Today I set to trimming Brena's chestnuts, which had grown to impressive proportions. They showed no sign of being shed, and I was beginning to be concerned that they might become caught on long vegetation. On occasions we do find ourselves picking through bushes fallen across the trail or thick tough scrub.
I removed about half the length of each easily with a good pair of hoof nippers, then smoothed the ends of the remaining parts with the less aggressive side of a hoof rasp leaving them tidy.
The inside of a chestnut proved to be rubbery, indeed almost waxy, rather like the inside of the frog. I had expected hard horn all the way through, though I had no reason to imagine them hard or soft inside.
There are some curious folk tales about chestnuts. Foals are said to be born without them, which in fact is not true. Back in Transylvania I looked at a newborn foal in order to check - and that mysterious land is just the place where a superstition ought to be true.
Other people hold that a foal's legs are held together at the chestnuts in the womb, which is also untrue. At least that might have sounded plausible back in the days before x-rays and ultrasound enabled us to look inside a pregnant mare.
Then there is the superstition that one can catch a loose horse more easily when carrying a piece of chestnut. Apparently the chestnut emanates a peculiar smell that somehow attracts horses. (I checked. The pieces cut from Brena were almost odourless.)
However a piece of chestnut is by no means the only thing supposed to grant a man power over his horse. In days gone by there were the ploughman's 'knowledge' that was secret to the uninitiated. Perhaps it was something strong smelling that masked or modified a horse's senses?There were 'magic' words to be whispered into a horse's ear too. They might just have been a hoax to put others off the trail of just what a skilled horseman really did. After all knowledge is power. It's best to keep the competition off the scent - or, rather, on the wrong scent.