My Friend Chester.


My father's name was Chester. But this is another Chester, a big chestnut Irish Sport x Thoroughbred. He’s keen and willing and sane, which makes a nice change from one or two of the other horses I’ve ridden over the past few years, and better yet, he's mine till the end of the summer.

Last week we were cantering across the heath and nearly tripped over a stag curled up in the bracken. Chester stopped short, stood up on his toes, nostrils flaring, ears pricked -- but he didn’t bolt or spook or do anything silly when the stag leapt ten feet in the air and flew off.  I loved him for that.  A rodeo-style nervous breakdown with a forward double somersault would have been the usual horse response.

Yesterday was beautiful and sunny.  Until I tacked Chester up.  Then it started to rain.


We set off in a new direction I hadn’t tried before, through beautiful meadows of wild flowers and deep purple heather.  In the rain.  I wear glasses so I couldn’t see, and every time I dropped the reins to try to dry off my glasses, Chester thought it might be time to turn round and go home, like sensible folk.

But we kept on.

In past years, the heath and wildlife people have imported ponies and sheep to try to keep the bracken under control, but this year it’s goats – big wild aggressive looking goats.  It was quite something to come round a corner in a streaming drizzle and find ourselves face to face with twenty shaggy, horned goats.

Chester puffed and glared.  First at the goats.  Then at me.

My glasses ran with water and steam, we were lost, and my companion ran out of patience.

I had no idea where we were but Chester knew the shortest way home.

Back at the yard I emptied my pockets of Polo mints and carrots and offered them up humbly. Chester didn't seem to hold a grudge. Though I wouldn't have blamed him if he had.