Are you an adult recovering from a deprived, pony-mad but ponyless childhood?
Did you always enter Win a Pony competitions and somehow never win even though you spent weeks swotting for the quiz answers? Does it still rankle?
Did you gallop around the garden jumping over fences made from bamboo canes and flowerpots? Or eat raw oats to see what they tasted like? Was your school nickname “Horsey”?
Did you pride yourself on the verisimilitude of your whinny? Have you still not recovered from reading that scene in Black Beauty where Ginger [SPOILER] ends up on the knacker’s cart? Did you cycle for miles in the rain to hang over the ropes at a horse show?
Did you ever attempt to blackmail your parents into buying you a pony, because you knew that ponies only cost £10 and you could easily keep one in the garage if your dad only got rid of that stupid car?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions I think it would be therapeutically advantageous for you to take part in the If Wishes Were Horses Christmas Confessions Competition. I’m looking for a story or an image that sums up the goofy glory of being pony-mad but ponyless: the passion; the dedication; the compulsive collecting of model horses; the extremely detailed descriptions of imaginary Arabian steeds; the time you stole and sold your mum’s jewellery for your pony fund; the time your favourite riding school mount kicked your teeth out and you didn’t mind… I even want to hear from you if you eventually did get that magic pony. You jammy swine. Ahem. No, I’m FINE now, not jealous at all. Really. In that case, tell me about that pony and what he taught you by dragging you through hedges and standing on your toe while being adorable.
So send your stories (250 words or there about) or photos to the email link at top right of the blog by December 15th and then we’ll have a vote. The top five get a copy of If Wishes Were Horses and everlasting glory. But sadly not a pony, because I’m still saving for one of those.
PS. examples listed above are all tragically true…
Thank you to Karen for sending me this Wall Street Journal film of a horseless horse show: imaginary horse showjumping! What I would have given for those showjumps to replace my bamboo canes and flower pots! Wahnsinn!
Well, this was a rum chapter. I really wasn’t anticipating that imaginary horses would end up linked to human ponies, but it turned out that they are, you could say, the same thing. The links for anything concerning ponyplay (the practice of dressing up in PVC horse outfits) are obviously for those over the age of 18, rather like the book. Shyanne’s site is here, and you can read her take on ponyplay as shamanism here. I couldn’t do justice to it in the chapter itself through lack of space – too many imaginary horses to fit in.
I also chopped out a raft of fascinating psychological studies on the form, development and function of the imagination in children and adults, so if you’re curious about those, try Paul L. Harris’ The Work of the Imagination and the work of Marjorie Taylor on imaginary companions.
The best site to consult if you’re a fan of Walter Farley’s (absolutely nonpornographic) childrens’ books, The Black Stallion series, is here, and I welcome any descriptions of your own imaginary steeds in the comments!
This post relates to a chapter of the book If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of an Equine Obsession. If you have any questions to ask about the content, please fire away in the comments. The main online index for the book is here.
‘I had a music lesson with Miss P. I hate her, she is so fussy. I ran in the wind and played be a horse, and had a lovely time in the woods with Anna and Lizzie.’
Diary of Louisa M Alcott (aged 10 and 5/6), later author of Little Women.
The Daily Mail has a piece on the Queen’s history with horses, as build up to the Derby in June – the Queen owns the current favourite, Carlton House. It includes some lovely photos of her as a girl on a pony or two, and this anecdote:
The Archbishop of Canterbury was expecting one of his usual meetings with King George V when he arrived at the Duke and Duchess of York’s house at 145 Piccadilly.
But on being ushered in, he was astonished to find the monarch on all fours, snorting and neighing in imitation of a horse while his granddaughter Princess Elizabeth led him along by his beard.
Even as a small girl, ‘Lillibet’, as she was known, loved to play with her collection of toy horses.
I fished around in my research and found a few stories which I meant to fit into the book but couldn’t quite work in. As princess, the Queen insisted that her official fourteenth birthday photograph featured her favourite pony, a grey, and she also kept her model horses stationed outside her bedroom door at Buckingham Palace every night, right up until she married. When they were younger, she, her sister and her cousin Margaret Rhodes, used to play at imaginary horses. Rhodes later recalled:
“When they were very small, it was mostly playing at being horses … We were circus horses, or riding ponies or anything you like, but it involved a lot of neighing, cantering and galloping.”