Sunday, 9 September 2012

Let’s hear it for the girls

There are people who won’t buy a mare. Mareish is the horrid insult that gets hurled about, meaning tricky, temperamental, hormonal. (Human females know only too well what it is to be accused of that.)

I think it’s all a load of buggery bollocks. It’s lazy prejudice and I’m not having it. Admittedly, there are also people who say that once you get a mare to love you, she will do anything for you in a way a gelding might not. This may also be fanciful, but as I stood in the field this morning with Red, I wondered if there might not be a spark of truth in it.

She continues in her most joyful state. The way she shows she is happy is not by skipping about, not by doing her circus tricks or kicking up her heels. When she is at her most profound bone-deep content, she goes very, very still. It is quite lovely, as if every atom in her mighty body is calm and at rest. She can twitch and fuss sometimes, shake her head, shift about. When the deep joy is in her, she is like the rock of ages.

It was, as it should be on a Sunday, our day of rest. I did no work with her, apart from a bit of ground tethering. (This is where you teach them to stand by dropping the rope on the ground. It’s a brilliantly useful tool, and Red, being immensely clever, has learnt it fast and well.) I was not planning to stay long, but she was so enchanting that I ended up standing with her for almost an hour. That was all we did, stand together in a field, as high, light clouds traced the blue sky, and the indigo mountain gazed down on us.

She leaned her head against my stomach, and I rested my chin on her forehead, and murmured to her. I find myself doing a kind of low, rhythmic hum; it is wordless and instinctive, as if I were crooning to a baby.

A lot of horses won’t do that. They don’t like to be attached to a human in that way; they don’t like to stand still for long periods. The small pony won’t do it. She likes being scratched on the top of her neck, or gentled under her forelock, but she does not do this close resting thing that her big red friend adores.

It’s a gift she gives me, this great mare. I get the oceanic feeling, of love, of communion, of not know where I begin and she ends.

Out in the world, the mares have been doing marvellous things this year. There was Snow Fairy yesterday, of course, waltzing home in Ireland; today, there was the imperious Mince, up against the colts, giving away weight, making it look easy, as she cast off the field and strolled home, all power and grace and balance and ease, breaking the course record for fun. The delightful Australians, Ortensia and Black Caviar, have given me joy; Izzi Top and Great Heavens have made me laugh and shout out loud. Other girls have given me delight: the classy Certify, the gutsy Prussian, the tough Show Flower, who won four on the trot earlier in the season. (And, of course, never forgetting the dear old Ducking Stool, with Shirley Teasdale up.)

It’s not that I don’t love the colts. Anyone who has put up with my endless adoring rambles about Frankel will know that. But there is something special about watching the dancing fillies. So I say: let’s hear it for the girls.


Today’s pictures have a faint inevitability about them. The love has taken over my shutter finger.


9 Sept 1

9 Sept 2

9 Sept 3

Red’s View:

9 Sept 8

9 Sept 8-001

9 Sept 8-002

It turns out that The Pigeon is not the only one who excels at blinky eyes:

9 Sept 9

9 Sept 10

9 Sept 10-001

With Myfanwy the Pony:

9 Sept 11

And, of course, the greatest girl of them all, The Divine Miss Pigeon. Doing Sphinx face:

9 Sept 14

(Actually that is really her I’m not falling asleep at all actually face. But sphinx sounds grander.)

Her ball face:

9 Sept 15

And her happy face:

9 Sept 15-001


  1. Would it be an imposition to ask what camera you use? Every time I look at your photographs, which is nearly daily, I think, "Yes. That's the kind of pictures I want to take." Your photographs, along with your essays, give me great pleasure. Of course, I do know that tools do not make the art, but I can hope . . . .

    1. Minnie - what a lovely thing to say. It's an Olympus PEN with a pretty powerful zoom lens. I find the lens makes a lot of difference. I also use Picasa software, which you can download for free from the net, and is brilliant for cropping and framing pictures. It also allows you to beef up the contrast and do black and white and sepia and all other kinds of amusing effects.

    2. Thanks so much for this information. I'll research this cam, lens, and Picasa further and see what can be done. Having used one of their compact "clamshell" models years ago, I am kindly disposed toward Olympus.

      I look forward to more of your evocative photos of The Hill, Red the Mare, Her View, Myfanwy the Pony, Woods, The Moss, The Lichen, and, of course, The Pigeon.

      Perhaps I'll soon be turning out sensitive shots of The Street Lamp, The Mailbox with Flag, Squirrel at the Bird Feeder, Mallards at the Gate, and an autumn series, Redbud Leaves Leaving.

  2. I've just done a big bingey blog catch up on what you have been writing. I am sad for the loss of a great man(and am thinking of all those who loved him), cheered by the gentleman with the natural seat and always mesmerised by your writing.

    I just wanted to let you know that when I feel I am losing myself your writing often brings me back and I love your blog for that. I think it is because you are a wonderful writer but also because you have such a lovely way of seeing the world. So thank you.

    1. Siobhan - that is the very kindest thing to say. I am absurdly touched. Thank you.

  3. Oh, those blinky eyes! I adore your gorgeous girls.

    Your photos are stunning x

    1. Em - thought you might appreciate the blinky eyes. :)

  4. You're so right. People do speak a load of buggery bollocks about mares and they are -- to be perfectly colloquial and Southern Californian about it -- full of shit. I love her blinky eyes, her quietness, her beauty, and that you have *that* relationship. You know that some people never understand their animals.(And I feel terribly sorry for them).
    In other news, I have been profoundly, hideously absent from blog reading, so this is the first thing I've read of yours in months. My apologies and my love to you. xx

    1. Miss W - how absolutely lovely to hear from you. Always think of you and yr spotteds and handsome equine all the way across the ocean. So interesting about the understanding thing. I was not quite expecting that it would be my highest priority. The riding is delightful, but the thing that brings me most joy is unravelling, day by day, the horsey mysteries in Red's dear old head. She is the book I take down and slowly read. x


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


Blog Widget by LinkWithin