We love our horses in Ireland and throughout March I have been very conscious of all the big racing festivals in which Irish horses, trainers, owners and jockeys have been doing so well. Cheltenham was the biggy but The Irish Grand National in Fairyhouse in Co. Meath is also a very big affair.
While all these were going on, I found myself looking at horses grazing the fields while I was out and about and one pony kept catching my eye.
I’ve christened him Pensive as he always looks like he’s deep in thought. Clearly he’s never going to be featuring at something like the Cheltenham Festival but he has an appeal that I can’t quite explain.
It’s got to to with having a charm and a certain poise in spite of not being a celebrity in the horsey world. I’d stop and have a little chat with him on days when the big Festivals were on and think how he is so like the vast majority of people. Only a tiny percentage rise to the top and become household names around the world but that doesn’t mean that they are any less special to those who love them for who they are.
In a world in which ‘celebrities’ are more and more talked about, it is all too easy to forget the wonder and unique qualities within ‘ordinariness.’
I don’t care the Pensive didn’t win the Cheltenham Gold Cup; I don’t care that someone isn’t a world renowned writer….. What matters to me is that they bring joy by being who they are; that they make me think; and that they reveal the extraordinariness that lies within the so often taken-for-granted ‘ordinariness’ that is both within us all and all around us.
January 29 means just one thing to me and that’s Mother’s birthday. She was born in 1921 and had a grand total of eighty eight birthdays.
She grew up on a farm in Co. Meath and adored nature more than anyone I’ve ever met. I’ve been thinking about her a lot today and was thrilled to see that the first daffodil in my garden bloomed forth over night to join the snowdrops which were always such a symbol of her birthday.
I loved hearing stories about her youth and especially how she and her big brother spent endless hours out riding their ponies. They were inseparable and shared all sorts of passions, including poetry. She used to tell me of how when they were supposed to be going to sleep, they would be whispering the lines of poems to each other through their open bedroom doors. This is one of the verses that she would burst into from those days:
When sorrows come sobbing
To clutch at the breast,
When trouble comes robbing
The heart at its rest,
When cash columns addle
The brain as they may:
Swing into the saddle,
To horse and away!
To horse and away
To the heart of the fray!
Fling care to the Devil for one merry day!
( From Galloping Shoes: Verses by Will. H. Ogilvie, 1922)
It wasn’t until after she died that I found this photograph from her childhood. It was tiny and the fact that it was a picture of Mother and her brother on horseback with their parents in the frame only revealed itself when I managed to enlarge it. I’d say Mother was about seven or eight when it was taken.
It’s a photograph that makes me smile and hope that if by some chance there is a heaven that Mother has been able to spend today running in the woods among the snowdrops and riding her beloved Jock with her big brother as they recite every line of poetry they ever knew.