Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Today, I thought I had no words for you. Some days, the words arrive in battalions. They shimmer and leap and dance and riot across the page. This is not because I am being brilliant; they appear to have very little to do with me. I am just the transcriber. (I am responsible for the thoughts, which may be pedestrian, but can paradoxically be quite well written, because the words pitched up.)
On other days, there is nothing. The words fall dead onto the page, with the leaden thud of partridge shot to death. (Strained metaphor alert; klaxon goes.) Doesn’t matter how much coffee I drink, the words some out pallid and lifeless. I frown and twitch; I roam plaintively round the thesaurus; nothing works.
This was one of those days. I contemplated a recipe. I made quite a decent smoked mackerel paté today. But even that felt dull; everyone knows how to make smoked mackerel paté. I was not strong enough to contemplate the election of M. Hollande. (Although I do think it interesting that we may have a real-life Keynesian experiment, and the romantic in me really, really hopes it works.)
The political woes at home were too demoralising.
Then I went up to the horse. (HORSE STORY ALERT: those of you with allergies, move quickly to the pictures.) The reason horses interest me so much is that they are so inscrutable; much, much more mysterious than dogs. In Secretariat, a lovely film with the luminous Diane Lane, John Malkovich, who plays the great colt’s trainer says something like: ‘I’ve worked with horses all my life and I still don’t have the first clue what they are thinking.’ I bet the real-life trainer said those exact words. You can sort of tell the obvious things: when they are full of beans, or when they feel like showboating, or when they shut down, and become very private and internal. Most of the time, you can see their strong ancestral memory, stirring over vast spaces of time. But you don’t really know what they think of you, or even if they do think of you.
With the Pigeon, I know perfectly well that she thinks me marvellous in every particular. She follows me like a shadow and jumps for joy when I return from a trip. This is because I keep her supplied with biscuits, sticks, and stomach rubs. It’s the simplest, purest bargain in the world. Dogs do a doggy version of love, all flags blazing. There are some people, for instance, she likes much more than others, although she can be a bit of a tart with the ASDA man, when he arrives in his van bringing her Bonios; that is sheer cupboard love, blatant and shameless.
I’m not sure if horses do love in that way. What you are trying to earn is their trust and ease. You are trying to communicate safety, most of all, and a bit of leadership, so they can slot gently into their place in the herd. They don’t bound up to you and lick your nose like a dog will. This is especially true of thoroughbreds, who are bred for speed and strength, the will to win tracing its way back to the three great stallions from whom they are all descended: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerley Turk.
Anyway, tonight, up I went, and did the usual things: checking the legs, putting on the rug, bit of apple, bit of love. Red quite likes it when I stroke her white face, and has her sweet spots, but she can take it or leave it. She is too duchessy and dignified to vamp for love. The moment I take off her headcollar, she moves politely away, and goes back to the things that really interest her, which are eating grass and gazing out to the west.
Tonight though, she did not move away when I set her loose. She rested her head against my arm. I moved to her side, and gentled her elegant cheek, and the soft place just above her muzzle, which is fine as velvet. Her eyes drooped and her lashes fluttered. I heard her breathing slowly. The majestic head dropped onto my shoulder, and rested there, heavy with trust. I hardly dared move. I held my breath, then I remembered that held breath signals tension to a horse, so I let it out again.
We stood there like that for about ten minutes. Eventually, she gently removed herself and went back to grazing. I don’t know what it was. There was some sun today, and she was in a dozy mood. But in that free moment she gave me a bloody great present, beyond words, beyond feeling, beyond thought. It had a purity to it that you don’t find too often in life. I wish I could find some words for it. The best I can say is that it was a communion, still, and deep, and quiet, and oceanic. It felt, in some strange way, ancient. And the sun fell over the mountain, and everything was lit and blue, and I laughed out loud, in humility, in gratitude.
Pictures taken in the evening light:
Will you throw the ball? Will you?
If I make this completely adorable face?