Digglum Bestiaruim ~ The Digglers' Crest

The Digglers

The By Chance Meeting

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac I have always been an animal lover. As a youngster I suffered abuse and therefore sought love and companionship from my animals. I had a lovely corgi called Taffy and a cat called Twinks. During my childhood I spent wonderful times at a riding school, helping out and my love for horses grew. When Taffy died I was still living at home and I had just started teaching. I was not allowed to have another dog. I couldn't live without them so I decided to have an animal I could keep away from home. The obvious choice was a horse. I would have preferred to have a dog but I decided I wasn't going to be dictated to. I found a local farm that would allow me to keep a horse and I started to look in the local paper for horses for sale. There was one advertised at the local riding school, Justin, a sixteen-hand grey. It was March and on the Sunday, I went to have a look at Justin but I never even saw him! Whilst I was waiting for them to get him ready, I had a walk round. Behind the stables was a small paddock and in it a thickset cob, wet through and covered in mud. One of the girls brought a bucket of corn and threw the contents on to the ground. Most of it disappeared in the mud and the horse tried to scoop it out with his hoof. That was it, I was so angry I decided that this was the horse I was having. They came to tell me that Justin was ready but I told them I wasn't interested and this was the horse I wanted. They thought that I was quite mad and the horse, called Whisky Mac was no good. I insisted and they eventually agreed and the following day they would deliver him to the farm where he was going to live.

Riding Whisky Mac For The First Time

Wow, little did I know that he would have the biggest influence on my life. Whisky Mac had been ill-treated, perhaps we were a kindred spirit! He did not trust people. However, he did like his warm stable and his good grub! His coat soon shone with all the grooming. Now was the time to see what he was like for riding. Looking posh with a new saddle and bridle I mounted Whisky (short for Whisky Mac) for the first time. It felt great having a horse of my own and I was ready for off. The only trouble was, Whisky did not feel the same way. He would not budge. The farmer came and shoved him and pushed him but still he would not budge. Here I was sat on a horse going no-where! The only way he would go was if he followed someone - a person not another horse. This was ridiculous. I couldn't have someone walking in front every time I wanted a ride!

Fenns Farm

This situation could not continue, but what was the answer? I certainly was not giving up on Whisky, as with all my animals it was a life partnership. I consulted with some of my equestrian friends and the solution was for Whisky and I to be professionally schooled. Fenns Farm at Milnrow seemed to offer the facilities we required and Whisky could be on livery there. So forgive the pun, off we trotted for Fenns Farm! It was very posh and Whisky and I certainly did not come within that category! The majority of the horses stabled there were thoroughbreds. Still we provided the novelty aspect! There was large indoor arena and outside schooling areas. I paid for Whisky to be school it also included me! It was also a riding school and as a livery I was entitled to join the lessons and the hacks out. This was good because at least I was now getting a ride out. A strong relationship was now developing between us and I realised that Whisky had a terrific sense of humour. He was also extremely intelligent and he hated work. When he knew I was going to take him for a ride, he would put his head on my shoulder so that I could not put on his bridle! Part of his schooling was to be lunged. He became very good at this and I was impressed. He would go round in a circle at various speeds and even stop when commanded. I was encouraged to school Whisky like this at least twice a week. That would be relatively easy, at least that was what I thought but not Whisky. I got him all tacked up and we headed for the exercise paddock. I remained in the centre and encouraged him to walk in a large circle. He then looked at me and I recognised the glint in his eye and thought that he was going to do something he shouldn't! He obviously thought the best place to be was where I was, the centre of the circle. He walked over to me and put his head on my shoulder and that was the end of that. I could never lunge Whisky!

During the day, the horses were allowed to go out into the fields. There were many large fields and the livery horses were separated from the school horses or that was the idea. Whisky would jump into which ever field he fancied. He developed a relationship with three horses, Winston, Martell and Colty who belonged to the school.

They would go flying through the field chasing each other. It was nice to see Whisky so happy. However, the owner of Martell did not have the same view. Martell always had a coat on when he was turned out. Whisky must have felt sorry for him and was forever trying to pull it off! I lost count of the number of coats she had to buy and I kept expecting a bill. It didn't take Whisky long to know the location of the feed room. He did not believe in waiting his turn and would break out of the stable and join the girls in the feed room trying to sample the food that was being taken to the other horses!

The Cloggy-man Cometh

Below are photos of Whisky Mac getting his hoofs' reshoed by Mr Manifold in 1980. The last photo shows me riding Whisky, showing what those clogs are for.

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

Whisky Mac goes to the Horse Show

Part of Whisky's problem was that he felt insecure. I wanted him to understand that we were for keeps. On bringing him to Fenns, he had worked himself into a state thinking that I too was abandoning him and he was very relieved when he got there and found I was still with him. I decided to enter him in for some shows. Many of the other liveries went to shows so we could share a horsebox. I would enter Whisky in the in-hand section. He looked grand when I had got him ready. He had white feathers and when they were chalked they looked magnificent. We loaded him into the box with the others and he turned to look at me and it was full of fear. I nearly got him out. I felt cruel. When we got to the show and got him out, he was white! He had sweated up so much due to fear. However, when he saw me he calmed down. I tied him up to the horsebox and gave him a hay net to eat, but he was too busy looking round to eat. I was munching away on a salad sandwich watching everyone when I felt something strange. Whisky fancied the sandwich and we were meeting in the middle! It was time for our in-hand class. As I walked towards the ring people were watching us. I knew why, Whisky looked magnificent and I felt very proud. So did he as he trotted up and down the ring and I'm sure he grew another hand when we were given the rosette for coming first. What a wonderful day. Everything had been worthwhile. When we got back to Fenns we got a clap when people realised we had come first. Whisky trotted very proudly into the field for the night. The next morning when I went to get him, I noticed he had some bite marks. He must have been showing off to the other horses and they were having none of it! When I stroked him he gave me a small bite as if saying I was to be like him!!

Photos From The Horse Shows

Show August 1977

Below is the Fenns entry classifications. I entered Whisky Mac into class 1 and came 3rd. The second photo shows me and Whisky in the show ring. The third photo is Whisky showing off his rosette.

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac
The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

Bolton Show September 1977

Below is Whisky's entry number, him in the show ring and then showing off his winning rosette.

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky MacThe Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

Various Rosette's Whisk Won

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

Up to Mischief

In one of the fields there was a very large pond and much to the disgust of the owner, Whisky spent many hours swimming up and down. The pond was supposed to be off limits to the horses, but Whisky had other ideas! When we went into the arena to join the lessons Whisky became bored and did not like it and would look for amusement. When all the horses had to line up in the centre to receive instructions, his favourite trick was to turn his head and bite my foot. Once the lesson commenced each horse took it turn to be leading file and go at the requested speed. Whisky loved being leading file as he had another trick. He was extremely good until we came to canter, he would do a few circuits then completely stop so there was a concertina effect. Very embarrassing.

Whilst we were there, the owner planned a grand opening ceremony of the indoor arena. Harvey Smith was invited to give both a talk and demonstration. Some of the liveries were invited to demonstrate jumping. Imagine my delight when Whisky and I were invited to demonstrate in-hand. The arena looked grand with the jumps and was adorned with many pot plants and flowers. Whisky looked magnificent all dressed up with his rosettes (he had won some more) on his bridle. We were to remain outside the arena until we were announced. The seating area was packed. At last we were announced, the doors opened and we entered to loud clapping. How proud I felt as I trotted Whisky up and down with the spot light on us. Then disaster. Whisky spotted a large pot of daffodils and wanted one. He was a very strong horse and there was nothing I could do as he made his way over to the pot and helped himself! I felt so embarrassed but everyone loved it. I managed to get him out of the arena as quickly as I could and back to his stable!

Fenn's Farm Grand Gala Opening 1978

In The Arena

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

The Invitiation

Riding on the Moors

Many of the liveries went for long hacks on the moors during the weekend. Although I was invited I refused. They jumped stonewalls. I didn't want to do that as I was concerned Whisky could hurt himself. However, one Sunday they invited me and they promised they would not do any jumping so I agreed to go. It was lovely out on the moors and Whisky was enjoying himself. He was with Winston and Martell two of his friends. Pauline who was riding Winston decided to cantor, Val on Martell followed but the grass was very tufty and I was concerned that Whisky might twist a leg. I held him back and followed. It wasn't long before we came across Martell but he was on his own. Apparently he had stumbled and thrown Val who was lying unconscious on the grass. I dismounted and put my coat over her. Pauline realising something was wrong came back. I told her to ride to the nearest farm and get help. It was quite some time before the mountain rescue came and Val was taken to hospital. Fenns had also been alerted and someone came to pick up Martell and ride him back. Val was in hospital for a couple of days with a broken jaw. After that incident Val and I became good friends and went out hacking together every day with longer rides at weekend. We both had careers and it wasn't until late during the week that we managed to get out. Winter provided the major problem with dark nights. On one occasion I had arranged to take my class to the mounted police section in Manchester. Whilst there I explained I had a horse and did a lot of night riding. I was interested to know what lighting they used on their horses at night. They showed me something they had made themselves consisting of a car light attached to the stirrup. I was thrilled when they offered to give me one. Whisky thought it was great. It was so powerful that he could see where he was going. Martell was jealous! When the weather was bad we used to use the indoor riding school but more often than not we would brave the weather. I had a huge riding mac that even covered most of Whisky. He loved that I am sure he wished I had a sou-wester for his head! The management at Fenns were concerned about the night riding during the week, because he was a dark coloured horse and even though I was now using the stirrup light from the mounted police, on one occasion they got a huge length of white material and tied it into a bow on his tail. He looked like something from a chocolate box and Whisky was furious. Needless to say we did not ride out with that thing stuck on his tail but it caused great amusement on the livery yard!

Val Riding Martell on Boxing Day 1978

Val Riding Martell on Boxing Day 1978

The Hot Summer of 1978

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

Whisky Mac in the Snow

Whisky loved it if it had been snowing. If on our travels he saw a snowdrift, much to the disgust of Martell, he would leap in it! I must admit it was rather a strange feeling being on a horse that leapt into a snowdrift! In the field he would play in the snow. One winter it was extremely cold and all the water froze. Fortunately, there was a stream and it was buckets of water job. That day when I entered the yard, I noticed icicles at the top of the stable doors but not on our Whisky's, he'd crunched them when he had been thirsty!

Winter 1978 and 1979

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

The Summer Refreshments

During the long hot summer months our Sunday rides were the longest and we used to break the ride with a stop at a pub for refreshment. Val would take charge of the horses and I would get the drinks. My order was a bag of crisps followed by a glass of cider which I shared with Whisky. He loved the cider. I was extremely glad that we then followed Val and Martell back home as I would dread to think where we would have ended up! Whisky loved his rides out. He found them entertaining. If he became bored he would look for something to entertain him. I remember on one occasion we had been on a ride with the school horses. Whisky was at the back and was ambling home and I could sense he was rather bored. We had just past the bottom stables and on our way to the top ones. However, there was a long hill climb to the top stables. I could feel an up surge of energy from Whisky. I tried to hold him back but he was a strong horse and off he went. He over took the string of horses and flew to the top of the hill. The other horse stampeded, riders were shrieking and at the top Whisky flew round and round in a tight circle. I became dizzy and flew off and I am sure I saw a grin from Whisky as he viewed me on the ground! One of our favourite rides was a local beauty spot, Hollingworth Lake. Whisky loved being here in summer. There is a very active boating club and he would stand and gaze at the yachts. I'm sure he thought that that would be a lovely way to get round the lake instead of walking! It is also a popular area for walkers and if anyone rustled a bag, Whisky was off to have a look thinking it contained food for him!

We decided one Sunday to have a three hour ride over the moors. It took about an hour to reach them. We left the road where there was a lay bye for cars. Although it was still quite early several cars were parked. We began to trek over the moor, Val and Martell in the lead. All of a sudden Martell disappeared, he had fallen into a peat bog. He was in right up to his stomach. Val managed to scramble off but she was beside herself worried for the safety of Martell. I trotted Whisky back to the lay bye where there was a man by his car having a drink. I flew off Whisky and handed the startled man his reins asking him to hold him and I ran back to Val and Martell. By this time Martell was struggling to get out of the bog. Val and I both grabbed the reins and started to pull with little effect. We were both wondering how we were going to get him out when all of a sudden, Martell gave a huge heave and he managed to scramble to the bank and as Val and I took up the reins once more, managed to haul him out. What a huge relief as Martell stood on firm ground. Val had been afraid that in his struggle he might have at least broken a leg but apart from being covered in peat, Martell was intact. I went to rescue the man from Whisky who was annoyed at missing all the fun and Val led Martell back to the stables. It certainly was a long walk for Val. Neither of us cared, at least Martell was okay. Needless to say, we never attempted to go on the moors again unless we used a recognised path. There are too many peat bogs and they are difficult to see.

The Handkerchief Whisky Mac Ate

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

A One Person Horse

Whisky's faith in humans had now been restored, however he had become a one person horse. When I went away on holiday be would break out of his stable and come looking for me. I let a friend of another livery ride Whisky whilst I was away. On the first day he took her over to a barbed wire fence and went side on so that her leg would brush against the barbs. She hurriedly jumped off and never went on him again. I always brought him back a stick of rock which he loved. On another occasion, Whisky rounded up all the horses and took them down the road to the next farm and into one of the fields. The farmer was furious!

The End of the Fenns Era

Fenns began to change. This I found very sad. We had spent several years there and we had both made many friends and had a wonderful time. The management changed and the prices began to escalate. Many of the liveries began to leave and Whisky was distraught to see his friends go. It was time for us to seek new pastures. I began to look at new livery yards and eventually found a place that would suit and we were on the move. Whisky settled in very quickly as there were plenty of other horses. He was though responsible for breaking-up a friendship. The owner had several horses of her own two of which Mirabelle and Brandy were firm friends. Mirabelle fell hopelessly in love with Whisky and Brandy could be seen standing looking miserable by himself. I felt sorry for him but it was Whisky's magnetic personality that had attracted her!

Bonfire Night

Whisky loved bonfire night. The owner had a very large garden that backed onto the fields and on fifth of November she invited all her friends, myself included to a bonfire and a firework display. On the first occasion I was concerned wondering how Whisky would cope. I needn't have worried because during the proceedings I glanced towards the field and saw Whisky with his head over the wall watching!

Old Friends Leave but a New One is Made

During the summer Mirabelle and Brandy went to Wales and were not due to come back until autumn. I thought I saw a smile from Brandy's when he was being loaded into the horsebox when he realised Whisky would not be coming! Whisky was upset at seeing Mirabelle go and some of the other livery horses left. I felt it was time for Whisky to have his own companion and started to look. Eventually I heard about a six month old foal that was in danger of being shot. The owner had bought a mare and apparently it had been in foal. They couldn't afford to keep the foal and tried to sell him but with no luck. I went round to see the colt and that was my first glimpse of Tobias. Needless to say I had him. Whisky's eyes lit up when he saw Toby (short for Tobias). He seemed to sense I had got him as a companion. He became very possessive and would not let any of the other horses near him. To look at them in the field you would think they were mare and foal. Whisk was not jealous of the relationship between myself and Toby. The fencing was not quite up to standard and Whisky in the afternoons would take Toby for a walk round the village shops. His favourite was the greengrocers where he helped himself to the carrots and celery as many of the products were on display outside the shop! The villagers saw the funny side but the greengrocer certainly did not! There was only one more thing I needed to do.

Pals Together

The Digglers' Horse ~ Tobias The Digglers' Horse ~ Tobias The Digglers' Horse ~ Tobias

I've Come Home, New Year's Day 1980

The Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky MacThe Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky MacThe Digglers' Horse ~ Whisky Mac

A New Home

I was getting fed-up with the livery scenario. I was paying quite a lot of money with nothing to show for it at the end of the day and decided to look for my own place. After a while I came across some land for sale. I went to have a look. It was terrible, overgrown with rushes and very badly drained. It was five acres with no buildings. I decided with good management the land could recover and took an option on buying it if I could get planning permission. Permission was granted and it was full steam ahead at developing the five acres. That is another story. I bought the land in 1982 and in 1985 it was ready for the horses. Seeing Whisky and Toby being led down the drive and onto their own land was a wonderful sight. At last Whisky had stability. He had his own land and his own companion. Much to his delight he went into retirement. I had stopped riding due to the fact I had lost my nerve. Apparently I had had a bad fall and had concussion and cannot remember the incident. So we were both in retirement. In 1987 we had a party to celebrate twenty one glorious years of I was going to say owning Whisky but that is not quite true, we owned each other. Whisky shared a carrot cake with Toby - it had a candle on it and a plaque was placed on the stable wall with a formal unveiling by my mother who loved the horses. Two friends were invited and we all drunk Babycham! Horses not included!

Whisky Mac 21st Birthday Carrot Cake

Whisky Mac and Tobias Arrive at Diggle

Whisky Mac and Tobias Arrive at Diggle

Whisky Mac and Tobias Arrive at Diggle Whisky Mac and Tobias Arrive at Diggle

A Bit Cold in 1989

The Digglers' Horse ~ Tobias


Whisky enjoyed his retirement surrounded by the sheep and Toby, however, his health began to deteriorate and he developed Arthritis. He found it increasingly difficult to get up if he lay down and several times I had to call the vet for assistance. Finally, I had to make that dreaded decision. I did not want him to suffer. I had Whisky cremated and he is back on his beloved five acres. Whisky Mac has been the biggest influence on my life. I met many friends through him and had wonderful years in the presence of his company. It has been a privilege to share part of my life with him.