If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession

If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession
Published : 1 Mar 2012 - Atlantic
Susanna Forrest grew up in the 1980s near Norwich, and like many a girl, she yearned for a pony. She was never to get one, but this didn't stop her becoming obsessed with all things equine. IF WISHES WERE HORSES is the story of that all-consuming interest, and of the author's nerve-wracked attempts later in life to ride once again. However, as Susanna Forrest's journey unfolds, it leads her to horse-obsessed princesses, recovering crack addicts, courtesans, warriors, pink-obsessed schoolgirls, national heroines and runaways across the ages. From priestess riders of the Bronze Age, to lavishly adorned equestrian Victorians and twenty-first-century children on horseback in Brixton, she explores the development of this Horse Cult from its earliest times to the present day.

Alternating between Berlin, London and Norfolk, urban, suburban and rural, Susanna Forrest visits gymkhanas and pony shows, horse refuges and inner-city riding schools, acquainting herself with fabulous figures such as Alice Hayes, a medical missionary turned horsebreaker who was the first woman to ride a wild zebra, and a fragile and fierce old lady called Hope, who today carries a knitting bag full of painkillers for her old riding injuries. In doing so, she takes to the saddle once more and rediscovers her own riding legs in this frank, eclectic and captivating memoir of an ever-changing equine world.


How lovely! IF WISHES WERE HORSES brought back all my childhood obsessions about ponies; all one’s old friends are here: Enid Bagnold, the Pullein-Thompsons, Golden Gorse, Joanna Cannan and the visit to Redwings. Susanna Forrest has done a fantastic job. She really loves and knows her horses.

Jilly Cooper

I adored this book. All aspects of the horse and pony – historical, current, personal, obsessive – are beautifully written. The wonderful chapter on riding Tav through the Norfolk countryside … I was on Tav, quite tired when I dismounted. It took me back. Gorgeous.

K. M. Peyton, author of FLAMBARDS

Susanna Forrest’s delightful and exhaustively researched book examines the history of the obsession of little girls with ponies, while tracing her own career as a rider...IF WISHES WERE HORSES rejoices in the physical and imaginative joy of riding.

Lisa Hilton, TLS

A richly evocative book...This is not just a tale of one woman’s love, but of swathes of people who are involved in the equine world.

Lucy Cavendish, Guardian

Tackling what exactly the appeal of ponies really is, while powerfully conveying her passion for them, Susanna Forrest has written a beautiful book about her own equine obsession...this is not a lament for a lost age, but a reminder of the unique roles ponies can play in the lives of girls to make them feel strong and independent.

Clover Stroud, Daily Telegraph

Swiftly refuting the 'pony-mad-girl of cliché', Forrest points out that 'not all love is a simple sublimation of sexual desire'... Threaded through her personal journey are various examples of human interaction with horses... As Forrest shows, you don’t have to be 'posh' to be passionate about horses.

Lucy Popescu, Independent

Forrest’s book interweaves accounts of her Norfolk childhood and her Berlin riding lessons with a historical account of women’s horsemanship and excursions into the stranger byways of the horse world...highly readable.

Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

This passionate account of all things horsey, from Bronze Age warriors to inner-city riding schools for deprived children, is captivating even if you didn’t grow up reading Black Beauty or watching Follyfoot. A lovely exploration of the relationship between man and beast, this is a personal quest that expands into a much wider hymn to nature.

Daily Mail

‘For any women who once shared Forrest’s obsession, the result will be thought-provoking nostalgia; for everybody else, it’s a fascinating, beautifully-written social history – and one of those books that makes you suddenly interested in a subject you may never have thought much about before.

Reader’s Digest

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