a shaggy nag story

Everyone’s got at least one story about everything.

Take horses. I don’t know the first thing about horses. Okay, maybe a few things.

– Where you might want to put the bit
– Horses are measured in hands, for some reason.
– One aspect about them is called the hock (I’m guessing the feet, but I’m not going to google it, for comedy value)
– Don’t be tempted to buy a spavined horse, even if it’s really, really cheap
– A horse whisperer is someone who can make a horse lie down without putting them to sleep (which would be a vet).

Other than that, I’m clueless. Except – I have one story about horses I can trot out if I have to. It goes like this:

I was persuaded to go on a cross-country hack once. On Dartmoor. Because I was a novice they gave me a sedate old nag called Onions. We started off down a road, then a country lane, then veered off along a dried-up river bed, and on into some woods. And the thing that impressed me more than anything was how steady and sure-footed Onions was. There was nowhere she couldn’t go, one hoof in front of the other, hour after hour, her head bobbing up and down, utterly relentless. And I thought: This would be the perfect off-road vehicle – if it wasn’t so fucking uncomfortable.

(That is actually the pay-off. I know. Sorry. Now you know why I don’t get invited out much).

And the point of all this is – earlier today I interacted with a bunch of horses.

(Is that what you do? Interact with horses? Maybe if you’re an alien masquerading as a human, nervous you’re being watched, trying to act natural. Still – too late. That’s exactly what I did. I interacted).

IMG_6027What happened was, I’d taken Lola for her morning walk. Not the usual spot – a place I stopped going to a while back for no real reason I can think of. I’d met these particular horses before (nailing the I only have one story about horses lie, right there). I knew they were inquisitive – downright nosey, actually – were good with dogs, basically safe, so far as I could tell, although there was no way I’d ever be persuaded to walk at the kicking end, which is basically north and south. I was excited to see that the dew pond at the top of the field was full of water. I’d only ever seen it like that once before, and now that I was into taking pictures, I could see there might be some interesting tree-reflection shots to be had. The dew pond is where the horses hang out, though. Mostly. They have a tumbledown shelter way the other side of the field, but I can’t tell you much about that. I can’t even tell you who owns the horses. Maybe no-one. Maybe they’re a bunch of horse outlaws – or horselaws – and now that I think that I can never go there again.

IMG_5982Still – this morning I was prepared to take my chances. I slid down the bank of the pond and was busy taking pictures when I noticed the horses emerging from the gloom and heading straight for me. As usual they were led by the solidly built piebald who seemed to be the leader, the others tagging along behind in a shiftless kind of way, looking like they’d rather be anything other than a horse. I didn’t want to get nosed into the water, so I climbed back up the bank to meet them. I thought bowing my head and holding my hand out would be the sensible thing to do. They’d see I had humility, respect, and allow me to journey on peacefully through their realm. The piebald was pretty dismissive, though. She sniffed my hand – seemed aggrieved there was nothing in it – nosed my arm to the side and went straight for the pockets, maybe thinking I’d simply forgotten to take out whatever deliciousness I had to be carrying, or why else would I be there? It was like being patted-down by a weary cop, and a little unnerving. Trying to stay calm, I decided to retreat, walking as neutrally as I could to the nearest gate. The horses all followed me in a line, the piebald in front – natch – the others behind. I said some bland and vaguely placatory stuff, like good girl and thank you for escorting me to the gate…. any moment expecting to be beaten to the ground and hooved into a horrifying mash that some other dog walker would come across, and scream, and bite their knuckle, and all the crows in IMG_6002the elm would fly up, the piebald grinning maliciously from the tumbledown shelter way the other side of the field. I made the gate in one piece, though, and braver once the other side of it, offered my hand again by way of apology. The piebald let me ruffle her awful mane some, then as if that wasn’t enough, began rubbing her enormous skull on the post that stood between us, I suppose to emphasise how big and ornery her skull was, that she could knock this post down and get to me if she wanted, and to please bear all this in mind if ever I dared to think I could visit the dew pond with nothing more interesting to offer than a dog and an iPhone 5s.

So there. That’s my new horse story.

Needs some work.

But at least this time I got some pictures.

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