The harvest is coming in and suddenly I have acres of heavenly stubble over which to roam free. Stubble is perhaps my favourite riding surface, and horses seem to love it too. We have been schooling in the field lately, on account of there being cows in the hayfields, so when I first took the mare out she decided the whole thing was a theatrical event. Trees! Mysterious shiny objects! Shafts of sunlight! Crazy birds!
Luckily, it makes me roar with laughter when she does cartoon jumps in the air at the sight of young pheasants running for cover, and she soon gives up her operatics as a bad job. Actually, operatics is not a good word. She really does get properly nervous in new situations, and I have to settle and reassure her. Once she truly believes me when I tell her there are no mountain lions, and that I shall be on strict predator watch, she settles herself and goes like a dream.
She even takes it in good grace when I tease her about the crazy birds, and the jumpiness.
And then, we are out in the wide golden stubble, and suddenly all is joy and wonder. She floats over the ground, as light as air; she knows exactly where I want her to go before I even tell her. The merest amount of leg, a slight shift of the body, a touch of the rein on her neck, and she turns sweetly. I hadn’t realised how used I had got to a polo pony until I rode a horse the other day that does not know what neck-reining means. It’s one of the greatest luxuries in riding: you can take them out on a loose rein, using only one hand, and they will turn on a sixpence, utterly responsive, perfectly balanced.
It was as if these past six months, of schooling and groundwork and effort, suddenly come together in one great dividend. She is settled and happy and willing in her work. Everything falls into place. There is no barrier between us, no doubt, no hesitation. She raises her head to the hills and takes in the view, her ears pricked, every atom in her body telling me she is filled with interest and delight. When you are moving like that on a horse, there is no feeling in the world like it.
The sun scuds in and out of the clouds, the mountains are clothed in stately blue and green, the swallows are doing their mass Spitfire act over our heads, as they gear their muscles up for the long haul to Africa. I feel indescribably blessed.
Back at my desk, all I can do is dream of this great ride, easily the best we have done so far. I frown and attempt to be organised and get on with my work, but find myself sneaking back to the internet, drawn by anything to do with the Thoroughbred. Of course Red is a very special horse indeed, and there is no one like her, but she does advertise the best of her breed. I find again the lazy prejudices against the ‘TB’ as internet people call them. I start to get grumpy and vaguely resentful. I want to start a page or write a book or put up damn posters expressing my profound love of the breed. They combine beauty, grace, strength, speed and great, brave, honest hearts in a way very few other horses do. When you have the great good fortune to ride one at speed, it feels like you are flying.
There must be work, and concentration, and seriousness. I have all kinds of projects that need my sincere attention. But just now I am like a lovesick teenager, dreaming and dreaming of my beautiful girl.
PS. I know I have been rashly promising recipes and other non-horse stuff. It shall come, very soon. There shall be chicken noodle soup and Mitt Romney (getting odder by the day) and, just to keep you on your toes, Salman Rushdie. Really.
This is what we saw on our ride this morning:
You do see why I get a bit carried away about it all.
The absolute heroine, relaxing in her field:
Luckily, the Pigeon found an absolutely enormous stick:
And yearningly requested that I throw it for her:
The hill shall return soon.