From BBC’s 10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week comes the news that “traditionally, police horses in England’s Thames Valley force can be called Odin, Thor or Hercules, but not Brian”….
The year was 1827, and the newly-formed Thames Valley Horse Force, designed to work in hand-in-hoof with the human police, was swearing in its first recruits.
Chief Constable Odin looked proudly along the line of magnificently built, magnificently-named beasts – names like Thor, Hercules, Zeus, Tarzan.
And one other. Odin stared in surprise at the list in front of him. Oh, well, he thought, perhaps it’s a misprint.
“Brain?” he said hopefully.
“It’s Brian, sir,” said a voice at the end of the line. Odin walked – sorry, proceeded, he was a police horse, after all – to the end of the line and looked down his nose at Brian.
In fairness to Odin, he had no other way of looking at him. Brian was a Shetland pony, and was three feet tall.
There had been no height restriction put into the recruitment posters. Nobody had thought they would need one, they had never considered that someone looking like R2D2 on all fours would be interested in joining.
And it quickly seemed that Brian had made a really bad mistake. Policemen refused to ride him because their heels dragged along the ground as they patrolled. Villains would evade his pursuit by grabbing him by the front hooves and swinging him out into the Thames.
His work-mates used to hang him up by his nose-bag.
Then one evening came some really exciting news. The Princess was due to give birth. Her carriage was going to bring her to St Bart’s Hospital, and the Force were going to escort her along the Mall.
They lined up outside Buckingham Palace. Then Odin spoke.
“Here she comes,” he said.
“I can’t see anything,” said Brian from the end of the line.
Thor sniggered, but seeing Odin glaring at him tried to turn it into a whinny. The result was a shot of snot that slapped noisily against the rump of a passing cart-horse, who bolted, spilling the apples from his cart onto the road. Another horse stepped on these and shed his load of bananas. A human slipped on one of those and fell, dragging over a box full of chickens. A truck then reversed out into the middle of all of this, because that always happens.
Within seconds the road was full of fruit and horse-droppings, like a giant bowl of muesli. The Mall was completely blocked.
A loud yell came from inside the Royal carriage.
“The Princess is going into labour!” said Odin. “We have to do something.”
“I’ll get some hot water and towels,” said Hercules.
“Um, that’s not really what I had in mind,” said Odin.
“I could carry her, sir,” said Brian. “I could pick my way through.”
“Are you sure?” said Odin.
Brian drew himself up to his full height.
“It’s my duty, sir,” he said.
The Princess was placed upon Brian’s back and he set off into the melee. He slipped between wheels. He crept under carts. He skirted around skirts.
Then a tired cart-owner sat down, straight in front of him.
“Neigh!” shouted Brian. “No!”
Startled, the man leapt out of his way. Brian continued his way down the street, shouting “neigh, no” whenever anyone stepped into his path.
He reached the end of the Mall, then stopped in horror. A cart had over-turned, completely blocking the road.
He took a deep breath, raised himself up onto his hind legs, then charged. The Princess covered her face with her skirt, though not intentionally.
He leapt at the last second, rode the sky for a glorious moment, and cleared the cart.
He continued the last few miles to hospital, and collapsed, exhausted, at the base of its steps.
The Princess climbed off him and started up towards the door, then turned, picked him up under one arm, and brought him in with her.
He had accomplished his mission, though it was to be his final one.
Because the Princess gave birth to a girl who, as little girls tend to do, asked for a pony with virtually her first words. There could only be one possible candidate.
And the Princess decreed that no future police horse could be called Brian, no matter how tall, no matter how magnificent.
Because they’d never be able to fill his shoes.