Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A day of two halves; or, the perspective police read me my rights

The morning started badly. It was an ugly, brown day, everything dour and muddy and blank. The mare seemed in a fairly decent mood, but once I was up on her she decided to be mulish and difficult, spooking and mucking about. Even though I know well that horses are horses, they are not naughty or wicked but just doing their horsey thing, even though I know that the faults come from me, I felt furious and frustrated and took it all horribly personally. We had a disastrous ride, redeemed only by the fact that I bashed on and bashed on, until there was the glimmer of hope.

I felt my confidence falter, and had to concentrate incredibly hard to bring it back. My last act was to walk Red past the spot where the ragged spook happened, with no reins, with my arms in the air to convince myself that all would be well. Finally, she relaxed and went forward sweetly, so we could end on the good note. You must always end on a good note.

I know that we have not been together long, and that I am asking her to embrace an entirely new life, radically different from the one she was used to. She is so good and offers me so much joy. But on days when everything goes wrong, it is easy to forget all that. I have to dig deep into my reserves, and sometimes they feel a bit sketchy. This is character building, I say to myself. Nothing worth doing in life is ever easy.

In the same way, sometimes when I write, everything falls apart. I can hardly remember how to construct a sentence, all the adjectives are the wrong ones, my rhythm falters, just as it did in the field today, and my prose falls dead and leaden onto the page.

I get the exact same feeling of humiliation and failure. The danger is that then the extrapolation express takes over, roaring down the track like a freight train out of control. It’s not just one bad ride, or one rotten writing day, it’s that I am clearly pointless and feckless and useless. There is no health in me and I might as well give it all up and breed goats. (I’m not sure why it is always goats, but that seems to be my default failure option.)

Then I pulled myself together and went up to HorseBack, for my weekly visit. I am doing quite a lot of work for them just now, in a proper and meaningful way. (Sometimes I feel I just go up there and meet remarkable people and charming horses and hear fascinating stories and the benefit is all on my side.) As always, apart from the fact that it always soothes me because everyone is so funny and nice, I get the excellent corrective of talking to actual humans who have actually been blown up.

In the American elections at the moment, thoughtful commentators like Rachel Maddow are complaining that the war in Afghanistan hardly gets mentioned, as if the eleven-year-old conflict does not exist, as if both the populace and the politicians would almost like to forget about it. It strikes me that many people incline not to mention the war, as if they were in an old episode of Fawlty Towers; they especially do not want to see the consequences. Soldiers coming home without legs is just too difficult to contemplate.

This is understandable. It is common instinct to shy away from the more inexplicable, gnarly aspects of life. Let us paint over the cracks and carry on. I like HorseBack not just because of the brilliant work it does, but because it allows me to face reality. There is the authenticity; this is the thing that has in fact happened. I may not put my dizzy head in any convenient sand. It is salutary, and a keen privilege. It brings me perspective, and reminds me of the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

So, as I get back to my desk and return to work, I think, of my frustrating start to the day: it was just one bad ride. Everything is not crashed and broken and sullied. It really does not have to mean I am a hopeless person who should not be let out in public. I can butch up and take it on the chin.

Tomorrow, I shall ride better. Who knows? I might even write a dazzling sentence. But even if I do not, it shall not be the end of the world.

Today’s pictures:

HorseBack, junior division:

23 Oct 1

No courses today, so just gentle work with the horses:

23 Oct 2

Yawning competition:

23 Oct 3


23 Oct 4

Coming in from the field:

23 Oct 7

23 Oct 8

The lovely equines:

23 Oct 5

23 Oct 6

The dreich, looking south:

23 Oct 10

23 Oct 11

At home in the garden, some autumn colour and a brief glimmer of light:

23 Oct 11-001

23 Oct 12

23 Oct 13

23 Oct 14

My herd:

23 Oct 15

23 Oct 17

23 Oct 18

Yeah, yeah. That butter would not melt in your mouth look is not fooling anyone.

THE GOOD NEWS is that The Pigeon has bounced back from her operation like a Trojan. A polyp an inch big was removed from her ear, she had a general anaesthetic, and she is running about like a puppy. There is still a biopsy to come, but I am hopeful. She is so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed:

23 Oct 20

23 Oct 21

Oh, that beauty.

No hill today; hidden in the cloud.


  1. So very much better for the psyche, I always feel, to be forced back into the great swirl of humanity, especially when one least wants to. Saves me every time.

    And if that fails, there is always the dog. Yours is rather special in that regard I suspect. My own latest model is dear enough, but also has psychopathic heartless assassin tendencies.

  2. Hi Tania -

    LOVE the HorseBack UK pictures - they are great! And so good to hear that Pigeon is doing well after her surgery. Fingers crossed for her! Best, Kate

  3. I am thrilled that the Beautiful Pidge is bouncing around like a puppy again. Any further news WILL be good.

    Think the pics of the yawning couple followed by the love are wonderful. Did they know you were photographing them?

  4. Thank heavens the Pidge is fine. She is timeless.



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