When I do my stuff for HorseBack UK, sometimes it is quite straightforward. An obvious photograph presents itself; the words that go with it spring easily to mind. Sometimes, however, it takes a lot of concentration and may not be dashed off in moments. It requires a frown and a wrangle and a squaring of the shoulders. It takes time. Today was such a day.
There is a new project afoot, and it is one that is close to my heart. HorseBack has got together with Retraining of Racehorses and taken on an ex-racehorse. Two of the brilliant women who steer the great ship that is RoR, Di Arbuthnot and Emma Balding, came to Scotland a while ago, and discussed the slightly outré notion, and, good as their word, found a candidate. He is a glorious fella called Peopleton Brook, and he was a sprinter. He won nine races, and when he came to the end of his racing life, there was not an obvious place for him to go. That was when Retraining of Racehorses stepped in. Brook was to come to Scotland, for a very new life indeed.
There is so much prejudice against thoroughbreds and racehorses, and even more against sprinters, who are often considered the nuttiest and most untameable of all. So to take one and introduce him to the HorseBack way of working, including Western saddle and riding in a rope halter, might be considered quite a stretch.
He loves it. He was pretty speedy when he put on his sprinting shoes. Now he is learning to take things very, very slowly, and you can see the surprised delight on his face.
I think he will make a course horse. He would not do for a double amputee who had never sat on an equine before, but there are veterans from the Household Cavalry with PTSD who would benefit mightily from such a Rolls-Royce of a ride. I love the idea that like those veterans who find a renewed sense of purpose when they come to HorseBack, so may dear Brook discover a meaningful role in life. He already has a new look of happy purpose in his eyes, and he is quick and willing to learn.
In my own little field, my lovely red girl is a bit sore after pulling a shoulder muscle. The wind was up and she was charging about the field as if back to her own racing days, and her cornering skills are not what they used to be. So I’m taking her for gentle daily walks in hand, until the slight stiffness passes.
I think of how all the ex-racehorses are called crazy and good for nothing. I think of the people who insist that thoroughbreds are impossible to handle. I think of Brook, up at HorseBack, in the wild hills, cleverly learning an entire new way of life, with all his intelligence and fineness. I look at Red, as we amble through the oaks and the beeches and the Wellingtonias. Her eye is soft, her head is down, her ears are in their dozy donkey position which signals ultimate relaxation. She is bred for ultimate speed, yet she absolutely adores these gentle morning walks. We step out in perfect time. She is polite and biddable, at my shoulder, never pushing or barging.
My heart expands, as it often does. It’s not just her profound sweetness and beauty that make my idiot old heart rise like a balloon, it is the thought that she quietly disproves all that prejudice, all those assumptions, all that lazy thinking, by her daily being.
They’re not a very likely pair, Red and Brook. He was bloody fast and won nine races. She trailed round at the back, never troubling the judge, despite the clutch of Derby winners in her glittering pedigree. But there they both are, in these blue Scottish hills, proving all the doubters wrong.
No time for pictures today; the work is getting on top of me.
Just two quick Best Beloveds:
And, up the road, sweet Brookie has a very well-deserved and joyful roll, after all his hard work:
There are links here to many, many shots of the glorious Brook, for your viewing pleasure: