Sherman the Shire horse by Sarah Eveleigh

My Gentle Giant

(This story first appeared in The Exmoor Magazine “My Favourite Horse” feature. It was written by our daughter, Sarah.)

I was about 8 years old when Sherman arrived at West Ilkerton Farm, and I was rather scared of the snorting, fire-breathing beast that stood at the top of the lorry ramp. He was by far the biggest, most powerful horse I had ever seen.

Sherman and Spec taking out a horsedrawn tour in 2004
Sherman and Spec taking out a horsedrawn tour in 2004

However, my initial fears went very quickly and, being slightly naive and fearless, I was soon climbing on his back and riding him about the yard. I created a bond with him that I had never had with a horse before. I would tell him about my life and what was happening at school. I soon came to the conclusion, after some difficult times at school, that he was the ideal friend as he was never mean to me, always accepting and always pleased to see me. We all loved him. He was such an impressive horse with such immense power, yet so kind.

When I was about 15, Sherman and his working mate, Spec, were sold and my parents gave up the horse-drawn tour business. I understood why my parents had to sell Spec and Sherman, and I tried to keep a brave face on the whole situation as I could see that Mum and Dad were as upset as I was. I went with Dad in the lorry to deliver the two horses. It was possibly one of the hardest days of my life so far. It was an end of an era for us all, and a big part of life at West Ilkerton seemed to have gone.

Sherman and spec
Sherman and spec

Years went by, but Sherman was always playing on my mind. The horses had been sold on condition that we would have first refusal if they were sold, but we found out they had been sold on, and we couldn’t find out where they’d gone. Mum eventually managed to track Sherman down through his passport number and reassured me he was alive and well in Dorset.

I finished my finals at Cirencester, and on the 1st June this year I decided to go home for a break. I arrived home and everything seemed normal. Mum came out of the office when she saw my car, and suggested I should go and see Winaway, my horse, in the barn. As I went into the barn to say hello to Winaway I saw a big, white unmistakably shaped blaze. I did the biggest double-take I have ever done in my life! There, standing back in his rightful place, was my gentle giant, my friend, my Sherman!!! I flung my arms round his big neck in an overwhelming whirl of emotion. Mum and Dad had tracked him down and bought him back so he can spend the rest of his days back home for retirement!

Now he’s back it seems like he’s never been away. I go down to the barn every day, climb on his back and tell him what’s been happening, I’m sure he must already be bored of my stories, but like a true friend he never lets on.

Sherman enjoying a well-earned retirement with Winaway and Tinkerbell for company
Sherman enjoying a well-earned retirement with Winaway and Tinkerbell for company