When handling farm animals, don’t rush, don’t panic and – most important of all – don’t get between a Shetland pony and a hefty gatepost.
I reflected on that advice this week as I lay on my back in the mud, rain spattering into my face, too short of wind even to swear properly. . . unless “gr-ullks” counts.
Four young female pigs were due to go into an outside paddock. I unloaded them, connected up the electric fence and watched as they walked through the wire and disappeared in four different directions.
A certain amount of cajoling, prodding, bucket-rattling and negotiation got them to the field gate where I planned to lead them to the stable and start the whole process again.
That’s where it all went a bit pear-shaped. Ponies Ted and Merlin were the other side of the gate and eager to explore the field. Letting them in while trying to get the pigs out was out of the question, so I tried to shut the gate quickly.
Merlin wasn’t having any of that and tried to break through, which involved ramming the not-inconsiderable bulk of the pig farmer against the stout wooden gatepost.
Fifteen or 20 years ago I might have shrugged off such a collision, but I’m damn near 50 and, if I’m honest, I feel all of that this winter so I lay there gasping like a fish on a canal towpath.
Somehow Merlin was still where he should have been, so I regained composure, struggled to my feet, closed the gate and phoned Marcus who came up in his tractor to help load the pigs into a trailer and get them safely indoors.
We were about to put them in the stable when I heard an “uh-oh” from Marcus and noticed that part of the makeshift barrier keeping the ponies from getting down the lane had come down and the lads were off on their travels.
I legged it. Ted and Merlin saw me coming and skidaddled down to the main road and started off towards Pierowall with me in the car in pursuit. I managed to head them off, got out, physically turned Ted around and he and Merlin started to run back.
Just short of our bottom field, they turned right and headed off down the side road, with me back in the car just behind. We all ended up with Merlin’s old flame and his son Rolo and, by the look of Merlin if was no bad thing there was a fence between them.
Alistair was in and was kind enough not to laugh when I staggered into his shed asking for the loan of a head collars and lead ropes.
Abandoning the car for the time being, I led the suitably shackled lads up the track, a very horny Merlin snapping and bucking all the way (that’s bucking – do try to concentrate).
Wet to the skin, totally fed up, I shoved them into the bottom field, put a good chain on the gate and stomped off for hot tea and a hot bath.
I’ve had better days.