The work seemed never-ending today. I wrote 1532 words of secret project, and edited almost to the end of the draft, so that it may not be secret for much longer. The agent may actually set her eyes on it. I went on with my mammoth task of organising the HorseBack photographic archive, which is exhausting and joyful at the same time. In the middle of all this, I took ten minutes to watch two of my favourite horses, one at Epsom and one at Perth. They both won, in fine style. One was the second favourite and not a great surprise, but the other, a sweet handicapping mare called Beacon Lady, whom I had backed from simple love and loyalty at 20-1, because I adored her last season, was a rank outsider, and I shouted with astonished delight as she zoomed from last to first in a matter of strides, and won going away.
I was so busy that I forgot to have lunch and now write this with a swimmy head and squinty eyes. My poor blood sugar.
But there is one more thing I must record before I go.
Last night, someone posted a wonderful video on the internet of two great event riders, doing a demonstration with their horses using no bridles, only a neck rein. The horses were wonderfully relaxed and accurate and responsive, and did dressage moves and jumping as if reading their riders’ minds. Ah, I thought, I’d never be able to do anything like that. I know my limitations. I watched in admiration, with a very faint batsqueak of regret. Never mind; we can’t all be Mozart.
When I got on Red this morning, I thought we would work on softness and balance. Nothing fancy, just getting her into a happy rhythm, at ease with herself. She was at her most calm and bright, moving through the world as if it were all arranged for her own delight. Bugger it, I thought, I’ll give it a go. So I dropped the reins and decided to see what would happen. Round the open set-aside we went, the mare in a beautiful extended walk, her left ear flicking back towards me to see what I wanted, following the route I had chosen as accurately as if we were in a double bridle. I really could not believe it. How can she be so clever?
Sure, it’s not doing dressage in an arena in front of an audience, but it’s pretty damn impressive for one of those crazy, unpredictable thoroughbreds. (Why do people perpetuate these canards? She was about as crazy and unpredictable as a Swiss watch.) I rewarded her with a dashing canter for fun, and she went joyfully on a loose rein. Then we did some accuracy work, just for the hell of it. I do this with her on the ground, asking her to move one foot at a time, but I’ve never tried it in the saddle. I wasn’t even quite sure what cue I would use. I moved my body and used a tiny bit of rein, and there it was – one foot backwards; stop; the other foot backwards; stop. I did it again to check it was not a fluke. It was not. You may imagine the vulgar flinging of self on horse which followed.
Yes, yes, she said, nodding her head, quietly pleased with herself. Of course I can do that.
What has she been doing? Taking secret lessons from dressage squirrels in the night?
I love her so much that love is not a good enough word for it.
Too tired for pictures now. Just the glorious all-seeing eye: