Jumping, jumping, jumping, jumping.
Actually, I tell a lie.
We were not jumping.
We were FLYING.
You’ve seen these pictures before, but there was no photographer on hand this morning, and they are the only ones which come near to expressing the joy.
Initially, I did not intend to do any crazed leaping. It’s my first proper day back riding after falling off The Other Mare. I was very, very sore; at one point I became convinced I had actually broken my tailbone. Sensibly, I thought I’d get back into the swing with a bit of gentle walking. On top of which, Red was a bit spooky and resistant when I got on, staring at ghosts and throwing her head about.
I don’t get involved when she does things like this, which she doesn’t very often. I just change the subject. Let’s go this way, I suggest, politely. Let’s do some figures of eight and some transitions and some fiendishly twisty little circles. At which point she stops being a drama queen and gets her mind back on the job.
(Incidentally, ‘change the subject’ is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given about riding.)
And then, I don’t know why, I just thought bugger sense. And off we went. Zoom, zoom; whoop, whoop. She loves it so much it makes me laugh. She pricks her ears and picks up her delicate feet and leaps over our tiny, home-made obstacles as if she were at Hickstead. She’s got a hell of a jump; I can almost physically feel the air whooshing underneath us.
I just concentrate on staying with her and keeping her straight; I let her find her own stride, which she does, impeccably, every time. I think she really is a natural. She was wasted on the flat; they should have sent her over hurdles and she would have been a champion.
As we canter out into the wild grass, with me standing up in the saddle, leaning forward over her neck as if I am riding cross country against the clock, it never occurs to me that this great, powerful thoroughbred does not even have a bit in her mouth. She’s excited, but steady under me, all her early skittishness gone. For precious moments, it’s just me and my horse, in glorious, rhythmic harmony; there is only this great, rushing feeling, of joy and union.
The Horse Talker witnesses the last two great leaps. She says the nicest thing anyone could have said. She looks at Red, and looks at me, and says: ‘You look so....’ She pauses, thinks. ‘Together,’ she says at last. ‘As one.’
And afterwards, as I put the happy mare back in her field, and she heads straight for the shelter where the other girls have gone to gossip in her absence, no doubt to tell them of her great adventure, the HT adds: ‘You really trust that horse, don’t you?’
I smile. It’s the truest of the true things.
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘I damn well do.’