I’ve been writing There Is No Dog for almost as long as I’ve been learning to ride, and if I’d known how long either would take, I’m not sure I’d have embarked on the journeys.
How often does this happen in life? If I’d known how long it would take to sort out my career in London, I’d never have dared make the move from NYC (in fact I never really did sort out my career in London, just decided to be a writer instead). If I’d known that when the builders said three months they really meant nine, there’s no way I’d have started that journey either. And as for riding, surely I’d be a brilliant rider in a year?
Things take longer than you expect.
Today, I had the most wonderful riding lesson, my first ride in a month. I was nervous, knowing I’d forgotten everything — light hands, heels down, back supple, leg on, shoulders back, arms relaxed, seat deep, support with the outside rein, straight lines, deep into the corners, eyes up, look where you’re going, breathe.
My poor teacher sometimes has to stop and ask what I’m muttering and it’s usually something like “Sit up straight you fool!” But today (thanks to the wondrous Amigo, who is far too good a horse for the likes of me), it felt light and pure and effortless — centuries away from three months (and three years) ago when I mainly felt exhausted, frustrated, and at odds with my horse, not to mention lumpen, clumsy and convinced I’d never get it right.
Train of thought. The book.
Along the way, the book has caused more headaches than I care to recount and required considerable help — which arrived, generously and graciously, from a variety of astute readers. And despite the fact that I had no one shouting at me to breathe, there have been five of six people* trying to improve my way of going, help me achieve lightness, balance, throughness, flow.
So that now, despite all the blood sweat and tears, on a good day it looks effortless.
*Elv Moody, Molly Barton, Zoe Pagnamenta, Catherine Clarke, Paul Hamlyn, Sally Gardner…and of course Kelly Turner and Amigo