If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession

Hello and welcome to readers and those curious about If Wishes Were Horses. I’ve done a series of blog posts that act as supplements to the book chapters, and you can find an index to them here. Meanwhile, here are some nice things that people have said about the book:

Guardian (Lucy Cavendish):

‘Susanna Forrest describes her ongoing fascination with horses with such clarity, such a feel for how horses can affect your life, that she took me right back to a childhood of Thelwell and Follyfoot. … Hers is a richly evocative book, describing the smells, the sounds, “the clanking of the fork on the wheelbarrow”.  … her pages benefit from hectares of groundwork. This is not just a tale of one woman’s love, but of swathes of people who are involved in the equine world.It is packed full of tales of golden horses, chariots and children riding round the streets of Brixton.’

Telegraph (Clover Stroud): *****

‘Tackling what exactly the appeal of ponies really is, while powerfully conveying her passion for them, Susanna Forrest has written a beautiful book about her own equine obsession, while casting her eye over the role horses have played in popular culture. Opening with descriptions of her Falabella obsession, and of anxieties she had as a child that she might grow too tall to ride a Derby winner, you quickly know you’re in the hands of a true addict.’

Times (Melanie Reid):

“An eclectic band, from HM to Katie Price to millions of little girls, many now middle-aged, belong to this faintly embarrassing masonic sisterhood. How it strikes is a mystery. Maybe it’s a cult; maybe a virus; some (men, naturally) think it’s down to erotic obsession and fetishism. Whatever. Our brains are totally washed; a flame of passion ignited. One woman brave enough to break cover recently is Susanna Forrest. ‘I was imprinted like a goose when I was only a few months old,’ she admits in her delicious book If Wishes were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession.In 1969, academics found that, among little girls, playing horses was almost as popular as playing hospitals. (Now, granted, probably more playing X Factor.) Forrest says: ‘Across Europe, North America and Australasia, millions of little girls galloped, snorted and pawed the ground as their mothers had done before them, dreaming of one birthday morning when they’d wake up and there would be a pony picking at the lawn under their window. And nobody questioned this. Why? Where does it all begin?’ … On family journeys, one escaped from the boredom of the back seat of the car or the train to gallop across country alongside, soaring over huge hedges and ditches for endless miles. Every horse-mad little girl I know did the same. As Forrest says, horses made reality better. A horse embodied the liberation inherent in all fantasy. It freed you from the mundane.”

Times Literary Supplement (Lisa Hilton):

‘Susanna Forrest’s delightful and exhaustively researched book examines the history of little girls’ obsession with ponies, while tracing her own career as a rider. … [It] rejoices in the physical and imaginative joy of riding, which retains its hold over generation after generation of “diminutive Dianas”.’

Independent on Sunday (Lucy Popescue):

‘Swiftly refuting the “pony-mad-girl of cliché”, Forrest points out that “not all love is a simple sublimation of sexual desire”. She eloquently describes how a horse allows “a preliminary equine sentimental education, where big emotions can be suffered and enjoyed”. Forrest describes her childhood obsession with ponies and a return to riding in her thirties when she experiences a fear that she must conquer. Threaded through her personal journey are various examples of human interaction with horses ranging from the historical to the bizarre. She discovers a tomb from the Bronze Age in which a Pazyryk Priestess was buried with six geldings; talks to a member of the fetish group, The Other Pony Club; and explores the cult of the Celtic horse goddess, Epona.’

Sunday Telegraph (Jane Shilling):

‘Forrest is an attractive stylist who writes with great energy, so even her detours are highly readable.’

Jane Badger at Books, Mud and Compost:

“It doesn’t normally take me too long to write reviews, as I am usually pretty certain before too long about what I want to say. What stymied me with this book was having to read it again almost immediately after I’d finished it, as I liked it so much.  Susanna Forrest has the gift of writing about horses with passion and insight, whilst avoiding the sentimental. No rainbow bridges here. No parades of pretty horses either, and certainly none of that discomfort you get when peering at someone’s private obsession, because although billed as a “memoir of equine obsession,” Susanna Forrest’s experiences are those of most of us who love horses. She does not concentrate only on her own experiences, but on aspects of the horseworld that might explain that obsession…. [If Wishes Were Horses] observes [the horse world] with quiet passion, and does that quite brilliantly.

Reader’s Digest:

‘For any woman who once shared Forrest’s obsession, the result with be thought-provoking nostalgia; for everybody else, it’s a fascinating, beautifully written social history – and one of those books that makes you suddenly interested in a subject you may never have thought much about before.’

9 thoughts on “If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession

  1. Aha, this is marvellous! Due to pending relocation to SOuth Sudan I’ve temporarily banned myself from acquiring new physical books, and I am also reluctant to buy something for my Kindle that I intend to buy in hardcopy at some point. But at £1.29 WHO COULD REFUSE? (And I will buy it in hardcopy at some point and track you down to sign it.)

    • I don’t know about those other technologies–but no matter, as I conveniently have British relatives stowed away in the UK so I will be able to obtain the hardcover, which is what I really want anyway, quite easily! (That’s what we did with the Harry Potter books, as we didn’t want the American versions of those–in which they changed British-isms to American versions, because of course we’re so stupid we couldn’t figure out that ‘sweets’ means ‘candy’…)

      • Those Brit/American edits annoyed the hell out of me too. I don’t like to use too many “fancy” words but equally I fought to keep some in, if they were the right word to use. I don’t see anything wrong with people using a dictionary.

  2. Just finished reading it. Absolutely wonderful and well worth waiting for. ( Lots of nostalgia and a few tears for me too.). Definitely a book for grown up pony mad girls and confused mums.

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