Dispatches From The North

Tania Kindersley lives in the North East of Scotland with two amiable lab collie crosses and one very grumpy Gloucester Old Spot pig. She co-wrote Backwards In High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female, with Sarah Vine.

In which one majestic mare soothes my jangled nerves

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 30 October 2013
I am up against a hard deadline. The world shrinks to the size of my desk. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the vivid autumn colours, gearing up for a serious pigmental show-down at the OK Corral. I vaguely notice the Jane Austen sheep, and the very elegant cows, in their different shades of dun. But really all I stare at is the screen, and the new words which I scratch on it. The tension builds in my body until my shoulders are up around my ears.

The one thing I make myself do is ride in the mornings. The mare has been off for a couple of weeks with a sore shoulder, but now she is sound again, and the weather has turned kind, and it’s stupid to have a thoroughbred lounging away in the field in this glorious October sun.

On the other hand, I am tight with deadline nerves, and I have no time to waste, which is not the best frame of mind to be in when leaping on a highly-bred flight animal who used to race for a living. Horses are crazily telepathic; they pick up on these things from two fields away. I actually apologise to her out loud for not being in the good Zen state which is normally required.

Herself, having a good old donkey doze after our morning adventures.Herself, having a good old donkey doze after our morning adventures.

I take a chance. I do all the things I should not do. I tack her up, and recklessly neglect any of the normal groundwork, just quickly check her mood, which is sanguine, and jump on. Usually, after a break, we do a lot of very slow and steady walking, to get back into the swing of things. Today, I think: dammit, let’s get the twinkles out of our toes. So we lope into a spanking trot, rolling round the regal beech trees, twisting up into the mossy woodland. She wants to go, so I let her, and suddenly, there I am, cantering along on a loose rein, past the limes and the silver birches and the observing cattle. ‘Steady,’ I say, and she falls back to her gracious duchessy walk, pricking her ears with elegant calm.

And all at once, none of the other things matter: the deadline, the word count, what the agent will think. Because it’s just me and this astonishing horse and the open air and the blue hills and the emerald turf under our feet.

I do the riding because I think it’s important to perform some proper physical act before I am confined to a sitting position for the rest of the day. I think it is the least I can do for the poor body. In fact, I realise that it is more profound than that. It gives me a store of joy off which I can live for the hours until dark, like a camel living off its hump. The visceral sense memory of the pride and the delight will lift me up, even as I am tempted to slump into gloomy defeat. The red mare is my therapy horse, holding my sanity in her delicate hooves. She is better than the best shrink ever invented.
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