OK — all of you who don’t get the whole horse thing, look away now.

The rest of you may be familiar with my opinions on writing and riding and the parallels to be found therein. I’ve blathered on before about ‘throughness’  — a dressage term that describes the perfect communication of intent between rider and horse — and the fact that it’s equally applicable to the perfect connection between writer and reader.  I’m much better at achieving throughness as a writer than a rider; so much so, that I can usually tell which passages will be quoted in my reviews, because they’re the ones that come out of an almost trance-like state of throughness, straight from the subconscious.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s as if a direct channel of communication has been established between some deep place in my psyche and the reader. The writing that results often surprises even me.

But I’m disgruntled with both writing and riding at the moment.  I blame it on February, or maybe all the rain. (Though I do quite like the fact that There Is No Dog has forty days and forty nights of rain in its otherwise modern narrative.  So perhaps I’m to blame for all this miserable weather?  Or am I indulging in one of those pesky psychotic delusions again?)  The problem is that the book refuses to get finished.  I’m fed up with my 19-year-old God, and every time I think the end of the book is nigh, it turns out to be just another false summit.  My agent says this is what happens when you take on life, the universe, and God as a topic.  I think she’d like to use the word hubris.

As for riding, I was feeling so strong and secure and competent sometime around Christmas, and after six weeks of ice, lousy weather, a horse with a sore back, and hardly any riding at all, I’m all floppy and hopeless.  For our last few lessons, Moss and I have been looking significantly more Laurel and Hardy than Torville and Dean.  Not his fault.  He’s the beauty, I’m the beast.  My lack of throughness lets him down.

Lovely Moss

I always feel guilty complaining about any element of my life — being a writer is so much lovelier and more pleasant than virtually any other job — (with the possible exception of dreaming up movie titles).  I get time off to sleep and think and walk dogs and ride horses, and can call all of it part of my working day.  But some days (and weeks), when throughness continually evades my grasp, I feel clumsy, nervous, exhausted from the effort, and disappointed with the result.

With a strong heart and enough hard graft, I’m sure it’ll all come out OK.


If I don’t break my neck first.


10 thoughts on “Riding and Writing, Part, um, 162.

  1. bookwitch 9 years ago

    It’s the same with my dodgy knee. It needs winter to be over, and preferably the migraines too, so it can go for walks like normal knees do.

  2. Nina Killham 9 years ago

    Your love and knowledge of horses really showed through in The Bride’s Farewell which I so enjoyed. So sit tight, on horse and off, and I’m sure the sun and an end to your new novel will arrive soon.

  3. Per Maria Dahlin 9 years ago

    hello there… i just found the link to this blog from the back of Jumpy Jack and Googily, and thought you’d be cheered from you winter doldrums to know that my copy of JJ&G is about to packed in my son’s bag…that is going with him to a preschool in rural Uganda (Buiga Sunrise Preschool), where it is sure to be loved!

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      What a delightful message for a rainy afternoon in London! It has cheered my up no end, thank you. And a big kiss to your son…I hope school isn’t too much of a shock.
      Does he have the wild boar books? I’d happily send you a copy of each if you give me your address.

  4. nicola baird 9 years ago

    hello, the strange thing about throughness (I’m talking horses here) is that it’s describing perfection and thus an observer’s term. I did so much of my riding as a child via the pony club (think: woolly Thelwell rides back then, much more push button£££ now) yet the updated absolute oracle, The Manual of Horsemanship, has a clear gap where throughness should be (between throatlash/thrush). The best riders have an instinctive feel for horses (then endlessly honed through love/sweat/experience) but they’re not top communicators. So I’m not so sure about throughness as a state of grace. Horses give joy in so many ways – whinneying at you, grooming, their smell. My favourite moment was a race with my mare against a low-flying pigeon along a hertfordshire bridlepath years ago. We were galloping but I could hear the mud flick up, the pigeon’s wings swish and then being blinded by tears from the cold wind… it was joyous and both my horse, Cass, and I were happy (anyone watching might have noticed my toes down and a certain lack of control). But I do understand this trance state you mention in writing which seems much more out of body than when everything goes perfect on a horse and you are crushingly aware of the moment. I look forward to finding out more about your thoughts. nicola

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Not sure about that, Nicola. I never really think of throughness from an observer’s point of view. It’s something that happens between rider and horse, and also looks wonderful. Moments of perfect throughness strike me as being obvious to everyone — a musician friend got very excited when I mentioned my theory, and said it applies perfectly to musical performance too….

  5. Minnie 8 years ago

    Is ‘thoroughness’ (which, as a rider, I’d never heard of, BTW: obviously an equine ignoramus!) akin to what psychologists call ‘flow’, ie a state of complete involvement/absorption in the act of creating something? Or is is related to what in dressage is called ‘passades’, which always strikes me as having a dreamlike element to it – repetitions until perfection is reached (or as near to perfection as can be).
    SUCH an interesting & stimulating topic – merci!

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Yes, Minnie, I think it’s usually called flow — which I always imagined as a river, a smoothness, a movement that doesn’t require too much conscious thought. Possibly the only difference with throughness (which literally refers to the horse working ‘through’ from the rear, and thus a close relation of flow) is that to me it seems to require a direct connection with the subconscious. It has to start someplace very deep.

  6. Minnie 8 years ago

    PS The shame of it, so intent on commenting failed to mention what first drew me: the beauty of Moss! A fine gelding; looks like what the Irish call ‘a good lepper’. Class – puts the hairy little part-Welsh Mountain palomino I used to ride in the wooded hills around my house into the shade (not that he’d have given a fig about such things!).

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