I have been the owner of an animal for ten days, and he is still alive. But there are nevertheless a fairly regular number of things that could kill him. This week, so far, massive territorial horses, and rain.
The massive horses were my own stupid fault. I had seen how excited he was by them from the other side of the fence a few days before, gazing at them like a hobbit teenager looking at a poster of elvish warriors, but still Chico, Mum and me blundered into their field. Perhaps encouraged by the fact that the right of way went through there, and the short path from our corner to the next was symbolically delineated by a row of trees. It made no difference, of course – the moment we were in there the six giant beasts bore down on us, covering 200m as if they had teleported through my patchy, petrified memory. Mum let Chico go (thankfully guardian angel Carol had told me that morning not to hang on and risk shoulder injury, except on roads).
One dirty white mare stormed right up to Chico; all I remember is the ribs showing through her great round chest as she made herself extra big, swaggering wildly at him. Chico raced back and forth along the fence, and mum reports that I said, calmly, “I don’t like this at all”. I don’t remember that – I just remember incanting ‘fuck!’, over and over again, under my breath, whilst moving through the field with legs of treacle, like in a nightmare. Two types of strong animal, both bigger than us, neither of which I know anything much about, loose in a field. Would the horses kill Chico? I’d heard that one was a stallion, and that his owner was worried in case someone rode a horse through the field and got squashed in a horse-sex sandwich. Could the stallion mistake Chico for a girl? I read that a male horse and female donkey make a hinney (a mule’s parents are the other way around), but looking at the fearsome difference of scale in this case I suspected it would just make for the traumatic demise of the donkey. And a pact between Mum and I never to tell anyone how Chico had so rudely reached the end of his mortal coil.
I was dazed by my imagination’s vision of horror, but Mum was all action hero. “I’ll see the horses off, you get Chico!” she called. She’s at least a foot shorter than me, but evidently six times as brave. She faced the horses down, right off to the other side of the field and, as she reported later, “Told them off for being big bullies.” I went after Chico, who amazingly let me close enough to catch him, by the trailing lead rope.
He bolted again, giving me a good handful of rope burns, when Mum turned away from the horses on the other side of the field, and they reinflated themselves, causing terror or excitement in Chico at 200 paces. My sunglasses flew off with the whiplash, but I clung on and he stopped. Then another bolt attempt when he spotted some elvish warrior dung to smell. But I got him out of there. He didn’t seem rattled at all, and neither did Mum, arriving back from the other side of the field and retrieving my sunglasses. My insides turned uncomfortably liquidy as the adrenaline coursed through me.
The rest of the walk – farmyard with dog and bearded lady, then a busy road – passed without incident, but I might as well have had a tiger on the end of the lead rope for all the calming down I was able to do. “I think you were in shock,” chirped unflappable Mum. “Maybe we polarised each other – one of us had to be the brave one,” she suggested generously. I think I am in shock. This happened on Monday and I’m only just writing about it on Saturday.
Chico plants his feet whenever we get back to his field – he doesn’t want to go back in. He’s a donkey with a hunger for adventure, which is what made me like him in the first place. But I’m now planting my feet on the inside of the field – I don’t want to take him out, let alone right around a whole country. He’s fine, it’s me I’m worried about.