Author’s note: warning for excessive, untrammelled horsiness. I can’t even pretend to redeem it with a good life lesson. It just is what it is: a love letter to the equines who bring me delight. Feel free to skip on. (I promise tomorrow there shall be recipes.)
A day of joy. The wind was insane when I went up to the mare, buffeting hard off the mountain, roaring in my ears. As usual, it sent her into her circus tricks. But, as the weather blared and barged around us, she became beautifully calm, as if she were in the eye of the storm.
I had been debating whether to ride. In my lurid imagination, a sudden gale up her arse would send her into a bronco fit, and I should end up on the floor, my dignity in tatters. ‘Ah well,’ I said, out loud, ‘I have to fall off some time. It might as well be today.’ She observed me, with quizzical amusement.
Off we went. A bit of fuss, a bit of a head shake. Then, suddenly, miraculously, everything shifted. I don’t know what it was, whether she had set me my final exam and I had passed, whether enough simple time has gone by for her to get used to having a new rider, whether I was unconsciously doing something different, but all resistance fled. She was floating over the ground, going so easily and sweetly that it felt as if we were dancing to a silent orchestra. Despite the screaming wind, she was as delightful and collected and responsive as if the schooling elves had been up in the night, getting her ready for a championship class.
I could hardly believe it. I laughed and whooped out loud.
‘You bloody brilliant horse,’ I yelled.
We picked up the little pony on the long line and went for a few laps of the field. Red did her adorable very, very slow canter, on a loose rein, with me riding her with only one hand, so her small friend could keep up on her short legs. She did her lightest, most floating, collected trot. I had to concentrate hard on Myfanwy, who has a tendency to stop dead in her tracks if she gets bored or ornery, with the danger that I am yanked from the saddle, and so had to trust in Red to go along kindly with very little direction from me.
She took her duty as lead horse very seriously indeed, and was so foot perfect that I could not find words for it. There in the bright wind, we loped about in a sweet herd formation, and I don’t know which of us had more fun.
I leapt off the mare and fell on her neck, covering her with congratulations. I was as delirious as if we had won the Derby. There’s been so much back and forth, two steps forward, one step back; now, something galvanic had shifted, and a whole new realm of pleasure unfolded itself.
We’ll have glitches and bad days and tussles; it won’t just be an unbroken prairie of loveliness, because she is a horse, and she carries all the equine mystery of the thoroughbred in her. But this was a very, very good day. Part of the reason I write all this is so I can look back and see it recorded, in black and white. It was the finest and best of days, and I must have her brilliance and goodness and beauty marked.
I wished, as I always wish, that she did speak English, so I could express to her just how clever she was and how happy she made me. But I think she knew, just a little. She did look extremely pleased with herself.
Then the wonderful barefoot trimmer came up to deal with Red’s feet. Immense improvement, marvellous hoof growth, increased strength, even better muscle and back strength. I felt idiotically proud. I was so giddy by this stage that I said: ‘Oh, she’s so clever, she even grows her hooves brilliantly.’ It was that kind of day.
Back at home, three of my favourite horses, Sir Prancealot, Sir Graham Wade and the exciting two-year-old filly Certify, won their races in fine style at Doncaster. I backed them all and my William Hill account blushed and bulged. All the equines were raining delight on me today. And up at Chester, Countrywide Flame, who won the Triumph Hurdle earlier this year at Cheltenham, had a go back on the flat, romping round in front with his ears pricked, as if to say: where are the jumps? He won like the bold, classy horse he is, and my cup ran over.
1193 words of book somehow got written, and, as if in benediction, the September sun is now dazzling the trees and grass and granite walls with amber.
I search about, as always, for a good final sentence. One must always end with a bang, not a whimper.
I don’t really have a good one. Just this: there are days when I feel grumpy, and days when I feel baffled, and days when I am lost in melancholy and regret. And then there are days when I feel very, very lucky. Today was one of those days.
The little pony, who can still post a pretty good canter, despite her age:
My championship girl:
My other supreme champion, with her stick:
Sniffing the wind:
Hoping that I shall stop arsing about and come in and give her a biscuit:
Blurry hill. The angle is still blocked by a large piece of farm machinery:
I hope you all have a fine Friday.