Remember my imaginary childhood horse, Flicka? As I mentioned in that post, ONE imaginary horse really wasn’t enough for me, so 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:

The New Observer's Book of Horses and Ponies

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:

King's Caprice

(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:

Sunshine

(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!)

Shandy

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:

too many damn horses

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?

Snowman

Oh.

Or how about Snow Queen?

Snow Queen

Ah.

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 Snowballdrift? SO. MANY.HORSES.

Shandy and Snowball weren’t the only horses to have their names changed:

Gay Prince

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:

Le Sancy

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 Flicka. Just… don’t ask me where I got the money for HER…

38 Comments
  1. Oh my god I laughed so hard at this…at work…oops.
    I also when daydreaming have to have the whole backstory sorted. I regularly dream about the house I’d build if I won the lottery, but when I can’t decide where the plot of land would be it throws me off. And the rooms!! Argh! would I have the formal sitting room on the left or the right? I had my bedroom sorted and my dressing room and en suite. Then I realised that while I’d designed my en suite I had no place for it in the design of my bedroom and dressing room!!! I think its currently in the loft! oh dear.

  2. That was totally me……………… I was obsessed with horses and used to buy all the pony / horse magazines that had the picture stories in them and imagine myself in them instead of the completely undeserving people who were actually in them. In my head, I owned all the horses and I too used to suck the fun out of my imaginary world by worrying about ragwort getting into the field where I kept my horses and making them sick.

    I wish I could say I grew out of it but I still worry about ragwort.

    1. Ooh, me too! I used to get one called ‘Horse Sense, which was one of those ones which came with a binder, so you could collect them all. I remember one issue came with a free hoof pick on the cover, and I was SO excited… I mean, I didn’t have an ACTUAL horse, but at least I had the hoof pick, right?

  3. Thankyou for making my childhood seem a lot less cringeworthy! I’m surprised you didn’t call Rubin something snowy! 😉

  4. This is precious! Thank you for this glimpse into your childhood. One of my favorite things about reading fiction is a writer’s ability to create a new world. It seems like you were developing your talents early on!

  5. OH MY GOD I feel so much less alone right now! I had so many imaginary horse friends, but I did not have an awesome book like yours even though I read every horse fiction book the library had. 8 year old me would have been so incredibly jealous. I wanted a real one so badly… to the point that I planned how the fence would look around our field and where the stable would be, only to have my father crush my dreams every birthday. However, I never followed the kid logic that the horse could simply live in my room (I always see kids say this on tv…) because DUH, everyone knew a horse needed a field with lots of grass!

    I think My Little Pony did this to us all.

    1. Haha, I know how you feel – I’m SO relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who did this! And yes, they definitely had to have stables and all of the usual horsey things: I used to sometimes try to involve my friends in my imaginary life, and they’d be all, “OK, my horse is pink! And it lives under the bed!” which would make me roll my eyes right out of my head. Pah! Children!

    1. SO much thought. I could probably have gone to Oxford if I’d put as much effort in my schoolwork as I did into working out stable plans for my imaginary horses!

  6. BEST POST EVER!! Reminds me so much of my own ultra realistic chilhood imagination! Mum loves to tell everyone about the time me and my sisters Sindys had to get waitressing jobs because the rent on thier new city apartment (lovingly constructed by cutting furniture out of the Argos catalogue and blu-tacking it to a bookcase) was so expensive. We were also horse obsessed, and would pretend our vast collection of My Little Ponies were actually wild thoroughbreds rather than short, fat lumps of pink plastic with rainbow hair. Most games usually involved the ‘herd’ having to embark on some vast mountainous (sofas and stairs) journey to find a new home (probably because of THE ENVIRONMENT – we cared a lot about THE ENVIRONMENT back then). Whichever new favourite pony was The Leader (obvs) and the mutilated one we’d drawn on and given a haircut to was always ‘that old lame one that gets left behind’. Poor Applejack!

    1. Oh my God, I *literally* lol’d at the idea of the Sindys having to get waitressing jobs! Sounds like exactly the kind of thing I would do…now I think of it, I’m amazed I didn’t spend more time worrying about how Barbie had managed to afford her dream house – she didn’t even work! And Ken was worse than useless – he just used to prance around in a white suit all day!

      Also, I had Applejack, too – in fact, I bet he’s still in my parents’ attic somewhere. (Well, he had a FACE…)

  7. I’m crying actual tears of laughter. Thank you! I can so identify with pesky logistical details interfering with one’s imaginary life. I’m afraid my solution was to make myself an orphan with a legacy of one million million pounds (note the grandiosity of my daydreams, one paltry million just wasn’t enough) so there was nothing stopping me from sailing a yacht solo around the world or whatever…I was a delightful child.

  8. P.S Did you ever read Saddle Club books? If not, pre-teen you would have LOVED them! I made everyone call me Stevie for about 3 years after one of the main characters who was WAY COOL!

    1. I didn’t, although if they’d had them in our library I definitely would have, because they sound right up my street! I was obsessed with Patricia Leitch’s series, which featured a girl called Jinny with long red hair who moved to the wilds of Scotland, and managed to acquire a fiery Arab mare: I felt this girl was basically ME, just with a few small details changed. (Like the Arab mare, for instance. And the fact that she was super-cool, and I was… not.) There was also a series about a girl called Jill who had TWO ponies… it was from the 50s or something, so it was pretty dated, but I used to pretend Jill was my cousin, and would come to visit sometimes. (I didn’t involve Jinny in my imaginary world, though, because I knew she wouldn’t have been too cool for me in real life…)

  9. This made me laugh so hard! As a current horse owner, I can tell you not to feel so bad about your naming as we have a rust-colored horse – Can you guess his name? Don’t try too hard….it’s Rusty 😉

    My chickens are also all called after their colors: Red bird, Yellow bird, Black bird & Brownie. One is named Floppy, but it’s because that red thing on her head is pretty big and flops over. My husband and I are obviously creative geniuses! 😉

    1. Love it! I mean, what ELSE could you call a rust-coloured horse?! You’ve also just reminded me of my goldfish, who were called Silver (because he actually was), Goldie (D’UH), Copper (because… closest to Gold you could get) and… Flash. Who was obviously named by one of my parents, because I’d probably have called him something like ‘Orange’ or ‘Fish’…

  10. I was never into horses as a child, for my sister and I, it was all about the Lego, but similarly all our Lego people had names and jobs and lived in houses. When we played, half the people would dutifully go off to work each day and the rest would stay home and keep house. We even had a ledger with all this info recorded in it. I think mum still has that….

    1. Oh, I would’ve LOVED that! After writing this post, I actually flipped to the back of the green book, and discovered a diagram I’d drawn of the stables my horses lived in, plus details of who lived where etc: I would’ve loved to have a ledger!

  11. So evidently your initial impulse was to color-code your horses. I totally approve. I had horse models as a kid–mostly the Breyer plastic ones, but also one hyper-realistic soft-surface articulated-joint insanely expensive grey TB from a company whose name I can’t remember now. They had this vast catalogue with all the horses in the line (at 50£ a pop) and all the miniature gear–buckets and hoof picks and nose bags and tack and leg wraps… First I named the horses in the catalogue, then I picked their (color-coded) stuff. I am a lousy show jumper (and have the rib fractures to prove it), but buddy, nobody could touch me in the realm of equine outfitting!

    1. Ooh, were they Julip horses, by any chance? I had a collection of the Breyer ones, but my favourites were Julip horses, which were really expensive, and had lots of kit you could buy for them. My parents’ hearts would sink when the Julip catalogue arrived – that stuff cost a fortune, but it was pretty amazing!

      (Edit: I just looked at their website, and they’re actually not as expensive as I remember. Also: I really want some, now.)

      1. I clicked back through to this post weeks later to discover that you knew exactly what I was talking about. It is Julip–I’m amazed they still exist– and I just googled their catalogue. I don’t remember my horse being as…shiny…as the new ones, nor do I recall the eight million versions of rider (gets a bit Barbie, really, and would totally interfere with my imaginary relationship with the imaginary horse) but I really appreciate the trip down memory lane. Makes me want to go riding again. (Except for the part where the horse stands on your foot and dribbles down your jacket. Scratch that–makes me want to think about riding again.) Thanks!

  12. I am so thorough on my daydreaming. I’ll plan out houses, what each piece of furniture looks like (down to the grain of wood on the floors/beds/nightstands) ; if there’s wallpaper, I’ll plan out the pattern, etc. Then I move on to planning out what the location of the house looks like (country, city (ha, it’s always city)) and what THOSE houses look like. For added fun, I’ll dream out my wardrobe options for when I’m walking through my house. Down to the last detail. Money is no object in this glorious dream world. It’s also the only way I’ll get to wear this gorgeous Oscar de la Renta dress I saw online last week. It goes great in my dream castle.

    It’s a good relaxation technique. I also use it when I can’t go to sleep, I’m asleep within 10 minutes that way.

    1. I so need to try that, next time I’m having trouble sleeping! I suspect I’d probably keep myself up wondering if the flooring I’d picked would be easy to clean or not, though!

  13. I loved this post SO much! I was just like that, had a book with all the horse breeds in it and it was my most precious posession! I limited myself to only choosing 10 horses though, to my 9-year-old self this seemed like a reasonable amount of horses to own, plus I got to choose the prettiest 😉 they had names and imaginary stables in different corners of our living room and kitchen. I also had to read every single book with horses in in, that I could get my hands on… It is so nice to know there were others who loved ALL THEM HORSIES as much as I did 😀

  14. I love it! Reminds me of a book of horses that I checked out from the library. Actually, it was about how to draw them and it had step by step instructions for each part of each stride. (4-5 pictures per gait) I drew them all. Then colored and named them individually. They were the horses for my paper dolls to ride. I loved coming up with the names. Mostly I would name them after famous race horses (I loved studying the pedigrees) but quite a few were also named after perfumes. Ha ha.

    1. Oh gosh, that sounds amazing – so much more creative than mine! Have you read the book National Velvet? The lead character in that does something similar with cutting out horse pictures – I always loved that part!

      1. I haven’t read the book, but I watched the movie. Does that count? My favorite books were the Black Stallion series. I had every single one. Also, loved My Friend Flicka. 🙂

  15. Oh God, I cannot stop laughing! I actually had to get Rich to read this and he said “You’re laughing because you know this is the way you think, right?” And it really, really is. You crack me up, Amber!

  16. Hahaha I am so glad someone else did this!!! I was so obsessed with horses when I was young and had an imaginary horse. Only one I’m afraid, I was very attached to this one horse called Midnight (what is it with kids naming imaginary animals with very unimaginative names?!). So glad you shared this! xo

  17. I just found your blog today and this post just made me lol! I have honestly read more of your posts but I had to comment on this as you have just taken me back to my childhood. So funny! I remember the excitement on getting a free hoofpick. I actually asked for a grooming kit for my birthday once. You know… So I was prepared. Just in case! I did feel proud when I eventually went on an “own a pony week” and having my own grooming kit 🙂 Horses are one part of my life I miss having, thanks for making me smile.

  18. I’ve just read this and I’m laughing so much it hurts! I also recognise my younger self who became obsessed with owning a pig farm after a school trip to an agricultural show, despite living in inner Birmingham. I had all the brochures and planned in great detail how the farm would look, even costing it all out using the information from said brochures. None of my pigs would go to market needless to say but I’d still get paid their market price – how that would work I don’t know! I also had a fantasy canal barge I was going to live on, cruising up and down the canal behind the factory where my Dad worked – trust me that’s not an idyllic piece of canal!

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