Episode 20

I was feeling very stressed because, out of the blue, Poppy’s owner’s daughter wanted to come and visit and have a ride. It was then that I realised how much I had grown to love Poppy and didn’t want to be parted from her. All sorts of bleak thoughts were running wild through my mind and I was convinced that the young girl would want to take Poppy back and that would be the end of that.

“It’s out of your hands whatever happens,” said Jack who was always very practical and down to earth. “I don’t think you need to worry though. I’m sure she’ll probably have one ride and then lose interest again.”

“I hope you’re right.” I said gloomily.

“What’s going on? Has somebody died?” asked Sally who had just appeared.

“Poppy’s owner’s daughter wants to come up and ride.” said Jack “So Grace is panicking!”

“Ahh don’t panic! She’s a teenager, she won’t want the responsibility of having a horse full time that’s why I’m always here and not my daughter!” laughed Sally. “I never wanted a horse!”

“I hope you’re both right, but apparently she’s really missing her” I sighed. “I’ve put so much effort in to her, I don’t want to lose her now!” I was on the verge of crying and then in rolled June.

“Oh dear! What’s happened?” asked June as she saw my miserable face.

“Poppy’s owner is coming up because her daughter is missing her and wants to ride.” said Sally.

“Oh is she not your horse?” asked June.

“No,” I replied, sadly. “I wish she was though!”

“Oh love, I am sorry to see you so down. I think you and Poppy are made for each-other. Don’t be dis-heartened nothing’s happened yet so you might find that nothing does happen!” June was very sympathetic and had such a positive aura that it helped me to feel slightly less negative.

A loud crash from outside made us all jump and suddenly we could hear a stream of curses delivered in a very broad Yorkshire accent.

“Bloody hell who left a sodding wheelbarrow in the carpark right in the bloody.. oh hello ladies I didn’t know anyone else was here!” said the lady, immediately changing her accent and sounding more ‘well-spoken’, which was quite bizarre. She was red-faced and flustered.

“You must be June”, she continued, “you’re the lady who is wanting some help with your new horse I believe?” the lady looked quite embarrassed.

“Yes please!” said June smiling and then introduced us all. “This is Phillipa, she’s our Susan’s new riding instructor.”

“Right well I’ll just nip to the loo and then perhaps you can get Beatrix ready?” said Phillipa as she composed herself and marched off towards the toilet.

“Oh dear! I didn’t think about how I would manage to bring Beatrix in from the field,” said June, biting her lip and looking suddenly very stressed.

“I’ll get her don’t you worry!” said Jack.

“Well that’s very kind but I can’t keep relying on all of you,” replied June gratefully. “I am a silly old woman. Susan was right, I shouldn’t be doing this!”

“Now it’s your turn to be told to stop worrying!” said Jack. “It’s really not a problem for any of us to bring Beatrix down for you. Come on ladies, let’s go and get her!”

Jack got Beatrix’s headcollar and Sally and I walked with her up the path towards the field.

“Did anybody bring any fly spray?” I asked, as we opened the dreaded gate into the pony field.

“Oh for God sake are they still here? Brenda was meant to be selling them!” said Jack exasperatedly.

“She changed her mind. She’s going to get them trained!” laughed Sally.

“You are joking?” asked Jack.


“Well I look forward to seeing that!” smirked Jack. “Here they come, the two nutters, bloody hell.”

Sally leaped over the gate, even though I was half-way through opening it, and pulled out a party blower from her pocket. She took a deep breath and blew hard. The party blower uncurled and let out the most pathetic squeak which rendered us all helpless with laughter.

“Damn it’s broken!” said Sally “Never mind, I learned a new African tribal dance yesterday at work, it’s brilliant I’ll give that a go.”

“Oh God, don’t you’ll break a hip!” said Jack but it was too late. Sally had ‘launched’ and was doing a crazy routine which involved a lot of arm shaking and shouting. We were transfixed until she managed to trip up over her own feet and ended up in a pile of poo which was, luckily, quite dry. Sally swore very loudly. The fells snorted, backed away then spun and ran for cover under their favourite tree.

Sally came hobbling back, huffing and puffing.

“I’ve pulled a muscle!” she grimaced, rubbing her leg.

“And you’ve got poo on your face too!” laughed Jack, wiping it off for her.

We continued up the track to the horse field with no further issues and discovered that Beatrix was having a lovely time, rolling in some mud. She stood up and shook herself off looking very pleased with herself.

Not expecting any problems, as Beatrix had been so amenable, Jack walked over to put her headcollar on. You can imagine her surprise, therefore, when Beatrix put her ears flat back and bit her on the arm.

“Ouch! You little shit-bag!” yelled Jack, rubbing her arm. Beatrix didn’t move.

“Wow! I wasn’t expecting that!” I said.

“Neither was I. That really hurt!” said Jack, examining the teeth marks on her arm.

Jack tried again, this time more carefully and she managed to avoid Beatrix’s jaws and got the headcollar on.

“Come on you bugger!” said Jack and brought her towards the gate. The first thing Beatrix did when she got to us was nip both me and Sally at lightning fast speed.

“Christ what the hell!” yelped Sally as she leaped out of the way. “She’s like a naughty dog!” We all rubbed our arms very crossly.

The weird thing was that Beatrix was very easy to lead, she walked very nicely but she tried to nip us a few times on the walk back to the barn.

June was very surprised to hear about Beatrix’s bitey-ness but luckily, she stood quietly to be groomed and tacked up and was fine to lead out to the school.

We all waited by the rails and watched as Phillipa took over and led Beatrix to the mounting block because she was going to ride first to find out how much schooling Beatrix had had.

Just as Phillipa was about to get on, Beatrix snatched at the reins, brought her head round and gave her a nip on her thigh.

“Ow! You little b***ard!” said Phillipa and smacked Beatrix on the nose hard enough for us to hear it.

“Ooh I don’t like that!” said June.

“Well I don’t like being bitten!” replied Phillipa. “She has to learn her manners!”

Phillipa had Beatrix on a tight rein and managed to get on without being bitten but we could all see that Beatrix was unhappy as again her ears were flat back.

“Walk on!” instructed Phillipa firmly and gave Beatrix a sharp, unnecessary kick in the ribs. Beatrix began to walk very fast.

“That was a bit harsh,” I said to June.

“Hmm yes, I’m not sure I like this lady.” replied June, folding her arms. Phillipa couldn’t hear because she was walking away from us up the long side of the school.

Beatrix walked round the school a few times but looked very uncomfortable with the short rein that Phillipa had her on.

“We’ll try a trot now!” Phillipa called out and gave Beatrix another hard kick in the ribs which only resulted in making her walk faster.

“Trot on!” shouted Phillipa, thwacking her with a crop and kicking even harder. That was the last straw for Beatrix who lost her temper and reared up, successfully dumping Phillipa onto the ground behind her. Luckily for Phillipa it was a soft landing so she wasn’t hurt but she was furious. She jumped to her feet, grabbed the reins and whacked Beatrix on the face.

June exploded! She leaped out of her wheelchair and marched into the school.

“Touch my horse again and I’ll have you arrested you horrible woman!” she shouted.

“Do you want this horse training or not?” demanded Phillipa, quite aggressively. “She needs to learn discipline!”

“Hitting an animal is no way to teach discipline you ignorant cow!” exclaimed June.

Phillipa opened her mouth to retort but June was by no means finished.

“Hitting will only make her scared and a scared horse is NOT a safe horse! I am disgusted by your behaviour and I’ll be calling the British Horse Society to complain! You should not be allowed to teach!”

“You won’t get anywhere with that horse if you’re going to be soft with her!” said Phillipa finding her voice again.

“It is very possible to be firm and kind at the same time, lady. You have got a lot to learn about life. Now get out of here I don’t want to hear another word from you!” June was a powerhouse and that was all it took to silence Phillipa who walked away without uttering another word.

“Wow!” we all said at the same time, rushing into the school.

“That was amazing!” said Sally. We were all awe-struck.

“I can’t abide cruelty to animals.” said June, a bit shaky from the shock of it all. “I believe there are better ways to train horses!”

“Yes absolutely!” I agreed. “I can recommend my instructor. She’s very firm but very kind.”

“Well that sounds more like it,” said June, leaning on Beatrix to steady herself and giving her a kiss. “I can’t believe our Susan has lessons with such a horrible woman! Ooh my back I think I’ve jarred it.”

“Not surprised after all that!” said Sally grabbing hold of June and helping her back to her wheelchair. “I’m so impressed with how you handled that woman.”

I was just about to agree when I noticed Poppy’s owner approaching along with her daughter.

“Oh yikes, they’re here!” I said, suddenly feeling sick with worry again.

“Good luck and don’t worry it’ll be fine!” said Jack, patting me on the back.

I left June and the others and went to meet Poppy’s owner and daughter who were by now opening the field gate and walking towards me. I felt quite ill with apprehension but put a brave face on.

“Hello!” I said, with as much cheer as I could muster.

“Hello!” said Poppy’s owner and introduced me to her daughter whose name was Donna.

Donna was only 17 and she was very tall and stunningly beautiful with waist-length blond hair and dazzling sapphire blue eyes. Her long fingers were perfectly manicured and she was very well-dressed as if for a night out, not for a horse ride.

We walked up to the field and Bernie, Poppy’s owner, asked me how we were getting on so I told her all about my lessons and the hacks out etc. I wanted her to see I was looking after her well.

“That sounds great! Horses take a lot of time and effort, don’t they?” said Bernie.

“Yes she certainly swallows up all my spare time!” I agreed.

“They’re not a pet that you can just come and go as you please are they?” Bernie gave me a sly wink. “It’s a lot of hard work.”

We had arrived at the field and Poppy was busy grazing and didn’t even bother to look up. Through gritted teeth, I invited Donna to go and get her and gave her the headcollar.

“I’m hoping this won’t go well,” whispered Bernie as Donna walked towards Poppy, “She’s been talking about Poppy for weeks but I know what she’s like. She’ll love her for about a fortnight and then she’ll be off with her mates leaving it for me to go and do all the work and I don’t have time for horses anymore!”

I instantly felt huge relief to hear that Bernie was not keen to take Poppy back.

“Let’s hope Pops ignores her and this nonsense will be over!” laughed Bernie. And, sure enough, Poppy did pretty much ignore Donna. She looked up but didn’t react and when Donna tried to get the headcollar on, Poppy did her usual thing of walking off to eat somewhere else.

“Thank God for that, good girl Poppy keep moving!” chuckled Bernie and Poppy kept walking. Donna looked over to us, shrugged her shoulders and walked back.

“I don’t think I’ll bother, she’s not interested.” said Donna, slightly sadly, but not too terribly upset. “I thought she’d remember me a bit more!”

“I’m sure she does remember you,” I said feeling a bit sorry for her.

“You can’t expect Poppy to come running just because you fancy a ride love! Horses need regular interaction and a steady routine.” said Bernie, very matter-of-factly.

“Mmmm s’pose so,” mumbled Donna and then her phone pinged so she began texting her friends. Bernie raised her eyebrows at me. “Why don’t you go back to the car, Donna, and I’ll have a quick chat with Grace?” Donna remained glued to her phone as she wandered back to the car.

“Well that’s a relief, I can tell you!” said Bernie when Donna was well out of earshot. “The last thing I want is to look after a horse again!”

“I’m relieved too! I’ve really grown to love Poppy and I was worried this might be the end.” I said.

“Don’t worry, Donna’s not cut out for responsibility she’s too busy with her mates. I’m so glad that we found you, we couldn’t have asked for a better person to look after Poppy,” smiled Bernie. “I’m hoping that one day Donna will agree to let you buy her, if you’d like to but it’s too early to bring that up with her now.”

I was stunned. I had not thought about ever owning a horse because of the expense but I knew I didn’t want to be parted from Poppy.

“I’d love to buy her!” I said throwing caution to the wind.

“Ok well give it a few weeks and I’ll start to mention it and see how Donna takes it.” said Bernie.

I was bursting with excitement as I dashed back into the barn after Bernie drove off and everyone rushed over.

“Well, what happened?” asked Jack smiling, she could tell instantly it was good news.

“Poppy did her usual and walked off so Donna couldn’t catch her and she gave up trying and Bernie wants me to buy her so she’s going to see if Donna will let her be sold in a few weeks!” I was so excited it all came out in a jumble of tears and laughter.

“Oh brilliant!” said Jack grinning, handing me a tissue. “You daft lump I told you not to panic!”

June gave me a hug and I dissolved into floods of tears from the pure relief.

“Horses!” laughed Sally, “Who’d have ‘em?!”

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