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Julia’s Weekly Column For The Middy

A story of a horse that wouldn’t say boo to a goose

With Easter approaching, I wonder if you are thinking of goose for your special Easter Sunday roast?

I am not fond of geese, although I see that they have their place. In particular they are famed as ‘guards’, sometimes better even than a dog can be. There’s a story about a gaggle of geese saving the folk of ancient Rome from attack by a Gallic horde after they alerted the (presumably sleeping) sentries to their stealthy approach.

But I once lost my dignity in front of just such a gaggle, although it wasn’t all my fault!

Whilst still at school, and studying hard to try to get into Vet School, I was never allowed my own pony, despite desperate and frequent pleadings to my parents. Nor could they reasonably afford riding lessons as well as my school fees, so I took to offering my services for free to exercise other people’s ponies for them during my school holidays.

One such job saw me pedalling eight miles each way on my bike for the privilege of mucking out, grooming, riding and generally caring for a rather overweight horse called Lady, who really needed the extra exercise I gave her. Being mounted on her was rather like straddling a huge barrel. She was at least 16 hands high (that’s a tall horse for me to ride), but once I was up I got a fine view around me, and enjoyed exploring the local countryside from her broad back.

One day Lady and I hacked through the local village, heading for a bridleway we had been down a couple of times before. This path started from the road, then passed through the front garden of a charming character cottage – a bit of an inconvenience for its owner, but it was an ancient public right of way, after all!

But on this occasion both Lady and I were startled to find an innocent-looking group of geese gently grazing in the front garden. Lady stopped, and we assessed the situation. I was of the opinion that one clunk from one of Lady’s hooves would easily put any goose out of action, and as she was a giant compared to each of them, we should proceed.

She was not so sure.

I started insisting that she proceed on her way down the path, but she dug her hooves in, and the geese caught sight of us hesitating. Suddenly the situation changed. From a quiet bunch of birds with their heads down, they became a hissing, honking mass of agitated white feathers, bunched together and charging towards us with their wings raised and necks stretched out.

I was still of the opinion that all Lady had to do was gather her dignity about her and trot briskly up the path, but she once again failed to pick up on my signals. One minute she was frozen in place, ignoring all my kicking and encouragement to move on, and the next she turned tail and fled, carrying me with her!

I suppose I shouldn’t blame all geese for that one humiliation. But Lady and I never tried to go down that bridle path again, and I have never really liked geese much since!

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