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.

A new field

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 04 April 2012

It has taken two weeks for me to fall out with the livery people. Actually, it was not so much a falling out, as them developing a deep antipathy towards me. I thought I was being blithe and charming; in fact, I was clearly having the effect of nails down a blackboard.

It was on account of the rules being unwritten. I suspect that they are unwritten because, to the livery people, they are so blindingly obvious that they do not need stating. In a perfect storm of unwitting misfortune, I broke every single one within the first week.

Walking through the sawmill, for instance. Apparently this is so verboten they need new words for no. I saw the mill, and thought that for conditioning a new horse to a strange place, nothing could be a better test. The more weird things she can see, the more she realises they are not lairs for mountain lions, and the quicker she will settle. I was so proud of her as she bravely went past piles of logs, nameless contraptions, huge sheds, heavy machinery, saws and tractors. I was smiling and laughing. I waved at the sawmill gentlemen, wished them good morning, introduced the mare, made obligatory remarks about the weather.

‘Lucky not to be yelled at,’ I was told, later, when my egregious error was pointed out.

There was a lot more in this vein, a sorry litany with which I shall not burden you. Long and short is, my unbelievably kind and lovely landlord has a delightful field, and it seems that all he wants in it is a horse. So today, we move her.

I had been looking forward to the move for days. There is something very lowering about being in a yard where you are regarded as having gone rogue from day one. As I rode about in the spring sunshine, I dreamt of the happy picture of the glorious chestnut mare silhouetted against the high blue mountains.

Then, rumours of snow started. The temperature, which in my village had broken the all-time Scottish spring record at twenty-three degrees, plummeted to a paltry two. My poor southern mare, I thought, out in the bloody weather. I leapt in the car and drove across half of Aberdeenshire to get extra rugs and sustaining feed. Up in the hills beyond Torphins, the snow started. It looked like the dead of winter. Oh, woe, I thought, panic rising in me like bile.

As I drove home, the weather lifted. The mercury inched up to four degrees. The snow changed its mind and went away to bother someone else. She will be fine, I thought. Horses are tough old things, even such a beautiful thoroughbred as mine. They are built to be out in the open. The keeping of a horse in a stable can feel proper and kind, when the mind turns to anthropomorphism. How much lovelier to be in a cosy box, deep with straw, than out in the elements. In fact, horses get bored in their box; it is an unnatural confinement. What they really like is being able to mooch and graze all day. They have small stomachs and so need to eat constantly. There are some people who say the very act of grazing has a soothing effect on the equine psyche. They also like the freedom to move.

Now, all I have to do is get her a companion. There is a horse sanctuary three miles up the road, where they rescue horses that are no longer suitable for riding. I already dream of some dear old mare, longing for a home of her own. Horses are pack animals; it shall be a very small pack, but what it lacks in numbers it shall make up for in quality. And one day very soon, the sun shall come out again, and the mountain will reappear from the dreich, and all manner of things will be well.

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