In a world where all trouble must have a demonstrable cause, horses pose a problem. There may have been a reason why my ordinarily millpond-calm cob threw me off the other day, but who can tell? A burr under the saddle, a wasp in the tail, a bellyful of fresh grass, a stiffening wind, Aries rising Mars in Sagittarius?

Either way, George provided a kinetic illustration of a theory I had been expounding only days before we parted company in the woods. Regretfully, the irony cannot be felt over the pain in my bruised foot. My unoriginal point had been that, as society’s exposure to animals declines, so does our understanding of the eternal verities they exemplify. For even domesticated animals are wilful. That includes species that are making the best fist of this atomised 21st century of ours. The tabby cat still reminds his live-alone owner that nature is red in tooth and claw every time an eviscerated mouse turns up on the doorstep.

But the facts of life only really come from an animal that can kill you. It was futile to call out sweetly to George as he fizzed – riderless – towards an A road throbbing with traffic. The sound of a tub of pony nuts being shaken was the only realistic chance of a recall. As truly horsey-types will tell you, don’t try and treat half a ton of horse like your BFF.

We may be increasingly sentimental and soft-headed in our human interactions, but animals still ply a rough trade in survival. Which might be why people who work with them often seem so engagingly out of step with modern mores.


I don’t know whether policemen are really looking any younger, but I think they may be better groomed (in the metrosexual, not the equestrian sense). The three officers who turned out to reports of a loose horse all looked fresh from a photoshoot at Men’s Health. Two had hipster beards, the other a sleeve tattoo.

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