I had a really good plan for today. I was going to wake up feeling cross and resentful about all the idiot hullabaloo of Mothering Sunday. I would stump about muttering about the stupid, crass commercialism of Mothers’ Day. (I used to say this, with some force, to my mother every year on this day, and still give her flowers anyway.) I would then feel doleful and melancholy and miss my mum a lot.
I started off brilliantly, fulfilling every part of the plan. I was sad and cross and I went furiously to the field not to greet my mares with joy but in the spirit of just getting them seen to. I would heft the hay and check the water trough with sullen, heavy steps and then bugger off.
I did this part of the plan in dashing fashion, ticking all the gloomy boxes. I had a good old blub as I carried the stupid hay.
And then I realised that the sun was shining and the birds were singing and the red mare was looking at me with a question in her eye.
Oh, all right, I thought. I’ll do five minutes of lateral flexion. But that’s it. I’m far too busy with my plan, The Plan of Unrelieved Misery.
The red mare, as she so often does, saved me. The lateral flexion was dreadful. That’s almost being too generous. At some points, it was not there at all. (For non-horse people, it is not important to know what this is or what it means or why it matters. In basic terms, it’s bending the horse’s head around, and if it is not soft and sweet then one of your most vital foundation stones is missing.)
The mare even seemed to be having a joke, as instead of giving lightly to pressure she leaned against it and appeared to go to sleep.
I’ve been working on this for three years, I thought, in amazed chagrin, and we’ve suddenly lost our lateral flexion? What the fuck is going on?
What was going on was that the mare had no brief for my asinine plan. She had a plan of her own. She does not deal in sub-standard humans. She requires me to be my best self and she will not countenance anything less.
So I had to go right back to the beginning and work on that damn lateral flexion as if I were teaching an unbroken two-year-old. It took seventeen minutes before I got the first real softening and a great, relieved, equine sigh, which gusted out into the bright Scottish air, as if to say: yes, thank you, that was what I wanted.
Then I spent another fifteen minutes refining it.
By this time, I was in that state of flow that the brilliant Hungarian gentleman with the unpronounceable name (it sounds something like chick-sent-me-high and I’m not even going to try to spell it) identified as the highest peak of happiness. My plan was gone to buggery. I was so immersed and focused, so in harmony with the beautiful thoroughbred creature beside me, that I had no time for gloom and doom.
On we worked.
Then I got into the saddle and we went deep into the woods and stood in our favourite glade and took our ease and looked at the trees. The mare sighed again, this time it seemed in profound satisfaction. Then we did some dressage diva trotting, and, finally, in our full pomp, we did the loping cowgirl canter on a loose rein, round and round the wide field. I whooped and told her she was brilliant. ‘Now you are rolling,’ I told her, in triumph. ‘Rolling, rolling, rolling.’
‘And,’ I said, about to say something else, but she came to an abrupt halt, stopping on a sixpence. I shouted with laughter. I’ve taught her voice cues, but I suddenly realised that when I say Whoa I always presage it with a drawn-out Aaaannnnddd. So now she stops dead on ‘And’. For some reason, I found this deliciously comical. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.
This really was not in the plan. The HMS Plan of Unrelieved Misery steamed out to sea, without me on board. I waved at that silly old boat, as she sailed over the horizon.
Then I went up to see the dear Stepfather and he showed me some of his first editions, which is my favourite thing, and gave me some beautiful books that he did not want any more so that it felt like my birthday instead of the Day of Gloom.
My plan, it turned out, was a crashing failure. My mother would be so pleased.