I went to visit a commoning friend of mine recently while they were feeding hay to the cows in one of their fields, and thought I could be of some assistance by opening and closing the gate for them. Ordinarily this would not be a difficult task, but in this instance the situation was slightly complicated by the presence in the field of a pony that had wandered in from the Open Forest earlier in the week. Several days before, my friend had pulled up to the gates leading into the field and the pony (which incidentally they owned) seeing bales of good meadow hay sticking out of the back of the 4X4, had followed the vehicle into the field before the gates could be closed. The pony was now shut in with the cows, but appeared quite happy with its accidental imprisonment; after all fresh hay was being delivered to it every day. The pony was a mature mare, one of those canny animals which, having spent many years on the Open Forest, seem to know all the tricks of the trade. However, her presence was rather inconvenient to my friend, as she had brought with her a band of ponies that were generally hanging around outside the field, calling to the mare or leaning over the fence to ‘talk’ to her.
Best laid plans and all that!
With my assistance, we thought that the mare could be shepherded out of the field and released back into the ‘wild’ to join her band. The plan was to open the gate and let in my friend with their vehicle and, at the same time, let the pony out. The mare seemed to be cooperating with this plan because she was waiting at the gate, as if ready to be let out to join her friends. All went well at first. I duly opened the gate. In went the vehicle and out wandered the mare. I had opened the gate wide to give her plenty of space; after all she is semi-feral and wary of close proximity to people. However, what happen next happened so fast I was taken by surprise. As she went out, her little band, which was made up of four ponies rushed over to greet her. She got just beyond the gateway, looked left and right across the lawn and seeing that the grass was not as long as it was in the field did an about turn and galloped back into the field. It was a genuine case of the grass being greener on the other side! However, before I could do anything about the mare’s change of mind, her pony-friends followed her in. Instead of helping, I’d made things worse. My friend now had five ponies in their field with the cows. I had been outwitted by a greedy pony – or in this case five! I was so embarrassed. The ponies began galloping around the field, which all of a sudden looked very large indeed, and there was nothing that could be done while they were so excited. My friend and I left them to it and went in search of a cup of tea – the panacea for all troubles – and for me the addition of a large slice of humble-pie.