Harry is having a trying time. He has always looked primeval, the sort of horse that was drawn by Stone Age man on cave walls along with aurochs, mammoths etc. In the current cold conditions he is completely at home – he knows what to do. It probably reminds some primal part of his brain about the dear old days in the last Ice Age. So (see last blog) he can smash ice with his feet, and he can also paw at a patch of frozen snow until it clears and turns magically into the grass beneath. His problem is Slip. Slip is needy up to his eyebrows, and hasn’t a clue how to be primeval. But he really, really wants to be Harry’s special friend. So when Harry, after a great deal of effort, uncovers a patch of newly revealed grass, Slip (just to show how close he is to Harry) delicately eats it. And if Harry tries to relieve his feelings by biting Slip, that doesn’t work either because Slip wears a super-heavyweight rug, and Harry just gets a mouthful of technofibre. It is all most frustrating.
Harry the Horse is Slip’s little friend – nothing is demanded of him other than that he be a calming influence for Slip. Slip is sensitive while Harry is more or less a chesterfield sofa in equine form. The plus side of Harry is that he is very, very stable. Nothing upsets him – not hedge cutters, or fireworks, or Eric-the-gravedigger’s awful old Reliant Robin that backfires as it drives past the horses’ field. Any of those would send Slip into the stratosphere if it wasn’t for Harry’s calming influence. The minus side is that Harry is a bear of little brain, who will walk through a fence because he had forgotten it was there. This morning though he had a moment of pure genius which I’m longing to share. I was heaving hay about so that everybody got some, and being a bit slow of breaking the very thick ice that had formed overnight on the water trough. Harry felt thirsty and went and stood by the trough, waiting for me. Then a thought came to him – you could see it coming – and he stood well back and brought one front hoof down like a jackhammer onto the ice. Which didn’t stand a chance. So he could have a lovely refreshing drink and – this is the best bit – it was all his own idea!
Opinions are divided on the current cold snap. Some (the sheep) hate it. Grass is cold and weird, water ditto, room service inadequate, hay boring etc etc. But Scarab is loving it. Because in his mind he is a snow leopard. He stalks through the quivering frozen grass with his whiskers like bicycle spokes, looking for the Himalayan Blue Sheep or bharal, which Wikipedia tells me are the main prey of snow leopards. When he can’t find any (quite a relief to all non-snow leopards) he comes indoors and curls into a tight ball under the radiator with his tail over his nose. Just like a snow leopard, if snow leopards had access to central heating. Darcy is quite honestly delighted that his ancestors came in from the cold many generations ago (probably millenia ago, I think Labradors got life sorted comfortably at an early stage of development). He has absolutely no desire to go and howl on frozen mountain tops like his wolfish fore-fathers. Instead he lies upside down on the sofa and waits for the Spring. The horses are equivocal. Yes, it’s cold and yes all the sheep’s reservations about weird water and a pathetic standard of room service apply. But there again it’s kind of fun to go for a quick gallop with tail in the air and then go and stuff yourself with hay. They’re OK with it, for the moment. And now that I’ve come to my senses about hen food (see previous blog) the hens and geese are OK with it too. As long as I trudge up to the hen run with a boiling kettle and melt their ice at frequent intervals. The person who is currently run ragged and longing for the thaw, is me.