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April 2023: "From A New Forest Inclosure” by Ian Thew

There are three ponies, in particular, who haunt the part of the forest that surrounds my property – two New Forest ponies and a little, coloured Shetland who boasts one brown eye and one blue eye which makes him, as far as I’m concerned,  either charming or spooky, depending on which eye he uses when looking at me. They’ve been around here for some time and, if I’m honest, they have never been a problem.  They make an appearance, every once in a while, and spend a day or two cropping the grass beyond my fence before they disappear once again to wherever the idea takes them. 

One day, not long ago, when the snow lay thick on the ground, I’d noticed that the aforementioned trio were standing in a miserable huddle and staring through the fence at the hay bales in the lean-to behind the stable.  I felt a twinge of guilt every time I passed by this doleful bunch and I felt more sorry for them as the day wore on and the temperature, that had crept to just above freezing, began to fall with alarming speed.  There was a part-used bale of hay on the top of the stack and before I could stop myself I had opened the side gate and spread it out in three little heaps. The hungry ponies fell on the offering and I was rewarded by the sound of contented munching each time I neared the gate.  I felt pleased with myself and the little bit of guilt, that lurked in the back of my mind, for feeding Forest ponies, was dismissed by the thought that I didn’t live near a highway and so, consequently, the ponies were in no danger.   

But it had been a big mistake!  I should have known better. The very next day, although the snow had now melted away, and at precisely the same time, they were back.  They stood in a similar huddle and stared at the hay bales and, every time I appeared, they fixed me with pathetic faces.  Each time I walked toward the side gate they followed on the other side of the fence.  Up and down they walked; turning the thawing snow and the grass beneath, into a quagmire.  They stamped their feet and churned the gate entrance into a boggy mess and, to add insult to injury, the ungrateful, blue-eyed, little devil began to kick the gate whilst one of her buddies pulled great clumps from my neatly clipped hedge.   

I shooed them on their way but they came the next day and the next.  On the fourth day I returned from a shopping trip to discover them grouped around my front gates.  I drove them off and they retreated back into the trees – but not for long.  I began to unload my shopping and, on the second trip from car to kitchen, I was so ladened with bags that I didn’t close the gate properly and- yes, you’ve guessed it – in they came.  I heard a crunch on the gravel and turned from my task to be greeted by the tiny Shetland who framed the doorway in her quest for food.  This was the last straw and, after much shouting, waving and air-bluing, I managed to evict them. 

 Eventually they gave up and left me in peace but not before they had wrecked my driveway, devastated the hedge and left scratch marks on the boot and bonnet of my car! 

Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to do a kindness – or perhaps I should say interfere!

Ian Thew

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