The pride I feel for my red mare runs through me like electricity. She’s had a rotten few days, losing her old friend, and yesterday she was as unsettled as I’ve seen her for over a year, when the little American Paint was led away to the far paddock and Red still had work to do. She was calling and circling, her neck stretched and tense, her head up in the air. It took a lot of gentle concentration on my part to bring her back and calm her.
Today, it was sunny but freezing. A quiet Sunday stretched ahead. The Horse Talker and I decided to go for a really good ride, to blow the sorrows away. The livestock have been moved out of the big fields for the winter, so we suddenly have enormous swards of green to play with.
We encountered walkers, children on bicycles and a lady with a huge dog off its lead. The canine apparently had never met a horse before and decided that charging, barking and running up their tails was the best approach. Neither horse turned a hair. You could almost see them thinking: have you met Stan the Man? I silently blessed Stanley, and his months of desensitising training.
Even more remarkable, out in the wide open spaces, where those lunatic thoroughbreds are supposed to take off and pretend they are in the Derby, I eased Red twice into a canter, and she lobbed along on a loose rope (we are such cowboys we don’t bother with such bourgeois things as reins; a halter and a rope will do for us). She came back to me with nothing more than a ‘steady’, dropping politely into a swinging walk, her head low, her ears pricked.
I cannot express what a brilliant thing this is for any horse to do. With inviting flat green grass in all directions, even the dearest old cob might get a little excited. In a mare of Red’s breeding, with her fast jobs in racing and polo behind her, this ease and grace feels to me like a miracle.
I remember the days when she first arrived, and she was not at all sure of me or her new surroundings, and she used to throw in vertical leaps, all four feet off the ground, and wild bronco rears, the stimulus and the strange rider just too much for her sensitive spirit. Used to one of the best horseman in England, she needed me to prove myself to her. So that was what I did, day after day, slow step after slow step. At first I thought I had to prove my superior riding skills, brush up my seat, strengthen my old muscles. In fact, I soon realised that I had to prove something much more profound. I had to prove to her that she could trust me, rely on me absolutely.
Time is the thing. Time and patience and love and belief. You can learn all the technical stuff you want, but without those foundations, it all goes for nothing. But you need a generous horse too, who will respond with willingness and kindness, and that was what I got. That is why I was so proud of her that I whooped into the bright winter air.
And so we find ourselves, my glorious girl and I, out in the rolling Scottish green, entirely in harmony with each other, our hearts so close that they beat in time.
Almost too much sweetness for one photograph. Stanley the Dog looks rather proud of his superior horse-training skills, as if knowing that he has made his elegant ladies bomb-proof to even the wildest canine:
My beloved girl:
Autumn the Filly was astonishing too. She is only a novice and was backed for the first time this year. But out she stepped today, as good and relaxed as a veteran of twenty summers:
That’s a little bit of Scottish sky you can see in her eye:
The good companions:
And handsome Mr Stanley, contemplative in the winter light: