• Gillian Keegan

Well, this is civilised

A spot of light reading!

Well, this is civilised. I have not one child under my supervision and I am happily sitting, sipping a beer, eating spiced mixed nuts, in the new Four Seasons hotel bar.

It is not without guilt. The Monkey is sick, I am a terrible mother. She had a cold, which seemed to take hold and go to her chest. The new germs in India are taking some getting used to and have knocked the poor kid out. She hasn’t eaten for four days, is wheezing and is miserable. We had a nebulizer session at the hospital yesterday (if you can call screaming as your mother tries to waft gas up your nose a session) and I will take her again tomorrow. In the meantime, I shall take another sip of beer.

It is for the good of us all, me being here. I haven’t really seen the Lawyer for two weeks, and we desperately need a date night so we can have some form of conversation that doesn’t revolve around the kids, dinner or Netflix. I’ve been at home with the Monkey for a full week. Every day. If someone screams ‘mummy’ one more time, I may turn rogue and go on a stabbing spree. She is with our nanny, watching TV with her brothers. We will all be ok.

It has been a funny few weeks. Bucee is on box rest and I feel a bit lost. At first, the break was actually quite nice. I got a few things sorted in the house, ordered art-work and furniture, actually felt like I knew what was happening at school, and bought some Christmas gifts (yes, it’s September, I told you I was lost).

It takes only a few listless days, however, before I start to question my existence. I don’t have a work visa here, I am classed as a ‘trailing spouse’ which is enough to cause despair in itself, but when I have a horse to throw my energy into, the rest of the day very happily falls into place. I have a purpose, I am growing, improving, working towards something. A ride, and my head is clear. I know that, as a mother, I am doing an important (and bloody exhausting job) bringing up three children to be good global citizens, helping them love, laugh and learn. I support my husband in his role, provide a stable presence for our family so he can travel and work crazy hours. Yesterday, however, I was given ‘feedback’ that the homemade soup I packed for lunch (bubbling hot and in a flask, with sourdough bread) was too lumpy, making it difficult to eat. This feedback was followed, shortly after, by a sad face emoji.I have plummeted from a managing a team of lawyers at an ASX top 50 company to getting poor emoji feedback about the quality of my packed lunches. As you can imagine, that was a happy moment in our house.

And, so what to do? Bucee, we think, is recovering but I may have a few more weeks with no pony. I am reliably informed by a hideously expensive and horrendously accurate corporate personality screening exercise that we did at work, that my first and foremost skill is that of ‘learner’. I really love to learn, find things out, sit with a text-book. I would happily go back and study. I know that I want to qualify as an instructor, so, when I find myself searching for the full season of The Bachelor 2019 on YouTube, I know that the time has come to give myself a kick up the bum. If I can’t ride. I’ll read.

Amazon India is pretty fabulous and, as it turns out, I have a whole heap of amazing equestrian texts available at the click of a button. A click of a fair few buttons later and the books start to arrive, oh I’m in heaven!

I start with Gerd Herschmann’s ‘Tug of War’ and I can’t believe I have left it until now to read this fantastic book. It should be a must for anyone who is getting serious about training a horse, and I am left with a feeling of such responsibility to ensure that I am a careful, kind and understanding rider who is able to progress with absolute respect for my horse’s wellbeing. The anatomy section is a great overview, and not too detailed for a first dip into what lies beneath. I am also left worried, however, about our sport, and concerned that if judges (as Herschmann alleges) at the highest levels are not appreciating the differences between a relaxed horse in self carriage, and a taut, stressed animal being jammed into a frame by years of ‘training’ I am not sure what the future holds.

Moving on from Dr Herschmann, I go to Dr Andrew McLean. Andrew is probably the world’s foremost expert in equitation science and has published a number of fantastic text books on ethical horse training, based on the science of learning theory. In Australia, we were lucky enough to live only an hour away from the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre (AEBC) (the school set up by Andrew and his wife, Manuela) and I attended a number of clinics with my horses. Inspired by the teaching methods, I have the main texts published by Dr McLean - ‘The Truth about Horses’ and ‘Academic Horse Training’, but haven’t really studied them until now.

Dr McLean’s methods have been referred to as ‘the holy grail’ in horse training and, as I delve into the books, I am treated to hours of demystifying the curious world of the horse’s brain. They are quite academic in places, but I actually like that – I am happy to spend time unpicking and understanding. McLean’s methods are a soothing compliment to Herschmann’s work. We are provided with a method and structure to work with our horses in a humane and ethical way, which cuts through the layers of folk law and fables which seem to make up the horse riding world.

Next I pick up ‘Beyond Horse Massage’ by Jim Masterson, who is the USET Endurance Team Equine Massage Therapist. This is a hands on book, with step by step instructions on how to help your horse release tension. Again, you do need to focus to understand the method, but I found watching a few YouTube videos by Jim really helpful in seeing his methods in action. After the first chapter – the book is split into sections of the body, so you can do a section at a time – I was able to treat Bucee to a neck and poll release, which he loved after being on box rest for so long.

Phew, so I definitely feel that I have put my time to good use. I think next I’m going to start on my British Horse Society books in preparation for the BHS exams, but I can’t sit these until next summer when I’m in the UK so it’s a bit frustrating! I’ve also ordered a full textbook on hooves, crazy times for me!!!! For a little light reading in between the study, I have Charlotte DuJardin’s book ‘The Girl on the Dancing Horse’, because when I can’t ride, I can also dream.

Happy reading and riding everyone!

X Gill x


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