In many ways Magenta Hayes seemed to have everything going for her. She was healthy, attractive, happily married for twenty years to successful wholesaler Harry and mother of bright and sporty teenagers Kermit and Framboise.
All the liveries at Vaysey Pastures did, however, agree that "our dear Magenta is unlucky with horses."
The year since she had arrived at the yard had seen a succession of comings and goings.
Cobs Boris, Brian and Finbar had met the same fate as show ponies Mimosa Princess, Coco Chanel and Lambada Laverne. Each had been acquired but shortly had to be sold for a variety of reasons: too small, too large, too boisterous, too dull or with a health issue.
When such problems arose, Magenta always coped. She invariably seemed able to rustle up an offer she couldn’t refuse and in the blink of an eye a stable was freed up for her next new arrival.
Spirited and energetic, Magenta coped with these setbacks with admirable practicality and courage. Her horses always seemed well cared-for. They were clipped, shod, bathed and groomed on arrival and promptly schooled by Magenta or her children.
The Hayes travelled widely in their smart lorry to show rings in a large area and usually returned with several rosettes.
Patsy Pottle and the other liveries found Magenta a mine of information on showing technique.
She was always scouring the classifieds in “Horse & Aga” and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of blood-lines. When Magenta considered a pony was well-bred it meant something.
As well as having an acute eye for quality horseflesh, Magenta was an adroit negotiator. Bunty Pargeter had been a little taken-aback that Mrs Hayes had been quite so assertive in arriving at such a low livery rate and a tad disappointed that she had to be reminded most months that livery had been due several weeks earlier. At least it was paid, eventually.
The other liveries were very happy to benefit from “our Mag’s contacts and eye for a bargain.”
Never afraid to ask for discount, she could be relied upon to source - and sell-on - rugs, tack, clothing and supplements at rock-bottom prices.
The back of her large SUV with the tinted windows was a positive Aladdin’s cave sometimes as the liveries crowded round, cash in hand, to snap up the latest goodies with no questions asked.
After yet another successful day, Magenta was pleased as she drove out of the yard and turned towards her self-built, neo-Georgian executive residence with electric gates on the outskirts of the hamlet of Eggnog to the west of Vince Hill.
So far this year she had netted enough to pay for Kermit and Framboise’s school fees and a winter break somewhere hot.
What she didn’t know was that awaiting her on the door mat was a letter from the Inland Revenue asking for "an account of profits, penalties and interest for the last three years from the undeclared trade or business of dealing in horses."