I really did want to write a glittering post for you today, but a stinking cold has descended on me from the blue. This is particularly galling since I have a fantasy that I do not get colds. Those idiot germs will rue the day. Swallowing is agony and I am pale as a wraith and my head feels like it is going to explode. I am very grumpy indeed.
But even through the bleurgh, I have reasons to smile. I’m back in full swing at HorseBack, and thinking a lot about the grace and courage I have seen there over the last year. It is, as always, a privilege to try and express some of that, to spread the word, to celebrate the triumphs. And, in much more humble news, I got a mighty compliment this morning.
The tree surgeons were at work, cutting down a tottering old horse chestnut. I took the red mare out to watch. She did not seem to think it at all remarkable that there was a man with a socking great chainsaw thirty yards up in the air. She lifted her head for a moment when he hurled a particularly big branch to the ground, assessed the situation, decided there were no mountain lions, and went back to dozing.
And here came the compliment. My neighbour, who was loading up the branches into his tractor and trailer, so they can be dried for next year’s firewood, looked at the sweet white face and said: ‘She’s just like an old dog, isn’t she?’
Now normally you would think that such a grand duchess should not be referred to as ‘an old dog’. (She has Hyperion three times on her bottom line.) In fact, it was the sweetest sentence I could hear. I grinned like a loon. I wondered if I should let it lie, but I couldn’t, quite. ‘I did school her to be like this,’ I said, utterly unable to keep the pride out of my voice.
The chainsaw started up again, and the tree surgeons adjusted their protective masks. The mare seemed to see nothing remarkable in these oddly-dressed strangers invading her territory. The neighbour looked at me, and looked at her. The mare blinked. I could see that he did not quite believe that I had specifically set out to make a horse which stood about with her head down whilst men with machinery capered about her.
But that is exactly what I did. All that desensitising, all that groundwork, all those slow steps; all the mistakes and the muddles and the moments of hopelessness and the sudden seeing of the light; all of that made the old dog the girl she is. She thinks the world is a pretty good place, and is more prone now to curious approaching rather than instant flight. It’s all in the mind. She’s got confidence in herself now, because she ended up with a human she can rely on. That’s really what all the training is about. It’s not so much teaching her new things, although that is a lovely side-effect, it’s showing her that I am steady and trustworthy and will protect her from those mountain lions. That is my job, and she needs to know I am up to it.
So, even though I feel like absolute buggery bollocks, just the thought of someone calling my beautiful girl an old dog can make me smile. Some days, it really is the little thing that makes the heart sing.
Too blah for pictures. Just this one, from our walk yesterday, where she followed me gently without needing to be guided by the rope. I think the gentleman walking behind us was slightly surprised.
It’s not the most flattering picture of her, and her dear face is rather out of focus, but you can see the old doggishness shining out of the frame like starlight:
PS. If any of the Dear Readers felt like it, I’d love it if you would perhaps share this HorseBack post. Only if the spirit moves you. It’s one I was quite pleased with and it means a lot to me and I wrote it from the heart.