• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 11
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Down at the stables

Frightening as it seems, the prospect of being dragged through the town square naked before your peers to a podium where you're forced to recite tongue-twisting limericks with electric pegs attached to your nipples while your mother scolds you for leaving your skid-marked underpants in the drawer next to your Smurfs socks is nothing next to the wide-eyed stare of a panicked horse.

Make me a root canal surgery appointment with Dracula for all I care, give him a spiked baseball bat and pen to draw a target on my fleshy bits; tear my fingernails out with hair straighteners; invite the ghosts of child murderers to haunt me in an outside lavatory with no lightbulb on a stormy evening off the west coast of Cornwall - just keep that teeth-shattering equine aspect from my immediate presence.

They call me nervous down at the stables. Jittery they say. They leave pictures of angry stallions drawn on the back of beer coasters in my duffel bag for me to find, just so they can hear me squeal as my ears pop and my pants become soaked. There's a video on Youtube somewhere of me rolling about in the hay after a particularly harrowing dressage event cursing the mother of Pegasus.

But I tell you, peering into the retina of that colossal eye is like brushing the lip of a black hole: when it catches you, and it will, it vacuums up your courage, reveals to you wild and irrepressible things, the stampede of life, your years in a blink, and you realise that all the trepidation and galloping anxieties you've ever experienced are not imagined but material. For the eye sees the truth, and the horse knows just as well as you do, what really goes into your beef lasagne.