Sunday, 8 February 2015

I've Got a Lovely Bunch of...Carrots!

Over the years, thanks to my lovely beagle, I have made friends with many fellow dog walkers and doggy neighbours.  However, having recently bid a sad farewell to my golden oldie, walkies promptly ground to a halt.
          Currently I’m in limbo land.  We’re considering a house move later this year, plus there are other personal matters up in the air.  We want another dog, but the timing is not yet right.  So for now, I’ve resumed walkies – minus the pooch – with a lovely neighbour and her dear little terrier.
          In the beginning it felt most odd pulling on layers of clothing and Wellington boots, and setting off without hanging on to a lead.  My arms felt surplus to requirement, hands dangling by my sides.  Now I stuff them deep into my pockets.  The hands, not the arms.
          Most lunchtimes my neighbour and I venture across nearby Cotton Lane to a vast expanse of land where hundreds of travellers’ horses illegally graze.  The horses seem to be in their own social cliques with mini herds dotted all over the hills.  Mostly they ignore dog walkers unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring about your person some old apples or carrots.
          Considering I spent many years around horses – all of my childhood until right into my early thirties both riding and handling them, my confidence goes to pot around these particular horses.  Maybe it’s because these are travellers’ ponies and not used to being handled?  Or perhaps it’s because many of them are stallions and can be feisty.  Whatever it is, I have a deep sense of self-preservation and a desire to give them a wide berth!
          Earlier this week my neighbour had some old carrots she wanted to throw out, so kindly decided to give them to the travellers’ ponies.  The poor things are never fed, intermittently watered, and are currently weathering out in bitterly cold temperatures.  Walking along companionably, we came across a little herd busily tugging at winter grass.
          ‘I won’t go up to them,’ said my neighbour producing a rustling carrier bag full of carrots.  ‘I’ll throw these at them instead.’
          ‘Good idea,’ I replied, shrinking into a bit of gorsy hedge.
          Suddenly six shaggy heads shot up, eyes swivelling our way.  Twelve ears flicked forward – just about as far forward as long ears can go.  We had their attention.  My neighbour began lobbing carrots which prompted the herd leader to give an excited whicker to the others.  Now I don’t profess to be Dr Doolittle, but I know exactly what this horse said to his mates.
          ‘Look lively, chaps. It’s raining carrots.’
          Delighted, they began to walk towards my neighbour’s trail of veg.  The leader, anxious to eat the most, broke into a trot.  The others, keen not to miss out, also picked up pace.  However, the leader was having none of it.  With nostrils flaring, he broke into a canter.  Now there’s something about a group of shaggy wild ponies coming towards you at a fair pace that doesn’t generate a feeling of…calm.  It was at this point I abandoned my bit of gorsy hedge and fled in the opposite direction.
          ‘Don’t worry,’ my neighbour assured as she scampered behind me, ‘they won’t come after us.’
          I wasn’t so certain.  Looking back over my shoulder, the leader had munched up all his share of carrots and was conferring with the rest of the herd.
          ‘Follow the blonde.  She might have more carrots.’
          ‘But both of them are blonde.’
          ‘Fair point.  Follow them both.’
          ‘Okay. Tally ho!’
          Fortunately they lost interest the moment my neighbour shoved the carrier bag back into her coat pocket.
          My next encounter with them was when I came out of my house late one evening to collect my daughter from a show at her Theatre.  There, standing directly behind my car, were a group of ponies all having a late-night chat.
          ‘I think the blonde with the carrots lives somewhere round here.’
          I promptly turned on my heel and went back indoors to ring the police.  Sorry, but I’m not being mugged by a bunch of horses!
          ‘Yes, officer, that’s right, you heard me correctly.  Loose ponies. No, of course they’re not wearing balaclavas.  What are they doing?  Well one of them has just used his hoof to smash an icy puddle and they’re currently hoovering up the water.  Oh, wait.  They’re off again, heading towards Chapel Drive.’
          When I returned home forty-five minutes later there were two police cars outside our electric gates, blue lights flashing dramatically.  In the darkness I could make out four policemen charging here, there and everywhere.  Were they after burglars?  Muggers?  Hoodies up to no good?  Nope, none of these.  Just lots of ponies having a wonderful time leading our local force a very merry dance.  Did the boys in blue catch them?  Of course not.  They didn’t have any carrots.
          Which reminds me.  A trainer was giving last minute instructions to his jockey.  He appeared to slip something into the horse’s mouth just as a steward walked by.
          ‘What was that?’ asked the steward.
          ‘Just a Polo mint,’ said the trainer, popping one in his mouth. ‘Would you like one too?’
          After the suspicious steward had moved away, the trainer continued with his instructions to the jockey.’
          ‘Just keep on the rail. You’re a certainty. The only thing that could possibly pass you down the home straight is either the steward or me…’


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