Tuesday, 31 July 2012

All horses and joy; or anatomy of a Tuesday


The sun shone. A brilliant man from Perthshire came and manipulated the mare’s back. He gave me a lesson in equine anatomy as Red shuddered and leaned and made most unladylike groaning noises. She’s tight and knotty in all the places you would expect someone who has done the work she has done to be. The brilliant man was not whimsical and new age, although some people think massaging horses is a load of nonsense. He was one of those proper, bone-deep horseman, the kind you can meet once and immediately start talking the same equine language. He is practical and earthy and not prone to flights of fancy, I should not imagine. All the same, he wants me to massage my mare every day. And so I shall. We shall bend and stretch until our ears squeak. She shall be the most limber horse in Scotland.

I then rushed back to watch the show-jumping phase of the three day event. It was absolutely thrilling. For a moment, I hoped the doughty Britons might overhaul the coruscating Germans, but no one was getting past them. Still, Olympic silver is an extraordinary thing. The team rode so well and tried so hard and took equine excellence to a high plain. I salute them all.

I felt quite teary, watching the ceremony. The riders all looked so happy and proud, and the horses so gleaming and bonny. The great New Zealand team won bronze, and everyone cheered their heads off for Mark Todd, who at fifty-six is really stretching the Olympic spirit to its farthest ends. He is so good it would not surprise me if he were in Rio in four years’ time.

So that was happy and good, and even though the lovely Michelangelo got beat in the big race at Goodwood, carrying my money with him, I was rewarded with an unexpected treat, because friend of the blog Shirley Teasdale had a big winner at Ayr. She had a difficult ride last week when her horse ran off his true line and she was hauled in front of the stewards. I always think that must be a terrifying carpet to be up on for a young apprentice. But there, she bounced back in glory.

My own tiny champion, the younger great-niece, rode Myfanwy the pony, with the usual blissed out expression on her face. I’m not sure I ever saw a four year old person quite so happy. For a lot of small people, getting on the back of even the dopiest pony can feel alien and alarming. It’s so foreign, and so far off the ground. Not for this one. She goes into a trance of bliss. ‘Can I steer myself? Let me steer myself!’ she cried, with her Lester Piggott face on. I thought: I must record this now, so that when she is winning Olympic gold or riding in the Grand National, her first steps shall have been marked. (It may turn out that she is a poet or a breeder of rare sheep, but I like to have my equine dreams.)

Her joy was so infectious that the other children clamoured to have a go. So we got all the tiny relations on the small white pony, and it made me think of my own childhood, and it was very, very sweet indeed.

I must concentrate now on serious things. I must get back to my work and take in world events (no idea what is happening beyond my gate just now) and put my serious hat on. But today, as the dancing Scottish sun beamed down on us, all was horsey joy.


Pictures of the day:

31 July 1

31 July 2

31 July 3

31 July 4

Red, looking particularly magnificent after her manipulation:

31 July 10

I don’t know what that fella did to her, but she was bucking round her field like a two-year-old:

31 July 10-001

Myfanwy the Pony had a bath today. Does she not look clean:

31 July 11

The ponies have new neighbours. The farmer brought them up yesterday. They are just weaned, very curious, and ravishingly beautiful:

31 July 14

31 July 15

Red’s view:

31 July 16


31 July 16-001

Sometimes she has to go into capital letters because lower case is just not enough.

The hill:

31 July 20


  1. Sounds like an absolutely perfect day to me. If I were you, I'd be putting off the world beyond my gate for a few more days.

    Love that Myfanwy has her circle of admirers. If horses think much about what course their lives take, she and Red must have late-night chats about all the changes in theirs lately. 'How nice things are,' they must say to each other. They have good care and enough to eat and a family and something to do. That about covers it, I should think, for horses. (And now they have neighbors - love 'em!)

    PS Wonder why some people think massaging horses is dippy. Look at how much active humans enjoy having their muscles manipulated to relieve aches and pains . . .

  2. Bird - what a very lovely comment. So glad you like the neighbours. I thought Red might be a bit wigged out by a great herd of cows; she is not used to bovines. But she seems rather to love them.

    1. Years ago, many of the big stud farms in Lexington, Ky., put cattle in pastures next to horses as a calming mechanism. Not sure how anyone decided that cows were soothing to Thoroughbreds--or if, in fact, it was so--but that was the thought at the time. I just think your young cattle are cute. :-)

  3. When we lived in Dullingham for a bit, there was a herd of bullocks across the street from us who would all crowd to the fence when the lawn just beyond their noses was being mowed. They had plenty of grass of their own, but maybe they liked the smell of the fresh-cut. The neighbors remind me of them, and a very pleasant memory it is. I love the mental image of Myfanwy with her young riders, too.

  4. Tania, I love your horse (and dog) stories.I'm mentally composing a whole Restoration comedy around your menagerie. Red is the duchess, beautiful, serene, young and much sought after by cads and rogues. Myfanwy is her maid, pretty, witty and practical. Pigeon is the older friend, seen it all, ready with an astute commment, able to fend off trouble before it begins.
    I really should get out more...
    The Olympics - loved the 3-day eventing, but am relishing the whole thing. My heroine at the moment is Zoe Smith, teenage weightlifter, responding to Twitter trolls who jeered that she's ugly and unfeminine (she is in fact a very pretty girl indeed) Did you see the interview where she simply said 'What are you doing with your lives? I'm competing in the Olympics.' Should be written out and stuck up in front of every teenage girl. And quite a lot of adult women, come to that.


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