THERE is nothing quite as Christmassy as a farm in December. Deep, fluffy straw beds, fat hay nets and open bales of haylage in the barn smelling, I always think, like Christmas sherry. Even more in keeping with the season, last Friday I feel that our yard may well have been visited by some of Charles Dickens’ Christmas ghosts, at least that’s what the ponies seemed to think.

At our spot, the winter turn-out fields are situated half-way down the lane, a little distance from the stable block, which is why I like to bring Diamond in mid-afternoon, before it gets dark.

Last Friday all was going well until, just as we stepped out onto the lane, for no apparent reason, the Highland pony in the field next to ours leapt into the air and took off at a flat-out gallop around the field as though ghosts, monsters and demons were all in hot pursuit. That was more than an excuse for Diamond.

Now, although come teatime we are always the best of friends, in a situation such as this it is every man, woman and horse for themselves and she certainly wasn’t going to hang around.

Down the centre of the road she cantered, lead rope dangling by her side and I couldn’t help but notice that she can certainly move very well when she has a mind to.

As I was approaching the last bend, I was eventually able to breathe a sigh of relief as I heard the frantic clip clop of hooves slowing down and a familiar voice saying, “Your mum is going to be so cross.” She had been caught.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, a little while later, another pony, tied up and standing demurely outside of her box, suddenly had a freaky moment.

No-one is exactly sure what happened but in a desperate attempt to break free, the stable door frame was pulled from its hinges, while remaining still attached, in part, to the front of the stable.

For a few frantic moments, this pretty little lady charged around the yard, a huge piece of stable, clattering along behind her until eventually, she came to rest, outside of her friend’s box.

Amazingly, the pony was completely unscathed. Her poor owner was more than a wee bit shaken, but apart from that no-one was injured in any way and buildings, as I pointed out, can be fixed. So, despite there being “no room at the inn’” for one little lady on Friday night, alternative accommodation was sourced and in no time at all she was tucking into her tea-time hay and telling her new neighbours all about her ordeal.

Christmas ghosts aside, our yard is still one of the most festive that I have ever known and this is largely due to the presence of a diminutive donkey called Jimmy.

I remember one Christmas telling Maisie, my youngest granddaughter, how the donkey that carried Mary into Bethlehem on that very first Christmas, was probably much like Jimmy. A little while later I found her standing in front of his specially adapted, low cut stable door, stroking his furry head and singing Away in a Manger.

But when all said and done, nothing makes Christmas like a surprise or two and over the course of this last week, I have been privy to some very top secret arrangements set to give two Riding for the Disabled members the best Christmas surprises that they could ever have hoped for – a pony of their own.

In both cases, the ponies have been carefully sourced to meet their owner’s very specific requirements and both, I am confident, will do their job admirably.

So on that note, I would like to finish by wishing you and all your four legged friends a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a wonderful, heart-warming New Year.