I'm never too sure whether I like horses. Of all the animals on the "farm", horses are the ones I haven't really got the hang of.
I'm always painfully aware that the whole human-horse relationship is based on nature's most gigantic confidence trick. Horses are big (even the small ones) and, by and large, pretty strong. People tend to be much smaller and less powerful, especially, it would seem, in the case of those who ride horses. You don't see many jockeys playing prop for Harlequins on their days off, do you?
That's why I struggle to like and respect horses. If they had the brains of, say, a pig or a Jack Russell, they'd probably be standing for Parliament by now. . . well, county council at least.
Another reason I'm iffy about horses is that they're unpredictable. Dotty the mare is from the darkest bandit country of South Armagh, which probably explains a lot. All those late-night raids by the SAS can fray the nerves of the strongest among us. Why they can't turn up at a reasonable hour (11am for coffee, perhaps?) is beyond me.
Anyhoo. . . Dotty's also in foal, which explains even more, but only up to a point. I recall ex-Mrs Malc being a tad on the kranky side while pregnant, but she never tried to remove my head with a well-aimed hoof. Maybe she just never thought of it.
All the old goalkeeper* reflexes have come in handy just lately, especially at dusk (about 3.45 here at present) when Dotty is in a hurry to get at the dinner-pail.
I quickly realised that chasing her wasn't going to work, even if my knees had been up to it. Stalking her proved to be a pain in the rear and gentle persuasion was a dismal failure. We have a professional horseperson in the family and Amy even tried to talk me through it over the phone in the manner of a 70s disaster movie. "Use the bridle, show her who's in charge," she said. "If I can get f**king close enough, and she knows exactly who's in charge," I thought.
Yesterday, in a change of routine, she gave up trying to kick me with her back feet and tried bucking and rearing in the style of Champion the Wonderhorse, alerting the townsfolk to a landslide in the pass.
"What's up Champion? Is there trouble down at Broken Wheel Ranch?"
"No, I'm just worried those two shortarse Shetlands will get to my tea before me."
I then pulled my masterstroke. Bribery. A quick visit to the veg garden later, carrots were handed over, bridle was applied and the pig "farmer" was leading herself in like he knew what he was doing.
You never have this kind of trouble with pigs.
* Shrewsbury hockey club 3rd XI 1982.
Dotty and Amy in action before some big competition winner had his way with her (Dotty)