‘I had spent most of my childhood thinking I was a dog, and I 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 learnt 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 a rather unusual household. Her father a champion trainer, she shared her life with more than 100 thoroughbred racehorses, mares, foals and ponies, as well as an ever-present pack of boxers and lurchers. As a toddler she would happily ride the legendary Mill Reef and take breakfast with the Queen.
She and her younger brother came very low down the pecking order. Left to their own devices, they had to learn life’s toughest lessons through the animals, and through their adventures in the stables and the idyllic Hampshire Downs. From the protective Candy to the pot-bellied Valkyrie and the frisky Hattie, each horse and each dog had their own character and their own special part to play.
The running family joke was that “women ain’t people”. Clare had 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 funny, brave, tender story of self- discovery.
Now I dont normally go for biogs, preferring fiction; but something about this book made me want to read it. I loved how each chapter was seperated into each different pet or horse Clare knew growing up. It had me laughing and crying in many places. She tells her story so well, which is easy to read and understand. I’m horsey but not that interested in Racing, but I understood what she was on about and could easily visualise the races or mishaps Clare got herself into growing up! She evoked fond memories I have, especially as I was a fearless tom boy growing up too who would get myself in lots of trouble sometimes involving a pony or friend.
Such a memory she has remembering so many things she did – even that or she had such a more eventful and interesting growing up than I did. Maybe that is why I cant remember much of my childhood because not a lot happened. Such a good storyteller and because of this I’m making My Animals and Other Family my Book of the Month for October.
My next read is A Very Accidental Love Story by Claudia Carroll