Thursday, 5 January 2017

A slightly unexpected lesson.

The sun shone today, out of a vivid blue sky, and I learnt a small lesson in life.

I’ve been over-tired since Christmas. I missed my mother keenly and I let that missing out, so there were quite a lot of Railway Children tears. Allowing emotion to run through you is a good thing, but it is quite exhausting. My sleep patterns were a little erratic and the whole thing was quite wearing, so when I walked down to the field this morning I felt as if I were recuperating from a bout of flu. If I were living in Edwardian England, this would be the time for restorative beef tea and lying on a chaise longue.

As a result, I thought I would not ride my mare. I’ve got to get back into training for our Wobbleberry Challenge but I decided to give myself permission to take a couple more days off.

At first, preoccupied with this recuperative feeling, I thought I would simply give the mares breakfast and then go home quickly and sit very still. Because I’d given myself official permission, all pressure was off. Because there was no pressure, I then decided that I would not leave quickly, but hang out with the sweet thoroughbreds for a while.

The while stretched itself and grew longer. I pottered about, remembering why I love these horses so much, laughing at their gentle comedy, stroking their furry coats, chatting to them. The dogs danced about in the frosty air.

Because of the permission and because of the no pressure, I then thought, on a whim, that I might get on after all. The red mare was in a fine mood and she stood sweetly still in her peaceful little dream as I put on the saddle.

Just five minutes I thought. Just a little walk.

I let her wander where she would, which is how we always start a ride, and she took me on a great adventure, through the trees where I had to lie down on her neck so as not to be swept off and out towards the woods.

She then decided she was going to cross the old burn. She has never attempted such a Rubicon before and I hated to have to stop her. She was Columbus discovering the New World, but I feared the going was treacherous and we might get bogged down in the false ground. With a slight regret, I took charge and turned her back. I loved that she was exploring and I loved that she was feeling so bold and I loved that she was trying something new, all off her own bat.

In the end, we did quite a lot of good technical work. It did not feel like work because it arose naturally, on the spur of the moment.

And that was the lesson. If I had got up this morning, in my rather debilitated state, and lashed myself to go and do proper work and butch up and stop being such a weedy wet, the sullen, cussed part of myself would have dug in its toes and I would have had a furious argument going in my head before I even got to the field. The morning would not have been one of easy pleasure but of raging dispute.

As it was, I gave myself a break, and so the cussed part took itself off for a day by the seaside, and the sensible part, the part that gets things done, could gently come out and decide that it was time for action.

There is a fine line between galvanising and lashing, between encouraging with suggestion and demoralising with orders. I can’t let myself get lax and idle, but sometimes being gentle works better than being stern.

And the really sweet thing was that the mare seemed to pick up on my easy state of mind, and was as soft and sweet and responsive as I’ve known her. Nothing was an effort, nothing was an argument, nothing was a trouble. Yes, she said, and yes and yes and yes.

The dogs came with and the little brown mare watched with interest from her station under the tree and Scotland looked ravishing and I went home with a most unexpected feeling of achievement. It was not swaggery, look at me achievement. It was private and gentle and authentic. It was so quiet that I almost did not want to write about it. But it’s one of those ones that I want to look back on. I want to remember that sometimes letting oneself off the hook can lead to rather wonderful rewards.

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