When I was small, I had a black rocking horse. His name was Midnight Melody. Together, we won the Grand National numerous times, and were also pretty hot show jumpers and three day eventers. Our adventures were only constrained by my imagination and his yellow stand. Sometimes, I thought if I rocked fast enough, we would break free even of that, and we’d be off …
When I obtained the flesh and blood version as a teenager, I rode – alone and with friends – for hours on end. I would visit schoolmates in the next village or the next village but one; we would ride on the beach and through other people’s fields, jumping low walls and seats; we would skive off school when the hounds met nearby; occasionally, we would clatter under castle arches to be served sherry on a silver tray by a Lady who wore diamonds in her hair.
Now, the horsy girls go round and round in the arena or spend an hour on the beach. They don’t seem go adventuring. But this is the modern world where even the back lanes are now filled with cars that don’t know the Highway Code says they must slow down for horses. Nor do anxious mothers know who is behind the steering wheel. Byways we used as a matter of course are no longer accessible.
Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. I like to think I didn’t waste mine. I hope today’s kids don’t either; I hope they too have boxfuls of rose-tinted memories to take out on greyer days, and sigh over the freedoms they once had.