Tuesday, 4 September 2012

In which I do not wade into controversy

If you had been somewhere near a northern Scottish field today, where the swallows still fly in the shadow of an indigo blue mountain, you would have seen a slightly wild-eyed woman on a chestnut mare, riding one-handed, whilst leading a small, rather rotund grey pony. You would have seen trotting and turning and cantering; you would have heard the sound of whooping.

That nutty woman was me.

(Actually, it should really be that nutty woman was I. No one uses this rule any more. If Hamlet were alive today, he would have to say: ‘It is me, Hamlet the Dane,’ instead of ‘It is I, Hamlet the Dane.’ You see how much better the second one sounds, quite aside from being grammatically correct. But now, if you answer the telephone and say ‘It is I’ you just sound nuts in the head.)

Myfanwy the Pony is on a strict regime to get the fat off; I decided the best exercise was to lead her from Red. Leading  is not always straightforward. There was one moment when the pony planted herself and almost jerked me out of the saddle. But I persisted, and by the end, the two equines were running together like wild horses, in perfect harmony. Red very much liked her job as lead horse, and it had an oddly settling effect on her. I find more and more that she is happiest when she has a good task to do. (Actually, she is really happiest when I am doting on her and massaging citronella balm into her head, but I don’t mention that, because it sounds too dopey.) The whole thing made me so happy that I let out crazed rebel whoops of joy.

Then back to work, back to reality. I am all fired up for my back to school, start of term, new project. But my mind is not yet match-fit, and I get distracted and am on stop-start. I want to translate the easy rhythms I find in my riding to my daily word count, and it’s not quite there yet. I have taken on one or two outside projects and need to make a strict timetable and work out boxes of concentration. I know women are supposed to multi-task like breathing out and breathing in, but I find it difficult to think of more than one thing at once. I get mazy and confused and have to drink a lot of strong coffee to function at all.

In this vein, I had a whole serious, even philosophical post ready to go before breakfast. Someone made me cross on the Today programme, and I was all fired up to wade into controversy. (It was to do with rights, and homosexuality, and the Bible, and the peculiarities of religion.) I was going to go back to first principles and everything. But late in the day, by the time I got to sit down and type, my brain had been too stretched and pummelled by all those different kinds of thinking, and my body was physically exhausted from horse work, so I ended up just telling you about me and Red and the pony. It was incredibly sweet, the little trundling grey person sticking out her head and keeping up with her big red friend, who went in the most gentle, collected canter, even on a loose rein, as if conscious that her companion had much, much shorter legs.

Then I think: perhaps you do not need controversy and first principles. You all know what you think about the big affairs of the day. You understand morality and the thorny thickets of ethics and relativism. You are highly intelligent readers. You do not need me banging on. Perhaps a little, irrelevant snapshot of a day in a life is what this is all about, not rantings and putting down markers.

I shall, however, as soon as my brain is straight, be investigating the strangeness that is Mitt Romney. And if I get very excited, I might throw in a bit of Paul Ryan for afters.


Today’s pictures:

4 Sept 1

4 Sept 2

Red’s western view was impossible to photograph because of the evening sun:

4 Sept 6

This is what she sees looking east:

4 Sept 8

The farmer is finally able to get the harvest in. She watches this with fascination:

4 Sept 9

And then gets the wind in her tail and takes off:

4 Sept 10-001

You can see the gales blowing at her mane and tail. I had wondered what effect a full gale would have on her. The answer is quite a nutty one. It made me laugh:

4 Sept 8-001

But then she and her good companion settled:

4 Sept 10

Just as if butter would not melt in their mouths; as if they had not been charging about like circus tricks only moments before.

The Pigeon and I played with the ball, and she looked glorious in the evening light:

4 Sept 12

But someone has parked a bloody great DIGGER in front of my hill, so I could only capture it through the trees:

4 Sept 20


  1. I'm agreeing with you on lots of things. Everyone would like citronella balm or any balm being rubbed in and yes Mitt Romney is strange - very strange!

    1. Mystica - so glad you like the idea of the special balm. :)

  2. I think you are blessed to be way up "there", out in glorious nature with wild and beautiful creatures...
    Visiting family, I have allowed myself to become immersed in American politics. (It is very hard NOT to shout at the television set.) Just about the only saving grace are the satirical programs and commentaries about the whole stinking mess (and it IS stinking and messy!).
    Glad to be coming back to Belgium where someone recently said the prime minister looks like a circus performer (with his ever-present bow ties & broad, silly grin).

    1. Pat - now am filled with fascination about the Belgian circus performer, of whose existence I was woefully ignorant. This is why I love the Dear Readers.

  3. You completely validate my belief that getting wrapped up in politics is pointless... because when faced with a blog whose topics could include horse, pony, dog, Scotland, and politics, politics is the first thing to be dropped from the list.

    It is I, Marcheline, with a big rebel whoop from Long Island!

  4. You asked for a progress report on my riding lessons a while ago, Tania, and I suppose I have some progress to report, but only just. Until April this year I hadn't been in the saddle since a touristy hour-long ride over the Camargue in a string of white ponies led and herded by a proper Camargue cowboy, through rice paddies, and along sandy tracks between them. This will have been in about 1992, as the Infant Phenomenon who was my daughter as a child was also riding. She'd only been having lessons about a year, but managed OK, though nervous at not being given a hat. I would have been 35 in 1992. Which makes me exceedingly old, wise and creaky now.

    Pleased to say I can now get on and off without getting stuck halfway. My legs and pelvis are relaxing and some muscles are strengthening, my teacher tells me, but you'd never know it to look at them. Apparently my core strength has improved. I am just starting to learn how to steer with my legs as well as with by opening the rein. Last week I learnt how to get the horse to step backwards and turn moving hind legs only, though I can't remember the technical term for this. I can also do a rising trot with my feet out of the stirrups, though when this concept was first put to me my mind could not fathom it. Computer says NO! But hey! it can be done.

    I am not terrified all the time any more and this has helped my muscles to relax. Some lessons I enjoy all the way through. I have yet to be allowed to trot without the bridle being held by the teacher running alongside, and cantering seems aeons off, although I used to hack with the village "riding school" as a pre-teen and canter and even gallop when riding out. I use the term riding school loosely and ironically as until this year no-one properly taught me anything and I had no technical ability beyond being able to stay on and not giving up if I fell off.

    So that's how far I have come after 30 minutes' tuition a week for four months. I have ridden three different geldings in that time, most recently two Welsh Cobs of about 15 hands. It feels a long way down to the ground still, though perhaps it always should feel like that. After all, it IS. So one doesn't want to make the journey by the quickest route, ideally...


    1. Goldenoldenlady - thank you so, so much. How lovely of you to remember. But excuse me, rising trot with no irons? Am in AWE. My legs are not nearly that strong. I take all my hats off. Seriously.

      One of the things I have remembered, coming back to riding after so long, is the importance of the shoulders. I'm sure your brilliant teacher tells you this. But if you want to do one thing to improve your position, open your shoulders. I do this by rolling them round or even wildly cartwheeling my entire arms, slightly to Red's surprise. It suddenly gives you all your back muscles and puts your bottom in the exact right place. Hard to describe the effect, but do try it.

      Also, if you feel freaked out try laughing, comically deep breathing, or even singing. If Red is doing her circus act, I laugh at her or sing her The Rhythm of Life. Amazingly effective for doubt or nerves.

      Thank you so much for telling me this. Keep us all updated. :)

    2. In my initial lessons my teacher had me doing a lot of stretches and windmilling of the arms. She also realised I had a tendency to hold my breath when nervous, and says the horse knows when one is doing this (how? Telepathy?) so she yells out BREATHE! As for singing, I trained in classical voice and opera when younger and even now it can come out a bit Wagnerian, starling for all concerned. A Valkyrie on Horseback has my mind thoroughly boggled. My teacher likes me to natter and gossip when walking circuits and tighter circles as that means I am breathing regularly. She is a dear girl, and nice to chat with, so the lesson is social as well as learning a new skill. All one could want from a physical hobby; excercise, technique and chumminess. I want to take it as far as I can, so will keep you posted from time to time.


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