Not quite as long ago as I like it to be, I was completely hooked on magic. You know, cauldrons, robes, wands, Invisibility Cloaks, the lot. And it’s taken me far longer to be weaned off fantasy than it took me to be weaned (at least partially) off swearing.
I read every fantasy I could get my hands on and most of them make me cringe to think of. Harry Potter. Twilight. The works. If I had known God’s Word as well as I know it now, meagre as my knowledge is, I probably wouldn’t have walked straight into that trap; I’d probably have either abandoned the books or happily disagreed with them (which I still believe is an option, and I still believe that if a storybook can shake your faith then it wasn’t much of a faith to begin with).
Now, though, I’ve had enough and I’m walking away. Maybe it would have been a different story if I hadn’t been rather messed up to begin with. As it is, I’m going to choose my fantasies carefully. There are some excellent ones that are acceptable as allegories and fun adventures to the believer, not least C. S. Lewis’s mind-boggling “The Chronicles of Narnia”. But this is me saying goodbye to reading the harder stuff, and, especially, to writing it.
So this is why I’m putting “Sparrowhawk” down. I still think it can be written to a level that’s acceptable to God, but I don’t think I’m ready to do it now. I’m not abandoning the project, at least, not yet, because I do think it has promise. I haven’t lived enough days or read enough words to write it.
But as always happens there’s a new idea happily germinating in my head and this one, I hope, will be far easier to write appropriately for Christians. Maybe I’ll just let Sparrowhawk stew for six months, maybe six years, maybe more. I need some time to think about this. One thing I’m sure of: I’m going to strive to not let Jesus down again, and I’m going to strive to keep writing because that’s how God made me.
Not long ago my old blog was called “Everyday Magic” and that’s what it was about, the “magic” I thought I saw in the sunrises and the wind. And how much greater and better that “magic” seemed when I realised that it’s not magic, it’s a miracle, a thousand thousand little miracles happening right under my nose, and they all belong to God. How much bigger! And how much better! The magic doesn’t come anywhere close because the magic just happened; God makes the miracles.
On Friday I encountered a different kind of magic; a 15.3hh grey thoroughbred gelding by the name of Magic. He belongs to a lady who keeps him at the stables where the Horse Mutterer works, and she’s out of the saddle for a while, so I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride him. He’s very young, but absolutely splendid; a compact bundle of muscle with a gorgeous jump and a kind face. He scares me a bit, but I like him anyway and with God’s help I managed to ride him without a twinge of fear and it was amazing. We stuck to the arena and did loads and loads and loads of trotting, no cantering, but by the end of it I would actually have asked him to canter without feeling like my legs were about to fall off, so that’s a plus. Magic tends to toss his head up in the air, but with the aid of a martingale and a lot of gentle playing on the bit he started to relax. We were both pretty tired by the end, though – at least, I know I was; I hate getting bored on horseback so we were forever changing between going around the arena, going in a figure of eight, and going in a circle, without many breaks, all in a trot. I practiced sitting trot a bit too since though I can stick to Skye and Arwen without much effort I struggle with the thoroughbreds; they just move completely differently. There was improvement, although I think Magic preferred the posting.
Afterwards I got to ride on my beloved Double Reef. No, he’s not really mine, but I wouldn’t mind having him, not a bit. Even though he’s about 16.3hh and a looming black shadow with a moody temper to match, he contributed the most to boosting my confidence on the bigger horses. After riding nothing over 15hh for years I was pretty intimidated when I first rode Reef, but he looks after me and I don’t haul on his mouth and we get along. He’s also superbly schooled, so I can just sit up there pressing the right buttons and concentrating on my position instead of having to fight. He can canter as fast as most horses walk and go sideways (parallel crossing or leg-yielding or half-passing or whatever it is that you call it), although I’m not much good at that. We practiced it again and we did get three or four strides in walk that were completely sideways with the legs crossing and the body reasonably straight. I get completely lost when it comes to trotting or cantering sideways, though.
Yesterday it was back to my own crew, although unfortunately Skye will be out of action for at least the next two weeks. Our vet told me to keep riding her as the lameness was extremely slight, but when the lameness got worse instead of better it was evident that she needed rest. She’s still very happy in herself, though I discovered a tender spot on the left side of her back – maybe that was the problem? Although the saddle fits well – so as long as she’s happy I’ll try not to panic.
As usual I saddled Arwen for the first half of the lesson, and not as usual she was absolutely fantastic. As she’s been going so nice and forward lately I decided it was high time she learned to bring her head in and move properly, since she’s been going everywhere with her nose poking out a mile. I’d tried teaching her this before, but without a martingale it was a Herculean task and ended up being a fight, so I put a running martingale on her, warmed her up a bit, and then asked her to bring the head in. And it went straight in. Voila!
It was a charming surprise; I had worked on this before with Arwen about a year ago but with all her laziness issues, I hadn’t even tried for months. She’s relatively consistent in a walk, although she likes to try and put her head down between her knees, and also quite consistent in a trot. In canter she sticks her silly pony head in the air, but we’ve only spent two sessions working on it, so we will get there. She’s much better with getting the correct leg in front, provided I do my bit. She’s right-sided, of course, but very supple and learning fast. Overall I’m very happy with her in the arena – it’s on outrides that we run into trouble.
Siobhan has been having her ups and downs. Last week she was just stellar; this week she really lacked enthusiasm and drooped along indifferent to my aids, as well as being horribly lazy and flatly refusing to canter more than two or three strides at a time – to be fair we were going clockwise, her least favourite way, but she has still been a lot better. She has her moods and I don’t school her enough, but as long as she’s not killing anybody I don’t have time for more.
She was due to have her feet trimmed, and since she’s quiet and has tiny, soft hooves, the Mutterer decided that I needed to continue my course in farriery. I’ve done probably about one full set: two of Arwen’s feet, one of Achilles’s feet, and one foot belonging to a droopy, nameless thoroughbred.
For the unenlightened, let me describe trimming a hoof. First of all you grab the horse’s foot and tuck it up between your knees, and if you’re lucky, the horse stands still. Even if it does stand still, within minutes your knees begin to burn like mad from clinging desperately to the horse’s leg. (Most often the horse is thankful for this considerate human taking the weight off its tired feet and leans its half-ton bulk against you. This is why I did Siobhan, because she’s so little). Then comes the trimming. You get the hoof knife and cut away all the dirt with brisk flicks of your wrist, at least, if you’re the Mutterer you do; if you’re me, you groan, grunt and saw helplessly until the worst comes off. Once the hoof is passably clean you use the clippers to cut the excess hoof wall away, which is easier said than done because the hoof is very hard, the Mutterer needs to sharpen his clippers and I have tiny hands that don’t want to fit around the clippers properly so usually I need the Mutterer’s help. Just as you feel like your back is going to break off and your knees are squealing, you get to rasp the hoof by working the file rapidly across the sole and shaping it until it’s symmetrical. If you’re the Mutterer, little hoof shavings rain down around your boots and it’s over in a minute. If you’re me, you scrape away while the occasional lonely shaving drifts down all by itself.
However, being a sucker for punishment, I seriously enjoy learning to trim hooves even if I end each lesson by swearing that I will never ever be a farrier. That’s what I like about my instructor; you don’t just learn how to sit up straight and hold the reins. If you’re dumb enough to have keenness dribbling out of your ears he’ll teach you about conformation and hoof trimming and tack and everything else you nag him about.
And when there’s the whole world of horses waiting to be discovered and you’re as clueless as a chicken on the high seas, you’ll need it.