I really didn't think it through.

It was the face I saw first. A long face - fairly usual for a horse - with a crooked white blaze and a lugubrious look. It was in an email, below the heart-rending words 'looking for a new home".

A horse looking for a new home.

The problem was, my home wasn't looking for a new horse.


So I tried to ignore it. I ignored it several times throughout the morning. The first time I ignored the beseeching look on the horse's face. The second time I ignored the photos of him standing in the paddock all alone. The third time I looked, I ignored the phone number at the bottom of the email.

Then I decided to phone the number and ignore whoever answered. But when the nice lady answered I realised ignoring people was awfully rude so we had a little chat.

Ok it was quite a long chat and I learned all about the horse, his capabilities and incapabilities, likes and dislikes, his eating habits (likes carrots, not so keen on bread crusts), why he was needing a new home (owner moving to town, horse a tad large for an urban backyard). After all that I decided to ignore how much he cost.

"How much do you want for him?" I asked the nice lady.
"He's free" she answered.
"I'll take him!" I replied.

There is a lecture I have given many people in the past and it starts with me explaining to them that there is no such thing as a free horse.

There simply isn't. Just to go and collect a free horse costs you in fuel, and that's before you pop in to the saddlery on the way home and pick up worm treatment, mineral supplements, the right size halter and rugs. Then there's the call to the farrier, the equine physiotherapist, the saddle fitter and a trip to the vet for dentistry and vaccinations and a general check-up . . .

That's part of the stuff I didn't think through.

I rang my husband.
"There's this horse," I told him. "And it's all sad and lonely and . . ."


He interrupted me with what sounded like a strangled groan, but I'm pretty sure he meant to say "darling, you must have it, if it will make you happy". At least that's what I assumed the groaning noise meant. I told him we were picking it up on Saturday. He made another groaning noise which I took to mean "that's great, I can't wait", and then I gave him the best news of all . . .

"It's free!"

His phone seemed to drop out of reception. I rang him back and repeated the "free" bit and added that it liked carrots, but I think he was preoccupied because he wasn't very coherent.

That Saturday we went to pick up the new horse. It was way down the back of a very muddy paddock and as we approached it it seemed to loom bigger and bigger.

When we got up close, the horse was huge. It had a big head with a crooked, dented nose, immense and jagged hooves and its dreadlocked mane hung nearly to its knees.

"I thought you said it was a thoroughbred?" I said to the owner.

"It is", she said and scraped a bit of mud off its shoulder to reveal unmistakable thoroughbred brands.

Thoroughbreds are mostly lithe and elegant creatures, well built, with a noble air.

This horse looked like a cross between a camel and a rhinoceros. It looked at me with one wall eye and curled its nostrils.

"I'll take it", I said.

My husband made that strangled groan again - I think he needs to see a doctor.

The creature barely fitted into the horse float. He certainly didn't fit any of the rugs and halters I already owned. When I went to drench him for worms he raised his head and I couldn't even reach his face with my fingertips.

As the till at the saddlery shop rang with new rugs and a halter, and the vet's bill landed for his dental treatment, and the physio's invoice popped into my email inbox I remembered my lecture about free horses and I thought - oops.

But that's OK - it's all sorted now, except for one small thing.
This immense horse does huge poo. Now I need to buy a bigger wheelbarrow to put it all in.

I should have thought that through.