A Pushmi Pullyu Day

It’s quite a rarity – something between a blue moon and a red-letter day – a palindromic date.  But it only works if you write your dates European style:  21 02 2012.

And because it’s the same backwards as forwards it’s something of a Pushmi Pullyu day when you really need to ask yourself exactly which way you’re going, otherwise you’re sure to end up standing still.

Sometimes the frustrations of this past year have made me want to despair.  My dreams of doing even elementary dressage with one last horse have foundered on every possible rock and I wonder if it is just stubbornness or idiocy which prevents me giving up the dream.

And so reduced are my ambitions that “Standing Still” is my project of the moment.

This is how it goes:

Enter at A.  Medium walk.  Stop.  Put bridle on horse.  Stand on sturdy plastic mounting block.  Persuade horse that playing Statues is a Good Game.  Insist that sitting on horse is part of Good Game.  Liberal distribution of carrot portions. (It’s hard sticking to our five-a-day.)

We are in his stable.

This is what me and my horse are doing in our quest for the grand prix.  The Grand Prix of Calm.  Taking it back to the Zen of Zero.  Or simply Standing Still for me to mount.

The Spaniard’s been with me for two years now.  One year of making slow but sure progress to a partnership.  Then a further year in which I was bent and broken and back to the beginning – and a year is a long, productive period for a horse in his prime to get into the habit of considering work unnecessary.  (It’s like the debate about the Welfare State.  Hmm.)

He’s a Good Boy.  He really is.  He loves to be told that he is and always looks a bit surprised to find how Good he can be, doing something quite small and seemingly insignificant.  Because in his mind he is the James Dean of our little herd.  The bad boy punk.   The handsome Matador with attitude.

But nowadays he knows I know – his secret is out.  He is hiding a soul that loves to please under that Hard Man carapace. Blame the bullfighting Spanish who gave us the term ”Machismo”.  Indirectly he’s broken my leg and bust my jaw.  Yeah, that’s a Tough Guy (if it were true).   But tough on me, clumsy human in the wrong place at the wrong time – so many years of safe-ridden miles under the belt – then a year under a malevolent star and my non-horsey friends thought I’d acquired the Horse from Hell that was destined to Do Me In.  Well it was Friday 13th November when I tried and decided to buy him!

But the chippy little horse that I brought home in a borrowed trailer was a rather confused eight-year-old, that had never settled long enough anywhere to form a lasting relationship with either humans or other adult horses.  No-one ever promised it would be easy, but sometimes it takes all my resources not to resent how hard it has been.

My previous horses had never seriously challenged the, ” Me Horse:You Rider” contract,  in which Human blows all savings, then feeds, nurtures, sidelines all other responsibilities, adores unequivocally and …… in return, said Horse (though having not actually signed this transaction) has his every need catered for and carries Rider around for a tiny little fraction of his potential grazing time, and might, along the way, step out of his horse-ishness for just long enough to learn how much fun it can be to make a monkey out of a tiny person who slings a leg over his withers.  Then how much more fun it is to do amazing stuff together.

This horse – my little Spaniard – hasn’t quite grasped the concept of the contract yet.  It’s my fault; this translation business isn’t easy.  He has no idea of the finesse of the clauses. The elegance of the mutual agreement.  The flights of fancy we can reach for together.

As I said;  in some ways, we’re starting over anew.  But for me, this has to be a lasting contract.  If it takes me every last ounce of patience, I want to teach him to appreciate it, down to the smallest print, where it is written:

P.S. Ultimately this is an even partnership between two very different and difficult beings; do your best and ….good luck! 

Well look at him – I can’t give up and let him go, can I?

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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12 Responses to A Pushmi Pullyu Day

  1. ptigris213 says:

    Oh, my, you have been entranced and bamboozled by that handsome horse. He looks so innocent. (Ick, what’s that horrid white stuff, it looks like snow, similar to what we had tons of only a month ago!)
    I wouldn’t give up on him. But perhaps he’s not Grand Prix material. Although, a good dressage horse is seldom expected to be anything but goofy until he’s nine or so.
    I hope he keeps the black points and mane and tail. That’s the loveliest of all the many permutations of grey, IMHO.


  2. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The mounting block it is! (8 is still a baby for a spanish horse, at least mine have been that way.)
    As for the white hairs, well, I like dressing alike. It works for me.


    • “Baby” boy is now 11 – could this be toddler tantrums?! Thanks for the encouragement Anna, every bit means a lot, because some days looking at the thousand miles ahead seems so daunting but, hey, by the time we get there we should be dressing alike!


  3. Margaretha says:

    I have a Lusitano dressage schoolmaster (retired bull-fighter) who resembles your Spaniard to a t. He took 5 years to take the Me Horse:You Human contract on board and is now finally there at the age of 19. Never, ever give up. The rewards are enormous, mind-boggling, reccuring and infinitely heart-warming. Because you are both worth it…at any age.


    • Thank you Margaretha, a really heart-warming comment and the kind of thing I need to hear from someone who has been there. Forgive the huge generalisation, but it seems to me that the bravery and thus opinionatedness is woven into the DNA of the Iberians and sometimes their initial training in Spain or Portugal is at odds with current “gentler” methods. When the flashes of understanding do happen, as you say, the rewards are such, that’s what I hope and try for….


  4. A small update for those who were kind enough to comment and others who read this post and may have felt I needed a stern talking to/kick up the backside. On this glorious, sunshiny afternoon (the following day) the Spaniard and I had a relatively successful outing. Mounting statically went well. We did manage some calm periods and I went with the “gotta go” when it was safe – even if that meant belting along the verge of a (becalmed) country road at one point! Suddenly hope came, well, if not flooding, then certainly trickling back. Thanks so much for the comments, which really did help me get back in the saddle in a more positive frame of mind.


  5. rontuaru says:

    You’ve had such a rough year. I give you TONS of credit for hanging in there and giving it your all. I think your Spanish boy is going to really surprise you and turn into a lovely “grow old together” horse. He’s come a long way already. And I know how hard it is to be doing everything pretty much all alone. I’m in the same boat. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, three steps back. But you have made progress in spite of some really big setbacks. So imagine how good things will be if you can (both) stay healthy and get some great riding weather! Set small … very small goals. I have to keep reminding myself of that too. Sometimes too much time spent looking and reading (online) at all the great progress others are making (in leaps and bounds) depresses me and makes me wonder what’s wrong with us, but then we have that really great adventure and I know that if I can just be patient we’ll be a fantastic team. Hang in there and don’t be so hard on yourself or your boy. I think his goober nuttiness will pass! (And if not, at least you’ll have something interesting to write about!!!)


    • Thankyou Rontu! That was a very kind and empathetic comment. I take heart and encouragement from reading how you and Dharla are really progressing (and Michelle and Trooper too), and it’s true that whilst we’ve been frost and snowbound and I’ve been reading all about the things I should/could be doing (indeed should have done 20-odd years ago!) I’m too easily discouraged. Better weather will make a Big difference – at least make my grass arena workable! – and I will make it my sworn business (depending on date of leg op) to borrow/rent my friend’s trailer, get to have lessons with the trainer I rate and report on what ensues, though I have a feeling a lot of humble pie will have to be swallowed !!! But, when we’re just out on horseback enjoying the country we ride through, wouldn’t it be great for us to have company more often……?!!


  6. I thought I was “following” your blog and realised I hadn’t heard from you for a while… to find I’m not actually following you – I will amend that now!
    Sorry to hear about your struggles with your little Spaniard. I hope he comes around for you. I am getting ready to get back to riding in the next couple of weeks and I know I’m going to be ridiculously nervous, even though Flurry has been kept ticking over in my absence.
    What a pity you are not closer to us, we could all do moral support together.
    Bon courage! It will be worth it!


    • Thanks Martine! I’ve been following your progress too and was glad to hear you’d been taking recovery sensibly – I’ve also enjoyed hearing about the area of France where you are, which we know a little!
      Bon courage aussi!


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