The horse lorry arrived and lowered its ramp — and I stood in front of it knowing that my thoroughbred was not going to load.
We were already beyond stressed, having been told our lease at the farm was not being renewed, and with the shooting season bearing down on us. In one week the guns would be going off around us. The horses had to be moved.
But this blasted ramp was covered in beige carpet. If it had been red carpet, Darcy might have been happy. She is so precious, so oversensitive, so self-absorbed that I have no doubt she would have appreciated a red carpet.
But lumpy beige carpet? Oh, no no no.
The old boy explained that his rubber-lined ramp had just been replaced and the new one he had hurriedly covered thus.
‘Here, you take her,’ I said to the builder boyfriend, handing him the lead rope, because Darcy loves the BB.
I took the pony, who bustled along, looking about. Nothing fazes her, but Darcy’s eyes were out on stalks. As we walked through the front gate towards the lorry on the driveway, with its aberration of a beige carpet, she skidded to a halt, front feet way out in front of her, head in the air, as if to say ‘You have GOT to be kidding!’
I took the pony in front, stepped on the ramp, pulled slightly and the trusting little soul stepped up straightaway and let me lead her to the far side of the lorry and tie her up with a haynet. The old boy closed the partition. The BB pulled on Darcy’s rope, rubbed her withers, cooed and begged, but she didn’t move a muscle.
The pony, seeing that her friend wasn’t coming, went berserk. As Darcy refused to budge, we saw the pony’s front hooves coming over the top of the partition.
‘She’s coming off!’ I shouted, and the old boy flung the partition back. I grabbed the lead rope and let the pony skedaddle back down. The BB tried again with Darcy who promptly reared in the air and dragged him halfway down the drive and back.
‘In the field!’ I yelped and he agreed.
We paid the man off and sent him away. The next day, we asked my trainer to come.
He arrived in a lorry with a rubber-covered ramp and lots of lunge lines. We led Darcy towards the ramp in her bridle this time for extra purchase, but she planted her feet and refused. I led the pony up and stood with her on the lorry for half an hour with the partition open while my trainer wrestled with Darcy. He coaxed and coaxed and did something with a lunge line whereby he stood on the lorry pulling, then releasing when she made even the slightest move to get on.
During breaks in the action, I watched a YouTube video with a cowboy doing the same thing. ‘Pull… and release… pull… now big release…’ After fast forwarding to the end, I realised this went on for hours.
And I was paying my trainer by the hour. After several rounds of pull… release, which were more like pull… horse flings self in air… trainer falls down ramp, he drove his lorry into the field so Darcy could fling herself about more safely and then he realised he was stuck in the field. We had to call a farmer to come in a tractor to tow him out. The BB paid the farmer off and I paid the trainer off. He went home with the bit between his teeth, insisting he was coming back.
‘She won’t load,’ said the BB, ‘so you’ll have to ride her there, and I’ll walk the pony.’ We looked at a map and reckoned it would take three hours cross country.
That night, I scoured the internet and found a woman who had an especially long list of testimonials.
A few days later, she arrived in a custom- built two-loader, pulled down an extremely low, short ramp and said, vape in mouth:
‘I can’t hang about.’
Holding a wild-eyed Darcy, I explained that she might have to hang about. But she ignored me completely and took the rope out of my hands.
She did not touch Darcy. She just nodded and said, very quietly: ‘Yeah, this one’ll fight you if you force her.’ Somehow, in the space of minutes, she silently convinced Darcy to follow her up the ramp. She then drove all the way there at ten miles an hour.
At the other end, with Darcy and pony safely in their new field, I put this woman’s not inconsiderable fee into her hand with a big tip. The BB, almost crying with relief, grabbed her hand back and pushed another wad of cash into it.
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