She’s back with that saddle again!

Autumn sunshine slants in the background and a handsome old horse in the autumn of his years, leaves wreathed in his mane, basks in the afternoon warmth.  He’s content in his retirement and quite relieved he no longer has to shoulder the burden of his human carer,  since he passed on the batten to an immigrant worker with younger legs and clearer windpipes.  He is quietly smug;  his rations have increased, all his needs are catered to and he’s looking forward to having that lippy young Spaniard out of the way for a while so he and his old field-mate can doze and chew the metaphorical fat in peace.

He was a bit surprised to see “she who must be obeyed” wearing jodphurs and riding boots and carrying that saddle thingy again. Early in the year when the grass was just coming through, she’d disappeared for a few days and when she returned she was sitting down and had wheels. It was pretty obvious the wheels were no use on the muddy hillside and after a while she started to hop about with sticks to keep her upright, but still, it was the man that had to bring all the food and do all the housekeeping for a long time.

She must have got stronger by the time the sun was waning in the sky again, because she got the saddle out and persuaded the little Spaniard to carry her about a bit and the man rode a strange, headless skeleton horse with wheels.  Then one day, after they’d been fed, she tripped backwards on the leg that still wasn’t straight and strong and when she got up her face and clothes were red all over.

The old horse was worried, because SWMBO disappeared again;  he blamed the new boy for being careless and tripping her up, but nobody was really sure what had happened, and as the newbie couldn’t see very well on that side he claimed to know nada.

Of course she came home again, but he could hardly recognise her puffy, purple face or tell what she was trying to say.  The saddle didn’t reappear again for another long spell, until yesterday.   She’d got back to bringing the food regularly and walking up and down the hill carrying that fork that moves the garden fertiliser which it’s a horse’s main job to produce, so she must have been feeling the need to get out and about.

Mostly when she calls the horses outside of mealtimes, they look forward to helping dispose of all the problem windfalls which need clearing up and the little Spaniard was a bit taken aback when, having done his bit to chew through a few, she brought out an ominous looking heap of leather and straps and his fancy red saddlecloth and asked him, “How do you fancy a bit of work?  Look, I’ve brought out your saddle!”

The boy wonder, whose grasp of English is occasionally tenuous, still seemed to be confusing the concept of apple and saddle, because he looked quite enthusiastic, but, once he realised what was afoot and opened his mouth to protest, she slipped on a smart new bridle and he found the bit between his teeth.

The man had to bring a box for her to stand on, but eventually she scrambled into the saddle with its fleecy, woolly cover and all four of them, the Spaniard, the skeleton, the man and the woman wearing the horrible hat rode off into the sunshine and Aly, the old horse went off to tell his pal, the Pie, they had the place to themselves for a while and they ought to make the most of it.

Far too soon the Pie heard hoofbeats and whinnied to welcome them back.  The man on the skeleton was puffing his way up the hill, way behind the other two, who were a bit sweaty but looked pretty pleased with themselves by the time they reached home.  In fact Señor Speedy was uncharacteristically meek and affectionate, obviously chastened by a bout of hard work.




SWMBO must have been especially euphoric because she let the worker walk down into the garden and munch on the lawn.  Aly could hear his sharp little teeth tearing up the rare blades of grass and shouted out an offer to help as he wanted some too.

But the apprentice still needed to have all the straps undone and the boots and bits and saddle taken off, so he was led back into his loose-box-size corral and treated like the little prince he likes to think he is.  Meanwhile the old horse and his pal stood at the fence as the shadows lengthened;  they had perfected a look which mixed longing and pathos and knew that both the man and the woman would be sure to share out any treats between the active workers and the retired.

As of course they did…..

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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6 Responses to She’s back with that saddle again!

  1. rontuaru says:

    Oh my! It sounds like something horrible happened! I’m so glad you’re on the mend and finally able to go for a test ride. I’m sure it must be scary. I know the feeling well, of trying to ride a feisty horse when you have a broken body. I came off my own horse a week ago … nothing too horrible, but being tossed is still being tossed. No major damage, but the next day I felt like I’d been hit by a truck and was sore in some places for a week. (Ribs, shoulder) I kept riding … mostly because I have to, because if I don’t …. well you know the behavior will only get worse. (She’s been a perfect lady since) But there are times when I catch myself wondering what I was thinking when I got such a hot-blooded youngster at this age and stage of my life? We shall persevere though. I don’t have an indoor arena and winter is upon us. My plan is to start the Clinton Anderson program: lots of ground work and desensitization. It will be chilly, but I’m confident we’ll be an even better team come spring. I hope you continue to strengthen and enjoy some much deserved time with your equines! Keep posting!


    • I’m so glad the damage was limited, and I hope you are fine now, but we don’t bounce back as easily these days, do we? It’s such a shame horses’ lives are so much shorter; we lose or retire the ideal companion, but not the need for that special closeness with the regular partner (equine), so we have to take another chance! Ironically, being grounded for 6 months with the broken leg forced me into only ground work with Pom, which really paid off in bonding. But just after I’d started riding again, I over-balanced backwards like an idiot whilst feeding the horses, and broke my jaw, whether on a stone wall or a hoof, not sure. It would be so great to have an indoor arena, but we will get there with our “youngsters”! Lovely photo of Dharla today – I’d love to hear more about your horses and riding in the blog. Many thanks for your comment and good wishes…


      • rontuaru says:

        It never dawned on me to start a page about my work with Dharla. Perhaps I will! I do keep a written training journal/log if for no other reason than I like to look back and see where I’ve been and what I’ve done. (It also lets me see a detailed report of the weather, which has so much to do with our progress … or lack thereof!) I can’t believe you got hurt just as you were starting to get back on your feet. Do you know what happened or was it lost in the moment? I’ve learned to dodge the pinned ears and slinging heads while putting out hay, but that’s new behaviors here. Previously, we didn’t have those kinds of antics and I’m not very happy to have them now. Fortunately, we have enough room to move so we can get feed put out without it being a problem. Still, it irks me. I so wish we had a covered arena. An indoor would be overkill, but a pole barn with a roof? That would be a Godsend! Maybe some day!

        Walk on!


      • Just a quick reply in reassurance re my accident; nothing to do with mealtime aggression from the horses, Pom comes into his little “corral” to give Aly time to finish, in peace, a much larger hard ration, with medicaments for his emphysema, which gives P and I time for grooming, treatments, groundwork, etc. On letting Pom out that time, I was on his “blind” side (he has residual visual impairment from an accident before I bought him) and I took a step back, in a normal sort of way, but my bad leg gave way and once I was on the ground, I’m not sure what happened, but do know I couldn’t blame the boy!

        I’ve enjoyed following your exchanges with Michelle on “The Horsemaster” blog. I have only known a few horses (that I, or friends, have owned) in real depth – native British breeds, Anglo Arabs and a couple of Iberians – sadly I don’t have the breadth of frequenting breeding, racing or teaching establishments. None of mine have come with quite the “people friendly” reputation attributed to Arabians! A friend here owns the one Quarter Horse I ever met, who’s the coolest horse I know, but so is his owner, who had him from a weanling – so nature and nurture may be inseparable there! Camarguais also tend to be very laid back and are probably the French equivalent to Quarter Horses, in being bred for cattle ranching and as “all terrain vehicles” in the marshy Rhone delta, with little spoiling. I know the “to treat or not” debate can be divisive, but I think it’s a fine judgement for each reasonably experienced individual. In the case of Pom, who was so insecure on arrival he showed aggressive behaviour and had no idea of why he should co-operate with us, persistant firm and gentle handling, plus finely dosed treats changed his attitude completely and he, like the others, now comes when called, is gentle and affectionate and politely accepts when it’s “all gone”. However some horses don’t, and each one’s a new learning curve!!

        I hope you’re not missing Beanie too much, he sounded like a fabulous personality. I dread the day I lose Aly….. Love the goats, by the way!


  2. ptigris213 says:

    Congratulations on getting back in the saddle!! Oh, my, isn’t he lovely? What IS it about the baroque breeds? They just have that air of noblesse oblige, of saying, well, okay, you silly primate, I’ll humor you with a ride.


    • I loved your saying, “Harbours may be safe, but that’s not what boats are built for” (and refer any reader here to for further excellent, well-informed advice and opinion). Your comment connects directly to your latest post about how our horses relate to us. Even though everything I do for Pom – as with Aly and the Pie – is out of (knowingly) one-sided love, every gesture of acceptance and co-operation from him is worthwhile. But I do love to see trust ever growing. Two horsemen rode past yesterday (quite rare) and the horses were excited and did their show-off, snorting, territorial passages and caprioles to ward off invaders. The horsemen were kind enough to stop and admire Pom and ask his breed, but all the time he kept returning to me to touch hand/nose for reassurance. That’s my boy!!….


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