Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Two sweet things; or, a horse story and a dog story

Warning for length, horsiness, and dogginess.


The snow came again quite seriously, falling with intent all morning. I defy weather, and I had work to do, so out into the white I went, with my faithful fellow by my side.

The work was not with the mare, who has reached such a pitch of perfection that all I have to do is ten minutes of easy drill to keep her on an even keel. I had some thoughts of riding her over the winter, but the weather is too much; either thick snow like now, or hard frost, or bottomless mud. I love the groundwork so much that I don’t mind. I’m going to let her down, and get all the polo out of her system, and encourage all those hard muscles to relax, and then bring her back in the spring.

She thinks this is a tremendous plan, and is as happy and calm as I have ever seen her.

No, the work was not with my highly-bred duchess, but with the little Welsh mountain person. Myfanwy had apparently developed a princess complex whilst I was away, and was refusing to be caught. The Barefoot Trimmer came and could not even do her hooves, because she was romping round the field with her head in the air and that was that.

One of the things I am very firm on with my horses is manners, and biddability. I am gentle with them, but there are lines they may not cross. This makes them feel safe and secure, since, just like small children, they know where the boundaries lie; it also means they are a pleasure to work with. When the hoof goes over those lines, back to basics we go.

So, this morning, I decided to take the pony back to join-up. It’s quite hard doing this in a big field; generally it’s done in a small, round pen. When I first did it with the mare it took almost an hour, and I blessed every cussed bone in my body, the ones that do not allow me to give up. The little pony had got quite fat over the summer, and we had to put her on a regime, which is just now bearing fruit. Still, she is not exactly a greyhound. But as I sent her away, she raced over the snowy ground like a racehorse, belly to the ground, her little legs going like the clappers, her jaw set in a determined line.

This is really not going to work, said the defeatist voice in my head. Keep buggering on, said the stubborn voice, which will not be denied.

Off she went, off I stomped, keeping her moving, as if this was all my idea. After about twenty minutes, she was still full of running, and my dander was starting to droop. But then she did the thing of flicking her ear towards me, and she slowed down, and started looking at me, and I went very calm and still until she came to my side. And suddenly, there we were, together, and she was walking at my shoulder, turning in figures of eight, stopping when I stopped, connected, miraculously, by that invisible thread of communion. I had got her back.

I am not ashamed to say that I raised my arms in triumph like a boxer after an impossible bout. The pony, who loves it when she does a job well, looked inordinately pleased with herself. I covered her in congratulations. Red the Mare, watching, did a stately slow-motion buck, as if to say: hey, Spanish Riding School of Vienna over here, just in case you’re interested.

Small animal triumphs are keenly sweet to me. I felt as happy and fulfilled as if I had written a prize-winning book.

Still flushed with delight, I suddenly heard a wild shout. The kind Sister had taken Stanley the Lurcher for a short walk whilst I was working with the horses. We thought it a good idea for him to get to know the family. She was putting him back in the car, taking his lead off, when he suddenly leapt out and ran away. We are at least a quarter of a mile from a road, but even so. The strict lead on at all times rule is in force, because he is a rescue, and still does not know this place, and I’m not taking any chances. I do not know yet how good his recall is, or if he might get disoriented and not find his way back to me.

I ran, horrid imaginings chasing themselves through my head. All that trust the good rescue people had put in me, and look what had happened. I shouted and shouted his name, more in desperation than hope. And then, suddenly, there was a flash of red brindle against the snow, and there he was, galloping towards me at full pelt, his face filled with delight. He came back.

I cannot tell you how proud of him I was. He is number one top miracle dog and I cannot believe his goodness and cleverness.

Once we got over the shock, we worked out that he had been perhaps having a little separation anxiety, and was heading back to the house to try and find me. When he heard my voice, he dashed back the other way. There was a discernible look of flooding relief on his face when he saw me.

‘That is going to be a one-woman dog,’ said The Sister, in admiration.

Well, we learnt that lesson, and all contingencies are now in place. But oh, oh, my good, brilliant creatures. I could not be more impressed and proud.

Filled with joy, I went home and settled Stanley the Genius on his bed and wrote 967 words of book. So it really was a good day.

As I sat down to write this, a rather rarefied and elegant invitation dropped into my inbox. I don’t get that many invitations these days, but this one was a dilly. Metropolitan, and chic, and quite unexpected. I had to write with regret that I should not be getting out my best frock and putting on my party shoes, because I should be in the snowy north, stomping about a muddy field in my gumboots, with literal and metaphorical straw in my hair.

Instead of making cocktail conversation with The Interesting People I shall be going into transports over the antics of a small, woolly mountain pony, and a lost mutt of a dog. It’s funny how much my life has changed since those old urban days when the party shoes were on practically every night.

I would not swap one inch of it.


Today’s pictures:

4 Dec 1

4 Dec 2

4 Dec 3

4 Dec 4

4 Dec 4-001

4 Dec 5

4 Dec 7

4 Dec 8

4 Dec 8-001

4 Dec 10

Stanley the Lurcher, in action:

4 Dec 11

There is still a slightly questing, uncertain look in those lovely eyes. It will go, the surer he becomes of his new place and his new human:

4 Dec 12

With The Sister, in her very smart red boots:

4 Dec 13

The happy little herd, all rugged up against the snow:

4 Dec 16

4 Dec 17

The hill, lost in the snow:

4 Dec 20

We haven’t had the Pigeon for a couple of days. I always remember loving it when I took pictures of her in a low light, and her black fur turned dark blue. I miss that face very much still:

4 Dec 22


  1. Please don't swap it Tania, your readers would be bereft. Lovely pony story - I have a huge soft spot for Myfanwy as she seems such a character. Stanley's return made me weepy. And the photos are beautiful, Rachel

  2. I loved today's blog & can just picture Stanley tearing back to you relieved that he hadn't lost you. Many years ago I took one of our rescue dogs out for a walk the day after we got her. When I let her off the lead whilst walking along a disused railway line (which is now part of the M25 would you believe) she took off & I followed praying she would stop before she got to the nearest road. She galloped up the lane & then stopped outside the gate to our garden & sat down & waited for me to catch up & then couldnt wait to get back into the house. I realised then that it was far too soon to take her too far from her new home, she wasn't ready - she too had been back & forth to a couple of homes before we got her. She turned out to be the most wondeful dog & she never ran away again - in fact she was a dream to walk - if she lost sight of us or went too far ahead she would come back to check we were following. Her name was Tara & she was a collie crossed with (we think) springer spaniel. My mother & I still talk about her now, she was so special and clever & loving. And I am sure Stanley is going to be special & clever & loving too.

  3. Oh, Stanley's face! Love that he is a one-woman dog.
    Myfanwy makes me laugh. We know a little pony very similar in character to her, I think. Very naughty and so funny.

    Lovely pictures of the snow. And the Darling Pigeon.

  4. Such beautiful photographs...they took my breath away. So happy for the triumphs.

  5. I haven't been near a blog - any blog - for more than a year, and today I ventured back to you (where it all began for me) and I found myself, saying: 'Oh, no. Oh, no!... x 5 (and in a slightly more panicky way) until I got to the beautiful Pigeon and it was all confirmed.

    How extraordinary that in times of so much loss everywhere, it is a picture of your perfect Pigeon that has me in floods. Darling dog.

  6. Love the metaphorical straw in your hair. Clever Stanley, what a good boy. I'm fascinated by the pony tale, as I know very little about equines; I can clearly see the link between you though, and how lovely it is to behold.

  7. You know what, I wouldn't trade my life for anything (well, except maybe yours)... but I could do with a bit of a reason to put on party shoes just once in a while. *wistful sigh*


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