Our day starts in darkness, always.
My dogs could hear an eyelid opening from outer space so the first job of the day is to run them – head torches and water proof jackets in place. After that it’s into the vortex of caring for fifteen horses and getting the family dressed, fed, ready and appropriately distributed before walking onto the arena for the first horse of the day, just before 8am.
Horses are great life coaches. They don’t care if you’ve just had a paper published, or a novel. They teach you to be your best, all the time, or suffer the consequences. People have been riding horses for six thousand years and I often think about that unbroken line through the past. There are lots of opinions on why, in the 21st century, we still share our lives with horses long after our need for them has passed, I think there’s something very special about living next to something so casually beautiful. Even after all these years, to watch them move with joy still makes my heart go all sideways.
We usually finish working horses about the time most people are getting back to their desks after lunch. Then we eat and do the inevitable administrative tasks that I never pictured myself doing when I registered the business name. Then, if there are no scheduled vet or farrier visits and I don’t have to lecture I can write.
At the moment I’m working on my second novel and for that hour or so I’m lost in Sumatra, between the jungle and a sea that’s every colour of opal you can imagine. The story leaves a wake, like a trail of tiny silver bubbles and it’s my job to shepherd them onto the page. But they’re so slippery, bubbles. So hard to catch, they burst, they find the wind – it’s slow, gentle, breath holding work.
The children usually begin texting me at 3.45 to find out if their state of abandonment is permanent and I quickly reread my day’s work. Usually I frown but every now and then, I think that one day, if I’m lucky, I might actually write something that makes people smile.
After school pickup it’s back onto the arena for the day’s last lessons, then the domestic vortex, though this time in reverse. And then, bliss, as many minutes of reading as is possible before the words blur and run together.
Portland Jones is both a writer and a horse trainer. She has a PhD in literature and runs her own horse-training business. Her novel, Seeing the Elephant was published by Margaret River Press in. 2016. She lives in Perth’s Swan Valley with her partner and three children.