Thursday, 12 July 2012

Ceci n’est pas un blog

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

This is not actually a blog. I am too tired to write a blog.

I did, in fact, write a blog earlier, but it was all about going riding and really quite dull and inside baseball, and I thought even I can’t inflict that on you. But now I am so shattered I don’t know what my name is and I can’t somehow bear an empty space. So here is the thing I did write but then rejected.

I really wouldn’t read it unless you are desperate.

There are a couple of nice pictures at the end, though.

Here it isn’t:

Lovely ride today. Just really great ride.

I chose to go out, even though the ground is still heavy. Red is getting fresh, left mooching in the field, and at least it was not bucketing down with rain. So, we rode.

She was unsettled at first and I wondered why. Then I realised: she is a working thoroughbred, filled with championship bloodlines, faced with about twenty acres of wide open mown hayfields. Looking back, I think most horses in her position would have thought, Whoop, whoop, Wyoming, and galloped off to the horizon. She is also still alive to the strangeness of it all. Her eyes go constantly up to the hills, where I am convinced she is convinced the bears live. Her neck tenses and she pricks her ears hard for predators.

She clearly knew it was the start of the July Meeting at Newmarket, and wanted to emulate her southern cousins by tearing off at racing pace, and I did not let her. Once again, I spent the whole hour and a half getting her to drop her head and relax. Once again, it was a hellish messy ride, and we would have won no prizes from any judge. Once again, I did not care, because, by the end, with patience and application and attention, I had my zoomy girl loping forward on a long rein with her head down. I rode the last half furlong with no reins at all, which might have been a bit reckless, but gave me a soaring sense of achievement.

By the end of the summer, we shall be doing bloody dressage. Just now, all I care about is to get her moving sweetly forward, without tension. Of course, in the back of my mind, my secret plan hatches itself, which is to get her quiet enough so the dear Young Gentleman can sit on her. That is a fairly nutty plan, but even the thought of it makes me smile.

As always, I draw lessons from all this. Every time I ride Red, I really have to think. She is a dream, but she is a challenge. I have to watch, anticipate, concentrate the whole time on making it very clear what I want her to do. The joy of her is that she is such a quick learner. One tiny example. Because she was all zoomed up, she kept breaking into a trot when we were walking. I did not want to keep pulling back on her mouth, so I decided to teach her in a more subtle way. Every time she did it, I put her into a very tight circle. Even though she has been trained for this in polo, it is hard work for a horse. The message is: if you trot when I do not ask, then round you go.

I don’t yank her, I mostly use my body, leaning her into the bend. If she walks on quietly, her reward is no pressure from me, and I concentrate on being as easy and relaxed in the saddle as I can. It took five goes of doing this before she got it. Five goes. There are some people who say you have to teach a horse something sixty times before they learn it. (At this point, of course, I think, there is a distinct possibility that she is the cleverest equine in Scotland.)

I really loved that lesson, and I loved that she learnt so fast. I loved that it involved no physical restraint of any kind. Ironically, to teach her to go slowly, I was moving her forward rather than pulling her back. I used my imagination, and applied the excellent Warwick Schiller principle: make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. This is also something I think I should apply to life in general.

It’s odd, at forty-five, to be learning in this way. I know how to ride, but I don’t know how to ride this horse, to get the best out of her. Every time we go out, she teaches me something. That feels like quite an unusual thing for a woman of my age. I like it very much. It makes me feel alive.

12 July 1

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12 July 6

Red’s view:

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12 July 11

I love this. I think she looks like an Edwardian horse:

12 July 13#

Someone found a bloody big stick:

12 July 14


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12 July 15-001

Really don’t know why I didn’t just give you blinky Pigeon and be done with it. But if there are words, I seem unable not to offer them. It’s a slightly peculiar character trait. So sorry.


  1. I feel I am becoming a better horsewoman by the day. All I need is a horse.
    I can't see the dear young Gentleman in your Cast List. Is he a special guest?

  2. I have to say it: the Pidge just read your blog today. :-))))

    I'm only kidding! Okay, usually I follow you through all your horse blogs (which really are more creature-communication pieces at this point), but today even I was foggy a bit. Still better than most writing out there, though . . . and it has The Pigeon and Red and your countryside to boot, so no complaints.

    And one other comment. As much as I love animals, I don't always PAY ATTENTION to them as I want to--you know, try to see through their eyes instead of my mind. Reading about your work with Red reminds me try harder.


  3. I think your 'peculiar' character traits are rather lovely.:)
    And always, always love to see that blinky face and beautiful Red. x

  4. Making doing the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard - now that is a brilliant way to teach! Just signed up at 45 to re-learn how to ride and I am very excited about it!

  5. what scenery! There is something on the edge of reality and surreal about it!

  6. That's not a dull post. Why would you think that?
    And don't call me desperate ..............


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