The Observer’s Book of Horses, Revisited
When I was a little girl, I didn’t just have imaginary friends – I had imaginary horses.
Quite a lot of them, actually. In fact, I had a little green book of horses, all of which I diligently named, and then proceeded to imagine entire personalities and lives for. Well, I found that little book last week, while I was clearing out the living room:
This book was basically my Bible. I took it everywhere – even on holiday to Bournmouth, that one time. Because it was so important to me as a child, I’ve naturally decided to keep it forever, so I opened it up last week, and there they all were, my old friends! There was King’s Caprice, my favourite:
(He was a showjumper. At one point he used to do three-day eventing, too, but I worried about his legs, you know?)
There was Sunshine the palomino:
I’m embarrassed that I even remember this but the ‘L.O.’ notation indicated that the horse in question ‘lived out’ – i.e. in a field, rather than in a stable. Because I liked to suck the joy out of everything I did, by approaching it with an unnatural level of intensity, I spent a lot of time worrying about where all these horses would live. Even although I knew (well, I SORT OF knew…) they weren’t real, and I could have had them living on a cloud if I’d really wanted to, I was quite pedantic about my imaginary life, and felt the need to make it as realistic as possible. In my heart of hearts, I felt it wasn’t quite believable for a 9-year-old girl to own 200 horses, because where would they all live? I’d have to have more stables than the Queen! Even my riding school didn’t have room for THAT many horses, so I mulled it over through many a sleepless night, and finally came up with a solution whereby I had only a moderately large number of stables, BUT I had something like 20,000 acres of land. Because that was MUCH more believable, right?
(Most of the horses were part of an imaginary riding school I owned at the time, by the way. That’s how I got round the issue of how I would manage to exercise them all. I mean, I only had, like, five members of staff: we couldn’t do it ALL by ourselves!)
Here is little Sandy, I mean Prince, I mean SHANDY: the Shetland pony I didn’t really WANT to imagine owning, because he was too small for me, but who I had to take anyway, because he was in the book, and I had to have ALL the horses in the book: not even an imaginary life can be TOTALLY perfect, you know. It’s not easy owning imaginary horses, but SOMEONE has to do it.
Because of this “I must name aaalll the horses” rule, THIS little lot presented me with a bit of a headache:
GAH. I was SO annoyed when I turned the page and saw that lot charging towards me through the surf. What was I supposed to do with 6 – SIX! – identical Camargue horses, for God’s sake? Still, I had signed up for this, and I WOULD take it seriously, so I dutifully named them all, although, as you can tell, I was running short on inspiration by this point. Seriously: Snowball, Snow and Snowdrift? (Who was originally ALSO called Snowball, but I realised my mistake just in time.) Did I have NO imagination? No idea what made me branch out with the other three names, mind you: I’m sure I could have continued with the “snow” theme if I’d really tried. What’s wrong with “Snowman”, after all?
Or how about Snow Queen?
I wish I could go back in time and shake some sense into myself, honestly. And maybe also confiscate that book, actually.
(Looking at the photo now, I could SWEAR I’ve got Snow and Dreamboy mixed up. I’m sure Dreamboy is the one with his head just visible. Or is that Snow
balldrift? SO. MANY. HORSES.
Shandy and Snowball weren’t the only horses to have their names changed:
I, er, guess at some point I decided ‘Gay Prince’ was a bit politically incorrect or something?
No idea why I changed the name of ‘GAY PRIDE’, though:
I guess I just felt he looked like more of a ‘Le Sancy’?
Now, I know what you’re all thinking: have I had therapy? Joking! You’re – obviously – wondering how I managed to pay for all of these horses, to say nothing of their upkeep. It’s OK: I wondered that, too. It bothered me to think an element of realism could be missing from my imaginary world, so I briefly considered an imaginary lottery win, but quickly discounted it, because COME ON, that would be TOTALLY unrealistic, seriously. Actually, I paid for all those imaginary horses with the money I won from imaginary showjumping. On my imaginary palomino Arab mare, Flicka. Just… don’t ask me where I got the money for HER…