Saturday, 6 June 2009

A life long eQUEST

Well recent evidence suggests that the path to being a brilliant (but undiscovered) equestrienne, is going to be a very long one, life long probably. Fortunately I knew that when I set out cos my beginnings the first time were memorable and had continuous physical and mental impact on me. The first year I learned to ride as a child I fell off, slid of, was bucked off, cunningly thrown off and or just found myself off or on the way off with no idea quite how it happened on at least a weekly basis.

Sometimes it was inattention, the horse put his head down for a chew of juicy grass and I slid down the neck -- very embarrassing, hurt feelings, some bruising. Horse regarded me with one eye and would swish the tail and continue eating.

Sometimes it was at speed, and the landing place could be a ditch or a ploughed field, or some concrete somewhere. On those occasions then it was more than hurt feelings.

Bath time would be bruise count time. I'd get a strange amusement from this. I wasn't proud that I'd fallen off, it was too frequent an occurrence and very obviously pointed to my lack of ability, which was very frustrating. I really wanted to learn though and somehow somewhere I knew that I was choosing to continue and I was earning the bruises. The big step that year was not the riding itself, it was when I crossed a threshold and did not cry when I fell off.

No one was making me, the opposite in fact. My Mother had been bored to tears with "horses horses horses" during her own childhood from her own sister, so another inflicted person in her house wasn't ideal. My Father other than being glad one of his children was finally showing some interest in sport of some sort, Horses were BIG THINGS that would always try to bite him. As for siblings one had left home and the other had entered with some enthusiasm into the (probably permanent) phase of pubs, fags and girls.... My passions were just something to watch with some amusement - from a safe distance

Those days/weekends at the stables were an eye opener in many ways. The horses and animals on the farm presented many challenges. Teeth and Hooves! I wasn't just riding (or more accurately) falling off. I was collecting them from fields, feeding them, cleaning them, cleaning the tack. Filling water troughs was hard enough in itself.

One pasture was hidden, it was a strange triangular field you wouldn't really know was there. An old fashioned meadow, full of amazing flowers and high grasses, the earth was always damp - but no actual water nearby. When the buttercups arrived and some of the horses would be turned out in here, it looked like something out of a fairy tale. In winter it still did, but the bleak dark bits of fairy stories where the witch is nearby and not entirely friendly. So the trough would be filled by climbing into a small ditch and filling an old battered tin bucket with water from a spring, then climbing back out of the ditch and walking 30 yards, climb the fence and then bucket by bucket fill the trough. This was done alone sometimes and very arduous it was too after a long physical day. Mostly though there would be at least two of you at it. One in the ditch ( usually me, because I was small and with the small bucket could gradually fill the bigger buckets) and the other taking the water to the trough. A large trough takes a lot of buckets. It was a time of banter too and mischief. Other times in winter the ice would have formed on the water and we would have to break it so that they could drink when they needed.

All this would happen at the end of a long day, when every sinew ached and certainly before we had anything to eat or drink ourselves.

No one was making me do any of that either. We all mucked in and out! Tasks were allocated by a mixture of choice and ability, often tacitly. Being around horses and working with them brings a great deal of visibility to your skills and your desires and it becomes clear to all around you what you are capable of. . And the most astute judges were the horses themselves. Horses might be flight creatures, herd creatures but they are fast. They often have time to decide whether they need to flee. From a distance you can see that decision point, if you are close by, you might just FEEL it!

There was one very pretty mare, Pippa that I wanted to ride. She was a very beautiful, very highly strung, highly schooled horse. I was a very long way off being able to attempt to ride her. I would occasionally talk to her. when she was tacked up waiting. Once I remember I was allowed to take her tack off, and swap her bridle for a head collar (and kept all my fingers!). I was thrilled that I was finally trusted to do just that.

I never did ride that horse. Later, many years later, I did ride an event horse that was as beautiful, as highly strung, ( a very naughty boy) and even more highly schooled and he taught me a lot too.

This time my mind knows I have been here before, but my body has almost total amnesia and it is much weaker too. So I have little arguments going on in myself between what the head asks and what the body can do and they get very annoyed with one another. This week I was asked if I knew how to do a particular move, I tried to describe it, the instructor smiled and said the words I had used were correct but somehow it wasn't accurate!

She should be a diplomat.

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