Monday, 26 January 2009


I was told the other week, by someone who knows far more about the subject than I, that horses have a natural aversion to Lions. Even with being the sceptic that I am I first thought that that was obvious, it followed natural logic, any horse with half an eye on survival would, presumably like any mammal keen on adding its genes to the pool would definitely be very cautious when faced by the King of the Beasts. Especially if it was close to dinner time.

But then the inner sceptic kicked in, a question bubbled to the surface and required an answer, how does a horse based solely in the UK, who has never left these shores yet alone travelled to the plains of the Serengeti know what a Lion looks like. How on earth would they know they should be scared, and of what, I mean how do they recognise the danger posed by the mangy maned predator?

The truth is they don't, horses therefore operate on the safe than sorry principle where the solution is to be scared of everything just in case its a Lion.

So tonight when I set off around the hill to see the Technohermit to deliver his bag of potatoes I took Apollo, the horsey looking one pictured above, to give him a bit of exercise and experience "the darkness" under my supervision. Now readers of these pages will know that I know as much about horses as I do about, er, well Lions I suppose, so everything associated with equine behaviour to me is part of the near vertical learning curve that I set off on once I decided that what I really needed on the smallholding was a trainee heavy horse to do a lot of the donkey work. No offense. If I had been told just over two years ago that I would be wrestling a small pony in the dark rather than sat in a nice modern three bed terrace watching Sky on my 56 inch plasma I would have thought you mental. As I spent part of this evening more or less trying to coax him down from a tree into which he leapt because he confused a Rabbit for a Lion about to attack then it is I who is in need of medication and a straight jacket.

Spuds in one hand Apollo in the other we set off with the magnificent seven down the track that leads to the Technohermits cave. The first Lion we encountered hooted suspiciously like an Owl which caused my less than brave little pony want to walk with his left shoulder wedged under my right armpit. A slight disparity in weight caused us to merry go round every twenty yards or so which made us obvious prey for the Lions who like sharks sense the fear. The second Lion shot past at the speed of dog followed in close formation by six others, Apollo convinced now that these were in fact the real deal reared up and then kicked me on the knee cap not quite hard enough to make me cry but hard enough. My soothing words (yes I have seen the horse whisperer) eventually calmed the frantic beast so much so that the next Lion, his hoof hitting an unexpected noisy patch of gravel only caused him to bolt and luckily I was ready for this so he only got as far as the length of the lead rope before he dived back under my armpit.

Undeterred the Lions rallied and launched another attack, this time in the form of a puddle, the shock of which caused a near vertical jump that nearly left both pony and owner hanging from the trees. I kept up a monologue of calm words, had he understood English he would have known the words were in fact a description of what would happen to him if he carried on. We got to the Technohermits dwelling and once he was coaxed to the entrance I handed him his potatoes. He rather cleverly noticed I had a horse with me who was now hiding right behind me just in case.

Mercy mission done we were halfway, all we had to do was get back without more Lions finding us. Well inevitably they did in the form of a tree, a gateway, the Beagles, a star and my coat. When, finally, we entered the sanctuary of the anti aircraft lights guarding the stable we were both so traumatised by the preceeding 45 minutes that the sound of fox calling from the end of our lane (similar to a werewolf being castrated with rusty butter knives) neither of us reacted other than to stare at each other blankly as I shut his stable door.

The temptation to dress up in a Lion costume or decorate his stable with appropriate photographs from The National Geographic to teach him the difference between predator and falling leaf were disaapated when as I turned to sort the magnificent seven, who were now mustering round the feed bowls, Apollo leant over his stable door and gave me the biggest wettest kiss on the lips its possible for a horse to give a man.

Bless him.
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