Friday, 31 May 2013

Oaks Day

It’s Oaks Day, so I am in a state of high excitement. There is a filly I absolutely love called Secret Gesture, and I am hoping that she will cruise round the testing corners and undulations of Epsom and soar to glory. She was wonderfully impressive last time out, but this is the fillies’ classic and she is up against the best of her generation and there is never any guarantee that a horse will handle this idiosyncratic track. Still, she is the girl for me, no question about it.

I raced through my work this morning. For once, my time management worked. (At this point you must imagine me falling off my chair.) I took the car to the garage, gave Red a pick of the new lush grass that is growing in the field beyond her paddock, discussed the racing with my mother, walked Stanley the Dog, took photographs of the sheep (very important), went up to HorseBack and did my daily work for them, wrote 979 new words of book.

Now I write this, and then THAT IS IT. I’m off for the afternoon. I shall be watching the fascinating racing at Epsom, with my heart pounding. That is my Friday plan.

So there are mostly photographs for you today. It was the most ravishing morning. Dear old Scotland put on her pomp for us, and the Horse Talker and I were so overcome by the weather that we met each other at the paddock dressed identically in white linen. So sensible when one is working with horses. But the sunshine must be saluted.

The sheep were particularly enchanting, as you shall see. I love them. Mr Stanley the Dog gets five gold stars because he has completely accepted that they are not for him, and rests quietly on his lead, not barking or straining or making alarming faces at them, so that they stay gently at rest as we watch them. It was a bit of a moment, really.

Today’s pictures:

A very lovely new horse has arrived at HorseBack. He is called Fantastic Mr Fox:

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Here he is, relaxing into his new home, with his owner, HorseBack’s Jess March. On the right is Scott Meenagh with his dear canine, Jura the Puppy, and the majestic Deeside hills in the background:

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Back at home, everything is green as green:

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The sheep are resting graciously in the shade:

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There are random leaves, because there must always be random leaves:

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Coos have come to stay with the sheep, and are settling down nicely:

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This fella was my absolute favourite. Stanley and I were standing very close to him, but he was not afeared. Note the watchful mother in the background:

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More coos:

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The blossom is really finally blossoming. We’ve waited a long time for it this year:

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A very grand lady indeed:

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Cow parsley:

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My favourite chap again:

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The old oak plantation:

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The oaks are always the last to come into leaf, but it still amazes me that it is almost June and they remain bare:

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View to the south-east:

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This was taken by the Remarkable Trainer yesterday. We were teaching Red to jump. She ran on the flat and did polo so we think she has probably never seen a jump before. From the way she did it, we are pretty sure she has not. First of all there was a mighty leap, even though the tree trunk was hardly more than four inches high; then a series of funny little hops. After each, she was so excited by her own cleverness that she threw her head in the air, went zoom zoom, and pranced about the field. The really lovely thing about her now is that it only took four or five strides to settle her again, despite the adrenaline running.

I love several things about this picture. I love her look of concentration and all the fine muscles on her strong body. I love that we can teach a thoroughbred mare to jump in a rope halter on a loose rein. And it makes me laugh that I look as if I think I am riding her in the Gold Cup, instead of going over a jump so small it is hardly visible to the naked eye. My mother looked at it and said: ‘That’s exactly how you used to look when you were riding Seamus.’ Seamus was my beloved working hunter pony when I was thirteen. It seems that even after thirty-three years, some things don’t change:

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And here we are in relaxed mood, going over our newest obstacle course. See how willingly and delicately she is doing it. I could not be more proud of her if I tried:

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And afterwards, quite pleased with herself:

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Look. Look. Mr Stanley the Dog DOES BLINKY EYES. I remember when The Pigeon used to do that. Slays me every time:

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Hill, blue and stately today:

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  1. Jumping a TB in a rope halter. That's quite something.

  2. Congrats on Red's first jump! Do you have aspirations to keep upping the height and get her to jump horse-show style jumps, or are you just using the jumping as another obstacle for the program of getting her used to new things?


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