Sunday, 15 July 2012

In which I face my flaws; or a small Welsh pony teaches me a life lesson

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I have an admission to make. I am a deeply flawed person.

Sometimes, when I am working with the horse, I have a terrible tendency to think I am all that. I was thinking it this morning, after a combination of work and grooming and love which reached new heights of loveliness, and sent me into a sort of Zen trance of pleasure. I thought: she brings out the best in me, this mare.

In non-horse life, I am prone to impatience. I can be hideously idle. I am very disorganised, and often untidy. I hate to admit it, but I can be unreliable; I have been known to chuck at the last minute. (The family very kindly make allowances.) I have a revolting tendency to procrastinate. I am sometimes cowardly. For instance, there is a thing that is bothering me at the moment, and making me sad. I should face it head on. There is a telephone call I could make. But I shy away from it and weakly put my head in the sand. Bad bad bad.

But when I get up to that wide green field, these character flaws seem to disappear. I am patient, consistent, dogged, dependable, and sometimes, although I loathe saying it because it goes against everything in the British ethos of not blowing one’s own trumpet, quite bold. I do damn well get on a new thoroughbred and ride out on my own into the high hayfields. I can’t make one telephone call, but I can ride a spirited horse.

Just as I was having these very naughty, faintly self-congratulatory thoughts, as I was gentling Red after her work and scratching all her sweet spots because she had been so good, I saw Myfanwy the pony standing nearby, looking a bit doleful. Often on this blog, there is the thing I do not tell you. What I have not told you, because it is a source of shame, is that the pony has not quite settled as well as the mare. Red follows me round like a dopey old dog, whickers when she sees me, can be caught, groomed and worked without a headcollar, because I have put so much time and thought into her. The pony can be hard to catch, and we often have a tussle over getting her rug on when the rains come. To be quite frank, we have not bonded in the same way.

I thought it was because she is a Welsh pony, and they have their quirks. I thought it was because I am a big grown-up, and she has the reputation for preferring children. She does not like standing for hours, as Red does, whilst I rub her neck or scratch her withers. She will allow it, but she stands tight and tense, with her head up, tolerating me rather than welcoming.

Suddenly, today, I admitted to myself it was nothing to do with her being Welsh, or a pony, or not as clever as Red. It is because I have not put in the work. She is groomed and fed and looked after; she has everything she needs; but I had spent all my energy on working my mare, and neglected the poor little pony.

Right, I thought. This stops now. I have been remiss and unfair. I am going to put this right.

So, I started a proper join-up session with her. I did not have much hope that it would work. I’m afraid I had developed a bit of a pony prejudice. Of course the mare learnt quickly and well, because she is a clever horse. Ponies can be more difficult and tenacious and stubborn and unpredictable. My aim was not to get Myfanwy walking by my shoulder, but just to unclench her jaw, which is often tense when she is around tall people.

I worked with her for about half an hour before the first breakthrough came. She stopped and ducked her head and offered it to me, and for the very first time she allowed me to rub and stroke and scratch her all over her head, not with tight tolerance, but with real enjoyment. That was enough; that was all I had wanted to achieve.

But then, miracle of miracles, when I moved off, she came with me. I stopped, to see if it were a fluke, but she stopped with me. I walked on, she walked on. We were joined up. This ornery old animal, whom I had slightly written off as a bit ponyish and difficult, was transformed into a docile, happy, responsive person, all because I had taken the time.

Huge life lesson, I thought, filled with humility and remorse. Huge, huge. I had not been mean to her, but I had not given her a chance. Everyone deserves a chance, and look what she gave me in return.

I looked at her. She was chewing with her mouth, which is the great sign that an equine is relaxed and contemplative. When you have taught them something new, and they have got it, they will do this chewing thing. It’s fascinating. Then she gave a great yawn, which is another brilliant sign. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said out loud. She looked at me and pricked her little white ears and gave me her head for another scratch, as if to say, don’t worry, I forgive you.

Through all this, Red was dozing. I love her when she is sleepy. We stood for a while, the three of us, in new harmony. It used to be us and them; me and the mare, bonding more tightly each day, and the pony, off to one side, doing her own thing. Now we are a proper herd. I felt a wave of love and delight crash over me.

Now I just have to work out how to transfer the good traits that I display with the equines into the muddle of my other life. Perhaps I need to pretend that everyone and everything is a horse. It’s a bit freakish, but it could work.


Today’s pictures:

15th July 1

15th July 2

15th July 3

15th July 4

15th July 5

15th July 6

Three different versions of Red’s View:

15 July 7

15 July 9

15th July 8

My sweet girls:

15 July 10

Myfanwy the pony:

15th July 11

The World Traveller, who comes from Wales, told me that Myfanwy means my dear little one, and the pony really lived up to her name today:

15th July 13

Red, looking quite heart-stoppingly beautiful:

15th July 14

She can still look like a duchess even when she’s got some pieces of grass sticking out of her mouth. You can’t say that about that many people.

And talking of beauty:

15th July 14-001

Pigeon, multi-tasking – wagging tail, licking lips, and giving me slightly reproachful where are my biscuits look:

15 July 15

And a rather blurry hill:

15th July 20


  1. Tears in my eyes. Just what I needed to hear today. What a wonderful lesson, and what a simply outstanding, exceptional day. And a lovely pony (no surprise, as she's a friend of Red's).


  2. I call it the last cat principal. When the kids leave home and and take all their cats with them, one seems to be left over; gets noticed and petted and blosoms.

  3. This is just beautiful and gorgeous. Thank you. What a wonderful thing to be able to read on a Sunday.

  4. I did enjoy reading this post. My younger daughter has a pony (but a fell pony in her case) and she could write a book on its antics. As for flaws, we all have them and, isn't that what makes us us?

  5. That pony has the typical stocky pony body but what a fine head...and a very delicate-looking mouth (muzzle? I forget the correct word!).

  6. Congrats! What a wonderful addition to the warm fuzzies! And I agree... that pony has a gorgeous head. She is fine in a wild way, whereas Red is fine in a delicate way... but both are very handsome indeed!

  7. Oh, the Flaws - I see we share many! Two envelopes from the local autority have been looming on my desk regarding, most certainly, a neighbour's complaint about something to do with this house that I am building - building, of course, means 'by absence and lack of interest' as I hardly ever go there and seem to want nothing to do with it! I do not want to open those letters as probably Phonecalls or more Letters will have to follow - instead I live on a cloud of all things equine: dream about foals, think about improving on that approach to a jump, planning to find another trainer to try a different method...I love your suggestion - think that the Problem is a horse. If it fails, I will have to devise some way of opening those letters 'by accident', pay somebody to open them and read them out to me or something. Good job with the pony!

  8. Just lovely. I saw the first picture of Myfanwy and thought oh, what a dear little face. So to know her name means my dear little one is perfect.:)
    And that view. I could quite happily join your girls in the paddock if they'd have me. x

  9. She has apparently been watching the proceedings with Red, and has just been waiting for an opportunity to work with you herself. Perhaps she's been just a wee bit jealous, in a pony way?

    Your flaws resemble mine to a remarkable degree. I quite like your idea of pretending everyone and everything is a horse. I need to do something like that for myself.

  10. Lovely, lovely comments; thank you all so much. :)


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin