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.
Three different versions of Red’s View:
My sweet girls:
Myfanwy the pony:
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:
Red, looking quite heart-stoppingly beautiful:
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:
Pigeon, multi-tasking – wagging tail, licking lips, and giving me slightly reproachful where are my biscuits look:
And a rather blurry hill: