Let me start by telling you a story of The Other Day. Because The Other Day it was lovely and warm, and the sun teased my skin in a way that made me want to ride in only a T-shirt. Which is of course something I’m forced to declare out loud, to anyone who’ll hear it.
‘Look Liz!‘ I unzipped my jacket, leaving it unwanted and abandoned on the fence. ‘I’M ONLY WEARING A TSHIRT!‘
Because Liz knows me, she understands this to be a Big Deal. That’s she’s witnessing Something Important. It MUST be warm, I imagine her thinking to herself, if Jane is only in a T-shirt.
She smiles and nods appreciatively. No doubt she’s suitably impressed.
Today, however is not The Other Day. If you had told us The Other Day that today it would be raining with snow to 200 meters, we would have said, this is impossible, untrue. Not only because we (I) are never quite sure what hundred-meter mark we live on (although looking directly at the sea from my window does give me some hints) but because it was very clear The Other Day that we now lived on a kind of Lord of The Rings version of Ibiza, at least from a meteorological perspective.
And also, I was in a T-shirt. Which tells you everything you need to know.
Anyway, My Liz, as she is formally known, has recently returned from Africa, where she has been adventuring with her rather intrepid and quite fantastic family. I’m very glad to have My Liz home.
‘It’s true what you said‘, she mentioned as we were crooning over Merc, talking about restarting playing with her horses. ‘The ponies haven’t forgotten anything!‘
‘They are very smart,’ I returned. A lesson I had been grateful to learn many times.
These last couple of months, my ponies have had more time off than on. With a work schedule that’s seen me travelling regularly overseas, they’ve put new meaning to the term “wintering”, going to great lengths to make it their own. They even had some meetings about starting their own reality TV show, Horse vs Wild, in a similar format to Bear Grylls.
Production was halted on my return, and without wanting to be a killjoy, I told them it was very difficult to get funding.
In particular, I’d been reluctant to leave Merc. Just prior to him having a little break, we started to get a few trot strides that felt they had panache. A big deal for us. Where his body was free and forward, his trotters hovering for a half a second or so above the ground. We were almost ready the Patchy-Pony-Slightly-Heavier-Horse-Olympics, and I, for one, was here for it.
‘Merc!‘ I had shrilly cried out in delight. ‘You are so, so clever!‘
It had been 18 months of work, and I could see some shiny glimmers of goodness. I wasn’t sure what the start point would be with a couple of months off, how long it might take to return. To my joy, our trot was still there. And it appears, I found out, we also had more balance in the canter. Rest can be magical like that.
‘Look!‘ I yell to My Liz as I’m cantering around this arena. ‘I think this is the best canter we’ve ever had!! WE’RE ALMOST READY TO BE ARWEN!”’ I keep going. “DID I TELL YOU THAT I GOT A BOW AND ARROW FOR MY BIRTHDAY? I WANT TO DO MOUNTED ARCHERY!’
I share this with you not only to tell you of my secret dreams of being a bow and arrow shooting Arwen, but also because I am an Enthusiastic Celebrator of The Little Things (which, incidentally, are never really that little). Lightness of feet, I believe, can only exist in combination with lightness of spirit. I tell my horses all-the-day that they are clever and brilliant and gorgeous. That I want to be Arwen from LOTR. That this whole thing we’re doing together is and should be fun.
All of which is true.
It’s so easy to make the our riding experiences heavy. To pick apart what isn’t working, over analyse what is. Every now and then, when I step outside my bubble I hear someone refer to their horse as stupid or an idiot. And a part of me feels injured. I carry with me a naivety that is genuinely shocked.
I’m a firm believer that beauty in action begins with beauty in word. That our inner life is one created through language. Our words are holograms we step into, potentials of lived experience created ahead of time. Possibilities we sing into existence.
To refer to our horses, and ourselves, in a way that is degrading is insulting to the spirit, both ours and theirs. Sometimes we do so thoughtlessly, but we should never do so intentionally.
Clever and brilliant and gorgeous. The start point and the end point, no matter what it is that happens in between.
This is a photo from The Other Day of Liz and Merc. Vogue cover models, the pair of them. I couldn’t love them more.