I’m afraid this story marks the end of Cheesecake’s adventures. However, she’s going out with a bang, in an extra-special and very moving tale in which she visits London and through her mendacious nature, helps a friend ease her unhappy heart.
Cheesecake the Shetland pony was very excited. She was in London, backstage at a grand stadium, preparing for her first time in a big annual horse show!
Tomorrow, Cheesecake would be taking part in a pony derby with her owners’ daughter, Sally Withers. Sally was a superb rider and Cheesecake was sure they would win.
Lancer the Thoroughbred and Maisie the Arab were there too, filling Cheesecake with awe as they told tales of the events and displays that would be taking place.
There was another Arab horse with them, named Emily. Before Emily had arrived at Hockpoll Stables, she had been kept by cruel owners who beat her hard and rarely fed her. She was in far better shape now, but was still a very quiet and nervous horse who Mrs Withers didn’t risk riding.
Cheesecake had always done her best to cheer Emily up, doing something funny or mischievous to amuse her. Since Cheesecake had a calming influence on Emily, Mrs Withers had put horse and pony in adjacent stalls.
As Cheesecake munched her pony nuts, Emily walked over to her.
“Cheesecake,” she said softly, “Do you think people really care about us?”
“What are you saying, Emily?” Cheesecake replied, looking up from her food. “Of course Sally and her parents care about us. They shelter us, groom us, clean our stalls, feed us fit to burst…”
“But is that really for us, or for them?” Emily went on. “Horses are there to work, be ridden on, then get shut back in a barn. Does that sound caring to you?”
“Emily,” said Cheesecake soothingly, “Given what you’ve been through, I don’t blame you for not trusting people. But Sally and the others do care and you’ll see it in time.”
“I wish I could be sure of that, Cheesecake,” Emily sighed, and walked away.
Cheesecake was very sad as she watched Emily go. What could she do to show Emily see that most humans genuinely loved their horses?
“Well, this is one very blue Cheesecake right here,” a voice squawked.
It was Cheesecake’s old friend, Carlo the magpie. He had followed Cheesecake’s horsebox from Hockpoll Stables and snuck in through the open vehicle bay. Sweeping into Cheesecake’s stall, he perched on a hay bale.
“What’s wrong, girl?” chattered Carlo.
Cheesecake told him what Emily had said about people thinking of horses just as animals to be worked and ridden on.
“You know,” said Carlo. “As I was flying around the city earlier, I saw something not too far away that could restore Emily’s faith in people.”
“It’s outside the stadium, then?” Cheesecake asked.
“Yeah, but I’m sure we can get around that,” Carlo winked.
And so he and Cheesecake started to hatch a plan.
Late that night, Cheesecake leaned over into Emily’s stall.
“Wake up, Emily! Wake up!” she hissed.
Emily slowly woke up, to see that Cheesecake had a stick in her mouth and was working the latch free on her stall. Soon the gate was open.
“Cheesecake, what are you doing?” Emily gasped.
“Taking you to see proof that humans care,” Cheesecake said through clenched teeth, as she worked Emily’s lock free. “No time to explain. Just follow me.”
“Cheesecake!” squealed Emily. “You can’t just go running off into the night in the middle of London!”
But as it turned out, Cheesecake could do exactly that. She raced across the stadium and pushed open a fire exit. Emily was nonplussed, but followed anyway.
Carlo swooped down to join the two horses and led them through the streets of London. People wheeled round to stare in wonder and amusement. While the stench of petrol and bewildering rows of houses were off-putting for a pony raised in the countryside, Cheesecake did have fun racing the squat black taxis that plied the roads.
Carlo led the horses past three big museums, then an ornate department store which he said was called Harrods. A little further on was Hyde Park, where Cheesecake drooled at the sight of lush grass on the lawns.
“No time to stop!” Carlo called from above. “I can see police gathering around us. A bit further north on Park Lane and we’re there.”
When the police finally gathered at Park Lane to recapture the horses, they were amazed to find both them and a magpie staring up in awe at the tall, grey stone walls of a memorial.
“Here we are, Emily,” said Cheesecake. “What do you think?”
The memorial was carved with images of horses, dogs, goats, pigeons, elephants and camels all dressed for war. Bronze statues of horses and donkeys carrying supplies stood before the walls. On one wall was carved the words; Animals In War; They Had No Choice.
Emily’s eyes were glowing. Cheesecake believed if she was a human, she would be crying with joy.
“So people remember our dead as fondly as they remember their own dead,” Emily sighed. “Thank you so much, Cheesecake. I was wrong to think people don’t care for us and I don’t think I ever will again.”
Cheesecake stood silently with Emily, looking up at the memorial as their hearts soared together.
Mrs Withers was baffled when the police called her to say that her horses had escaped the stadium and made their way to Park Lane. However, Cheesecake and Emily were soon returned to the stadium, ready for the horse show next day.
Sally only managed to win 2nd prize in the pony derby. Cheesecake didn’t mind though. First place next time Sal, she thought.
Later, Mrs Withers took Emily into the centre of the ring. The audience’s heart went out to Emily as a charity spokesman told them of her past and appealed for help to prevent the kind of cruelty she had suffered.
Cheesecake watched all this, overjoyed to see Emily holding her head so proudly. She looked forward to getting back to Hockpoll Stables, to watch Emily leave her troubled past behind and begin enjoying life again.