This is a true story – it happened to me and a bunch of my friends the other night:
The wind is getting up a bit but it doesn’t matter because I am in the car. It’s about 11pm and we are driving a friend home. We’ve pulled over to let them out. I am looking through the passenger window, calling goodbye, and then as the door shuts and I turn back, what did I see?
10 loose horses and ponies appearing from out of the darkness and running past the car, the little ones cantering to keep up, the bigger horses trotting. They all shoot past us before any of us in the car can quite comprehend what is going on. We watched them turn down a country lane on the left and run into some farmer’s fields.
Well, this was not what I expected on the way home from a Christmas party. I jump from the car and crane my neck over the roof, squinting my eyes and trying to make out where the escapees might have gone in the gloom.
I’m a horsey lass, and thankfully, so is the guy we are dropping home and his wife who is already in bed. He goes to wake her and I trot around in my heeled boots on the road for a few minutes, trying to spot the ponies but having no luck.
When my friend’s wife comes out she shouts to call the police, which is swiftly done, and immediately walks down the track after the ponies. The rest of us follow in our car. When we’ve gone down the half road, half track and stop by the farm houses I leap out and run up to where the pitch-black fields stretch out before us. The wind is up, gusting against me, making me wish I’d worn hot pants under my dress for modesty and making me long for some more to cover me than some tights, a dress and a little blazer in December. This is most inappropriate clothing for catching escaped ponies and horses. But it doesn’t matter. We need to make sure they don’t go anywhere near the road.
Some of the big ones will be near to half a ton and if they are involved in a road traffic accident there could be a risk of fatalities. This is serious. Not to mention the fact that as an avid horse lover I don’t want any of these animals hurt either.
We peer through the darkness and then, suddenly, there! A white one, one of the big ones, I can see it, heading up the little herd, leading them across the fields towards the…the MAIN ROAD.
The neighbours are up with flashlights wondering what has caused the clattering, my friend begins explaining, but there was no time to lose. We turn back to the car.
“Come on! We need to get to the main road before they do!” My friend calls.
In the car again, bumping back along the small farm road. I’m tapping the dash, asking my husband to go faster, left back onto a side road, left again onto the main road. Thank goodness it’s night and quiet, with any luck the ponies won’t reach the road anyway. We pull up where we think they might be in the field and me and my friend start clambering through ivy and bramble infested undergrowth, avoiding grabby tree branches. I realise I’ll need some new tights after this.
Then we see them! There they are, metres from the road in the non-fenced field, but they see us and scarper! Trotting and running off back into the field. As my heeled boots find the field I realise there is mud, quite a bit of it, but it must be ignored. We jog after the ponies, another friend joins us with a flash light. I can just about make the ponies out. My friend who’s horsey says we should slow down, we can’t afford to spook them, she’s right. We spread out, all three of us, into a line between the horses and the road. They’re right back by the hedge line now.
I can see them wondering right and we follow them, that is until a 5 foot deep, 4 foot wide ditch opens up before us. I look left, the cheeky little ponies have jumped it. We have to too if we want to keep between them and the road. I shimmy down the bank so far in my heels, thankful for the darkness hiding some of the danger, and jump to land on all fours across the bank. I scramble up the bank and we’re back opposite the ponies.
By this time the police have arrived. Their estate car is patrolling down a lane, their flashlights peering into the field, I gesture towards the ponies, but soon the car drives off. They haven’t seen us.
Then the ponies turn, going left again, towards the farm houses and the small side road. We follow them back across the field, and again I shimmy down the bank and cross but this time both my hands land in bunches of stinging nettles I couldn’t see. The stings immediately lick there way across my palms.
“Ugh! I just landed in stinging nettles, son of a gun! These ponies better be damn worth it!”
My friend laughs across the bank, but we’re still focused, the ponies are moving faster now. Then, suddenly, I lose them. It takes me a while to realise they’ve gone behind the farm house. I run ahead and am so relieved when I see my friend appearing out of the darkness. I’m not alone in a dark field!
She starts running to head them off before they get back to the side road. She cuts across a field and I run the main farm track in my little heeled boots. I find out later that she thought the white horse was the leader of the herd too, but in the darkness a smaller black pony couldn’t be seen leading them, she had tried to get out in front of the white one but the black one was already ahead and suddenly they’re on the side road again, exactly where we didn’t want them.
Then I see them turn left.
They’re heading for the main road.
This is a nightmare.
I’m running full pelt now. Someone could get hurt. There could be an accident. My friend goes back to her house and picks up her car to follow the horses and I continue running, turning left onto the side road and I see the ponies trotting miles up ahead, about to turn into the main road.
I’m praying there won’t be an accident. My lungs are burning. I’m afraid of turning over on my heels, I don’t care, I have to run, my heels pound the pavement. I look ridiculous. I don’t care.
I see my friend’s car shoot up past me. The horses are already somewhere on the main road. I see her hazard lights go on, she turns left. I’m a little way behind but when I reach the road I see she is rounding them up with my husband’s car on the other side of the herd, trying to keep them from turning back. I run into the middle of the road, it was probably a dangerous idea, but imagine if a car came tearing up and crashed into them?
I raise my arms either side of me as a car approaches and make slow downward gestures like a bird while I rake air into my lungs. I keep turning back to see what the ponies are doing and they have turned back on themselves. The black one is leading them past my friend’s car, towards me. I’m used to horses and ponies, but having ten of them coming towards you is a little disconcerting. I can’t cower, they might trample me, I consider grabbing the head collar on the black one, but I might be dragged, that could be dangerous, or he could kick me if I lunge at him. I’m making the low sounds every horse person knows to try and calm them, my friend and I have been doing it for the past half hour to forty minutes we’ve been with them in the field.
They don’t listen, they run past either side of me, I’m fortunate not to be bumped and thankfully they shoot BACK down the side road again. This just feels like a repeat.
My friend turns her car around and slams on her breaks just beside me.
“Get in!” she yells.
It’s like we’re in an action movie. I leap in the back and we bomb off after the ponies – obviously no where near them, we’re not scaring them, they’re too het up to calm down anyway.
We slow as we draw nearer and they’ve made it to the level crossing. They slow down. They stop…ON THE LEVEL CROSSING.
The barriers are up for the moment, but now we’re looking at a MUCH larger accident. I see a little grey welsh mountain turn to look down the track. If they start down there we won’t be able to get them out and with ten of them on the track they might derail a train. This is horrendous. I’m so close to tears, so is my friend.
“We have to get them off the track!” my friend calls.
“I’ll go.” I open the car door while it’s still moving, not really realising, I stick my foot out and the back tire of the car catches my heel. I yank my leg and I have no idea how but my foot doesn’t go under the tire and I leap out.
I am close to tears. I am also starkly aware, as is everyone, that if nothing is done in the next few seconds these ponies might go down the track, or the barrier might come down, this is awful.
I run forward, clapping my hands, hoping beyond hope that I spook them off the track, not down it. My manliest, loudest voice comes out without intention, it must be the fear, the knowledge that this is so serious, and I run at them.
They shoot off the track and back onto the road on the other side. Thank the Lord. We follow them, now I am just walking, recovering from the adrenaline rush. Then we catch up with them and they’ve shot into the front of a caravan park on the right. My friend is out of her car, I’m not sure when that happened, and shouts to me.
“Pip, block the other entrance!”
I jerk to the right, heading for the entrance. The ponies are running fast. I stand in the middle, clapping my hands, shouting, but it’s no good, they run past me. I can’t believe we got that close to trapping them and they got out!
Then we’re chasing them down the road again for the second time in the same direction. I can’t believe they’re heading for the main road for the second time tonight.
Then, out of no where, at least that’s what it seems like, a police car, THE police car we saw earlier, comes out of the darkness towards the horses and ponies, he swerves right, driving them into a driveway and garden.
I run into the head of the driveway. The horses have gone around the back but they’ll circle back when they realise they’re trapped.
“Shut the gate!” yells the policeman.
How did I not see there was a gate? This is ridiculous.
I leap forward and grab up the gate on one side, dragging it shut. The policeman tries to get the other but the ponies are coming back, he explains later he has no experience and in this moment it shows a little, he doesn’t go into the drive to try and get the gate. Ignoring the ponies I run across the entrance and get the other gate.
They are secured!
Or so I thought, I’m so thankful for cleverer people, the policeman who told me to shut the gates, and my friend who immediately says,
“We need to check the fencing is secure.”
She and I go into the enclosure, ignoring the ponies, they are still trotting around but they don’t actively engage with us. At the back my friend sees some holes in the fence work and we put up panels to cover it and then stand there in the dark, watching the silhouettes of ten horses and ponies who are milling, some starting to eat, and we both start giggling, already reminiscing over running through the field, on the road.
“Of all the people who could be dropping my husband home.” she says, referring to my horsiness.
“I know! Thank goodness it was outside your house.” I reply to the horse owner.
My husband comes into the garden with a coat for me, he’s followed by my friend’s husband, they leave the gate slightly upon, almost in unison my friend and I yell without kindness.
“SHUT THE GATE!” Both finding it incomprehensible they might have left it ajar after a chase of over an hour. But then we start giggling again.
The ponies are safe. There has been no accident. My friend and her husband sort out the herd’s water and stay well into the wee hours with the ponies and the police.
When I wake up the next morning I wonder if it was real. When I move beneath the covers I realise my hands are stinging. Yep, that happened.