Mindy Hammond’s ponies run amok amid gales, floods and flurries of snow03/12/2020
Life isn’t easy for a lot of us following the Christmas hiatus. After all the fun, we find ourselves coping with a lengthy slog through January (which feels like the longest month of the year) and breathing a sigh of relief as February arrives and we can start looking forward to spring.
Then what happens? Gale-force winds strong enough to strip the last remaining leaves from the trees, flooding for poor souls still trying to recover from the last water ingress, snow sprinkled in for extra inconvenience and, in case any of us emerge practically unscathed, this year the fates decide to go all out and throw coronavirus into the mix… just for fun.
I thought we’d managed to escape damage- free. In fact, during my long-distance call with my very concerned husband, I happily reported, “We’re all fine, no dramas… I had to track down horse rugs that had blown across the fields but apart from that – and quite a few skinny branches littering the ground – no problems at all.”
Why do I do that? Why tempt fate so blatantly?
The next morning, the rain had stopped and the wind dropped from 50 to 30mph gusts. The horses had been incredibly patient, coping admirably with 48 hours in their stables, so it seemed fair to let them stretch their legs, if only for a few hours before the wind picked up again.
While waiting for his paddock gate to be opened, mild-mannered Finn, who had been slightly lame before his enforced box rest, felt one whoosh of wind between his legs and managed to rear (he never rears). Admittedly, his front hooves only rose a foot above the ground, but in Finn’s mind he’d performed a pirouette. He was so pleased, he galloped off down the field, slowing to a trot in the far corner, tail vertical, and glancing all around as if waiting for applause.
I suspect Romeo witnessed his neighbour’s performance because when it was his turn he had already decided on his showpiece. The second he was free of his head collar, he spun 180 degrees and headed for the electric tape, checked his stride then sailed clean over it with a foot to spare. He landed, bucked three times, then galloped two circuits, overjoyed at his arrival on forbidden ground, his rug flapping in the breeze.
Relieved nobody had injured themselves, I carried on with my daily duties in the cold, blustering wind and tried not to swear as soiled shavings blew off the back of the little truck into my face.
Rosie the donkey was braying her head off, eager for her daily feed of hay. As the track to her field was a mudslide, I tied half a bale securely with twine, threw it into the wheelbarrow and set off down the track to her and her pony friends, only to be met halfway by Chico, our miniature Shetland.
He’d escaped from his paddock and his best friend, Scout, was zooming back and forth along the fence line trying to find the exit to join him.
Chico trotted merrily towards me at the sight of the sweet-smelling hay but checked himself at the last moment, suddenly remembering he was on the wrong side of the fence, turned tail and scurried off into the distance. I had to chuckle – his cheeky little buck as he set off showed the wind blowing through the trees wasn’t the only thing in the air…
My sense of humour was seriously failing two hours later. I had driven every inch of the land before finally catching up with “cheeky Cheeks”, as he’s affectionately known. Realising he was about to be caught, the little devil shot through the entrance to the dingle (inaccessible to vehicles) and almost gave me a heart attack as he briefly considered a trot across the slippery wooden walkway at the edge of the pond.
Fortunately, his front hooves skidded on impact and he thought better of the idea, scurrying up the shallow bank instead. Even better, because he’d never been in there before, the little rascal didn’t realise he was heading for a dead end.
Icy rain was falling, the mud was slick under my feet and I was wet through, but I knew I had to play a waiting game to outwit my naughty pony. I found a treat in my pocket and after waiting five or six minutes watched as his head went down to graze and walked calmly towards him. “Hello Cheeks, what a good boy,” I crooned, hand outstretched with my one, slightly damp horse treat.
The second his hairy nose came into contact with my hand, I threw a lead rope around his neck.
He didn’t even flinch – and walked angelically back to his paddock where I discovered a horizontal fence pole had broken. I used the lead rope to tie the fence back together and returned home to find several tiles missing from the barn roof, leaving a gaping hole, and Izzy’s bedroom window letting in a steady drip of rainwater.
Yep, no dramas at all…
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