Tuesday, 20 August 2013

An ordinary day. An extraordinary man.

A lovely cool clear still morning. Red the Mare was all tickled up and filled with the joys of spring, even though it is August. We cantered and did tight figures of eight at a quick trot, flinging round the field as if we were barrel racing, and then we jumped and jumped. Now she’s getting the hang of it, she has an increasingly huge jump and I had to concentrate hard not to get left behind. I whooped and yelled and covered her with congratulations. She was very, very pleased with herself.

As I went up to HorseBack UK for my morning’s work there, and watched them school their own clever Quarter Horses, I thought how odd my own schooling programme is. I do have some good over-arching aims, but I am about as far from those stern articles in the horse magazines as it is possible to be. I leap on and think – what mood am I in? What mood is Red in? What will be fun for her today? And then we do it.

I watched the much more proper schooling in the arena and took some pictures and then I met a remarkable man. People come in and out of HorseBack all the time, and all of them have pretty extraordinary stories. There are the veterans, and some who are still serving. Then there are the visitors, who come for a myriad of different reasons, and most of them have their own fine stories too. Many of them have connections to the services. There was a woman today who used to be in the navy; she came with her son, who is now in the navy himself. They accompanied the Remarkable Man. He was in the army, and then his life went into a downward spiral, and one morning he woke up and thought he could pretty much finish it all, or he could walk around Britain. He chose to walk. He chose to walk 6500 miles, around the coastline of our little island nation.

He’s been going for a year. He’s about half way there. Nothing will stop him. The other day, he crashed down a cliff at Balmedie and thinks he would have fallen to his death had he not had an umbrella in his backpack, which lodged in the earth and broke his fall. He sleeps rough, because he was on the verge of homelessness and he wants to make people aware of how many of those who have served do not have a bed to call their own. He’s raised over a hundred thousand pounds for Help for Heroes, and he’s not nearly finished.

I started doing this voluntary work for HorseBack because they are nearby, because I love what they do, because they inspired me, because I think those who have fought in hot wars deserve all the support we can give them, and because, in the corny old phrase, I felt it was time to give something back. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of luck in my life. I’ve always had a bed to call my own. I have a crazy brindle dog and a glorious red horse and a brain which works and opposable thumbs. The least I can do is offer something in return.

But the irony is that I get more out of this work than I can ever give. Because, on a perfectly ordinary Tuesday, I have the good fortune to meet an extraordinary man. And that would never have happened if I had not made that whimsical mid-life decision.


Today’s pictures:

My most adored and brilliant girl. Who knew she would turn out to love to jump?:

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The ridiculously tiny obstacle over which I am teaching her to leap. From the amount of air she gives it, you would have thought we were at Badminton:

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The crazy brindle dog has a new friend:

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Because The Mother GOT A PUPPY. Did I mention that there is a PUPPY?:

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His name is Edward and he arrived yesterday and I’m not generally nuts for small dogs, but he is absolutely and completely adorable. Stanley loves him so much already that he almost refused to leave my mum’s house after breakfast this morning. Yearning looks back at the door.

The proper schooling up at HorseBack:

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The Remarkable Man:

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His name is Christian Nock, and you can read more about his visit to HorseBack here:



  1. My heart lurched at the puppy. He looks like our Angus. I love cairns with square noses and wheaten coats. Stanley will be extraordinarily fond of Edward, who is the picture of the perfect dog.

  2. Wow to the puppy. Wow to the jumps. Wow to the man, thanks for sharing (I kind of needed a wow tonight), Rachel
    (so glad you had a lovely holiday)

  3. Oh Edward, you're rather gorgeous. And Stanley minding him so sweetly - I hope we see more of these pics. :)

    Welcome back. Your holiday pics were wonderful, especially you and Stan.

    Thank you for the link to Christian's visit. I'm going to have a look afterwards as I can't cry before I nip out for a meeting. x

  4. Love those Edward eyes with Stanley. He is quite lining himself up to be the boss, I think:)


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