Friday, 23 March 2012

In which I meet the farrier

Posted by Tania Kindersley.


I’m sorry, but that is so thrilling that it has to go into capital letters. I have a deep obsession with two professions, that of dry stone waller and farrier. If I walked into a party and was introduced to George Clooney and someone who knew the art of dry stone walling, I would talk all night to the wall person. I have no explanation for this.

I was giving the mare a pick of grass, and a smiling fellow in a blue van drove past. I said good morning, he paused, leaned out of the window, and we exchanged small talk about the weather. There was blinding sun again and that is always a serious subject of conversation in these parts.

Then I put Red out, stood for a while at the gate, entranced by her sweetness and beauty, gazing at her like a loom with my mouth open in a goofy smile, and walked back to the yard. There was my friend in the van, leather apron on, shoeing a horse.

‘Oh,’ I cried. ‘You are the farrier.’

As you know, my attempts at charm do not always work. There is a particular flintiness and authenticity to the character of the North-East of Scotland which does not fall for exclamation and hyperbole. But this gentleman, perhaps undone by my transparent excitement and delight, gave me a smiling shake of the hand and stood and talked in the sun for a quarter hour. He even laughed at my jokes. We are now fully bonded and the mare will be shod next week. (She has front shoes on, but her back hooves are bare and need seeing to.)

This all came at the end of a very lovely morning indeed. The first enormously important thing to report is that when I went into the box this morning, the mare yawned. This is huge. Yawning in a horse is a sign of relaxation and security. She has been a bit jittery in the mornings up until now. Today, she was mooching about, nudging my side with her muzzle, head low, chilled as you like. I felt it was a huge breakthrough.

As we went off through the woods, there was one small spook, a couple of pauses, and then – just delightful, calm, onward momentum. The sun glittered and shimmered off the loch but that did not faze her. The fast reverse, her speciality move, has gone back into its box of tricks. I sat deep in the saddle, feeling my legs strengthen and lengthen, sensing the movement of the horse. I suddenly felt something in her I’m not sure I have before. It took me a moment to work out what it was.

It was enjoyment.

I looked down at her. Her neck was stretched out, her ears were pricked, not looking for danger, but set in the alert, happy position. There was a little swing in her stride.

I was so happy that I sang her a song. I’ve been noodling about on the internet, looking at some pretty hokey websites. One of them said that horses like to be sung to. I never used to sing to my horses when I was a child, but what the hell. The secret hippy in me does come out when surrounded by trees. I sang her The Outlaw Raparee, which my father used to sing to me when I was little.

It goes:

My spurs are rusted, my coat is rent, my plume is damp with rain; the thistle down and the barley beard are thick on my horse’s mane.

I’m not sure if she liked it or not. It made me laugh anyway. I hoped that no dog walkers would come out of the woodwork and find some crazed horse lady singing Irish rebel songs. The people in the glen already think I am peculiar enough.

We went out into some new wilderness, taking a right instead of yesterday’s left. Up a forestry track, the country opened out like a book, singed with yellow gorse. The blue mountains hovered on three sides. The mare looked about her, as if to say: this is new. There was a lazy old river and a tiny oxbow lake.

Back past the old chapel, we took a fast two furlong canter, and pulled up perfectly at the end. ‘Bloody marvellous,’ I told Red.

After I untacked her and brushed her down and put on her headcollar to lead her out to her field, I paused for a few minutes to let her have a go at the good grass on the corner. It’s a very peaceful thing, standing with a grazing horse. I leant on her withers, and put my hand on her neck.

‘You got my heart,’ I said. ‘You came and took it and it is yours.’

She carried on eating. She is a horse, after all.


This was the chapel we cantered past:

St Lesmos chapel

By Martin Gorman for Creative Commons, found on the Geograph website.


  1. Now listen to me. If you are introduced to George Clooney at a party AND a man who knows all about dry stone walls, for pity's sake get the dry stone waller's number and TALK TO GEORGE CLOONEY. Or I shall despair of you entirely.

  2. I like how you approach your developing relationship with Red with a mixture of expertise and intuition. How is the Pigeon reacting to Red? I hope she doesn't see the mare as a love rival.

  3. You do realize you are living someone else's dream life, don't you? I hope you do. I mean, someone, somewhere (ahem) must dream of living in Scotland with a horse, chapels, dogs, and George Clooney. I mean a farrier.

  4. Tania, your accounts of geting to know, and falling in love with Red are so touching that I am typing this with tears in my eyes - rather unexpected. Had a lovely ride myself this afternoon, spirng is perfect for that. BTW we call our farrier the magician. Bon weekend

  5. Tania, will you fall in love with the farrier per chance? Imagine the twist it would give the blog!

    1. ...and as for singing to the horse goes, my favourites are Amazing Horse (little naughty, originally Weebl's) and Lee Hazlewood's Summer Wine - if you fancy adding to your repertoire :)

  6. I agree with Lillyanne--there aren't many dry stone wallers in the world, but there are more than one, so if you really want to talk to one, you conceivably could hire him. Not so with George Clooney.

    Of course, that assumes you would be at the party in the first place and not down at the barn with Red the Mare. ;-) Love your description of how she has decided that you are a familiar part of her world. Your sidekick, that miniature black horse with the peculiar neigh, is probably pretty welcome too.


  7. Such lovely comments; thank you. Esp enjoying the Farrier jokes. :)

  8. OK, I'll woman up and talk to George for you...(it's a hard job but somebody has to do it, yes?).
    In the meantime, words fail (me) to describe my delight reading about your relationship with Red.


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