This is part 2 of this question I get a lot about The Wilding (other than, so what’s it about? Which is about the time I awkwardly mutter about how it might be about a girl and, oh yeah, her horse). Read part 1 here.
I’m going to answer this question with a horse-related analogy. After all, I wrote a book that has horses in it. This makes sense to me.
I look out into the pasture. My bay mare Mocha is starting to look scruffy, so I make a mental note: time to pull her mane.
This is repeated every day for about two weeks.
Finally, one day, when I can’t take it any more, I pull out the razor. Why a razor? Well, Mocha is one of those thoroughbred mares that won’t cotton to a real mane pulling. She let me do it exactly once: the first time I ever tried. I cooed with delight and eagerly sent off texts to all my fellow thoroughbred lovers with sensitive thoroughbreds that they can’t pull the manes on. Mine was special — unique! — and clearly most awesome. Suffice to say that was the last time she let me do that. Use your imagination.
I get the stool (well, it’s a stump because I’m retro like that) positioned just right. No, that’s not right, there’s a wobble. There — no, try again. There it is.
I climb up to face the mane and Mocha side steps, pulling just far enough away from me that I probably could thin and cut her mane but my arms might fall asleep in the process. I get off the stump and move it forward, repeating the same process as before to make sure it’s just right.
This time, Mocha scoots just one step forward and, this time, I deal with the distance because I’ll be damned if I’m going to move that stump again.
The process begins. My plan is always the same: go down the entire length of the mane and trimming it to about an inch below the desired height (which is about a half inch above where I’d like it so that I can stretch the time between trimming the mane and procrastinate longer; of course, I always fool myself by saying “If I just do a little every day, or maybe a little every week …”).
I start at the withers on Mocha. Don’t know why, but she prefers it and if you’ve ever owned a mare you know you spend a lot of time not rocking the boat. If she doesn’t like something, okay, simple, don’t do it. Find another way. Make her happy because she’s a mare that deals with at least some of your BS (or possibly none at all) and … look at those gaits!
I get about six inches from the withers when the unevenness begins to claw and whine at me.
“Hey, you there,” it says. “Hey, look at me, I’m all uneven. It looks like you’re taking a weed-whacker to your horse’s mane, and you say you love her. What will the neighbors think?”
I grit my teeth and make it to eight inches from the withers. I try to ignore that whiny voice that is kind of like the tag in the Hanes-Michael Jordan commercial. Speaking of Michael Jordan, I bet he still kicks ass on the basketball court. I’ve got my phone handy, maybe I should look up a video? Dude’s a rockstar.
The good news is that the uneven mane has stopped speaking to me (I guess Michael Jordan has that effect on annoying things), but now I’ve spent about 15 minutes looking up MJ videos and for some reason now I’m on Facebook reading Horse Collaborative posts and the comment sections.
What’s in my hand? Oh the razor. Right, I’m supposed to be trimming Mocha’s mane.
I get about nine inches from the withers and the voice picks up where it left off again. This time, I look directly at it. Not to give it satisfaction but to throw it a glare to make it shut up. And besides, it can’t be that bad, right?
Oh, my Lord, it’s atrocious. Have any of the neighbors been by? What if one of my horse friends makes a surprise visit and she looks like this? Well, I can just fix that real quick. And that. Yeah that piece is longer than the other. The thickness is … just … right? Nope, thin more. That looks a little too thin. But thin is good right? Sure, yeah.
Okay, I need to stop. I’m not even at the halfway point yet in bringing up the length. Focus: I need to go all the way to the top of the poll and then I can come back to this.
How’s Mocha doing? Awwww her little lips are dangling. She’s so relaxed and happy for her little spa day. She probably needs a sweet potato slice. While I’m in the feed room getting the slice, I notice that it’s about 20 minutes until feeding time. Perfect, I can totally finish the mane in 20 minutes. I’ve done more with less time.
I get back to Mocha and she takes the sweet potato slice. Maybe I should have brought her another? No, no, remember the task at hand: trimming that mane.
Oh my God. It really does look like a weed-whacker got a hold to her. I glance around like someone might be hiding in the bushes, ready to snap a photo. No one here, at least that I can see.
I step up on the stump, which is now clearly too far away for me to do any meaningful work. I step back down and rearrange for the next five minutes.
But now I only have, realistically, like ten minutes to finish trimming. That’s clearly not enough time, right? Okay, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll finish the nine inches I’ve already started and that will MOTIVATE me to finish the rest of the mane tomorrow. Great plan. I’m so smart.
The first nine inches looks so sharp and beautiful. I could put some hunter plaits in these. Maybe I should just do two or three and see if I’m still on my game? No, no, it’s feeding time. You need to go feed but just one little braid won’t hurt.
The thickness is wrong. All those horse forums are right saying you can’t thin a mane correctly without pulling! And then I remember: I don’t show hunters. I breathe a sigh of relief.
I put Mocha back in the pasture. Now she has one partial, globby braid, about eight inches of neatly trimmed mane, and the rest up to her forelock is a scrubby mess. But I’ll get to it tomorrow and pray that no one will see her tonight.
It’s now Thursday, and this is a retelling from Saturday.
That, my friends, is exactly how you write a book.