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Shelagh's screams of "Pas monstre!" didn't help either. Terrified ears quickly discarded the pas part and homed in on monstre. And if ever there's a greater spur for leaving a dark wood in a hurry than being pursued by repeated screams of "Monstre! Monstre!" I have yet to hear of it.

There are undoubtedly passages in the French Highway Code covering the etiquette of riders coming out of a forest track onto a main road. Probably something to do with stopping. But when you're an inexperienced rider on a runaway horse and you're being chased by a bogeyman - or bogeymen - and urged on by repeated shouts of "Monstre! Monstre!", you do not overdwell on the finer points of road etiquette.

Not that Veronique noticed the arrival of the road. With her eyes tight shut and arms locked in a bear hug around the gelding's neck, she was more concerned with not falling off. And when you've discarded the reins in favour of the limpet style of riding you do not have that many options when it comes to stopping.

Or much idea of where you're going.

Which is why she didn't notice the car.

Now, as in England, drivers in France tend to fall almost equally into three categories. Those who slow down and treat both horse and rider with caution. Those who regard horses as large cyclists (i.e. nuisances who don't pay road tax, have no rights and deserve to be run off the road at the first opportunity.) And people who are late, who, if not in actual possession of a note from God suspending all traffic legislation in their vicinity, are confident it’s only a matter of time before they do.

As the first sounds of the car horn penetrated Chantal's consciousness, she thought perhaps she'd identified a fourth category - the bogeyman. Who, not being a very fast bogeyman, had presumably taken to his bogeymobile in an attempt to catch up with the horses and was now laying in wait where the track met the road.

Of course, she was wrong. It was a fifth kind, the enraged dog-owner, who - convinced his pet had been kidnapped by a gang of mounted animal vivisectionists - had been combing the roads for the last fifteen minutes in an attempt to track them down.

"C'est mon chien!" he cried as, on cue, a hairy mop burst out of the undergrowth pursued by three even hairier ones.

"Give him back!" he continued, or words to that effect. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately interpret an angry Frenchmen in full flow. Individual words cease to have meaning, instead they coalesce into a flow of emotion, waved on by energetic hand signals.

He was not amused.

Neither was Chantal.

When you've just fought for your life to escape the clutches of a bogeyman, the last thing you need is a mouthful of abuse from a motorist. And, being French, she was well equipped to give as good as she got.

Shelagh slipped past the conflagration, out onto the road ... and walked straight into another. Forty yards down the road stood a grazing gelding. It had had more than enough galloping for the day and was now in the process of replenishing its reserves from a roadside bank. A process made all the more difficult by the strange growth on its neck - Veronique - who, arms and legs locked, hung upside down with a tenacity that few limpets could even dream about.

Rhiannon pulled towards her quarry. Shelagh tried to make her stop. Veronique continued to defy gravity.

And in the foreground, Chantal and the motorist continued their wide-ranging debate on dogs, horses, bogeymen and animal experimentation. That is, until the enraged motorist, seeing his beloved pet's face at the passenger window, made the mistake of opening the door for his dog ... and was immediately engulfed by four excited canines.

A run in the woods and a ride in a car - could life get any better?

Few things in life are more difficult than persuading three large dogs, all adamant that a car ride had been promised, to vacate the back seat of a car.

Trying to deter a psychotic horse from biting its prey could be a candidate.

As could manoeuvring said prey whilst hanging upside down from its neck with your eyes closed.

It was a difficult day.

Chantal's dispute with the motorist switched tack.

"Give me back my dogs!"

"I don't want your dogs! Get them out my car!"

In the background, two horses danced excited circles as Rhiannon made repeated lunges towards the gelding. Rhiannon pulling for all she was worth to try and get her teeth into the gelding while Shelagh did her best to turn her away and Veronique wished she'd stayed in Toulouse.

The only happy faces beamed from the back seat of the car. What a day it had been! Could they come out again tomorrow?

(next chapter: Three Fetes and a Football Match)