Hoofing it to the vet's

Maggie May, my big beautiful Clydesdale mare, has hurt her foot. In a clear case of "the grass is greener", she was leaning over the fence to chomp that apparently more desirable stuff, when a tractor appeared over the skyline and gave her a fright. We don't get much traffic around these parts.

She must have panicked and, like a boy caught with his hands on a tray of hot brownies, tried to rush away from the scene of her crime too fast. With a front hoof caught in the stock wire she took out a good 12m of fencing and cheese-wired her heel in the process.

By the time Nic and I got up to the field there was a lot of blood on the ground and four completely uprooted fence stabs hung at jaunty angles from mangled wire. "My horse!", I cried. "My fence!", he cried. Then, with that handy pump of adrenaline that accompanies such incidents, we both set to, applying our first aid knowledge and expertise to both fence and horse. It's ever so useful being trained lifeguards.

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To cut a long story short, the fence made a complete recovery within the evening. The horse is taking a little longer. In fact, after a week of suffering my attempts to patch her up, Maggie has asked to see a vet. (Anyone who thinks horses don't speak, doesn't know horses.)

We do not have the pleasure of a resident vet on our wee northern Orkney island. We have the choice of asking the vet to fly out on our inter-island plane service or of taking our animal to her surgery in Kirkwall. This time we opt for the latter and on a fine if slightly blustery morning we hitch up the horse trailer and Maggie May obligingly hobbles aboard.

To avoid a distressing scene of separation, I have put Mrs Helen, our other Clydesdale mare, into her stable with the door firmly bolted. But just as Nic raises the tail gate of the horsebox, she wanders out from the yard. It seems she wants to know what is going on and has simply leant on the door until the bolt gives. These girls aren't exactly naughty, but they are over 800kg apiece: there's not much one can effectively put in their way.

After a smooth ferry journey we arrive at the vet's surgery and unload Maggie into the car park. I have a daft vision of sitting in the waiting room with her perched on my lap like a pet rabbit, but the surgery girls open up a big set of double doors and reveal a large stable with high walls. Maggie settles in and explores her new surroundings.

Along the top of this very high-walled stall, where most horses cannot reach, are some surgery stores: various boxes and buckets and most notably a plastic Christmas tree. Maggie is delighted with this: she still hasn't learnt that greener things aren't necessarily better, or even edible at all.

Our vet, Kate, sedates Maggie to the point where she sways slightly but doesn't fall over and then sets to work. She shaves Maggie's hairy fetlock, pares proud flesh off the exposed wound, dresses it and declares it in good heart and healing well already. I'm mightily relieved.

By chance Nic's uncle and aunt are on a round-Britain, island-hopping cruise and today they have landed in Orkney for a half-day whizz around her sights. So while Maggie is recovering from her sedation we meet in the Kirkwall Hotel for a swift half and a catch up. Their cruise sounds fabulous and I'm envious. In a fortnight they have ticked off more islands and archipelagos than I have managed in half a lifetime of island life.

Back at the vet's Maggie May has woken up and is ready to leave. Before she goes Kate asks if she can take a photo for the surgery's new brochure - Maggie is one of the few horses tall enough to be photographed with her noble head over the door of the treatment stable. Still a bit squiffy, she obligingly pricks her ears and looks gorgeous for the camera before tottering into our horsebox for the long sea journey home.