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.

More horse, of course

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Up in the high woods, it’s just me and the horse. I should think profound and uplifting thoughts, but I don’t. I think of visceral, physical things, like how every bit of my body moves, very, very slightly, with the rhythm of the mare’s walk. I’m not swaying about like a drunken sailor; the best way I can describe it is a sort of give. It’s the opposite of stiffness. It’s not a feeling I specifically remember, from my youth, although it is oddly familiar, as if there is some buried muscle memory. I find myself liking it very much, because it makes me feel at one with a living creature. (At which point, the inner hippy bursts out and tries to teach the world to sing.)

I also like trying to figure out what is going on in her horsey old head. The sharp reverses of the first week have stopped, but she is still familiarising herself with radically new surroundings. She will suddenly pause and put her head up as high as it will go, looking, I am quite convinced, for mountain lions. The things that alarm her change from morning to morning. One day, she found a small, wooden cottage inexpressibly startling; on another it was a scarlet boat out on a glittering loch. This morning, she decided that the post box, past which she had walked without remark for eight days, was bloody scary.

I suspect that she might be testing me a bit. Or even teasing me. On the other hand, her sudden fears do seem real. I concentrate very hard on being calm and firm and reassuring. I beam good thoughts at her with my mind. By the end of the ride, she is sweetly docile and relaxed, and each day brings small, potent progressions.

I love the riding. I love the getting to know a new creature. I love the sense that my muscles are growing strong. I love looking out over the blue hills I would not otherwise see.

Oddly, though, the things I like about this new life are the very small. Perhaps my favourite part is when I go to turn the mare out in her sunny little paddock. I put her smart new headcollar on, and she walks beside me like a faithful hound, head down, ears pricked. I don’t have to pull on the lead rope; we just saunter along together, in perfect step.

I stop at the corner to give her a pick of grass. I lean on her shoulder as she eats. I remember my mother telling me that an old trainer she knew used to go and dig up dandelion roots for his horses because he believed they had miraculous health powers. I must dig her some dandelions, I think, picturing myself searching through the woods for them, like a truffle hound on the scent. Quite frankly, I am so in love with her that I would do anything for her just now. She has captivated every inch of my heart.

As I think that last thought, I look down at her. She is concentrated entirely on grazing. She has no time for sentiment. She is a horse. I am mooning away like Keats after Fanny Brawne, and she is entirely concerned with eating. This feels like some sort of salutary corrective. Whatever it is, it makes me laugh quite a lot.

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