Friday, 21 February 2014

The red champion.

A rather manic and quite difficult week. I run hopelessly behind, watching time scoot away from me into the middle distance. But words were written and work was done.

This morning, a small friend came to visit. I have known the small friend since she was born. She is now nine. I took her to see the horses. Could she get on? she asked.

I hesitated. The red mare was in her very best mood, sweet and still and dozy, but even so. She is a fifteen-two thoroughbred and I did not know if she had ever had anyone that young on her back before. Even though I do not believe the stupid stereotypes about ex-racehorses, they are still not children’s ponies. I did some groundwork to further check the mare’s mood, and got on myself for a minute or two. Everything in her world was lovely. The Zen calm ran deep.

The small eager face was turned to mine, all hope. All right, I thought. Why not?

Up she got. The leathers were up to their shortest but still rather long, but this did not seem to bother her. ‘Good GIRL,’ she said, to Red, who put her ears into their most dozy donkey position and walked kindly with her head low and her neck relaxed. Round we went in the field, very slowly, everyone happy as nuts. The small friend smiled and laughed and waved her arms in the air, entirely without fear. ‘Don’t forget to breathe,’ I said.

Red sighed, and went all soft and gentle. The kind ones do sense when they have very precious cargo on their backs, and get an almost protective look in their eyes.

‘Can we trot?’ said the small friend.

We trotted. Red did her smoothest, slowest sitting trot. ‘That is her Maggie Smith trot,’ I said, laughing, as she mooched round like a dowager duchess.

The whole thing was a mighty triumph. When we stopped to pose for photographs, the red mare dozed off. She has just carried a child on her back, I thought, and she did not put a hoof wrong. She was as tender and careful as if it were her own young.

I made the mistake last night of looking at some show horses on the internet. All that elegant collection, all that technical skill. I’m still doing cowboy lopes with my girl; we have not even thought yet about outlines and getting her on the bridle. I felt a bit inadequate. But then she rose to queenly heights this morning, with her small passenger. She did not blink an eyelash. Horses are never perfect, but she was perfect. Bugger collection; she was my champion riding horse, right there in a muddy field, with the sound of laughter ringing through the bright Scottish air.


Two pictures today, as gleaming as silver challenge cups:

We did try to get her to pose for the camera and prick her ears, but she was so relaxed that she just went to sleep:


Not her most beautiful look, but one of her sweetest:

21 Feb 1

Even though she is all muddy and woolly from the winter, she still is an aristocrat among horses. I said to the small friend: ‘Now you can go home and tell everyone that you have ridden the granddaughter of a Derby winner.’ I could not help it. She might have been the slowest flat horse in Britain, but she is bred from champions, and I never quite get over my absurd pleasure in that.


  1. Tania, how lovely! What a precious memory for that little girl, and a great boast to go back to school with ...'I sat on a racehorse in half-term. Her grand-dad won the Derby...' :)

  2. As a girl who went horse-crazy very early in life, I can tell you that you just made a WHOPPING memory for that little girl! I never forgot my first real horseback ride. It was my first riding lesson, and the horse's name was Elvis. I was walking behind the stablehand who was leading Elvis into the ring so that I could learn to mount, and Elvis farted right in my face. I know, I know - sometimes the most important horse lessons are learned when you are still on the ground! But still, it was part of one of the best and most memorable days of my life.

  3. I think Red enjoyed her day too! What a lovely experience. And you made me chuckle with "mooching around like the dowager duchess".

  4. Like Marcheline, I was a horse-mad girl and never forgot my first real ride either … on Peter Frampton!
    What a wonderful memory for your friend, who looked very comfortable sitting on your beautiful aristocrat.


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