Posted by Tania Kindersley.
HORSE STORY ALERT.
2479 words today. The latest Dead Darlings file now tips the 10,000 mark. There is another, older one that I dare not count. All those words, I think, so lovingly written, now consigned to murdered darling limbo. I know I should have faith; I know that there are many, many more words where those came from. But sometimes I do have to stop and bow my head and mark their passing.
To cheer me up, a very sweet horse thing happened today. The Landlord, in whose field I keep Red the Mare, has a charming young gentleman who helps out about the place. He can turn his hand to anything, and is often observed driving about mysterious bits of machinery with determined purpose. Sometimes, he has to drive the machinery through Red’s paddock and out the other side; on a couple of occasions, she has done her Steve McQueen act and taken the opportunity to escape.
The Young Gentleman admitted, rather bravely, I thought, that he did not know what to do when she followed him, because he was a bit frightened of horses. He knew nothing of them, and felt some alarm at their size and strength. ‘She’s quite big, isn’t she?’ he said, eyeing Red gingerly.
So, the other day, I offered to introduce them properly, so he could see what a sweet, gentle creature she is. It all went very well, and he seemed rather entranced by her, and I gave him some expert tips on how to get a horse to stop following you through a gate. ‘Wave your arms and shout bugger off,’ I said. He looked slightly startled.
Anyway, today, I went up to get away from my hot desk and give the mare some groundwork, and the Young Gent was there, working hard on some impossible to interpret mechanical task involving tubes of metal and white spirit.
He looked up and smiled. ‘How long,’ he said, ‘do you think it might be before I could just jump on Red’s back?’
I was quite surprised. I explained about her being a thoroughbred and occasionally a bit wild and not necessarily a novice ride.
‘But if you wanted to start to ride,’ I said, ‘we could try you on a nice quiet cob, or something.’
He dropped his head and looked demoralised. ‘No,’ he said, firmly. ‘I just want to ride Red. I love her.’
I was absolutely astonished. I was so touched and flattered that I rather rashly said that once I had been schooling her for a few more weeks, we might see. ‘She used to racing and polo, you see,’ I said, ‘so I’ve got to teach her the quieter ways of going.’
He seemed satisfied with this. What have I said? But the love and the yearning were such, and I adore the Young Gent, he is so polite and he works so damn hard.
‘Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer a nice steady Highland pony?’ I said.
He shook his head. ‘I just like Red so much,’ he said.
The mare decided to prove her entire unsuitability for the exercise by then doing circus tricks all round the field. Head up, head down, gallop, stop, turn, canter canter buck canter. Slightly obsessed by All the Queen’s Horses, which lovely programme I watched last night, I mused how the Queen would admire her. (These are the kind of nutty thoughts which wander into my head at the moment, I am so distrait with book.)
Then, to prove that in fact she would be perfect for the Young Gentleman, she dropped her head, put her ears into their donkey position, locked onto my shoulder, and did figures of eight with me. It never ceases to amaze me that she can be a bronco one moment, and then a soft old dote the next, trotting at my shoulder without a halter, following my hand signals, coming to a dead halt when I say stop.
So, my present for the day is that a very young man who, until a week ago, was terrified of horses, is now in love with my mare. I can’t tell you the peculiar happiness that brings me.
The sky is very dull this evening, so these are from yesterday, when the light was with us:
Red doing her donkey ears:
Pigeon affecting her most noble and grave face:
The hill, rather noble itself: