Monday, 22 April 2013

The small things, internet edition.

There was something very important and serious and to do with the world that I was going to tell you, and now I can’t remember what it is.

(Picture me now screwing up my face and squinting at the screen and trying to pummel my brain into action. Stanley the Dog looks slightly astonished.)

As it is, I do my morning’s work for HorseBack UK, and then settle to my desk to do my paid work, and once that is over, I start thinking about going down to the field for evening stables and that’s about all I’m capable of. I do wonder sometimes about those people who do three jobs and bring up a family and do good works and, oh I don’t know, make a garden or are brilliant at housekeeping. As always: awe and wonder.

Oh wait, I know what it was. It was about the lovely serendipitous things which happen on the internet. I bang this drum quite a lot, since the only publicity the internet gets is how wild and ghastly and untamed it is, filled with people who threw away the edit button. In this version of events, it is peopled with brutish trolls and shameless self-publicists, and everyone should just shut off those horrid social networks and read an improving book.

I’ve never believed that. It’s just that the trollish tendency are those who make the most hullabaloo. I like looking at the light side, and there is so much light. Not only is there kindness and generosity and support, but there are delightful stories, which make one smile. It might not be building the Hadron Collider, but bringing a shaft of sunlight into a stranger’s day is not nothing. (It goes back to my theory about the small things.)

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about the wonderful Rebecca Curtis. In it, I mentioned the brilliant Lucinda Rusell, who trains in Scotland and whose horses I follow closely. In reply, I got this, from one of the Dear Readers:

‘I am lucky enough to own a former Lucinda Russell racehorse. He's a total pipe and slippers chap - I can quite see why he didn't make it on the track - he'd be far too polite. I can actually imagine him saying “No, after you dear chap, you go ahead of me since you're in a hurry.”

‘He and I get along brilliantly together - not least because I was never meant to be a winner either and fortunately am not burdened by a competitive spirit. Indeed - if he and I do a 16 fault showjumping round, I will still come out of the ring rejoicing because “did you see the way he jumped the water tray? He was wonderful!”’

I love this for several reasons. One is that I keenly identify with the thing about jumping the water tray. Yesterday morning, I fell on my mare’s neck in delight when she took three steps backwards off a soft cue. (In the kind of training I’m doing, the crest and peak is when you can ask a horse to do something almost by just thinking it. The merest flick of the eyes, a tiny movement of the finger, a shift in the body, and they respond. The softer the cue, the better you are doing.)

Two is that I now have a new equine gent in my head, with his politeness and his after you and his pipe and slippers.

Three is that whenever I hear a success story involving an ex-racehorse, I want to hang out more flags. One of the hobby horses on which I gallop about is my loathing of the prejudice against thoroughbreds in general and racehorses in particular. Nuts in the head, people say, as if they know every single equine who ever touched a racecourse; can’t do a thing with them.

I’ve never understood this, since racing horses, from as young as the age of two, put up with astonishing things that the doziest old cob might spook at. They are clapped and roared by huge crowds; they travel routinely to strange places where jockeys they’ve never met sit on their backs; they are welcomed back into the winner’s enclosure with flapping flags and swelling crowds and even the fanfare of trumpets, in the big races. The flat ones are loaded into starting stalls which could have been designed to go against every single instinct of a flight animal. Every time I watch a race I marvel that such wildness and speed should be combined with such graceful fortitude.

And four is that my secret dream is to adopt one of Lucinda Russell’s ex-racing horses myself. Late at night, I wander over to her website and see what she has available for rehoming. Of course, I have my hands and field full with Red the Mare and her two girls, so it’s not practical just now. But in my dreams, I have four paddocks filled with spring-heeled thoroughbreds, all impeccably mannered after their start in the Russell yard, dreaming of their former glories at Ayr and Cheltenham and Perth. The fact that one of the Dear Readers has put this dream into reality gives me more pleasure than I can say.

Actually, after all that, it wasn’t that important and serious, what I had to tell you. It was just charming and pleasing; a small thing which cast a long shadow of delight. But it is those small things of which ordinary, good lives are made. Perhaps that is quite important, after all.


Today’s pictures:

HorseBack UK morning:

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This fella is quite new. He’s called Mikey, and he has ambled his way into my heart:

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Back at home, there are THE FIRST DAFFS:

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Stanley the Dog is still celebrating the coming of spring with a very large stick:

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Myfanwy the Pony enjoying her breakfast:

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The girlfriends:

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Usually I like to put up pictures of Red looking incredibly beautiful. But I love this dozy old donkey face, and especially today, as it shows how relaxed and dear an ex-racing mare can be:

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Little bit more demure in this one, despite half a bale of hay hanging out of her mouth:

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Tired after a long day, and I am convinced this post shall be littered with spelling mistakes. Forgive.


  1. Lovely, lovely post - I love horses when they have hay hanging out of their mouth like that... I agree about the internet. It's no different from the real world, there are nice people and not-so-nice people but I love the way your corner has become a little pocket of niceness (sorry, horrible word but can't think of a better right now), Also the account of your father's memorial tree-planting was wonderful - Rachel

  2. Second the 'your corner has become a little pocket of niceness.'

    Was that a Kaffee Fassett sweater coat in yesterday's photo of The Sister and The Aunt??

    Lee in Iowa

  3. Do you have a "thing" for that particular shade of "red"? (Notice Mikey, Stanley AND Red all appear to be pretty much the same color...or maybe it's just my eyesight?)


  4. You have no idea how unbelievably delighted I am to have my comment highlighted in this post - what a treat!

    Everything you say about ex-racers is true - I rode my boy out on a windy day last week and we came to the most monstrous hedge with streams of black plastic flapping from it. He took a good look and certainly wasn't impressed, but he carried me past the scary dragons in safety and I was massively impressed with his courage.

    Not being the bravest rider in the world, I never expected to have Thoroughbreds, let alone ex-racers, but I actually have two. My other boy did win a few (low-level) races but then injured a tendon and retired from the track. He's fully recovered now and a nicer chap you'd travel far to meet.

    With the two boys I've done Endurance, showjumping, cross-country, dressage, miles of happy hacking, rides on the beach - you name it. The competitive stuff was all low level - but that's due to my abilities rather than theirs.

  5. In my book, lumping a group of people, animals, or experiences all together and pronouncing judgement is to miss the point entirely. Every living thing is made up of its own special combination of traits, and should be experienced and enjoyed, or not, individually - according to its own merit.


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