A misty afternoon on the sort of day when sound carries for miles. Distant vehicles hum, somewhere a chainsaw roars. There's plenty of storm-felled timber to cut. A cool day, windless, the ground slowly drying. Yes, the footing is much less slippery than last weekend. That's welcome, and so is a rare day of freedom from work.
Earlier in the week I met a man who is spending seven months riding his horse around England. That seems like a long time to circumnavigate half of an island that I could drive from end to end in a (very long) day. One thing he said has made me think: that after all that time he had not formed a bond with his horse.
I'm not sure that I could form a bond with the horse that he described: aloof and prone to spook.
But rather that say that, I commented that some people imagine the bond that they aspire to, even convincing themselves that their horse loves and understands them.
Now I think of that bringer of perspective: the moment when I turn out Brena and she just walks off to eat, drink, roll or greet her companions. I might as well not exist. Well, she's a horse. Not a pet. Even my three wonderfully affectionate cats become bored of human attention after a while. So what sort of a bond do the mare and I enjoy?
Brena comes to greet me at the gate. Is that just for food? Perhaps not, as she walks quietly with me to the barn, then waits patiently tied. Brena exhibits mannerisms that seem affectionate, nickering and rubbing against me. I expect that she senses my pleasure and responds. Out riding she must feel my positive emotion, hear my voice and laughter, when I ask her to trot or canter and she responds willingly. I sense her desire to gallop up a familiar hill, and in those moments her will and mine precisely coincide. Does the totality of this comprise a bond, or are we simply compatible?
Much emotion is invested in a good riding horse, and considerable meaning. Brena is my means of exploration. She gives me an opportunity to dream. Brena lifts me above those who walk, placing me in the realm of ancient nobles, warriors, travellers and priests. She responds to me honestly, her reactions free from human wile and obfuscation. Brena places me in a position of responsibility too, where I may show my skill and my goodness too in caring for her. A good horse invests meaning in my life, and I think that is where our bond lies.
Yes, that's it. Our bond stems from how I approach Brena, what she gives me, and how I reciprocate. And in this I am conditioned by a breadth of culture: the prevailing ethic; history as represented to me; spirituality and religion; and the wise words of a few influential people.
Whatever it is that culture has distilled within me - and I am still trying to understand this - I do love riding through the countryside on a good horse.