From Drivers To Dressage; What To Be When We Grow Up!

As a child we all think about what we want to be when we grow up. Although some people end up following their childhood dream, be it medicine, music or sport, most never end up making a living from being a ‘digger driver’, astronaut or, in my case, Olympic gold medal winning decathlete Daley Thompson!

D-Day for Daley

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics had a profound effect upon me. I would sit open mouthed in front of the television with the curtains closed to keep the blazing afternoon sun away from the screen, fascinated by the amazing feats of athletic achievement going on right before my eyes. To me, the athletes were like superheroes, with their flashy running kit and superhuman strength and speed. The Americans (especially the likes of Flo-Jo and Carl Lewis), were bringing glamour to track and field with painted nails, make-up and stylish 80’s haircuts. Although I envied their physical prowess and winning ways, my favourite by far was Daley. Something about the decathlon itself really drew me in. The fact that I could follow the emotional and physical rollercoaster of two days of competition as if I were there as part of the team myself really appealed to me.
I sat in awe and tense excitement as I watched our British hope, Big D; chase the Big G, as he called the gold medal. I even went as far as setting up my own rudimentary hurdles in my lounge using dining room chairs and garden cane, so I could run along with Daley; willing him on all the way. Funnily enough, even though I was still a stumpy-legged little 7 year old, I always beat Daley to the finish line over my three hurdles. I was clearly destined for great things!

Blind Ambition

The problem arose when I came to take part in a class assembly about careers. When asked by the teachers what we wanted to be, my friend Clare declared that she had aims to be a doctor. Steven and James both wanted to drive trains and Vanessa just wanted to sing. When I vocalised my ambition, my teacher did well to suppress her amusement and kindly explained that I could not have a career as ‘an actual person’, never mind one of a different sex and ethnicity.
From the Equine to the Ridiculous!
Somewhat despondent, I had a rethink and having recently watched the film National Velvet I had been quite seduced by the thought of horseracing and small, achievable tasks like being the first woman to win the Grand National! My pocket money of 50p per week wouldn’t quite stretch to the purchase of a horse and the necessary stable fees, so I went for the next best training device. A broomstick with a pillow attached to the end and a horse’s face scrawled on it in felt tipped pen. Dobbin the horse and I painstakingly devised a tough training regime of ‘clip clopping’ up and down our small back yard and leaping delicately over plant pots. Such was my Stanislavski style approach to my ‘horse training’ I would go to the pet shop and buy hay to feed to the broomstick and read books on horse health and hoof-care. I am only surprised that I stopped short of preventing potentially fatal doses of colic by administering pramox horse wormers via the broomstick’s breakfast!

 Rebel, Rebel

Unfortunately this did not go down any better with the school assembly organisers, especially when I refused to state that I wanted to be a nurse and had assembled children and parents rolling around laughing at my ambitious horseracing plans. I am still not entirely sure that they were laughing with me and Dobbin as we ‘clip-clopped’ up and down the school hall, but laugh they certainly did. Needless to say that we did not receive our respective Dolly Mixture rewards for taking part in the assembly and spent rather a long time in the Naughty Corner that afternoon.
As for my career, well, I’m still deciding on that.

Emily Starr is a writer who still yearns to own a horse and has made sure that she understands horse care issues such as the dangers of Colic that is caused by the lack of administration of pramox horse wormers, just in case!