Whittaker’s Diary – The Curious Case of the Runaway Horse
Posted on May 03 2018
After a wet and foggy start to spring, soft and syrupy sunshine has finally flooded the Abbey, streaming through its tall and stately windows to warm the ancient wood that lies within. Not that I had much of a chance to enjoy it, occupied as I was with my first foray into the world of horse racing – the result of yet another ill-conceived wager between Lord Archibald and his long-time friend and occasional rival, Sir Brian, master of the neighbouring stately home, Morningdew House.
It seems that after a rather comprehensive exploration of bespoke British gin in the village’s delightful pub, The Black Mare, or the Dirty Donkey as it’s better known, a deal was somehow struck to decide who could best train a racehorse. Keen to avoid potential embarrassment, and remembering all too well what happened when the pair discovered an abandoned skateboard, I immediately volunteered to aid Lord Archibald in his quest.
Now, I love all God’s creatures, with the notable exception of horses, to which I am badly allergic - something I only discovered after being dispatched on a residential equestrian weekend as a child. And I must say our newly purchased horse, Trevor, did nothing to change my feelings on the matter, as rather than flesh and bone he seemed woven from the very fabric of hell, leaving me only too happy to coordinate events from my traditional twenty metres away.
The first question was of course who would ride him - Lord Archibald being immediately ruled out as he is as breakable as fine porcelain and just as precious, not to mention soon asleep on a lawn chair, helped greatly by the contents of his hip flask. It was then that Timothy, Mrs Badwater the cook’s twelve-year-old son, arrived on the scene, claiming substantial experience with animals. Personally, I dreaded to think what this experience might comprise, but before I could refuse, the future occupant of one of her Majesty’s cells had leapt onto Trevor’s back, causing him to take off at full speed.
It immediately seemed clear to all present that American movies might have misled us somewhat as to the effectiveness of the word ‘whoa,’ Faced with Trevor circling the Abbey like a black-maned Maserati with a screaming Timothy clinging on for dear life, we quickly assembled an impromptu conference of the staff to discuss his potential braking mechanism.
Our first thought was to try bribery, with Mrs Badwater offering up the contents of the vegetable tray – something that only seemed to make Trevor go faster. Next, Lucinda, the Lord and Lady’s daughter, began ferrying books on the subject from the Abbey’s extensive library. Despite persisting doubts as to whether skim-reading Black Beauty would produce the results we were looking for, I dutifully picked up The Observer’s Book of Horses and Ponies, whilst Mrs Badwater dived into a terror-spurred rifling through a two-book set of Horses in Training (1957 and 1960.)
Twenty-two orbits later and we were still no closer to a solution, when suddenly Mr Crumple, the gardener and Lucinda’s unrequited love-interest arrived, taking in the strange combination of runaway mule and impromptu reading group, before producing a solitary sugar cube from his pocket - the sight of which caused Trevor to grind to an unexpected halt, throwing Timothy twelve-feet into a conveniently placed hay bale. Mr Crumple’s response as to why he had a sugar cube secreted in his trousers was simply to say that he liked horses.
Thankfully our failure as trainers had no repercussions, as both Lord Archibald and Sir Brian seemed to have forgotten their wager by the time the gin wore off. Lucinda meanwhile has taken such a shine to Trevor that she has announced he will be her new pet, which I’m sure has nothing to do with Mr Crumple’s newly discovered affection for the species.
So as the sun sets behind the Abbey I can finally retire to my room and enjoy this week’s book – Rudyard Kipling’s classic, The Jungle Book, chosen solely for its complete lack of horses.