Terrible Twos: The Hapless Hobby Horse

24/03/2011 17:36 | Updated 22 May 2015

hobby horseI'm sure Ava's hobby horse, a sweet old thing bought in a thrift shop before Christmas, has been looking a bit shocked – possibly even scared – for the last few days.

He used to be quite happy with a bit of a canter around the kitchen, to a soundtrack of Ava's little yee-haws and clip-clop noises. But since last Friday, he's really been put through his paces – and I am entirely responsible.

I'm not a gambler really. Sporting events, potential white Christmases and all manner of odds-on opportunities come and go and it never occurs to me to log in to my William Hill account. It exists for one reason and one reason only. The Gold Cup.

As Cheltenham is my home town, I feel duty bound to have a flutter in March. And for some reason, every year for the last decade (bar one 'off' year, which made me exceedingly flamboyant with my language) I have managed to pick the winner.

Unfortunately, my scaredy-cat approach to gambling has not reaped significant financial rewards. Nevertheless, Gold Cup day is something I enjoy much like pancake day: it comes but once a year, I stuff my face with it, and then forget about it for the next 12 months.

So last Friday, we sat in the living room as I explained to Ava and Ruby about the events that were about to unfold.

"Right. So there are all these horses, with small men on their backs – see! –wearing pretty colours, and the horses are going to run and jump as fast as they can, in a great big circle, and when they get to the end of the race, everyone will cheer very loudly!"

I meant me, I meant that I would cheer very loudly. I didn't want them to be alarmed.

"Doesn't that sound exciting?!"

Ruby looked non-plussed and pointed at my eye and said "eye". Ava looked at me like I was mental. As we watched the horses walk in circles by the start line, she was considerably more interested in the crowd shots because I had told her to look out for Grandad Martin and Grandma Jill. She felt certain she saw them several times.

When the horses finally set off though, Ava got into the spirit of it and went to get her hobby horse, which dutifully dangled between her knees as she, in turn, looked at the screen and then at her increasingly twitchy mother.

By the time Denman and Kauto Star were being made fools of by Long Run on the home stretch, I was on my feet, screaming at the TV, waving my fists, slapping my own thigh and sort of jumping, all in an effort to ensure my horse didn't do something silly like trip over his own hooves. It worked. As he passed the post, I turned to look at my girls who were staring at me, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, completely and utterly agog at my bizarre behaviour.

"Yay!" I said, a bit meekly. "He won!" I didn't feel it appropriate to explain my financial involvement with the horse, or the concept of gambling generally. We regained an air of normality by watching an episode of Charlie and Lola – quietly.

It was when the hobby horse (which had been dropped, in shock I think) came out again the following day I realised I had sealed his fate. Ava rode that thing up and down the hallway to within an inch of his life. She held the reins with one hand and waved her fist with the other as she shrieked: "COME OOOOOOOONNNNNN! COME ON YOU DONKEY!!"

Poor old hobby horse. He probably thought he was being put out to pasture but, clearly, his life will never be the same again.

Catch up on previous Terrible Twos here.

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