Joe came to me in the early years of the new century. He was very instrumental in drawing me back into horse riding after the decade of the naughty nineties when earning a living was more important than riding a horse. He was perhaps perfect for the role in my life at the time.
Here is one anecdote about him:
JOE the Delinquent
Well the little devil has boobed, indeed, he has committed an arch cardinal sin, one which will never ever be forgotten. Amongst the herd of horses at the livery yard Joe stands out. He is not spoilt, he has no fancy pedigree, he doesn’t even know who his parents were. He is, to put it mildly a common cob. He won’t do fancy paces. He won’t prance about with lots of froth foaming from his mouth and he won’t even enter the dressage arena since he can’t read the letters. He has not got a nice long bendy neck and neither does he have four of those long legs, at the end of which should be delicate, clean shaven feet. The only thing fast about The Boy is the speed at which his beard grows. His mane tumbles both sides of his crest, whereas it is supposed to fall down on one side or the other. Even L’Oreal can’t help. His tail is a mop of long, curly and very coarse hair. Oh! and he wobbles when he walks because he is saving his body fat for a rainy day. But all of these minor discrepancies in form and style have been forgiven, because he is undoubtedly “kind”. He is also my mate.
Joe is of course currently working his ticket since he knows he’s got it made. The work is not too hard. The field in which he lives, is in reality at this time of the year, his fiefdom around which he allows other horses to wander during the hours of daylight only. Joe and his friend, the artful dodger, Teddie the Shetland, hold the field for at least 14 hours of the 24 hour day. Hard food, theoretically banned by the vet, comes along morning and night in a bucket; the principle being that both he and Teddie need sustenance to ward off the cold. In fact, it has been real cold hereabouts over the last few weeks even down to minus 5degC on perhaps one or two nights. But don’t feel too sorry for our vanner equine, after all he does have a waterproof top rug and a padded under rug to keep him warm.
The Day of Revelation started around lunchtime on one Sunday. It was sunny and for once, the air was still. We set off together to find how long it would take to get over to the pub some six miles away. No problems really with the route, except we had to cross the busy fast road which has been a major highway since the time of the Romans. Joe eventually, after an occasional sharp tap as encouragement, got a move on. With me aboard, he walked and trotted in some style with bags of impulsion. Certainly there was no lolloping along. We got to the turning point by the bridge under the highway without too much trouble. Coming back we took a slightly different route, which would take us past the pub. I was confident that there would be time for a swift glass of red wine. As it happened the journey to the pub went according to plan, including the crossing of the hectic highway.
At the pub the car park has a number of bays each of which is defined by baskets of stones up to which it was all very easy to hitch The Boy. Before leaving the stable yard I had fished out a nice new red head collar but the lead rope was twenty years old and was to prove to be well past its sell by date, I hitched the Boy up carefully and I went into the pub to get my glass of wine and Joe’s packet of crisps - yes, a horse likes potato chips. The landlord had only just said farewell to the last lunchtime customer and he was now relaxed enough to exchange a few pleasantries with me. The chatting lasted for 15 minutes or so, not more. Then I stood up to go and ride the mile or so back to the yard. But it was not to be.
In the interim the Boy Joe had taken matters into his own control. He had yanked back on the lead rope holding him to the cage of stones and had broken the tie. The old lead rope had simply snapped in two and now he was free to go wherever he wanted. So off he went. No, he didn’t turn right towards the road, that would have been stupid and very dangerous. He instinctively turned left and set off up the lane for home. Indeed he had reached the village before one of the other residents of the yard saw him trotting up the road without a rider. Luckily with a little human guidance he reached his stable safely.
But what Joe had done was inexcusable: he’d left me, back in the pub. Just why had he done that?
His action was one of gross disloyalty. I would never ever have left Joe to find his way home. Just why had The Boy left behind the Old Man, the hand that feeds and nurtures him? What might happen in the future when the odd couple venture even further afield? Is it OK for Joe to just set off for home as and when he pleases? No that is too much. If Joe is left tied up, then he must wait, willingly and patiently. No argument. That’s what he’s kept for. The Old Man might have had one too many and he would need looking after. Those are the rules.
The Boy does not have to jump anything over two foot high, neither does he have to race against a clock. He doesn’t have to make fancy moves in time to music nor does he have to do shoulder-ins and flying changes. All he has to do is to take his master down the road and trot up purposely towards any traffic that is coming up the road until that traffic gets out of the way. But THE
prime requirement is to get the Old Man to where he wants to go and, never to be forgotten, he must bring him home again
It is highly unlikely that nowadays our faithful steed will ever be asked to bring the Old Man back home when he’s had far too much tipple but bringing the Old Man, whatever his state, back home is a must. Leaving the Old Man behind at the pub is a definite “No-No“.
So one can see that our Joe is not perfect. He’ll climb mountains. He’ll descend slopes. He’ll go where no horse has gone before and he’ll do it mostly without other equine company. He’ll jiggle past cars and he’ll do pretty much what is asked of him without too much fuss. You can even crouch underneath him whilst you pick out his feet.
But, be warned, watch the little devil very carefully when you leave him tied up in the car park. He might decide to go home without you.