Animal Fear

One morning this week I decided to walk with Sunny at Shardeloes, where there is a beautiful path in a field alongside a lake, with views of the historic house at the top of a hill. I had been there once before with him and his brother and we all enjoyed it.

After crossing the cricket pitch and the first narrow path, I let him off the lead in the first field but after a couple of steps saw there was a herd of horses ahead so, not knowing how he would react, I put the lead back on him. I didn’t think twice about walking towards the horses to cross into the second field. Sunny was cautious but I reassured him.

As we got closer, the horses got more curious. Most were not paying attention to us but one started nuzzling Sunny and of course Sunny was not very happy with that and he started to pull on the lead to get away. He didn’t bark and I kept reassuring him.

The curious horse, now joined by another curious friend, kept nuzzling and getting closer to me too. I was suddenly acutely aware of how much larger the horses were compared to us, and how powerful they are. I kept reassuring Sunny (and myself, in my head) but in one second I went from calm countryside walk mode to picturing what the horses could do to us and trying to slowly walk away while the horses were pushing at us. I was until that moment trying to walk through the herd into the second field but by this time it was clear that we had to get out of there.

I kept picturing one time in Brazil on the beach when my husband and I found ourselves too close to some horned cows and they started getting aggressive. A boy suddenly appeared from a short distance away – I think he had been watching us in amusement – and threw sand in the cows’ faces and they backed off.

With Sunny and the inquisitive horses, visceral fear pumping, I pictured and discarded scenarios in split seconds: let Sunny off the lead so he could get away – but no, he might just keep running à la Forrest Gump. We could both run but the horses might start chasing us. I could try to scare them off but they might attack in that case too. So we carried on walking briskly away. Curious horses number one and two did follow us a bit but then stopped. I kept looking over my shoulder and so did Sunny!

What a relief to be out of that moment when it felt like anything could have happened. Every year or two there is a story in the papers of a walker getting killed by cows in fields. Thankfully “Horse attacks dog walker at Shardeloes” was not published.

At 9:15am it was a bit early for a stiff drink so Sunny and I went back to our usual walk at Barn Meadow near the house. I’ve never been so happy to see an empty green field.

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