Brenda had dreamed of having a pony ever since she was a child.
“They take a lot of looking after!” her parents had told her and promptly enrolled her into a ballet class in the hope that she would forget about ponies. Unfortunately, this was the reason why, as an adult and able to make her own decisions, Brenda thought it would be a great idea to buy two untrained Fell ponies straight off the moor.
“I thought I’d train them at the same time as learning to ride,” said Brenda, twiddling her hair apologetically. “I didn’t realise it would be so difficult! I thought it would only take a few weeks.”
“Are you serious?” asked Sally laughing and then quickly stopped when she realised that Brenda was deadly serious and looked like she was about to cry.
“Well it’s not going to help whingeing about it now. The farrier’s on his way and those ponies need their feet trimming they’re in a right state.” said the ever practical Jack, leaning over the gate and chewing on a long stalk of grass. “How on earth are you going to catch the buggers?” she mused.
Brenda wrung her hands, clearly very stressed.
“I don’t know how to catch them anymore it’s been so long since I did anything with them! They’ve gone a bit wild!”
“A bit wild? That’s an understatement! They are dangerous and you should be ashamed of yourself, you stupid woman!” said Louise, who had suddenly appeared behind us.
Of course, she was right but she didn’t need to be so nasty to poor Brenda who was obviously just a bit dim.
“Well as you are such an experienced horse owner I’m sure that you will know exactly how to catch them!” said Sally with a gleam in her eye.
“Ha!” scoffed Louise “of course I do but Brenda needs to take responsibility and work it out for herself.” she tossed her perfect hair and flounced away.
As ever Louise was dressed immaculately in speck-less white breaches and a floral silk blouse which made the rest of us look like Compo from last of the summer wine.
“Silly cow,” muttered Jack.
“Have you not got those ponies yet Brenda? You know I will have to call the RSPCA if you don’t get their feet sorted out this time.” The mysterious yard manager had finally made an appearance.
I stood back to get a good look at him. He was around 60ish with watery blue eyes; thick, wiry grey hair; tall and lanky and seemed about as effective as a wet flannel.
“I’ve been asking you for months to deal with their feet and you’ve not bothered to even reply. I’m very disappointed Brenda, really I am!” he continued.
The yard manager was very ‘avuncular’ and was as apologetic as Brenda.
“I’m so sorry Bob!” replied Brenda “I’ve just been so busy with work and kids.”
“I’m sorry to have to be cross Brenda but it’s gone on a bit too long.” said Bob, instantly folding to the zero pressure from Brenda.
Jack rolled her eyes and I bit my hand to stop myself from laughing. I had never heard such a feeble telling off in all my life! No wonder those ponies had been allowed to cause such chaos for so long.
“The farrier’s here!” announced a very brisk voice which made us all jump.
“Oh Morag it’s you! Right well, Brenda you’d better get those ponies.” said the yard manager and then he oozed away.
“Hello I’m Morag! You must be Grace?” Morag, who had a wonderful crisp Scottish accent, shook my hand vigorously. “Brenda you need to bring your ponies in now.”
Morag, a short but stocky woman in her early 50’s, was ex-army and a keen bag-pipe player. Her voice had a thunderous, commanding tone which had the effect of making everyone stand up very straight. It was most amusing to observe.
“I don’t really know how to catch them, Morag,” quivered Brenda.
“Oh Brenda! Really this is ridiculous! Right we need a sensible plan, where is Danny? Oh there he is. Danny! Come here immediately please!” Morag’s foghorn voice bellowed over to the most drop-dead gorgeous man who was walking towards us from the stable block.
“Oh my God! Who is he?!” I hissed at Sally.
“That’s Danny, he owns Boudicca the big, bay horse.” whispered Sally.
“Wow he rides here? He’s gorgeous!” I whispered back.
“He’s gay!” she smirked.
“Oh no way!” I couldn’t believe it, he was so ‘masculine’ for want of a better word. Tall, dark and ruggedly handsome with fabulously broad shoulders and a rough beard, he was text book gorgeous.
“Yes, good job really haha!” laughed Sally.
“Ladies really! We have a job to do!” said Morag giving us a withering look.
I didn’t like the sound of the word “we”. Why did “we” have to be involved in this situation?
I had arrived at the yard full of enthusiasm to start practising all I had learned in Wales before the farrier arrived. It would be my first experience having Poppy shod and I was anxious to do some connection work, hopefully to avoid her kicking his head in!
The owner had warned me that Poppy was not a fan of having her feet done and had only ever been ‘cold shod’ – whatever that was – so I was extremely irritated to be pulled in to someone else’s drama on this day of all days!
“Hello girls!” greeted the delicious Danny with a flashing smile.
“Hello!” I replied and managed to stop myself from saying anything embarrassing such as “I’m gutted you prefer men but actually it’s a good job because I’m married” – which is what I was thinking.
“I know what you’re thinking!” whispered Sally, when Danny started chatting with Morag, and laughed like a drain. Morag shot her ‘a look’ which immediately stopped that bit of banter.
“Right everybody! We need to decide who is going to go where and what roles we will all take on,” said the super-efficient Morag, standing astride with her hands on her hips.
“Ok” we all muttered. None of us dared to say otherwise. Even Jack who normally would have a lot to say, silently waited for instructions.
“Now Danny and Jack you go and get that trailer over there and wheel it up here. I will stand on it and shout instructions.”
We all looked over to the barn where there was a large trailer, parked by the side of it. Danny and Jack pulled it up to the gate and Morag clambered on.
“Right! Now then..”
“Look it’s obvious what we need to do,” interrupted Jack finally. She had a good brain for problem-solving and was clearly irritated by Morag. “We need to collect the other ponies and put them in the school and then herd the two nutters down here, get them cornered and get head-collars on them. Then someone needs to get a dart gun and put all of us out of our misery!”
Sally and I guffawed with laughter.
“That’s not helpful is it?” said Morag. She was terribly serious. “Ok that’s a good idea yes. Apart from the dart gun of course.”
“She might have a point though.” Danny interjected. “They are totally nuts and probably need sedating or no farrier will ever come here again if these two kick the crap out of him.”
Danny’s words made me feel a bit sick as I wondered what Poppy was going to do to the farrier and wished that her owner was here instead of me. However, I kept my anxieties to myself.
“I think that once they are caught they’ll settle down.” said Morag very hopefully. “It’s not as if they’ve never seen a farrier before.”
The three non-feral ponies were easily caught and moved into the school while the two Fells stood watching, suspiciously, from afar. It was obvious they knew we had plans to capture them and they were having none of it.
Honest to God, it was the most ridiculous charade I’ve ever been involved with in all my life.
What started with military precision ended up as a terrible version of ‘One Man and His Dog’ in a ‘Carry-On’ film style.
Morag gave us all places to stand and from her position on the trailer she shouted instructions to each of us, with no need for a megaphone.
“Grace move forwards!”
“Danny close in on your right!”
“Jack run to the left! No the left! That’s the right!”
“God give me strength!”
“Brenda! What are you doing? Get off your phone!”
Just at the crucial point where we almost had the ponies contained and moving towards the gate, Brenda got a phone-call and she answered it!
“For **** sake Brenda what are you doing?” shouted Jack who had lost the will to live.
“Oh I’m so sorry it’s my mum she wants to know how it’s going!” replied Brenda looking embarrassed.
“Well it’s not going well now is it you idiot!” Jack retorted as the ponies, spotting the chance of escape, galloped back to the top of the field.
The whole performance began again and the wild-eyed Fells gave us all a good run for our money. Oh my God! This time they bucked and farted and lashed out at us with their back legs. It was really scary and had us all flying in all directions to get out of their way.
“No! No! Go the other way Grace for goodness sakes lass!” yelled Morag.
“Danny watch out for your head!”
“Sally! Sally! What are you doing woman? Get out of the way! You’re going to get kicked oh my God!”
“Brenda! Why are you just standing there these are your ponies! Oh no now they’ve escaped again!”
We were all out of breath and almost collapsing, when Louise turned up with two giant buckets full of food. She stood at the gate shaking the buckets and of course the two ponies trotted up to her, like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, and shoved their heads into the buckets with no fuss and began eating very noisily. Louise then put headcollars on them with no problems whatsoever and with a smug expression said “Well that’s that sorted. Brenda would you like to take them down to the farrier he’s ready for you now?”
Morag jumped down from the trailer and took hold of the lead-ropes and handed the calm ponies to Brenda. Brenda and the ponies walked towards the stable yard like it was something they did every day.
“Oh well! Thank you, Louise!” said the very flustered Morag.
“No problem!” said Louise sweetly, tossing her hair again and walking off towards the stables.
Why we hadn’t thought of doing that ourselves is beyond me. With hindsight it was such an obvious thing to do!
Sally laughed her head off as she had a tremendous capacity to see the funny side in everything even if it included laughing at herself.
Jack, on the other hand, was not amused! “I can’t stand that woman!” she fumed and stormed off to get Buddy. The rest of us just plopped onto the ground, exhausted, and said things like “Oh yes we should have tried that first!”
We all waited with baited breath expecting to hear all sorts of curses and yells emanating from the indoor stable barn. Nothing. Not a sound emerged.
"Do you think they're all dead?" asked Sally.
"Maybe you should go and take a look?" suggested Morag.
"No way! I'm not going down there! Danny you go!" said Sally.
"No chance! I'm sick to death of those ponies. But yeah actually you've got a point. Why is it so quiet?"
The silence was eerie and we were just about to go down as a group when out of the barn came the two little menaces. Walking nicely!
We all stood, open mouthed with surprise.
"What the hell?" said Danny, stunned. "How did that happen?"
As it turned out, green-haired Alex had arrived, armed with dried chamomile and valerian herbs in a feed which she had prepared for the two ponies. These herbs had completely relaxed them enough to allow the farrier to do his job without any injury!
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Sally. "I always thought Alex was just a bit mad but that's amazing!"
Alex looked very pleased with herself and rightly so.
The ponies, slightly sore footed, wandered back into the field and then galloped off to the tree at the top, where they stood, giving us all dirty looks.
And now it was the dreaded moment where I had to catch Poppy and take her to the farrier and hope to God that she would stand nicely. It seemed like a hopeless proposition but I remembered Julie’s wise words.
I stopped at the gate, took some deep breaths and made sure I was relaxed.
I walked into the field and totally ignored Poppy and stood very calmly looking at the other horses.
I then wandered slowly over to her and opened my heart to allow some sort of nice feeling to emanate from me instead of the usual mix of fear, stress and anxiety.
“Would you like some new shoes?” I asked Poppy, almost as if I wasn’t bothered if she came to me or not.
“Ok yes why not?” she quite possibly replied, as she walked over to me to scratch her head on my shoulder.
I quietly put the headcollar on and scratched her shoulder feeling as if we had all the time in the world. Then I had the bright idea of walking around the field for a few minutes just to ‘connect’ and relax together. It was very pleasant especially after the mad experience I’d just had, chasing the two wild ponies.
Poppy walked with me towards the stables more relaxed than I’d ever known her to be and when she was tied at the bar she danced around fifty percent less than normal which was a lot better than I had expected.
“She’s not my horse and her owner said she’s only ever been cold-shod because she’s got sensitive feet and she can be really nervy so you might want to get your dog out of the way in-case she kicks him!” I said to the farrier, terrified of what Poppy might do to his dog which was running about.
“Well let’s have a go with some heat and see how she is. She’ll be fine don’t worry.” He replied, doing nothing at all to remove his dog who was sniffing Poppy’s belly. Luckily, she didn’t kill him!
The farrier turned out to be a very lovely guy. He talked to Poppy very nicely and gave her a scratch and with no fuss at all she let him shoe her as if she’d known him forever. I couldn’t believe it.
I almost cried from the relief as it was the total opposite of what her owner said she would be like.
“I’ve got the gift!” said the farrier “I know how to treat the ladies that’s why they all love me!”
I laughed my head off.
“It’s true!” he replied.
I didn’t really know what to say to that but I didn’t care. I was just so relieved!
I walked Poppy to the school feeling focussed and determined.
“Right Mrs.P!” I said “Let’s get to work!”….