09-01-09_150309-01-09_1502grey-day_edited

It’s cold here. -2’C by day, -6’C expected tonight. Humidity is up at 95%, everything is shrouded in thick fog – has been all day. Elder Daughter had the day off school, supposedly to revise, but she worked out that a couple of her London friends were also off school and were going to be at the stables, so she cajoled me into driving out to the cold, damp, grey stables so they could all ride their horses together. Wolf supported her, because he was fed up with pathetic walks in the local park and is, after all, a “country” dog. I bundled him in the muddy boot of my car, with the dirty wellingtons, a couple of grubby dog blankets, a discarded riding coat and various bits of leather tack, and a pair of baseball boots, and a recyclable shopping bag or two. He would rather be sitting on the front seat, so he has to be fixed in the back otherwise he bounds over the seats and sneezes out with pride as he props himself up with his hind feet on the passenger seat, and his front legs on the arm rest. That raises his head to about the same level as mine, giving us both the same view, and I can even hear his breathing. This is his favourite position, even if it does entail some fairly hard muscular activity when the car brakes.

The walk was eerie. Thick, thick fog. Silence, and then out of the silence the drumming of endless hooves as the herd of Camargues cantered out of the whiteness, their muddy patches showing more than their natural coat. These are hardy ponies, bred for the wild salt marshes of the south of France. They run as a herd, let loose from the stables to find their own way to the field. The foals are born as black as ebony, fade to dappled grey by the time they are ready to ride, and only attain a paler shade of white upon maturity. They are thickset, and in winter their coat shakes off the wet and the snow, meaning they can do without the layers of coats that other horses need. They come to see what is happening, ears pricked forward, and then jostle for space by the fence, turning on each other, ears flat back, scaring away those lower down the pecking order. They breath out dragon breath through their widened nostrils, then suck in our smells. Wolf cowers. He was kicked by a mule whom he disrespected when he was a puppy, and he’s kept his distance ever since. He was lucky it was only a mule, only a small hoof, that caught him.

As we walked away the horses faded into the fog, and we were alone again in the velvety silence.

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