Shock discovery on return to keep my hand in at stables


I HAVE spent the last couple of weeks getting to know Hairy Hubert’s Mother and Mrs Angry, a contrasting pair of ladies of the old school.

Hairy Hubert’s Mother is, in fact, not his mother at all; just a kindly old soul who saw a youngster struggling with the many pitfalls of life, and took him under her matronly wing.

She nursed him through various potentially fatal illnesses and protected him from bullies, and he is now the picture of radiant health.

Mrs Angry is a different kettle of fish altogether however, with a blazing temper which sees her lash out with flying feet and gnashing teeth should anyone even think of coming too close to her domain.

Hairy Hubert’s Mother and Mrs Angry are, of course, horses, which I got to know on a brief return working visit to the Tynedale stables where I helped out – or more often hindered – back in the spring.

Since I was last engaged as an ostler third class, the tiny new-born foals, which I last saw staggering around their stalls like Saturday night drunks, have grown into unruly adolescents with Mohican manes and shaggy hair, capering about the fields like liberty horses, kicking up their heels, lashing out with their back legs and rearing up like contestants in a competition to find the next Ferrari logo.

It’s all down to their exuberance at simply being alive, and their antics really warm the cockles of the heart on a chilly autumn morning.

My previous two-month spell at the stables taught me that there are many perils involved in working with horses, and I still bear the scars after being bitten on the arm by the same horse twice and still have the remains of a swelling on my knee where I was kicked by another.

But that is nothing compared with the seemingly insurmountable problem of getting rid of the equine stench which clings to me like an over-active limpet.

It is an eye-watering combination of horse muck and horse wee, overlain with the pungent pong of haylage, and is more difficult to get rid of than the tattoo on my arm I have had since I was 19.

When I first went to help out at the stables, I did not wear gloves, which I thought were a cissy affectation, like those worn by the highly paid prima donnas of the Premiership.

However, after many hours in the bath, followed by extensive dousing of my hands in everything from Fairy Liquid and Vim to Jeyes Fluid and Swarfega, they still stank like Shergar’s fetlocks – and he’s been dead for 35 years.

I scrubbed my mitts so hard they were almost bleeding, and finished off by squirting them with a generous scoosh of Rhino or some other expensive gentleman’s fragrance I have never been bold enough to try before.

Mrs Hextol was not impressed, holding her pinny over her nose and declaring that the foo-foo and haylage combination was possibly more repellent than the original miasma of misery. The nasty niff really took the breath away and we could not use the car for days unless all the windows were wound down.

I was soon wearing high- octane gardening gloves to stop the worst of the stench permeating my soft office hands, and they did a reasonably good job, although I was still obliged to strip off all my horse clothes in the garden before being permitted to enter Hextol Towers.

So when I returned to equine duties this month, I made sure I put the trusty gloves at the top of the bag of disreputable clothes I reserve for such occasions.

So on went the wellies, the new waterproof leggings, the old shirt, and finally the gloves. It was soon apparent all was not well, for on the right hand, the middle finger was bereft of cover, leaving me to give an unwitting Dele Alli impression to the world.

It later transpired that during the summer, Mrs Hextol had been suffering from a sore finger, so she applied a dressing – and then secretly cut off the finger of my glove to create an impromptu finger stall.

I improvised with a latex glove inside the gardening glove, but the single white finger looked decidedly gross by the end of the shift.

I experimented with various other gloves, and discovered that those which kept the stink out also removed all feeling from my hands, making me – incredibly – even more clumsy than usual.

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