The smallest, sweetest, quietest, most private thing: a Sunday ride through the green grass, with my horse and my dog.
The dog is a novel addition. Usually, he does not come with. He can get fractious and excitable when I put the mare into a trot on the ground. When I get up on her, his separation anxiety reaches a fighting pitch. Today, everything was so slow and low-key – it was not as if I were going for A Ride, I was just getting on and ambling about – I thought I would let him roam and see what happened. The horses are so used to him now that if he jumps and freaks they merely raise their heads and look down their elegant noses at him. I could get off and put him in a place of safety if it all went Pete Tong.
But as the red mare and I moved off down the wide grassy track, another calm russet figure trotted at our heels. I turned. He looked up at me, grinning. Yeah, he said, that’s all just absolutely completely fine.
We wandered down to the end where the cows browse on the farther slope. ‘Stanley,’ I said. ‘Don’t go near the cows.’ Stanley did not go near the cows. He turned and followed, in step with the horse.
I put Red into a trot. Stanley the Dog broke into a lope.
I had seen pictures of this, I suddenly realised. For some reason, I think they are in places like Africa, out on some veld or other. It’s a vague sense memory.
I always felt envious when I saw people who could go out with their horse and their hound. My antic sight-dog, I always thought, would forever be too barky and leapy to do that faithful heel-trot. It turns out I was wrong. Without it being a big thing, the impossible happened, and there I was, with my two best beloveds, on a little veld of my very own, living the dream.
I laugh as I write that. It’s such a very, very small dream. It’s not winning the pools, or being awarded a glittering prize, or making the headlines. But I suppose the really good dreams are the ones you can achieve on a quiet, sunshiny, Scottish Sunday, with no one there to watch or clap.
The small private dreams are potent, because they really can come true.
The mare was lovely, and happy. We did a lot of ambling, on the end of a loose rein, because I think of all that hard racing and polo work she did in her previous lives, and I want ambling to go into her muscle memory.
We practised moving one foot at a time. She can do this on the ground, in her sleep; now we are doing it under the saddle. It has utility; it will be brilliant should we ever go out into the wilds and find a tight spot or a tricky gate. But the truth is, I love teaching her that for its own sake.
‘Back one,’ I say, giving her a little signal, and she moves a discrete foot. She is so damn clever, I want to shout, to the hills.
It is a movement so minute as to be hardly discernible, yet it fills me joy. It’s hard to describe in words. It’s the stillness and ease and kind responsiveness of it that delights. It’s like dancing a Jane Austen quadrille.
We did a slow trot and a fast trot and a little canter and some fast, tight turns. Barrel racing, I whooped, in my head.
We had fun. It would win no rosettes, but it was lovely. I wanted to write it because it was one of those things that is contained and entire and perfect in and of itself. It exists for nothing else except to exist; two hours of intense, plain pleasure and communion.
It’s easy to think everything has to be for something: to prove something, signify something. I’m always looking for significance. This just was what it was: three sentient creatures in a green field, having a nice time.
I wanted to record that.
The Best Beloveds:
The quiet green field, where the loveliness happened: