Real life

I’m getting another horse — but it’s not for me

2 November 2019

9:00 AM

2 November 2019

9:00 AM

Sitting on the train to Surrey, I was halfway home and texted the builder boyfriend to say when I would be at the station. But instead of texting me back to say he would be there, the BB messaged to inform me that I had driven my car into town.

‘What are you doing on the train?’ he asked. I texted back to say I didn’t know. The car was parked in Clapham. I leapt up as the train was pulling into Surbiton. I threw myself off, and ran up the steps and over to the opposite platform where a train to Waterloo was just arriving.

I sat on this train puzzling about where my mind had gone. I have been wandering around in a daze since poor Gracie left us. Since her passing, I have been at a complete loose end, my routine in tatters. After the shock, the terrible boredom of unending loss settled down.

I was in the habit of rising very early to go to the field to feed and check her and the thoroughbred, Darcy. And at the end of each day, I would go back there again to spend time with them, walk the dogs. Usually, I would ride one of them.

After the pony went on her way, I had to move Darcy to a stable yard as she was on her own. She had horses on the other side of the fence but as they were geldings I worried she wouldn’t settle.

The stable yard, which is run by friends, was doing a fantastic job of looking after her. But after a week of not having to do the horses I was lost. Waking at dawn, if it had not been for the dogs jumping on my head, I don’t know how I would have got up.

As with all bereavements, the first thought in my head was the hideous ‘oh no she’s still gone’.

I would visit Darcy in the stable yard. But it wasn’t the same. I didn’t have anything to do. It would have been all right, perhaps, if I had been able to ride. But Darcy was hot as hell. She is always like this when stabled.

After a good night’s sleep in a box she wakes up in the morning with the devil in her eyes. Her head comes over the door teeth first as you bring her breakfast bowl which she snatches from you before you can put it down. When she has finished eating, she throws it back over the door.

The guy who turned her out into the field each morning told me she had him skiing on the end of a rope with his feet barely touching the ground. This behaviour was all very well in the racing yard, when her job each morning was to fly me round a track.

But now she’s a happy hacker, with a bit of showjumping once a week, it’s really not what you want. I’m getting too old to be catapulted about by a red-hot thoroughbred.

Her trainer was adamant I should put her back in the field. So I hacked her down there and after a lesson in her old jumping paddock, we untacked her and let her loose in her former home.

She was happy as Larry instantly. Still, I worried that without a friend she might come over the fence. The BB put an extra battery pack on the fence line to be sure.

We crept away and hid, watching her from behind a hedge. She was fine, grazing up and down near the geldings in the field next door.

Every now and then the two big coloured cobs, one piebald, one skewbald, would come over to see her. The piebald even gave her a kiss. With the boys looking after her so well, I felt much better.

But a few days later, I caught sight of her standing next to the fence line, her head reached right over so that she and the piebald could groom each other.

Horses need to be with horses. It’s not just sight and smell, it’s touch that matters too. They are not so different from human animals. We all need physical contact.

That night, the builder b got on the phone to his mother, who has a yard full of horses down in Sussex. It was she who found us Darcy in a sale. She is an extraordinary woman, being one of those people of very few words who can communicate with animals better than with humans. I always enjoy spending time with her. If we go for lunch at the pub, I know we will sit in comfortable silence.

I can’t believe I am saying this as I swore I would not get another horse. But it’s not for me, it’s for Darcy.

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