Image from http://www.horsechannel.com/
The dogs and I have had 12 days in the shooting field so far this year, and it's now painfully obvious to me (and to anyone within shouting distance of me) that the dogs need some refresher training. Dulcie and Pip are passable, but Jazz and Podge...well, I despair of them both at the moment. But there's no bad dogs, only bad training so I got my faithful book out last night - Joe Irving's Training Spaniels - and I'm going back to the beginning with their training. Watch this space for progress reports.
While I was inflicting the first chapter's training on Spud, Mike went off to feed the horses and found that someone had put a single plait (braid) in Kitty's mane. There's been a spate of these 'hit and run' braidings of horses' manes in the local area (we get an daily email update of country crime from the police, to help us stay vigilant). There are two theories to explain the braids - one a harmless activity, the other a more worrisome one:
1) It's a hallmark of the Winter Solstice in the Pagan calendar. The days get shorter and darker, and the darkness allows the gremlins usually banished by the light to come out and create mischief. This includes braiding horses' manes or tails, as well as less savory practices like putting out fires in the hearth by peeing on them. Apparently the gremlins have good motor skills but poor toilet habits. To keep the gremlins away, you can burn old shoes - the smell repels the creatures. Mike has a pair of stinking old leather Fell boots I'd like to burn. That would not only repel them, but probably violate the Geneva Convention rules on torture.
2) It's an old gypsy method for marking horses to steal. The idea being that if a horse is socialised enough to allow a stranger to come up and handle them, then it's probably rideable and therefore saleable. Our horses are gypsy vanner (cob) horses.
So far none of the braidings in this area have resulted in the theft of a horse, and we do have a strong pagan community so I'm hopeful that it's just a religious practice. I'm happy for Kitty to participate. She's non-denominational. But just to be safe, we moved the pair to the small paddock closer to the farmhouse where they live, and checked all the gates. Mike will drive by later, and probably find nothing more than horses with their heads down, contentedly munching the fresh grass. I might burn his boots anyway, just to be on the safe side.