How to save on vet’s bills with gaffer tape

My horses are always in need of help. But if only I could get the builder boyfriend to see a doctor

Real Life

11 Aug 2016

The builder boyfriend colicked for a week after eating a falafel kebab as he and I sat up all night with the colicking pony.

And unlike the colicking pony, who was attended to by the vet and given intravenous Buscopan, the colicking builder boyfriend moaned and groaned in agony, untreated. If he had a GP he couldn’t remember who or where it was. He has not sought any kind of healthcare, nor seen the inside of a hospital, since a gang of thugs broke both his arms when he was a ten-year-old boy growing up on the mean streets of Balham. (That was the real Balham, before the independent hipster cafés came with their nut-milk lattes and sustainable sourdough fritters garnished with locally foraged pea-shoots.)

In the time I have known him, the builder b has smashed bones, cut and bruised himself from head to foot, and most memorably, knocked himself out when a garage door fell on top of him, ricocheted upwards and then smashed back down on his head a second time as he tried to stand up.

For the next few weeks he didn’t know what day it was. But he always has the same answer when I suggest he sees a doctor. ‘What for?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Let’s see. Your middle finger is sticking out at a very funny angle. If you have it taped up it might heal straight and you won’t get arthritis in the joint.’

‘Rubbish, it’s fine. It matches the other one now.’ Because of course he has another grotesquely bent finger on the other hand. You can’t argue with him. It is pointless worrying. And in any case, I have enough to worry about with the horses.

The very minute one recovers from a bout of something baffling, it is a golden rule that the other one will succumb to illness or injury. And so no sooner had Gracie passed £168 worth of trapped wind and was tucking into the grass again than Darcy ripped off all her shoes, and with them most of her feet.

It seems she has taken a shine to an Arab in the next field and so she charges up and down bucking and squealing and flashing her bottom at him, which is what passes for flirting in the horse world, and indeed, in the human world in certain British towns on a Saturday night.

‘Is he a rich Arab?’ the farrier asked sardonically, when I rang to beseech his help. He said he couldn’t come out until the next day as he was having a spot of bother himself. So I had to bring Darcy in and tape her feet up with gaffer.

She stood placidly, chewing hay, as I stuck strips of tape to the bottoms of her crumbling hooves until I had made four rather fetching silver booties.

The other girls at the stable yard, who all own hardy cobs, looked on in amazement as I glued my horse together with sticky tape, then set about slathering her back legs in Sudocrem to guard against any microscopic grazes I couldn’t see that could easily start swelling at precisely 5.59 p.m. on any given Friday and thus turn into a £600 weekend vet call-out.

‘You don’t have much luck with her, do you?’ said one of them, grimacing, as I finished off an entire tub of antiseptic cream.

‘Let me explain something,’ I said, smearing cream and grime across my face as I mopped sweat from my brow. ‘There are two ways of looking at thoroughbred ownership. Either you consider yourself unlucky because your horse is held together with bits of gaffer tape and so much antiseptic cream you wish you had shares in Sudocrem. Or you consider yourself lucky because your horse has all four legs and, just for today, is suffering from something that can be put right by the farrier for £65 and not the vet for £665.’

‘Point taken,’ she said, looking at me like I needed my head examining for owning such a liability.

When the farrier finally arrived the next day, his wife was driving the van and he limped into the yard dragging one leg behind him.

‘What on earth happened to you?’

‘Broke my ankle.’

‘You’re all as bad as each other! Why aren’t you in plaster? Have you even been to hospital?’

‘Yeah, yeah. I had it X-rayed. It’s broken in two places, they reckon. But I can’t feel a thing. They gave me a brace but I’ve taken it off. I couldn’t get my boot on. It’s fine. Honestly. I’m fine. Agh. Oh Christ, it clicked, did you hear that? I think it’s popped out…’

And so saying, he nailed a very nice set of shoes onto Darcy’s feet while barely able to stand on one leg himself.


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