My mother was called Dora, she was grey like me.
When I was a little foal I thought that she was so tall that she went all the way to the top of the sky. She had strong legs with silky white hair at the back of her hooves and a round rump. Her grandfather was a Shire horse, she told me that he was magnificent, standing up huge and strong. He could work all day long, his enormous hooves pounding the earth with each powerful step. His name was Hercules. The rest of my mother’s family were Irish Draught horses, they were also tall with strong legs and powerful hindquarters.
My father Falconwood was the kindest stallion on earth, he was a dark bay Thoroughbred. His family were racehorses and showjumpers who could gallop fast and jump well.Falconwood, my father.
My mother was with me all the time, she was kind and her smell comforted me. When I was very young she guided me by gently pushing me with her nose. As I got a bit older and started to explore our field, she kept a watchful eye on me all the time. When I was suddenly scared by something I did not expect, I would run back to hide under her belly as fast as I could, I was always safe and warm there. There were other foals and their mothers in our field, but only my mother let me hide under her belly. Once, when I got muddled up and tried to hide under the wrong mother I very nearly got kicked.
I had a shock the first time I would not fit under my mother’s belly. I panicked. I did not know where to go to hide. I realised that this must mean that I was growing. Bits of me seemed to be growing more than others. My feet were always big and my legs were long, but then my head and ears grew and the rest of me did not, so I felt funny. I was nearly black, but my tail was white. I wondered whether I had the right tail. It was confusing to be me.
I was cheeky and naughty sometimes. I liked to play at springing, bucking, and running with my tail in the air as fast as I could, so that my mother could not catch me; but she was always patient and kind.
We lived in an old field with banks to play on and hedges with rabbit holes underneath. It was on a farm called “Bodernog” in the north of Anglesey. I thought that we would live there forever, but then one day, when I was only about six months old, my mother told me that she would be having another foal so she had to go and live in a field on the other side of the farm. Now that I was getting big she said that I could stay in the field without her; the other foals would keep me company. I was very frightened. I did not want my mother to go, it was the worst thing I could think of.
Soon the farmer came to our field with his daughter, put head collars on my mother and my friend Gwyn’s mother, and led them both out of the field. Gwyn and I were eager to trot along by our mothers’ sides, even though the sharp ground pricked our feet.
We reached the farmyard and followed our mothers into a big shed. What happened next was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to me. The farmer was between me and Gwyn and our mothers, who were very quickly led out of the shed by the farmer’s daughter; this time, we could not follow them. No sooner was my mother’s rump out of the doorway than both the bottom and top doors were slammed shut. Gwyn and I were trapped.
We ran round the shed, bumping into each other and neighing as loudly as we could for our mothers to come back. We could hear our mothers neighing to us from outside, they sounded very worried. Gwyn and I neighed so much that our neighs seemed to be the only sound in the world. We neighed for a long time. When we stopped neighing it was suddenly very quiet. I was exhausted and the loneliest I had ever been in my life. It got dark, the night seemed to go on forever. We were very frightened without our mothers. There was water and hay in the shed, but neither of us felt like eating it. We did not sleep at all.
Early in the morning, we heard footsteps and then the top door opened. Although it was still dark we could see the farmer. We hoped that he had come to take us back to our mothers, but he just threw some more hay into the shed for us and quickly closed the top door again. We were hungry by now, so we did eat some hay, but it did not make us feel better. We were glad that we had each other for comfort. It was strange to be shut in the shed and we missed our mothers very much.
The farmer or his daughter continued to give us more hay and water. They came into the shed to check that Gwyn and I were alright and had not injured ourselves. When the door opened we could feel the cold air from outside; it was warm in the shed. We stayed in the shed for a long time. Eventually the farmer left the top door open during the day so that we could see out into the yard.
The vet came; he stuck sharp things into our necks which made us go to sleep. When I woke up I could not see properly, or get up, it was frightening. Between my back legs ached, it really hurt. Gwyn said that he felt the same. We both smelled strange and all we wanted to do was sleep. Very slowly, the pain and the strange smell went away, until after a few days we were back to normal.
It started to get a bit warmer and brighter outside. We seemed to have been inside for so long that when the farmer and his daughter came to let us out of the shed, it felt odd to be outside again. We were put back in our old field, but this time there was just me and Gwyn and the other foals, their mothers must have gone to the other side of the farm to have foals too. We remembered our mothers, but we were no longer worried or frightened to be by ourselves. We were happy together and we could play whatever games we wanted, whenever we wanted.
I grew and grew. I wondered whether I was going to become as magnificent as my great-grandfather Hercules, it certainly seemed possible.
In the summer when I was two, the farmer came to our field and put a head collar on me. Gwyn and the other youngsters put their heads up to look at what the farmer was doing, but when they could see that he was only handling me, they soon got back to grazing. There was so much lovely grass that they hardly noticed the farmer leading me round the edge of the field. I had to walk alongside the farmer and concentrate hard on where to put my feet, I did not want to tread on him. I thought that being led was strange. I already knew where to go. I did not see the point of it, but if it was what the farmer wanted to do, I did not mind. Perhaps he was lonely. Anyway, I liked the smell of his big old coat, and after he took the head collar off, he rubbed my forehead and quietly gave me a handful of feed from his pocket. Gwyn and the others did not notice.
The farmer could tell that I was not going to be troublesome, so the next time he led me out of the gate and onto the lane that went to the farmyard. The lane felt stony to my feet, but if I stayed on the grass in the middle, it was easier to walk.
I got used to being led and it was interesting to see more of the farm. I liked the cats that lived in the yard. They did not come hunting up to my field; they said that there were more than enough rats and mice for them to chase in the buildings around the yard, so they were far too busy to bother with my field. I knew that they were just boasting though, because whenever there was a patch of sunshine in the yard, there was always a cat asleep in it.
The three collie dogs who lived in the yard were always with the farmer when he came up the lane to check the sheep. They barked a lot, but the sheep were not really scared of them and neither was I.
Later, in the spring before I was three, the farmer put a saddle on my back for our walks, I did not mind that. It felt strange to start with because it was fastened onto me by a thick band behind my front legs that went right round my chest. I thought that it might stop me from breathing. I was a bit scared, but I soon forgot about it when I had no trouble breathing.
Next, there was a bridle – that was more of a problem because when the farmer first tried to put it over my ears, he couldn’t – they would not fit. He made it longer at the sides, then it fitted. I did not really like the bit though. It was in my mouth but I could not chew it, let alone swallow it. It just stayed there annoying me, but I could not spit it out because it was attached to the straps that went up my cheeks. I could not see the point of it at all.
The farmer must have known that I was not happy; the next time he put the bridle on me there was some very sticky stuff on the bit. It nearly stuck to my lips before it was even in my mouth, but when it was in my mouth, I tasted the sweetest taste that I had ever tasted in my life. I did not notice the bit any more, my mouth was so full of the lovely sweetness.
Now I had to do a different sort of leading, it was on a long lead. To start with, I was so confused that I stood still, trying to work out what to do. The farmer told me to “Walk on !” and made a long stick with a thin snake on the end touch my back leg, that frightened me and made me go forwards, but he kept tight hold of the long lead so that instead of going somewhere, I went round in a circle. That seemed to be what he wanted because he made me do it a few times, first one way and then the other, sometimes walking, sometimes trotting. To start with I could not get my balance, which made me buck, but once I got used to this sort of leading, it was quite easy. I was glad that I did not have to do it for too long though because it was not very interesting.
My mother had told me that when I grew up I would be ‘a riding horse’ which meant that I would carry a person on my back. She said that this was not as difficult as it sounded and that if you had the right person, it could be fun. So, I was not surprised when the farmer’s daughter got onto my back. The farmer and his daughter did seem surprised when I just stood there. When the farmer’s daughter squeezed my sides gently with her legs and said: “Walk on!” I did what she asked and when she made the bit press the corners of my mouth and said: “Whooa”, I worked out that she must want me to stop going forwards, so I halted. I had to walk and then halt a few times before the farmer’s daughter stroked my neck, told me that I had been good and got off my back. Being ridden was much easier than I had expected.
Each time the farmer’s daughter rode me for longer; she made me trot with her still on my back. That felt funny, I was worried that it would make her fall off, but it did not. I thought that she was very clever to balance on my back.
I was quite content with things as they were, so I got a big surprise when the farmer said to his daughter:
“Now he’s been backed it’s time he went, can’t have him doing nothing forever.”
I was offended; I did not do nothing! I played games in the field with my friends, I talked to the rabbits who lived under the hedge and the sheep in the next field, the farmer’s daughter rode me, I ate grass and snoozed. What more was there to do? Anyway, where would I go? I did not know anywhere else. I was worried by what I had heard. I felt very unsettled.