Goodbye Henry, Hello Ernie

There comes a time when old friends go and new ones appear and so it is with Henry. Not that he has met his demise, despite being elderly and a little infirm. He has gone to pastures new.

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Henry, our Irish Draught horse, has had a blissful life here in the Cotswolds after a hectic time in his earlier years on the hunting field. Recently, and with the fine spell of warmth, his days have been spent in glorious semi -retirement basking in the sunshine.
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But even the gentle hacking around the farm with She-dog at his heels has proven too much and so he has spent many weeks resting and generally enjoying life.
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But now it is time to say goodbye and he has returned to his original owners to spend the rest of his days as companion and chaperone to young foals.
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The always sensitive-to-events She-dog seems to know that her companion is leaving never to return. Goodbye, Henry!

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Hello Ernie! Seems quiet enough looking over the stable wall……
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Barney has seen this all before. Once he would have kicked out at any newcomer to his field just to show who was boss. Now he just can’t be bothered – I know the feeling. So he stands there while Ernie circles sniffing and snorting ……
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And then they are off!
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Ernie cannot decide what he wants to look like. He tries the fairground horse look first ……
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….. and then the bucking bronco ……. while Barney looks on bored by all the antics.
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Ernie tries out the rocking horse look ….. finally stopping to try out the local food
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The view’s not too bad either! Home could be a much worse place …..
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Horses – a sure bet to lose money!

When I’m not gardening I’m invariably doing something with horses or dogs – or preferably both. And as I have been writing recently about the Gatcombe and Burghley Horse Trials it seems a good time to introduce you to some equine friends, past and present.

Grunta was a character – and a dangerous one at that! A pleasure to ride and as quiet as anything until he saw a fence or a hedge. Then you would feel the tension rise in him and off he would gallop and sail straight over without hesitation. Woe betide you if you tried to stop him for he would rear up on his hind legs and go for it either with or without you. His silly name came from his grunting with excitement before the take off!

A thin, worm ridden, timid creature, when we got Daisy May. We realised she would be too light for us to ride but we took delight in building up her trust and her body. She was sold some time later to be a brood mare.

Dior was the most beautiful of all the horses that we have owned – and the best quality. Bought to show as a youngster, we lost both her and her unborn foal to ragwort poisoning. A most terrible and distressing death to witness and a plea to all who have ragwort growing on their land – destroy it.

Barney is the wonder horse and still going strong after many years. A 17 hands 3″ Irish Draught he is a great companion. His main picture is to the right but he also appears on the one below with Squirrel and Polly, the 30 year old pony that we ‘inherited’ along with the paddock. Barney is another great jumper and will tackle the biggest fences with ease – but in a kind and considerate sort of way. Squirrel was another danger horse who would try his utmost to throw you off when you first mounted him. Providing you stayed on he would settle down and be a good lad for the rest of the day. However, in the end he proved too hot to handle and, just when we were wondering what to do with him, he had to be put down. A good thing probably – I think he might have killed us in the end. Now white with age, Henry our grey Irish Draught and Rambo, our young Shire horse, along with Barney make up our stables at the moment. Rambo is ridden occasionally and has all the makings of a good horse as he gets older. Enormous, towering over Barney, but a gentle giant.


Carriage driving is not for the faint hearted either! This belongs to a friend and it is great fun when travelling off road and at speed….

Ragwort is an introduced plant to the UK and an absolute curse. It needs to be destroyed but care must be taken – pull it out wearing gloves for the toxins that attack the liver are absorbed through the skin. Then burn it or put it in your refuse bin where it can go for industrial composting. Garden compost heaps will not heat up enough to destroy it so don’t put it there. I plan to write about ragwort and other introduced aliens in due course.

A final word of warning: horses eat money – but they are worth it!
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