The Great Escape

What an emotional rollercoaster of a day.

It began with a form of – if there is such a thing – frenetic tranquillity: the still clearness of a gentle new day punctuated with the typically bustling round of chores as I worked to get my demanding animals fed, watered & cosy for the day.  As soon as that was completed I needed to hurry off to Horeb; not only to collect yet more gelato to sell but also because I had a Design Wales seminar on internet marketing to attend.  We’re very lucky here in Wales: because whilst we may not always get the help we’d hope for for in terms of actual grants, there are other resources which are provided free of charge to businesses & which are often a great help. 

Take the service Design Wales provides, for example – not only their excellent seminar series taking companies through the best way to market products, services & even themselves; but also being provided with a Design Advisor who guides the client through the whole process, hopefully getting not only the best value for money, but also an effective branding as a result; & I don’t know where we’d have been without the wonderful Malin, whose assistance has certainly helped to put ‘Lovespoon’ very firmly on the marketing map. 

I was keen to attend the seminar as I always gain so much from them; & today’s session was no exception, presenting a clear path through different markeing media & giving me plenty of food for thought & renewed enthusiasm for the task ahead.  Having loaded up the car with the heavy & painfully freezing napoli pans I hurried into town to do battle with the bank yet again owing to teething troubles with our new bank account (it’s very embarrassing when you can’t pay people for goods or services when you’ve made sure the money is available but then discover you cannot access it…!).

Subsequently, I didn’t get back to the farm until dusk was falling.  Having been in such a hurry during the morning I hadn’t had a chance to check on the ponies, who were turned out in Parc Dan Fordd – the Welsh name literally meaning the ‘Field Below the Road’ having as it does the only gateway on the farm which leads directly onto the lane, which marks our field boundaries from our neighbour’s property to down over the old stone bridge in the valley.

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Three out of four....Darwin, Toto & Sabe.

I instinctively had the feeling that something was wrong.   For some reason that same feeling of vague unease, had also been present earlier in the day; as I’d hurried between the pens with barrowloads of hay continually glancing up the hill to the ponies’ field.  However, I’d not spotted them.  But the hedgerows are high & thick; the fields are all extremely well fenced so I felt I had no real cause for concern.  After all, there was a dip in the field & when the weather was colder, they often tucked themselves down into this sheltered spot. 

So as the evening began to wrap the farm in a blanket of gathering gloom, I drew up in the truck, jumping out & surveying the field with typical anticipation, hoping the ponies would hurry over for their daily fuss as the chill was biting into my bones & I didn’t want to dawdle.  I did not spot the ponies straight away; however it was already growing dark & there were dips & bumps in the field where they might be hiding.  And after all, with Roly & Darwin being jet black, they were often lost against the darkness of the winter hedgerows….

With gathering impatience I opened the gate, & called the ponies’ names again.   But rather than the thundering hooves I’d expected, all that met me was the cold caress of the silent northeasterly wind.  By now imbued with an increasing sense of dread, I made my way around the field at a jog-trot; but there was now clearly no sign of the ponies – the field was definitely empty.  All the gates were closed; & they weren’t in any of the neighbouring pastures either.

 I decided to search the lower fields, in case they’d somehow escaped & made their way down to the farm – which had happened once before when Roly had been scratching his gargantuan backside on the field gate & had literally lifted it off the hinges.  But all the field gates were shut…..

It was only when I returned to the truck & inspected the gateway more closely, that I noticed the pillar which holds in the gate’s bolt had been damaged around the catch area; & I was sure that the last time I’d checked, the gate had been secured with a padlock & chain (because I normally check the ponies from the farm I seldom use the top gate).  A further inspection revealed my worst fears – four sets of hoof prints leading out of the gateway to the lane.  And there was a set of deeply-grooved tyre tracks, right beside the gateway…..I felt physically sick.

I rushed back to the farm & in the gathering darkness, fruitlessly searched the fields & farmyards below the house although I somehow already knew that they’d be empty.  There was only one thing left to do – call the police.  No, nobody had reported seeing any loose horses; & as it was by now almost dark, there was nothing which could be done this evening.  All I could do was sort out photos to give to the police, & find the ponies’ microchip numbers; & telephone friends & neighbours to ascertain whether anyone had seen or heard anything….& to warn other horse owners to lock up their equines – just in case.

I was overwhelmed at the kind local response, friends & neighbours bustling into purposeful action & the telephone soon constantly ringing with people either calling to say that they hadn’t seen or heard anything or just offering support; & others with snippets of information – such as a neighbour having noticed the gate was open, had closed it – knowing how particular I am about that sort of thing (I never unwittingly leave gates open).  So that mystery was solved….

I also had to break the bad news to my parents & to Tony, who was distraught – especially at the thought that he might never see his darling little Shetland, Sabe, again.  However he too had another piece of the jigsaw: the gate hadn’t been padlocked; because our contactor, in a hurry to access the field one day, had simply used his bolt croppers on the chain, & nobody had got round to replacing it.

At about 9pm, the telephone shrilled yet again.  It was a local friend, John; who had been ringing everyone in the neighbourhood whom he knew to have horses or even just a field into which the ponies might have wandered.  “Jo, it’s OK – I’ve found them!”  he pronounced cheerfully.  “And don’t worry, they’re all fine.”  Mere words cannot describe the overwhelming sense of relief I felt at that moment.   

“Oh, thank goodness – where are they?”  I asked, anticipating that they were probably only a couple of fields away.

“Over at Ffosaron”, he replied calmly.  I thought I’d misheard – Ffosaron is literally miles away – & on the main road.  “Cath told me,” he continued.  “They were found by the farm’s owners at around dawn, on the junction to the main road.  But nobody cottoned on that they were yours….”  I went cold – it was incredible that there hadn’t been a terrible accident: the horses are big & black; & wandering around on a very fast stretch of road at the beginning of the rush hour it was a miracle that their adventure had passed without incident. 

Rolypoly, solid in every sense of the word!

...& here's the big galoot: Rolypoly, solid in every sense of the word!

And whilst I was mildly surprised that nobody had advised either the police or our local vet, apparently that doesn’t tend to happen as this sort of thing is such a regular occurrence – the errant animals will be herded into a field & left until the owner catches up with them.  “I’ve lost sheep for over a week before now, before I’ve found them!”  John added cheerily.  “Hey, all’s well that ends well – at least now you can get some sleep.” 

I stammered my gratitude in reply & then contacted Ffosaron to tell them where their mystery guests had come from.  Thankfully they were very relaxed about the whole thing & did not expect me to collect the ponies that evening – not that I could’ve done so even if I’d wanted to; apart from the lack of suitable transport it was pitch black outside & being so close to the main road the attempt would’ve been downright dangerous.

So although the adventure is far from over, for now at least I know the ponies are safe & sound – albeit across a gulf of miles….stand by for Episode Two!

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About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Animals, Business, Diary, Equine, Life, Livestock, Locality, November 2008, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Great Escape

  1. Jo says:

    I’m so glad they’re safe and sound – have you managed to get them home yet?

    Animals will travel further than we expect. especially when they are frightened and lost. Their instincts tell them to keep moving – and they do!

    A carrot and a big hugs for each of them for avoiding all harm – and a large whiskey for you!

  2. Pingback: Pages tagged "hurried"

  3. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Cor, too right –

    After that horrific scare I needed the whiskey as much as they needed the carrots…!

    Whilst I suppose it’s not surprising the big horses travelled as far as they did, I’m suitably impressed that the Shetlands kept up with them; mind you, I recall a wedding we did with the wee ‘uns a couple of years ago, the chauffeur of the Rolls Royce carrying the bridesmaids couldn’t believe their lickety-spit pace pulling a carriage for several miles with four passengers.

    That said, they had just come out of fitness training with the wonderful Karen Bassett- who is the world’s first & foremost female four-in-hand Champion Whip – so it’s harndly surprising they were hot to trot! Nevertheless, keeping up with horses three times their diminutive size must’ve been something of a challenge – especially on our dark & twisting moonless lanes.

    Stand by for the next (ahem) thrilling installment, about their journey home…..& incidentally thanks Jo, for your sympathetic support.

  4. Jo says:

    Shetlands will outlast most bigger horses. My old bag used to keep going all day next to mum’s horses without ever looking tired.

    I’ve never had to go through a missing horse ordeal (thankfully) but I’ve “lost” the dogs several times (not to mention the all too frequent occasions when the pigs have broken out!) and that gut-wrenching horror stays with you forever.

    If I lived any closer, I’d bring the trailer and lend a hand.

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