I was pony-crazy from about the age of eight. Mum suggested a riding lesson for my birthday and the love affair was instant, and expensive. There were pony posters all over my bedroom wall pushing Simon Le Bon out of the way, making room for the show jumpers and eventers. Our garden wall became the horse I dreamed of and I would sit up straight, heels down and boot the wall into action to which it never obliged. I then took to riding my bicycle and holding the brake wires as if they were reins, thumbs on top and wearing my velvet covered riding hat -
"..and this is Sarah Williams riding Lightening over the last fence to win the OLYMPIC GOOOOOLD!" - the crowd applauded as I praised my steed and waved at the audience who gasped and cheered at my unbeatable equestrianism.
I was eleven by this point. I cadged rides from people, I persuaded Mum to take us to gymkhanas just to watch and I raced to the window as soon as I heard the clip-clop of someone lucky enough to own their own pony, drooling and dreaming that that would one day be me. I loved everything about ponies, their stables and mucking out, their saddles and bridles which I longingly wanted to clean as well as do-up and undo their shiny buckles. I loved stroking them, feeding them, sniffing them, grooming them and riding them. I wanted a pony so badly it physically hurt, I simply couldn't understand why I couldn't have one.
Of course now it is obvious. They are obscenely costly.
I did get a pony, this is Brandy and we loved him. I am welling up now just looking at his honest face and remembering the amount of joy he gave us all. He lived in the next-door-neighbours field and would regularly escape into their prized vegetable garden, he would roll around in the mud and cover his body in poo-stains but only on his white patches, he was a slow coach and a speedy gonzales, he could jump 4 foot gates - but only when he wanted to. He even walked into our kitchen once in pursuit of ice cream. He was part of us and part of me.
Why am I telling you this? Because even though I have kept ponies at arms length for my children, waiting until they pleaded and begged me to go riding, I want them to experience the utter love and freedom of cantering through woodland on your best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world. So, tentatively we have bought the kit, gently introduced a couple of ponies, persuaded him that this will keep them off the street corners and fingers crossed - they may just start to understand what I mean; and experience the thrill and joy that are horses.