A lunatic storm comes blasting out of the west. It is Chicken Licken weather, with the wind howling so viciously that I keep looking up at the sky, in case it should fall on my head. The clouds are the colour of heartbroken doves, and race from west to east as if pushed by some unseen hand.
It is the kind of weather where looking after the horses becomes a battle. There is no more dreamy Zen contemplation as two hearts become one, but wading through mud and wet, wrenching back banging doors, being on constant alert as two flight animals are ready to fly.
There is an interesting thing I learnt about horses and wind. I used to think it made them flighty because it went under their tails and annoyed them in a purely physical way. In fact, it is their ancestral voices calling. When the wind comes, it mucks about with the tiny hairs inside the ears, so the horses can’t hear. They lose a sense. For a prey animal, this is serious business. They become acutely reliant on sight, so they lift their heads and tense their necks and make constant sweeps of the places where danger may be lurking. It is amazingly atavistic.
The red mare has no time for dozy hellos. She is on MOUNTAIN LION WATCH. She is the lead mare and must protect her charge. The little Paint, rather touchingly, stays close to her big red friend, mirroring her every step. They have gone back into their animal kingdom, where humans are almost an irrelevance.
Yet the funny thing is they do seem to know we are here to help. When the storm first hit, there they were, waiting expectantly at the gate, enquiring looks on their faces, as if to say: what time do you call this? Despite the howling of the wind and the creaking of the trees, they stood stock still so the rugs could go on. The moment the last strap was done up, they were back to constant motion.
I’ve been at my desk for four days, doing a final polish of the manuscript, and I find this elemental work quite galvanising. I wish I were not slightly damp all the time and covered in mud, but I quite like that sense of being out in the wind and the rain, doing things that matter. It is the kind of weather where I go down to the field by moonlight, to check the girls are all right. This feels proper and meaningful. For all that the storm takes them deep into their most visceral horsey selves, they do still need their humans. Everyone likes to be needed.
I’m going to have a couple of days off now, after the last great push. I’ve edited and re-edited an absurd 118,000 words. My plan was to have enchanting long rides and dreamy grooming, but the rain is still lashing down, confining me to barracks, so my slightly tragic geekish treat to myself is to catch up with my two favourite things: old episodes of the Rachel Maddow show, and podcasts of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo and their magnificent film programme. (Should I admit to this sort of thing?)
Then, slowly, slowly, I’ll get the crazed deadline tension out of myself, and I shall start to feel normal again.
Are from before the rain: