It is moving day. The small herd is going down to the new winter quarters. I get up at six, and meet the Horse Talker and her entire family, who have come to help, in the pale blue of dawn. A new moon is hovering in the sky like a silver promise and one last star glimmers beside it. I feel suddenly powerfully nostalgic for Red’s View, which we shall not see again until the spring. The beautiful mountain has watched over us so well.
There are a few loading glitches. In the end, Myfanwy the Pony has to show the posh girls how to do it. Red decides that a trailer is a very alarming place. She is used to travelling in a big lorry, with a wide ramp; this small space is not at all what she ordered. For a moment, I think all is lost. But patience, patience, one tiny step at a time - with a lot of reassurance and love, and the Pony Whisperer hopefully shaking the green bucket with the nuts in it – and suddenly, my duchess decides that she will graciously consent, and into the trailer she steps. She looks around for her small friend, who clops up into the next door stall, and off we go.
Down at the new field, Red walks down the ramp, her head high, every atom in her body gathered for novelty. She is on full predator alert. As I let her go, I expect her to explode round the field, but instead she makes off in her collected, floating trot. It is the small pony who decides it is her job to take the lead in beating the bounds, and she breaks into her roly-poly canter, with my mare following dutifully in her wake, as they inspect their new home.
‘Perhaps Myfanwy is the leader now,’ says the Pony Whisperer, thoughtfully. We ponder herd dynamics for a moment, and then go back to get Autumn the Filly, who had been most disconcerted to see us go without her.
When we bring her down, and open the trailer, Red rushes to the gate and lets out a high, plaintive neigh, as if shouting Where have you been? I find this very touching. She has bossed and dominated the filly since the moment she arrived; I had not really taken in that they had, in fact, become friends.
Once they are all together, we again expect fireworks, a bit of bronco action, some violent reaction to the move. Instead, they touch noses and fall to grazing, as if they have lived there all their lives. The Horse Talker laughs. ‘Come on,’ she says. ‘Where is the drama?’
I do errands. I go to the shops for my mother, I visit the chemist and the newsagent, I even take my library books back. I take this as a very Good Sign. A defining mark of keeping my life on track is whether I get the library books back on time.
I go back to the field, to check the horses. Red lifts her head and lets out the same wild, calling neigh that she did for the filly. She has never done that before. She whickers sometimes when she sees me, but she never shouts. I go in and stand with her and let her rest her head on my shoulder and gentle her soft neck. I feel all the love.
The new quarters are lovely, quite different from the flinging beauty of Red’s View. They are in a natural bowl, surrounded by thick forest and a hill to the north, and a high stone wall to the south. Everything is very quiet, and very still. There is no wind coming off the mountain, and no people coming and going. It feels like a hidden magical place, and we are lucky to have it. The most lovely thing is that it is three minutes’ walk from my front door. I no longer have to get in the car, doing the routine of morning and evening stables; I can go and see them whenever I want. This feels like extravagant luxury, and very good for the poor bashed heart. The horse love will see me through.
I go and look at what is in prospect for the day’s racing. The jumps are getting back into their stride, and I see lots of old friends, coming back after their summer off. There is my darling Overturn, whom I love as if he were mine, and the exciting talent of Balder Succes, and dear old Tamarinbleu, having his last season at the age of twelve. He was glorious on his day, and I put a sentimental couple of quid on him each way at 25-1, for love, for old times’ sake.
It is ten past one, and I have cried twice today for my dog. But the amazing thing is that as I write this, as I think of the new quarters, the mare just down the road, the lovely leaping horses that I shall welcome back this afternoon as I watch the races on the television, I feel actual pleasure and excitement. That’s the moment when I know it shall be all right.
The thing I fear is when grief paints everything; when each day is pulled down by the tugging memories and the ache of loss. It’s why I have been banging on about searching for the One Good Thing. I can do the pain if there is some pleasure too. Until now, that has been artificial; I have been searching for it, trying to cut it from whole cloth.
Today, it came organically. It was real. I’ll cry again before the day is through, but I shall also smile. I shall shout for lovely Overturn on his chasing debut. He’s been such a hero over the hurdles and on the flat; the thrill of watching him go over fences shall be intense. I shall miss the barking Pigeon, leaping up and down as she always does for the races. But I shall feel the joy of the glorious sight too. As long as the two can exist together, then I am all right.
Too many pictures to sort through, as I have to concentrate on the racing now, so here are just two for the moment:
Pigeon, from the archive: