Thursday, 22 May 2014

The kindness of strangers.

I was going to write a lovely, wandering blog for you about love, and the true meaning of the word amateur. I wrote it in my head as I was riding my red mare this morning. But it was a HorseBack day, and that ate up the hours, and I have absurd amounts of work still to do, and miles to go before I sleep.

So there is hardly time for words.

My glorious girl was at the height of her magnificence today. We had one of those rides that live in the memory. A beautiful, athletic walk, some dandelion dressage, a delightful collected canter, and then I let her go and she put her sprinting shoes on and I felt her power. For a moment, I thought I’d given her too much rope, and we would end up in Coull. But even as she hit full stretch, the moment I said ‘walk’, she walked. Oh, the cleverness of her. I was so proud I practically fainted.

She also made me laugh helplessly. After yesterday’s old person Rocky Horror Show, she has clearly done some hard thinking. As we wandered down the lime avenue, all dozy and in harmony and on the buckle, I spotted a horde of ramblers. Ramblers!!! With their mysterious poles and their ordnance survey maps and their hidden agenda. (I am convinced there is something the ramblers are not telling.) They were also, shall we say, of a certain age. Not quite old enough to have been in the SOE, like the ones yesterday, but not in the first flaming flush of youth. What would the red mare do with her new terror of the oldsters?

Answer: give them a courteous, faintly dismissive nod of her duchessy head, and walk past without so much as a blink.

This makes her three act opera of yesterday even more mysterious. Perhaps it is part of her mission to keep me from falling into complacency. Perhaps I got it quite wrong, and she was not alarmed at all, but merely acting out the vicissitudes of modern life through the medium of interpretive dance.

Anyway, since I have no time for words, I’m going to hand over to a Dear Reader. The comments that come here make me smile, astonish me with their generosity, and often cause me to laugh out loud. I love them all. Sometimes I get one that flies through the ether like an arrow to my bashed old heart. I get one that makes me feel keenly the kindness of strangers, and makes me realise that all this wandering about on equine tangents does actually have a point. As you know, I often wonder what the point of this whole shooting match is, and why I do it. I have no good answers to those questions. But sometimes, the Dear Readers reassure me that perhaps there is a point.

Yesterday, I got this:

‘Five in the morning here and I am belly laughing so hard one of my baby cats came running to see if I was having a seizure. These wonderful, magical creatures provide the best therapy. I mean the horses, not the baby cats. My trainer and I have worked mostly on desensitising, too, this past year - the mare needed the kitchen sink kind of stuff and I had to learn how to overcome my fear of horses in general and this thoroughbred in particular. We are at a nice place now; I trust her enough to get on her back and she has learned that I will not spook so bad so as to cause her a heart attack! In fact last week, she even decided I was ready to try to hang on while she jumped an exercise pole. Smart mare! I did not leave the saddle. So we are making progress. Plus, those feel- good hormones all the baby books promised would flood my system when presented with my newborn which never materialised, are now making an appearance every time I show up at the barn and she runs toward me. This mare could be the greatest love of my life. She has taught this 47 year old woman with an acute fight or flight response to chill the shizz out, as the kids would say. Heading into open heart surgery in the next week or so to fix a congenital heart condition so my riding will have to be put on hold for a couple of months, but sure would appreciate the link to the decent forum of which you speak. I have noticed during my short time as a horse owner that there are a lot of crazies out there and figure I actually don't need to add to my own particular brand. Thank you, Tania. I found your blog last September and you have been my inspiration in all things equine.’

There are several things I love about this, not least the baby cats. I love that someone else of my exact age, many miles away, is going through the same sort of journey. I love that the story is so sweetly shared. I love that across an ocean, someone else, of whom I would have known nothing if it were not for the miracle of the internet, also has a mare who is the love of her life. I love that suddenly, almost shockingly, there is the shining note of stoicism, as open-heart surgery is glossed over as if it is nothing more than going to the shops.

Thank you Elyse. You made my day.

I assume you are across an ocean, because you use the word barn, and smart to mean clever. I’d love to know more about you and your mare and where you both live, and I hope your operation goes well and you are back in the saddle soon.

And while I’m on the subject: thank you all, Dear Readers, for coming back, for being kind, and for so graciously putting up with all my nonsense.


Today’s pictures:

After our perfect ride, quite pleased with herself:

22 May 1

Waiting politely outside the shed, as I made breakfast. Raincoat on, as the mercury has plunged to a paltry eight degrees and it is going to rain all day and all night:

22 May 2

Having a little doze, as I appear to be taking my time:

22 May 3

Is it ready yet?:

22 May 4

Please say it’s ready:

22 May 4-001


22 May 5

The sweet Paint:

22 May 7-001

In other news, the lilac is out:

22 May 7

22 May 9

22 May 10

22 May 11

22 May 12

22 May 14

22 May 15

22 May 16

And finally, one of my HorseBack pictures. I was quite pleased with them today:

22 May H2

PS. Back with the PEN today. The smart loaned Nikon is smart, and the quality of pictures is probably better and sharper. But the dear, battered old PEN does do something magical with colours, and I’m quite tempted to stay loyal to it.

PPS. Whilst I am on the subject of pictures: Blogger has started doing something peculiar with my photographs. It seems to do a sort of auto-enhance as it publishes, like Google Plus does. I hate this, as I edit my pictures very carefully, and get the exact right mix of light and shade. Also, the enhanced pictures sometimes end up having far too much grain in them, which drives me nuts. I can’t find a relevant settings button, and wondered if there were any fellow bloggers out there who know about this oddity.

Ha. Turns out there were quite a lot of words, after all. Same old, same old.


  1. Dear Tania,
    You made my month! I am still pinching myself to see the comment I left featured in one of your posts! I have met a great many "celebrities" in my line of work, but they did very little to get the ole heart rate up. I was a jaded television producer for Canada's largest private broadcaster before succumbing to thyroid cancer, and now this heart thing. I live about and hour north of Toronto, Ontario, in what is known as cottage country. The city-ots flock here every weekend for their fix of boating, skiing, and nature-loving. I am originally from Montreal and small-town rural Ontario proved to be a culture shock. My wardrobe still doesn't quite reflect my reality. The darling husband, born and bred here, secretly finds me exotic. Or crazy. Whatevs...
    Illness had a silver lining; I grew into this place. I hike the most stunning mountaneous trails with my three dogs almost daily, sigh wistfully everytime i drive past the ski hill up the road and swear i will get back to hurling myself down mountains asap, and lately, am in charge of the most beautiful thoroughbred in all of southern Ontario! (Space is huge in Canada) My now 22 year old daughter has been riding since she was eight. It took up vast amounts of her childhood and teens. I always believed it was her therapy and salvation, the antidote to an ugly divorce between her dad and I. We moved to this lovely little village in part to put her closer to the beasts she loved. I was advised by a colleague and horsewoman to lease not buy a horse. Her own imported (read expensive) Dutch Warmblood had become one of those "lawn ornaments" at a very tender age.

  2. But then Ella Enchanted fell into my daughter's lap. A friend of my daughter's had fallen on hard times and was liquidating her herd. Darling daughter had already had the mare at unversity with her when the ultimatum to purchase came and well...yes, maybe I was was 10 in January, she is a lovely bay mare, and with my daughter's subtle ombre hair, they have the same colouring. She is a talented jumper, courageous cross-country and up until September last completely terrifying to me.
    My sweet human girl decided to shift gears into a photojournalism programme that precluded a horse habit or even a part time job. Because I didn't want to see her give up a dream ( horse ownership or career that enthralled), I proposed leaving the mare in my care under the tutellage of one of my daughter's oldest friends and an accomplished horsewoman herself. The lovely girl has natural approach to horse training, rides Western, prefers paso finos, and has the most glorious laugh whenever Elle acts out, rearing, bucking, all round objecting to the round pen ground work with which we began. The early days didn't do much to give me faith I would ever be able to ride Elle. Everytime I went into the herd of five with whom she lives, my legs would go all rubbery and I'd be tempted to end the lesson then and there.
    Your words, your stories, the fact that you were exactly my age and were successfully teaching a thoroughbred to slow down- they were what kept my chin up. I must have sent my daughter and mother at least one of your blog posts a week- look! She's riding with only a rope halter, look she jumped with only a rope halter, see! Someone else believes in ground manners and ground work! My kind of riding! Safely from the centre of the pen!

  3. The first time I trotted on Elle's back I was tempted to drop you a comment. Then i thought, really, would you even care or understand the context? But even on those days when the wind was blowing and my heart was behaving like the erratic beast it can still be, I remembered you said horses need to know you're their person. Nevermind the barn owners took care of the basic feedings, I would show up with a few carrots and we'd go for a walk through the snow. Much to my daughter's displeasure. But i figure that i am actually the grandmother and have spoiling rights- plus I always required perfect manners from the lovely girl before treating. My trainer insists she is a different horse 9 months later and i have to agree. She has taught this type A personality, adrenaline junkie how to achieve zen, how to control the adrenaline spikes that are so damaging to my heart, how to trust an 1150 pound marvel of musculature.
    As for the stoicism-there are only three centres in North America that do the rare surgery I require, two of which are big name American hospitals. I am extremely fortunate that the Toronto General is fairly close to where I live, and that I will be in good hands. The septal myectomy will give me my life back. After recovery, maybe i really will take up show jumping, as i teased my daughter the other day. Elle would love nothing more than to be in the ring pursuing her passion, sooner rather than later. After all, if i could turn into a human godzilla when the doctors attempted to sedate me for an angiogram ( 3 rounds of sedation and i was still flopping on the metal table and barking orders in the throws of an awesome fight or flight reaction), I could always toss the mare over the jumps.
    So my rather long winded sorry. The link for the thoroughbred forum you like? Please?

  4. Ps- I see why editing gives you fits at times.
    Pps- i sent your post "the kindness of strangers" to all my most dearly beloveds the othwr day when it appeared! She likes me, she really likes me! ;)


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