Welcome Back, Dr. Jekyll

I know some of you have been concerned about the way things have been going here.


Me too.

You never realise quite how pernicious a force anxiety can be until you find yourself deep in a worrisome hole and there seems to be no way to think yourself out.  Whichever way you turn, your own anxieties seem to be enthusiastically digging the ground out from under you.  And then there’s that feeling as if someone laced you into a Victorian corset whilst you were sleeping and you have his lump in your chest so leaden you can hardly breathe.  I think it’s called Fear.

In my last post I recounted how a session of groundwork and lungeing had gone horribly wrong and left Pom and I at teeth-grinding odds with one another.

It wasn’t something that I could mull over endlessly with the other half – there’s no way I could have paid it back in rugby analysis – and, honestly, the more I got stressed, the more I knew I was losing his sympathy as a rational, capable woman (or such is the rôle I pretend to play!).

So what did I do with my dark and shameful worry?  Blurted it out, I’m afraid.  Posted about it here, asked questions on equestrian forums, consulted with my more knowledgeable horsey friends and, generally, opened my eyes and ears to all good advice from many quarters.

But it did send me round in ever decreasing circles, because, of course, everyone has a different angle.

And as my knowledge of the possible causes for Pom’s sudden outburst of aggression increased exponentially, the more overwhelmed I felt by my own implication in the causes and doubtless inadequacy to redress the situation.   And the Fear started to bubble up repeatedly, like acid indigestion.  (This metaphor springs readily to mind as the possibility of ulcers was one of the first suggestions and lines of enquiry.)

To all of you whose advice and help I appreciate and respect, I’d like to thank you and let you know I’ve been looking into many of the avenues recommended (funds permitting) and there are still more I want to go into in the next few days and weeks.   All learning is good learning.   And if that isn’t a quote by some famous sage, I’ll claim it for my own.

But I also have a very sensible friend on the spot, who fixed me with a knowing eye and said, “He just needs riding”.

And, in a nutshell, she’s right.

We were taking up again after almost a four month layoff and the last two years has been an unfortunate series of stops and starts.  So it’s more of a wonder that I haven’t had more problems or just thrown in the towel, found Pom and the Pie a nice new home, and spent more time reclaiming the garden, finishing the gîte and planning a few foreign trips to ease me into my dotage.

But then I’m a stubborn cuss.  Maybe I’m crazy for carrying on the challenge, but then I shouldn’t baulk at the first fence.   Just because I still consider Pom and I to be a partnership, doesn’t mean he’s been longing to play all those loopy games the humans make up.   It’s been a cushy billet here after all.   Generally speaking, cantering over to the fence and whickering is all it takes to score a juicy carrot.

And it’s perilously easy to lose the work ethic;  there are so many excuses and it’s hard to know whether you’re being hard on yourself or easy on yourself when normal routines are interrupted by illness or injury.   But we all know the game is up if you let the Fear win.

So I’ve been trying to notice when the anxiety shallows my breathing.   And count slow deep breaths.   To step back out of Pom’s face.   Ask him little and reward generously.   Do things I know we both enjoy.   Ride the byways in the sunshine (when it shows its face) and laugh into the breeze.   And gallop when we can.

Loosen the reins, loosen the inhibitions, slacken that deadening, serious grip.   And enjoy.

The fitness, the schooling, the necessary hard work will come when we’re ready, I hope.


So welcome back, Dr. Jekyll.  We’ve had a few good rides together now and we’re feeling more like a team.

I think Mr. Hyde is that turbulent temper that erupts out of nowhere when Pom loses patience with human footling.  It’s up to me to keep him sweet and keep us safe.



Little example.   On our last ride out, we were cantering up a long steady incline when we found our path blocked by a fallen hazel sapling, too high to jump, too low to pass under.   Problem – and a long trek to go round another way.  So, after a bit of thought, I rode Pom right up beside it, leaned down and backed him up as we tried to drag the sapling aside, then I broke off the branches so we might be able to step over it.  It remained an obdurate obstacle, so, reluctantly, I dismounted, dragged the rest of the tree aside, led Pom round it then remounted.

It doesn’t sound like much, but when he’s agitated, standing still to mount is not a given.  With my left leg still not 100%, I’m always afeared of that split second when you’ve left the ground, but you’re not yet astride, when, if the horse decides to take off, you’re all too vulnerable.  (That was how I broke my leg in the first place.)

But he didn’t, we were fine and the boy was exceptionally pleased with himself for looking after me.   And the more experiences like that we share, the better our mutual understanding.

Thinking about his mercurial, but rare changes of temperament, it struck me that someone else very close to me had also been subject to sudden flights of temper.   Forgive the leap – my lovely but occasionally irascible father!   I thought I’d share this sudden insight with my husband.

“When Pom loses his temper, do you know who he reminds me of?” I asked.

“As it happens, I do,” he said.  “You.”

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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18 Responses to Welcome Back, Dr. Jekyll

  1. Monarch says:

    Bravo, you are facing your demons, (Mr Hyde), and overcoming them. I came across this quote recently and will share some wise advice, ” if we try to suppress our feelings too much, they get stronger. She told me to relax and feel my feelings, and let them shift by accepting them, not fighting them. By letting my negative feelings pass THROUGH me instead of trying to push them away, I can release and transform them much more effectively.”


    • Wise advice Cheri! Sounds a little like “feel the fear but do it anyway”, not easy when fear’s primitive physical reaction is quite hard to deal with intellectually. I suspect there are techniques it must be helpful to learn …..


  2. magreenlee says:

    Hee hee love the last paragraph!
    Yeah, you have a very sensible friend. Sometimes horses just need work… it’s great that you are able to ride him, I was wondering if your leg would be up to it.


    • My mother used to accuse my father of having “an Irish temper” (whatever that meant – his family left during the potato famine!!) and I’m the same – but only with the husband …..and hopefully never with my friends, sensible or otherwise 😀


  3. Sandra says:

    Well, they do say horses are our mirror 🙂

    I think you’re absolutely right to just focus on the areas where your partnership works well and it’s great that you both enjoy the riding. It’s so easy to fall into the trap where we feel we should be doing certain things with our horses, but the only thing we really should be doing is enjoy it.


  4. If only that were true in the looks department, not that I want to look like a horse …. but – well – you know what I mean! I’m so glad we got the enjoyment back in riding together – hope you are getting back there too with Cassie and Minnie also?


    • Sandra says:

      Cassie has a bit more hoof rehab to do before she’s ready for riding, but I’m hoping to get there this summer, and as for Minnie, she’ll be on rest for a while after last week’s adventure. Lots of grooming and just hanging out time with my girls!


  5. Oh my, that really scarey part at the end… that’s how you can tell you are on the right path. Keep breathing, forward!


    • The riding's been good and the rapport has followed, but I took to heart your suggestions about physical causes and had Pom checked up. Though our vet doesn't have a scope he has suggested a first-line balancing treatment so we're seeing how that goes ….. let's hope it was just a behavioural blip and overreaction on my part! Thanks, as always, for the welcome support Anna!


  6. Elaine L says:

    Can you blame the poor horses for their frustration with us? I agree with the wet blanket theory for young or old horses; ride him as much as you are able. One of the reasons that my old field hunter was such a joy was because we did many miles of hacking every day; once 20 miles! He was fit, happy, sane, and had a job he knew and enjoyed.


    • I can absolutely vouch for the fact that Pom is one of those horses who seems impossible to tire out and is all the better for as much riding as I can give him. Probably his ideal life would be working on a big cattle ranch. Come to think of it, I’d love that too! I so look forward to us both being fitter again. Good sense, as always, Elaine 🙂


  7. rosievie says:

    Well done, C for working things out. I know you and Pom will get there – with respect and patience on both sides? Love E’s comment about the temper thing! See you soon x


    • S, there are times I would prefer to be doing what you are than putting myself through all this …..that paella had my mouth watering…. but then the good times really are worth it! Any chance you’ve read the next choice and want to send us (both) your opinions if you’re not able to get back yet? x


  8. Hi,
    I’m the Editorial Director of a new company, Lavender and White Publishing, based in England. (on haynet too) We specialise in equestrian fiction and non-fiction and are always on the lookout for authors to work with and new books to add to the site. Our aim is to create a website where horse lovers will be able to find books that will interest them.
    I’m contacting you to ask if you would mind mentioning us in your blog. We have just released a new book, Phoenix Rising and a percentage of the profits from the book are going to help a horse rescue centre so I’m sure you can how much we need any publicity we can get. I have a few paragraphs of information about the company if you would like to look at this. My email is info@lavenderandwhite.co.uk
    Kind regards,


  9. Barley and I says:

    Long time no read! Hope that just means that you enjoy your summer as much as we do! Bear hug from the warm! middle of Sweden 😀


    • Thank you for thinking of me Anna – I appreciate (and need) the bear hug! Hope you and Barley are enjoying your warm summer – here it’s been a little too hot, at times, for riding and the flies are a real pest. The horses are fine but I’ve been getting diverted by the garden 🙂 Lots has happened since I last posted and I will be back with news very soon – nice to know I’ve been missed…..!


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