Monday, 9 November 2009

The Braidy Bunch

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.


Paula said...

Ah, the pagan practices. Maybe you shouldn't post where you put them (the horses, I mean).

I once made the mistake of trying to dry wet leather work gloves in the oven, and OMG! the smell was just awful, so please if you burn Mike's boots, do it out of doors and preferably on a low wind day when the smell won't waft all the way to Oregon.

Jennifer Montero said...

Good Point Paula. I shall be vague as to their exact whereabouts from here on in.

Promise I won't burn his boots, though they might need to go and live in the back shed. The glove debacle sounds awful!

Poppy Cottage said...

I've done the same with gloves but in the microwave!!

Jasp skiving school to go stalking tomorrow!! Far better then a boring drama lesson.

Shall I pop Lily over for a bit of training??

Bit worrying about the horses.

Are you knitting tomorrow night?

Terry Scoville said...

How interesting that such mischief arises from shorter days. Glad it has been perfectly harmless to date. As for the boots, I'm with Paula and thanks!

Tamar said...

The problems you have!

It struck me that the gremlins, besides being mischievous, must also be male, peeing on fires being the exclusive domain of that gender.

Scolopax said...

What a truly lovely blog you have here Jennifer!
How delightful also, to see a U.S. citizen having made such a seemless transition into British rural life. Well done!

I was fascinated to read about the horse mane plaiting, as the same thing has happened here over the years, to my sister's horses. Although the animals were never harmed, it was I have to admit, somewhat disconcerting. We never even considered pagan rituals!

Sadly there has been a recent spate of horse thefts in Aberdeenshire. My girlfriend owns and runs a livery stable, and has taken to writing down the car registrations of any vehicles loitering about the lanes near the horses. Such a pity.

Have you considered padlocking your gates?

We have 3 hard days beating and picking up ahead of us now, as the pheasant season here on Speyside has truly kicked off.

I don't have your e-mail address, but if I had I would send you some pics of our dogs ( two labs and a cocker) out working on the various shoots.

Oh yes. We already have quite a few woodcock in, most having migrated under the last moon. Birds flushed on shoot days have hardly gone any distance, before flopping back down in thick cover. Obviously still tired from their migration.



Scolopax said...

P.S. If you would like to have a look at our dogs out working, please go to

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - definitely a male, though I can't explain the aversion to smelly shoes. Mike at least seems immune to it.

Thanks for your kind words Scolopax (?rusticola ;-). Sorry to hear about the horse thefts. Here it is horse trailers, tack and even field gates (we had our gate stolen). Those you can replace, but it would break my heart to lose a horse.

I will check out the link thanks. Have a great few days in the field. Hope your weather's better than ours!

Scolopax said...

Yes, well spotted Jennifer, Scolopax rusticola.

They stole your gate! Good grief!

Personally, I would have to agree with the punishment meeted out to horse thieves in the Old west. I reckon they had it about right.
To steal someone's horse is a miserably low trick.