Came from each stall, and sometimes stampings, Whinnies (at well-known steps) and rampings To see the horse in the next stall.
Outside, the spangled cock did call To scattering grain that Martha flung. And many a time a mop was wrung By Susan ere the floor was clean. The harness-room, that busy scene, Clinked and chinked from ostlers brightening Rings and bits with dips of whitening, Rubbing fox-flecks out of stirrups, Dumbing buckles of their chirrups By the touch of oily feathers. Some, with stag’s bones rubbed at leathers, Brushed at saddle-flaps or hove Saddle-linings to the stove. Blue smoke from strong tobacco drifted Out of the yard, the passers snifft it, Mixed with the strong ammonia flavour Of horses’ stables and the savour Of saddle-paste and polish spirit Which put the gleam on flap and tirrit. The grooms in shirts with rolled-up sleeves, Belted by girths of coloured weaves, Groomed the clipped hunters in their stalls. One said, ‘My dad cured saddle galls, He called it Doctor Barton’s cure – Hog’s lard and borax, laid on pure.’ And others said, ‘Ge’ back, my son,’ ‘Stand over, girl; now, girl, ha’ done.’ ‘Now, boy, no snapping; gently. Crikes He gives a rare pinch when he likes.’ ‘Drawn blood? I thought he looked a biter.’ ‘I give ’em all sweet spit of nitre For that, myself: that sometimes cures.’ ‘Now, Beauty, mind them feet of yours.’ They groomed, and sissed with hissing notes To keep the dust out of their throats.
There came again and yet again The feed-box lid, the swish of grain, Or Joe’s boots stamping in the loft, The hay-fork’s stab and then the soft