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Willow Island: A Horse Story Part 1

Edited by Martin Wilsher

Unknown to all, until that fateful day in July, was a kingdom all it's own. A kingdom that belonged completely to the graceful creatures we know as horses. It was on an uncharted, yet large and beautiful island, full of weeping willow trees, which earned it it's magical name: Willow Island. There was a powerful leader, the stallion Ferdinand. There were other stallions too, but none like him. And, as you read on, you shall find out about all the rest, his favourite mare, their playful daughter, her friend Hector, and the terrible trouble that builds up throughout the story. Yet, do not despair, for every story has good times.

Ferdinand loved to play, though he was stern with his herd, as he was the head stallion. He taught the young foals and fillies how to fear man, and how to stay clear of them. He firmly taught his daughter, Marisa, how to deal with humans. Marisa was very young, and she did not understand the dangers that man would bring to her home. The herd would flee her home, and her father would firmly lead them. She would rather be out playing with her friend, Hector, son of the second stallion and head mare, Jolie and Black Thunder.

Her and Hector thought it would be safe to play, so they went to the other side of Willow Island. They had just got there when they heard unusual voices. They ignored the voices and kept on playing, until they heard a loud bang. Marisa looked over at Hector and he was just lying there. She ran back to Ferdinand and told him what had happened. Hector? Lying still on the ground on the other side of the island? Before a loud bang? Ferdinand didn’t like the sound of that. He tossed his head nervously. Marisa stood before him waiting for his answer. He clicked his tongue while he thought deeply. Hearing a noise Ferdinand looked behind him. The herd’s head mare and his favourite came to his side in a trot. “Ferdinand, Marisa what is going on?” Jolie asked Ferdinand replied:

“Jolie I need you to take Marisa to a place where she won’t cause any trouble”

“Momma, me and hector were playing and-“ “Marisa you are commanded not to talk!” Ferdinand snapped at her. Marisa flinched at Ferdinand’s words. She could only run to her mother’s side crying. Ferdinand didn’t care how Marisa felt. He was more concerned on what he had to do. There could only be one reason why Hector laid still on the ground. He had been shot by one of those gun sticks the humans used. So that meant there were humans on the island. For what reason? He thought. There wasn’t anything to hunt except horses. He turned to look over at his herd that he had led for years. He would do anything to protect the herd. They were like a family to him. Even though he wasn’t raised on the island, after all he got shipwrecked here when he was young, he cared for them. He cared for them enough that he had to take stern measures to keep them safe. He turned towards Jolie. “And make sure she doesn’t talk, because I have a lot of work to do,” Ferdinand added before galloping off to the only thing that could help him. Duran and his herd of bachelors! When he got there Duran didn’t want to get his group in danger so he refused to help Ferdinand and his herd. There was only one more herd on Willow Island, but they were scrawny and weak. They were their only hope. As he was running to them he met up with a group of humans.

The humans yelled and pointed at Ferdinand, and immediately threw a net on him before he could even think whether to run right or left. He struggled, but he could not brake free. The humans tied a rope around his neck, and began trying to pull him back to their camp. Ferdinand reared and whinnied, but the humans held fast, and dragged him back to their camp.

They called him names, jeered at him and poked him with a stick. Only one human from the group stood up for him. He had kind hazel-brown eyes, and a sad face. He was strong and comforting. When the other men hurt him, he glared at them through angry eyes and told them in a loud voice to stop. Ferdinand immediately felt close to him. They took him on a small ship, crowded with other horses Ferdinand did not know. They were all crammed into it, and some of the humans fell in a bad mood. They smoked, drank beer and swore. Only the kind man didn't. He, Ferdinand felt, was a leader, like himself. After many days of travelling, they finally reached land. The land wasn't at all like the place Ferdinand had lived in. It had lots of buildings, and cars everywhere. The boat docked in a semi-quiet area and Ferdinand, with the other horses, was taken off. He was led to a stable and put in a small stall. Only because the nice person was leading him did Ferdinand do this quietly.

The man led the horses into an open pasture. At the very edge of the pasture, there was an opening between some trees. It seemed like a quiet spot for Ferdinand to rest while he thought about everything that had just happened. He went into the opening of the trees, and saw... A whole bunch of other horses, gathered around in a circle! When they saw him, they snorted and backed away. "Who are you?" they asked. "I am Ferdinand." he replied. "What are you doing?" "We are holding a council on how we might escape. The fences are high and electrified, so we cannot escape."

Ferdinand and the others considered ways to escape from the pasture. They were just getting a good idea when they saw three men approaching them. Each man had two funny pieces of cloth and a rope. The kind man slipped one of the funny pieces of cloth over Ferdinand’s head and attached a rope. He also did this to another horse, a small black mare with a white star and two white socks. The other horses were being captured in the same way. The kind man led Ferdinand and the black mare to a trailer. He led both of the horses up into it and slammed the door. After a long bumpy ride, the gate was opened. Ferdinand stiffened. What was this place he had been brought to? Who were all these strange horses and men? The kind man came back again and led the two horses out of the trailer and to a small ring. By and by, many people came to observe the two horses. One little girl pointed at the pretty black mare and said, "daddy, daddy I want that one!" Another girl, about 14 carefully observed Ferdinand and kept her eye on him.

Ferdinand snorted. He had an idea what was going on. He had been brought to a place where people sold horses. "Can't I please have that one?" asked the little girl, pointing again to the black mare. "And I think my sister wants that one!" She pointed to Ferdinand. "Yes, yes, you can have those two." the dad began talking to a stranger, wrote something on a small piece of paper, and handed it to the man. The man led Ferdinand and the mare out. Again they were led into a trailer. "What's your name?" Ferdinand asked the mare. "Kora." she hesitated for a moment, then said, "Don't tell anyone, but I used to be a princess."

Ferdinand stared in incomprehension at the black mare. "What do you mean you were a princess?" he asked. Kora looked sadly at him. "What I mean is I was once owned by humans in high society, I had good food, lodging and fine appointment, now, well, what'll happen to me, to us?" Ferdinand couldn't reply. The trailer started moving, the driving was so bad that Ferdinand and Kora had trouble keeping their balance. At one moment, the trailer rocked so much that Kora was almost crushed under Ferdinand, even though the stallion did his best not to injure her. Their distress increased when they saw the kindly man who’d helped Ferdinand into the lorry running along side the trailer trying to keep up while screaming at the driver to have a care for the two horses inside it!

As the trailer turned a corner, Kora and Ferdinand lost sight of their only friend in the world. Picking himself up off the floor after another crashing meeting with it, Ferdinand looked at Kora and said: “It’s just us now, you and me, we’re in this together. We’ll have to help each other, I can’t live without you, and you without me, we’re horses against the cruelty of humans.” Kora looked at the stallion. “All right, I’ll do what you want.” She said. “What?” Ferdinand asked, “You think that’s all I want?” “Well,” Kora replied, “You are a stallion, and in my short life, I’ve got the impression that that’s all stallions want! You’re saying you are different, that you’ll respect a mare’s wishes?” “I wouldn’t touch you if you gave me oats, not unless you wanted me to.” Ferdinand’s shock was visible to Kora, who felt anger at herself for judging this stallion too quickly. Her thoughts were interrupted by the trailer jerking to a sudden stop, throwing her full weight on top of Ferdinand. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she stammered, levering herself carefully off of him. “That’s all right,” Ferdinand gasped, “I’m just winded, I didn’t expect that from the trailer!” Kora helped Ferdinand to his feet. The driver of the horsebox came to undo the ramp.

The driver unlatched the hinges of the float and let the ramp drop to the ground with out a care in the world, the ramp made a loud bang and the black mare shied into the stallions shoulder. Three men appeared at the side of the ramp with prodders, "These look good the poor little girl thought she was really getting these horses ha-ha, there too good for her" one man said, the other nodded: "We better put em with the others or the boss will get mad you know how much he wants these things lookin' good before we sell em to those Japanese fellas," said another guy and they all started laughing. The mare and the stallion gave each other scared looks and wondered what was going 2 become of them. One moment they were going to live with two little girls and now they were going with other horses somewhere, other horses appealed to them but where were they going? Kora s

tared at Ferdinand in horror! “Now we’re really in for it,” she said. Ferdinand didn’t know what these humans were doing, he’d never been in a holding pen before and didn’t like it at all. “What do they do here?” he asked. “We’re gonna be paraded each in turn until someone buys us. Then where we go, who knows,” Kora replied. “Where do horses end up?” Ferdinand asked. “Most, well, they end up going to riding stables, some though,” she looked uneasy,” well,” she continued, “they are put to other uses. Uses to which I don’t want to talk about.” Ferdinand knew his lot was in the hands of humans now. A horse used to deciding his own destiny, he didn’t think he was going to enjoy this next bit. They were brought to another auction. A lot of strangers came to look at them, some smiling, some frowning. Kora was acting up a little. "If I were you, I would put in my best behaviour for these people, if they see we are good, they will be more willing to take us to their homes," said Ferdinand. "You're right" added Kora. The people around them seemed to be richer than the people at the other auction. Then, two men walked up to Kora, examining her carefully. "Do you think she will do?" one asked to the other, while stroking his hand over Kora's neck. "She looks awfully good to me." He answered. How much do you want for her?" He asked the man who was standing near them. "Oh, about $2000, considering we don't know her bloodlines nor her past." He replied. "What are they talking about?" Kora asked Ferdinand. "They want to buy you." "But-" with that the two men took her away. Great, now what was Ferdinand supposed to do, he had no friends, and he didn't even know what was to become of him.

Ferdinand looked about him. The people who ran the auction left the horses free to roam about in large enclosures, the boundaries of which were low enough for a large horse such as himself to jump easily. Ferdinand was on the hunt now, he was looking for another horse, as desperate as he was to escape from this dreadful situation. Leaping the fence he wandered about for a bit. Rounding a corner he found himself beside a row of gated pens, in one of which stood the horse he’d been looking for. There were many horses round him, some fine beasts, others not so. This horse, well, Ferdinand hadn’t seen this breed for years, but instantly he recognised it. Falabella horses, being the smallest horses in the world, weren’t inconspicuous amongst taller breeds. This one was three feet tall, as tall as they got, so Ferdinand thought, and she looked terrified! Scared out of her fur! Approaching her cautiously, Ferdinand asked: “Can I help? You look lost.” The tiny mare stared at him for a minute or so. “I don’t know,” she said, “after what’s happened to me I don’t know anything now! All Certainty has gone, I don’t know where I am any more, or what’s gonna happen to me, or anything! She stared, wide eyed into Ferdinand’s face.

Ferdinand took in this tiny mare from her ears to her tiny hooves. He’d never seen a horse so small before! Seeing him appraising her, she tried to look her best by flicking her mane about a bit. Ferdinand smiled at her. “What’s your name?” He asked. The mare replied: “I don’t really know, my owners,” she looked tearful. Taking a deep breath she continued: “they called me Pip, don’t know what that means, but that was my name. Now they’re gone, I’m here, and I don’t know what to do!” Seeing Pip’s distress Ferdinand dropped to his knees and hugged her. “I’ll protect you, I’ll not leave you if you don’t want me to,” he said gently. Pip returned his embrace by rubbing his ear with her muzzle. “Thanks, um, I don’t know your name,” Embarrassed now, Ferdinand gabbled: “oh, um, yeah, my name? Ferdinand it is.” “”That’s a nice name, I like that, it suits you, if you don’t mind me saying,” she said. Ferdinand wanted to ask her so much, thoughts of escape had fled from his mind as soon as he’d set eyes on this amazing creature. He wanted to know all about her, wanted to learn about her breed, and everything there was to know about anything to do with her.

Shaking himself out of his trans, Ferdinand recovered his senses and told her his plan of escape. "But," Pip reminded him, "How can I escape for I am not big enough to jump out of this pen. So Ferdinand began kicking at the gate of the pen Pip was in. It finally broke apart and then she was out. He led her to the main fence, and kicked that one open too. Then they cantered off, away from this horrible place, to try to find what they didn't know.

Ferdinand, used to going at his own fast pace, found it difficult to slow down to Pip’s as he was anxious they might be found quickly. They cantered along the edge of a main road, the site of which unnerved Pip a good deal. Seeing her distress, Ferdinand called a halt in a patch of dense woodland where they could be hidden from prying human eyes. “Sorry about this Ferdinand,” Pip said, “It’s just that I haven’t seen things like a road before, not like that! Tracks and open fields, yes I’ve seen that, but not large roads with all sorts of I don’t know what passing us!” Ferdinand, not being used to roads himself, but feeling he must act as if he knew a lot for the sake of the tiny mare’s confidence in him, said: “I know these, we’ll be okay if we stay on the grass verges or in the fields.” Satisfied with that, Pip replied: “Okay, if that’s how it should be.” With that they continued their journey. At length they came to a place where there was no grass verge, no fields, and a lot of road! “Um, Ferdinand, you said we should stick to the Fields or the grass verges, there aren’t any here!” Pip whinnied. They were surrounded by cars, at an intersection between four major highways, and Ferdinand knew he couldn’t go back the way they’d come, he’d have to go forward, but how? He might be able to do it, but Pip would be in danger of being run down by the larger lorries he could see speeding past. How was she going to get across the road safely?

The sun, now baked through their short fur coat, was becoming unbearable. There was the sound of running on the pavement. "Their after us!” Pip cried in a panic stricken voice. "Calm down, they'll here you!" Ferdinand said in a hushed undertone, but it was too late! All it took was the bark of a dog and the loud bang of a gun, the horses were off, tearing through the traffic, drivers were slamming on their brakes, their tyres screeching to a halt. When on the other side of the road the horses didn't bother slowing down from their wild gallop. Ferdinand who only started after Pip, had now come neck to neck with her and called:

"Slow down to a walk!" in-between huge gasps of breath. When he had caught his breath a thoughtful expression crossed his face. "What is it, Ferdinand?" Pip asked. " This, This is the thing that brought me here!" he said in wonder. "Well, it's, it's leaving!" Said Pip sending out a sharp kick behind her. "Now what?!" She screamed in agony.

Hearing Pip’s pained squeal, Ferdinand bullied her into a field. “What’s all the squealing for!” He demanded. Pip, frightened and in a lot of pain, replied: “You remember the gun going off?” “Couldn’t forget it could I?” Ferdinand snapped back. “Well,” Pip replied, “I think I’ve been shot!” Ferdinand checked the mare over, finding a flesh wound on her right hock. Instantly Ferdinand saw the wound wasn’t bad. “It’ll hurt like hell for a bit, but she’s not in danger,” he thought. Pip looked up into his eyes. Ferdinand saw fear and terror in the tiny mare’s eyes, and it saddened him. “Everyone’s after us,” Pip said.

Ferdinand lowered his head and nuzzled Pip’s ear. “The humans have the upper hoof on us at the moment Pip, but we can survive, If we stick to the fields, hide in woods, maybe try to find a herd of wild horses, then we can remain free. I am a wild horse, you are clearly not, but you can learn how to be so,” He said. “I want to stay with you Ferdinand,” Pip replied. “Right, then we have to get cover in numbers, There are wild herds of horses here, if we can find them, then we can disappear.” “Right,” Pip said, “We find the wild horses then, but where do we start?” She asked. “Follow me,” Ferdinand replied. With that he cantered into a stand of trees on the other side of the field, Pip followed.

The 2 horses stopped. They needed a break from the hard run. Ferdinand told Pip about his earlier life on the Island. When he was finished, Pip was smiling. "most of that tale was nice Ferdinand." Pip sighed. "It was till the men came." Answered Ferdinand.

Ferdinand and Pip wandered through the trees searching, searching for a horse, any horse. Suddenly Pip pricked her ears and hared off to the left, Ferdinand followed. Pip charged through the wood, eager to find the source of the sound she’d heard. “What are you doing?” Ferdinand asked. “There’s another horse Ferdinand, another horse! I heard it!” Pip panted. Sure enough, when Pip slowed down, Ferdinand found himself in a clearing, and there, standing in front of him and Pip, were a herd of horses, different breeds all, with a leader, a horse who was unmistakably leader. Seeing them, a huge Shire mare came forward, She was the largest shire mare Ferdinand had ever seen! Fully eighteen hands tall she stood in front of them, seeming to be larger than ever when she stood beside him. Ferdinand took in her huge form, from her large ears, to her huge hooves. “What are your names, and what can we do for you?” She asked.

"Our names are Pip, and Ferdinand," Ferdinand answered. "What may we do for you Ferdinand?" The Shier horse asked. "We are looking for a herd to live with, we ran away from some bad people." Pip answered. "You may join us, keep out of trouble though." The Shier answered.

Ferdinand followed the huge mare to the rest of the herd, Pip following a short distance behind. Off to her right, a colt saw her walking towards the herd. He thought he would have a go at this tiny mare, and attacked her. Pip shrieked as the colt bit and kicked her mercilessly. The Shire mare whipped round and beat the colt off Pip. She drove the colt, bruised and angry, away from the herd. “I’ll talk with you later!” She squealed. The colt ran into the wood. Returning to Pip, the mare asked: “You all right?” Pip picked herself up off the grass and the mare examined her critically. “he’s bruised your hock, torn your ear and grazed your nose Pip, I’m really sorry about that.” Pip looked at the mare: “Do wild horses do that to each other?” she asked. “I try to stop it, really I do! But we have trouble with some colts yes pip,” the mare replied. Pip looked at the massive mare. “I can’t defend myself against a colt like him, so how am I gonna defend myself against the larger horses if they have a go at me?” she asked. The mare looked down at the tiny falabella horse. “We’ll have to think of a way of protecting you Pip,” she said. Pip asked: “What is your name?” Ferdinand was terrified that Pip might incur the wroth of the mare by asking that, but she didn’t seem to mind. “My name’s Petra,” The huge mare replied. She leant down and nuzzled Pip’s ear: “I think we’re gonna get on,” she said. Pip felt she might grow to like this mare a great deal.

Petra left the herd after a while to sort out the colt who had harmed Pip. "Ferdinand, are you going to stay here?" Pip asked. "I hope so," Ferdinand answered. A horse came up to them, she was a reddish brown, she looked like a Shetland Pony. "Excuse me, do you know where Maynand is?" She asked slowly. "Um, no, sorry can't help you there," Ferdinand replied. "He is a colt, looks like..." "He is in trouble with the boss." A voice sneered from behind them. Pip spun around and looked in to an angry face. "What, what, er..." Pip stammered. "It is me, the second in command, my name is Sheissain. "Er, hi." Ferdinand said nervously. The horse walked away. "He's an odd one," The Shetland mare said before leaving her self.

\Petra looked severely at the colt. “You, Maynand are heading for big trouble!” she whinnied. Maynand looked with loathing at Pip. “The trouble with you Petra is you give sanctuary to the craziest horses! Is that thing over there a horse?” he waved a mocking hoof at Pip. “For your Information Maynand, Pip is a falabella horse, you might not have seen them before, but they are horses, not ponies!” Petra squealed. Sheissain came up to them then. “What was that Maynand? You think you can do a better job than Petra?” he snapped. Maynand stared into Sheissain’s face. “I hate small horses! You know how tall she’ll become when she’s older? No taller than she is now! She’ll be a foal for all her life! Being protected by other horses because she’s a scrap! Bet you can’t have foals Pip, you couldn’t have them!” Hearing Maynand’s squealing rant against her, Pip crossed the grass to stand beside Petra. Pip asked: “Okay, so how do you think I came into the world?” Maynand hesitated: “You, you were a foal? You had a mother?” he asked. The mention of her mother, from whom she’d only been taken a few months before, upset Pip. “I was taken from her at three months old, as soon as they could the humans took me away from my mother. I’m only nine months now, I’ve had no permanent home, and now I’m being insulted by a jumped up colt!” Pip squealed. With that she whirled round and lashed out furiously, her sharp little hoof catching Maynand on his shoulder, splitting the skin. Maynand walked away very downcast and rapidly reassessing his thoughts on the falabella mare.

Pip felt better. “where is Ferdi’”? she thought. Her mind wandered, Ferdi, she liked him, she trusted him, on their journey they had talked about many things, she didn’t know why she trusted him, he was different, knew things, listened without interrupting, she knew that this horse was someone special.

Pip looked about her. She saw Petra remonstrating with Maynand, Sheissain standing off to her right staring at the Shire mare, and Ferdinand, well, where was he? Suddenly a voice behind her said: “You look lost Pip.” Shrieking with fright Pip leapt six feet in the air and fell over backwards. Legs thrashing, she fought to stand, while Ferdinand tried hard not to laugh helplessly. He’d looked round the local area and had come back to see his tiny friend looking lost, and had only remarked on that, and now Pip was thrashing around on her back, hooves waving helplessly as she tried to get to her feet again. Pip rolled over and scrambled to her feet. “Oh, Ferdinand! You frightened me, where, where did you get to? Did you see that colt, the one who insulted me? Have you seen Sheissain? I’m so glad you’re here now,” Pip gabbled. Ferdinand nuzzled and licked her ear. “I’m here Pip dear, forever, if you want me here,” he said. Pip felt she wanted him by her side forever. She knew a foal with Ferdinand would be out of the question, but she didn’t care. Pip looked up into the larger horse’s soft brown eyes. “I feel safe with you Ferdinand, Well, I think this is what safe should feel like. No fear, no anxiety, like I used to feel all that time back, so long it seems, when I was with my mother, but different from that in so many ways too. I can’t explain how it is,” she said.

Pip was happy to trot around the field beside Ferdinand, he’d taken In the scene and was not afraid of talking to the horses and introducing himself to them. Pip, on the other hand, was very shy by nature and remained half a pace behind him, yet still taking in what was,; for the time being, to be her new home. She knew that her friendship with Ferdinand would never be more than that. Even though she had become very fond of him and was so very young she had had to mature very quickly and meeting Ferdinand had made her aware that she was growing up fast, almost too fast! She had to weigh things up very quickly, she didn’t want to lose this horse as a friend, not now, he was too special, She found it hard not to get excited when she saw him and occasionally butted in with “Hi Ferdi” when he was trying to assist another horse with a problem, he was good at that … helping others and she knew that she must try and keep quiet as it would irritate him if she kept shouting out to him every time she saw him. “We’ll talk later, Pip, dear!” he would say giving her a friendly nudge. Meanwhile, Ferdinand had something else on his mind, he couldn’t stop thinking about Kora, where was she, was she well, was she safe ,, would their paths ever cross again?

Ferdinand decided to ask Petra if she’d heard of Kora. The massive Shire mare looked thoughtful: “Um, well, I remember a mare who looked similar to how you describe. She was loose on the road along which we were walking to fresh grazing grounds,” Petra said. “yes, and what then? Did you speak to her?” Ferdinand asked anxiously. “I didn’t, Sheissain did,” “yeah,” Sheissain spat,” the mare was all mixed up, she kept wining on about how she was lost, how humans had mistreated her, have you ever heard of such rubbish!” Petra glared at her second in command. “You Sheissain have been born wild, you know nothing of humans do you? I know you do not, I do. They can be a friend to us horses, but then again, they can be our enemies. Kora, if this mare was indeed her, spoke true words, her fear was real, her flight justified. Sheissain shut up fast, he knew he was wild born and bred and knew nothing about humans. Petra looked into Ferdinand’s tortured eyes. “I wish I could help you more Ferdinand, I really wish I could tell you more, but I can’t.” Ferdinand sighed with disappointment. “Thanks Petra, thanks for everything. One more thing, when did you see her last?” The Shire mare’s ears drooped as she considered the stallion’s question. “About seven nights back, we horses only know day and night,” she replied. Their attention was grabbed by Pip squealing hysterically! Both Ferdinand and Petra turned as one to see the tiny mare galloping for all she was worth across the clearing. “What’s the matter now!” Ferdinand asked irritably. He was getting fed up with this mare’s constant harassment. “There’s a mare in the wood!” Pip whinnied. “Oh great, there must be hundreds,” Sheissain scoffed. “yeah, but, Ferdinand,” Pip ploughed on, “that mare you were talking to Petra about, I think it’s her! Also, she’s in trouble!” Pip shrieked.

"Ok Pip, Dear," Ferdinand continued, "Let’s go and see what is going on, I just hope you are not playing silly games ... "I'm not"! yelled Pip, "Why would I do that"?

Ferdinand and Pip raced off towards the woods. “I think it is Cora.” Pip panted. “We should see Pip.” Ferdinand answered. They dashed in to the forest, there standing in open grassland stood Cora, she was looking around her. “Cora!” Ferdinand yelled. “Yes, oh, its Ferdinand!” Cora cried as she ran towards him. “This is my friend, Pip.” Ferdinand said, “she is not a pony, she’s a falabella horse.” Ferdinand kept talking as the 3 of them headed back to the herd. “Our leader’s name is Petra, she is very nice and will help you, or even let you in.” Pip said. “I hate humans!!” Cora whinnied. “Er, okay, then, welcome to the human hater herd.” Ferdinand answered. Petra took 1 look at Cora and said, “Welcome dear.”

Kora studied Pip closely. “You are so small Pip!” She whinnied. “There’s nothing wrong with being small is there?” Pip replied, “I happen to think you are tall, but I don’t remark on it do I!” She snapped. Kora made a mental note to be more careful next time. She took in Pip’s tiny stature, and looking down, the tiniest set of hooves she’d ever seen on a horse! Pip saw the larger mare appraising her and said: “I know you think I’m small, that I can’t fight, that I’m little better than a foal! I’ll have you know that I sent Maynand packing earlier! The stupid colt thought he could insult me and get away with it!” Pip yelled. Kora dropped to her knees and said: “I’m sorry Pip, really I am, but I have never seen the like of you before. Can’t you understand my curiosity?” Pip looked into Kora’s face. She saw a kindly mare, who’d been abused by the humans, and who needed understanding like she herself did. “all right, sorry Kora,” Pip said. Kora nuzzled Pip’s shoulder. Instinctively, Pip cuddled up close to the larger mare. Kora began to stroke the tiny horse’s ear with her muzzle, and soon Pip was asleep. Ferdinand watched this in silence. Petra said: “Pip’s still a foal. She hasn’t had time to grow up yet, and she’s been thrown into all this poor thing.” Ferdinand looked into the massive Shire mare’s face to see tears welling in her eyes. Petra went to Pip’s right side, dropped to her knees and rested her nose on Pip’s neck. “We’ll look after you littl’en,” she whispered.

The tiny mare drifted off into a dreamless sleep. She hadn’t slept like this for a long time. She was exhausted from the long journey and then … the attack by the vicious colt. “Take care of her for me Petra, she needs plenty of love!” Ferdinand whispered. “I will,” Petra reassured him. “I love her very much” Ferdinand continued, “but she needs a mother figure to focus on right now so I am relying on you to fulfil that role. I am telling you this if, for any reason, we are separated, tell her I will always be there for her”!

Ferdinand and Kora walked away. Ferdinand didn’t want to be there when Pip woke. Although he loved the Falabella mare dearly, she was only a foal, and she needed Petra, not him. Meanwhile, Pip had woken to find Ferdinand and Kora gone, but Petra was still there, watching over her. “Where has Ferdinand gone?” Pip asked. Petra replied: “He’s gone away for a short while, gone with Kora, they needed to talk.” Pip got to her feet and looked around, she couldn’t see Ferdinand, it was the first time she’d lost sight of him since they’d met and this frightened her. “Where is Ferdinand! Where is he!” She squealed. Petra dropped to her knees, and hugging Pip tightly she said gently: “Pip, my dear filly, listen to me.” Pip twitched an ear in the Shire mare’s direction. “Ferdinand has left the herd, he went with Kora, and I don’t think they’re going to return. He told me, that he loved you dearly, and that he’d always be there for you, but that he couldn’t stay.” Pip stared at Petra in confusion. “he’s left the herd for good?” she asked. “yes Pip dear, I’m afraid he has,” Petra replied. Pip then said: “You called me your filly, I’m not a foal any more, and I’m not your foal!” “No Pip, I know that, but through no fault of your own you were taken from your mother, I’m looking after you now.” Pip looked at the massive shire mare, she wondered how this massive horse could ever look after her, a tiny horse, only three feet tall. “I suppose, with Ferdinand gone, I must make an effort to stand on my own four feet,” Pip thought. Pip looked Petra over, From the mare’s head, Pip wondered how a horse could have such large ears, to her neck, strong and powerful, to the massive body and legs, down, down, down, to the larges set of hooves Pip had ever seen on a horse. Pip glanced at her own hooves, tiny they were. She suddenly felt a lot safer with Petra around. Maynand came cantering across to her. “So your nurse has gone for good then Pip,” he scoffed. Then he lashed out at her! Maynand was never to know quite what happened next, the next thing he knew he was flying, yes flying through the air, he landed with an almighty crash on the grass ten feet from where he’d been standing. Picking himself up off the grass, he looked straight into the eyes of an enraged Shire mare. Petra stared the colt down, she was furious! ““You stupid fool Maynand!” She shrieked. Maynand spat at her feet. “That scrap doesn’t need our protection Petra, she’s a liability to us!” He blustered. Petra turned and showed the now terrified colt a huge hind foot. “You wouldn’t hit me with that, you haven’t got the,,, she lashed out at him! Maynand wasn’t fast enough to get out of the line of fire. The shire mare’s hoof smashed into his shoulder, lifting him off his feet, sending him into a summersault. Maynand crashed painfully onto his back and lay stunned. Petra regarded her work with disinterest. “Don’t you ever, ever! Go after Pip again Maynand! That is if you still can of course.” She snarled. The Shire mare went across to the colt and nudged him with a forefoot, Maynand groaned pitifully.

Pip got used to Ferdinand being gone every day. She was sad though. Petra helped the best she could, but Pip was the one who had to let go. Petra was still having problems with Maynand. He still kept chasing Pip around the clearing. One day Pip woke up to a sound of horse hooves running towards them from far away. A yell, then a shout. “Petra!!” Ferdinand yelled, “We found a better place for your herd!!” “Ferdinand, you are back.” Pip said with a smile. “Yes Pip dear, let me show your herd the place.” “That is very nice of you Ferdinand, I’ll bring my herd.” Petra said. After an hour of sorting things out, the herd moved on. Two days later, the herd reached the Island of Ferdinand’s. “Home Sweet Home!” Ferdinand sang. “I’m wet from that swim.” Petra laughed, “Feeling good to be having fun at last.”

Ferdinand and Kora ranged all over the island, or what was left of it. Ferdinand’s emotions ranged from rage to grief as he looked upon his beloved home. The humans had not only taken all the horses off the island, that was bad enough, they’d cut down all the willow trees that gave the island it’s name! Ferdinand suppressed an urge to squeal and whinny in anger at the moon, which was the custom on the island before the humans came, as the horses believed the moon controlled the earth. Ferdinand felt a deep and growing hatred for the human race who had desecrated his island. Depressed, Kora and Ferdinand returned to the rest of the horses. “It might have been nice once Ferdinand dear,” Petra said, “but now it’s a dump! All the willow trees,,,” “yeah, I know,” Ferdinand replied, trying not to cry in front of her, “it’s awful, the humans have a lot to answer for. Maybe this isn’t the place it was. My island no longer exists. This place is shut to me.” With that he walked away, head down and hooves barely leaving the ground as he walked. “it’s depressed him greatly,” Kora said. “It’s not how Ferdinand said it would be, that’s fur sure,” Pip remarked. “Humans have no idea what they’ve got till they lose it,!” Sheissain snapped. Petra looked about her and said: “Even though my fur has hardly dried out since the swim earlier, I think we should get off this island sharpish.” “In case the humans come back?” Kora asked. “exactly,” Petra replied, she beckoned to Kora, “look at what I found,” she invited. Petra led Kora across the island to a group of tree stumps, around the stumps were strange things, wire, blocks of something that looked like plastic, as well as spades, and other junk. “You know what that is?” Petra asked, waving a hoof at the plastic and wires. “No, but it smells like man, it has fearful things about it, and frankly I don’t want to be here Petra, I hate this place!” Kora whinnied. “Okay, we’re going, fast! It’s explosive, they’re blowing up the stumps! I know, I’ve seen it, and we don’t want to be here when they do!” Petra whinnied. With that she galloped away, calling the other horses to follow her. Every horse plunged into the water and swam for their lives! Once safely on the other side of the lake where the island was situated, they turned back at the sound of loud explosions. “they’ve started it already,” Petra said. Maynand looked with spite at Ferdinand: “You brought us to your island, now they’re blowing the thing up! It was a hellhole anyway! Your island is a dump, just as Petra said it was!” he scoffed. Ferdinand, upset and angry at the humans, felt his control snap! He drove the colt under his hooves, trampling him into the forest floor. “I hate, loath and despise you Maynand!” Ferdinand screamed, his eyes blazing with naked hatred!

Ferdinand’s attack was severe. It took Petra and Sheissain to pull him off the colt. “Leave him Ferdinand, that’s enough! Stop!” Petra squealed. Ferdinand lay on the forest floor, pinned down by Sheissain. “I know you are upset about your home, and I’m sorry, but you don’t need to attack Maynand in the way you did!” “He’s been getting to me Petra, attacking Pip and all that! You’re saying I should let that go?” Ferdinand whinnied. “No I’m not saying that, he deserves punishment for that, and he will get it. It is me or Sheissain who punish in this herd, noone else. You are as bad as Maynand if you sink to his level,” Petra replied. Maynand focused his gaze on Ferdinand, and swore viciously at him. “We’ll have less of that!” Petra snapped. “And what are you gonna do about it Petra, kick me? Bite me? Go ahead, do it, everyone else is!” Maynand screamed.

Pip didn't know what to do, she was frightened, she felt desperately alone, oh why was Ferdinand so angry?

So much had happened to her in her short life, why did it all happen to me, she thought, its not fair!

Pip looked round for someone to talk to. She saw Ferdinand cantering off into the distance. She felt she couldn’t ask him why he’d gone crazy, in case he went mad at her too. Sheissain wasn’t right Pip decided, so it would have to be Petra. The tiny falabella mare walked up to Petra, took her courage in her tiny hoof and asked: “Petra, can, can I talk to you about something,,,” Her voice trailed away. Pip felt a moment of naked terror as the huge mare looked down at her. She was surprised and relieved to see the gentle expression on Petra’s face. “of course you can Pip dear,” Petra replied, “here, or somewhere private?” she asked. Pip said: “Somewhere else, please,,,” Seeing the tiny mare’s fear and general anxiety, Petra lowered her head and nuzzled the mare’s ear. “Maybe she doesn’t think I’m on her side,” Petra thought. The Shire mare knew that the talk she was about to have with Pip would make or break their friendship.

They found a quiet corner, Pip didn’t know quite what to expect but she knew that whatever Petra had to say to her was very important. Listen pip dear,” Petra began, “I know you have been through a lot, but your just gonna have to stop feeling sorry for yourself, and learn to stand on your own hooves for once. Ferdinand is getting fed up of you demanding his attention all the time and if your not careful, you will lose him for good and you don’t want that, do you”? “Course not” whispered pip, “I need Ferdinand, he’s like a big brother to me, I just wish he would sort himself out … I’m sorry Petra, I just feel so lonely sometimes, I don’t mean to bug him”! “Ok, well listen to me, dear, promise that you will try to make the effort to pull yourself together and grow up a bit, just for me”! “yes mum, I promise” she said quietly. Petra was stunned! She didn’t know what to do after this last comment:

“She called me mum,” Petra thought to herself, should she hug her and tell her she loved her, o blow it, she hugged the tiny horse close to her, you’re the foal I never had, she thought, how can I ever tell her everything!” I love you pip” she said warmly. “You’ll never know how much”!

Pip had wanted to say so much to Petra. Her young mind just could not get the words together to say the things that had been going through her mind. Petra’s talk to her had made it all right, she knew now that she would have to change, be positive and start to enjoy life and have some fun! The past was behind her now, she knew she was loved by those who were most important to her and that was all that mattered,

Pip looked into the shire mare’s face. She asked gently: “Why didn’t you have a foal?” Petra lay down and patted the grass with a forefoot to indicate that Pip should lie beside her. Once they were both comfortable, Petra answered the filly’s question. “You know I said I knew humans, and how awful they could be to us horses?” she said. Pip nodded: “I remember you saying something mum,” she said. Petra continued: “Well, the last human I was with,,,” Petra stopped. Staring into the middle distance at horrors she hoped she’d never revisit, she said: “I was a dray horse, pulled beer carts and such like, maybe I’ll tell you of the history of my breed someday. I was a dray horse as I said, and my driver was a terrible human. Most drivers were male where I worked, butt I had a female.” Petra swallowed hard, her voice cracking she said: “That female human should never have even been let near horses. She beat me until I was sore, shire horses aren’t race horses Pip, we can’t go very fast! This human wanted me to go like an engine, faster, and faster and faster! I couldn’t! I tried my best, we all did, us horses, the humans, well,” she snorted, “I wouldn’t have given a barrel of oats for the lot of them.” Pip asked: “Was it the beating that injured you?” Petra’s eyes filled with tears: “No, no, it wasn’t the beating,,, it was one day,,,” Pip felt wretched for asking the shire mare about anything now. “You don’t have to tell me mum, not if it hurts you,” she said gently. “Give me time Pip darling,” Petra replied, “after all, I made a pretty big statement calling you my foal, and my only foal at that, me being eight now n’all. Most mares have had at least one foal by the time they get to my age.” Pip nuzzled Petra’s massive right ear. This attention from her foal seemed to calm Petra enough to continue her tale. “This human drove me hard that day, making me trot where I couldn’t trot, that was as fast as I could go with a full dray, and that was a struggle, every step at a trot with a full dray was a massive effort, but what do humans know of the work we horses do. I fell, my feet slipped from under me at full trot, and, well, the dray ran over me, crushed me, I would have died if a vet who was up for anything hadn’t been called. This vet saw me lying there, heard from passers by what had happened and decided that I was worth it. This vet fixed me up, did a fine job too. I owe that human my life, although I can’t ever tell them that.” Pip had noticed Petra walking stiffly sometimes, but she put it down to the mare being old, not this, not abuse! “although the vet fixed most of the damage, I lost the ability to have foals,” Petra concluded. She looked at Pip: “I will never forget the pain of that dray running me down, never!” she squealed. Pip was appalled. “Saying I’m Sorry doesn’t seem enough mum, what you told me is beyond anything I imagined. No wonder you went wild, no wonder you hate humans!” “Ah Pip, I don’t hate all humans, not like Sheissain, who’s never encountered one, good or bad. That horse is a fool! he knows nothing!” she exploded. Calming down a little, she continued: “I know there are good humans and bad humans, but I’m wild, I don’t want to be shod, groomed, and definitely not shut in a stable ever again!” Pip looked down at the mare’s massive hooves. “your hooves are magnificent,” she said. Petra smiled. Like all horses, she took pride in how her hooves looked. “Thanks,” she said with genuine appreciation. Pip let her gaze travel all over Petra. From her massive hooves, to her legs, body and neck, finishing on her face, and the eyes shining with love and joy at having her, Pip to call her foal. Pip suddenly felt very safe, safe enough to cuddle up to this massive mare, who five days ago she’d never met, and fall asleep. Petra nuzzled Pip’s ear and brushed her muzzle with her’s. “I love you mum,” Pip yawned. Petra let herself go, weeping with joy into the long grass. Soon the mare’s tears dried, and she settled to sleep with her new foal beside her.

The mood of the herd changed, the recent explosions unnerved even the most hardened of them. It was difficult to believe that Maynand was frightened by such events. They didn't like it, something had to be done, they must move onto somewhere new and safe!

Pip woke slowly from a deep sleep. She got up carefully, so not to disturb Petra. She looked about her, wondering whether all that had happened to her was a dream, but then she looked back at Petra and realised it wasn’t. Pip nudged Petra’s shoulder with her nose. “Hmm, yeah?” Petra said drowsily, “Oh, Pip it’s you.” She stretched languidly. “Have I been asleep?” she asked. “We both have mum,” Pip replied. Petra got to her feet, shook herself and looked down at Pip. “We’d better find Ferdinand, see where he’s got to,” she said. With that they left the place where they’d spent over fifteen hours. They found Ferdinand grazing, he didn’t seem to notice Petra or Pip. Then he looked Petra full in the face and said: “I think we’ve got to leave here, the men will be here soon, and then we’re running, running for our lives.” Petra replied: “Ferdinand, I am the one who makes decisions round here, not you! The herd is lead by myself and Sheissain, when he’s not bullying other horses.” Ferdinand snorted: “What about that disgusting colt? Maynard, isn’t that what he calls himself? What is he in this herd,” Petra wanted to say exactly what she thought of Maynand, but thought of Pip and refrained from speaking her mind. “He’s a jumped up colt, as Pip said,” she replied, “he thinks he’s big enough to insult a tiny mare and get away with it.” “I hate Maynand mum,” Pip said viciously.

“Yes, dear I know, but you've just got to put up with him.” Petra said. Ferdinand interrupted the little mare filly chat. “Look, while you two stand around discussing your likes and dislikes, we're all going to get caught. I'm going to make the escape proposition to the heard, and tonight, whether any one comes with me or not I'm leaving this place for safety.”

Later that day, all the horses stood by an old oak. Ferdinand addressed the whole herd. “I can’t stay here any more, since the men came to my island, I’ve thought that staying a long time in one place is not advisable. I am leaving this island as soon as this meeting is over.” Sheissain spoke up then. “Ferdinand, I’m sorry to correct you here, but I feel I must. We left the island as soon as we found out about the strange man things from Petra and Kora, we are no longer on the island any more.” Maynand spat: “What rubbish you talk Ferdinand. I say to the whole herd, this horse is deluded! He’s a misfit and should be thrown out!” “yes Maynand, you should, and you will soon enough,” Petra replied. The colt stared at his leader. “Me?” he asked, “I meant Ferdinand when I said this horse, not me!” \Petra stared Maynand down. “Stay here after the meeting,” she snapped. Ferdinand, realising his mistake, said: “I feel so small now. In my stressed state, I forgot about the flight, the swim and everything, I’m sorry, I beg you all for your understanding and forgiveness.” Petra looked round the herd, probing for descent. Finding none, she said: “You are forgiven Ferdinand, it’s forgotten now. “No it isn’t!” Maynand yelled. With that he was running, running because he was being chased by a massive Shire mare! Petra chased Maynand into the woods, knocked him to the floor and gave him a kicking he’d never forget! “don’t ever come back to my herd!” she shrieked.

"But, but, Petra, why are you throwing me out?" Maynand Moaned.

Petra stared down at the prostrate colt. “I am throwing you out because you are a menace to the herd. Going after Pip like you did, what did you think you were playing at!” Maynand screamed: “She’s a nothing Petra, a nothing!” Petra snapped: “But you are a bigger nothing Maynand, she didn’t get kicked out of the herd.” The Shire mare reminded him. Maynand looked down at the mare’s massive hooves. He wondered what damage they’d do if she decided to crush him. Petra shifted her weight a bit, involuntarily showing Maynand a massive hind foot. Terrified now, he shrieked: “Don’t crush me Petra! I’ll do anything! Please, let me live!” Maynand was surprised to see the look of horror on the mare’s face as she faced him. “Kill you? Why would I want to do that?” she asked. “because I’ve done all those horrid things to Pip,,,” “So you admit it now, you are saying they were horrid things, so are you apologising for them?” the mare snapped. “if I have to, I will,” Maynand said. That was his undoing, Realising the colt’s insincerity, she turned rear on to him, and showed him a massive hind foot. “Maynand, do you want the sight of my foot to be your last memory?” she asked. “No, no! Pleas! Don’t, don’t crush me, Petra, please,! Spare my life! He squealed.

Petra placed her huge right hind foot on Maynand’s nose. Maynand shrieked with terror! “Petra! Please! Don’t crush me! I’ll do anything for you, anything!” “You are an insincere creature Maynand, you deserve nothing!” Petra whinnied. The colt squealed: “I know I was untruthful, I’m sorry, really I am! I’ll never touch Pip again, I’ll be a good colt from now on. Please let me show you! If you crush me, I can’t show you!” Petra lifted her hoof off of Maynand. “Okay, one more chance, but beware, if you fail, then you won’t see another sunrise Maynand.” Petra said coldly. Maynand knew the Shire mare hated him.

The following morning things started to happen, the herd was making last minute preparations for the move, Petra and Ferdinand went round giving instructions and making sure that everything was in order. There was an air of excitement as the horses made sure that no one was left behind, even Maynand tried to make an effort to be helpful! How long would this last though?! Pip couldn’t contain her excitement, she rolled round the field playfully getting under horses hooves as they were trying to get organised. “Pip, be careful, dear” said Kora kindly nudging the tiny horse playfully. “you’ll be trampled to death before we get anywhere if you carry on like that! “Sorry” replied Pip getting up and shaking herself into shape “Better go and see where my mum and Ferdinand are, must be nearly time to go. Kora watched her gallop off and as an afterthought shouted, “be a good girl Pip”!

Pip ran to Petra: “Where are we going?” She whinnied. “Somewhere,” Petra replied. “Oh yes yes yes I know that!” Pip said, “but where is somewhere?” “Follow the herd and you’ll find out Pip,” Petra replied. The herd were making good progress now, Soon they came to a road, Petra looked up and down the road, looking for a place to cross. She saw two poles in the distance, they looked promising, she remembered from her times with the humans that they used these for crossing roads, in fact she’d had to stop for humans as they crossed between these two poles. “Right you lot, follow me!” she whinnied. Turning right the Shire mare led the herd along the edge of the field parallel to the road. Pip, still up with Petra, asked: “What are we going to do? That road’s busy, and, I don’t want to be killed under a car, I nearly got hit when Ferdinand and I crossed that busy, um, I think Ferdinand called it an intersection.” Petra smiled down at the Falabella mare. “I’m going to use something the humans taught me, we’ll get across safely. Petra made her way swiftly towards the two poles, and she could now see the flashing lights on the top of them. Petra watched carefully, noting how the cars stopped when the lights were red, and went when they were green, She also noticed a box about half way down that humans pressed to make the lights turn red for the cars, and green for themselves. After watching this for a while, she said: “Right, Ferdinand, Sheissain, come over here!” They did so. “Right, how we are going to get across the road. I will press the box, and you Sheissain, then you Ferdinand, lead the horses across when I give the word, Remember this is a human road, and remember mostly that they don’t care about us horses! Caution must be the watchword. Keep your wits about you and you should be okay.” Petra said. Their instructions understood, Sheissain and Ferdinand marshalled all the horses so they would get across the road safely. Petra broke cover, went up to the box, and pressed the metal plate with her nose. The lights changed to green, the cars stopped, then they moved on again. Some drivers waved angrily at her when they passed, but she couldn’t understand what their gestures meant. “Okay,” Petra said,” As I said, when the lights are green, go, but when they are red, stop on your side of the road!” So, little by little, with Petra alternately pressing the metal plate with her nose, and watching anxiously as the horses crossed the road, all horses got over safely. This left Petra on the other side of the road to her herd. “How will mum get across the road?” Pip asked. “The same way we did, watch,” Ferdinand replied. Petra pressed the plate, waited till the lights went green, then she crossed too. “There, nothing to it,” she said. Pip looked up into her mum’s face with pure admiration. “You are a wonderful horse mum,” she said.

Petra smiled down at her foal. “I wouldn’t go quite that far Pip, you see my dear, we’ve all got to help the herd, any little bit we know about anything might be the difference between life and death for us.” Pip shuddered at the thought: “Yes, I suppose things could get that bad,” She said. Maynand favoured Pip with scorn. “You mean to say Pip that you think Petra a wonderful horse for pressing a plate with her nose? That’s stupid!” He whinnied. Pip snapped back: “Could you have got us safely across the road?” Maynand looked down at his hooves and mumbled: “Um, ah, er, well, I,,,,, I,” “I suppose not, isn’t that right Maynand?” Pip said. “Um, well, ah, yep.” Maynand conceded. “Well don’t make silly comments like that!” The Falabella mare screamed.

The herd pressed on through the Fields. Maynand plodded along, much subdued after Pip turning on him. He decided that though this mare was small, she had a quick temper. The herd came to an abrupt halt. “What’s up?” Petra yelled. “There’s a river!” Sheissain yelled back. “I’m sure there are plenty of rivers!” Petra whinnied. “yes, but one’s blocking our path, we’ll have to swim it, no bridge!” Sheissain replied. “Okay Pip, I’ll lie down, and you get on my back,” Petra said. Pip looked anxious. “Will you be able to carry me?” She asked. “I hope so, if not, we’ll have to stay here, you can’t swim that river, it’s fast flowing,” The Shire mare replied. With that she lay down, and Pip clambered onto her back. Heaving herself to her feet, Petra commanded. “Hang on tight with your teeth Pip, and don’t move!” Pip hung on to Petra’s mane and the mare followed the herd towards the river.

The bank of the river was very steep. Petra’s hoof slipped as she edged her way slowly and cautiously down the steep slope into the cold water. Pip hung onto her, not daring to open her eyes but just feeling herself going down, down, down into the fast-flowing water. Maynand watched,

“Ah, “no buttons to press here.” He thought. Petra swam frantically, it was hard work, the river was deep and cold, and the current waited for no one, Sheissain, as second in command hurried the herd along, one by one the horses followed Petra into the water, Kora went next then Maynand … Ferdinand watched as the horses one after another entered the icy water. Sheissain and Ferdinand were the last to dive in. Most crossed safely but … some perished … this made them more determined than ever to find a safer place.

Petra scrambled out onto the river-bank. Looking about her frantically she couldn’t see Pip, who she was sure had slipped off her back during the river crossing. Sheissain came up to her. “We lost some, some horses didn’t make it Petra, Six of them,” he panted. Petra wasn’t listening however. She’d lost her foal, and at that moment, the herd was the last thing on her mind. Suddenly Ferdinand Whinnied: “Look! Petra!” All horses stared in the direction of Ferdinand’s frantically waving hoof. What they saw made all the watchers wonder whether they were dreaming. Apparently, Maynand was swimming across the river, not only that, but Pip was there, bullying the protesting colt through the water! Petra squealed a warning to Pip to be Careful! “What are you playing at!” Ferdinand shouted. “Can’t talk now!” Pip gasped, “go on Maynand you loser, move it!” Soon Maynand and Pip made it across the river. Once they were on safe ground again, Petra regarded her adopted foal with anger! “I thought I told you to hang on!” She squealed. “I tried, mum, I tried to! But the river carried me away, back to the bank too! There was Maynand, up to his fetlocks in the water, watching us. So I shoved him in, easier while he was in the water. Once he was unable to touch bottom, well, I swam with him, protested he did, “why are you doing this? What have you ever done for the herd,” etc etc etc. Mum, the words he used, they were awful! Disgusting language! I couldn’t let him get away with that, so I bullied him across the water. It was a hard struggle for me, but I’m here, and, well, so’s he.” Finding herself beside the horse who’d made her life hell, Pip had put her fellow horses before herself and helped Maynand across the water, not leaving him even when he swore at her. Petra was thankful that her foal hadn’t come to harm, but was still angry with her for doing what she’d done. “You should have got out on that side, and I would have come back for you!” the Shire mare screamed. “No mum,” Pip replied, “You couldn’t have got back over the river. It was either me swim it, take my chance, or I lose my herd. As for Maynand, well! I don’t know what he was thinking of!” Maynand stared at the Tiny Falabella mare. The Possibility she’d saved his life, and that he owed this scrap something, actually made him feel sick, but it couldn’t be denied, she’d risked her life for him, she could have swum the river, had she not fallen off Petra’s back she would have got across safely. The colt couldn’t escape the fact that when she’d found him in the water, she’d thought about getting him across the river, not of just swimming it herself, leaving him. Feeling the colt’s eyes on her, Pip turned to him. “Oh, Maynand, there you are,” she said. Maynand opened his mouth to say something, but couldn’t bring himself to thank Pip for saving him. “Why did you stop to help Maynand?” Ferdinand asked. “I, I don’t know,” Pip replied, “he was there, and you were here, and he wasn’t going anywhere fast, and I thought I could help him if he got into problems getting across, that sort of thing,” the Falabella mare replied. “You are both safe now,” Petra said, “but don’t you ever! Ever! Do that again Pip!” She shrieked. Pip grieved the loss of Kora. She couldn’t believe it, why had such a graceful mare, who had claimed to have worked with royalty been taken by the strong river current! Only yesterday she had shouted after pip to be good, she had been good! She had helped that awful Maynand across, she’d have done it for anyone. Surely ;no one would leave a struggling horse however much they disliked them. Maynand hadn’t wanted to show anyone his fear of the water least of all that brat of a pip!! Petra and Sheissain decided that now would be a good time to rest and recover some strength.

“how come so many drowned”? was the question which was repeated over and over again. Pip thought her heart would break, “why, why, why”? that was all she could say. “I don’t know” Petra replied honestly. “Pip, I know you are sad at losing Kora, but we have to move on, life goes on, sweetheart. Look, settle down, you will feel better after a good night’s sleep.” “yes,” Pip agreed tearfully. “?Where is Ferdi? “ “He’s busy” Petra said “but he will be back soon, he’s just helping Sheissain, making sure that the herd are comfortable for the night. We all have to stick together Pip and do our bit to keep the herd safe and happy”.

After an hour of trying to sleep, Pip gave up. Getting slowly to her feet, being careful not to wake Petra, Pip looked round her. She walked slowly round the sleeping horses towards a patch of woodland. The wood was dark, but this didn’t alarm her really. Pressing on into the wood, deep in thought, Pip was unprepared for someone shouting at her. “Stop!” Squealing with fright, Pip looked round her.” “Who, Who’s that! Where are you!” She demanded. For answer a huge boar badger came into the open. “It be me who told you stop,” he said. Pip stared at this massive creature. “Oh, yes,” Pip gabbled. “What be your name?” the Badger asked. “Pip,” She replied. “Me be Brock,” the badger said. “Pleased to meet you Brock,” Pip said, her mind spinning. “I saw what happened to horses in river, that bad thing,” Brock said. “Yes that was, I knew at least one of them well,” The mare replied. Brock looked Pip over. “You be smaller than other horses in herd, they be bigger than you by lots.” He observed. “Yes I am smaller,” Pip replied. “Well, me give Pip advice. Brock like Pip, Brock say that to keep Pip safe Pip no go into wood at night. In wood be bad creatures, them harm pip like crazy if they see her. You no fear from Brock or family, we keep horses safe, especially Pip. But you listen to Brock and take note, wood no place for small horse!” Pip thought she might grow to like this massive Badger with the strange talk.

The next morning, Pip wandered back to her herd. Seeing her coming Petra asked: “Where have you been?” Pip told her all about Brock. “You went into the

woods!” The Shire mare shrieked. “Yes, I was unable to sleep,” Pip replied. “You never ever do that again Pip! You didn’t know what was in that wood! What if you had come to harm? What if that Badger had harmed you!” Petra yelled. Brock, woken by the squealing horse, came lumbering into the open. “Me no hurt Pip, Pip friend of Brock and Brock family! We look after Pip. Badgers make big trouble if harm Pip! Brock snapped. Petra stared open mouthed at the boar badger. “Petra, where is your spirit of adventure?” Pip was beginning to get really fed up of Petra’s persistent nagging. Petra couldn’t believe what she was hearing, Pip had called her by her name for the first time. “Pip, I am concerned for your safety, I couldn’t bare to see anything happening to you, I love you and … she stopped, was suddenly disturbed by a commotion. What was happening now?

Petra haired off in the direction of the squealing. She saw Maynand and Brock in a fight, and it seemed the badger was winning! Petra waded in and broke the two feuding creatures up. “What was all that about?” she demanded. “Maynand said he hurt Pip like mad just for being small horse!” Brock yelled. “Yeah, and she deserves all she gets, she’s a scrap Petra, nothing more than a snivelling scrap!” Maynand screamed. “I could apply that description to you Maynand, and I will. You are a horrid horse, your manners are disgraceful, you wouldn’t even thank Pip for saving your life!” Petra whinnied shrilly. Meanwhile, Pip had followed her foster mother and heard everything. “go for it Brock, beat the stuffing out of him!” she whinnied. Petra whipped round on her foal and nipped her ear hard! “What was that for!” Pip yelled. “Never incite violence Pip!” Petra squealed.

No one heard Sheissain approaching. “Wha’s goin’ on here!” he questioned, “we’re sposed to be getting ready to move on and you lots fightin,” “I don’t want to move on” Whinnied Pip sulkily. “I wants to stay here with Brock, I’ve ‘ad enough of ‘orses, all I gets is nag, nag, nag from Petra and I just feel so unhappy, Maynand treats me like dirt and I haven’t spoken to Ferdinand for days!” Sheissain’s fur stood up on end. “Don’t drop your H’s when you talk to me Pip!” he snapped. Pip looked at him. “I’m only trying to speak your language, I didn’t,,,,” Sheissain lashed out at her! Pip threw herself backwards, desperately trying to avoid the hoof. She landed heavily on her back, winding herself. Petra meanwhile had leapt on top of Sheissain and given him a proper thumping. When she’d finished Sheissain was barely alive. “Don’t you ever! Ever! Lash out at Pip Sheissain, for if you do it again, I swear, I’ll murder you!” Petra squealed. She left her second in command to think on what she said, and went in search of Pip, who was lying groaning on the grass a short distance away. She made an anxious examination of her foal, finding no broken bits, Petra helped Pip to her feet. “He tried to kill me mum,” Pip sobbed. Petra wanted to ask Pip why she’d once referred to her by name but thought now wasn’t the time. “I know, he won’t get another chance Pip darling, not while I’m here,” she said gently. “I’m so frightened” Pip sobbed uncontrollably. “I don’t understand why Sheissain behaved like that He’s supposed to be my second in command ” Petra said to Ferdinand later that day as the herd prepared to continue their journey. “Why doesn’t Pip want to come with us?” Ferdinand asked quietly. “She’s taken a liking to Brock, seems to think that he can protect her from danger, and remember Pip had struck up quite a friendship with Kora, and now Kora is no longer with us, Pip is in no fit state to be left by herself Ferdinand, and I don’t want her getting hurt” Petra replied. “But she cant possibly stay here alone,” Ferdinand said in a firm but quiet tone. “You will have to talk to her Ferdinand” Petra continued, “she respects you and I am sure a quiet fatherly word from you will do the trick.”” “Of course” said Ferdinand looking round for the tiny horse he had taken under his hoof those few months ago. While Petra and Ferdinand were in conversation Pip wandered off back into the wood” I won’t go with them, she sobbed I won’t.”

Pip found Brock digging up worms. Seeing the mare was in a terrible state, he stopped digging and asked: “What be the matter?” Pip sniffed and replied: “They want me to go with them, but I don’t want to, I want to stay here!” Brock looked mystified. “Why you want stay? Here is no place for small horse like Pip,” he said. “But I want to stay with you!” Pip squealed. Brock looked sternly at the Falabella mare. “No, you no stay with me! Me badger, you horse, me no look after horse! You go with other horses Pip, or me make you go like crazy!” Brock yelled. Pip ran away, knowing she’d have to go with the horses, knowing she’d have to try to get on with the others. Pip felt lost and totally helpless, who could she turn to?

Pip ran and ran, she didn’t know what to do. “I feel so lonely” she cried, tears still streaming off the end of her nose. Time didn’t seem to matter any more, she knew she just had to keep going, going going. How long she ran for she didn’t know and then exhaustion took over and she flopped down in an emotional heap on the ground under a large tree in the middle of the forest. Suddenly, Pip realised that she was truly lost. She drifted off into an uneasy sleep. She was jerked back into consciousness by the sound of an owl hooting up above her. It was dark, and she was cold. “Oh no” she whinnied, “Where is the herd, they will have gone on without me, I should have listened to Brock “ I cant cope here by myself, what am I going to do now?”

It was getting dark now. Pip laid her head back on the dried leaves. She felt cold, lonely and more frightened than she could remember being before. Suddenly a branch cracked nearby. Screaming in terror Pip leapt to her feet! “Hey now, shh, there’s no need for that,” someone said gently. “What? Who? Where are you!” Pip screamed into the darkness. For answer she felt a nose rubbing her’s. Looking round, Pip couldn’t believe her eyes! Another horse just like her stood beside her! He was small, with tiny hooves, and best of all for Pip, he was company. “Why all the screaming littl’en?” The Falabella gelding asked. “Littl’en?” Pip asked incredulously, “If you don’t mind me saying, you’re not so large yourself.” “Why were you screaming like that?” The colt asked, obviously ignoring her statement. “I was part of a herd of horses, we crossed a river, some died, I couldn’t cope, can’t cope even, and now they’re gone! I don’t know how I’m going to catch up with them, look at me! I’m tiny! I’ve got short legs, I can’t run as far or fast as larger horses!” Pip whinnied. The colt nuzzled her cheek. That felt wonderful. “I think I’ve seen someone you might know,” he said, “A large Shire mare came past where I was lying up one day. When I asked her her business, she said she was looking for Pip, whoever Pip is.” “I’m Pip, and that was Petra, my, um, foster mum, Where did you see her?” Pip asked. “Oh, hours ago, she would have gone far from here now,” the colt replied. This news broke Pip, who cried into the gelding’s mane. “Hey Pip, don’t cry dear,” he said softly, “Tell you what, we’ll look as soon as it becomes light enough to see,” he promised. Calmed by this strange horse’s presence, Pip settled down. “I never asked you what your name was,” she said. “My name? Well, I can’t remember it really,” Pip stared at him in astonishment! “You don’t know your own name?” She asked. “No, it’s just that, well, my herd cast me out,” he replied. “Yes, but what’s that got to do with you forgetting your name?” Pip persisted. “They called me Whitehoof. I suppose that’s my name, if I have one at all,” The colt replied. Pip then noticed he did have one white hoof. She’d taken note of it, but hadn’t commented on it. “Whitehoof? Do you mind me calling you that?” She asked hesitantly. “No, it’s as close to a name as I’ll ever get,” The colt replied. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, having one white hoof,” she said. “I’ve learned to live with it,” Whitehoof replied. Pip reached out with her nose and touched the colt’s left forefoot, his one white hoof. “I like it, and, I like you Whitehoof.” She said. Whitehoof hugged Pip tightly. “Tomorrow I’ll help you find your mum,” he said. Strangely though, Pip didn’t want to. This new horse had kindled in her an urge to go her own way, with Whitehoof she’d be safe she was sure. “Whitehoof, can, can I stay with you?” She asked. The colt smiled. “If you like,” he said.

Petra was beside herself with worry. “I think we should go back and have another look for her, remember that little horse with the white hoof, maybe he can help us. “Ok” Ferdinand reassured her “we’ll go and have one more try, surely she cant be that far away, she would have been tired and fallen asleep somewhere, come on, let’s go Maynand, you can come too, Sheissain can stay in control while us three go to find Pip. “The stupid thing should not have gone off by herself” Maynand said, “its her own fault.” “Hey you,” reminded Ferdinand “just you remember what Pip did for you!!” he said angrily. Maynand recoiled and reluctantly followed Petra and Ferdinand into the wood. Petra, Maynand and Ferdinand wandered through the wood looking for Pip. Meanwhile, Pip and Whitehoof had left their resting place and gone further into the wood. Pip wanted to ask Whitehoof so much about himself. He answered her questions patiently, why this why that, but he didn’t mind. Suddenly there was an angry squeal. “There you are Pip, where have you been!” Whitehoof and Pip spun round to be confronted by Petra standing looking disapprovingly at Pip. “I ran away when we were near the river, into the woods I went. Then when I looked, you’d all gone!” Pip replied. Maynand snapped, waving a mocking hoof at Whitehoof: “And what has he got to do with all this?” Whitehoof strode up to Maynand. While Maynand was only a yearling, he was quite a bit larger than Whitehoof, who was fully grown, and a few months older than Maynand himself. Even though Maynand was larger, he seemed to cower away from the smaller horse. “You know me I think Maynand,” Whitehoof said ominously. “Yes Whitehoof, I, I know you,” Maynand stammered. “What’s going on between you two?” Petra asked, all thoughts of disciplining Pip flying from her mind the minute she’d seen what affect Whitehoof had on Maynand. “He was in my old herd,” Whitehoof replied, “I believe he’s only been with your herd for a few months?” the gelding asked. “Yes, he came just before Ferdinand and Pip did,” Petra replied, “But what of it?” “He persecuted me,” Whitehoof replied, “and I smashed him up for it. I didn’t want to, but talk didn’t do any good. It was humiliating wasn’t it Maynand? A smaller horse teaching you a lesson?” Maynand looked down at his hooves. “Yes Whitehoof it was, but you were still ousted, they still threw you out!” “What did they throw you out for?” Petra asked. “Can’t you guess?” Maynand scoffed, “show them why they threw you out Whitehoof!” Maynand commanded. Whitehoof turned on Maynand for a second time, giving the larger colt a proper kicking. At the end of the swiftest fight Petra had ever seen, Maynand lay on the grass, with the wind knocked out of him, While Whitehoof stood, apparently unscathed, glaring down at Maynand, prostrate before him. “You are a disgusting creature Maynand, you deserve nothing! I can’t think of the words to describe how much I despise you!” Whitehoof snarled. Petra suddenly realised why Whitehoof had been thrown out of his herd. “Um, sorry to mention it, but was the reason for your expulsion from the herd, um, your white hoof?” She asked ashamedly. “Yes it was,” Pip replied, sparing Whitehoof the torment. “Whitehoof doesn’t like it mum,” Pip said, “I’ve told him that I like him, that I think his white hoof is no problem.” Maynand got up, and spitting contemptuously on the grass at Whitehoof’s feet, he turned and walked away. “Next time, I’m going to kill him,” Whitehoof said firmly. “So you found Pip in the forest then Whitehoof?” Ferdinand asked. “Yes, that’s right, whinnying pitifully she was poor thing, I couldn’t leave her like that, so I stayed,” he said. “Thank you for looking after her,” Petra said. “Looking after her? You make her sound like a foal!” Whitehoof shouted. “She is!” Petra squealed. “No she isn’t,” Whitehoof stated, “Pip’s a year old, more than that now, so am I. Would you call me a foal?” He asked. “No,” Petra replied. “Then don’t call Pip a foal!” Whitehoof yelled. “She might have had a bad start in life, but she’s grown up a lot, she’s not a foal any more!” He said sharply. “Well,” Ferdinand said, “thanks again for looking after,,,” he stopped when Whitehoof’s right forefoot, crashed into his foreleg with alarming force! Ferdinand screamed and limped away. “Will you larger horses stop treating us smaller horses like foals!” He yelled.

Petra was relieved to have Pip back with her. “We were worried about you Pip, darling, Promise me you will never, ever do that to us again. We really need to get along now!” Petra spoke sternly but quietly. “Petra?” Pip asked “can Whitehoof come with us please I don’t want to leave him here by himself, and …” Pip stammered, “ I, I think it would be nice for there to be two of us…two falabella horses in the herd. “no, no, no, I don’t want that brute coming with us” Maynand yelled furiously. “You just saw what he tried to do to me … and and you heard him say, he’ll kill me!!” “Maynand, shut up” Ferdinand recovered from the kick Whitehoof had given him. “you continue the way you are and you will be the one to be excluded from the herd” “its not for you to decide that” Maynand screamed, its up to her, er I mean Petra and Sheissain, not you! you come here and think you can take over … you won’t get the better of me Ferdinand.” “that’s it, stop it Maynand,” Petra said sharply , stop it right now.”

Petra looked down at Whitehoof. “Would you like to come with us?” She asked. The Falabella gelding looked at Pip. “I would like that,” he said. Maynand scowled at Whitehoof. “I think you’ve made one enemy all ready Whitehoof, sorry about that,” Ferdinand said. “Why do you hate me and Pip Maynand?” Whitehoof asked. Maynand turned his back on the Falabella horse. “Don’t trouble yourself with Him Whitehoof,” Petra advised. Whitehoof looked up into her face. “I wish to know why he hates us Falabella horses so much Petra, that’s not too much to ask is it?” he asked. “No,” Petra conceded. Not meeting Whitehoof’s eye, Maynand said: “I can’t understand how you or Pip can call yourselves horses Whitehoof. You’re tiny!” “Sometimes good things come in small packages,” Sheissain said. He’d come up from the group a little way off and had overheard most of their conversation. Seeing him, Whitehoof’s fur bristled. “You attacked Pip didn’t you?” he asked crossly. “Um, yes, I did,” Sheissain admitted. His expression turned to fear as the Falabella gelding approached him. “You attack her again, and I’ll smash you up!” Whitehoof warned. Sheissain stared at the horse in astonishment! “You know who I am?” he asked. “Yes, you’re second in command here, or so I’ve heard,” Whitehoof replied. “Yes and as second in command, I am due some respect!” Sheissain yelled. “Due respect?” Whitehoof asked,” Is any horse due respect in matters of leadership? Not in my book, unless they earn it of course. I for one, whatever your name is, do not respect you, for you committed unleader-like acts in beating up Pip when she tried talking to you in your language. Beating up another horse is disgraceful behaviour, and you are unfit to be leader if you take recourse to that action every time a dispute arises.” It was plain Whitehoof was enjoying himself. Sheissain wasn’t, and Whitehoof hadn’t finished. “If I remember rightly, you didn’t even give Pip a chance to explain herself,,,” he paused, “you are not my leader, nor are you my second in command, I do not respect you,” Whitehoof said quietly. Sheissain’s fur stood up on end and he was close to doing to Whitehoof what he’d done to Pip, but couldn’t escape the truth of the gelding’s words. Petra had noted them too, and had taken them on board. “I want to talk with you Sheissain, alone, and in private,” she said. Tonight will do, midnight,” she looked around her, “under that willow tree.”

Midnight came, and the two horses met under the Willow tree. “What have you got to say for yourself Sheissain?” Petra asked. “I won’t have horses disrespecting me!” Sheissain whinnied. “Disrespecting you?” Petra asked, “How were Whitehoof or Pip disrespecting you?” Sheissain hesitated: “Pip imitated me! That’s disrespect isn’t it? Also, Whitehoof challenged me, as is he were second in command! That’s not right Petra!” He yelled. “Whitehoof had a perfectly reasonable question to ask you, why you had beaten up his friend. Sheissain, why did you beat up Pip?” Sheissain’s eyes blazed with hatred! “I hate her, pure and simple Petra,” he said acidly. Swallowing her anger, Petra asked: “Why do you hate her?” “Because she is small! Too small! Horses need to be able to defend themselves in their own right, each defending themselves! Pip, and Whitehoof for that matter can’t do that! They are too small Petra! We have to nanny them like they’re foals!” “Whitehoof doesn’t need nannying, as you put it Sheissain, he’s a tough horse, small though he might be.” She paused, and then continued: “I appointed you as second in command didn’t I?” “Yes You did,” Sheissain said, dreading, but knowing what was coming. “I can also, under herd customs and laws, demote, and reappoint my deputies. It is only the leader who is elected, right?” She asked. “Yes,” Sheissain whimpered. “Therefore, as of now, now Sheissain! You are demoted to an ordinary herd member! You have shown little regard for anyone!” “Who will be deputy?” Sheissain asked. Then as the realisation sank in, his fur stood up on end! “No! not Whitehoof!” “Whitehoof indeed, if he will. He’s got it right Sheissain, you haven’t. What he said to you was true, it came from a horse who new truth, had honesty in his heart, and would do what he could for the herd. He can tell it as it is, and I’ll bet can have things told to him as they are. He’s sensible, a lot more sensible than you!” Petra whinnied. Sheissain ran off, very angry with his leader. He knew Petra had the right to do what she had done, but to give the deputy leadership to a scrap like Whitehoof! How could she! Petra walked back to the herd, and dropping to her knees, she nuzzled Whitehoof’s shoulder. “Yeah?” Whitehoof said sleepily, “Who’s that?” Opening his eyes he saw who it was and said: “Oh, Petra, it’s you,.” He stretched languidly, “What’s up?” He asked. Petra motioned to him to go with her. Getting slowly to his feet, Whitehoof followed the Shire mare into the woods. Once they were out of earshot of the herd, Petra said: “I brought you here for a very special reason Whitehoof. You see, um, well, Sheissain’s been demoted,,,” Her voice trailed away. “What of it?” The Falabella gelding asked, “With all due respect Petra, what can I do about it? It was your decision after all. My thoughts on the reasons for doing what you did, I feel it would not be appropriate to give.” “No, Whitehoof, I wouldn’t expect that of you, and it is because you can keep your own council and keep your cool that I have brought you here,” she hesitated, It’s probably too much to ask, but would you?” “would I what?” Whitehoof asked pleasantly, all the while his mind racing to think of what the Shire mare might want of him. “Would you take Sheissain’s place? Be my number two, second in command?” Whitehoof’s mind spun horribly. He thought: “I’m not cut out for this!” but heard his voice saying. “I, I would consider it a great honour, and will do my best to serve the herd.” Petra looked relieved. “That’s sorted then, all finished,” she said airily, “I’m sorry for disturbing your sleep Whitehoof.” Whitehoof went back to his place beside Pip somehow realising he wouldn’t sleep again that night.

Whatever is the matter with you Whitehoof?” Pip asked dreamily, “Pip, I am so excited!” he replied, “Come with me somewhere private and I will tell you about it.” “Oh, Oh what’s happened, is it Sheissain or has Maynand been up to no good again!” “Quiet” whispered Whitehoof “I don’t want anyone to hear yet, Petra will tell them very soon, hurry before its too late!” As they moved away into the wood Pip suddenly heard a sound behind them. Pip froze to the spot, “What’s that?” she squealed “Whitehoof, where are you, what is happening?” “Pip, Pip, get help fast” Whitehoof shouted. Pip ran back to the herd to find Ferdinand. “Ferdi, quick, come, I don’t know what is going on in the wood but Whitehoof needs help right now, hurry, please go and see what is happening!” “Pip, calm down dear,” Ferdinand said quietly. “You stay here with Petra and I will go and see what the trouble is, “all we wanted was a little privacy to have a chat, I think whitehoof was about to tell me something very important” Pip couldn’t control herself anymore, once again her emotions took over and she started to shake, and throwing herself down on the ground began to sob openly. “Oh no, baby face is crying again,” Sheissain sneered

Ferdinand coaxed Pip to her feet. “I’ll go and see what’s the matter,” he said gently. With that he cantered into the trees. The sight that met Ferdinand’s eye terrified him. Whitehoof stood beside Petra, who lay motionless on the forest floor. “What happened!” Ferdinand squealed. Petra took a deep breath and said hoarsely. “Sheissain, Maynand too, they attacked me, sprang out at me, now, I think it’s the end for me, can’t move, tried, pain everywhere!” She squealed. Petra panted desperately, then, almost in a whisper, she said: “Ferdinand,” He put his ear close to the Shire mare’s mouth. “Whitehoof’s leader now, it was a good job I gave him second in command,,, He’s leader now. Tell all the other horses, they’ll take it from you.” Ferdinand, realising what the Shire mare meant, said quickly: “I will.” With her last remaining strength, Petra gasped: “Whitehoof, he knows, he knows he’s in charge. One thing, bring Sheissain and Maynand to justice, if not for me, for Pip.” With that Petra laid her head on the forest floor, and it was all over. Ferdinand and Whitehoof looked down at Petra, wondering how they were to break the terrible news to Pip. Ferdinand regretted telling Pip to stay with Petra. he hadn’t thought she’d not be there. He hadn’t looked to see if she was, and now,, Someone shrieked with terror! Ferdinand whipped round to find Pip racing towards him, towards the awful truth.

no, no, no, why is everyone I love being taken away from me! First Kora “and now, now my adopted mother!” Pip wailed miserably. “Come with me,” Whitehoof led the shivering mare gently to a quiet spot, he let her cry, “its ok Pip sweetheart” he said gently, “Ferdinand will take care of the herd for as long as you need me.” “Pip, I’ve only known you these last few days but, but” Whitehoof hesitated suddenly feeling very self-conscious. “I love you so much,” he whispered “I want you to myself forever.” “I want to stay with you Whitehoof,” Pip said. Whitehoof looked at his sweetheart. Her face was stained by tears, and seeing her cry saddened him. “Look Pip, I can’t have foals, that’s impossible for me, but I will stay with you forever! If you want me to,” he said. Pip sniffed and said: “I, I want you to, I think,,,” Suddenly she hugged him tightly. “don’t leave me!” she sobbed. Whitehoof stroked Pip’s ear with his muzzle. “I won’t, I promise!” He said firmly. They went back to the rest of the herd, Whitehoof had a leader’s job to do.

"Who did you have in mind as your deputy?” Ferdinand asked Whitehoof. "I don't know" Whitehoof replied, "maybe you could help, after all, I have only been here for a few days and don't really know the horses as well as you do.” Ferdinand thought for a minute, "How about Pip" he suggested. "no, whitehoof said quickly, "I love her but ... “She’s too emotional, and, and I don’t think she would cope very well with it. We’ve talked about it and she’s very happy about that. “Hmm, I know who you could ask, how about Tilly.” “Tilly? Who’s she?” Whitehoof asked. “Oh, she’s that welsh Palomino standing by the large oak tree, see her?” Ferdinand waved a hoof at a mare, who, to Whitehoof, looked rather too nervous to be a deputy leader of any herd, let alone the one he had charge of. “I’ll talk to her,” Whitehoof promised. “Later that day, Whitehoof called Tilly over to him. “You know about the events of last night?” He asked. “I heard a story about Petra being attacked by some horses, but that’s crazy!” Tilly Hesitated, “Isn’t it? Oh, maybe not,” she said quietly. “Tilly, I asked you here for a reason,” Whitehoof said quickly, “It’s just, well, would you be my deputy?” Tilly’s mind raced, she’d never been asked anything like this before! As a foal she was more steady than any of her friends had been, they had got into trouble all the time, whereas playing the older horses up hadn’t interested her in the slightest. She’d been mocked for this. It had hurt at first, to be singled out, but then she realised it had it’s rewards, and that her path wasn’t to isolation in the herd, far from it! While her friends were getting into mischief and being roundly punished with kicks and nips for it, Tilly worked behind the scenes, comforting the little foals, helping mare’s during foaling, and then teaching the young ones how to behave properly. It was noted in the herd, that not one of the foals under Tilly’s supervision had caused any real trouble. All right they did try it on once, but when Tilly showed them what could happen to those who disobeyed the grown horses, they soon desisted from whatever they were doing. So now, Tilly was in her seventh year, and to be asked to be deputy leader so soon! Part of her wanted to leap at the chance, but part said no, hang back! “I don’t know,” she said. Tilly paused, shook her mane out, then said: “I know you have to make an appointment before you go to the horses and tell them that you are leader, I know Ferdinand will second you, and that this has to be done quickly, but I need time! ?Time that I haven’t got! What am I to do?” Whitehoof said: “Tilly, do you know who attacked Petra?” Tilly looked startled. “Why do you ask?” She asked suspiciously. “Because I know,” the Falabella gelding said, “I know you know, I can see it.” Tilly swallowed hard, fighting to control her fury. “I know who did it, and I know what they did! I’m not gonna describe it here to save Pip, but I’m sickened by it!” She whispered. “Would you like to help get rid of behaviour like that in this herd Tilly?” Whitehoof asked. “Yes I would!” Tilly replied firmly. “Tilly, you are now my second in command,” Whitehoof said solemnly, “your formal appointment will happen soon, but that’s only a formality. Help me Tilly, help me to bring Petra’s attackers to justice. After that, help me lead this herd to safety and prosperity. Will you do it?” “You are my leader,” Tilly said, “and you already called me deputy, so yes Whitehoof, I will, and gladly too.” She replied. “ well done, and thanks Tilly, I know Petra would be pleased with your appointment, she had a lot of time and respect for you.” Ferdinand said.

Pip was overjoyed when Whitehoof told her of Tilly’s new position in the herd. “She’ll do well” she said “and I will back her; up as best I can” she continued in her usual way. She went to find Tilly. “your appointment ceremony is tonight Tilly.” Pip said, “don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone, I promised Whitehoof that I wouldn’t say anything to anybody, its just so exciting, I am really pleased that you have got the job Tilly.” Tilly had been a comfort to Pip after Kora’s death and now that Petra had gone too, oh no, she must tell them who had done it and how. “Pip,” confided Tilly, “I have to tell Whitehoof how your foster mum died, please will you come with me?” “Of course I will” said Pip warmly.

“Now Pip,” Tilly said gently, “What I’m going to tell Whitehoof is not very pleasant.” “Okay, I’ll try to be strong Tilly,” Pip said. Tilly found Whitehoof and drew him into a corner for a chat. “I think I had better tell you how Sheissain and Maynand killed Petra,” She said. Pip was already trying to hug Whitehoof. The Gelding lay down, Tilly did likewise, and Pip lay between them cuddling close to Whitehoof, all the while trying not to cry. “They ambushed Petra in the wood. Sheissain knocked the wind out of her, while Maynand took her feet from under her. Once she was down, Sheissain and Maynand took their revenge out on her for appointing You leader Whitehoof. They branded you a witch horse, because you could outwit Maynand, they also slated you Pip. They said that they’d kill you once they’d killed Petra. I saw it all, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them, not on my own!” “Why didn’t you try and stop them>” Whitehoof asked. “I was terrified! I just stumbled across this happening Whitehoof, honest I did!” Tilly Protested. She closed her eyes, trying to stop the tears of rage that threatened to overcome her. Once She’d recovered, she finished her sorry tale. “They only left off when I shouted at them, but by then, it was too late. I was so scared I ran, ran away from, from the sight of my leader,,,” Tilly let it all hang out. Tears ran down her nose, splashing onto the forest floor. “The sound Pip and I herd was Petra’s cry for help,” Whitehoof said grimly. Tilly nodded, unable to speak. Poor Pip, at first she was frightened, but now, well, terrified wouldn’t do her feelings justice. Tilly’s sudden emotional disintegration frightened her almost as much as the Palomino mare’s story had. “Is it true Tilly? Maybe, I mean, maybe your mind played tricks with you, after what you’d seen, maybe Petra didn’t die that way,” Pip said quickly. Tilly looked through her tears at the Falabella mare. “I wish, Pip, dear, I wish I could say it was any other way,” She said. Whitehoof asked: “Did anyone else see what happened?” Tilly shook her head. “Noone, they were careful about that.” Their attention was grabbed by a sudden rustling in the undergrowth. All three horses looked in the direction of the sound. Brock forced his way into the open and said: “You wrong, me see what horses did to mother of Pip, me tell all what I see if Whitehoof want. Me plenty furious about what horses did to Mother of Pip. I say Brock protect Pip, and Brock no break word! He protect Pip like crazy! Brock tell all what he see on dark night, Brock see all, more than mare see! Brock put bad horses in place for what they do to mother of Pip!”

Oh Brock,” Pip melted into another fit of crying “Thank you so much” she wept uncontrollably again. “I’m so frightened,” she cried “they are after me now what am I going to do.” “No pip darling, no one is going to hurt you,” said Whitehoof holding her close to him. “I love you, that is why I didn’t want you to be my second in command, that is why I gave the position to Tilly.” Tilly made her way back to the herd leaving Pip and Whitehoof alone. “Pip,” Whitehoof whispered “Everything will be all right, I promise,, no one will hurt you, we have to get back now, its almost time for Tilly’s appointment ceremony … and Brock, thank you, I will let you know when you are needed. “me always be here for my Pip” Brock said. “She Brock special friend.”

All the horses were gathered under the willow tree, where, a day earlier, Petra had spoken severely to Sheissain. “Quiet please, all of you!” Whitehoof commanded. Sheissain and Maynand kept talking to each other, they didn’t care. Whitehoof snapped: “Quiet you two!” They ignored him, so, Tilly, seeing that something more than words needed doing, strode up to both of them and clouted them with a hard hind foot. That shut them both up, being hit by a mare! That just didn’t happen!” “What was that for?” Maynand wailed. “You disobeyed our leader,” Tilly replied. “And who do you think you are?” Sheissain scoffed, “Second in command?” Tilly smiled: “Yes,” She said. Maynand lost his nerve then. For ages he’d been terrified of the palomino mare named Tilly. It seemed strange to him that she kept quiet, that she never drew attention to herself, and now, now she was deputy to Whitehoof, and worse still, she knew his and Sheissain’s secret! Maynand turned to Sheissain and blurted: “We’re finished! That mare will tell all! Probably has! We’re done for!” Tilly, the ceremony over in double quick time, as everyone knew and hadn’t raised objections to her appointment, strode up to Maynand and Sheissain and asked: “Maynand, tell the herd what you know of Petra’s death, and you Sheissain, come on, don’t keep us waiting.” Maynand lost all control, shaking uncontrollably, he told all, right down to the last terrifying details. Sheissain made several attempts to stop the stupid colt from condemning them to almost certain death, but Maynand ploughed on, throwing the whole despicable act into the open. Suddenly there was a scrambling noise in the undergrowth and then a shout: “That colt, he speak truth! He and other horse named Sheissain kill Petra! Brock see all!” Sheissain ran at the boar badger, intent on destroying him. From the undergrowth, a huge gang of badgers appeared, and while the horses watched, they overbalanced Sheissain, tied his legs together and then muzzled him. Brock stepped forward. “Horse no attack badgers, horse attack badgers, we defends us like crazy! You now know what badgers do to horse who attack them or other horse. Brock looked at Sheissain, then walking up to him, he extended a huge paw, and gently touched the enraged horse’s muzzle, tail, and all four hooves. Demonstrating the fact that Sheissain couldn’t hurt anyone now. “He tied up plenty, he no danger to Pip or other horses now,” Brock announced. “What about Maynand?” Whitehoof asked. Brock looked over at the colt, who was prostrate at Tilly’s feet. “He no hurt anyone, he big foal, when he in trouble, he no fight,” Brock said. The badger turned a look of hatred on Sheissain. “This horse though, he deserve more than he get at moment! He attack Pip, then attack Pip mother! Brock very angry with horse named Sheissain!” With that the huge badger went to Sheissain’s head, and, taking hold of the horse’s right ear in both paws, Brock twisted it sharply. Sheissain screamed! “You be punished lots for what you did! You be leader of Maynand yes?” Crying with pain, Sheissain said: “Yes, I thought of it, Let me go! You’re hurting me!” Brock didn’t let go. He released his hold slightly, but then twisted the ear he held sharply once more. Sheissain shrieked! “I make very sure you no hurt Pip or other horses!” Brock yelled, “I make you pay forever for what you do to Pip mother!” With that he let go of Sheissain’s ear and stepped back. Sheissain watched as the boar badger went round, again touching his muzzle, and all four hooves. “Leave my feet alone!” Sheissain yelled, “Why are you doing that anyway? I hate having my hooves handled!” Brock looked back at Sheissain. “It is known by badgers that horses use hard hooves for defence yes?” Sheissain nodded, “so,” Brock continued, “me show you that you no hurt me with hooves, yes?” With that Brock untied Sheissain’s hind feet, and stood there, in range of deadly attack, but Sheissain couldn’t hurt the badger. “Go on, try hurt Brock,” The badger coaxed. Sheissain didn’t move. He was too terrified to do anything. “Okay,” Brock said, “so I have to do this, I touch hoof, then Sheissain go for me?” With that he touched the sole of Sheissain’s right hind foot. Sheissain clenched his teeth, trying not to lash out, for he knew, if he did, he’d lose all face, for the badgers would tie him up and throw away the key. Brock seemed Satisfied, he said: “I show you all now how Sheissain changed. I show him he no big horse, he no hurt other horses any more, me show.” With that he untied Sheissain’s forefeet, then unmuzzled the now becalmed horse. Sheissain got to his feet and looked at Pip. The Falabella mare regarded him sadly. “Why did you kill my mum Sheissain?” Pip asked.

“I hated her” Sheissain screamed, “but why!” demanded Whitehoof “she gave you the privilege of being her second in command!” “I wanted to be leader” continued Sheissain. ”So you decided to terrorise horses like Maynand and Pip as revenge for not getting the leadership?” “yes” he replied defiantly. Sheissain looked behind him to where Brock was standing, he so wanted to lash out at the boar badger, but knew, that if he even attempted it, he would be on the floor, tied up, and worse still, that badger would touch his hooves again! Sheissain knew Brock was using the threat of this to keep him under control. Sheissain thought: “It’ such a small thing, but I hate people handling my feet!” The thought of this torment kept him from attacking Brock, Pip or anyone else. Pip looked into Sheissain’s face. “I’ll never forget you killed my mum,” she said. Tilly found it hard not to cry. “Do you know what you’ve taken from her Sheissain?” Whitehoof asked. Sheissain felt vulnerable. His mind flicked back years to the death of his own mother. She had been drowned while crossing a river, much as Kora had. He remembered the terrible gut wrenching pain of her loss. Whitehoof watched the hated horse’s mental processes. When he realised Sheissain was most vulnerable, he said: “Imagine if your mother had died at the whim of another horse Sheissain. Also, while you’re thinking of that, think of Pip here, she’s smaller than you, you could kill her with one blow from a hind foot,,,” Whitehoof watched Sheissain’s mental implosion. “I hope this lesson is one you’ll never forget,” Whitehoof said calmly. Sheissain suddenly threw himself on the ground in front of Pip, and hugging her fiercely, the horse who five minutes ago was apparently invincible, sobbed into the Falabella mare’s thick mane.

Pip didn’t want this monster hugging her but she didn’t resist it for her own safety. She was tense but she knew that Tilly, whitehoof and Ferdinand were close by and Brock was there too. “You hurt my Pip and you be dead” Brock said threateningly. “Its ok Brock,” said Pip. “I can deal with it.” Pip went on, “Sheissain, you need to control yourself and your feelings of jealousy, you need to try and look at situations in a more positive way,” she said kindly but sternly. “Ok, I think he has been punished enough,” Tilly took over the conversation here, “One more step out of line Sheissain and you will be turned out of the herd, do you understand?” “yes” he whispered. Sheissain released Pip from his grip and she moved closer to Whitehoof, Ferdinand noticed this, this pleased him, he was happy to see her loving this little horse. “We really need to move on” Whitehoof said to Ferdinand later that day. “yes,” said Whitehoof, “So much has happened in the past twenty-four hours.” “I know, and I see that there is more than just friendship between you and Pip,” Ferdinand said smiling: “You take care of her, Whitehoof” Ferdinand continued, “I found Pip tied up in a pen, she was frantic, together we managed to release her and we escaped, we travelled a long way together, crossing a very busy road which scared the life out of her, she trusted me and eventually we found the herd and Petra welcomed us in.” “Petra took care of Pip for me, and I think you know the rest.” “I am so glad you did,” Whitehoof went on, “I love her Ferdinand and I will keep her safe” “Thank you.” Said Ferdinand, “She’s yours from now on, I will always be here for both of you.”

Maynand watched Sheissain coming across the grass to him. “I noticed you hugging Pip Sheissain, you haven’t gone all soft have you?” The colt snapped. Sheissain, his voice cracking, replied: “Maynand, I can’t, can’t hurt Pip any more,,,” he stopped. “Frightened that badger will touch your feet again Sheissain?” Maynand asked acidly. “No, not really, I hate that, of course I do, but if it stops me from hurting Pip, then that’s what needs doing. I must try to stop hurting Pip, I must! She’s gone through hell lately, and I must remember that, and remember the feeling of that badger’s paw on the sole of my foot, and how awful it was, if, if only to stop myself from doing something I will later regret.” Maynand snorted: “If you have gone soft, and you are not going to harm Pip any more, then I’ll have nothing to do with you any more! You are a weak horse Sheissain! I hate that mare, but I am not strong enough to get at her, not with that huge badger and that weird gelding with the white hoof guarding her twenty four seven. I need someone like you, who has the muscle to put an end to Pip! Now you say you won’t, because, you can’t stand someone handling your hooves! I would have killed that badger!” “No, it’s not just that Maynand! Didn’t you listen to what I said? Forcibly having my hooves touched is only a last resort to stop me from harming Pip, it’s the final thing that will stop me! Before I get to that, and hopefully I never will, I have to keep a lid on my emotions, and not hurt other horses! Or, or I’ll be tied down,” he shuddered, “And I will be tortured!” Sheissain whinnied. He calmed down a little. “It’s not just the fear of having my feet handled that stops me Maynand, it’s also the realisation that Pip went through the same thing I did four years ago when my mum drowned. The difference here was that I, along with you, took Petra’s life. I can never forget that.” He said sadly.

“Anyway, we are moving on tonight, I heard Whitehoof and Ferdinand talking about it just now,” Sheissain went on “And, and if I do any further damage they will throw me out and then … I couldn’t bare to be left by myself” “No, and there’s you, you got away with murder just now, I was the one who was tortured for what we did to Petra and don’t you ever forget that Maynand … and if you dare to touch Pip or whitehoof, I’ll, I’ll,” Sheissain stopped here “Ok Ok” said Maynand sharply “cool down will you!” “No, I won’t cool down,” went on Sheissain “You just remember what I said .”

Maynand couldn’t bare the thought he owed two debts of gratitude now, one to Pip for saving him, and one to Sheissain! The herd moved off, Sheissain up with the lead horses, Maynand some way back. They came to another river, Pip was terrified by the sight of it. She remembered Kora’s last desperate swim, and started trembling at the thought of having to cross. “Okay,” Whitehoof said, “We have to cross this river.” “How are we going to do it?” Pip asked. “You Pip my dear,” Whitehoof replied, “will have to travel on another larger horse’s back.” Pip looked instinctively towards Tilly. “No Pip, I can’t,” the Palomino mare replied, “I’ve got to stay at the back, and I can’t carry anyone!” “How will you get across Whitehoof?” Pip asked. “I’ll swim, on my own, I’ve done it before,” the Gelding replied. Pip had to accept this, although she was terrified. Whitehoof looked about him for a horse that would be able, and willing to carry his beloved Pip. He spotted Sheissain and motioned to him to come across. Once the larger horse was standing beside him, Whitehoof said: “Sheissain, you said you’ve changed, now I want you to prove it. You are to carry Pip across the river. Now’s your chance to prove yourself.” Sheissain looked at his leader. “I, I, Whitehoof, I don’t know what to say to that,” he stammered. So Pip clambered onto Sheissain’s back, and they set off across the river, Sheissain swimming alongside Whitehoof so that his leader might be able to see what he was doing. Once all horses were across, Sheissain lay down, and Pip slid off his back. “Thanks,” she said. Sheissain wanted to hug Pip, to tell her how sorry he was, for everything! He remembered though how tense she’d been when he’d last hugged her. Sheissain’s eyes screamed at Pip. “You really are trying hard aren’t you,” Pip observed. “I’m trying, so hard, so much,,,” Sheissain replied faintly. Suddenly Pip hugged him. Sheissain buried his muzzle in the smaller horse’s mane. “I don’t want to hurt you Pip!” Sheissain sobbed.

“its ok Sheissain, dear” soothed Pip, “we really need to forget the past now and move forward.” “I am prepared to do that but, but its Maynand, he won’t let up … he just taunts me all the time now …”Oh, I’ll talk to Tilly, see if she will sort him out, I really do know how hard you are trying Sheissain.” “thanks,” he replied, “I miss my position as second in command and have learnt lessons from what has happened, I just want to keep on going now and do the best I can and to support you in every way possible, this herd is my home Pip.” “I understand” she eased her way out of his embrace and spotted Tilly coming towards her. “everyone is across safely thank goodness” Tilly said. “You look all in Tilly.” Said Pip “yes, but we need to keep going for a while now, and find somewhere safe for our next stop.”

Tilly trailed away. To Pip she looked exhausted. Tilly’s foot dragging progress caught Maynand’s eye. The sight of her dragging her feet angered him. “You should be setting an example Tilly, go on, hoof it!” He yelled mockingly. The next thing he knew Tilly had attacked him and lain him on the grass. “I’m tired, we all are! I don’t need that from you Maynand, and neither do the others, so shut it!” The Palomino mare screamed. Maynand coughed and panted, fighting for air. “I thought you didn’t like violence,” he choked. “I don’t, but that’s the only language you understand isn’t it,” Tilly snapped. Maynand picked himself up off the grass and walked slowly away. “That colt really angers me!” Tilly whinnied.

Ferdinand saw what had happened. “What’s the matter Tilly?” “its Maynand, he seems to think that no one is allowed to be tired,” she said wearily. “I need some rest Ferdinand, I will be better after a good night’s sleep.” ”That animal is just pushing his luck. All he wants to do is cause trouble and upset everyone while he’s about it. you get some rest now dear, don’t worry about Maynand, if he starts again he will have me to answer to .” Tilly lay down in the long grass and drifted off into a dreamless sleep. Ferdinand left her. Pip saw him and, pleased to see her old friend again couldn’t resist calling after him “Hi Ferdi!” “did you want anything in particular Pip dear?” Ferdinand gave her a playful nudge. “ No, nothing in particular, is Tilly ok?” Pip asked, “Yes, she just needs some rest, please don’t disturb her Pip unless it is absolutely necessary.

After a long trek, the horses found themselves in a clearing, with a stream running through it. Thirsty, the exhausted herd drank deeply from the stream. Sheissain found himself next to Whitehoof. He couldn’t help glancing at his leader’s white foot. Seeing his eyes flick downwards, Whitehoof said: “Want to take a closer look?” With that he lifted his foot off the grass. Sheissain took a look. The hoof was pure white, while Whitehoof’s other three hooves were black, as black as Sheissain’s were. Placing his foot on the ground again, Whitehoof asked: “are you frightened of me Sheissain?” “No, not now, not now I’ve seen what love you have for Pip, and for the herd. Whitehoof, um, Maynand’s been giving me trouble. He wants me to hurt Pip, and, and I can’t! I can’t do it!” “Because you don’t want your feet handled?” Whitehoof asked. “No! I don’t want to hurt her! Sure, the threat of that badger picking up my feet is a break on my actions, but it’s the final one! I have to make sure it doesn’t come to that!” Sheissain Whinnied. “I wanted to tell you, about Maynand,” Sheissain said. “Okay, I’ll keep an eye,” Whitehoof promised. Tilly arrived then. She looked totally worn out. “You need sleep Tilly,” Whitehoof said. The Palomino mare opened her mouth to protest, when Whitehoof stamped his white hoof. “Now Tilly! You are exhausted, leave the herd to settle down,” he smiled, “They’re not all foals you know,” he said. Tilly went away to find a place to sleep. Although Ferdinand had left Tilly sleeping the previous night, Tilly had not slept at all well, she was still shattered in the morning as the herd had continued their journey and that day had been a particular hard trek, climbing hills which made her even more exhausted.

It was Whitehoof’s watch. He was awake, pacing about, keeping an eye on everything while the other horses slept. Suddenly he stopped, listening intently. Yes there it was again! Scuffling in the undergrowth. Sensing no danger, Whitehoof followed his ears and almost tripped over a vixen! “Hey Whitehoof, watch it!” it remonstrated. “How did you know my name?” Whitehoof asked. The vixen replied: “What else could it be with that white foot of yours?” “Logical,” Whitehoof thought. He asked: “How is life round here?” The vixen replied: “Life’s good, Prey is plentiful. Oh, um, I’m sorry, you don’t eat mice do you,” she replied. “No, grass and such like,” Whitehoof said. The vixen looked Whitehoof over from nose to tail, her eyes lingering on his white foot. “You’d be no good at stealthy movement, not with that foot,” she remarked. Whitehoof suddenly felt anger! “Look dog, don’t mention my hoof again! If you do, You’ll find it doing you damage, okay!” He whinnied shrilly.

“Okay Whitefoot, or whatever your name is, keep your fur on!” “It’s Whitehoof!” the gelding snapped. Whitehoof turned his back on the vixen. “I know my white hoof marks me out, but I don’t need reminding of it all the time!” he thought angrily. Whitehoof went back to the herd and walked round the outer perimeter of the group. Suddenly he heard a scream! Whirling round he found Sheissain thrashing about furiously! It was plain to Whitehoof the poor horse was in the midst of a nightmare. Avoiding the flailing hooves, he went up close. Stroking Sheissain’s ear with his muzzle, he whispered gently: “It’s okay Sheissain, peace, shh.” The terrified horse woke suddenly. Shivering with terror Sheissain looked up at Whitehoof. “I, I, I had a horrible dream,” Sheissain whinnied, “I dreamt I was attacking Pip, that was awful! But then, I was tied down, and my hooves were handled, and I hate that!” Sheissain looked at his feet, noone was near them: “I can still feel it, I can feel it Whitehoof!” He sobbed. “There’s noone near you Sheissain,” Whitehoof said gently, “noone is near your feet, it was a dream, nothing more. Now go to sleep.” “No, I can’t sleep, I can’t!” Sheissain whimpered. “Okay,” Whitehoof said,” be that as it is,, you might be able to help. We have a troublesome vixen here, she’s a bit full of herself. You know a bit about foxes, I don’t, talk to her, find out a bit about her.” Sheissain knew this was as good as a command from his leader, so he got to his feet and went in search of the vixen.

Sheissain was not looking forward to this at all! He made his way slowly into the undergrowth stopping from time to time to listen. He tried to keep calm, “Who’s there?” he asked quietly. “Its me!” a voice replied “Maynand, what are you doing here!” “Oh its you Sheissain” Maynand said “I’m surprised you left your herd, scared are you?” “No, course not!” said Sheissain. “I was looking for the vixen.” “vixen?” questioned Maynand “That’s what I said or have you gone deaf.” “Hey, no need to be like that now!” Maynand snarled. “Where is she then,” went on Sheissain. “How should I know!” Maynand started to walk away. “Hey, you stay here, bout time you helped me out” said Sheissain. “Ok ok, let’s go and find her then!”

Maynand and Sheissain walked through the wood. They had just about given up hope when an angry snarl announced the arrival of the vixen they were looking for. Sheissain saw the anger in the fox’s eyes. “What, what’s the matter?” He asked. The vixen gave Maynand a disgusted stare. “You!” She barked, “You trampled my cub!” Sheissain stared at Maynand in horror! “What! Why?” he asked. Maynand spat: “The stupid thing said he’d kill me!” The vixen snapped: “But he couldn’t have hurt a horse! Foxes don’t eat horses, I couldn’t harm you!” Maynand knew this, he also knew that he was now in big trouble. The vixen’s eyes flashed angrily in the moonlight. “I don’t know what your name is,” she growled, “but I will take revenge for the death of my cub, You remember that!” Maynand scoffed: “Oh, I’m really scared, boohoo, I’m crying with terror! How can you hurt me?” He asked. The vixen turned and screamed into the darkness! Suddenly Brock appeared! “I know who need plenty punish! He yelled, “Leave colt to me! Brock finish him off plenty good!” With that Maynand was knocked off his feet and before he knew it, was tied up. Then, there was a rustling in the treetops, and a gang of squirrels scampered down, attached ropes to Maynand’s legs, and hauled him bodily into the air, binding him with ropes to a couple of strong branches, so he was left hanging, tied to the tree by his feet. The Squirrels then looped a rope under the colt’s back to take the strain off his legs, tightening the rope so the horse’s legs were slightly bent. Then they muzzled Maynand, making sure his head was supported by yet another rope. Sheissain stared at the squirrel’s work in terror! Brock growled: “Colt no more hurt cubs.” He turned to Sheissain, “Go get leader, tell him what bad colt do to cub, then bring leader here, show him what Brock and friends do to horse who kill cub!”

Sheissain fled back to the herd. “Whatever’s the matter?” Pip asked, catching up with him. “He’s done it this time, I had nothing to do with it I promise, please believe me Pip, he’s killed the vixen’s cub, the forest animals have tied him up good and proper this time, where’s whitehoof and Tilly, they need to know what’s happened.” “Ok, calm down, dear.” Pip tried to soothe the shaking horse “look, over there, “Tilly, quick you need to get into the forest fast, take Ferdinand and anyone else with you.” “Why, what, where, Oh no.” Whitehoof heard the commotion and rushed over to see what was going on. “come quick, I’ll explain on the way, just hurry, where’s Ferdinand, pip you keep things under control here while we go and sort Maynand out, that’s if he’s still alive!” Whitehoof, Tilly and Ferdinand rushed off into the forest while Pip tried to calm the now sobbing Sheissain. “Pip, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” he cried like a baby. “I didn’t know, I really didn’t know.”

Whitehoof and Tilly found Maynand tied to the tree. All the forest animals had left him to suffer, knowing that, in a short time, the other horses would be round to find him. Tilly stared open mouthed at Maynand hanging upside down from the branches. “You really have done it this time haven’t you!” Whitehoof snapped. Maynand whinnied shrilly: “That fox threatened to kill me Whitehoof, what else could I have done!” “Used your common sense maybe Maynand. Since when has a fox ever attacked a horse, let alone killed one?” “Never,” Maynand admitted. Tilly walked round Maynand, looking him all over. Her eyes moved from his head, Maynand’s eyes were terrified, to his neck, ,to the sweat soaked fur of the colt’s body, and finally to his legs and hooves. As she watched, the colt tried to free himself by digging his toes into the branch to which his legs were tied, and when he thought he had enough purchase, Maynand violently straightened his legs to sway the tree. Tilly and Whitehoof watched the colt’s efforts with disinterest. Whitehoof knew the laws of the horses didn’t apply here, Maynand was being punished under a different law system. It was up to the forest creatures how long Maynand stayed there. Whitehoof knew Brock and the others wouldn’t leave Maynand to starve, but they’d make quite sure he was as uncomfortable as they could make him without causing him permanent harm. Closing his eyes, Maynand made one last effort to free himself. Digging his hooves into the branches, he heaved desperately! The tree’s branches might have been strong, but not strong enough to hold half a tonne of horse when that horse was furious! The branches broke, and Maynand fell, twisting in mid air and landing on his side, winding himself. The colt squealed as he hit the ground. As soon as he’d got his breath back, Maynand started biting desperately at the ropes binding his legs together. Whitehoof and Tilly turned away, they knew Maynand would be all right now. He could eat leaves and things, and as for the ropes, they could be left for the disgraced colt to deal with. “Let him struggle, let him fight for his freedom,” Whitehoof thought. Tilly’s mind strayed to the cub who Maynand had killed. “We must try to make some reparation for what he’s done,” she said. “We?” Whitehoof asked, “no Tilly, he, Maynand must, he’s got a lot of learning to do.” They went back to the herd, both horses deep in thought. Once back at the clearing, Whitehoof was stopped by Sheissain. “Whitehoof,” he said, “I, I didn’t know Maynand was a killer!” Whitehoof saw the pain in the larger horse’s face. “He’s not your problem Sheissain, forget about him,” Whitehoof replied. “But they, the forest creatures, tied him up! For all we know he’s probably freezing cold and starving to death!” Sheissain squealed. Whitehoof heard a horse coming through the trees. Turning, he saw Maynand. The colt looked terrible! He’d managed to free his forelegs, then managed to arch his back enough to get his teeth around the rope holding his hind legs, and bite through it, freeing himself. Whitehoof saw the exhaustion in Maynand’s face. “Maybe you’ll remember this!” The gelding snapped. Maynand pushed past Sheissain and disappeared from sight. “How did he get free?” Sheissain asked. “Ask him,” Whitehoof suggested, “Maynand likes to boast. He’ll enjoy telling you the story, then, come back and get the truth from me or Tilly, find out what really happened.” “But why can’t you tell me now?” Sheissain asked. “I want to test Maynand, he said he was finished with you when you said you no longer wished to persecute Pip. So he’s got no incentive to impress you. Therefore, he might tell you the truth Sheissain,” Whitehoof replied. “Okay, I’ll ask him,” Sheissain said. With that he went in search of Maynand.

Sheissain found Maynand trying to hide behind a tree. “Maynand,” , “ I want to talk to you.” “Why do you want to talk to me, I thought you’d gone all soft like Pip and … ” Maynand’s voice trailed off. “why did you do it, why did you kill that poor cub, and I want the truth, no more of your lies Maynand?” Sheissain softened slightly. “I only wanted to play with the stupid cub, I never intended hurting him and then, then he called me a bully.” “ Well, he was right there, wasn’t he!! for goodness sake Maynand, that poor vixen has lost her baby because of your stupidity.” “and, and, what am I sposed to do about it?” the realisation of what he had done was beginning to sink in. “how about an apology!” suggested Sheissain. “If you think I am going back into that forest, you got another think coming they practically crucified me, that Brock’s an evil so-and-so.” Maynand wailed.

“Oh no you don’t get out of it that easily.” Ferdinand crept up on the two horses, “you’ll go and apologise to her if it’s the last thing you do.” “How did you get free?” Sheissain asked. “I dug my hooves into the branches holding me and managed to break them,” Maynand replied flatly. “That’s right,” Ferdinand chipped in, “but it was a struggle after that wasn’t it Maynand?” The colt looked down at his hooves. “Yes, you stood there and watched me struggle! You didn’t lift a hoof to help!” The colt whinnied. “I wanted you to learn a lesson,” Ferdinand said, “to learn that freedom is a struggle, as you found, and that it is not easily gained. We horses have it, but we only have it because we obey laws that enable us to know what is right and wrong. It is because we know this, that we are free. Now you go and apologise to that vixen,” Ferdinand replied. Sighing heavily, |Maynand turned tail, lashing out at Sheissain as he did so. The colt’s hoof caught the unsuspecting horse on his foreleg. “You are a bully!” Sheissain yelled.

Sheissain chased Maynand through the trees. Suddenly the colt turned and faced Sheissain, and stood nose to nose, hoof to hoof with him. “I hate you!” the colt yelled. Sheissain stared Maynand down. “You are a weak colt,” Sheissain replied. Maynand turned rear on and raised a hind foot to attack Sheissain. Sheissain watched the colt’s foot intently. When Maynand’s foot was clear of the ground, he kicked the sole hard! Maynand screamed! “If you want the others doing, I can help!” Sheissain snarled. “You’ve bruised my foot!” Maynand wailed. “You killed that cub,” Sheissain replied, “The soreness in your foot will ease off. That vixen’s pain caused by the loss of her cub won’t ease so fast.” Maynand limped away.

“serves you right.” Maynand swung round at the sound of the voice, it was the vixen. “You murdered my baby, she cried. “he called me a bully.” Sulked Maynand. “that you are.” Replied the vixen. “look what Sheissain did to my hoof!” he lifted it. “You won’t get any sympathy here, that’s nothing to what you have done to me.” The vixen replied.

The Vixen looked closely at the colt’s foot. Then, raising a forepaw, she slapped the frog of Maynand’s foot hard! The colt shrieked! The Vixen then reared up on her hind legs, grabbed hold of Maynand’s raised foot in both paws, dug the toes of her hind feet into the forest floor, and threw herself backwards with all her force! Sheissain couldn’t believe what happened next. Maynand was dragged backwards! Scrabbling for a foothold with his three free feet, Maynand was dragged apparently effortlessly by this vixen! At the last moment, the fox twisted the hoof she was holding. Maynand howled in agony, then, screaming, he fell sideways! The Vixen only let go when the colt was past the point of no return. Maynand crashed onto the forest floor. He tried to kick the vixen out of existence, but she’d taken refuge on Sheissain’s back, and was watching the disgraced colt’s antics from safety. “Now who’s won! Sheissain snapped. “don’t you be bothering to come into this forest again Maynand because you not be welcomed by any of us forest folk.” So you better be hearing me good and proper.” Brock didn’t give Maynand a chance to say anything. “and if you lay a hoof on Whitehoof, Pip or any of the other horses ever again, I tell you, we be killing you next time, understand that?” Maynand looked at Brock defiantly but again ~Brock continued speaking, “You just be gone away from here now and leave us to get on with our lives.”” Maynand limped away, knowing the Badger and all the other forest creatures had been serious. Maynand felt dreadful. His left hind foot hurt from Sheissain kicking it, and his head ached from hitting it on a root as the vixen overbalanced him. The colt wondered how the fox had managed to do what she’d done. He couldn’t work it out, but she’d done it, yes, he wasn’t dreaming, his body told him very clearly indeed that it had all happened. Maynand looked back to find Sheissain following him, and watching every move. Maynand felt the anger rise in him, but fought the urge to challenge Sheissain by remembering how the older horse had outwitted him previously. By this time Sheissain and Maynand were back at the herd. Many horses asked him what happened in the forest, but Maynand refused to talk about it. In a raging fury at the world in general, Maynand went into a corner to sulk and lick his wounds. Throwing himself down on the grass, Maynand considered his lot. He wondered why he hated Pip and Whitehoof so much. “What I can’t stand is how small they are,” the colt thought, “Whitehoof and Pip are so tiny, but Whitehoof is herd leader! How can a horse so small as Whitehoof, if Whitehoof can be called a horse, and that goes for Pip too! Well, how can Whitehoof lead the herd. Noone will take orders from a scrap like him!” Leaping to his feet, Maynand went in search of Whitehoof to talk with him.

Maynand found the Falabella gelding resting under a willow tree. Seeing him coming, Whitehoof got to his feet, shook himself and waited for the colt to approach him. Maynand looked Whitehoof all over. From his ears, one white, the other black, to his body, all black fur, to the gelding’s legs, all black fur here too, to Whitehoof’s feet, and that one white hoof. “What can I do for you?” Whitehoof asked. Maynand replied: “How is it, that the horses take commands from you?” Whitehoof considered this. “Petra gave me the leadership, she’s within her right to do that. If I am a bad leader, then I am driven from the herd. Noone has tried to do that yet, so I think I’m doing okay,” the gelding replied. Maynand said: “Whitehoof, I, I have a problem with this. You see, you are small, and I can’t get my head around why a horse so small should be leader!” Whitehoof didn’t show any anger at Maynand challenging him, he waited patiently for the colt to continue. “You don’t look like a leader, you’re not large, you’re not bossing us all around,,,” “did you ever see Petra bossing you around,” Whitehoof said. “No,” Maynand admitted, “she didn’t, but I would have thought you might, to make up for your lack of physical clout! You can’t attack anyone!” Whitehoof smiled grimly and said: “Want to try me Maynand? Brute strength isn’t everything.” Maynand hesitated: “No,” he said. “All right,” Whitehoof said, “but the offer’s there.” Maynand suddenly felt fear, fear of this horse with the white hoof! Squealing, he turned and fled! Whitehoof watched him go, wondering what he’d said to cause Maynand to lose it.

Whitehoof didn’t follow Maynand, he knew the colt would be better left alone to simmer down. “whitehoof, dear!” “Pip!” Whitehoof whinnied, jumping a mile, “I didn’t hear you.” “No, you were miles away, what’s up?” Pip asked. “Oh, Maynand just confronted me about my being leader,” he said. “He just cant get his head round the fact that just because we are small, that it doesn’t mean we are not strong.” “well, you are certainly strong in character, Petra definitely made the right choice for you as her successor as leader of the herd.” Pip hugged him gently. “That’s why I love you so much.” She continued.

Whitehoof cuddled close to Pip. Closing his eyes, he let himself go. Pip watched him sleeping. “He is wonderful,” she thought. Pip brushed Whitehoof’s ear with her muzzle. After an hour or so, in which Pip’s legs got very stiff from standing in the same position, quite literally supporting Whitehoof, the gelding woke. Standing upright, he asked: “Was I asleep?” Pip flexed her legs, trying not to draw attention to the fact her legs felt as if they didn’t belong to her any more. “Yes you were,” she replied. Seeing his mate’s discomfort, Whitehoof said: “You should have woken me!” Pip smiled at him: “You looked so sweet, I couldn’t bare to,” she replied. Whitehoof went to Pip and hugged her. She laughed: “You are so soppy!” She whinnied. Whitehoof knew he’d found the mare he wanted to be with forever. “Suppose we’d better get back to work,” he said. With that both horses went to check on their herd.

“You’re a big softie, Whitehoof,” said Pip as they made their way back to the herd. “yes,” he smiled “I can be when I want to be.” They both laughed. Pip was so very, very happy!

They were stopped by a pained cry from off to their right. Whitehoof turned and haired off in the direction of the sound. He found himself witnessing the birth of a foal. A piebald mare lay on her side, Whitehoof didn’t recognise her. The foal was half born, and as he watched, the foal emerged completely into the world. Whitehoof quite forgot what danger he was in as he watched the tiny creature, smaller than him, getting to it’s feet. Instantly he recognised the foal was a filly. Pip arrived then, and stared open mouthed at the scene. The mare was recovering now. Her gaze fastened onto the gelding. “Who are you!” She demanded. Whitehoof told her who he was. “Herd leader?” The mare asked. “yes, of my herd, maybe not of yours,” Whitehoof replied. “My herd, I don’t have a herd!” She whinnied. “Why Not?” Pip asked. “Because I was turfed out!” The mare snapped. “You were wandering, and pregnant?” Pip asked. “Yes,” the piebald mare replied. “You felt your foal coming and lay down here to give birth to her,” Whitehoof said, “and I came across you?” The mare sighed: “Yes.” She got to her feet, and the filly took her first drink of milk. The piebald mare looked Whitehoof over. “I need a herd,” she said, “Could you suggest one?” Smiling, Whitehoof replied. “Welcome home.” The Mare’s eyes widened! “In your herd?” She asked. “Yes,” Whitehoof replied. Pip felt sure, that if her foal hadn’t been feeding at that very moment, the piebald mare would have dropped to her knees and very nearly worshiped Whitehoof. Pip was glad she didn’t, because she knew the gelding would have found any display like this hugely embarrassing. The new born Filly finished her drink, and shaking herself, said: “What now?” Both Whitehoof and Pip laughed helplessly at this. “Eager to get on isn’t she?” Pip whinnied.

The filly looked Whitehoof all over, from his ears to his hooves. She noticed his white hoof, and looked down at her own. “Why is one of your hooves white?” She asked. “I was born with it,” Whitehoof replied. “I like it,” she said. Whitehoof smiled at the tiny foal. “Are you a foal?” she asked. Whitehoof tried not to fall over. “No, I’m a grown horse,” he replied. The poor filly looked so confused at this that Pip took Pity on her. “Whitehoof and I are special horses, we are only three feet tall when we are grown up. You will grow to be a lot bigger than me or Whitehoof,” She said. “Where are we going?” The filly asked. “Back to our new herd,” her mother replied, “Follow whitehoof and,,, I don’t know your name?” She looked down at Pip. “I’m Pip, the Falabella mare replied. “Follow Whitehoof and Pip,” the Piebald mare said, “Whitehoof is our leader now. “What are your names? Pip asked.

“My name is Gemini,” said the mare “and this is … um, you know what? I haven’t even thought of a name for her yet”> they all laughed. “We’ll have to think about that one,” Gemini went on. They made their way slowly back to the herd. Tilly saw them coming. “Oh, who is this?” Tilly asked inquisitively. “Gemini and … her foal,” said Pip “they have come to join our herd.” “welcome aboard,” said Tilly warmly.

Tilly looked down at Gemini’s foal. The filly looked back at her. “This foal’s only a few hours old,” Tilly observed. “I found Gemini foaling,” Whitehoof said. Maynand cantered into view. Catching sight of Gemini and her tiny foal, he snapped: “I hope you aren’t gonna let those two into the herd Whitehoof!” “I have,” Whitehoof replied, “and since when have you had any say in it?” Maynand, knowing his words would make no impression on the gelding, stamped off. “What a horrible colt!” Gemini whinnied. “yep,” Tilly said, “He’s a tough one is Maynand.” “What’s your name?” the foal asked. Tilly smiled down at the tiny creature. “I’m Tilly,” she said. “What’s yours?” The Palomino mare asked. “I, I don’t know,” the foal replied. “How about Emily,” Gemini suggested. “Why Emily?” Tilly asked. “Don’t really know,” the Piebald mare replied. Emily it was then. Pip looked Emily all over, from her tiny ears, both black, to her face, all white, to her body, white fur mostly, with a bit of black fur on her right hock. The Mare’s gaze travelled down the filly’s legs, her right fore black, the others white, to her hooves, all black. Emily saw Pip doing this and had a good long look at the Falabella mare. What she saw was a grey mare, all grey, with black hooves. Then Emily took a look at Whitehoof. She saw a black horse this time, all black fur, one white ear, all black fur on his legs, three black hooves, along with Pips, the smallest she’d ever seen, and of course, that one white hoof. Seeing her watching him, Whitehoof stretched his nose out to Emily. “You are safe here,” he said. Emily began to relax, Maynand had clearly upset her.

“What did that colt want?” Gemini asked. “Maynand? Oh, nothing.” Tilly replied. “He’s a pest,” Pip muttered. Pip looked about her. “What a day,” she mused. It was raining. “What’re you on about ?” Whitehoof asked. “Just think, we started off with just an ordinary day, we meet Gemini and Emily, and now we have more horses in our herd.” “Yep, we do that,” Whitehoof replied. Sheissain came past then. “Hey Whitehoof!” He yelled, “What’s this about you stumbling across a foaling mare!” Whitehoof shouted: “You don’t have to shout! Yes I did find a mare foaling.” Sheissain suddenly stopped dead and stared open mouthed at Gemini. “She’s beautiful!” He thought. Gemini warned Sheissain off with laid back ears. “Oh well,” Sheissain said gruffly, “maybe next time,” “Can’t you see she’s only just foaled?” Pip asked angrily. “I didn’t know that!” Sheissain whimpered. “Well you do now!” Gemini screamed. With that she chased Sheissain away, leaving Emily alone with Pip and Whitehoof for a short while. “Why is mum chasing that horse?” Emily asked. “She doesn’t like him much,” Whitehoof replied. Emily seemed satisfied with that. Gemini came galloping back. “That horse!” She fumed, “Disgusting manners! He couldn’t wait for anything! Rude, disgrace to the equine species!” She whinnied. “Are you okay?” Pip asked. “Oh, yes,” Gemini snapped, “thanks Pip, but that horse, Sheissain or whatever he calls himself, he needs to learn timing! What a plonker!” She stamped off in a raging temper, Emily following at her heels.

Whitehoof found Sheissain lying under an oak tree, the rain dripping off the leaves onto him. He looked in a bad way. “What’s the matter?” Whitehoof asked. Sheissain grimaced: “That new mare, the Piebald one, she’s got hard hooves!” Sheissain whined. “You did try to seduce her, she’s only just foaled Sheissain! you stupid idiot!” Whitehoof remonstrated. “Yes, I know that now! Sheissain snapped, “she busted me up proper, those hooves were sharp Whitehoof!” “Did she do you any real damage?” The gelding asked. “No,” Sheissain admitted, “Only a bit of bruising.” “Your pride is in bits though I’ll bet,” Whitehoof thought. Both horses turned round at the sound of two horses coming near. Gemini and Emily came into view round a bend in the track.

Pip liked this mare Gemini, it was good that they seemed to get on together so well. “tell me about the herd,” Gemini wanted to know everything. “I am a relative newcomer myself, Ferdinand rescued me and we found the herd together, Petra, she was the herd leader at the time, took me under her wing, in fact, she adopted me as her foal. I also made good friends with Kora, unfortunately she was drowned whilst we were crossing a particularly fast-flowing river.” Pip told her about how she had met Brock in the forest and she had wanted to stay there with him and she ran away and then, and then Whitehoof appeared and the horses had come looking for her. “What happened to Petra?” Gemini asked nervously. “She was murdered in the forest, by Maynand and Sheissain. Sheissain has since repented but Maynand,” she shuddered at the thought of him. “Oh goodness, that must have been awful for you.” Gemini said. “Yes, it was, and then, the forest animals strung Maynand up on a tree.” “Sheissain used to be second in command but because of what he did Petra handed it to Whitehoof,” Pip went on, “and in her dying moment, she handed it over to Whitehoof, Whitehoof elected Tilly as second in command.” “How about you Gemini,” how come you were thrown out from your herd?”

Gemini looked at Sheissain with distaste. Pip had followed her and Emily down the track, and they had come across Whitehoof and Sheissain. The Piebald mare looked deep into the Stallion’s face, Sheissain couldn’t meet her eye. “I was thrown out because another horse sired Emily. The head stallion got to hear of it, and he beat me up, and I didn’t want to lose my foal, so I ran away.” Gemini said. “The stallion wasn’t really my cup of tea anyway,” she admitted, that other piebald horse though, hmm, yeah, the one for me,” she said wistfully. “What happened to him?” Whitehoof asked. “He was killed by a car, a careless human took his life,” Gemini said sadly. “I’m sorry,” Whitehoof said. “Emily makes it worth going on,” Gemini said, “I have her now.” Emily looked down at Sheissain and said: “You upset my mum!” Then she kicked him!

Emily’s tiny forefoot crashed into Sheissain’s fetlock. The Stallion shrieked and lashed out at the foal! Gemini, sensing danger to her foal, defended the tiny creature. She placed her forefeet on Sheissain, one on his shoulder, the other on his hock, Pinning the stallion to the floor. “You will not go after my foal!” Gemini squealed. “She kicked me!” Sheissain wailed. “You threatened to do a lot worse to me Sheissain!” The mare yelled. Sheissain looked at Gemini’s left forefoot pinning him down. “Having a good look at my hoof?” Gemini asked. With that she showed him it, Gemini was a massive mare, she must have had a bit of shire in her, and her hoof was huge! Sheissain squealed in terror! “No!” He pleaded, “Don’t crush me!” Gemini left him then, lifting her weight off him. Sheissain was so relieved, he forgot about hurting Emily. “Hey Pip, I thought you said that Sheissain was not violent anymore.” Gemini said to her later that day. “hmm, I think somehow that he is trying to get your attention Gemini, remember when he first saw you? You could see in his face, maybe that is just what he needs, a female companion.” “But he was so rude to me, and then Emily decided to kick him one.” Gemini laughed, ”ah well,” she said, smiling to herself, “I think I will have to just play along with this one for a while and play hard to get. “just be careful, Gemini dear!” Pip advised. “Don’t worry,” she continued, “at the moment my first priority is Emily, but watch out Sheissain.”

Sheissain got up from the forest floor. He could still feel the mare’s hooves on him, even though she’d been gone for over an hour. “I must talk with her on her own,” Sheissain thought. He knew Gemini’s protective instincts were all to do with Emily, and would dissipate as soon as Emily was able to eat grass and fend for herself. Sheissain couldn’t wait for that day, he wanted Gemini so badly! He cantered off in the direction the mare had taken. Sheissain found Gemini, Whitehoof and Pip resting under an oak tree to get out of the rain. Seeing him, Gemini laid her ears back. “I don’t want you!” She squealed. Then she launched a huge hoof at him! Sheissain dodged the mare’s attack and fled! Emily was badly frightened by the huge horse’s reappearance on the scene. “I don’t like him mum,” she sobbed. Gemini tried to comfort her distressed foal. “He’s not going to hurt you Emily dear,” Gemini said gently, “It’s me he wants to talk to, but I’ve warned him off, for now.” Gemini nuzzled Emily’s ear. “Now go to sleep my dear,” she said softly. Emily cuddled up to her mother and closed her eyes. Pip watched the foal sleeping peacefully. “She’s lovely,” Pip thought. Pip went across to Whitehoof, who was sleeping, and nudged him. The gelding opened one eye, regarded her for a minute or so, then shook himself awake. “Hi-ya Pip,” he yawned, “what time is it?” The Falabella mare looked up at the sky. “Nearly dusk,” she replied. Whitehoof got up, stretched and said: “Has Sheissain tried to talk Gemini round again?” Pip spat contemptuously on the grass. “yes he has! “ She squealed, “disgusting brute he is!” Whitehoof moved closer to Pip, and nuzzling her ear, he attempted to calm her down. “Hey Pip, shh darling,” he whispered. Feeling the gelding’s warm muzzle on her ear melted Pip’s anger. She cuddled up to him, rubbing his ear with her muzzle, then burying her face in his thick mane. “I love you so very much,” Pip Whispered. Whitehoof closed his eyes, enjoying this ,mare’s company. “I love you too Pip,” he murmured. Pip lay down beside her mate, cuddling close to him. Resting her head on his shoulder, she closed her eyes and drifted off into a dream. It was morning when Pip awoke. Whitehoof was still beside her, “Oh that felt so good,” she thought to herself smiling with delight. Gemini and Emily were nowhere to be seen. “Wonder where she’s gone?” Pip said this aloud thus waking Whitehoof. “You ok, dear?” Whitehoof asked sleepily. “Just wondering where Gem and Em are,” she said.

Gemini and Emily wandered through the forest. They were curious to meet the badger who had tied Maynand up in knots. They didn’t have to look far to find Brock. The badger came towards them and said: “You know where Pip and Whitehoof go?” Gemini said she knew. “Very good,” Brock said, “Brock need to talk with Pip soon,” Gemini noticed the badger was troubled. “Is something wrong?” She asked. “Yes, Brock admitted, “You see, badgers bury Pip mother. Pip mother die,,,” “I heard,” Gemini said. “yes well, we badgers bury Pip mother. I no do it, another family, they do it. It be their job you sees.” Gemini said: “You want me to tell Pip?” The boar badger shook his head: “No,” he said, “I tell. Me Friend of Pip and she need to know.” With that he shook himself and asked: “Please, where be Pip now?” Gemini and Emily turned and showed the badger where Whitehoof and Pip were lying up. Brock wished he was telling Pip anything but this. “Ah well,” Brock thought, “Pip got horse with white hoof with her now. To Brock it seems Horse named Whitehoof love Pip plenty, so he look after her, comfort her too.” They arrived back at the oak tree Where Pip and Whitehoof were eating grass peacefully.

“Brock,” Pip was pleased to see Brock coming towards her. “You be here too Whitehoof, Whitehoof look after Pip for Brock. Pip will need you with her when I tell news”> Pip’s heart sank. “What is it Brock?” Whitehoof asked. “family bury Petra for Pip.” Pip broke down, Whitehoof didn’t like seeing her like this, he held her close and hugged her tightly. “I love you sweetheart.” He said over and over again. “I know it won’t bring Petra back but I love you so much it hurts to see you like this Pip.” Brock left them alone, he went off to find Gemini and Emily. “Gemini and Emily leave Pip and Whitehoof by self for while.” “Of course.,” replied Gemini and they went off to find Tilly.

Pip cried into Whitehoof’s mane. “They couldn’t just leave her there Pip darling,” Whitehoof said softly. “No,” Pip sobbed, “I know they couldn’t.” Whitehoof hugged Pip fiercely. “I’ll always be here,” he whispered. “That’s what Petra said,” Pip sobbed. “I know Pip dear, I know,” Whitehoof replied, trying not to cry himself. “Sheissain’s reformed, and Maynand’s scared of me, so I’ll be here forever,” he said gently. Pip looked at her mate. He was slightly taller than her, but not by much, and the thought of Maynand being scared of Whitehoof made Pip laugh helplessly. “You’re serious?” She asked. “Yep, took off three days back and I haven’t seen him since,” Whitehoof replied. “Maynand scared of you. Hmm, that’s funny!” Pip whooped.

Gemini and Emily found Tilly grazing. “what’s up?” Tilly asked seeing the sad look on Gemini’s face. “The badgers have buried Petra,” Gemini said solemnly. “Oh, I see.” Tilly came alongside the mare and hugged her. “I somehow feel as if I knew her,” went on Gemini. “Yes, she was a good leader, well liked and respected by most.” Tilly continued. “Brock just came and told Pip, Whitehoof is with her now, ,,” went on Gemini.

Tilly, Gemini and Emily went back to the oak tree under which Whitehoof and Pip were standing. Seeing them coming, Whitehoof went to meet them. “Ah Tilly, there you are,” he said, “I suppose Gemini told you?” Tilly nodded: “Yeah,” she replied. Sheissain came into view then, he tried to be silent on his feet, but Gemini had noticed him. She turned rear on, and, when he was in range, she lashed out! The piebald mare’s hoof smashed into Sheissain’s foreleg, almost breaking it! The Stallion screamed! “What was that for!” he yelled. “You know very well what that was for!” Gemini yelled back. Sheissain limped away, cursing Gemini fluently. “That horse is disgusting!” Gemini fumed, “he’s driven by one thing! Ugh! Horrible!” She whinnied shrilly. Whitehoof thought of Ferdinand. “A nice horse,” he thought, “respectful of a mare’s wishes too, if Kora’s story was anything to go by.” But said nothing. Ferdinand must have read the Falabella colt’s mind, for he came around a willow tree and headed towards them. “Evening all!” He whinnied. His carefree air died as soon as he saw the look on Pip’s face. “What’s the matter Pip dear,” He asked. The Falabella mare turned a shattered expression on him. “The badgers buried mum,” Pip said sadly. Then she turned tail and walked away from the group. “Where’s she going?” Ferdinand asked. “Can’t you guess?” Tilly asked. “Not there, not all the way back to that clearing! Surely not!” Ferdinand whinnied. “Maybe she needs to,” Whitehoof replied.

“Then I shall go with her.” Ferdinand followed Pip. “Oh Ferdi,” Pip said as he came up to her and nudged her gently with his nose. “Why did she have to die?” Pip cried uncontrollably again, hugging into the large horses neck. “Hey Pip, its ok, take as long as you like.” Pip let herself go, she was overtaken with grief.

“Where were you going?” Ferdinand asked. “To the clearing,” Pip replied, “I must go back there Ferdi’, I must!” “You can’t go on your own,” Ferdinand said firmly, “who would you like to come along with you?” Pip sniffed and replied: “Whitehoof, if he will, and you,,,” Ferdinand cantered back to Whitehoof and asked him about it. “I’ll come,” he said. Whitehoof told Tilly she was in charge until he got back. Then Whitehoof and Ferdinand rejoined Pip to make the journey back to the clearing. “It’s not really that far,” Ferdinand said, “there’s quite a bit of climbing to do, that’s the biggest problem.” Whitehoof and Pip took it in turns to ride on Ferdinand’s back, but soon, sooner than they expected, they were back at the place where Petra had died. “This is the place,” Whitehoof said sadly.

They stayed there for quite a while, long enough for Pip to say her goodbyes. This made her feel better. “I know it won’t bring her back, Whitehoof,” she said quietly, “but at least you saw where it happened.” As they were about to leave they heard another horse approaching, they looked round, it was Maynand!

“What are you doing here?” Ferdinand asked pleasantly. The colt looked down at his hooves, ashamed at being found out. Pip saw Maynand was close to tears. She’d never thought this colt could possibly know anything about sadness. He had always been a hard brute for as long as she’d known him, and now, yes, there he was, almost crying. “I came, came back, to say farewell, to Petra,,” Pip became angry! “Why?” She demanded, “Why would you, of all horses! You who plotted to fight and kill her, feel anything for her!” She shrieked. Maynand swallowed hard and replied: “Pip, it’s like this. I, I, well, Petra, she was my foster mum too.” Pip stared at him in confusion. “Petra couldn’t have foals, she said that!” She yelled. “Yes, and it was true, but she found me, I didn’t join the herd a few months ago as was at first thought, I was Petra’s first foal. When you came along, I felt jealousy and raging hatred for you. Because, because you had come along and diverted Petra’s attention from me.” Pip’s vision blurred with tears. “You killed her Maynand!” She squealed. Pip turned tail and bolted! “Whitehoof, you go after Pip and I’ll talk to Maynand.” Ferdinand ordered quietly. Whitehoof wasted know time in running after Pip. “Pip, Pip,,” he shouted “slow down, I need to talk to you.” At last he caught up with her, she was frantic with rage. “don’t touch me whitehoof,” she said angrily. “but, but, we need to talk, this needs sorting out Pip,” he said firmly. “ok, ok,,” she started to shake, “Pip, come here,” he drew her close and she started to cry yet again. “Why didn’t he tell me this before,” she sobbed, “Then this would never have happened.” “Hey Pip,” Whitehoof continued, “if you don’t stop crying soon we’ll drown in your tears.” Pip brightened slightly and then started to laugh again. “Oh whitehoof,” she laughed and cried at the same time, “You always know when to say the right things,” she said. “what about Maynand,” she shuddered. “leave that to Ferdinand,” Whitehoof said gently, “I am sure he will be fair with him.” “yes,” agreed Pip.”

Ferdinand regarded Maynand with contempt. “Why didn’t you tell Pip about your link with Petra?” Maynand snapped: “Pip’s a scrap! I was hoping she’d die or something, I hoped Sheissain would finish her off, but he didn’t! That badger touched his hooves and Sheissain went all soft! I wanted Pip dead! I hate her!” Maynand yelled. “So you killed Petra to get at Pip?” Ferdinand asked. “Dead right I did!” Maynand screamed. Ferdinand refrained from giving Maynand a clout, but it was a hard run thing. “Maynand, Petra may have shown you love in the past, but you showed her none! When she didn’t do what you wanted you took your anger out on her, attacking her and ultimately causing her death. You are not fit to be considered a member of this herd! I don’t have authority to expel you from the herd, but I’ll make it known that you are a horrible creature. You did not deserve Petra’s affection, you deserve nothing!” Ferdinand whinnied. Whitehoof and Pip arrived then, they’d overheard it all. Whitehoof looked long and hard at Maynand. “Come here!” He commanded. Maynand went to the Falabella horse. “You are no longer a member of this herd,” Whitehoof said, “you will leave, and so that everyone knows you have been thrown out, you will be marked for life!” “How are you going to do that?” Maynand asked bitterly. To the astonishment of all the horses, Whitehoof reared and extended his white hoof towards Maynand’s shoulder. The contact between hoof and hair was only brief, but as they watched. The hair around the place where Whitehoof’s hoof had touched Maynand’s shoulder turned white, so, after a short time, the colt had the imprint of a tiny hoof on his left shoulder. “Now you are marked for life.” Whitehoof said. “You can go now,” Ferdinand ordered. Maynand knew he’d been singled out, and this was a terrible thing. Every horse he met would ask about the marking he’d been given. He was an outcast, and he knew it. Three silent horses made their way back to the herd. Pip was exhausted, she went to find Tilly. “Pip dear, what’s up,” pip threw herself down onto the lush grass. “I feel so awful,” she cried into Tilly’s coat, “if he’d told me this before Petra would still be here and this would never have happened.” “Pip, calm down and tell me all about it.” She told Tilly what had happened in the forest clearing, “Oh, I see,” said Tilly, “well, I guess that will be the end of Maynand now! Brock appeared, “Maynand be bad Pip, he don’t be part of herd no more.” Tilly Approached Whitehoof. “I was talking to Pip today,” she said, “and she told me a story about you rearing up on your hind legs and marking Maynand for life. Is she telling the truth?” Whitehoof replied: “Yes, I did mark him for life. He’ll not be able to get away from his dreadful evil acts.” “Why did you not mark Sheissain?” Tilly asked. “Sheissain made an effort to change, he’s reformed now.” Whitehoof replied. Tilly had another question for her leader. “Just how did you mark Maynand? It is said you touched him with your white hoof, and, this is the crazy part, Maynand’s fur went white where you touched it. How was it done?” Whitehoof smiled. “I can’t tell you that,” he said. “Why not?” Tilly asked. “Because I don’t know,” Tilly had an idea. “I’ve heard there’s something called chalk, that’s white. You could have rubbed some on your hoof and when you touched Maynand, that would have come off on his coat.” “No,” Whitehoof replied, “I’m no fraud, here, take a look at my hoof. First, I’ll paw the ground a bit.” He did so, vigorously pawing the ground with his white foot. “You see, look at the grass where I pawed the ground, there’s no chalk on my hoof. Now look,” With that he raised his hoof for Tilly to take a look at the sole of his foot. Tilly looked down at the white hoof. She could see nothing wrong with it. It wasn’t flaking, so nothing could have been left behind with the brief contact Pip described. Tilly even touched Whitehoof’s white hoof with her muzzle, it was hard horn, no trouble there. The realisation that there might be more to Whitehoof than she first thought began to creep up on Tilly. “Could you mark another horse?” Tilly asked. “I could,” Whitehoof replied, “but it would be for life, as was with Maynand. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it just for the thrill of the thing,” the gelding replied. Tilly wondered who this Falabella gelding really was. Tilly shook herself. Whitehoof, who’d been keeping his foot lifted for five minutes now, asked: “Can I have my hoof back now?” Tilly laughed. Yes, sure,” She replied. “Thanks,” Whitehoof said, “my leg was getting tired. Tilly dropped to her knees and hugged Whitehoof. She didn’t know why she wanted to, but the gelding didn’t seem to mind. “I must talk to Pip,” Whitehoof said. With that he gently disengaged himself from Tilly’s embrace and left her alone to think.

Whitehoof went to look for Pip. He found her talking to Gemini. “So he should do the same to Sheissain,” Gemini was saying to Pip. “No, no, no! I will not,” “Oh, whitehoof, dear, I didn’t hear you creeping up,” Pip smiled at him. “But Sheissain is a nasty piece of work,” Gemini went on. “Gemini, stop it this minute!” ordered Whitehoof, “I’ve heard enough of this now!” As she opened her mouth to say more Whitehoof lifted his white hoof ever so slightly from the ground and seeing that he meant business, she changed her mind and wandered off to find Emily. Pip could see that Whitehoof was angry. She moved closer to him, “What’s up, darling,” she asked quietly. !Pip, I hoped I would never, ever have to do that, expel a horse from my herd … but I had to.” “Hey, come here,” she drew him to her. He was trembling, she nuzzled up closer, trying hard to ease the tension from his body.

Whitehoof Shook uncontrollably. “What’s the matter?” Pip asked. “I don’t understand this power I have,” Whitehoof sobbed. “The power to brand horses with your hoof you mean?” Pip asked. “Yes,” Whitehoof replied, “why have I got that power? What use is it to me?” Pip hugged her mate tightly. “How did you do that?” She asked. “I don’t know Pip love, I don’t know!” Whitehoof whinnied shrilly. Pip took a look at Whitehoof’s white hoof. “There’s nothing out of place here,” she commented. “No,” Whitehoof replied, “I’ve had Tilly take a look, every horse can if they like, but they’ll find nothing!” “Raise your foot off the ground,” Pip said. Whitehoof did, and Pip touched the white hoof with her muzzle. “Is my muzzle white now?” She asked. “No,” Whitehoof replied, “It’s not like that. It only works when I place my hoof on the shoulder of a horse I mean to mark. I don’t want to mark you.” “Try,” Pip said. With that she lay down. “Here,” she invited, try branding me.” Whitehoof placed his white foot on Pip’s shoulder, closed his eyes, and tried to do what he’d done effortlessly to Maynand. He could not. “Try really hard!” Pip urged. Whitehoof tried harder, willing his hoof to brand Pip, but it wouldn’t! Whitehoof panted as he forced himself to think hard about branding Pip, but still he couldn’t. Exhausted, he lay down on the grass. It will only work when it’s needed,” he gasped. “You needed to brand Maynand,” Pip said. “Yes,” Whitehoof replied. Pip changed the subject. “What about Gemini? She hates Sheissain!” “She doesn’t like what he’s doing because she’s only recently foaled. Give her a bit of space, and she’ll want him as much as he does her,” The gelding replied. Pip got to her feet. She cuddled up close to Whitehoof again. “You need not be scared of the power you have,” she whispered.

Tilly Found Ferdinand and they both walked into the wood. Walking in silence, they both thought about Whitehoof. Tilly, having talked to Whitehoof at length, and also looked at his white foot, was sure there was something unusual about it and him. Ferdinand asked her about Whitehoof. “I’ve looked at his hoof,” Tilly said. “He let you?” Ferdinand asked incredulously. “Yes,” Tilly replied, “He was willing to show me. Whitehoof seems not to have the same hang ups about his hooves as Sheissain. I looked at Whitehoof’s hoof, and touched it too. There’s nothing wrong, but he still managed to brand Maynand!” Ferdinand thought about this information. “I’ll bet Whitehoof’s still confused about his power. He probably misunderstands it as much as we do. The poor fellow probably doesn’t know what to think,” Ferdinand replied. Tilly asked: “How would you feel if you found you could mark a horse for life, just by touching them with your hoof Ferdinand?” “I’d probably be as confused as Whitehoof is,” the stallion replied. “He’s got Pip though,” Tilly said, “she’s a lovely mare, they’ll work it out together I’m sure. Tilly suddenly hugged Ferdinand. She’d had her eye on him for ages, and thought he had been watching her too. Both horses ventured deeper into the woods. They wanted some time alone together. Emily wandered off in the opposite direction to which Gemini had gone. There was a horse grazing in the distance. “Wonder who that is?” she thought to herself. As she drew nearer she saw who it was and as she was about to turn back Sheissain spotted her and called across “Hi littl’en!” “ he said breezily, “you ok? Where’s ya mum, she’s never usually very far away from you.” “Oh, I last saw her talking to Pip and Whitehoof, haven’t a clue where she is now, she’ll have a head fit if she knows I’m talking to you!” “Hey come on, chill out,,” Sheissain went on munching on the grass “ your mum’s really cool!” Emily remembered that whenever Sheissain was around, her mum became angry. Taking her courage in the hollow of her tiny hoof, Emily asked Sheissain a question. “Why does mum get angry when you are around?” “I don’t know that Emily,” Sheissain replied. “You haven’t done something wrong have you?” the filly asked. “Oh, no, nothing like that,” the stallion replied. Gemini appeared then, she’d been listening to their conversation and wasn’t happy about it. “Emily, come here this instant!” She squealed. The foal went to her. “What have I told you about talking to Sheissain!” She screamed. Emily couldn’t remember her mother ever warning her against Sheissain, indeed Gemini had never mentioned him as being a danger to Emily herself. “Um, mum,” Emily said, “you have never told me not to go near Sheissain. You have said he’s a horrid horse, and lots of other words I can’t remember too, but you’ve never told me not to go near him.!” Gemini hesitated. “Well I’m telling you now!” She yelled. Sheissain watched them go. When she thought she was out of Sheissain’s hearing, Gemini said: “Time to go and find that Whitehoof. I wonder if he’s got that stupid idea out of his head that he can brand horses? What a stupid horse he is! That white ear of his is strange, and as for that foot of his, hmm, branding horses! What a joke! Whitehoof’s just a foal! A foal who thinks he’s got special power! I’ll bet it was just a story, all of it just a tale!” Sheissain heard this. He’d seen Maynand walking through the trees, but hadn’t spoken to him. Sheissain had seen the mark of Whitehoof’s hoof, and he knew it was as genuine as his own four hooves were.

Emily heard her mother’s words of condemnation for Whitehoof. She believed that the horse with the white hoof was really able to mark horses by touching them. She hoped her mother was not right when she spoke of it being a tale. Emily desperately wanted the story she’d heard about Whitehoof’s power to be true. “That would be wonderful if Whitehoof can do as the story says he can. I hope it is true! She thought.

Gemini and Emily found Whitehoof and Pip lying together under a tree. The two Falabella horses got to their feet when they saw them. “Mum thinks you’re silly Whitehoof!” Emily yelled. Gemini nearly clouted her foal. “I never said that Emily!” She shrieked. “You did! You did! You said that Whitehoof was a foal, a stupid horse! You said that all this about his hoof was untrue!” Emily squealed. She was getting rather upset now. Whitehoof, seeing the filly’s distress, went up to her and hugged her. “It’s okay,” the gelding said, “She’ll realise soon enough how true it is. That is if she goes on like you say she has.” Whitehoof turned to Gemini and demanded: “Did you say what Emily says you did?”

“Yes, I did,” she replied “But I didn’t mean anything by it” she continued. “I don’t believe you Gemini!” said Whitehoof. Pip could see that he was getting agitated, she tried to soothe him by nudging him gently with her nose. “Listen to me, Gemini, I warned you before that I don’t want to hear any more of this, just you remember, you have been here a very short time, and … he hesitated before continuing, “I don’t want to have to expel another horse from my herd, do you here me?” “I se,” she said turning to move away, “I haven’t finished yet,” Whitehoof said sternly. this jerked her back to face the tiny horse.

Whitehoof stared Gemini down. “I know Emily would know nothing of this unless you said it to her. You can only mean one thing by what you said, there’s no misunderstanding here, none at all Gemini!” He whinnied. Pip squealed: “Whitehoof, calm down darling! Please!” Whitehoof’s fur stood on end, he was furious! “You Gemini, will feel my hoof soon if you want it!” he yelled. Pip realised the gelding hadn’t heard her. “Whitehoof dear, please, calm down!” She pleaded. Gemini looked down at the smaller horse. “Go on!” She yelled, “If you can brand a horse, do it now! Mark me!” She challenged. The Falabella gelding strode up to her, and reared, touching Gemini’s shoulder with his white hoof. As with Maynand, Gemini’s fur turned white where Whitehoof’s white foot touched it. The power was needed, so it came to pass. Emily stared at her mother! Emily knew now that her mother would be ousted from the herd and she was frightened. “Its true then!” she wailed, “You do have special power!” she said to Whitehoof. “I told you that right from the start,” he turned and strode away, he hadn’t wanted to do this again, it was too late now. “Does that mean I will have to leave as well?” Emily asked Pip. “No Emily, you can stay” she said quietly, “I will take care of you as Petra took care of me.” “You cant do that!” Gemini shrieked. “Oh yes I can,” said Pip, ,” he allowed you to come into this herd with your foal, you will have to go Gemini.” Ferdinand and Tilly made their way reluctantly back to the herd. “oh look,” said Tilly, “there’s Whitehoof, he looks terrible.” “You go and find Pip Tilly dear and I will see what the problem is with Whitehoof,” Ferdinand said.

Ferdinand went after Whitehoof. “What’s the matter?” He asked. The Falabella gelding looked shell shocked. “I’ve had to do it again!” He whinnied. “do what again?” Ferdinand asked. “Brand a horse of course!” Whitehoof snapped. Ferdinand could see the gelding was shaking violently. “Why?” Ferdinand asked. Whitehoof hesitated, then replied: “Gemini, she, she told Emily that my power was false. She said that I was a foal, a stupid horse! I know it might sound petty, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you said it does, but I couldn’t take that!” “So you showed her the power of your white hoof.” Ferdinand said. “Yes,” Whitehoof replied miserably. The Falabella gelding closed his eyes for a minute, fighting with his emotions. Then he squealed: “All I want is for horses to accept the fact that I am different! I don’t want to have to prove my power to anyone! People can look at my hooves if they like, I don’t mind that, but please don’t ask me to demonstrate my power again!” Ferdinand heard the pain in Whitehoof’s voice. “I won’t ask anything more,” Ferdinand promised, “Tilly said you’d let her take a look at your hoof, and she said it was fine, and I’ve seen what you can do, so I won’t ask again!” Whitehoof, who had kept his eyes closed for around five minutes, opened them and stared blankly into the middle distance. “Gemini has to go, but Emily can stay. I’m glad she can just about eat grass now. If that wasn’t the case, then we’d be in trouble,” Whitehoof said. “How do you feel about Pip taking on Emily?” Ferdinand asked. “That’s fine,” Whitehoof replied. He stared down at his forefeet, one black, the other white. “Let’s get back to the herd,” Whitehoof said briskly.

Pip and Gemini were still arguing when Tilly arrived. “Hey, stop! now!” Pip had never heard Tilly use such a severe tone of voice before and she closed her mouth instantly. Meanwhile, Gemini remained defiant. “I won’t shut up,” she screamed “not for you Tilly, or anyone else for that matter. He’s branded me now and I’ve got to go and I am not allowed to take Em with me!” “Gemini, you provoked Whitehoof, you asked for what you got” went on Tilly. “but I didn’t think he would actually do it, I just thought,” her voice trailed off now and she started to cry. “What will happened to me now?” she sobbed. “hmm, I’ve just had a thought,” said Tilly. “I need to go and find Whitehoof, just lie low for a while Gemini, maybe there is something which can be done. Tilly went to find Whitehoof. “Whitehoof, I’ve had an idea!”” “Yeah?” said Whitehoof, “what’s that then!” Tilly told him her thoughts, maybe we should have a meeting with the herd and see how they feel about it!”

“Slow down, Tilly, I need time to think about this, your saying you want me to mark the whole heard with my hoof to identify them as our herd?”” “Yes,” said Tilly. “But that means Maynand could come back and … and I’ve expelled him” “Maybe we should give him one last chance, what I was thinking, we could kind of not mark them until we are definitely sure they will fit in with it.” “Be Quiet about this for now Tilly, just give me time,” said Whitehoof. Whitehoof found a secluded part of the wood and threw himself down on the forest floor to think. The thought of marking all the horses in his herd made sense, but what would happen if one needed to be punished with expulsion? How would he remove the mark? Whitehoof had a sudden flash of inspiration. Maybe, if he touched the horse with his black forefoot, then the mark would disappear? Leaping to his feet, he went in search of Gemini. Whitehoof found her very downcast and ready to lash out. Seeing him she spat on the floor at his feet. “I hate you!” She yelled. “Tilly told me of the plan she had. I’ve added to it a bit,” Whitehoof said. “Stand Still Gemini, just for a minute,” he commanded. Gemini did so, not understanding what the falabella horse was going on about. Whitehoof reared, and touched the place where the mark was with his black forefoot. As he’d hoped, the mark disappeared! “Great!” Whitehoof said. With that he quickly re-branded Gemini. “Tilly’s idea might be possible,” the gelding thought. He ran into the wood. “What are you playing at?” Gemini yelled. “I’ll explain at a meeting of the whole herd!” Whitehoof whinnied. With that he went in search of Tilly.

A meeting was arranged for midnight of the same day. There was an air of excitement although there had been much gossip about Whitehoof special gift. “Tilly,” Whitehoof said, “Go and tell all the horses to be under the large oak tree dead on midnight,” Whitehoof said, “I need to be quiet and think about how I should say what I need to say. Tilly and Pip wandered around the herd passing on the message from Whitehoof. “What’s all this about?” this question was asked time and time again. “Wait and see,” Tilly replied, “You’ll know soon enough!” Whitehoof paced around, wondering how he was going to sell the idea of branding every horse in the herd. He hoped it wasn’t too like man to do this, for as he knew, man branded animals to signify ownership. So, if whitehoof branded the horses, did he own them? He thought not. But then was it right for him to do this? The horses were all beautiful creatures, from the smallest foal, to the largest stallion, they were all special in their own way. He had noticed a mare with only one eye, she had obviously been injured and had lost her eye, but she was beautiful too. Whitehoof wondered if he had the right to brand these horses. He looked down at his white hoof. “It’s all because of this,” he thought, dragging his white foot through a patch of leaves. Whitehoof turned back towards home. He had a few questions to ask of the herd.

At midnight, all the horses were gathered under the oak tree. Whitehoof explained his idea, and his problems with it. “Man brands horses,” he said. Whitehoof continued: “If I branded you all with my white mark, then would I own you all? I don’t like the thought of that! It is not natural for horses to wear marks that are not given to them at birth. Man brands his horses so he can tell his from those of the fellow men. Horses need not do this to each other! Also, great idea though it is, I couldn’t do it! Tilly came up with a great idea, and it would have worked, it did work! I feel though, that it is wrong! I don’t own any of you! We horses need to tell who’s out of our herd, these are few in number, most horses are welcome in our herd!” “Which ones wouldn’t be?” someone asked. The questioner was the one eyed mare. Whitehoof looked at her. “Those like Maynand who have done terrible things to the herd,” he replied. “if you don’t want to mark our coats,” Pip said, “then how about marking in a place where noone would see unless they were looking for the mark?” “Where do you suggest branding these horses?” Whitehoof asked. “the sole of a horse’s foot,” Pip replied, “You can’t see that without the horse picking up his or her foot to show you. Also, it wouldn’t mark our coats.” Whitehoof considered this. “So Pip,” he said, “You are suggesting I brand the horse’s hooves, just one on every horse. But I mark the sole of their foot so it wouldn’t be visible?” “yes,” Pip replied, “maybe a forefoot, because it is visible without the horse having the opportunity to kick you.” Whitehoof, relieved that the dilemma of marking horse’s coats had been sorted, turned to the general ethics of marking. “We horses need to know who’s out, not who’s in,” he said. “So mark those who are in, and remove the mark from those who are out,” Pip replied. Whitehoof said: “One thing more. I need to put this to a vote. If anyone feels strongly about being marked, speak now.” Gemini looked at Pip. “So this mark, the new one, is to signify that we belong here?” she asked. “yes,” Pip replied. “What about my mark?” Gemini asked. Whitehoof went to her and said: “I’ve been thinking about what you said to Emily. How do you now feel about my power? If you can’t accept what I do, you don’t have to agree with it. Then I will remove the mark and you can go. If you agree with the marking, then you can have the old mark removed, and the new one placed upon your hoof, then you can remain in the herd.” Gemini thought about this for a long minute, before replying: “I see now that this power you have is no fraud. You have removed the mark, and replaced it. I don’t understand it, but I need a herd, and so does Emily.” Whitehoof turned and walked away, satisfied. “Any other questions or objections?” Pip asked. No horse objected. One did ask a question though, A skewbald mare, the one who’d lost an eye, who had asked the question about who would be kept out of the herd, turned sideways on to look at Whitehoof and asked: “Which hoof will carry the mark?” Pip looked at Whitehoof. “Your left forefoot is the white one,” she said. “Yep,” Whitehoof replied. He continued: “My feelings are all horses should have their right forefeet marked, so not to confuse them with me,” “That’s not very likely anyway!” Sheissain said, “You’re three feet tall!” “That too,” Whitehoof replied, “if I have an entirely white forefoot, and only the sole of the right forefoot of all other horses is white, there can be no confusion.” All horses seemed to be in agreement with this. “that’s decided, so what now?” Pip asked. Tilly started to walk away from the herd, she was upset! Ferdinand spotted her leave so decided to follow her: “What’s up Till?” he asked, “You look confused!” “I am,” she said, “I just wish I had never come up with this idea of Whitehoof marking the herd, I hope the vote goes against now, I think that would be the best idea and that marked horses should just be those who have been excluded. I was just thinking of Gemini, I really don’t think she meant to provoke Whitehoof in the way she did, she needs one more chance, for Emily’s sake I just feel so stupid!”

Ferdinand hugged Tilly tightly. “You’re idea was a good one, we need to know who’s in and who’s out. Whitehoof will rebrand all the horses, he’ll change Gemini’s mark, and she’ll be accepted into the herd,” he said. Tilly wasn’t convinced. “If any horses need to be branded, then let it be the second in command. Or even make it so that the horse with the mark on his or her forefoot is second in command, any with it on their shoulder is not a member of the herd. We need to know who’s in charge anyway!” Tilly replied. They went back to the herd and put the suggestion to Whitehoof. He agreed, feeling that he would be soon exhausted from having to brand loads of horses. “If you are agreed, this is how it will be from now on!” Whitehoof whinnied. “Gemini, you’re mark will be removed, and you will be accepted back into the herd. Maynand’s mark will stay because he has done dreadful things to the herd. Tilly will bare the mark of a second in command. The sole of her right forefoot will be white, signifying to all of us that she is second in command. Is this agreed!” There was no objection. Whitehoof went to Gemini and removed her mark. He then asked Tilly to raise her right forefoot, and he touched the sole of her foot with his white hoof, marking it. Tilly pawed the ground with her right forefoot, then lifted it for Whitehoof to see if the mark had rubbed off, although she knew it wouldn’t. The mark was still there. “Noone can see it if you don’t show them,” the gelding said. Tilly was happy with that. Whitehoof called for a badger, a fox and a squirrel. When they came to him, he instructed them to tell all the forest creatures, and any other herds of horses in the area, what the new markings meant. Once they had gone about their business, Whitehoof dissolved the meeting and went with Pip to a secluded part of the wood for some peace and quiet. Whitehoof fell into a deep sleep, he was shattered. Pip, on the other hand, was unable to get any rest. She decided to move away and leave him in peace. “How you be?” “Oh Brock, I am so pleased to see you!” Pip said. “I be telling the forest folk about what be happening in herd,” he went on. “That’s good, thank you Brock,” said Pip. “Me do it for Pip and Whitehoof!” he said. Brock looked at Pip. “You have no mark?” He asked. “No,” Pip replied, “Only Tilly does, and Maynand, Whitehoof’s got his hoof of course.” “Yes,” Brock said. “So whitehoof no mark Pip to show her mate of Whitehoof?” The badger asked. “No, I think everyone knows,” Pip replied. “How he do marking thing then? It be very strange to Brock and family how horse mark other horses with hoof.” “I don’t know how he does it,” Pip replied. “I hear he also mark Palomino mare named Tilly. Whitehoof mark horse’s foot though, not coat like Maynand be,” Brock said. “Yes, he did so,” Pip confirmed. “I also hear horses found mare having foal in bush?” Pip smiled: “Yes that is true too. Whitehoof found Gemini giving birth to Emily.” “I also hear horse named Sheissain be very interested in Piebald mare, but Piebald mare not happy with Sheissain. Her brush him off like crazy because Piebald mare looking after foal?” “Nothing gets past you does it,” Pip said. “No, we badgers keep big eye on horses, especially Pip! Badgers like Pip, whitehoof too! We thinks little horses is very good for big horse herd, give them leadership, make them see that small horse is good if not better than big horse! That Whitehoof though, I no know how he do marking thing. That be very amazing thing.” Pip looked back towards the place where Whitehoof lay. “I must try to get some sleep,” She said. Brock nodded: “Oh yes, Brock forget horses day creature, me night. Me come and make sure Pip and Whitehoof safe, okay?” Pip led the badger back to the tree where Whitehoof lay. When she lay down beside him, he woke. “Hi-ya Pip,” he yawned. “Brock’s here, he’s been telling all the forest creatures what you asked him to,” she said. “Thanks Brock,” Whitehoof yawned. “How you mark horses?” The Badger asked. “I don’t know how it’s done,” Whitehoof replied, “It just happens when I touch a horse with my white hoof.” “I be wanting to know how this done. Brock think this be crazy, that it no happen, but Whitehoof prove Brock wrong.” “It happens,” Pip said. “Brock, I really cannot tell you what I do not know,” Whitehoof persisted, “You really must trust me on this one,!” “But Brock want know!” Pip turned and spotted the vixen, “I’ve alerted all the foxes,” she said. This seemed to distract Brock and he moved off into the wood out of sight. “I see you marked that wicked horse who killed my cub!” the vixen said, “Yes,” said Whitehoof. Nutty the squirrel then appeared, “Hi Nutty,” said Whitehoof “Thanks for letting the squirrels know about the herd meeting.”

Nutty looked into Whitehoof’s eyes. “I’ve never met you before,” he said. Whitehoof, lying down as he was, beckoned to the Squirrel. “You can meet me now if you like, also, I’ll introduce my mate,” he said. Nutty came forward. The squirrel took in every bit of Whitehoof, from the geldings nose, to his tail. Glancing down at the horse’s feet, Nutty saw the smallest hooves he’d ever seen. “Why do they call you whitehoof?” Nutty asked. “Because of this,” Whitehoof replied, waving his white forefoot. “They named you because of your appearance?” the Squirrel asked. “Yep. All the horses in the herd where I was born called me Whitehoof, and it’s stuck.” The squirrel seemed satisfied with that. Nutty watched the vixen searching for mice and things. “I wonder why Brock disappeared like that when she arrived,” he said to himself. The vixen turned and went across to them. “He’s still embarrassed about something that happened ages ago. He was digging out his set when he dug through a wall of my earth,” she said. “What was wrong with that?” Pip asked, “Apologies all round and forget about it.” “I was in the middle of having my cub. Brock, when he saw what was happening, turned and fled! Or at least he tried to. I needed company, and although I was in terrible pain, I managed to grab hold of a hind paw and drag the badger back to me. I needed someone to help me through it!” She barked, “the fox who’s cub I had disappeared long before the cub was born. Brock stayed with me all through the birth of my cub. He couldn’t watch poor fellow, kept a forepaw over his eyes all the time. Every time I cried out in pain, the badger would nearly do a runner! All I wanted was company! Brock came along just at the right time, and there were no other vixens about, so he had to do. He did very well! Although he hasn’t got over it yet. Anyone would think he’d had the cub!” Brock appeared then. He’d obviously overheard the vixen. “Yes,” he said gruffly, “I see vixen having cub. Brock plenty frightened by it too. Vixen force me to stay by grabbing hold of hind paw when I try leave. Brock keep eyes closed all time, no look!” “You did very well Brock, thanks for staying,” the vixen said. “Brock no choice whether he stay or go, paw in vixen’s paw, strong paws vixen have. Every time she cry out, she crush Brock’s paw! My paw hurt like crazy for weeks after!” Pip and the vixen laughed helplessly. “You think that funny!” Brock yelled. “Yes,” The vixen replied. “Brock no think funny! Brock scared like crazy! Brock no know what go on when he kept prisoner by vixen!” He paused and then continued: “I know now though, that why me protect cub and why me and family bring bad colt named Maynand to justice,” Brock said. Dawn was coming in now. Whitehoof looked at the sky and decided it was time to get back to the herd.

Brock, the vixen and Nutty followed Whitehoof and Pip back to the herd. While they were walking, Pip introduced herself to nutty, who thought he’d soon grow to like the falabella mare. Brock was still trying to drag the secret of the white mark from Whitehoof. “Brock want know!” He yelled. “I don’t know how it’s done!” Whitehoof protested. “You mark horses for life, but you no know how?” Brock asked. “No!” Whitehoof replied. They were back at the herd’s resting place now. Brock asked: “Brock want look at white foot, you let me?” Whitehoof raised his forefoot. The Badger cradled the tiny hoof in his massive forepaw and stared down at it. “Me no see anything here,” he confirmed. “Exactly,” Whitehoof said, “my hoof is normal!” Brock rubbed his paw over the white hoof and looked at it. “Nothing wrong here,” he grunted. Dropping the foot, Brock looked Whitehoof in the eye. “Me think you lie!” he yelled, “Brock think horse with white hoof telling big stories! I see Maynand with mark, but I no see you mark him! You say you be able to mark horses, but you no do it!” Whitehoof sighed heavily: “I can’t do it all the time, only when it’s needed! He whinnied. At that moment, the gelding was close to marking Brock on his shoulder. “Just leave me, and my hoof, and the subject alone!” Whitehoof Squealed.

“Brock,” said Pip “Why cant you just accept that Whitehoof’s gift is special and can only be used when necessary, if you continue the way you are, he will brand you as an outsider, and you don’t want that, do you?” “Me no like it, Brock no happy, me no understand,” whined the badger. Pip turned to her now friend the vixen, “hey, foxy,” she said “can you try and knock some sense into this senseless creature for me because I am not getting anywhere!” “I’ll try,” responded the fox, “come with me, Brock!” They disappeared back into the forest. Pip needed to be alone, all this talk about Whitehoof’s white hoof was beginning to get her down. Pip was not alone for long, however, she heard someone approach her. “Ferdi, oh Ferdi,” she started to cry, “I really don’t know how much longer I can go on like this, all this talk about Whitehoof’s special power and everything … its all just beginning to get on top of me, I just don’t know what to do!” Ferdinand got down to her level and hugged her close. “its ok Pip dear, just remember, I am always here whenever you need me, I promised Petra that I would take care of you and as Whitehoof is not here at this very moment then I am sure he won’t mind!” Pip dissolved into fresh floods of tears, she cried for a very long time into Ferdinand’s coat. “Hey, I’m getting wet!” laughed Ferdinand, “come on, let’s go and find Tilly!” Foxy led Brock into the wood. She was furious with the badger! “Whitehoof’s power is inexplicable!” She yelled, “can’t you understand that there are things we don’t understand and never will, but they need to be accepted?” Brock blustered: “Me no understand how horse brand other horses. Me frightened of what I don’t understand.” “Listen,” Foxy said, “Whitehoof’s power isn’t sinister, he doesn’t mean harm by it. Just let it be.” Brock gruffly agreed. “One other thing, don’t mention Whitehoof’s white foot again.”

Whitehoof lay alone under a willow tree. Rain was falling and he felt depressed. Brock wanted answers he couldn’t give. “To be quite honest,” Whitehoof thought, “I don’t understand the power I have.” He looked down at his white foot. “I don’t know what it is doing to Pip either, all this talk about my hoof n’all,” he thought. Getting to his feet, he went in search of Pip. Pip was talking to Tilly, Ferdinand had left them to it, Tilly would handle this delicate situation much better than he could. He knew that Whitehoof was in no fit state at this very moment to be dealing with Pip’s emotions as well as his own. Tilly hugged Pip tightly to her, “Listen, Pip dear, I know things are difficult right now, but life is like that sometimes but it will sort itself out, believe me,” “Oh Tilly, I just miss Petra so much,” Pip Wept. “if she were here, everything would be all right!” Tilly held Pip close, not wanting to let her go. “I just want to tell you that I love you and that I, like Ferdinand and Whitehoof, who I know loves you more than words can express, will always be here for you!” “yes, thank you!” Pip said softly.

Whitehoof appeared then. “What’s the matter Pip darling?” He asked. Pip told him. “hey Pip sweetheart,” Whitehoof crooned, “I love you more than I can say. I know this problem with Brock accepting my power has been getting you down. That was what I wanted to talk about. You see, I hate seeing you chewed up like this! It tears me apart!” Whitehoof whinnied. He lay down beside Pip, and Tilly left them to talk.

Pip clung onto Whitehoof for a long time. “Whitehoof,” she asked, “If Brock really does care about us like he says he does, why doesn’t he just accept us as we are, surely, if you really love someone you just have to trust and if he doesn’t trust us then, well, to my way of thinking,” she paused, “then its not really love because love is based first on respect and secondly on trust.” “Yes!” was all he could say, he didn’t want this moment together to end. “Pip, I think foxy has sorted Brock out, that vixen is very strong and will not let Brock get away with anything, now, get some sleep my darling and then you will feel better, I love you.”

Pip rested her head on Whitehoof’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Whitehoof watched over Pip until she woke in the early morning. Pip opened her eyes and looked round her. Seeing her beloved was awake, she asked: “You been awake long?” “Never slept Pip darling,” was Whitehoof’s response. This almost moved Pip to tears. “Why didn’t you sleep?” She asked, although she knew the reply Whitehoof would give. “I was watching over you my dear,” he said. Pip embraced Whitehoof tightly. They were like that when Tilly and Ferdinand came past. “Don’t those two look sweet,” Tilly remarked. “They sure do,” Ferdinand replied. Tilly settled down under a nearby tree, Ferdinand did likewise. He took Tilly in from nose to tail. His eyes travelled from her head, to her neck, the white mane falling over the brown fur of her neck, to her body, and her shiny brown coat. To her tail, white, to her legs, brown fur covered these, and finally to her hooves, all black, with a white mark on the sole of her right forefoot. Ferdinand thought he’d never seen such a magnificent mare as Tilly. He rested his head on her shoulder. Tilly closed her eyes, enjoying Ferdinand’s proximity. Ferdinand was so intent on gazing at Tilly that he hadn’t noticed the goings on around him. A gang of squirrels sauntered past, Ferdinand giving them no more attention than he would a fly. It was when a newborn foal was dragged past him that Ferdinand took notice. His eyes Bloodshot with rage, Ferdinand followed, desperate to hunt the person who had Stolen the foal. Then a net dropped onto Ferdinand. Whinnying frantically, Ferdinand tried to escape, but his run had made him tired. Defeated, Ferdinand lay still.

Whitehoof heard Ferdinand’s whinnying and leapt to his feet. Cantering across to him, he asked: “What happened?” Ferdinand, exhausted from struggling in the net, replied: “I tripped over a rope I think. Now I’m in here!” Whitehoof thought he might call in a few favours he was owed. Whitehoof whistled shrilly! Ferdinand had never heard a horse do this, but who knew what Whitehoof’s powers were. In answer to the whistle, two mice came to the Falabella horse’s aid. “I suppose you want us to free ‘im,” one mouse said. “Yes, please,” Whitehoof replied. With that the mice set to work, gnawing through the rope, freeing Ferdinand. Once he was free, the stallion got to his feet. “Thanks,” he said. “That be no problem,” the head mouse said, “whitehoof be good friend to mice, so we help.” With that they disappeared. Ferdinand told Whitehoof about the stolen foal. “Who took him?” Whitehoof asked, “there are no men here.” “He was being dragged, by something, tied by his forefeet he was,” Ferdinand replied, “I was too busy admiring my sweetheart Tilly to see who took The foal, who I think was named Lucky, it definitely wasn’t man though, I know man, they are far more aggressive. I think we are looking closer to home for Lucky’s abductors. That net too, who could, apart from man, have strung that?” “Squirrels?” Whitehoof suggested. “hmm, maybe, but I thought they were friendly forest creatures, ask Nutty, he’ll know.” With that Whitehoof went in search of Nutty. “I know who did it,” Nutty said, “Maynand was so furious with you Whitehoof for throwing him out, that he plotted to steal a foal to show you he wasn’t beaten. Squirrels aren’t as steadfast as badgers I’m sorry to say, and give them enough nuts, they’ll do anything for you.” “Even make nets and steal foals?” Whitehoof asked. “Yep,” Nutty replied, “You saw how they managed to hoist Maynand off the ground, they’re strong in numbers. I will find the foal for you, have no doubt about that.”

Nutty ran off into the wood. He knew where the foal was, he’d tracked the squirrels from the herd’s resting place. He found Lucky, the poor foal was hungry and frightened. At only a few hours old, Nutty knew Lucky would not survive long if he was not reunited with his mother. Nutty found the foal tied to a tree in much the same fashion as Maynand had been. Lucky was struggling feebly to free himself. “Hey Littl’en!” Nutty called, “I’m here to help now,” With that he released the terrified foal from his prison. “I’m cold and hungry,” Lucky whinnied. “I know littl’en,” |Nutty said. “Not littl’en!” the foal protested, “my name’s Lucky!” “You certainly were that,” Nutty replied. “What do you mean?” Lucky asked. “No matter, let’s get you home,” Nutty said. With that they made their way back to Ferdinand and Whitehoof, who had managed to track down Lucky’s mother, who was distraught. “I woke and he was gone!” She wailed. “All’s fine now,” Whitehoof said, “Nutty’s found Lucky for you.” The mare fussed over Lucky until the foal complained. “Get off mum!” he whinnied. Both mare and foal disappeared into the wood. “What now?” Nutty asked. “Maynand, if this is his doing, needs to be tracked down and punished for his crime! He, of all horses should know that stealing a foal is wrong! He was lost and frightened once, and it was Petra who saved him!” Ferdinand yelled. He stamped off in search of Tilly. Whitehoof and Nutty went their separate ways, Nutty back to his dray, and Whitehoof back to Pip, who was lying, still asleep, where he’d left her over an hour ago.

Ferdinand found Tilly and told her what had happened. “Oh no,” she said, “so, what we gonna do about Maynand? She asked. You think that stupid horse would know better!” “yes,,” agreed Ferdinand, “We’ are gonna have to find him, now who seems to know everything that’s going on around here, ah yes, Brock, he seems to be the expert, and Foxy seems pretty knowledgeable as well so let’s go and find them!”

Ferdinand and Tilly roamed all over the wood looking for Brock and Foxy. They found them lying up under an old willow tree. Seeing them coming Brock scrambled to his feet. “Foxy tell Brock not to be suspicious of Whitehoof’s hoof. She tell me me silly badger!” “yes,” Tilly replied, “but I think even Whitehoof would forgive you anything now Brock, you see, we have a problem,,” The mare paused because Foxy held up a forepaw. “I saw something,” she said, “a foal, being dragged through the forest, it looked strange. Squirrels were dragging him, and he was crying out for help, I tried to keep up, but those squirrels are so fast! They had him up in a tree, tied by his feet, much like Maynand had been!” “Why did you not tell us!” Ferdinand demanded. Foxy looked unhappy. “I tried to find you, I couldn’t, so I ran back to the place to find the foal gone!” “Do you know where Maynand is?” Tilly asked. “No,” Foxy replied. “Brock have good idea where bad colt be,” the badger snorted. “Tell you where he be, he be tied up like foal be in tree, but Maynand down big hole! Brock find bad colt and do to him what he tell squirrels to do to poor foal. Brock plenty furious with colt! Me show you where I put him!” With that he led Foxy, Ferdinand and Tilly deeper into the wood. They came to a huge hole in the ground. “Who made this?” Tilly asked. “Badgers, foxes, rabbits. They all make him,” Brock replied. “Don’t foxes eat rabbits?” Ferdinand asked. “Yes, we do,” Foxy replied, “but only those that annoy us. Chickens though, now they’re a different matter entirely. I love chicken!” Brock pointed with a paw down the hole to where Maynand lay at the bottom. He was trussed up, well bound, with his legs tied to each other, and another rope looping round his muzzle, pulled tight and tied off, so he couldn’t open his mouth, nor could he move his head. Lying on his side, with his neck permanently bent, Maynand looked very uncomfortable indeed.” “He be like this for hour or so, then we let him out of this rope, but we keep his legs tied, muzzle too!” Brock said. With that he went and untied the rope holding Maynand’s head in the awkward position he’d had it in for an hour or so. The colt threw his head around, trying to ease the stiffness that had accumulated in the muscles of his neck. “You plot to steal foal!” Brock screamed, “You need plenty big punish for this!” Maynand whimpered in misery. Tilly was horrified. “Tilly, please help me!” Maynand cried from the bottom of the hole. “I cant,” she answered “You silly thing, whatever possessed you to steal Lucky, I thought by now you would have learnt your lesson!” “I will, I will, I promise, I promise,” he whinnied, “it was her fault, the other herd leader, she made me do it!” “Who made you do it,” Tilly asked quietly. “She said that if I didn’t do it, she’d, she’d hurt Gemini!” “I see,” Tilly turned to Whitehoof, “so somewhere not far from here is Gemini’s old herd!” “Release him Brock,” Whitehoof commanded. The Falabella gelding had followed Ferdinand and Tilly to Maynand’s hole. Pip looked down at the hated colt. “You can help us,” she said, “show us where the other herd is.” Maynand shook with terror! “Oh no, I couldn’t go back there!” He wailed. “You’re going to have to,” Whitehoof said. Brock untied Maynand and the colt clambered out of the hole. He led the horses out of the wood and across a field. In the next field a large herd of horses grazed peacefully. Hearing the approach of other horses, a large white mare raised her head and watched them. Spotting Maynand, she snapped: “I wondered when you’d come back! You have failed Maynand! One, you failed to keep the foal imprisoned, I understand from a rat that a squirrel released the little blighter! I also understand that you got tied up and thrown down a hole by a badger and yet more squirrels! You are a disgrace! I wanted that foal! Another thing, who on earth are these horses?” She waved a hoof at Pip and Whitehoof, “and what on earth are you?” she sneered. “I am leader of my herd,” Whitehoof replied civilly. He waved his white hoof at Tilly: And this is Tilly, my second in command.” Whitehoof deliberately omitted to introduce Pip as this was an official meeting, not a social gathering, and as such, Pip was not needed in the discussions. The white mare looked down at Whitehoof. “You didn’t answer my question,” she said, “What are you!” Whitehoof told her what breed of horse he and Pip were. “I’ve heard something about a horse with a white hoof who can mark other horses,” the mare spat, “Maynand, that disgusting wretch told me a horse had marked him for life.” “Yes indeed that was the case,” Tilly replied, “as second in command, I am marked too.” Whitehoof hoped he wouldn’t have to explain the new system of marking to this new mare. He hoped the forest creatures would have done that, and it proved the case. “Oh yes,” the mare said, “You Tilly have a mark on the sole of your right forefoot.” “yes I do,” Tilly confirmed. “Now what do you want with us? Apart from returning a complete failure to us.” The mare demanded. “A mare who joined our herd not long ago was apparently threatened by you, if you are the leader of this herd,” Whitehoof replied. “Oh yes, Gemini, what a disgrace! She had a foal outside the herd.” The mare turned and spat onto the grass with disgust. “I hope the foal died, did it? Or did she die foaling, that’s all that is good for her!” The mare screamed. Whitehoof looked up into the white mare’s maddened eyes. “She did not die, neither did the foal die. They are safe,” Pip said. The white mare tried to attack Whitehoof! What happened then noone, not even Whitehoof himself could quite explain. The mare rushed at Whitehoof, the Falabella gelding rearing to fend her off as best he could. The two horses met, Whitehoof’s white foot touching the mare’s muzzle as she tried to lower her head to bite him. As soon as the hoof made contact, the mare shrieked in fear and pain and turning tail, ran away! “What happened?” Tilly asked. “I don’t know!” Whitehoof replied. “It got rid of her anyway,” Ferdinand observed. The White mare came back. All the horses could see an angry red burn mark on her muzzle. It looked painful, no wonder she’d squealed. “I don’t understand what is going on, but I don’t like it!” She screamed. “We don’t like threats being made towards members of our herd,” Whitehoof replied. “Go away and leave us alone!” The gelding commanded. They made their way slowly back to their own herd. As they approached the horses gathered around to find out what had been going on. They had heard from the birds that their herd leaders had gone to find Maynand, “Wasn’t he tied up in a hole?” Sheissain asked. “What’s this about a herd leader wanting to hurt my Gemini!” “If I get my hoofs on her!” Sheissain, “Quiet!” Commanded Whitehoof, “Gemini will be fine now, that is why she was so frightened, she thought that big white horse was after her, well, she won’t bother her any more, don’t worry. Sheissain seemed contented by this explanation, he so desperately wanted to get close to her. “and Maynand?” another horse asked, “What has happened to him?” Meanwhile, Maynand was getting the worst of it. The White mare had kept him from leaving with Whitehoof and the rest of the horses by tripping him, and when he was on the floor, placing her forefoot on his shoulder so he couldn’t move. “Don’t, don’t hurt me! Maynand pleaded. “What else do you expect me to do?” The mare asked. “Do anything, but don’t hurt me!” Maynand whimpered. The mare turned rear on and shoed Maynand her right hind foot. “You wouldn’t like to be crushed by that would you,” she stated. “No!” Maynand screeched, “don’t do it!” He closed his eyes against the sight of the hoof threatening him with destruction. Suddenly the mare turned and attacked! His eyes closed, the first Maynand knew of the attack was hooves smashing into his body. He tried to rise, to fight, but the mare knew where to hit, and she made sure she was accurate. Maynand was down, winded and helpless. When she left off Maynand was bruised and bleeding. “I make sure I don’t break anything,” the white mare said, “I’ve never broken another horse’s bones, but they never come back for more!” She left him then. After an hour or so, when he was sure she wasn’t coming back, Maynand got to his feet. That hour, where he’d done nothing, served to stiffen his muscles and joints, so moving caused him terrible pain. He struggled to his feet, hoping the mare wasn’t waiting for this to finish him off. Standing, swaying alarmingly, Maynand thought about where he should go. “Whitehoof,” he thought. Maynand didn’t care at that moment where he went, but he knew, although he’d done terrible things to Whitehoof’s herd, the gelding wouldn’t do to him what the white mare had, no matter how provoked he was. Maynand forced his legs to carry him across the field, down a track and into the wood. Eyes closed in concentration, he didn’t see Foxy until he was nearly on top of her. “Oi! Hey you!” She yelled. Maynand’s eyes snapped open. “Sorry, so sorry,” he gabbled. Foxy stared at the horse who had nearly trampled her. Maynand was bruised and battered. Blood from a ripped ear stained his fur. Maynand’s legs were shaking so much he could hardly stand. Foxy could also see, that now he’d come to a halt, Maynand was finished. As she watched, the colt collapsed in front of her. Forgetting her loathing for him, Foxy turned and ran into the wood in search of Whitehoof and Brock. She found Whitehoof and Pip, Brock was nowhere to be found. “It’s Maynand!” She barked, “He’s in the wood, and he’s injured, and it looks awful!” Whitehoof and Pip followed Foxy back to the place where Maynand lay exhausted on the forest floor.

Whitehoof quickly assessed the situation. “Pip dear! you stay here with Foxy and I’ll go and get help from Tilly and Ferdinand,” Whitehoof went back and broke the news to the rest of the herd. Sheissain flew into the wood, he too was not thinking of the past but just wanted to be there with the injured young colt. “How dare she do this to him,” he said to Pip and Foxy as they busied themselves making Maynand comfortable. Maynand tried to speak then, he whispered, “Pip, I’m really sorry for what I did to your mum, I loved Petra too and Foxy, please forgive me for what I did to your cub!” “ok,” they both replied, “just stay quiet and get some rest, Whitehoof and Ferdinand will be here soon. Maynand drifted into unconsciousness knowing that he had said sorry and meant it, that was all that mattered to him right now, because if he died he knew that everything would be all right and that he had been forgiven. “Your not going to die,” said Pip as if reading his thoughts, “we’ll make sure you are constantly watched over until you are fully recovered.

Maynand lay on the forest floor feeling dreadful. The white mare knew her stuff about immobilising horses, and thankfully she hadn’t broken anything. The colt lay, eyes closed, breathing shallowly. A few days later, Brock came past Maynand’s lie up. Seeing the colt, the badger yelled: “What you doing here! Me plenty wanting never see you again!” Maynand, asleep until the badger yelled at him, snapped into full wakefulness. “Ay? Who? Oh Brock, it’s you,” the colt babbled. The badger clouted Maynand with a hard forepaw. The colt squealed and lashed out with a forefoot, catching Brock on a foreleg. Brock limped away cursing fluently. Maynand wept into the wet leaves.

Pip arrived to find Maynand sobbing. “Maynand! what’s happened?” she asked in her usual soft tone. He didn’t have time to answer. Brock appeared then. “Oh that be Pip?” he asked in his usual drawl. “does it look like me?” she asked irritably. “Oh Pip be moody, what I done to be making Pip in mood, why you be helping bad colt get better, Brock no like colt, Brock hit him with paw!” “If you hadn’t already noticed, Brock, he has sustained bad injuries by being beaten up by the big white mare, do you know her?” Pip asked. “Course Brock know her, Brock no all round here she be leader of herd over on other field, she throw Gemini out from herd!” Pip was trying to calm Maynand down, “You’ll soon be well enough to come back to the herd!” she said reassuringly to him “What, you mean I am allowed back?” he asked brightening up slightly. “Well of course that decision is for Whitehoof and Tilly to make as herd leaders,” she replied.

Brock turned away. “You help bad colt, then me not staying,” he wined. The boar badger disappeared into the undergrowth. “That horrid badger hit me!” Maynand wailed. “I know, I know,” Pip said softly. Whitehoof and Tilly came past then. They looked Maynand over. “How are you feeling?” Whitehoof asked. “Sore, even worse now that badger had a go at me,” Maynand whimpered. “Brock had a go at Maynand,” Pip said. “I lashed out at him and my hoof connected,” Maynand said. “You hit him for shouting at you?” Tilly asked crossly. “No no no!” Maynand shouted, “The badger hit me! I defended myself, that’s all!” “I hope that was all it was,” Whitehoof said. “It was! It was!” Maynand squealed. “What have you got to say for yourself?” Whitehoof asked. “I want, I mean, would like to come back to my herd, back home,” Maynand pleaded. “When you are better, then we will have you up before the whole herd, and they can decide,” Whitehoof said. Maynand felt sick. He knew a great number of the herd didn’t like him. A meeting was arranged. “I take it you have all heard about Maynand?” Whitehoof asked. “We need to vote as to whether Maynand should be re-instated into the herd, and should his mark be removed now or left for a while until we are satisfied that we have made the right decision. “Tilly and I have decided how the vote will happen. Those who say yes will line up by the river bank and those who say no will line up by the large oak tree, understood?” Everyone agreed, “and who will count the votes?” asked Gemini. “I’ve asked Foxy,” said Whitehoof and should there be a tie, Foxy will cast the deciding vote. The horses lined up. Foxy counted them all, whitehoof and Tilly could not vote as they were leadership and had therefore to be impartial. Maynand watched the vote fearfully. Whitehoof noticed that Pip lined up on the side of the no’s. “Who could blame her after what he put her through,” Whitehoof thought. Foxy counted the votes, and it was a hung vote. She looked over at Whitehoof. “Your choice,” Whitehoof said. Foxy went to Maynand and looked deep into the colt’s eyes. This scrutiny made him feel uncomfortable, foxy meant it to. Foxy took the opportunity to walk all round Maynand, inspect his coat, even asking him to pick up his feet so she could look at his hooves. She was making sure he was totally submissive, totally compliant. “I think we should give him a second chance,” she said.

“I don’t think his mark should be removed yet though,” went on Foxy, “He’s on like a sort of probation and only after that time can the mark be removed from his shoulder.” Whitehoof closed the meeting and he and Pip went off into the wood to be alone. Sheissain went over to Maynand, “You’d better mean this!” he said savagely. “Ok, give him a chance,” said Ferdinand hearing the remark that Sheissain had passed to Maynand. “What about Gemini’s mark, is hers going to be removed?” asked Sheissain.

“I would think so,” Tilly said. She had overheard his question and thought that Gemini’s punishment should be over. Maynand walked away, wanting to be alone to think. Sheissain went in search of Gemini. Meanwhile, Pip and Whitehoof lay together under a large tree. Whitehoof didn’t ask his mate about her voting no in the referendum, because he knew what she’d say, and he sort of agreed with her anyway. Whitehoof looked at Pip. He marvelled at how beautiful she was, her grey coat, and black hooves, he loved everything about her. Seeing she was being appraised, Pip flicked her mane about a bit, then, turned her head to meet Whitehoof’s gaze. The two horses looked into each other’s eyes. Then Whitehoof rubbed her ear with his muzzle. Pip closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder. Breathing deeply, she slept. Whitehoof soon slept also.

Maynand was glad to be part of the herd again, he knew now that he had to behave or he would be ousted from the herd forever and he never, ever wanted to see that horrid white mare again. How she became leader of her herd he could not understand, he had never known such cruelty, not even before Petra took him in. Sheissain found Gemini and Emily lying under a tree. “Gem,” he said “I hear you are having your mark removed!” “Oh yeah?” she replied not really looking at him. “Yep,” he said, “Tilly gonna see whitehoof about it tomorrow!” “That’s good,” she replied, she looked at Sheissain now, “Please will you tell me about Maynand?” she asked nervously.

Sheissain settled down beside Gemini and Emily. “It’s not much of a story for foals,” he said looking at Emily. “It’s quite a distressing story actually.” Gemini said nothing, Emily said: “I don’t care, scare me! Go on Sheissain, tell the story.” “Well Sheissain said, “Maynand was found by Petra, our former leader. She found him wandering and alone. He was quite young, a little older than you I think Emily. Well, she took him in and looked after him. Now I come to about six full moons ago when Pip and Ferdinand came to the herd. Petra, knowing Pip needed help, took her in as she had Maynand. Maynand became jealous, and did all he could to make Pip’s life a misery. Petra tried to put an end to it but Maynand kept trying to do Pip harm in any way he knew. Everything was going wrong for him, every time he tried to make Pip unhappy enough to leave the herd, he would be put in a position of debt to her or Petra. Once the herd crossed a river, and Pip fell off Petra’s back, Maynand hoped she would drown, but she came back to his side of the river and bullied him across. It is said that she saved his life that day. Maynand hated the fact that this tiny mare had saved him, and wouldn’t show her any gratitude. Soon the herd came to a clearing. On a night time wander, Whitehoof found a fox, Foxy. He asked me to check her out, as I’ve had more experience with foxes than he had. While I was looking for the fox, I found Maynand, We had a major disagreement earlier, and Maynand wasn’t happy with me. Soon we found the fox also, and she was not happy with Maynand for killing her cub. The Forest creatures, Brock, Nutty and a few others, punished Maynand by stringing him up from a tree, much like Lucky had been a few days ago. Maynand got free, but not after a lot of effort.” Emily’s eyes were wide with surprise. “So that’s why he was thrown out,” Gemini said. “Yes,” Sheissain said. “What happened to Petra?” Emily asked. “She died,” Sheissain said. “How did she die?” Emily asked.

Sheissain had been dreading this question, he would tell her the truth, he didn’t want to lose this mare’s trust now. “I was in the woods with Maynand, I didn’t know he was after her life, honest I didn’t Gem, please believe me, I love you and I want you to know the truth about everything!” At this point he broke down and cried uncontrollably into Gemini’s fur. “its ok,!” she said to him over and over, “I didn’t realise it would hurt you so much talking about it!”

“I was angry with Petra for giving Whitehoof my job as second in command,” Sheissain said. “You were second in command?” Gemini asked. “Yes,” Sheissain replied. “Why should Petra give the job to another horse?” Emily asked. “I went for Pip,” Sheissain replied faintly. “She had annoyed me by doing something, I can’t remember what it was now, but I threatened to kick her, to kill her! I think I may have lashed out at the mare, and Petra caught me, and she took me to the willow tree and told me that she had given the second in command’s job to Whitehoof, who I hated!” “So in revenge for that, you plotted with Maynand to attack Petra,” Gemini said. “Yes,” Sheissain replied, fresh tears rolling down his nose. “Maynand And I, we beat her up, I held her down, while Maynand trampled her,” Sheissain said. He tried to hug Gemini, but she wouldn’t let him. “Then what,” she asked coldly. “We left Petra then, she was badly injured, we knew that. Whitehoof found her, I think. Oh Petra, Petra I’m so sorry,!” Sheissain sobbed. Gemini let Sheissain compose himself before asking: “What happened then?” Sheissain looked at her through his tears. “I suppose, with the last of her strength, Petra told Ferdinand to pass the leadership onto Whitehoof. Then, she, she died, and a few weeks later, the news came back to us that the badgers had buried her.” Gemini had been supportive of Sheissain until she’d heard the extent of his involvement with Petra’s death, now she didn’t know what she thought. Getting to her feet, she walked away to think, taking Emily with her. Sheissain lay on the forest floor, crying bitterly into the wet leaves. He said aloud: “Oh Petra, Petra, I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!” Gemini went in search of Whitehoof. She found Him lying beside Pip under a large tree. “Did you know that Sheissain killed Petra!” Gemini squealed. “I know,” Whitehoof replied, “and he was punished.” “Punished?” Gemini asked, “How was he punished!” “Brock tied him up, and then, handled his hooves,” Whitehoof replied. “Handled his hooves?” Gemini asked, “how could that be punishment for killing Petra!” “It was,” Whitehoof replied, “it was punishment for him. He hates anyone touching his feet. Brock tied him up and touched his hooves, and Sheissain loathed it intensely. He took the punishment for his crime, where as Maynand did not. Sheissain has not offended again, where as Maynand has.” Sheissain came into view. Whitehoof saw his shattered appearance, and asked: “What’s the matter?” Sheissain collapsed at Whitehoof’s feet. “I told Gemini about what I did to Petra,” he whimpered. “I know you told her,” the gelding replied, “we’ve just been talking about that. I told her of the punishment you were given.” “Do you really hate having your hooves touched?” Gemini asked. Sheissain’s immediate reaction was to look around nervously to see if anyone was near his feet. “I hate it,” he replied, “I hate it! Don’t do it, please! Leave my hooves alone! I’m begging you!” Sheissain leapt to his feet and bolted! “Is that good enough proof for you Gemini?” Whitehoof asked. “Yes,! Pip, please look after Emily while I go after him.” “Of course!” Pip took charge of the young foal. Gemini raced after Sheissain, catching up with him running along the river bank, “Sheissain, stop!” she screamed after him. “I believe you, please stop!” he skidded to a halt turning to look at Gemini. She didn’t say anything but threw herself down! “Don’t touch them, please don’t Gemini!” Sheissain was frantic. “I’m not going to touch your hooves!” Gemini spoke gently to Sheissain. “Just calm down!” They talked for a very long time.

“I can see now how having your feet touched affects you,” Gemini said gently. “Yes, I hate it, the thought makes me want to lash out!” Sheissain replied. “Maybe that was just punishment for you,” she said. “It wasn’t punishment Gemini, it was torture,” Sheissain replied. “That bad?” She asked. “yes,” Sheissain replied. Emily looked down at Sheissain’s hooves, seeing her doing this, the stallion warned her off. “Don’t even consider it!” he snapped, “it’s not funny Emily!” “Sorry,” The foal said. “You will be, If I ever catch you looking at my feet again, I’ll, I’ll do something terrible!” Sheissain squealed. “She’s only a foal Sheissain! She doesn’t know what terror you go through!” Gemini yelled. Sheissain looked down, measuring the distance between his feet and Emily. “You dare come any closer!” He shrieked. “Sheissain, you’re being stupid now!” Gemini screamed. Sheissain began to cry like a foal. “I can’t stand having my feet touched!” he sobbed. Emily asked: “What are you scared of?” “I hate the sensation of a [paw or another horse’s hoof on mine, The other foals used to tease me when I was young!” Sheissain wailed. “Emily, you lie on my right, so that you are not close to Sheissain,” Gemini said. Emily did so. “It is a good job you are a wild horse,” Gemini said, “Riding school horses have their feet handled all the time by humans who pick out their hooves once or maybe twice a day. You’d go spare.” Sheissain knew he would. “I must try and overcome that fear,” he said, “what would happen if I got a stone in my hoof, and Foxy or another woodland creature had to help me, I wouldn’t be a very good patient,” Sheissain said. Gemini got up, and going over to Sheissain, she hugged him tightly. “Don’t worry,” she said, I’ll help, and so will Emily.” They made their way back to the rest of the herd.


This story is a product of collaborative writing on Fabulous Fiction. The contributing writers are Whitney, Hannah, Miranda, Anna, Benjamin, Jazzy, Saffron, Jo W, Katherine, Katie, Martin, Nicky, Mule, Lisa, Vaughn, Cindy, Wendy, Italics, Vanessa, and Justin. Special thanks to Martin Wilsher for leading the story and later editing it for this web site.