Christmas Quiz: Count the Health and Safety Violations!

Dear readers,

Merry Christmas to you all! Here’s my If Wishes Were Horses festive quiz: count the health and safety horrors committed by “Little Miss Fearless” in this short Pathé video from 1933 1923*.

I’ve spent most of 2015 slogging away to finish book two, The Age of the Horse, which will be out at the end of August. More exciting news to follow on this severely neglected blog.

All best wishes


*Thanks to YouTube commenter Antarch for pointing this out.

Another Happy Ending After Amersham

I wrote about Redwings Horse Sanctuary and the Amersham case in If Wishes Were Horses. Spindles Farm in Amersham was a horror show: dozens of horses in a state of starvation and neglect that was hard to comprehend. Redwings were instrumental in coordinating the rescue, and are still caring for many of the horses. Here’s one of them kicking up his hairy heels for joy.

Non-Horsey Men Read and Enjoy Book About Horses

(and he’s not the only one!)

Reader’s Digest

‘For any woman who once shared Forrest’s obsession, the result with be thought-provoking nostalgia; for everybody else, If Wishes Were Horses is 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.’

One Elderly Lady and One Nearly Middle-Aged Lady in the Havelland (with apologies to Penelope Chetwode)

Today I had a long overdue ride at Sabine Zuckmantel’s Wanderreiten im Havelland, the stable that features in the last chapter of If Wishes Were Horses. Half the horses were away (along with Sabine) on a ride in Poland, so we were a small group, and I was assigned the yard’s Queen Mother, Etincelle. Etincelle is a purebred barb. I rode her on my first ride at Wanderreiten im Havelland, and the first draft of the book ended on Etincelle but was later scrapped, so I owe her a blog post – the least I can do for royalty. She’s twenty seven years young but one of only two horses at the stable that sometimes take a bit of stopping after a canter. The other is Elme, a twenty-eight-year-old Lipizzaner from Piber. I don’t know all the finer print of Sabine’s horsekeeping routine, other than that it involves living out all year round in a herd, but let me tell you, it really agrees with “aged” mares.

As ever, the countryside was stunning and the weather was even just right for riding. Some sun, some wind, little specks of rain. On the numerous canters I tried to apply what I learned in my classical lesson earlier this year, as patiently explained by Sue Barber at Pine Lodge School of Classical Equitation:

1) You, the saddle and the horse all move forward together

2) Therefore there is no need to rock backwards and forwards with your pelvis

3) Especially as the saddle and the horse do not move backwards at any time

4) So your movement in the saddle should be up-down. Because that is how the horse is moving relative to you,  and therefore you need to move with it.

Etincelle put up with me at any rate and was rewarded with a very juicy pear and a good roll.

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(for Penelope Chetwode reference, see here)

If Wishes Were Horses

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.”