morning, when THEY came downstairs and opened the door to the kitchen THEY were greeted with a wonderful sight. Three very proud cats, one headless mouse, one large dead rat and considerable pools of blood (oh and some liquid vomit on the table that may or may not have been connected). All they have is theory. PC has shown signs of a true grandparent – wanting to play with the kitten and his toys but then passing him over to Tom to do the real parenting. Tom, though idle, does hate rats since getting his foot bitten. Also, now his siblings have gone, he cant avoid all responsibility anymore. The two adults took Cat Flap out on a training mission. Tom caught the rat and then PC caught the mouse to show the kitten how to feed himself. Cat Flap had a few bites an threw up. Plausible? Or make up your own explanation.
ps To end the month. A mallard duck flew up out of Maxwell's field this evening, circled us twice and flew away. Another one for the bird spotters!

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