From an early age, I have been an animal lover. There were various dogs and cats littered about in our family, from Muffin, our murderous ginger tom, to Kim, my grandparent’s Springer Spaniel, who seized any and every opportunity to escape his home and run for the hills. More than anything though, I was obsessed with horses. Every birthday and Christmas, I begged my parents respectively for a pony of my own. I pestered them for riding lessons, and spent every weekend at the local stables, floating about among the gorgeous creatures. I must have been a major pain in the arse as I was hardly the most confident of children, flitting around the place all moon-eyed and getting underneath the ‘serious’ horsey peoples feet. But I didn’t care. I was in love! I just wanted to be around them, those beautiful horses and ponies, with their arched necks and their flowing manes and their huge liquid eyes and velvety muzzles. My mum, a single parent, could not afford to pay for regular riding lessons, so I never became one of those self-important horsey children who looked down their long noses at us lesser mortals, and could vault onto their pony’s back with no trouble and canter about bareback without slipping and sliding all over the place. In fact, if I remember rightly, I was a terrible rider, with very little confidence. Maybe I am being extremely hard on myself, but in hindsight, this is how it feels.
This didn’t stop my love affair though. All I talked about was horses. At home, my nose was constantly buried in one of my many pony books. I scoured secondhand bookshops for old Pullien-Thompson novels, or spent my birthday gift vouchers on Patricia Leitch books in WHSmith. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing pony stories of my own, glorious tales of girl’s like myself, whose ultimate dream – a pony of their own – somehow, against all odds, came true.
For many years, I remained convinced that I would one day own a horse of my own, despite my parent’s refusal to indulge. It would be too much hard work, they said; buying the horse wasn’t the expensive part, they lectured. Now, 30 years on, I understand what they were trying to tell me, but part of me still hankers for those innocent days. When my bedroom walls were plastered with posters from Horse & Pony magazine, my school books graffitied with the names of my favourite horses, and my head full of that perfect chestnut Arabian mare, who would live in a paddock beside my house and come galloping to meet me, nickering softly, when I called her name.