Thursday, 24 May 2012

A little learning

Posted by Tania Kindersley.



The book is now up to 57, 330 words of new draft. I squint at the screen, move things around – this section must be here, no here, no there – murder dead darlings with a slashing axe, remove adjectives, replace adverbs, contemplate the wisdom of the short paragraph.

I like the short paragraph more and more as I get older. I used to disdain it. The short paragraph was not serious; it was a tabloid confection. It was for people who had never read a Victorian novel.

Now, I love it. It is snappy and dancing and invites the eye. I don’t think it means lack of depth. I hope it does not mean lack of depth, or I am stuffed.

The horse continues to teach me many, many life lessons. One of them is not to take everything personally. I take many, many things far too personally, even though my rational mind knows this is absurd, and quite childish. My paper skin may be torn by the most glancing remark, which usually has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the person who made it.

Horses, like humans, have moods. It can be weather, hormones, what they have or have not had to eat, or merely the equine version of getting out of bed on the wrong side. If the mare does not look enchanted to see me, but carries on eating grass, it just means she is getting on with her horsey stuff, not that she has decided I am a bore. If she gets herself in a little fuss, it does not mean I have committed some grave error, but that something is bothering her, or she is having a small show of temperament. It is up to me to learn her quirks and work her out.

She did it today, a sudden throwing of the head and getting herself in a bit of a state. I can’t quite work out if it was flies, resistance to work, testing me out, a muscular ache (I keep madly checking her back), or some other mystery. I might, before I enrolled in Red the Mare’s university of profound wisdom, have got myself into a state, thought that I was making some schoolgirl error, believed that I had committed a crass mistake that was making her unhappy.

I let her loose, so she could work it out for herself. After five minutes she settled, and I did a quick join up, and within a quarter hour all nonsense was forgotten, and she was walking at my side without the rope. We even did a tight figure of eight, with her following my every movement as if we were connected by some invisible string. She has never done that before. I was so happy I laughed out loud. I wished, as I wish with the Pigeon, that she could speak English so I could communicate fully how absolutely brilliantly clever she is.

The Horse Talker who comes to help me with Red each week has an equally sanguine attitude, which rubs off. (I say Talker rather than Whisperer because she does not whisper to horses, she speaks their language fluently and out loud.)She sees only the positives in Red; her willing, sweet nature, her desire to please, her kindness. One little glitch is just one little glitch, not the end of everything. This gives me enormous confidence. So much so that, at the Horse Talker’s suggestion, I got on bareback. I have not sat on a horse’s bare back since I was twelve; I’m not sure I would have ever considered it with a thoroughbred just out of polo.

It was lovely. With no saddle in the way, you feel a horse in a quite different manner. I was filled with trepidation, and by the end I was slouching about like a cowboy. (Admittedly, we did not move out of a stately walk.)

This evening, the mare and I stood in the glancing Scottish sun, in our new communion. The thing of her standing with me for half an hour at a time without a halter is only five days old. It still fills me with awe and wonder. To encourage her to lower her head, I squatted down on my haunches, and she came down with me, and rested her muzzle on my knee, and closed her eyes in bliss as I stroked the soft side of her face, the bit just above the mouth that feels like velvet.

I am pleased about the 57, 330 words of new draft. I am, at last, getting a lot done. I am working like a damn pit pony. But I am much, much more pleased about the fact that I can stand with a horse in a field, and that she consents to rest there with me, and that every day she teaches me something new.


Pictures of the garden in the sun:

24 May 1

24 May 2

24 May 3

24 May 4

24 May 5

24 May 6

24 May 6-001

24 May 7

The ponies enjoying the sun:

24 May 10

Red the Mare:

24 May 11

Red’s view:

24 May 12

I love this face. This is the do you know how very serious and noble I am face:

24 May 14

The hill, in all her shades of blue:

24 May 20


  1. It's pleasant to read you are coming along happily. Makes me feel good, too, at any rate.

  2. What a difference five days and some sun makes. You sound energised by light, warmth and success. An old teaching maxim, that; Nothing succeeds like success...

  3. I find Red's story fascinating. I imagine your time in the field must give you a much needed break from the words at the moment. Very much looking forward to the new book!

    Your photos are stunning.

  4. SO agree about the short paragraph, or any paragraph for that matter. If I am reading anything online and there are no paragraph breaks, I move right on past.

    I find that the only way (for me anyway) to relieve stress over work not yet done, is to just buckle down and get it done. So perhaps that is why you are feeling good about your 57,000 words. So many! How many pages is that?

    Love the photo of Red and the pony, it's a bit ethereal.


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