Fred Marpleston had been visiting Vaysey Pastures since it was first set up by Bunty Pargeter.
Before that, he had been vet to the Pargeter family for as long as any one could remember.
His arrival in a bright red Landrover Defender was heralded by three brisk hoots on the horn and barking from Gert and Daisy, his vociferous Jack Russells.
Everyone at Vaysey Pastures agreed "there was nothing Fred didn’t know about horses."
When both owners and staff were certain a horse was lame in the off-hind, Fred would call for it to be trotted up and nonchalantly confirm it had pulled a muscle in the near-fore.
Similarly, he could spot the anaemic mare or horse with a disposition to colic, apparently magically. He would then prescribe the requisite drugs, course of treatment or box rest and disappear with a cheery wave over the shoulder and more brisk hoots.
Although Fred had been qualified for many decades and could call upon old remedies when appropriate, he was not only diagnostically gifted but also completely up-to-date technically, whether it was the latest techniques, therapies or scans.
Fred’s glowing reputation meant that all the liveries at Vaysey Pastures were more than happy to have him treat their horses. This applied equally to the opinionated old hands and most inexperienced of novices and to the expensive dressage mares and children’s ponies.
His expertise outweighed the occasional bluff and outspoken remark, forgotten name or off-colour joke, particularly if the call was after a good lunch. Owners soon learned to arrange visits in the morning, if at all possible.
Most of those at Vaysey Pastures did not realise dear old Fred had an awesome list of letters after his name, reflecting a glittering academic career in veterinary medicine as well as a first from
Neither did they realise that plain old Fred Marpleston was born Frederick St. John Makepiece de Vere-Marpleston, twenty-seventh Earl of Vaysey.
Fred wore his birth, valour and learning lightly and all was well in his world if Gert and Daisy were given some water on arrival and a mug of tea was available for him promptly at the end of each visit.
Although Fred, the vet could usually be relied upon to put in an appearance at the Yard for a quick snorter at Christmas or to judge the best turned-out at the Fun Day, Bunty, her staff and liveries knew little of Fred’s life at home. They knew he lived at Vaysey Lodge just outside Maisie Vaysey, had been married to Joan for many years and had three sons, now married and living out of the area, but little else.
What they didn’t know, as Fred drove back to Joan and supper at the Lodge, was that this evening Fred would became Frederica and would be eating