We've had a terrible start to the new year.
At nine this morning I had a call from ma who lives down the road in the New Forest to say she'd found her grey mare Lou dead.
At first, when she went out to check the horses this morning, she couldn't see her in the field and thought she had been stolen. Then she noticed the broken fence, saw the hoof marks running in a straight line down to the next fence, which was also broken, and finally found her lying dead in the field beyond. She had bolted through two fences and across three fields.
There was no sign of trauma or injury, no bruising, no cuts. We suspect she had a heart attack, brought on by the terror of fireworks going off last night.
When the man came to collect her body he told me New Year's Day is the same every year for horses dying. Because they are petrified of fireworks and when horses are afraid they run in blind panic either onto or through fences or, as with Lou, the terror causes their hearts to fail.
And it isn't just horses - Teddy is petrified of them, to the extent that I won't go out on New Year's Eve any more because he needs our reassurance that he is safe until the awful sounds stop.
Isn't it time we did more to protect all animals, wild and domestic, from these wretched things that flash and bang loudly for a few seconds for our entertainment and then are gone, leaving, for my family this morning, utter heart break in their wake?
Lou was 12, in her prime, fit and healthy, much loved and very well cared for and today we are all in deep shock and mourning her loss. It has been the most awful start to a new year that I can ever remember. She was the sweetest mare; kind, gentle, loving, and my mother's closest companion. They had a bond of trust between them that was very deep. They shared many lovely happy rides out across the forest together, many special magical moments you only get when you have that amazing connection with your horse. Lou gave ma so much, at a time in her life when she thought she was too old to start riding again and get back into having horses. She restored ma's confidence in so many subtle ways as well as bringing her health and vitality, and today my poor mother is distraught at the loss of her best friend.
Please, please think twice before lighting fireworks, especially if you know there are horses in nearby fields.
Rest in peace lovely Lou, we will miss you so very much.