Friday, 13 April 2012

Gallop Away with The Pony Detectives on Grand National Weekend!

Debut fiction author Belinda Rapley tells all about her fab new pony series, her horsey heritage and the time she nearly killed a national treasure with a carrot…

I’m one excited author right now! I’ve dreamt of being published since I wrote my first full-length story aged 15, while upstairs in my bedroom, pretending to revise for my GCSEs. That story was about ponies and not much has changed between then and now – I’m still pony-mad and I’m still writing about them, too! The only difference now is that my dream’s finally come true – Templar have just published my debut fiction series, The Pony Detectives – and they look fab!

 My pony obsession started on a holiday in Cornwall. My parents thought a hack would provide a nice diversion, little knowing that my first ride on Annie, a chestnut pony, would spark a lifelong love of all things horsey. I went on to become a riding instructor, study for a diploma in Horse Studies and complete a graduate scheme with the British Horseracing Board.
My grandmother instilled my love of racing in me from an early age – she tried to pass on her complex, failsafe methods of picking winners based on form and going, but I was more interested in watching the gleaming, iron-fit horses as they powered over the hugest of fences. I went on to work in a racing yard in Yorkshire as part of my diploma and it’s been my most enjoyable job to date. While working there, I rode a mixture of batty horses, including one that would spin at the start of the gallops, one that bucked like crazy all the way up and one that raced back to the yard faster than she ever went up the gallops.
Jump racing’s my absolute favourite though and my hero growing up was Desert Orchid. I remember him winning his Gold Cup in the mud as I prepared for my GCSEs (it’s a wonder I passed any of them!). So, when I got the opportunity to greet the mighty Dessie many years later, I leapt at the chance. I prepared well, selecting the choicest, plumpest and longest carrots to treat him with. I got to the track where he was parading and was ushered over to his horse box. Janice, his groom, told me that I could step up and meet the national treasure.
Dessie was awesome, impressive and very interested in my carrots. I offered him the first, vast one, wondering if I should, perhaps, have chopped them up. But no, he had teeth, didn’t he? Convinced he’d do the decent thing and bite it in half, I held the carrot out; it was swiftly hoovered up. Taken by surprise by how much was disappearing in one go, I gripped onto the end as valiantly as I could – but before I knew it, my fingers were in danger of being chomped; I had no choice but to let the carrot go. I waited for a crunch – nothing. The longest silence filled the horse box. Dessie’s eyes almost popped out. My eyes almost popped out. Was my carrot about to be responsible for Desert Orchid’s untimely demise? Should I run, hide, or open his jaws and attempt to retrieve the carrot? What if Janice reappeared? How could I explain why my hands were rooting around in his mouth? Then, just as I was running out of options, an almighty crunch echoed around Dessie’s head. I let out a long sigh of relief – he had survived my oversized carrot – I offered up a small prayer, and left the remaining treats firmly in my pocket.
I’m really excited about the Grand National this weekend – who knows, another Dessie might emerge from the field and race into the nation’s hearts. If it does happen, and you ever get to meet him, remember one simple lesson: chop your carrots...

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