Boar

1 Sep

Wild Boar in forest

This is going to be an unusual post from me. It is not about Poppy or our family of cats. It is not about Poppy’s doggy friends but about another of our animals, with whom Poppy does not form an association (although she does love to run around the paddock). It is about my horse Red.

Red

I have been riding horses since a young age and have kept horses for the whole of my adult life. I have ridden many feisty, high-spirited thoroughbreds, broken in youngsters and even ridden in steeplechases (many years ago when I was much younger and much braver). But yesterday I had an experience riding Red that was more frightening than any other I have ever had to deal with. We came face to face with three huge wild boar.
(The photo is not the ones we faced – this was no time for a camera.)

Wild Boar

We live in the Forest of Dean where the wild boar population has been exploding over the last few years. Now the authorities have admitted that the situation is out of control. Boars have large litters of up to eleven piglets twice a year. You don’t have to be a genius at arithmetic to work out the result. There is some culling but nowhere near enough to stop the exponential rise of boar living in the forest.

Boar family in woods

For the last eighteen months we have sensed them in the woods and many sightings have been reported, mostly at dusk or during the night. Red and his companion Jack have become increasingly nervous. There has been evidence of them in the fields adjoining their paddocks and on some mornings the horses are to be found standing in the middle of the paddock, heads raised and snorting fearfully, reluctant even to come up for their morning feeds. There are skid marks in the grass, torn up by galloping hooves, presumably fleeing some real or feared threat. In the woods, we have come across muddy puddles with boar prints and the horses can smell them even when they can’t see them. What used to be lovely hacking territory has become a nightmare, with horses flinching and spooking at every movement in the bracken, every stirring in the undergrowth, sometimes refusing to continue along a path or even spinning around and trying to bolt back the way they have come.

Wild boar family

In prehistoric times, when horses were smaller and wild pigs were larger, the pigs were predators and could bring down a horse and kill it to feed on. Somewhere deep in the DNA of horses, this memory still flickers and most horses are nervous just of domestic pigs in a farmyard. Even at nearly 17 hands, my horse is more frightened than most!

So yesterday the event I have been dreading took place. The boars walked out from a track in the woods in broad daylight and stood there unflinching. Before I even had time to register their presence, my horse went completely berserk. He leapt so high into the air that it’s a wonder I wasn’t thrown into outer space. He plunged and reared and reversed at terrifying speed. There were trees and overhanging branches, steep banks and streams all around us, logs and brambles and all sorts of obstacles that he could have ploughed into.

This was not a high-spirited or naughty horse I was trying to tame, but a horse that had reverted to the wild. It was sheer, abject terror I was witnessing and his overwhelming instinct was flight. But for a few moments it seemed as if there was a brainstorm in his head and he didn’t know which direction to flee in. He was convinced there were wild creatures all around him and the panic of not knowing which way to go made him crazy. I’m still not sure how I managed to stay aboard as he exploded in all directions. Finally he made another enormous vertical leap into the air, dragged the reins through my fingers in a series of violent plunges and bolted.

As we veered left at the point nearest to the boar I caught a glimpse of stolid mutinous snouts, three of them lined up in a row like the three wise monkeys. We took the shallow water of the ford that Poppy crosses every morning at a flat-out gallop and it was several hundred yards before I managed to persuade him to come back to a trembling walk. His sides were heaving, I could feel his heart thundering between my legs and when he eventually halted at a friend’s stableyard, it was a good ten minutes before he stopped shaking.

Red and Jack in paddock

Red back in the (relative) safety of his paddock with Jack

Thankfully we both managed to return home (via the safe route on the country lanes rather than back through the woods) with no injuries. But this is my worry. If it happened to me, it could happen to a child on a pony. There have been reports of dogs who have been attacked by the boar, especially when they have a young family. These creatures are becoming increasingly confident and confrontational. It is going to take a child being killed before something is done to control them.

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One Response to “Boar”

  1. definitionsofagoodlife September 2, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    That sounds absolutely terrifying! Poor Red, I hope he settled eventually. Here in Australia my worst fear is snakes but they don’t breed like boars. I hope your local council does something to control them before someone gets seriously hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

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