My Animals and Other Family
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“I had spent most of my childhood thinking I was a dog, and suspect I had aged in dog years. By the time I was ten I had discovered the pain of unbearable loss. I had felt joy and jealousy. Most important of all, I knew how to love and how to let myself be loved. All these things I learned through animals. Horses and dogs were my family and my friends. This is their story as much as it is mine.”
Clare Balding grew up in an unusual household. Her father a champion horse trainer, they shared their lives with more than one hundred thoroughbred racehorses, mares, foals, and ponies, as well as an ever-present pack of dogs, on a sprawling estate in the Hampshire Downs. As a child, Clare happily rode the legendary racehorse Mill Reef and received her first pony, Valkyrie, as a gift from Her Majesty the Queen of England.
But Clare ranked low in the family pecking order—as a girl, she was decidedly below her younger brother, and both of them were certainly below the horses. Left to her own devices, she had to learn life’s toughest lessons through the animals, and through her adventures in the stables and the surrounding idyllic English countryside.
From her struggles at boarding school to her triumphs as an amateur jockey and event rider, Clare weaves her own coming-of-age story through portraits of the beloved horses and dogs, from the protective Candy to the unruly Frank, who were her earliest friends.
The running family joke was that “women ain’t people.” Clare has to prove them wrong, to make her voice heard—but first she had to make sure she had something to say. My Animals and Other Family is a witty, brave, and moving account of stumbling—often literally—into one’s true self.
know who was who, and away you go. It’s hardly rocket science. When rain stopped play at the Oval, I wandered off to see Frank. Frank was the ugliest pony I ever had. When he arrived, he was called Prince, but that seemed inappropriate, so we named him after Frank the Box Driver. He had a short, spiky mane, rubbed raw in places, a pink nose, pink eyelids, brown ears and a gray body with brown splotches down his neck. His bottom and his sheath were pale pink. He suffered from sunburn, so
character. I preferred jump racing to the flat because the horses stayed around for longer and I could get to know them better. I also thought the jockeys were unbelievably brave and I watched them seeing a stride at speed, wondering how they did it over fences as big as Becher’s Brook or the Chair. Every year, we picked two horses each and my mother phoned up to have bets for all of us. The horses selected by Andrew or me would also be “ridden” by us. This involved us both wearing our
“Really?” I replied. “I mean ‘con’ as in ‘confidence.’ The more confident you are, the more people will believe in you; and the more they believe in you, the more confident you will actually become.” At Downe House, I tried to put into practice what I had learned from Erwan. Be confident, and others will be confident in you. Be consistent. Be fair and be honest. I had a lot of ground to make up, but it helped if I wasn’t always trying to impress people. 13. Henry
father could not understand why his old college, Christ’s, that had taken him with no “A” levels at all, on the basis of his ability to catch a book flung at him by the senior tutor, would not take me. Nor would Bristol, nor would Exeter. “I didn’t get the grades,” I explained for the third time. “It’s really simple. They made me an offer and I couldn’t match it.” “But I don’t understand,” he kept saying, over and over again. Many years later, I discovered that part of his anger
They were 9–4 favorite, Amanda Harwood’s mount Alreef was second favorite at 15–2 and Song of Sixpence was 14–1. The race was recorded by BBC television to be shown during that afternoon’s coverage. I decided to keep an eye on Maxine and Amanda, to track them and stay as close as I could. Dad had given me simple instructions: “Just look after him. You know what you’re doing and, if you think he can win, go for it. Try to at least look as if you’re riding a finish.” He said that