Ex- music teacher from Gartymore writes book straight from the horse’s mouth


A RETIRED East Sutherland music teacher has written a laugh out loud book told from the perspective of her idiosyncratic horse.

“Picasso’s Piebald Perspectives” by Ruth Whittaker of Gartymore, near Helmsdale, is set to hit the book shelves next Thursday, December 8.

Ruth Whittaker with Willows Picasso.
Ruth Whittaker with Willows Picasso.

For readers of all ages, the book is literally straight from the horse’s mouth as the narrator is Willows Picasso, a thirteen-year-old Gypsy Cob.

In 25 episodes, she reflects sardonically upon various events such as arriving in Gartymore from far away England, meeting a range of equine stakeholders from saddler and farrier to the vet – and her attempts to achieve degrees of cooperation.

Ruth, who has always loved horses but was content to hack out occasionally at local stables, became Picasso’s owner after her late husband John was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Both he and their daughter Becky felt Ruth needed “something to do” to take her mind off his illness.

She says: “Everyone who owns a horse, or pony, knows that finding something to do with, or for it, is extremely easy.”

Bit by bit, Ruth got to know the small, sturdy and “judgemental” mare with her “odd pair of eyes, one normal horsey brownish-blue, the other a disconcerting azure, through which she view the world with smug disdain”.

The book’s front cover.
The book’s front cover.

She says: “Picasso has a personality quite unlike previous equine loves. She is rather like a cat, showing interest only when she feels inclined. She dislikes being petted, and while not at all vicious, cares little for the company of others of her kind, which is unusual.”

A Northern Times columnist for 10 years, Ruth began to write accounts of day-to-day events, as seen through the pony’s eyes, leading to the compilation of this book.

She says: “Picasso’s world is populated by a number of lesser beings – flying ones, meat-eaters, horned ones and two-legs, the chief representative of the last category being she/her – the title she has allocated to me. She regularly reflects on my feeble ineptitudes.”

The book is illustrated with some photos of Picasso and two humorous cartoons of the pony, one by a fellow former school pupil, Ailsa Skirving-Carrick; and the other a clever capture of the book’s mood by retired Helmsdale head teacher, Linda Gill.

A foreword by acclaimed Scottish artist and writer, Professor Jim Mooney, who lives near to Picasso, summarises the often puzzling relationship between pets.

Ruth’s own preface assures: “You don’t need to be an art lover or a horse lover to read this.”

Picasso’s Piebald Perspectives will be available at Glencoast in Helmsdale and Dornoch Bookshop as well as from online retailers.

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