Alezane's Diary Archive February 2007
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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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dawnThursday 1st February 2007
I wouldn’t say Mims was a coward. More suspicious, I think. This morning HE came armed with a tube of something. HE didn’t say anything, just brought it in with our buckets and stuff. However, once we were eating HE undid Mims; rug at the back and lifted it up over her shoulders. So far, she took no notice as Mims loves being groomed and I think that is what she expected. But then, HE got one of our sponges and started cleaning away at a patch on her back. Now she did become suspicious but didn’t move, just waited to see what next. Next was, HE took the lid off the tube of cream. Instantly, she smelled that smell that had been around at other times when she or one of us had been hurt. So she did what any clever horse would do – she ran. Not far, just far enough to be out of the way. HE went towards her, she ran the other way. This went on for several times until HE covered the smell by the other smell of mints. And, when HE did manage to put some cream on the bald spot on her back, it didn’t hurt at all. But one can’t be too careful, you know.

A nice thing happened to HIM today. Well, several nice things happened, as they always do, but this thing was the nicest. As HE was loading the car up with logs for the wood burner, Sophie came along and showed HIM a photo that she had taken of Mims and I in the snow. It was a really nice photo and HE says HE will get a copy of it to put on my February diary. HE was really leased because Sophie wanted to buy herself a digital camera but somehow her money got spent on other things because she is a really generous person and doesn’t like to hoard her money up. So, HE lent her one of his cameras and it was this one she used to take the photo. Actually, she ha taken lots of photos but when he asked her what of she said ‘of  Mims. Oh, and of Wicky and oh, Alli, of course’. She is too shy to say that Mims is her favourite. It’s silly because I don’t mind a bit. Mims is my daughter and I am proud of her as well. And Wicky? Do you think Wicky cares if you take more photos of Mims than of him? ‘Can you eat it?’, he would say and just walk away.
And what else? THEY are starting to become French, I think. THEY went especially to a town called Carrouges today because the man in a shop there gets THEM big bags of carrots for you know who. Not much French about that. No, but THEY also went because a lady in a hardware shop there had said she would order a couple of things that THEY wanted. HE had been back a couple of times. The first time, the shop was not open, with no reason. The second time, the lady said that the thongs were not in yet but would be one day, she didn’t know when. Then today, THEY drove near to the shop and parked and then walked along to find a notice saying ‘Closed for the annual month of February holidays.’ And, THEY didn’t even think it strange. THEY have no idea when the shop will be open again. March? Who know? but then, as HE told me, who cares? This is France after all!

relaxingFriday 2nd February 2007
HE has been playing a dirty trick on us lately. I will admit it may not be HIS fault but the end result is the same. To understand it, you have to know a bit about our feeding routine. Through absolutely no fault of ours, we are known as ‘horses in light (or no) work’. I repeat, it is no fault of ours that we are unemployed. We are quite (well fairly) willing to do a day’s  work if required. It is just that with HIM being busy and HER being unwell, no-one has asked us to. And the result, that is so unfair? We have to eat stuff that has very little protein in it. OK, we had got used to the stuff in England. In fact, some of it was not at all bad once you had forgotten what real food tasted like. When we came here, THEY bought several bags of our usual food with us in the transporter. However, this was only enough to last a few weeks and then THEY had to find a source here in France.
First there was the language barrier. What little French that THEY remembered from school (all those years ago) had not equipped them with the words for buying horse feed, especially feed with the low protein requirements. First they bought some locally but then found out the protein content was higher than it should be and SHE was worried that us girls would be bouncing off the walls, so to speak, and Wicky would develop all manner of pony over feeding problems. So then THEY went off further afield and did get just one bag of feed that was OK both in taste and content. Strangely, this was of an English source. Now, I have to tell you a bit more. To bulk out our rations without increasing the goodness, Wicky was on a sort of shredded chaff added to his feed and us girls together with Wicky had sugar beet pulp (which had to be soaked for five minutes before eating) added to our feed. Now, what happened was that Wicky’s chaff and our ‘Speedi-beet’ ran out and, search though THEY might, THEY couldn’t find a replacement.
And that’s when the horror started. THEY did get some pellets that were fairly low protein, nasty little sludge colour extrusions. THEY also got some sugar beet pulp that the farmers round here give to their sheep and cows but which, for us with only a single stomach and not able to chew the cud, has to be soaked for 24 hours prior to eating. The result? For the last few days, we have had to put up with a wet, sludgy mess to eat. I will admit that Wicky had no problems with it but then, he will eat anything. Mims and I made half hearted attempts and then just walked away. And, our tactics worked. Today THEY drove far afield again to get bags of the proper English feed and tonight both Mims and I have our first proper meal for ages. It just goes to show that you have to stick up for yourself with humans if you are to maintain decent standards!

Talking to Jo and SophieSaturday 3rd February 2007
HE told me that this has got to be a short diary page today as both HIM and HER are not feeling very well with a tummy bug. On top of that, the weather has turned very cold. Far colder than the weather forecasters say because there is a biting wind that is cutting into everyone. In fact, the weather would have been very good as there was lots of sunshine throughout the day.
At first, SHE was feeling better than HE was and went out in the middle of the day to play with Mack, the other Collie dog on the farm. Mack is quite old and has quite bad arthritis and, although he would like to, he cant do as much work ad he would like. What he does like, however, is a game. SHE was playing with him with a plank of wood the other day and he enjoyed it so much that SHE bought him a toy, a ball on a rope, so he could have a proper game. Mack loved it and to watch him, you wouldn’t know about his stiff joints. Mick couldn’t believe it and just crouched down and watched.
The other thing SHE did today was to put together a set of notes for Jo and Sophie about looking after the pony that they are going to get on loan. We are al looking forward to meeting Arnold, especially Mims of course. It seems he might have to spend a few days indoors before he comes out into the fields. He may also have to do a spot of lunging work to give him a bit of discipline. It appears that the present owner thinks he has rather a lot of spirit and is worried that Sophie will try and ride him before he is ready. Personally I think the best thing would be to let him loose with us. If Mims and I between us cant get him into shape, no-one can!


cows and calfSunday 4th February 2007
HE went back to HER this evening saying that Spring had arrived. When you hear what I have to tell you, I think you will agree that he was being very, very charitable.
This morning, when HE brought our breakfast, Wicky and I were hovering by the entrance to the barn but HE couldn’t see Mims. HE brought our buckets in and went to look for her. She wasn’t very far away, just round the corner from the barn but there was a distance of mud between them so HE tried to call her. But, try as HE might, she just refused to respond at all, just kept looking out at the fields. There was nothing for it, HE had to get the head collar and go trudging through the mud to fetch her.
That was this morning. This evening when HE brought supper, HE found Mims and I indulging in a bit of horse-play (yes, we call it that, as well) in the orchard. As soon as I saw HIM, I just stopped playing and came along for supper. Not Mims. She just turned tail and headed out to the far entrance of the orchard. HE gave us our buckets and then went to call her. Again, like this morning, she took no notice. So, HE went and got the head collar and started out to trudge all the way across the orchard. Just as HE got there, Mims started to run back to the barn, the other way. Back he came and went into the barn to get Mims feed but he had no sooner entered the barn when she cantered out again and stood at the far edge of the field. HE tried twice more to catch her with the head collar but each time she ran away. Then, on the third attempt, HE just went and stood near her with HIS back to her. By this time I had got interested and came along on the other side of her. She then took a sugar lump when she saw me eating one and then HE managed to get her head collar on. We walked back to the barn and HE got her bucket and put it in front of her. Then, to make it easier for her to eat, HE took the collar off. After two mouthfuls, Mims was off again. This time HE put her bucket back in the car and decided she must go without.
After about four minutes there was a thunder of hooves and Mims came galloping back into the barn. HE turned HIS back on her and walked away. She followed HIM but he walked away again. When she followed again, HE told her to go away. And, guess what? She did! Just then, Sophie and Jo came along and HE told them how bad Mims had behaved. After giving me both my share and Mims’ share of carrots, Jo said they would go and talk to Mims. Then HE relented and said that they might as well take her bucket along. But that was alright by me. I just followed them and the last thing HE saw before HE drove away was two chestnut heads in Mims’ bucket!

Mack's gameMonday 5th February 2007
A diary today about THEM. Why? Well, two reasons. First, we have been a bit sleepy and boring today. We were quiet and good over breakfast, wandered out into the field for a quiet graze in the morning and then came back to the barn early in the afternoon to munch on some hay and have a bit of a snooze. So, when HE came with our supper, we were just good and boring again. Well, nearly. Mims did wander off in the middle of her supper and I did wander off from my bucket and see if Mims’ one tasted better. And Wicky did finish his bucket and then wander over to finish off mine. But then, that was not naughty, just natural!
No, really the story of the day concerns them. Ever since we have been here, THEY have not been very warm in the cottage. The only time that THEY have been really comfortable has been when there has been a really good hot fire in the wood burner. However, the problem has been that the wood that was delivered had been left out in the rain and so THEY had to buy sacks of dry wood intended for barbeques to start the fire before the other wood would burn. Then, during the very cold snap, the central heating boiler had broken down. When the plombier came to fix it, THEY told him that the radiators never got really hot, only warm. It had been enough to keep the cottage temperature bearable but, without the wood burner, not really comfortable.
As THEIR French is still pretty minimal, THEY were not sure that the plumber understood and, if he did, if it made any difference to him. It certainly didn’t to the radiators’ temperature. Then, last night, the boiler broke down again. When HE got up this morning, HE tried to get it going it with the restart switch and it ran for maybe three minutes before stopping again. When HE went back to start it again, there was a strong smell of fuel so instead HE just reported it to Jo and James. THEY were just going out shopping this morning when the plumber turned up so THEY went off and left him to it.
When THEY came home and walked in the door it was like a tropical greenhouse. The whole house was so warm that SHE had to go around opening all the windows. Then SHE turned HER attention to turning the radiator down and the temperature slowly got to a lovely warm and liveable level. THEY had bough a load of dry barbeque logs but THEY didn’t even light the fire. For the first time since THEY have been here, HE was able to walk about indoors without wearing his fleece. When HE came along with our suppers HE was a changed person. HE told me that THEY were looking forward to spending a pleasant evening and a comfortable night and THEY thought that even Tom the cat will not bother to run up and down the hallway shouting. It is even possible that the cats wont bother to come into their bed tonight. I will let you know.

ArnieTuesday 6th February 2007
But it couldn’t last, could it? When HE got up this morning, the house was pleasantly warm. HE did HIS usual – looking at the weather forecast and then at the BBC News and got ready to prepare our breakfast. Then SHE got up and said it was both quiet and cold and had the boiler broken down again? And, of course, it had.
When HE brought our breakfast along, HE stopped off and told James about the boiler after having checked to see if it was a fuse or trip switch or something as no lights were appearing on the boiler. Then James came along and the next thing that THEY knew was that the boiler was working again – the pipes were creaking and the boiler noise was vibrating in the cottage. When HE went to congratulate James, HE was told that it was just a matter of banging the lid. Apparently there must be a loose electrical connection somewhere.
Happy with the knowledge that all was working and the house was warm, HE spent the day cleaning the cottage. THEY wouldn’t need the wood burner now so HE swept the fireplace and living room, took the carpet outside and gave it a really good shake and even swept up the broken ornaments behind the sideboard that Cat Flap had jumped on and broken. Then, happy with the fact hat the house was both warm and clean, HE went out and posted grandson James’ birthday card and came home for a bit of a rest.
First THEY had lunch then SHE went to bed for a snooze and HE laid down on the settee with the window open as the house was, in fact, too warm. After about an hour HE became aware that HE was feeling a bit cool and got up to close the window. Then HE tested the radiators and got a nasty feeling that all was not OK. HE went to check the boiler and it was not working again. However, adopting James’ technique, HE banged the lid a few times and it lit again. HE went back to the settee. A bit later, SHE woke up and said it felt a bit cold. HE went to check and the boiler was off again and no matter what HE did, it just wouldn’t start.
The plumber is coming tomorrow. THEY have lit a fire in the spotless fireplace and all is back to (cool) normal. And us equines?  Guess what? Mims was playing silly again, running back and forward, leaving her feed and looking out over the fields. And did I worry? Guess who helped finish off Mims’ food?



inspectionWednesday 7th February 2007
“Pardon, Monsieur Le Wick, why are you lookeen so sad?”
“Oh. Bonjour Madame Mouton. Was I? I didn’t know it showed.”
“Oh, oui, Monsieur. I could see you were kilometres away from ‘ere. You was theenking, no?”
“Say that again. Say ‘ere’ again. Just like he used to.”
“’e, who ees ‘e?”
“You were right. I was thinking and I was feeling sad. You see, today is the anniversary of the day when my best mate Tregony died. One year ago today. How I have managed without him so long, I just don’t know.”
“That ees a nice name, Tre-gon-ee. I am sorry for you Monsieur Le Wick. You must miss eem a lot.”
“Well, yes. But we do see him sometimes. He comes back to talk to us. But it’s not the same, is it?”

“What’s not the same, Wick? Being in France?”
“Treg! It’s you. What a day to come back.”
“Wot’s so special about Wednesday? It is Wednesday ;ere, innit?”
“Monsieur Le Wick. Could you translate for me please. Zees ‘orse no speak Francais and no speak Anglaise.”
“Oh, it’s only Treg, he always speaks like that. He comes from Cornwall you know.”
“Eet must be  a fonny place zees Mur de Blé. So, I will leave you now, wiz your frond. Au revoir Monsieur, Messieurs.”
“Bye Madame, bon journee. Well, Treg, how wonderful to see you. It’s been a very long year.”
“Wot has Wick?”
“Don’t you know what day it is today?”
“Yeah, you told me. Wednesday. Or do you mean that funny French name?”
“It’s a year ago today that you di…. Er that you left us Treg.”
“Oh, that. Yer, I suppose it is. Don’t time fly when you’re having fun?”
“Having fun? Really Treg. You’re having fun?”
“Yeah, I told you. I’m a sort of teacher now, a hinductor, as we call it. All the newdead ones have to come to me to be hinducted.”
“All of them Treg? You must be very busy.”
“Well, not all the newdead. Only horses, well equines. And only those from Dartmoor, oh and the odd one from Cornwall.”
“I thought they were all odd from Cornwall?”
“Oh, ha, ha, very funny Wick. IO see you haven’t changed in the year. I suppose you’d like to nip my ankles as well, eh? Well, you cant cos your teeth would just go straight through and you might bite your tongue.”
“I never bit your ankles, Treg. Well, not much. And only in fun.”
“Who do you have fun with now Wick? The sheep?”
“I’m afraid there isn’t a lot of fun any more Treg. Not since you left. Even Alli’s diary gets all serious now. And all about THEM. The only time we get a mention is if we’ve done something bad. Or, at least, when Mims does something bad.”
“Oh Yer. Mims. Bit of a case that one, aint she? Still, she’s Alli’s daughter so I expect we have to make allowances. Or should that be hallowances?”
“Oh, I love it when you say ‘we’ Treg.”
“One of the few French words I know mate.”
“No, when you say ‘we’ like we are all together again. I love it.”
“Tell you what Wick. Shall I get special permission? When you move to your permanent home, I’ll chuck my hinducting job and come and stay with you lot full time again? What d’you say Wick? Would you like that?”
“Treg? You mean it? You really can get permission to stay with us? Just like old times?”
“Well, not quite like old times Wick. I still wont have a proper body. Not one you can bite or anything. But I will be around to chat and all that. And tell you stories.”
“Treg. You’re wonderful. I can’t wait to tell Alli and Mims the news. And it wont be long now old man. Maybe only six to eight weeks.”
“Right then Wick, or should I say Le Wick. I’ll be off. Love to everyone. See you soon.”
“Au revoir, old soldier. Not a sad day at all, eh?”

red sky in the morningThursday 8th February 2007
Nothing much to report today. Maybe a bit of catching up on the boiler saga as HE told it to me. Thankfully the plumber turned up first thing in the morning. HE had been out shopping and when HE got back, the plumber was standing outside the boiler house. He took HIM inside and showed HIM that the problem was only a fuse. And so THEY had heat again. And it was just as well because we had a return to the artic snow and icy wind. Because the house had got so cold it took a while to heat it up again and THEY did this by turning all the radiators up to full. Of course, then the opposite happened and the house became unbearably hot. This meant that THEY had yet another disturbed night. No wonder HE is a bit edgy with us in the mornings when we are just being natural equines.
Our ways are different from human ways. Or, at least, from the ways humans profess to adhere to. If one of us is weaker or unwell or whatever, it is only natural that we take their food and chase them away. We are sneaky as well. If another is not looking after their own, it is fair game. We often play the roundabout game. I will leave my food to go and push Mims off hers. As I am the dominant mare, she doesn’t like it but she has to go. And go where? To push Wicky off his bucket, of course. And then, Wicky not being one to bow to anybody, he just leaves Mims to it and goes and eats what I have left. Now, this to us is all very natural but HE does get HIMSELF in a state about it. HE grabs my rug and tries to make me go back to my own bucket. HE chastises Mims and then gives her a treat and a cuddle. And HE stands very protectively over Wicky as he finishes his food. This is something we have very quickly seized upon. You see, to stop us trying to nick Wicky’s feed, HE dishes out treat after treat to Mims and I until Wick has finished. I think one day HE must get wise to the fact that we are getting our own way, in every way, always.
I said the snow returned yesterday. Well, today was a wonderful sunny day with normal temperatures and the snow just vanished. HE told me that Jo and James have a wonderful display of snowdrops by their house. Maybe spring is really on its way now?

canterFriday 9th February 2007
I don’t think I’ve old you but when we move, we are going to have some very smart new stables. The house that THAY are moving to has a large barn (un dependence) which at the moment houses a sit on lawnmower and a very large four wheel drive tractor amongst other things. It has a sectioned off part which as intended to be two stables but when SHE looked at it, SHE decided that it was not big enough for even two of us. So, SHE is going to turn that part into a hay and food store and is going to divide the larger part up into three large stables, with a six foot aisle in front.
She is going to have the front walls either side of the door and the two partition walls between the three boxes made of building blocks and lined with special rubber kick boards and, on the top of each wall is going to be a fancy iron dividing grill. With me so far? For the last few weeks, SHE has been scouring the Internet for places to purchase these grills. However, the only ones SHE has found have been, again, too small – more Wicky’s size than Mims or mine.
So, THEY decided that THEY would have the grills made by a blacksmith and had been searching the net to find a local one. And, guess what? They found one just two villages away from our new home. So, today, that is where THEY went. After a little ride through some very pretty countryside, THEY managed to find the workshop. It was still during the lunch period so when THEY drove up the place had some big iron gates shut at the entrance. While THEY sat there waiting for it to be opening time, THEY saw, first three pretty goats walking about in the yard and then this great big woolly dog sitting, looking at THEM. When the gates were opened, THEY drove in and also saw a very big white duck wandering about.
THEY had prepared some drawings and a little not of what THEY wanted, translated into French by the computer and the blacksmith looked these over and gave them an estimate, saying that he would need to see the site with the walls in place before he could start and THEY drove home very happy that another project was on the way to being solved. When THEY got home and before HE brought our feed, THEY phoned to find out what time THEY were going to visit the house vendor for an evening’s talk with drinks on Saturday. THEY were a bit surprised that it was not Saturday but tonight so HE was a bit rushed when HE came to feed us. I’ll tell you about it when HE tells me tomorrow.

forest logsSaturday 10th February 2007
Before I tell you about THEIR evening last night, you need to be brought up to speed about a few other things. First, us equines. We are having a pretty good time at the moment. The weather is warm and wet which means that we are able to get some really good muddy rolls in. I suppose the down side is hat sometimes HE tries to brush the mud off, particularly when it is all over my face. But most of the time, HE just gives in and leaves us alone. I say us, actually Mims quite likes being groomed. I would swear that she gets muddy just to have it brushed off again.
Next, the boiler saga. It has been working for a while and then breaking down. When they find out what is wrong, it works again for a while and then develops a new fault. Sometimes James fixes it with the manual and sometimes it is the plumber who comes out to it. Currently it is working but at a very low temperature. Fortunately as I said earlier, the weather has been mild of late. Let us hope it stays that way until the boiler is either finally fixed or is replaced.
Cat Flap, the giant kitten, is going through one of his growing stages again. The problem is that he does not grow evenly all over and this tends to put his balance out somewhat. He has been leaping up on things and smashing them. The latest were an ornamental sheep that belongs to the house and, last night, THEIR radio alarm clock. His trouble is that he doesn’t realise his weight and his exuberance gets him into all sorts of trouble. But, he is so sweet, that THEY never chastise him for his accidents. THEY may shout a little but that is all. Today THEY went out and bought a new radio alarm as HE was up nearly all last night looking at his watch in case HE overslept.
So. Last night THEY went along for THEIR social evening with the house vendors. THEY were worried at the start that THEY wouldn’t be able to converse with THEIR very limited French skills. The only saving element was that the agent, Veronica, who is bi-lingual was going along with them. Oh, I must mention at this point that the lovely Veronica had just come back from a trip to England to see her parents. And, do you know what she did? Brought back lots of packets of our favourite mint Polo sweets with her for us. I think she is just wonderful.
So, to cut a long story short, the evening was a success. THEY have developed a technique where SHE, who is best at French, will construct a sentence, maybe slowly and painfully and sometimes incorrectly but nevertheless both bravely and with a lot of skill for someone just in the country under two months. HE contributes in a different way by interjecting a short, hopefully apt or humorous phrase of a few words which give the (false) impression that HE knows more French than HE actually does. It also appeared that , although the vendor does not speak English, he understands far more than he says he does. So, with everyone trying hard and the wine, pastis and scotch flowing well, THEY came home feeling yet one more step nearer to our moving and settling in.

cat flap restingSunday 11th February 2007
We have been having a lot of babies born round the farm lately. The cows started it and now the sheep have followed suit. First there was one, then two and three and then, sadly a number four who didn’t survive. It was born outside at a time when the sheep caught everyone by surprise as they hadn’t yet been brought in. It got itself wedged between a fence and drinker and was stuck in some mud when found. Despite being brought in, bathed and made warm and cosy and fed several times, it didn’t live more than a couple of days.
However, the sheep were brought in and housed in pens in a disused, modern barn and then the babies started coming in earnest. One more did die of natural causes but the farmer was able to use its skin to cover a twin whose mother was not looking after it and so it was adopted by the bereaved mother. After a few days, the dead lambs skin was taken off by which time lamb and ewe had bonded well.
After the very cold snap we have had, the weather has turned quite mild, which is good news for THEM with THEIR boiler problems but not so good for the sheep. They are feeling quite hot, being kept indoors for the lambing period. If the timing had been different and the weather stayed cold, they could have been shorn on coming in. As it is, they are all feeling a little hot at the moment. One other problem with not being shorn is that some lambs cannot find the teat to drink if its mother has a very heavy woolly coat. Still, it all comes right at the end. When the calves were born, the weather had been very wet and there was a lot of mud around. In places it was so very deep, that even the adult cows had a job getting through it. As you can imagine, cows, like us horses, do tend to poach up the ground in the winter. Then the holes made by their hooves get filled with water and the baby calves, already not too steady on their feet, have to find ways round, in or through them as they follow their mothers around.
Too look, as we do, from a distance, at these poor babies, tottering about all wet and muddy, you think it is a wonder that they survive. And yet now, just a couple of weeks later, when the weather has improved and they have grown a bit, they are looking fine, sturdy and healthy animals. Not only do they follow their mothers with ease, they also leave their mothers and all run and jump and frisk together, having fine games in the sunshine. I expect in the next few weeks when the lambs get out into the fields, they will have similar fun.
Which reminds me. You will have heard me talking about the two collie dogs, Mack and Mick, that live on the farm here. Mack is a good sheep dog but he is a bit old for too much work now, as he has a bit of arthritis in his legs. Mick is an idiot. A typical collie who only wants to work and work and work all day long. The trouble is, he is not very good at it. As far as we are concerned, Mick is just a nuisance. He has decided that one of his jobs is to herd us horses. He has even been known to nip at Mims’ heels. And Wicky’s, once, but never mine. He only did it once to Wick because Wick has a reflex action kick that works automatically whatever he is doing. Not spiteful, but defensive. Mick nipped at Wicks’ heels and got kick for his trouble. He now only ever stalks Wick at a respectful distance. The problem with Mims is that she reacted differently. When Mick nipped her, she ran, which was exactly what he wanted. So he tries to do it to her quite often only now she knows, she doesn’t let him get close. Mick makes up his own jobs. We come into the barn to eat so Mick sits outside pretending that he has penned us. In the morning, when HE brings our food, Mick points with his nose to where we are, pretending that he has put us there for HIM.
Anyway, he other evening, we were eating out in the field, as it was a pleasant sunny evening and Mick had us ‘penned’ again (in his funny warped mind). Then, as I was eating, I saw that Mick had noticed a flock of sheep in the far field. One look and he was off. He spent the rest of our supper time, herding those poor sheep from one end of the field to the other. And then, back again. HE told me that James the farmer had said that sometimes he cannot get a good price for his sheep because they are said to be too fat. It occurred to me that Mick was just ensuring that this particular flock could never be accused of that!

PC ats sphaghettiMonday 12th February 2007
THEY decided to have a good look at Wicky today because he is still limping a bit. First THEY came along to see to him this morning after THEY had finished THEIR breakfast. But, to THEIR surprise, poor old limping Wicky was right over the far fields as far as you can go, grazing with us. THEY drove out along the road by the side of the field until there was a break in the hedge and then stopped to call him over so that THEY could see how he was walking. For a while, Wick just stared at THEM but when HE held out HIS hand with some sugar in it, Wick was hooked. Still limping, he made his way over to them and got his reward.
As soon as THEIR car stopped, I could see that Mims wanted to go over to them as well but I wouldn’t let her. We were further away from the road than Wick, just through a gateway into the next field. But, instead of letting Mims out into Wicky’s field I drove her along the far side of the fence so she couldn’t get to them. As we walked on, she skittered over to me and asked for a game or at least to be able to go back to the gateway. But I just drove her on, as I knew that there was another gap in the fence a bit further on. When we got to it, Mims just couldn’t contain herself any longer and broke into a fast canter to where Wick and THEM were standing. I gave her a few strides start and then I followed, breaking into a gallop in the end. We both arrived at the little group, hot and excited and I must say I felt better than I have for a long while. It brought back all kinds of memories of going up top the starting post when I was racing.
So we all had treats and then, as we were too far away to bring Wicky back to he barn, THEY just drove off and left us. Then, this evening, when HE brought our supper, HE first came in with Wick’s head collar and took him out into the yard. At first Wick wouldn’t budge but when he realised that his bucket was out there, he was no problem at all. HE brought our buckets in as usual and then went out where SHE was holding Wick. Later Wick told me that what THEY did was to hose his bad foot down and pick out his frog and give him a real good examination. SHE is sure that the abscess has now burst and says all she can do is keep an eye on it. When THEY brought Wick back in, THEY found that Mims and I had changed places and I was eating hers and she mine. Only it wasn’t mine. What HE had done was to mix up the buckets and given me Wicky’s with the carrots and apples cut up really small. I wasn’t having that so I went and stole Mims’ and Wick had not only my veggies but also a big girls’ portion. Still, SHE noticed HIS mistake and gave me my share back again so all worked out OK in the end!

new bornTuesday 13th February 2007
Oh, alright. I didn’t tell you that yesterday, when THEY took Wick out of the barn, I panicked again. I know, I know. I just can’t help it. He maybe small and he may be a pain in the fetlock at times but he is my little Wick and I do worry about him.
Some of you might not know that this part of France, Normandy, is famous for the Allied forces landings in World War 2 on what was called D Day. Well, we’ve had our own D Day here today only our D stands for Disaster. Let me explain.
You have heard me tell you about the trouble THEY have been having with the boiler and I think I have also mentioned how Thomas the cat has kept them awake all night strutting along the corridor shouting at the top of his head. And, when it goes quiet, all three cats come and jump on the bed and settle in the most awkward places so that THEY cant move THEIR legs of THEIR body or whatever. This, going on night after night, has worn THEIR nerves to a frazzle. THEY have alternated in shutting the cats out of the bedroom, shouting at them, chasing Tom with a home made water pistol and trying to be nice and calm everyone down. Until now, nothing has worked.
It was in one of the lulls, when THEY thought that THEY might just get to sleep by listening to the sound of the rain on the roof above when SHE noticed something that should not be happening. The ceiling was leaking and rain was dripping on the bed! There is a settee in the living room which converts to a bed so, in the middle of the night, THEY had to take all the bedding and set up this bed next door. HE also had to move the heavy mattress out of the range of the leaking ceiling. When THEY tried to settle down however, THEY found that THEY both rolled to the middle of the bed because it only had a thin foam sheet as a base. So, next HE had to bring the heavy mattress in from the old bedroom and THEY had to remake the bed all over again.
In the morning, THEY decided that THEY would have to move the bed in from next door and re-lay out the living room as a bed-sit instead. THEY went shopping and bought some more electrical extension leads in order to set up the bedside lamps as well as the computers, hi fi etc. It was when HE was connecting everything up again that there was a strong smell of electrical burning. To cut a long and sad story short, there must have been a power surge which has completely put HER computer out of action and has burned out the mains charger for HIS laptop. The only good thing is that HE had bought a gadget to charge it from the car battery before THEY left England so here is still a chance this diary will continue after all.
On the brighter side, Wicky got a trim today. SHE found a card on the counter of the shop where THEY bought our horse feed in the village we are moving to soon. It was in English and advertised a coat clipping service so SHE phoned yesterday and a couple came along this morning. However, SHE had warned hem of the density of Wick’s coat and said it would take several pairs of blades but they must have thought that they knew best and brought only one set. They learned! I am afraid that he did not get the best trim he has ever had but he is still wearing his rug so the lines and patches don’t show and at least he is feeling more comfortable. The other good thing was that this couple also do horse transport and they only live about five miles from our new village so that is one more problem solved.

PC sleepsWednesday 14th February 2007
It was not black Mercredi, après tout! Sorry, but I was born in France, after all. What I mean o say is that, after yesterdays’ little problems and, HE told me. A bit of a sleepless night worrying about them, things turned out better than THEY had hoped.
While HE was feeding us this morning, Jo came along for a chat. She has been left in charge of the farm, right in the middle of all the lambing, as James has taken the kids over to England to see their grandparents during the half term holiday. THEY had decided not to say anything about the leaking roof, at least until James had left so he wouldn’t have hat to worry about as well as all the other things he had on his plate at the time. However, as the weather this morning was more heavy rain, HE decided it was only fair to tell Jo so she could do something about the ceiling before it got worse. Amazingly, HE had not been home more than a few minutes when a big white van turned up and Jo and as roof repairman arrived on the doorstep. After trying and failing to find a way into the roof space above the bedroom ceiling, the repair man climbed onto the roof and found six misplaced or missing tiles which must have been dislodged in the strong winds on Monday night. THEY have decided to give it a few wet days trial before moving back into the bedroom.
Then HE got onto the Internet with the remaining few minutes left in HIS laptops’ battery and found a firm in Alencon town that makes and repairs computers. Packing the laptop mains lead and HER computer into the back of the car, THEY set off and found the place after only one wrong turning. HE was able to get the sales person understand his ‘deux problems’ and managed to buy a new mains lead and leave HER machine to be repaired, hopefully by Friday. As, by this time, it was lunchtime, they found a parking spot right outside a restaurant and bought a nice meal with what must have been enough wine to take HIM over the legal limit. (If HE had drunk it, that is). THEY then drove towards home, stopping to get a paper for Jo, some papers for THEM and a birthday card for a grandson.
When THEY got home, Jo was in the lambing shed and SHE went and held a lamb while HE tried to get some photos. And us horses? We are fine. We stayed in, eating from the new big round bale of hay James had given us before he went, while it was raining this morning. We popped out for a while midday and then made sure we were back in time for supper. I noticed that HE had put a little extra in my bucket tonight. I must remember to eat up quickly every morning to make HIM think I am starving!

Wicky's once overThursday 15th February 2007
Most times when HE comes to feed us, It appears to HIM as if nothing is happening so HE rarely tells you about those times. When HE gets back home and SHE asks him ‘how were they today?’, HIS reply is often something like ‘Wick was eating, Alli was pushy and Mims was away with the fairies as usual’. Which just goes to how that HE doesn’t really understand us at all.
For example, just before HE turned up this morning, Wicky and Mims were deep in conversation about what the sky was made of. Mims was sure it was the inside coat of the mother of all of us, at least all of us equines. She was not t all sure that it is the same sky that the cows, the sheep or even the humans see. Her theory was that we are all still living inside our heavenly mother and although we may all have earthly mothers (smiling kindly at me) all horses and maybe even ponies (leering at Wicky) are joined together by the supernatural being. Wicky replied that far from wanting to cast any doubt on Mims’ ideas, he felt sure that the sky was a sort of succulent blue grass which, on some days turned white, if there was a frost up there. His theory (which he has not had time to check out with Treg yet, as he has only just made it up) is that the sky is the lush pasture that all ponies and maybe even some horses (leering at Mims) go to when they hang up their pasterns.
And while all this philosophical stuff is going on, Mick the sheepdog and I were talking about the whether. No, not the weather, the whether. Whether HE will bring any more scraps of meat for Mick, whether HE has managed to get any more of those nice horse biscuits or if HE still has any of those rotten ones, that I don’t like, left. There are all questions that will be answered when HE arrives. We also talk about why Mick likes to chase the sheep from one end of the field to the other and then back again. He asks me why we roll in the mud when there are so many sheep poos we could roll in, and so on. The time passes quite nicely until Wicky and Mims start to loose a bit of their politeness and bicker over who is right.
‘And what happens to the grass at night then’, Mims asks in a very snooty fashion, ‘I expect it turns black because it has all died an shrivelled up? But Then, why does it turn blue again in the morning. I think your theory is just rubbish’. Really, my daughter can be quite direct and straightforward sometimes.
‘Your mother keeps changing her vests a lot, doesn’t she?’ snarls Wick. First blue, hen a white one then a black one and who knows what?’ It’s not so much what he says that gets to Mims but more the cocky look on his face while he is saying it. Then it is all too much for her. I’m afraid she can’t bear to be wrong, my girl. She just runs over to Wick, turns her back, waves her leg at him and then spins round and nips at his coat. Wick just laughs even more and he runs around just out of her way.
And it is just about at that point when HE opens the barn door. “Morning Mimbles, hello Alli, hi Wick. Breakfast time. Come on Mims, what are you dreaming about, come and eat your food.” And so, the day has started once again…..

Sophie's lambFriday 16th February 2007
Actually folks, Mims and I are talking about far more serious matters. We don’t tell Alli though because she would get upset. Usually it goes something like this –
“Just you wait you little Scots peanut. If I catch you trying to eat my food again I’ll …”
“You’ll what, you great big dreamy redhead? It would take someone brighter than you to worry me. And anyway, if you wanted the food , you should have eaten it instead of wandering off to look out over the field.”
“I’m surprised you can see what I am doing from such a low eye level, shrimp. And, if I happen to leave my food for a moment, it doesn’t mean to say that I’m not coming back for it.”
“I know you are not coming back for it because you are not bright enough to remember where you left it. If Alli didn’t look after you all day, you’d get completely lost, and that is just in this barn.”
“At least I’m pure bred not a sort of mongrel cross between a Scots midget and a Dartmoor gorse grinder.”
“So, does that mean that you actually know who your father was?”
“I know he was a gentleman and not a refugee from the meat market like certain person’s parentage.”
“Ach, what do ye know, lassie. You’ve never done a day’s work in your life. You can’t be ridden, you wouldn’t know the front from the back of a cart and you’ve never even had a foal.”
“And you have, I suppose, my little midget gelding? Any foals of yours would vanish in the puddles on this farm.”
“And any foals of yours …..”
“Hello dears, having a nice chat then. Tell Alli all about it. Were you deciding who would leave their feed to me this supper time. You really shouldn’t you know my darlings, I have to watch my figure you know. Anyway, it’s lovely to see you both getting on so well. Now run along because I have to get ready to tell HIM what to write in my diary tonight. Maybe I’ll tell him how well you two are hitting it off these days. Now, off you go and Wicky, mind you don’t get mixed up in that lock of sheep. Don’t want to lose you, do we?”

 



cow watching youSaturday 17th February 2007
You humans have quite an easy time, especially when it comes to feeding. You usually just think, ‘what do I fancy to eat’ and then either get it out of the fridge o cupboard or go out to a café or restaurant. Now, with us equines, it is quite a different story. Or, at least it is, as far as SHE is concerned.
Most times, when it is growing, we go out in the fields and eat grass all day. If we feel the need for some vitamins or minerals, we just lick at some dirt, mud or gravel. At these time, humans use food as a means of control. They give us buckets to get us to get the habit of returning to base so that we can be checked over, groomed and other kinds of messing about.
When the grass is finished in late autumn and during the winter, we need extra feed to keep us in ‘condition’. That’s a funny word ‘condition’. Sometimes humans use it to say that we are lacking in it and need building up. Other times they say we have too much ‘condition’ and need slimming down. If others criticise them for the way they are treating us, they say we are in good ‘condition’. I think ‘condition’ is a relative term.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. You would think that when we needed ‘supplementary’ feeding, we should be able to do what humans do and have what we fancy. Just send the humans down to the local feed store and bring it back to us. Oh no! nothing like that. If you are an equine, it becomes a scientific exercise. Imagine if, to determine what you humans had to eat, you first had to be weighed and then had to fill in a questionnaire about what kind of exercise you were getting. Then, armed with these facts, you had to do various calculations to work out exactly how much bulk, protein, minerals etc. you needed to maintain good ‘condition’ for, if you did not, you would be likely to fall prone to all sorts of illness as a result.
There is an added complication in our case. Not only do we need to have all that fuss taken before we can eat a drop, now we are in France, we find that the old foods that we were used to in England are not available here. What is necessary is that THEY spend hours on the Internet and driving about in THEIR car, trying to find the same feeds that we had before. The result is, more often than not, THEY have to find some importer of our English feed and arrange to have it delivered.
I don’t know about you, but I do worry for all the French horses who must obviously be out of ‘condition’ unless they are lucky enough to have conscientious English owners who go to the same trouble as THEY do. By he way, have you ever noticed that if you type ‘trouble’ very quickly it turns into a Russian currency?

Mims and ISunday 18th February 2007 Year of the Pig
Today was the first day of spring. Not officially, of course, but weather wise. It started cloudy but, by mid morning, the sun came out and by mid day it was 16 degrees Celsius. THEY had been out for a drive around in the morning but then, after lunch, the weather was so nice, THEY decided to come and have a chat with us. If only I had known! You see, with the weather so warm and us still having our rugs on, I had decided to have my annual bath. There is a little hollow between the lower field and the higher one and this was still filled with water from the previous week’s rain. It was in a lovely smooth bit of field and I found that by rolling first one side and then he other and then standing up in it an kicking and pawing, I could get water (and, I’m pleased to say, mud) right up my legs and under my rug to the sides of my belly as well.
At first, when THEY drove up, Wicky was nearest to the road being half way into the road field. Mims and I were in the next field just beyond the fence. THEY called out to Wick, who started to trot towards them. Mims and I pretended not to hear and walked along the fence. However, as soon as we reached the second opening in the fence, we both turned and first cantered and then galloped towards them. When he heard us, Wicky joined in the chase as well.
When we got to THEM, SHE saw all the water on my neck and face and said I was sweating up from galloping in the sun. However, when HE climbed over the fence, HE saw the real glory of my bath and then THEY knew that it was water and mud after all. Still the day was so glorious that THEY decided to take our rugs off anyway and put them back on tonight at supper. The other lovely thing was that SHE climbed over the fence as well and, while he drove the car, with our rugs in, back to the barn, SHE walked with us across the fields. We left HER when SHE got to the orchard and went back up the field for Wicked who had stayed behind to graze.
And the day was not over yet. In the afternoon, we could hear the hunt chasing through the forest. I don’t remember if I have ever mentioned it but our farm here is right on the edge of the Foret d’Ecouvres. It is a beautiful forest covering a large area and contains wild deer and wild boar. I think the hunters (they call them ‘chasseurs’ here) hunt the wild boar, on horseback, but with guns so you can hear them from quite a distance. HE told me that HE read in a paper that every year many hunters get shot and some are killed so wise people avoid the two days a week when the hunt is out. Anyway, it has just occurred to me that it was quite an appropriate tale for the start of the year of the pig!

muddy legsMonday 19th February 2007
Another day. Not quite as sunny but just as warm and, THEY took our rugs off again this morning. Well, what could we do but go and have a really good roll in the mud.At least, I did. Wick had quite a good roll too but, for some reason, he mud does not stick to his coat as well as it does to mine. And Mims? Well, she tries, poor dear, but somehow her mind is not in it. She does manage a bit of mud on her face but that is about all. I will keep on trying with her but it is an uphill struggle.
And THEM? THEY went off and left us after breakfast. It was the day to go and order THEIR new motor. After a bit of research, THEY found that there were only two distributors for the make THEY had chosen and one was in Laval and the other in La Mans. When he first found these two, he thought that the Laval one would be best because it is in the same Department, Mayenne, that we are moving to. So, HE sent off a couple of emails asking some questions about the car but both were ignored. Having had no reply, HE looked on Google maps and was astonished that Le Mans was both a shorter distance away and was about half an hour quicker to get to than Laval. So that was where THEY went today. The first thing THEY found was that THEY had a choice of going on the National Route or on the toll Autoroute. They decided on the later and were really pleasantly surprised. For very little money, THEY were able to travel on a quite empty road, very comfortably and arrive in Le Mans very relaxed. That was just as well because trying to find the garage was rather less easy.
Le Mans is a very busy, industrialised town and it is not easy for newcomers to follow the signs. Alternatively, it is very easy for newcomers, with lots and lots of traffic pushing them on, to get lost. So THEY did! Getting lost in France is something that HE is getting very good at. However, HE has found that if you keep going, you eventually find a clue that will bring you back where you want to go. Just maybe not the quickest or most direct route. Eventually, THEY found the garage. It was on the other side of the road and there was no way of crossing because a new tramway was being built along the centre of the road. After a very long diversion, they parked in the road outside of the garage and walked up to the front door. It was 12.30 and the garage was closed for lunch from 12.00 – 13.30.
With an hour to kill, THEY drove off and found a very nice hotel restaurant and had a good meal THEMSELVES after which THEY went round the detour again and finally found a salesman. There followed an interesting period in which selecting and ordering the car took five minutes and hen the paperwork in broken English/French to a further 20 minutes. The car is now ordered and should be ready in two month’s time which is pretty good because, by then, we should be in our new home.
The only bad thing about all this was that it made THEM late for our supper by the time THEY got lost several times on the way home. But, THEY were not very late and Sophie, Jo and James came and joined us for supper so it was quite a party. I think THEY put our rugs on quite quickly to hide the mud but, so what. As someone once said in a movie “Tomorrow’s another day!”

taking his coat offTuesday 20th February 2007
Guess what? Arno is coming on Saturday. Who is Arno? Sophie’s new pony. OK, so when we last talked about him, his name was Arnold but a) what kind of a name is that for an equine and b) this is France anyway so the French don’t pronounce the ‘ld’ so Arno it is.
THEY have been talking with Jo and Sophie about what might be best for him when he turns up here. On the one hand, the lady where he has been staying says that he is a bit wild and will need a lot of lunging to quieten him down before Sophie can ride him. Also she thinks that he will need to be kept away from us so that he will bond with Sophie better. She thinks that if he mixes with us that he will become as wild as we are and will never be tamed. However, that lady doesn’t know us, does she?
What SHE and Jo have decided is that they will put him one part of the field with us in the other separated with some electric tape. I’m not sure if the tap will be connected or not but the idea is that we can get to know each other over he tape and when Arno sees us going in for supper or breakfast, he will follow and Sophie can then catch him and feed him separately. This can continue until he gets used to going to Sophie for food and treats and then, if we all get on OK, the tape can come down.
It certainly looks as if the next few weeks are going to be interesting, if nothing else. I wonder if Wicky will try to chase him? I know Mims will but with a different idea in mind. It will be good for her to have someone young to play with and fortunately, Arno is a gelding, so that’s alright. Sophie should be over the moon but it is hard to tell as she is a very quiet person. She is smiling a lot and is looking forward to spending her pocket money on him. I d hope he gets on well with Mims or she will have split loyalties.
The other good thing that happened today is that THEY went to buy some more feed for us. After what I wrote the other day, you will understand that this meant quite a long drive to the only place that stocks the special low protein feed that SHE likes us to have. But, the good part of it was that HE bought up their entire display of our favourite apple biscuits that HE had run out of so our treat supply is assured for a while, at least.

muddy meetingWednesday 21st February 2007
Another glorious day, at least for mud. We are now in a routine where we have our rugs on at night and then off in the morning at breakfast. It was pretty overcast, even showery first thing but pretty soon the sun came out and it was quite hot in the afternoon. In fact, for us equines (I have to keep using that term of Wicky feels excluded if I say horses) it was so hot that nothing but a mud bath would suffice. So we all did it. Not just me. I have to say that HE was very admiring of our virtual complete coverage, when HE came along with our supper. Enough of us, let me tell you about THEIR day.
The little green car that they drove here from England has been legally covered by special a English insurance called a green card. This has been renewable each month and really is meant for people who come to France for a holiday. So, the maximum duration that THEY can be insured this way is three months and then THEY must get French insurance. This should not be a problem, it was thought. Surely French insurers wan the business just as much as they do in England. So, off they went to the insurance shop together with Tina, an associate of Veronica, THEIR helper and translator in France.
THEY didn’t want to walk far, so Tina took THEM just over the road from the office and introduced THEM to the lady there. HE had a pocket full of documentation, the car’s registration document, the insurance papers, the renewal notice (which, fortunately, as it turns out, is not due until the middle of March), HIS driving licence and so on. The lady was very happy to take each of these in turn and photocopy them. Then she asked all sorts of questions which HE couldn’t answer because they were based on the way that the French authorities specify cars (e.g. horse power, model name, etc.) which the English do not or no longer use.
After much consulting of the computer screen (ecran), the lady appeared to have all the information she needed. Then she asked Tina for the ‘Carte Gris’. This is the French registration document. THEY had to explain that the car was English, registered in England and that THEY had a year before it was required to be re-registered in France. The lady was , however, insistent saying that she could not insure it without French registration. Then, to make matters worse, she said that it had to be registered to the address of the house THEY were buying and not the rented one that THEY are living in now. After more explanations and translations by Tina (who is bi-lingual Canadian), the lady insisted that we go to the Mairie (Mayor’s office) of the village THEY will be moving to and get a Carte Gris there. Then come back and she might be able to help. After this appeared to be settled, the lady appeared to have second thoughts and said that THEY would instead have to go to the Prefecture of the capital town of the Department, then to the office of administration then to the office …. And THEY stopped listening. Grabbing THEIR papers, THEY thanked Madame and wished her Good Day and went with Tina back to the office where Veronica was waiting.
In the end, after discussing the situation with Veronica, she has said that she will go along and have a word with the lady explaining about loss of custom (and prospective custom e.g. house insurance) and if this failed to go along and have a word with the next insurance firm along the street. HE told me that THEY have read many books which explain that the French way of doing things is different and often bureaucratic but this is the first real instance that THEY have observed it in practice. Apparently there are many ‘Catch 22’ situations (e.g. you can’t have a French bank account until you live in France and you can’t buy a house without a French bank account etc) but there is usually a way round them with patience and understanding. We have 18 days to find out!

Sophie & ArnieThursday 22nd February 2007
You know, sometimes it’s hard being a mother. Take today for instance. On the surface a pretty ordinary day. It wasn’t cold but it wasn’t sunny either. Still we three managed to get a good smattering of mud in the places where it was most needed. We were making our way back to the barn for our supper when, for no reason that I could see, my darling daughter decided it was time to play games. In particular, she decided to get Wicky. She never has really forgiven him for chasing her right up the filed when first she came to live with us. It always niggles away at the back of her mind.
I think with the imminent approach of spring, Mims would have started a game with anyone but, unfortunately for her, she has no-one of her own age to play with and she daren’t pick on me so Wick was the target of the day. She has also harboured a bit of resentment due to the fact that Wick always gets his bucket first, as he eats by the door, I get mine second and Mims, purely because she likes to be as near to the entrance, if not outside, as she can be, gets her bucket last. As you can see, HE has a good logical reason for Mims getting her bucket after us but she can only see – Wicky first, Mims last – and, to be frank, it. stales her off!
So, all the way home, across the field, through the orchard, Mims chased Wick and Wick just ducked and dived and made his way home. However, game as he is, there is no denying that Wicky has the shorter legs of the two and therefore Mims got back to the entrance of the barn before he did. And there she stood, guarding the entrance and daring him to try and get his bucket before she did. And that was the situation when THEY turned up.
As usual, HE came in with the buckets and, seeing Wick being kept out, went and blocked Mims’ way so that Wick could get by. Now Mims is an equine and HE is a human and my daughter knows how to behave with the weaker species. That’s right, she just barged right through him to get to Wick. Now SHE had also come in the door behind HIM and Mims nearly knocked her flying as she whirled round to give Wick a kick. She would have missed anyway because , by this time, Wick had run over to get at Mims bucket as she was guarding his. Now I could see that things were getting a bit dangerous as, although they wouldn’t hurt each other, those two, particularly my lovely and sweet baby, might trample a human in the process of their play.
Now, although HE is my best and favourite male human, I have to admit is as silly as Mims. Instead of getting out of her way, HE went up to her to restrain her. When Mims is in mid game, there is only one thing that can do that – a bit of parental control. So, quietly and calmly but firmly, I placed myself between my equine and my human charges and, turning my rear towards Mims, proceeded to kick out with both rear legs together and then step back and repeat the process, over and over until she was boxed into the entrance to the orchard.
So, I saved the day. And what did I get for my pains? I turned back to the barn to find Wicky contentedly eating my supper. As I said at the start, sometimes it is hard to be a mother!

morning glowFriday 23rd February 2007
Today we have news! Real news that is. They had a phone call from Veronica the agent and the completion date for the purchase of the house is Friday March 30th at 15.00 (or three o’clock in the afternoon, if you are that sort). Given that today is 23rd and that here are only 28 days in this month, that makes it exactly 5 weeks from now. Suddenly HE is struck by all the things that will have to be done and HE is rushing off making lists again (HE’s that sort). It is doubtful if HE will get any sleep from now on as HE will keep being struck by something else to do as HE lays in bed and, unless HE can leap out of bed and put it on the list, HE will have to worry about it all night.
HER concerns are much more sensible. SHE is now determined that the three of us will travel from here all together and not, as has been suggested, two at one time and one at another. SHE now has to locate someone with a horsebox big enough to do the job and hopefully with enough space to carry our tack as well.
The other thing THEY are both working on is making he field safe in our new property. At the moment, there is no fence to close it off from the road as previously it has been used for crops and not livestock. THEY are meeting up at the field on Monday afternoon with a person who will erect our post and rail fence and Veronica to translate for THEM. The person selling the field (Michel) is happy for the fence to go up before the completion date so that it is ready for us to move in as soon as it is ours. There is a stream that runs through the bottom of the field where the poplars are planted but this is overgrown with brambles etc. so, until it can be cleared, this part of the field will remain fenced off and HE will have to arrange a drinker behind the barn for us. This should not be too much of a problem as the barn has water installed.
Since the sale was agreed, SHE has been looking at nice new washing machines and so SHE has decided that, when THEIR old , rusty one arrives out of storage in England it can go in the barn to keep our rugs clean. Whilst HE has agreed in principle, I think HE is reserving judgement, seeing how muddy our rugs get. Watch this space.
And so to other news. After yesterdays’ sad events, I am afraid HE caught me giving Wick a bite as he passed me this morning at breakfast. Two things that HE should bear in mind though. First of all, I only bite his rug and not him although I do make some pretty fierce faces while I do it. Secondly, HE is not aware of what the little sh… Shetland has done to deserve it. HE only sees the angelic and hard done by little pony when he comes along. He should be with us all day and observe all the annoying tricks that Wick can get up to. I think I have said it before, we animals are quite capable of sorting out our own problems in our own way and we are not ‘being naughty’ just because we do things our way and not the human way. The sooner humans realise that the happier both species will be.

who's been eating our hay?Saturday 24th February 2007
Arnold came today and it was alright. Now that sounds very uneventful but that wasn’t how it was. It as good. It was exiting and, it was fun. No, when I say it was alright I mean that all the talk beforehand about him being a wild one and therefore the fears that we might not get on or that he might jump the fence or something were quite groundless. The day started normally, at least it did for us. There had been a thunderstorm in the night so we had been out in the fields and were not in the barn when HE brought our breakfast. HE looked in the orchard but we were not there. Then he thought we would be round behind our barn in the sheep’s barn where we are not supposed to go but have found a way over some old pallets. But no, we were not there. He had to carry three heavy buckets all the way over the field to the hedge bounding the next field but still he couldn’t see us. Then, HE just spotted Mims and I, way over the horizon in the next field. HE called out and we came towards him but got stopped by a wire fence. There was an opening right in the corner of the field but we couldn’t see it so HE started walking towards it to lead us in when Wick suddenly appeared in the next field on. He ducked under some tape and started to canter and managed to get to the gap before Mims and I. Then we started to canter and then to gallop and just swept right past him, then turned and came skidding right back. And that set the scene for our later events.
Arnold was supposed to come this morning but his transport was delayed so he arrived late afternoon. We weren’t back at the barn yet and James had closed it off with a gate and a big round straw bale. When he was unloaded, Arnold was put in there and Sophie went in with him to get to know him as she is his special human. Jo and Cameron went in as well and so did THEY when they turned up. HE, as usual started taking photos and HE was very surprised to find that Arnold doesn’t know about treats of any kind, not even sugar lumps. Everyone made a fuss of him and the time went by until it was time for our supper. As soon as we approached the barn, we knew there was something up. First all the people round the barn and then we could first scent Arnold and then see him. We stood and inspected him for a while and it was Wicky who was first to go up and welcome him with a friendly nozzle rub. Then Mims and I joined in and we all stood about, scenting and touching, watching and listening to each other. Arnold let out a few screams which made the humans jump but which we knew was his way of greeting us. Then it was time for our supper.

We had ours in the orchard and Arnold had his in the barn but he soon got more interested in where we were and wanted to join us. Mims also left most of her supper to go and stand and look at Arnold. And Wicky? He just ate. When we were finished the gate was opened and Arnold came out. Mims and I followed him about as he walked to the field edge and back to the barn. Then we set off to the field. Wicky, who was tidying up the food Mims and I had dropped called out to us that he wouldn’t be long. When we got to the far field all pretence of gentility was dropped and we broke out into a canter and then a gallop. Up and down the fields we flew and soon we were joined by little Wick, running like the rest of us.
Just one final thing I have to mention. THEY had stood around watching us running on the skyline. When they couldn’t see us any more, they got on the car and started to drive off when they saw us in the orchard. At least they saw Mims and I outside the orchard and Arnold being penned in the orchard by Wick. You see, as this was our first meeting, our little friend needed to let Arnold know where he stood in the herd’s pecking order – fourth!

Wicky says helloSunday 25th February 2007
THEY were awoken on the middle of the night when the wind blew THEIR front door open and THEY saw the lightning again. Then THEY had problems getting back to sleep with the noise of the wind. Of course, we could have told them about the storm and the wind but really it was no problem for us. Horses know all about coping with all sorts of weather conditions. We can always find a spot in the lee of a tree or, at worst, just turn our backs to the wind and just wait it out. It’s even easier for us than for Arnold as we have rugs on but he doesn’t. Mind you, he does have a very thick coating of mud to keep him warm and that is only his first line of defence. It would not be spiteful to notice that he has a fair degree of condition (fat) about his person. Considering that his previous human claims that she never fed him other than hay, he must have a really good hay munching apparatus or, just maybe, a really good appetite.
This morning was going to be our first breakfast all together. I think THEY were a bit apprehensive about how well Arno (or some now are calling him Arnie) is settling in and being accepted by our herd. As it happens it all went very smoothly. Sophie and Jo came and put Arnie on his head collar and we three just came into the barn as usual for breakfast. The only change in routine was that all three of us had our buckets on one side of the barn and then Arnie was lead in on the other side and given his bucket. Everything went very smoothly until Arnie had finished and was lead out into the orchard. Mims got very worried that her new found friend was being taken away again and was only happy when she was released and could storm out after him.
However, after Wick and I went out to follow them another pattern emerged. Wicky who had been number two when it was Me, Treg and him, then moved to Number three when Mims joined us and had stayed at that position but become last as well, when Treg passed away, was determined that he would remain three but not last if Arnie was going to join us. He had already had a good sniff of Arnie and realised that he did, indeed, pose a threat to Wick’s place in the pecking order. So, rather like the time that Mims joined us, Wick decided to go on the offensive while the newcomer was still new and uncertain. The morning passed with Wick keeping Arnie penned away from the herd, while Mims and I watched with interest.
However, this evening things changed and, in fact, took a nasty turn for the worse. You see, when we came here, it was immediately obvious that Mims was Sophie’s favourite. She would cuddle her and kiss her and give her treats while ignoring Wick and I. now, Sophie came out to fetch Arnie and she cuddled and kissed him and gave him treats, not Mims. Well, hell hath no fury like a chestnut mare scorned so they say. While Wick only penned Arnie, Mims actually attacked him and drove him off. After supper where we all ate together in the barn, Mims just would not let Arnie get to the hay bale. By the time THEY left us after supper, Wicky, Mims and I were in the barn with the hay and poor Arnie was left outside in the rain. If this keeps up he will soon lose his chubbiness but really, I doubt if Mims can stay this way for very long. After all, he is male and her own age. Being nasty can’t be as much fun as they could have playing together. Shall we give it less than a week?

riding schoolMonday 26th February 2007
First, what THEY did today but only because it concerns us equines directly. You see, the field where we are moving to has not had horses or any livestock in it ans so, there is no fence separating it from the road. I say road. Really it is not at all bust, being used only by the few other houses in the Le Cerisier area. I don’t remember if I have mentioned it before or if I was talking elsewhere but unlike England, where we came from, each house does not have a name or number and then a street name. Instead, an area has a name (often the original name of a farm that used to be there but has now been split up into several properties) and everyone there has the same address, the only difference being the name of the people living there. The postman and other utility people all know who is living where and so there is no problem. I digress. Today they went over there to meet with Veronica and her colleague who is going to organise putting a fence up, before we move there, so that as soon as the sale goes through we can go straight in to our field. The idea of today’s visit was to show the chap where the fence and gates need to go so he can get an estimate and organise the workforce.
We on the other hand had a day of settling in and sorting out our relationships with Arnie. The tables have now turned in that Wicky is no longer the dominant pony and Arnie is fighting and biting back. No harm done though as it is all in gestures. Much more interesting is his relationship with Mims. She is still keeping him from our hay although she is put on a head collar for breakfast and supper and so all four of us are now eating together in the barn. Because Arnie is not used to extra feed other than hay (and he certainly doesn’t need it) he is only having a token bucket to get him used to Sophie and being handled by her. This means that he is finished much sooner than the rest of us so now THEY have reorganised our places in the barn so Arnie eats next to the hay bale. That way, when he is finished, he can carry on eating hay until it is time for us all to go out.
What was interesting tonight though was that Mims was more chaperoning him and sort of herded him back to the barn for supper, although when they got there she still tried to block him out. It is all part of some socialising power game. I notice that as soon as Arnie goes out of the Barn, Mims can’t wait to get out to be with him. A budding romance I shouldn’t wonder!

pony walkingTuesday 27th February 2007
THEIR day impacted on us again so I have to tell you a bit about it. SHE had to go for a blood test into town. Actually, when I say SHE had to go for a blood test, that is not quite true. SHE later found out that SHE had a choice. Either SHE went to the Laboratoire or, if SHE preferred, they would have come to HER. The whole process is quite different from England. There, when SHE needed a blood test, SHE had to travel to the hospital 20 miles away, wait maybe up to an hour for the test, then wait for the hospital to send the results to the doctor a couple of weeks later and then make an appointment with him to tell her what he wanted her to know. The English version, apart from being inconvenient for the patient is also very secretive with the patient treated as if it was not her blood (and her life) but the doctor’s. Here, she went to the Laboratoire, waited 5 minutes, went home and went back that evening, to be given her own results to read and then take to the doctor to arrange the required treatment.
I am getting ahead of myself. THEY needed to go out early this morning (or so THEY thought, having misunderstood the directions in French) and so HE came on HIS own so SHE could get ready and then THEY could drive straight off, as soon as HE was finished. What happened was that this was the day after Wicky broke down the tape barrier into the field by the river and we discovered some very tasty grass down there that James had been saving for his cows. So, when HE turned up (in the pouring rain) HE and Jo had to walk across several muddy fields to find and fetch us. This of course made HIM late and so made THEM late for the Laboratoire. As I said, it didn’t actually matter at all but it did make THEM feel a bit stressed.
Then, THEY needed to go back for the results at the time that we normally get fed so again THEY had to make arrangements with Jo and Sophie that THEY would be a bit late as Arnie is fed by hem at the same time. As it happens, the lab was so efficient that THEY were back jut 20 minutes late, during which time Mims had been doing her bit to keep Arnie from coming in out of the rain and having some hay. Still, we are making progress as Arnie stays just a Mims’ jaw apart from the rest of us now. I wouldn’t be surprised that he is a fully fledged member of the ‘troupeau’ before the end of next week!
Ps I slipped troupeau in. It means herd but it will help if you learn a little French as we go along. It is my mother tongue, after all.

sophie ridingWednesday 28th February 2007
Everyone is making a concentrated effort to get Mims and Arnie to, if not be friends, then at least tolerate each other. Out in the fields it is not a problem. But when we get back to the barn, as we did early today as the weather was bad, she just will not let the poor soul into the hay bale. This is particularly a shame as he does not get big full buckets like we do and he has not been used to eating any treats other than carrots so that only leaves hay for him to eat when we are back here. Mims says she is merely looking after his diet as she thinks he might have a bit of a weight problem.
Actually, no-one knows just what his weight should be. This morning SHE took along the weigh tape and took a first reading of both his height and girth so that they can then record his starting point and adjust his feed to bring him to the correct condition. I will admit that, looking at him, he does appear to be a little chubby, shall we say. Not fat, you understand but not wasting away either. However, as he does not appear to be getting much feed apart from what he can graze, it might appear hat what he really needs is some work to burn any excess off. I understand that there are plans afoot to do some lunging work and maybe try his saddle on in the near future.
I should explain here that Arnie is no stranger to work. I don’t remember is I told you but he is eleven years old and has been a competition pony in his earlier years. He only ended up being left to run wild virtually when his riders out grew him and moved on to bigger horses. All he really needs is some bonding with Sophie and his new environment and then some gentle reminders of what he already knows in the way of riding and jumping. This Sophie should be able to do. The real shame is that, by the time he gets really integrated in our little herd, we will be moving on to our new home. Maybe this will bring him even closer to Sophie providing she gives him all the time and attention he needs.
THEY took Sophie along for her riding lesson today as SHE wanted to ask the owner of the riding school about finding transport for us to St Pierre. THEY looked around the school before the lesson started and then watched for an hour as Sophie and the other riders went through walk, trot and canter practice in the indoor school. There were four little red Shetlands there that made Wicky look like a giant and they also worked taking some very tiny children for a ride. Anyway, THEY were quite impressed with the way Sophie rode so she should have little problem riding Arnie. I hope she does get up on him before we go as maybe that will impress Mims, who has never been ridden properly, and then she will see what a nice pony he really is and even get to admire him instead of being marish to him. That’s my job!

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