My Bonne-Maman loved to pick up horse manure in the streets of Arfons whenever a horse would go through the village on its way back to its stable. Horse manure was her favorite fertilizer for her rosebushes.
But for me, the smell of horse manure brings my brother Pat back to life... somehow.
On both sides of the family, there have been a lot of horsemen. Some made it their trade. Others, being wealthier, entered horse shows.
My brother Pat loved horses. So as soon as he could, he convinced our mother to let him take riding lessons.
He was willing to quit playing his violin in order to pay for them. I have to admit that life without Pat’s violin became all of a sudden more heavenly.
We did not realize at the time (he was 9 or 10) that horse riding would become such a passion in his life.
He went from very small horse shows to national competition. He loved riding. He loved training horses. He loved show jumping and dressage events.
Once he discovered eventing, he went wild.
A few months before his death in 1991, he had been offered to be part of the French Eventing Team.
Lots of children dream of having their own horse.
Pat did buy several horses throughout the years as soon as he started working. He worked hard but only to fulfill his one and only passion: horse-riding.
His first horse, a chestnut Anglo-Arab by the name of Galapiat («Scamp» in English) still is my favorite. He was strong and willful. An excellent horse for high level competition.
I remember taking long rides with my brother on the beach down south and in the forest in Arfons. They were fun. Wonderful memories too.
I had the hardest time understanding why Pat loved so much taking part in horse shows. And later on, he scared me a lot when he decided to go into eventing.
I realize now that he needed to prove to himself and the whole world that he was competitive in one field and his field was horse-riding.
After his death, I decided I’d never get close to a horse again. I’d watch people ride horses down on the beach below my house... and that's all I did - watching.
Sometimes, I was aching. Horses and my brother were so mixed up in my mind and in my heart. Memories coming back. The grievous feeling of loss.
In Brittany, we live very close to a city called Lamballe. Besides its medieval houses and churches, Lamballe has a «Haras National» (a stud farm) where they breed horses - all kind of horses - plow horses, racehorses, hunters, etc.
For years, I’ve been attracted to the Haras and somehow I never managed to go there.
Then it happened this summer. We finally found enough time to go and visit the Haras which offered on the very rainy day we chose, not only a visit to the stud farm itself but a dressage session and a horse show.
I was a little bit apprehensive. A trip back into the past can sometimes backfire. I had loved horses when my brother was still alive but I had made up my mind I’d never ever get close to one of them...
The old life swept me through ... as soon as I entered the Haras. There were horses everywhere. Horse trailers everywhere. Riders in their very formal garb were walking their horses around the buildings while waiting for their turn to compete.
The sounds were all there too, so omnipresent. Hooves echoing on the tarred path. Horses neighing while waiting in their trailers. Voices announcing the results of the latest competitor including the rider’s and his/her horse’s name through loudspeakers...
The strong smell of horses in a lather.
Then one sweet whiff of horse manure...
And my brother Pat was there...
And I loved it. I felt very sad of course but my anger because he let go while he was still so young and promising was gone. For the first time ever since 1991.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*