When I was a child, I desperately wanted a horse. I hung around the local park, where pony rides happened weekly, offering my services in return for a ride. I put money away in a small typewriter ribbon container, and scanned the classified ads, pretending to select a horse from the horses-for-sale page.
And I read books, mostly British ones, especially those by the Pullein-Thompson sisters, Diana, Christine and Josephine. They were all full of girls and boys and their ponies, practising for gymkhanas and dreaming of riding glory.
Then there were the Australian ones, the Silver Brumby tales of Elyne Mitchell, about Thowra, the magnificent creamy-coloured stallion who ran wild in the Snowy Mountains, vanishing in the snow, his Secret Valley and his friends and offspring - Kunama, his daughter, was captured and turned into a stock horse for a time, but was freed to return to her mate, Tambo. I didn’t need riding to make my books enjoyable; it was horses I loved, like most little girls, although when I became a librarian I found that my library users, whenever they asked for a book about horses, wanted a book about riding. I sighed and found them a Saddle Club book.
Maybe it was my love of horses rather than riding that eventually changed the pictures on my bedroom wall from horses to unicorns and led me into the whole fantasy area. Actually, I was heading there with the Silver Brumby stories. Thowra was unquestionably a horse, who thought the way a horse would, if horses were capable of it. But he had friends in the bush who warned him when humans were on their way - Benni the kangaroo and his wife Silky, for example. He had a friend called Storm, another stallion whose mother had been friends with Thowra’s mother. Fortunately, they weren’t competing for a herd! He talked to other animals. He welcomed Kunama’s mate to his Secret Valley.
Definitely fantasy, But wonderful fantasy that swept me into the world of the Australian bush, from my seaside suburb of Melbourne. Years later, when my friend Jackie Marshall was visiting from England I found that she had also read the Silver Brumby books and had been hoping to visit the Snowy Mountains because of them.
This was going to be a post about my visit to the Royal Melbourne Show and watching one of the horse events. I went yesterday and sat in the stands, in the brief period between wind and rain, pouring coffee from my thermos and watching the girls on their well-trained, beautifully-turned-out mounts, still loving the look of the horses because, in some ways, I have never quite grown up. Unicorns aren’t quite the same, although I sometimes wonder if there’s a connection between girls’ love for horses and the well-known preference of unicorns for young women.
Damn. The idea for a story. Excuse me while I go off and have a go at writing it.