Yesterday, I pulled on my boots and walked out to the paddock to catch Dee. As I made my way down the grassy path, I thought about how surprised he would be. That instead of being greeted for hugs and the odd kiss on the side of his velvety muzzle then letting him be, I would be taking the halter around his big neck and leading him up and out of the gate.
Just as the mountain scenes around me never fail to capture my attention, I always marvel at the beauty of my horses in the strides it takes to make my way towards them. Dee, especially, was always meant to be larger than life. The tallest member of the herd at 17.2hh, he has defied all logistics and predictions, manifesting from a stallion that was only 14.1.
I daily giggle at the length of his legs. A lovely friend, Jane Lancaster, told me recently that the word “rider” in Arabic translates to mean to be lifted into the realms of imagination. I feel this to be especially true of Dee. To sit on his back in the moment’s things had come together and feel the power that he offered is something that words fall short for. If I closed my eyes in those moments, I could surely touch the clouds.
And yet, alongside this, Dee is also my “things have not gone to plan” horse. The horse who has called on me the most. There have been some physical challenges, a paddock accident and despite being given the “good to go” by all the boxes needing to be ticked, my intuition told me things weren’t quite right. Under saddle things felt more difficult than they should be and a good while back, I called time out. I had promised him during a time when he was especially ill that if he made it through, I would always do the best by him. And recalling those words in these moments, I hung my ego up on the hook inside the stables and whispered in his ear that the pressure was off. That for the next while- and maybe forever- his only job was to be a horse. And I would love him all the same.
Over the last months, I’ve watched him move around the paddock. Seen him trot and canter up and down the hills. Cover the few acres distance from one side the other in what seemed like a few short strides.
And the little voice inside my head returned, niggling in a slightly different way.
“I think you could play together again,” it said to me. “I don’t know where that will take you, but if you aren’t attached to riding, you could see”.
So yesterday, we played. I led him over to the round pen, undid his halter and slung it over the fence. He came and stood by me. And over the course of 15 minutes, we played.
Dee moved with me round the space like he’d only been worked yesterday. In truth, I can’t remember how long it’s been. This big, beautiful horse, on a big paddock of spring grass, away from the company of his friends did everything I asked of him, and at the end, stood next to me, hung his big head down and licked and chewed.
I wanted to stand with him forever.
There have been many times when bringing a horse back in after extended periods of rest have not looked like this. Where the lure of their paddock full of friends is a much more attractive option than the draw of a human such as me.
But yesterday, I felt like I was given a gift.
I learned a new word recently: numinosity. It means to be filled with a sense of the presence of divinity. Whoever divined the Arabic word for rider being lifted up into the realms of imagination understood this. But I wonder, instead of rider, they meant horseman.
Because in my experience, one does not have to be sitting on their back for this to be true.