The pain of wanting a pony
When I was a child, I wanted a pony so much that it hurt. I was nine before I learned to ride and my one hour a week on the back of a horse was the high spot of my life. Between times, I devoured pony books and, ignoring my mum’s rules, I sat astride the back of the settee and imagined my own pony adventures. And very occasionally, as this picture shows, I managed to hire a riding school pony to take to a local show. (That's the only rosette we ever won!)
The desire for a pony of my own started as soon as I started riding and was fuelled by the stories I read. The few main characters who didn’t have a pony at the beginning of the story always had one by the end. But they lived in a world surrounded by fields, where there was always a convenient orchard in which to keep the object of their desire.
We, on the other hand, lived in suburbia: row upon row of similar houses with neat front gardens and not an orchard in site. A pony was unrealisable dream, but that didn’t stop me pestering my parents for one. I even entered a competition to win a saddle in the hopes that, if I won it, they would feel duty bound to buy a pony to go under it.
Eventually my parents compromised. They would let me have a pony if I saved up enough to buy one. I suspect they thought that would let them off the hook, but they hadn’t allowed for my determination. I went without sweets and presents for a long, long time, and the money I received instead gradually accumulated until finally there was just enough to buy a very cheap pony.
I never got it. By the time I hit my target, my dad had developed terminal cancer and my mum faced a future bringing me up on a widow’s pension that definitely wouldn’t feed a horse as well as a growing daughter. Although I finally got a horse of my own when I grew up, childhood remained a time of dashed hopes and unfulfilled dreams.
Maybe the pain of wanting a pony was a subconscious reason for my current choice of career. After all, in Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson, it's Jill's mother’s success at writing children’s books that finally solves the money problems associated with keeping Prince. But whatever the reason, I now write pony books myself, and when I'm doing it, I am always aware that, for the majority of my readers, pony ownership is out of the question and even riding lessons may be an impossible dream.