A BBC broadcaster’s captivating chronicle of her childhood dogs and horses.
The daughter of the queen’s racehorse trainer Ian Balding, the author knew the friendship and protection of animals before she felt the same in humans. Indeed, her well-connected parents were too busy running the stables, involving the daily exercise and care of some 80 thoroughbred horses, racers and jumpers, an equine obsession that soon rubbed off on her and her brother, Andrew. In discrete chapters named for the particular animal in question, Balding depicts the notables, such as her first friend and protector Candy, her mother’s cherished boxer, and the starter horse the children were given by the queen herself. There was her father’s fearsome “lurcher” dog, a scruffy combination of a sight hound and terrier, favorite of the Romany Gypsy for its intelligence and way with horses; the first horse she showed, a pure-white Welsh Mountain pony called Volcano; and the “Heinz 57” horse she adored and first helped her prove her riding mettle. Balding became an intrepid racer and champion jumper, even winning an Austin Rover Mini and besting the royal princess at one point. Yet the fairy-tale setting and English banter also convey some deep insecurity about Balding’s parental indifference, verging on negligence, as the children suffered numerous falls and broken bones, and resentment simmered as her brother was given free rein and encouragement while she, the girl and tomboy no less, was not.
An irresistible look at the horsey mores of the landed English.