Do you have an “other” one? No, I don’t mean your other half, or the kind of “others” that haunted Nicole Kidman in that scary film.
I mean the “other” equine. Your horse’s companion, or your friend’s horse that shares his field. It may be your child’s pony, your husband’s horse or one you’ve taken in because he’s got nowhere else to go. He or she may even be the horse that’s trying to replace the irreplaceable one you lost. But this horse is not “your” horse; the one for whom you would lay down in front of a truck to prevent him coming to harm.
In this blog I write a lot about Pom, the Spanish grey, who has been the mount “on duty” for the past two years. There has been a lot to write about him because we had a very difficult beginning together, so much so that I thought I’d made a terrible mistake in buying him. And that made our hard-won progress together especially satisfying. I couldn’t contemplate life without him now.
I also write a lot about Aly, my gorgeous, old chestnut Selle Français. Although our riding days are long past, the valiant spirit of this once so-handsome horse – who has grappled on to life through terrible colics and excruciating emphysema – still has a hold on my heart.
But what about the other one; the little skewbald at the forefront of the header picture? What about the Pie?
After we brought the horses in to the stables tonight, I brushed the worst of the mud off them all and picked their hooves out as usual and my heart went out to poor old Pie, who, despite the medication, is getting stiffer and stiffer. And yet he makes the effort, if I just about prop him up (thank goodness he’s not that big), to give his hooves willingly. I noticed his mane was in need of a bit of TLC and as I gave him a good brush and tidy, I felt guilty that he is often last in line for those little bits of extra care and attention that we do without question for the “one” or in this case the two that come first for me. And he has to put up with only fleeting guest appearances in this blog!
In fact he is supposed to be my husband’s horse, but whilst the husband is fantastic at generally keeping the whole show on the road, he’s not into those small individual details that tend to come naturally from a female owner. And whilst I was trying to settle Pom in the early days, he was overcompensating to make sure Aly didn’t feel neglected.
So, the mystery Pie, what is he really like? He’s canny and cheery, always on the lookout for food; squeals like a piglet if either of the others threatens to share his haynet or give him a nip, but can’t bear to be alone. He’s about 15hh, slightly cobby, certainly around the fetlocks and the nose, but has particularly beautiful, large light brown eyes and a characteristically sceptical expression that implies, “Did you really mean that?”
We hadn’t planned to buy a horse for my husband; he had ridden occasionally but preferred horses from a ground-based viewpoint. Aly seemed quite happy being the treasured only boy, but this pesky little skewbald who had arrived with new neighbours a half a mile up the lane kept escaping and trying to get into his field. Like the proverbial boomerang, every time I caught him up and led him home, he’d be back again in a few days. In the face of such determination, I suggested to the owners that they let him share Aly’s field. They were relieved to find him safe grazing; they were building a house and had a new baby and the little horse had somehow ended up with the non-riding party after a previous separation.
Aly was underwhelmed. He made sure the Pie knew that this was his home, his people, every blade if grass had his name on it. Pie didn’t care. He now belonged to a herd, if only a herd of two. If Mr. Snotty wanted to lord it over him, he would be Baldrick to Aly’s Blackadder, Tonto to his Lone Ranger. And so we eventually bought him and the Pie taught Eric to ride and was a wonderful second horse to have around for anyone who wanted to ride with me and Aly. Bomb-proof enough for a beginner, he could go like a bullet if you asked him out on a hack, but he absolutely detested riding in a school; he was rumoured to have been a riding school horse at one time and I expect he’d carted his fair share of potato sacks round and round.
However, if anyone has put a muddy hoof in a newly cleaned trough or managed to get droppings in his water bucket, whose stable is always the messiest to clean out and whose coat clings on to mud like no one else’s ….. it will be the Pie. Yet if you need a calm one to lead the others away from danger or into a trailer or past the scary monster or to keep a bumptious Pom in his place, the Pie’s your man – and I wouldn’t want to be without him.
Now while I think about it, I’ll just go and see if he fancies a morsel of carrot…..