Clare Balding interview
Published on: 02 September 2016
She's just finished presenting coverage of the Olympics and she'll soon be back on our screens hosting the Paralympics, but Clare Balding has found time to talk to us about her new book, The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop, her own sporting experiences and her Olympic heroes.
Young readers have always loved stories about horses. What's the appeal, do you think?
I think there is a deep desire within us all to connect to another living being. Horses are bigger than us and stronger than us, yet they are willing to do what we want them to as long as we ask in the right way. I think the challenge is in finding the key to that relationship. How do we gain a horse's trust and respect? The answer is usually found in being the best we can be - kind and patient, loving and consistent, brave and honest.
How did your sporting experience help in writing the book?
My knowledge of racing certainly helped as the whole plot is based around the Derby at Epsom. I know the course and the nature of the race but also, having grown up in a racing yard, I know how horses are trained on a daily basis.
We loved that your heroine, Charlie Bass, has nice big strong muscular legs that are perfect for horse riding! How important was it for you to challenge body image issues, even in young readers?
Hugely important. I worry all the time about how inadequate girls feel about the way they look and I've felt it myself. We all do. I spent my childhood and most of my adult life wishing my legs were thinner, honestly believing that I would be happier if I had thin legs. I realise now that strong legs are a blessing, not a curse, and that everybody worries that they are not perfect but the trick is to make the best of what you've got.
With the huge success of team GB at Rio Olympics and now the Paralympics are underway, who were your Olympic heroes of 2016?
My Olympic heroes were Nick Skelton for winning a gold medal at the age of 58 after nearly 40 years of trying, the women's hockey team for believing in themselves and for showing what bravery, team-work and concentration can achieve and Max Whitlock for becoming Britain's first Olympic champion in gymnastics - and for doing it not just once, but twice!