Mindy Hammond rounds up her ponies for a pedicure

There may be unrest in the household ranks, but no matter what helpful ideas I put forward they seem to fall on deaf ears. The novelty of mowing the lawns has been exhausted, bedrooms have been rearranged and cleaned – I’m still looking for the cordless vacuum cleaner – and it seems that once experienced, an activity is never to be repeated.

I had a secret weapon up my sleeve though. Even in lockdown the needs of our neddies can’t be ignored and equine feet grow quickly in spring. Our farrier, Pat, comes every five or six weeks to deliver pony pedicures and somebody has to assist. So I booked Willow a week in advance. I reminded my late-rising daughter the evening before, “Don’t forget, Pat will be here by 9am.” She groaned slightly and sighed, “OK. Wake me up at 8.30.”

This was a remark that could only be made by one who hadn’t seen such an early hour for many weeks and I had to explain, “I’ll already be outside by then babe, but I’ll ask Daddy to wake you.”

It was a beautiful, sunny morning and although I’d made a deal with Willow, as Pat’s van pulled into the yard I’d already quietly decided it didn’t really matter if she was a no-show.

Musca’s little feet had been trimmed and I’d just led Max out of his stable for the lengthy challenge of replacing his glue-on shoes when I saw the newly blonde fringe blowing free from Willow’s bandana as she wandered towards us, “Yay, Willow, well done.”

Pat looked up. “Blimey, it must be lunchtime,” he joked. Willow took Max while I carried on with mucking out.

As Romeo’s last shoe was secured I looked towards the far paddock. “Right, Wills, grab the head collars and fill your pockets with horse treats. We’re pony wrangling.” 

Pat grabbed his tools. “I’ll stay out of sight till you’ve caught them.”

Wild ponies? Crazy mustangs? Nope, our two little coloured rescue ponies, Chico, the miniature Shetland, and Scout, the Dartmoor pony. They live a wonderful life with nothing to do but play chase around their paddock and enjoy fuss and cuddles from us. But they’re a canny pair and spot a scheme hatching before we’ve even thought of it.

“Right, Wills,” I whispered. “I’ll throw them some hay and you see if you can catch Scout. I’ll deal with Chico.”

Willow has played with Scout for hours and she knew he trusted her. But this time she was overconfident. He took one glance at the lead rope in her hand and was off, trotting towards me. But seeing me quickly manoeuvring the head collar on to his friend he stopped in his tracks. This was a trap.

Pat sauntered across the fields to meet us and began the back-breaking job of trimming Chico’s tiny tootsies, hoping Scout would come to investigate and realise his friend was quite happy – after all, this happens eight or nine times a year. But Scout wasn’t playing ball and no matter how many treats he took from our hands he wasn’t wearing that strappy hat with a rope attached.

The goats weren’t helping matters. They’d realised treats were being offered and decided to get in on the action. So just when Willow had a chance of capturing Scout, a horny-headed nuisance appeared on its hind legs.

Finally, we decided to lead Chico to the field shelter together with hay, a bucket of feed and treats and attempt to herd Scout in. Scout couldn’t have imagined a better game. For about five minutes he trotted towards one of us, skipped past another and galloped headlong past the third before circling for another go.

“He’s spending too much time with those goats,” Pat laughed, as Scout bounced like a spring lamb, his tail at right angles to his back.

Eventually, we managed to encourage him to join his friend and once in the shelter he stood for Willow to fasten on his head collar. Had he been at all frightened, we’d never have caught him – and of course he was cool as a cucumber while his feet were being trimmed.

Rosie the donkey enjoyed her little pamper and, lastly, I brought big old Finn to the stable yard for his turn – just as the heavens opened.

By lunchtime the job was over and Pat was on his way home. 

Next week… dog grooming?

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