Murder in Midwinter has more than a passing reference to ponies – Children keep asking me about it, so it’s time to come clean.
There were two things I loved when I was a kid, adventures, and horses.
What I didn’t love, was adventures on horses.
I wasn’t terribly brave, even though the rest of my family seemed to think I was, and although I completely loved riding in a calm controlled environment, and I adored caring for a pony, I was utterly useless at the whole riding out there in the world thing.
On more than one occasion a pony came home without me. Once it left me in a field not far away, the other time a larger, scarier horse ran across the main A33 dual carriageway and I had to walk several miles wondering where it was.
This was all before mobile phones.
There was the time my pony sat on a car. The people were terribly nice about it.
There was the moment when I was tipped head first over a jump in the middle of some ill advised competition and tore a gash in the seat of my jodhpurs.
There were the anxious nights spent sleeping on the floor of the weighing room at Tweseldown Racecourse before enduring hours of my own incompetence and humiliation at Pony Club Camp.
Just thinking about it makes me blush.
But I kept on, because I thought I loved horses. Incomprehensible really.
I would return, sore and grubby from each episode of horsemanship to my bedroom and sink into a book, curl up in the corner of my bed, as far away from the horse as possible and escape from the awful pony reality.
it was a repeating ritual. Put myself through some physical or emotional agony, and then retreat into reading in order to forget about it. It took me years to realise that books were kinder than horses. That, no matter how many times I put myself up there to fail, I was never going to master riding. That really I should give it up.
And more than that – I never told anyone how difficult I found it. My parents must have despaired, but they were nice enough to say nothing.
And then I sort of grew up. I realised I didn’t have to do this any more. I could do other things, like go for a walk, stroke a pony over a fence, watch someone else fall off.
You’ll be glad to know I haven’t been on a pony since 22nd November 1990 – and I have no intention of getting back on one. But I still watch the racehorses gallop up the field opposite every morning, and I still kind of wish, I could ride. I mean, really ride.