A very kind friend offered to feed the horses this morning and I was not booked to cook my mother’s breakfast, so I had the most fabulously luxurious lie-in, catching up on my December sleep debt. I never lie in, as horses do not understand about weekends or national holidays. It was the most glorious start to 2015.
Then there was a feast of racing. Many of my old friends were out, and some new ones too, celebrating their birthdays. (All thoroughbreds are like the Queen. They have two birthdays. Their actual date of birth, and the 1st of January, when they all turn an official year older.) I was beside myself. Everything in the garden was as lovely as human and equine wit could devise.
Then I got an email.
The red mare was lame.
Despite the fact that Rock on Ruby, one of my favourite fellows, was about to dance up the Cheltenham hill, I threw aside everything and rushed down to the field. Sure enough, there was a very doleful girl, head-bobbingly lame and extremely needy. She buried her head in my chest as if I could make it all go away.
I hate lameness. I feel it as if it is my own leg that is damaged. I also hate seeing all that majestic power and strength hobbled and confined.
I set about some equine detective work, feeling for heat, running hands down tendons, examining the sole of the hoof. We did hosing, stretching, and gentle experimental walking. The dolefulness increased. There were little pleading creases of worry and plaintiveness above those liquid eyes.
Whilst I had a little think, I decided to cheer her up by giving her a full body rub. She is a duchess and deserves nothing less. I’d also been inspired by a fellow horsewoman to experiment with the pressure of the rub – good, firm, no messing versus light, feathery fingertips.
I got so carried away I did this for an hour, until she fell asleep. That should help with the serotonin levels, I thought.
In the end, I decided abscess was the most likely answer, so I got poulticing. The moment she was all wrapped up, my little drama queen lifted her head, gave me a cheerful look, and went off for a browse in the set-aside, still a little footy, but a hundred times better. Thank you, she seemed to be saying, that was what was required.
Then I made her the most delicious feed on earth, with mint and nettle and dandelion and Echinacea for her immune system, and lots of extra treats, and left her contentedly eating under her favourite tree, all fixed up.
There is something almost holy in putting a sad horse to rights. She just wanted her human, and she got me, for two whole hours. It was not what I planned for today, but it turned out to be an oddly lovely start to 2015.
I write a lot about love being actions, not words. Anyone can spout fine words. I spout fine words like nobody’s business, my trusty thesaurus by my side. But proper, real, earthed love is doing, not talking. I did love today, and my good mare reminded me of the importance of that. So, it turns out that the first day of the new year began with my best beloved professor reminding me of yet another profound life lesson. She is so clever.
As I came back into the house, smiling and contented myself, Judy Garland was singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I could hardly believe it. It felt like magic.
I had rushed out in such a hurry that I’d forgotten to turn the television off, and The Wizard of Oz had succeeded the racing. There was adorable Judy and enchanting Toto, and we were not in Kansas any more.
I’m watching it now, as I write this. Stanley the Dog is dozing on the sofa. He got incredibly bored during the whole rubbing and poulticing process and had buggered off to pay a new year visit to my mother. (On account of his ability to open every door he has ever met, he just lets himself in, and my stepfather rings up to let me know he has arrived and then I go and collect him, like a mother picking up a child after a party.)
The Munchkins are now singing Follow the Yellow Brick Road. I’m not sure a day ever turned out more serendipitously perfect.
I hope that all the Dear Readers had a dazzling start to the year. Perhaps you too got a great gift in an unexpected package.
I’d love to say that 2015 started off with this glancing sunshine, but in fact it was overcast, with gales and threatened rain. These sunny shots are from a couple of days ago: