Today’s bitter wind and watery sunshine broke the tedium of a dismal start to February where everything stayed grey, and the rain fell with sullen monotony.
In past times, I’d have taken the opportunity to saddle up and blow away the cobwebs with a fast ride across the fields, splashing through puddles and jumping fallen branches. Feeling that rush of adrenaline at the sheer joy of being out on a horse, ignoring the cold wind that lights up your cheeks and freezes fingers to reins, and returning home so exhilarated that you are immune to anything life throws at you. But nowadays my options are more sedate and I try very hard not to feel a pang of loss for those rides. I remember my new mantra, that thrills are found in having the time to notice detail. Physical curtailment can bring with it unexpected mindfulness and new ways to process things. Writing has become my way of feeling I have given something all I’ve got.
I thought we’d go for a walk around the farm where Bruce lives, and seeing as this is a new blog, I thought you could come with me.
I gave Bruce a slow groom, putting hair conditioner in his tail to ease the tangles, and using the brush softly on his tickly bits. We stood quietly in the sunshine, grooming until his black coat shone, and I made time to scratch his withers while he wriggled his nose in pleasure. Then I offered him his halter and long lead, and waited for the ‘give’ as he lowered his nose. He also wears his leather bridle when he’s ‘working’ as it feels important that he still does a job.
I’ll let you into a secret. When I began riding Bruce, I had his bridle made-to-measure; it was three times more expensive than a shop-bought one. It’s nothing fancy because we’re not a flashy couple, just fine English leather that fits like a dream and is perfectly shaped around his ears so it doesn’t pinch. When Bruce was hunting with his previous owner, he was restrained with quite a harsh bit and contraptions to keep his head down and his mouth shut. A plain bridle with a French Link snaffle seemed significant to his new start, and I wanted him to have something really special.
The wind was sharp enough to cut you in half. I remember an old farmer who called it a lazy wind ‘because it went through you instead of round you.’ I put two padded coats on, a woollen bobble hat pulled down low over my forehead, and pulled a scarf up over my chin, and we set off, Bruce’s front legs moving in unison with mine. I breathed deeply as best I could through my muffler, and after a dozen strides, he dropped his head and blew out through his nose. My shoulders and his poll relaxed at the same time. We walked alongside the paddocks to the bottom farmyard, where the ancient haybarn roof rafters remind me of cathedral arches,
past the old dairy where the wonky walls are reinforced with brick buttresses, and the floor still has its original cobble stones.
Pausing at the farm entrance to check for traffic, Bruce halted on my out-breath, and stood quietly. I patted his neck, and we turned right, following the privet hedge bordering the farmhouse to the gate opposite.
The low wooden gate was tricky to open and stiff on its hinges. Bruce nibbled the hedge while I swore loudly and muttered about the ‘good old days’ when we’d have been tempted to jump it instead of opening it. Once I’d shoved it into a passable gap, he shimmied his way through, with me following behind. We ambled along the grassy track and over a bridge where the drainage ditches have become a flowing river, until we reached the beehives at the top, but active bees buzzing about surprised us both so we made a hasty retreat!
Turning back on our tracks, we crossed the road to search the hedge for for rosehips. Bruce found and ate two, and on the farm track towards home, we found daffodils flowering in the shelter of the near-derelict old garden gazebo. As I bent down to take the photo I felt hot breath on my hand, and quickly moved Bruce away from taking a mouthful!
It had been a lovely walk and I felt quite tired, so while I got his stable ready for the evening, I put Bruce in the jumping paddock to graze. However, he had other ideas and had a long roll and wriggle in the mud. I brushed him again, put his rug on, and he went out in his field to spend the rest of the day with his mates. When I got in the car to go home, I noticed how rosy my cheeks were and how exhilarated I felt. And it made me smile out loud.