'I had spent most of my childhood thinking I was a dog, and I suspect I had aged in dog years. By the time I was ten I had discovered the pain of unbearable loss. I had felt joy and jealousy. Most important of all, I knew how to love and how to let myself be loved. All these things I learnt through animals. Horses and dogs were my family and my friends. This is their story as much as it is mine'
Clare Balding grew up in a rather unusual household. Her father a champion trainer, she shared her life with more than 100 thoroughbred racehorses, mares, foals and ponies, as well as an ever-present pack of boxers and lurchers. As a toddler she would happily ride the legendary Mill Reef and take breakfast with the Queen.
She and her younger brother came very low down the pecking order. Left to their own devices, they had to learn life's toughest lessons through the animals, and through their adventures in the stables and the idyllic Hampshire Downs. From the protective Candy to the pot-bellied Valkyrie and the frisky Hattie, each horse and each dog had their own character and their own special part to play.
The running family joke was that "women ain't people". Clare had to prove them wrong, to make her voice heard - but first she had to make sure she had something to say.
My Animals and Other Family is a funny, brave, tender story of self- discovery.
Un-put-down-able and highly touching and engaging this beautiful autobiography is a wonderful read, starting from her rural childhood, via her professional horse riding and national TV and radio broadcasting careers and her coming out as a lesbian, up to her status as a near national treasure. 8 out of 12.
Clare Balding is a well known sports presenter with a special interest in horse racing. I have no interest in sports and an out and out dislike of racing......but I adored this book, and could not put it down.
Clare gallops joyously through her rather eccentric life, basing each chapter on a beloved dog or horse from the period being described.... She graduates from a plump Thelwell-type Shetland pony called Valkyrie, to gymkhana ponies, and finally on to racing the thoroughbreds trained by her father, who's a famous horse trainer. Throughout this journey we are immersed in her deep love of animals,sharing her pleasure in a life rich in dogs, horses and riding.
Her family is quite batty - her mother in a charming and rather sweet way, her father in an unpleasantly chauvinistic and narcissistic manner, whilst her ever-present grandmother just seems plain horrible. She has a beloved younger brother too, who accompanies her bravely her on many of her outrageous exploits.
Clare has guts. Funny, stoical, determined, adventurous, she tells her story honestly and with humility. One cannot help but like her. I ain't going to be watching sport on television any day soon, that is for sure, but I am delighted to have got to know a bit about this captivating woman and her interesting life. What a great read.
Who is Clare Balding & why the heck should any of us care? She's a BBC sports presenter, was an amateur jockey, & grew up with race horses. I still don't really care, but her autobiography is told through her interactions with the more memorable horses & dogs she knew & it was excellent. There were quite a few & they're real animals - people to her (as they are to me), but animal people. She captivated me in the first chapter with our similarities growing up on a farm. She learned to walk with the help of her dog & drank out of the same water dish occasionally. (My dogs are all good at eating off my fork & always finish off my milk. They're not really begging, just attentively waiting for me to share.) Kids can do far worse than a loyal dog as a role model. I had one, too.
There was some skipping around in time due to the way the story was presented, but each chapter was well laid out & the animal characters made them hold together well. The joys, love, & loss were very real. From outward appearances, we have nothing in common, yet she is obviously a kindred spirit.
Her father was one of the top race horse trainers in England, even had some of the Queen's horses, so she met a lot of interesting people in intimate detail & had a lot of great riding opportunities, not to mention a love for all things equestrian. Her story provides a great personal view of that life, although I was a bit lost with her education. Their grades & such are far different than ours.
The only downside was her constant references to how her family put her down, yet she never seemed inclined to get back at them. It was a rather ugly thread that seemed too lopsided & undermined the veracity of her story somewhat. Not a huge deal.
For the benefit of non-Brits, Clare Balding is a TV and radio broadcaster who became a national treasure during London 2012, anchoring C4's Paralympic coverage as well as working for the BBC at the Olympics, most notably at the Aquatics Centre. Checkout YouTube for her wonderful interview with Chad le Clos' dad after his son beat Michael Phelps to win gold for South Africa.
Anyway, this memoir of her childhood proves that Clare can write just as well as she can present. Her father was a successful trainer of racehorses who in 1971 won the Derby with Mill Reef. If asked "were there any other events of note in that year?", her dad would likely overlook the fact that Clare was also born. Both she and her younger brother learnt that their place in the pecking order was behind the horses and dogs. The Queen was an occasional breakfast guest, and as a young jockey Clare nearly killed Olympian Princess Anne in a race.
It is both funny and moving, and very, very well-written. I've always admired Clare Balding for her consummate professionalism as a broadcaster, being knowledgeable and well-prepared, as well as for being out as a gay woman. After reading this I now admire her turn of phrase and also her tenacity. Hugely enjoyable, I'd recommend this to anyone.
A joy from beginning to end. I laughed plenty, I cried twice, I remembered a million things about horses and horse-racing that I'd forgotten I knew, and when it was finished, I could have read it all over again.
This book achieves the best things about autobiography by not pushing you through every last 'comic incident' of the writer's life, but by guiding you through what was important and notable to them as they grew up.
The book ends when Clare is 19, and I dearly hope writes another - I'd love to read the same deftly-handled, brilliantly written approach to her broadcasting career.
Most importantly, Balding is as fluid, fascinating and professional a writer as she is a presenter. A very comfortable and pleasant afternoon's read I can well imagine returning to. More please.
I should probably preface this review in saying that I have absolutely no interest in sport and most certainly not for horse racing, the decision to read this book was made purely out of fascination and intrigue yet it becomes the first biography I have chosen to review here, to receive five stars.
First of all, Balding's take on the technical writing of a biography is completely unique. She devotes each chapter of the book to a different dog or horse present in her life until later adolescence. Whilst this device could be somewhat unusual to most readers, I feel it adds individuality and believability whilst giving true meaning to the book's title.
Scoring a huge plus is the fact that in a world of conservatively written memoirs, Balding's is overtly honest and open. We learn about her difficult boarding school education, teetering on the edge of expulsion and an obscenely strict and isolated upbringing. Whilst being shunned for being a girl and generally being left to fend for oneself from such a young age would have been a traumatic time for most children, it wasn't for Balding. Instead she discovered a prowess for horse riding, and discovered her inherent competitive streak which is a delight to read of.
Clare's personality is infectiously warm and endearing and this tome expertly reveals how this came to be. She describes her formidable grandmother's reaction to the birth of a girl as "It's a girl, nevermind, keep trying!" before dumping the basketed child on the floor. This constant debouching over her gender no doubt has spurred Balding on to become one of the UK's best known and well-loved broadcasters, all before her early forties.
I simply cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough. It is eloquently written, beautifully illustrated by Gill Heeley and completed by a smattering of rare family photographs. Overall, the book is somewhat fairytale-like in nature and I implore that anyone looking to read a slightly different, edgier and exciting biography should put their opinions on sport and racing aside and pick up this fantastic memoir - you will not regret it.
Now I dont normally go for biogs, preferring fiction; but something about this book made me want to read it. I loved how each chapter was seperated into each different pet or horse Clare knew growing up. It had me laughing and crying in many places. She tells her story so well, which is easy to read and understand. I’m horsey but not that interested in Racing, but I understood what she was on about and could easily visualise the races or mishaps Clare got herself into growing up! She evoked fond memories I have, especially as I was a fearless tom boy growing up too who would get myself in lots of trouble sometimes involving a pony or friend.
Such a memory she has remembering so many things she did – even that or she had such a more eventful and interesting growing up than I did. Maybe that is why I cant remember much of my childhood because not a lot happened. Such a good storyteller and because of this I’m making My Animals and Other Family my Book of the Month for October.
Despite being around on Five Live and Channel 4 for a number of years, Claire Balding came into her own as a broadcaster during the London 2012 Olympics when her heart-on-the sleeve, down-to-earth honesty and connection with people shone through. One could therefore have almost predicted that an autobiography would swiftly follow. Whilst My Animals and Other Family is entertaining, with her trademark no frills style, this account of her formative years, at school and around her Father's stables, held together by tales of family dogs and horses, somehow lacks something and left me wanting more but in an unsatisfied, 'is that it?' sort of way. Surfing on the crest of a popularity wave, no doubt the Saturday night family entertainment show will be next...oh, right, yes, there you go then. Just a bit too formulaic for me to be bowled over, I'm afraid.
Claire Balding is known for sports broadcasting – initially that was horse racing but now she commentates on all sorts of sports, especially the Olympics & Paralympics. She was born into a sporting family - her maternal grandmother Priscilla was a racehorse owner and trainer who worked alongside her husband Peter Hastings and effectively took over the running of the Kingsclere stables during his final illness. However, as a woman, she was denied a training licence in her own right. She needed a male assistant to hold the licence, and the logical choice was a keen young trainer already working at Kingsclere called Ian Balding, who later went on to marry her daughter Emma. Claire’s father, Ian Balding, became one of the top race horse trainers in England, including training some of the Queen’s horses. He was devoted to his work, single-minded in his desire to succeed yet quite chauvinistic. He was a facts and figures man who showed little emotion outside of his horses. Her mother was devoted to her dogs, and very much understood her “position” in life, always doing the right thing and being frustrated when Claire didn’t quite fit the expected mould of a young lady. Claire & her younger brother Andrew quickly learnt that they were less important than the horses and often had to make their own entertainment – landing them in a variety of scrapes! From her earliest days riding a Shetland pony given to the family by the queen (Princes Andrew & Edward had learnt to ride on the same horse), through to becoming an amateur jockey riding thoroughbred racehorses, Claire has been surrounded by animals all of her life and in many ways they became her closest companions. In this memoir, Claire gallops through her childhood accompanied by the animals (both pets & working animals) that were so formative in her life. Each chapter focusses on one dog or horse and whilst it jumps around a bit in terms of timelines, it is very easy to follow. The book is full of humour and she tells amusing stories such as the time when the Queen joining the family for breakfast before going to see her horses in the stables (Claire managed to not only turn up in grubby clothes after being out with the horses but flung a sausage across the table!), to racing alongside Princess Anne (do you curtsey when you are in your underwear in the changing room?). However she doesn’t shy away from some of the more difficult parts of her childhood, from getting in with the “wrong crowd” at school in an attempt to be liked, to the pressures of being “overweight” for racing.
My Animals and Other Family is a memoir, and the audiobook is read by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed Claire’s narration, it felt like she was chatting to me and her warm personality shone through. She comes from a privileged background yet seems to have a very down to earth, no-nonsense approach and an ability to connect with people. I particularly like the little “honest” anecdotes such as the fact that she never sits down in her “on air” clothes for fear of getting creases or otherwise damaging them!
The book takes us through the first 20 or so years of Claire’s life, with a few notes at the end about her later life with wife Alice. It would be interesting to hear what happened next to move her from University student & amateur jockey to the sports broadcaster she is today.
I have always admired Clare Balding, a sports presenter for British television. I know her from the racing coverage the BBC used to carry, but she has since gone on to do all sorts of events, including the Olympics and Paralympics. I have always admired her a lot. She comes across as an intelligent, knowledgeable and most of all genuine human being. I decided to listen to this book on Audible. It makes sense to me to listen to memoirs narrated by the author and I had a lot of fun with this one.
Clare tells stories of her childhood with a lot of warmth and good humour. All the chapters are named after animals, dogs and horses, that have played a part in her life. She paints a vivid picture of growing up with a father, who is a race horse trainer, and a grandmother who thinks women are second-class citizens. Everything, from her first pony to being caught shop lifting at boarding school to becoming an amateur jockey, is told with enthusiasm and often you can almost hear her smile at the memories. There were definitely some laugh out loud moments and some sad moments and I lived them with Clare as she told me about them.
These tales of the first twenty years of her life are probably most interesting to those who know and like her, but if you like horses, you might like it regardless. If you do not, well, maybe this one is not for you. If you do decide to pick this one up, I thoroughly recommend listening to the audio book, as I did. She knows how to tell those stories!
This is a book that has perhaps been longest in the "currently reading" stage for me, without being abandoned at any time. I started reading it nearly 11 months ago, and even though I liked it, I wasn't able to make good progress with it. Last year for about 5 months I just couldn't read anything, and I think that pushing myself too much on this and another book may have created that reading slump. Once I was back in my reading form I picked it up again, and that is when I realized that what worked for me was reading a couple of chapters every few days, and I am glad that I did finally finish it.
I am not a pet or animal person myself, but I do like reading warm stories about animals - James Herriot's works are amongst my favorite books. Though I would not compare Clare Balding to Herriot, I do find a similarity because of her love for animals, mostly dogs and horses though, and a very subtle streak of humor in her narration.
Her father was one of the most famous racing horse trainers of the time, and therefore she grew up on the training yard, developing an affinity for horses, riding and racing. She herself had a short but successful career as an amateur race jockey. She relates her childhood and racing career (to about the age of 19) in this book, and I loved her descriptions of her life on the farm, the scrapes she got into at her home and school, and her racing experiences. In the last one- third of the book, it gets a little deeper into the technical details of horse training and racing, and I found these a bit confusing and somewhat boring.
Each chapter in the book covers one of the stages or milestones of her life, and focuses on the animal that played a key role at the stage. I liked the format of the book, as well as her writing style. It's very well written, fluid and with just the right amount of detail to keep you engaged. I loved to see her bond with her brother, and the constant support of her mother. I didn't like her father too much, who seems to be a little self-absorbed and very chauvinistic. But her grandmother comes across as a really mean person who is particularly scathing to her, and I didn't like her at all.
Overall, I found it lovely, though slow read. And even though I am not into sports and have no clue into horse racing, I found it an enjoyable experience.
(3.5 stars) This is a memoir from Clare Balding as told through memories of key animals, primarily horses and dogs, in her life. Her father is a trainer in the horse racing industry, and has a mostly benign neglect for his daughter and son, her mother is somewhat frazzled by the children and helping to manage their business, and their grandmother is horrified by their wildness and poor manners. Their unusual upbringing includes receiving a pony from the queen, knowing that the horses come first with their father, and thinking that the seasons are flat racing and jumping rather than spring, summer, autumn, and winter. She learns important lessons from the dogs and horses in her life, and eventually becomes a jockey. Clare’s encounters with the royal family continue, including an incident where she almost ran Princess Anne off the track during a race. She also chronicles some of her struggles at boarding school and the difficulties of being a female jockey. This was a forthright, sometimes humorous, and clear look at the racing industry from an inside perspective and the unconventional life of an English girl.
Clare Balding writes a charming memoir of her first 20 years growing up on an idyllic English estate in Hampshire Downs. Not the book I thought I was getting from the library (expecting My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell) but delightful nonetheless. I learned a bit about thoroughbred racehorses, racing in general and the important lessons animals teach us about unconditional love.
Poignant, irresistibly captivating and totally candid this special, must-read book is a real delight to behold.
I have always been a huge admirer and aficionado of Claire Balding, as she is my heroine in both the equestrian and sports world but in the journalism world too because of my combined love of horses and her career. From the perspective of an animal lover, horse rider and equestrian devotee this book was a must-have as soon as I noticed it in the bookshop, with its cover standing out on the bookshelf as something quite eye-catching. I have read many autobiographies about celebrities, horse riders and sports professionals but none of them are as spectacularly fantastic and as interesting as Claire Balding’s. She puts so much of her heart and soul into this insightful narrative that you feel very much a part of her world, and which I concider as a gift, a real treat for all fans of this highly renound and recognizable celebrity/ sports journalist and distinctive name in the horse world. It is the animals, the famous horses and top horse and rider combinations that make her such a universally loved figure in television, and that she speaks of so warmly and honestly in this delightful book that you are unable to put down.
Claire Balding recounts many childhood memories of when she grew up in a rather unusual and wonderfully fascinating household, with her father as a champion horse trainer. She shared her life with more than a hundred thoroughbred racehorses in peak fitness, mares and foals and ponies hence this was where her love for the horse began and which over the years has grown into a life long devotion and passion. She also had a pack of Boxers and Lurchers and so mans best friend really did become her friend, as animals of all shapes and sizes were an important part of her life at a very young age. As a toddler she had many remarkable memories such as those of riding the legendary racehorse Mill Reef and taking morning breakfast with the Queen! Claire also recollects about how herself and her brother came quite low down in the pecking order, as they were left very much to their own devices and learnt things the hard way (usually with the help and guidance of an animal). This is a book about Claire’s adventures in the stables as a young girl which was situated in the idyllic and quite beautiful Hampshire downs. From the protective Candy to the pot-bellied Valkyrie and the rather frisky Hattie, each horse and each dog has their own unique character and their own part to play in Claire Balding’s life. Often quite moving and emotional, this heartwarming tale is something very extraordinary as you get to explore one of the most recognized and documented figures in a larger than life way. It is an impressive book that is truly magical to behold, enchanting and quite eccentric, I can grantee that you will find nothing to quite equal it within literature as it surpassed and exceeded all of my expectations. Funny, full of wit and humor there are moments within this book that just make you laugh out loud (especially if you know horses and their behavior). She has just so many absorbing, attention-grabbing stories to tell that you cannot take it all in at once, and so I am now beginning reading this book for the second time so that I may delight in all the details of each animal’s story once more. Full of flair and panache this makes for a fresh, flamboyant and stylish read and which I cannot enthuse about enough as it totally blew me away. As an award-winning broadcaster and writer Claire Balding has become the face of the BBC and is known for her sports commentary such as in the horse racing scene, 2012 Olympics and various top UK horse events such as Olympia, Badminton and Burley. Crufts dog show, countryfile and many other top shows is hosted by this truly inspiring sports presenter, whose enthusiasm and passion for sports and animals shines through every time.
I absolutely loved this. It's not very often I read an autobiography in nearly one sitting (I would have had I not have gone to bed!) but I didn't want to put this down. It's so brilliantly written, I love how each part of her life is told through an animal she's loved - I love that uniqueness of it.
I've been an admirer of Clare for quite a long while - so this book was a must-have for me and I treated myself to it after my exams were over. It was well worth waiting for. She writes this in a wonderfully honest and open manner, which from someone who has found herself at times to be at very close hand to royalty and celebrities is very refreshing; whilst there's no scandal within it there are some hilarious etiquette 'foul ups' (That time the Queen came to breakfast? Or nearly 'killing' Princess Anne?).
I loved every second of the book, there was never a dull moment to be found and discovered a person who, despite her upbringing and opportunities, really did strike out for herself ultimately and chose her own path into adulthood. I'd loved more on her 'later years' because this really only follows her up to about 20. I hope that she decides to write another because I'd love to hear more about her broadcasting career, the epilogue was lovely but... I could easily have read 300 pages more!
Clare Balding is on TV a lot at the moment presenting the Commonwealth Games. I hadn’t considered this when I began to listen to her autobiography a few days ago, but it is certainly an apt time to experience her book. I like Clare as a presenter because she is knowledgeable and comes across as a strong role model - no reliance on simpering or cleavage from her! However, I knew very little about her life before she began presenting mainstream sport. I had no idea she had been such a successful jockey for a time, nor that her family is so steeped in the world of horseracing.
Although this is very much a book about that world, I was pleased that I didn’t need to be a fan in order to understand it. While the result of a privileged upbringing, Clare is very down to earth about her childhood and adolescent experiences. I particularly liked that she doesn’t shirk from revealing actions that show her in a bad light as well as times when she shone. Her dawning awareness of the constant misogyny around her makes for an interesting theme and I am grateful that my teenage weight battles weren’t made such a stark focus as Clare’s were.
At one point Clare mentions that she enjoys listening to audiobooks and I believe this comes through in her narration as, not only is her story well written, but she does a great job of telling it too.
Delightful read for me! This autobiography of a girlhood lived on a racehorse training estate in England is quite a window. Not only into economic class, exact era, sibling features, or temperaments, either. This author is open and few details of any embarrassment are omitted re her animals or her family relationships. Who knew that dairy farmers have a lot in common with racing horse stable keepers! They never go on vacation, for one thing. And this I know is true.
Every chapter heralds another animal from the past. Excellent read for the detailing of all these proud various creatures. Filled with depth and all kinds of asides of incredible interest beyond what you would connect to this kind of undertaking.
This is a book I would not have picked up without GR friends' rec's. THANK YOU!
One of the best books I've read, considering I had no idea who Clare Balding was.
An amazing life of where animals come in the pecking line before humans, (in some cases that is true) as well as a long line of heritage (which is baffling) and a grandmother who is not afraid to speak her mind about everything.
Fav quotes: *Do it, enjoy it and if you fall, so what? You'll get straight back on again. *Be strong. Be yourself. You'll be fine *Be confident. Be fair and honest. *With boys I was taking them out like books from the library and returning them when I didn't get into the story. It was another few years before I realised I'd been looking in the wrong section of the library...
I hadn't really thought about Clare Balding's background. It turns out she had quite a privileged background - the aerial shot of the extensive grounds Kingsclere is somewhat different to what the aerial shot of the housing estate I grew up on would look like. On the other hand, I don't think I'd want to swap childhoods. Her family don't exactly come across as loving.
Disappointingly, I didn't get much of an idea of the personalities of the animals Clare grew up with - this book is really just about Clare.
Having also read Miranda Hart's autobiography I think I've had my fill of girls growing up in boarding schools and ending up working for the BBC stories now. I need to find some successful female role models with upbringings that I can actually relate to instead.
I picked this up at the library and had that experience where I neglect things to finish it. A few chapters in, I was reliving my childhood where I devoured every horse book, wishing I was the girl in the story. This was different, however: Balding's book is amazing because despite the privileged home and 24/7 access to her animals, she shares the painful effects of a cold, unemotional home. The drawings and pictures compliment the story well. Her writing is funny while managing to share emotion with clean style. Can you tell I loved it? I would have enjoyed a longer book, and will look forward to more of her writing.
I had never heard of Clare Balding, but a friend recommended this book, and the library had a copy, so I thought why not?
It turned out to be the author's memoir of her first twenty or so years of life, focused around the animals that were important to her at any given time. This proves to be a rather effective way of organising her chapters, and she gets a lot of her life in around the various dogs and horses. And despite the fact that I have no knowledge of or interest in horse racing, I did find this account of growing up as the (inevitably, horse-mad) daughter of a racehorse trainer quite interesting...perhaps the more so as the author is much of an age with me.
I reserved this book for ages at the library so rushed in as soon as it was my turn - but I have to say that it did not quite live up to my expectations. It is very jolly most of the time, and very sad at other times, but it does all get a bit repetitive, describing lots of dogs and horses who all (for me) rather blur into one (or two: one dog and one horse). It might perhaps have been better as a shorter book - but on the plus side, you can dip in and out as the chronology is not that important.
It was definitely time for a change and an autobiography focusing on animals was certainly that. I think I found this particularly enjoyable since I grew up not far from Highclere and Downe House and when I was youngster, horses and ponies were a large part of my life.
I hadn't realised that Clare Balding had actually been a jockey herself, albeit an amateur and to a certain extent it's amazing that she comments at the end that she hardly rides now given her childhood and teenage years.
Oh my goodness! Clare balding is an absolutely wonderful person! What a fantastically raw, creative writing talent she has! The comments on the cover of the book are totally true! I wasnt just a person looking in on clare's life. I was living it right beside her! I feel i made a new friend and am mortified to see her grow up! A wonderful read and cannot wait to pick up any of her other pieces of work!
I LOVED this book and have chosen for Book Club. I loved the way she described all the dogs and horses she had over the years - I laughed out loud at some of her adventures and also cried! A must for animal lovers, also found her story very endearing - liked her before but LOVE her now.
A very enjoyable book,Clare Balding memoirs of growing up in the world of horse racing told with a great sense of humour .From the very first pages I was drawn into a world of horses,racing,and dogs,humans making an appearance now and then ,I laughed and cried with the young Clare at every trial and success.
I loved reading this autobiography. It's well written in a style that doesn't come across as being "look at me and what I've achieved" as so many others are. I hope that there is another one to cover her televsion career as this one ends when Clare is 19/20 and she has achieved so much more since then.
really enjoyed clare balding's autobiography by using the animals first then her family in a reverse of gerald durrel's book title but found it warm and heart felt and a honest look at her early life in the berkshire downs in the life of racing and stable/horses