Dispatches From The North

Tania Kindersley lives in the North East of Scotland with two amiable lab collie crosses and one very grumpy Gloucester Old Spot pig. She co-wrote Backwards In High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female, with Sarah Vine.

Back to reality

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 26 June 2013
After the extreme highs and lows of The Royal Meeting - all the intense emotion, beating hopes, absurd bets, ridiculous shouts - I go back to my normal routine. The swifts are doing Spitfire imitations around the paddock, the ducks are teaching their young to swim on the burn, the baby rabbits are ruthlessly eating the garden and effortlessly evading the rather scattered hunting instincts of Stanley the Dog. After a week in front of the television, I emerge blinking into the light and notice that the peonies and the astrantias are out. The white lilac is still blooming, and the dog roses are suddenly in full flower. These things seem to happen overnight.

I return to my work, fingers bash bash bashing away on the keyboard. My week off has done nothing for my shaky time management, and I revert, as usual, to my customary half an hour behind. Everything seems very normal.

Then, at nine-thirty at night there is a heavy rap on my door and I find my neighbour standing outside saying those dread words: ‘The horses are out.’

I’m not sure we shall ever get to the bottom of it. Our famously placid herd, with whom we have worked so hard on desensitising that they will walk without a twitch over shiny tarpaulins, past flapping sheets, under waving flags, suddenly went so mysteriously loco that they completely smashed and trashed a section of sturdy post and rails. My two girls share a paddock with a little American Paint filly, and her owner rushes down with me in the bright Scottish night light to see the devastation.

The neighbour, amazingly, goes off to get serious joinery tools and manages to fix most of the fence before the light started fading at 11pm. The other neighbour roars up in his truck and hurries off to check the bounds for intruders or any possible thing that may have spooked the mares enough to produce such an uncharacteristic reaction. The Paint’s owner and I are torn between gratitude at such kindness and utter bafflement at how such a thing could have happened. The most inexplicable aspect is that the broken rails are forced and splintered from the outside in, not, as you would expect, from the inside out. The angles are all wrong.

Even more astonishing, the two big mares (the little one has not joined in the mayhem, and is found grazing peacefully inside the paddock as if nothing has happened) have only suffered a couple of surface scratches, nothing that can’t be fixed up with a good application of the miraculous Wound Cream which rightly carries the seal of Royal Appointment. The thing which finally makes us laugh is that having somehow barged out of their field, the errant pair are found by the top gate, trying to get back in, as if to say: so sorry, our mistake.

The two miscreants, safely back in the field, looking as if butter would not melt in their innocent mouthsThe two miscreants, safely back in the field, looking as if butter would not melt in their innocent mouths

All horse owners dread this kind of thing. Horse people tell each other grisly tales of this equine which ran all the way to the village trailing a bit of broken fence behind it, or that poor gelding which smashed its way through a gate in the middle of the night, or this accident-prone foal which got itself tangled up in electric fencing. Horses, so big and bonny and strong, half a ton of sinew and muscle, are also shatteringly fragile. One wrong step can bring them down.

We have been lucky so far, so our summer night drama came out of the blue, shocking us to the core. Thanks to whatever fates watch over the field, and the kindness of neighbours, the story ended happily. Although I realise that up till now I have perhaps been too sanguine and cavalier, and am contemplating laying in some strong brandy for any future emergencies. The horses can get by on love and reassurance and Wound Cream; I need hard liquor.
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