Horse & Hound

Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary

Never trust a pony’s sweet and fluffy exterior, remembers Tessa Waugh, as her peaceful post-hack cup of tea is disturbed by wild antics in the paddock and a diminutive culprit

- H&H

“I let forth a string of invectives, windmillin­g my arms as Ronald galloped Josh back to his hiding place”

IT is easy to forget when you look at the pony – pricked ears emerging sweetly through a thatch of mane, heart-shaped bottoms and butter wouldn’t-melt expression­s – that all is not as it seems. Any amount of hellfire can be unleashed from that teddy bear exterior at any moment of day or night.

Take last week. Frances and I had been taking the children out for a ride after school. Afterwards I put Josh in the field with Frances’ ponies while we sat in the garden drinking tea. We were discussing hunt fundraisin­g and mulling over the idea of a silent auction.

“There are lots of people with different skills,” I burbled, warming to my theme.

“Look what happened when everyone pitched in to help renovate the hunt cottage: decorators, chainsaw freaks, waste removal experts. There are some really talented people in our hunt.”

Frances’ eyes had glazed over, and she was cocking her head in a quizzical fashion. I looked at her questionin­gly.

“Think I just heard something in the field,” she said and rushed around the corner to check it out.

IN the field we found Thelwellia­n Ronald trotting in circles, neck arched and squealing in a demonic way completely at odds with his normal demeanour. Josh, meanwhile, was cowering in the corner. Ronald seemed to have got it into his head that Josh was a rogue stallion on his patch and that his “mares” (two Shetlands grazing away obliviousl­y) were in need of protection.

I marched off with a headcollar to collect Josh, but the fun and games were by no means over. We had just begun our journey towards the gate when Ronald unleashed another squeal and charged at full gallop.

It is a terrible habit of mine, but when in doubt, I tend to shout. I go all West Country and start rolling my Rs and carrying on like some irate character from The Archers. I did this now, letting forth a string of invectives, dropping the rope and windmillin­g my arms as Ronald galloped Josh back to his hiding place, ears flat back and biting his bottom as he went.

It was time to call the cavalry. In came Frances with headcollar, marching towards the offending pony. I grabbed Josh, she grabbed Ronald, who immediatel­y resumed dopeon-a-rope mode, walking behind her like a chastened child. Decorum was restored.

On the way home, with Josh safely loaded in the trailer, Jack asked me what all the shouting had been about. “Oh, nothing darling,” I said. “Just a bit of an argument between the ponies. No harm done.”

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