Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Wild insomnia last night. It comes sometimes, when my mind starts monkeying around and won’t settle. Mad staring eyes at the ceiling, whilst the Pigeon snores and twitches in her sleep.
After a paltry three hours’ sleep, I stomp up to see the mare. A bitter east wind is blowing, and what with that and the lack of sleep, I decide not to ride today. Also, since she was a bit fussy and jumpy yesterday, I think it is a good idea to go back to the drawing board.
We do groundwork. I love this expression; it sounds so grand and professional. What I really mean, in practice, is that I walk Red around her field. It’s not exactly reinventing the Large Hadron Collider. But this creative walking is one of the best new things I have learnt since I have been riding again.
We go back and forth and round in circles and this way and that. I make my body language very strong and free; I stand up straight, open my shoulders, face the direction in which I am going with blithe confidence and joy. The idea is that the mare senses this, with her horsey telepathy, and will follow me with calm and joy.
Because it is about being the leader, in whom my horse can repose complete trust, I walk slightly in front of her, and do not look behind me. This, apparently, is crucial. I am also trusting her not to push me or barge into me. (The trust thing has to go both ways.) She keeps a very respectful couple of feet distance, which feels right, although when we turn sharply, I can see her head at my shoulder, in a rather enchanting way. The other thing I love is that I can hear her, behind me, blowing gently out of her nose. The gentle blowing is good language; it says she is relaxed and docile.
She puts her head up on predator alert a couple of times, but for the vast majority of time she is low and forward, her neck stretched out in a curving arc, her ears forward, her stride swinging. I absolutely love to see a horse like this; it is the most pleasing thing. Everything about it looks right. Of course, horses can look lovely when they are on their toes, with their heads up and their legs describing dancing steps. (You see this often at the races, because they are excited.) But there is almost nothing better than when they fall into an easy lope.
The walk was also particularly touching because the Pigeon came with. So it was the three of us, out for an amble.
The other rather thrilling thing is that Red will now follow me without the headcollar. I have not worked out how to do that proper horse whispery locking on thing, the one that Monty Roberts teaches. So this is not deliberate. She just suddenly did it last night, when I went out to check her in the field. She was standing by the far fence, and I walked out to her, and she turned to greet me and then walked beside me all the way back to the gate. I felt a soaring sense of love and achievement; it was as if she had just made a huge deposit in the trust bank.
This small walking work feels very important to me, more important in a way than the actual riding. I love riding her, but in some ways, in these early, new days, the building up of a simple bond on the ground is more delightful. It is a profound communion. It feels like a very precious gift.
It's another flat, blah day today, and also I have temporarily mislaid my camera, so here are a few garden snaps from when the weather was fine:
My walking companions:
I was going back through the files, and I found this lovely pictures of the Duchess. It's almost a year since she died, and I still miss her, with an old ache in my heart:
There just aren't that many faces like that in the world.