My broadband has been off all day, but I wrote this earlier, and thought I would put it up, even though it is far, far too late for pictures. So sorry about that.
I meet a fascinating man up at HorseBack. He was a three-day eventer and rode later in points and hunter chases. He is a proper horseman. He knows and loves thoroughbreds.
I am so delighted to meet a kindred spirit that I have to contain myself. I am here for HorseBack work, after all, not to count the ways that the thoroughbred is one of the mightiest creatures ever invented. I do blurt out at one stage, ‘I have a little ex-flat mare.’ Then I remember myself and attempt to shut up. Not everyone necessarily needs to know that.
The ex-flat mare reverted this morning to cow pony, all dopey and relaxed, and then went back again to racehorse. (I definitely think that the deer are making terrible nocturnal noises and her sleep is being disturbed.) When I say racehorse, I mean that she remembers all her power and speed. Most of the time, I have persuaded her to forget those, and go along all gentle and relaxed, with her head down, as if we really are out on the Lonesome Pine.
The difference is palpable. I can feel her grow under me. The energy rises, and she wants to run. All her muscles grow taut and strong.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ I say, not quite sure what has brought this on. ‘We’re all right, old lady.’ I do some lateral flexion and turn her in small circles and figures of eight. This is the fascinating moment. It is when they decide whether they are going to listen to their ancestral voices, or to you. If you have worked them well enough, and built up the trust, and are doing some good deep breathing, they should listen to you. She could run. She is in nothing but a halter. Even if I had a Dutch gag in her mouth, she could run. My strength is nothing to hers.
She makes her choice. She is staying with me. That’s what all the work is for. I know some techniques to bring her down, and I use them, but the foundational thing is that I am her human, and she damn well knows that I will not let the mountain lions get her. That is why she has no need to run, in the end.
We walk back to the field, where we do some nice changes of gait and then have a lovely, loping canter and then stop.
She is back to cow pony again. We meet some architects and she wibbles her lower lip at them. HER GRANDSIRE WON THE DERBY YOU KNOW, I want to yell.
I like it that all that spirit is still in her. Her blue blood will never be denied. I like it that sometimes she challenges me and makes me think. I like it that she never, ever lets me get cocky. The moment I think I’m all that, she throws down a marker, as if she senses I am getting above myself.
I think of all the stupid things that are said about thoroughbreds. I think: if only people knew what you can do with them. Which is anything. That nice horseman knows, I think. I think: it’s like having an Aston Martin. And why would you not want one of those?