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on 5 October 2012
I have always watched and enjoyed Clare Balding's coverage of racing events so was delighted to learn she had written a book. Like many others, I was unable to put the book down. It was a sheer delight to read. I have grown up with animals and a younger brother so could relate to all the scrapes and misdemeanours she got Andrew into. I read the book during my commute to and from work and some mornings I would have tears in my eyes and then a few minutes later would be laughing out loud. I feel privileged that Clare has shared her story of growing up, family and her wonderful animals with us. Clare has a wonderful way of writing, the story flows and I really didn't want the book to end. The book spans her early life when, in her words, she was a disappointment to the family for not being a boy, her school days, eventing and racing up until her broadcasting days. Her warm character shines throughout the book. There is something in this book for everyone. Clare is a national treasure and I really hope she treats us to another book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 August 2015
I gave this as a gift to my wife, who loves dogs, and who is a big fan of Clare Balding's – well, who isn't? She's great. The London 2012 Olympics certainly wouldn't have been the same without her. And then there's Crufts. And lots of other things. Anyway, I digress.

She (my wife, that is) thoroughly enjoyed this book which, come to think of it, is almost the only book she's read the last few years that wasn't a whodunnit. I guess that's saying something. In the process, she learnt about Clare and her fascinating life, as well as the animals that defined her early years and in many ways brought her up.

For anyone who loves animals or Clare Balding, I guess there is nothing else to do but get this book. You'll love it too.
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on 7 July 2017
Very funny, well written and gives a great insight into Clare Balding and her early life. She never seems to feel too sorry for herself despite having some difficult relationships with her family. Telling it through her relationships with the animals of her childhood is a great way to tie it all together and set it apart from other autobiographies. All the members of my book group enjoyed it. One said she never liked Clare Balding before and now she does! Interesting that she appears to have had a very privileged childhood and yet I found myself feeling very sorry for her.
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on 31 December 2012
This book has been hyped quite a bit, and perhaps suffers a little as a result. There are no real surprises; Clare seems to be exactly as she appears on television - someone who is interesting and interested, someone who is positive and likeable, with no real skeletons, and no hidden vices. If you are not interested in horses, then you may find it a bit heavy going. I am not that interested in racing, but still found it interesting, and learnt quite a lot about the racing world.
The style is straightforward and direct, divided well into digestible chunks, and with just the right amount of detail and humour. Some other reviewers have complained that it is a tale of privilege, but it does make a change from the seemingly endless (mostly ghost-written) autobiographies telling stories of triumph over adversity and poverty, which seem de rigeur at the moment. Just because someone was not brought up in poverty doesn't mean they didn't have to fight for what they wanted.
All in all, a good read. Not spectacular, but well worth spending some time with.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 20 February 2014
There can be very few people who have not heard of or seen Clare on the television. How much do we know about Clare? What sort of upbringing did she have that has made her into the true professional that she is?

Well, read this book! It is extremely interesting, easy to read and very well written. The title could not be better as animals have played a huge part in Clare's life from a very young age and her love of them shines through these pages. These are animals that are obviously not forgotten as when we read the way Clare has written about them, it is as if it all happened yesterday! Not only is Clare Balding a brilliant TV Presenter, Commentator, reporter but she is an outstanding writer.

In her book, we meet Clare's family and learn of how her home and school life was. The ups and downs, the difficulties, the successes and most of all the way Clare strove to do her best in everything. She worked hard for success and to make her family proud of her, all this, despite the fact that when she was born, she was a disappointment to her family. Why was this? - because she was a girl!

This book is a real page-turner and an inspiration to others that you can succeed in life, that hard work does pay off. If Clare were to be Prime Minister the country would be in less of a muddle than it is now. She would be brilliant!

This book is beautifully presented printed in a very comfortable to read typeface. Inside the front and end fly pages have lovely sketch heads of ponies, horses and dogs. Inside there is a lovely collection of photographs to make the story even more alive.

I can thoroughly recommend this book and would say "Well done Clare. When are you writing another book?!"
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on 1 December 2013
There is no doubting the fact that Clare Balding is a top bird; I like her as a television presenter, and she comes across as a thoroughly nice woman on her Twitter feed. I like celebrity autobiographies too and when this one was so highly praised and was such a big seller, I thought I would enjoy reading. I like animals, but I am not obsessed by them and do not currently own any. I also enjoy a day at the races once in a while, but I am certainly not a horsey person. About a quarter of the way through this book I realised that I may not be the sort of person that this book will appeal to.

I spent my early childhood in Berkshire so at least I recognised some of the places described in the book. It is well written and parts of it are very amusing (the breakfast sausage unintentionally launched in the direction of The Queen is a particularly hilarious anecdote). However, despite the warm-hearted intentions, I could not ignore the underlying sadness of Clare Balding’s childhood. She clearly has fond memories of growing up, but I'm not convinced that being brought up by dogs and horses is preferable to having attentive parents.

Initially, the device of building each chapter around recollections of a particular dog or horse seems original and endearing but by the time I was half-way through the book I found it irritating. For my personal taste, this book dealt with the first 16 years of the author's life in rather too much detail and then just as her life began to get interesting, the book finished. I would love their to have been more chapters about her experiences at university and her early career rather than the brief summary contained in the epilogue. Perhaps there will be another installment?
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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2013
Clare Balding is the daughter of Ian Balding a famous Horse Trainer and a man who thought more of his Horses than he did his childrens achievements. That is until Clare started to win more and more races and he grudgingly started to respect her. (Actually he is a nice man, I have met him).

The book starts when Clare and her brother Andrew are very young and takes the reader through her development via her beloved Boxer dogs, ponies and eventually racehorses.

It is extremely funny in places and had me laughing out loud. Her Father being dumped off one of her horses in particular made me howl with laughter.

The Balding household seems in part to have been dysfunctional with hardly any emotion or love shown to either Clare or to Andrew her brother. Ian her Father was always bound up with his beloved horses and her Mother was always trying to pacify him when Clare or Andrew did something wrong. As for her Grandmother, she sounded a regular Tartar. The incident with the turquoise paint in the puppy room was just one of Clare's many hare-brained schemes that went dreadfully wrong. It was also very funny.

Clare struggled with her weight to ride on the flat and was suited better to Steeplechasing or Point to Pointing. She did however become Champion Female Jockey one memorable year.

I never much cared for Clare Balding until I saw her commenting on the Queens Jubilee. She was the only commentator who made good that day. The rest of them just made inane remarks. She went down in my opinion though after her rude remarks to Liam Treadwell after he won the Grand National on Mon Mome. It was sheer and utter impoliteness to comment on his teeth. However, her comments turned out well for Liam as an Orthodontist overheard the remarks, saw his teeth and offered to put them right for him. So maybe some good came out of an ill timed and rude remark.

I now think that Clare is one of our best Commentators whether it is at horse racing or any other event she carries it off professionally and well.

A superb book particularly if like me, you adore horses and have ridden them from childhood.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 April 2013
My Animals & Other Family - Clare Balding

I've always liked Clare Balding, the way she makes you feel part of the action, whether it's watching Olympic swimming or more importantly, horse racing. Obviously, we all know, because of what she says about her brother Andrew, that he's a (flat) trainer and therefore know that her father is one of the greatest trainers this country has, so obviously, I like thousands of others, who have got to "know" her via Television, was delighted when her book came out. Each chapter is named after one of her animals, well ....... after dogs or horses (cats didn't play a huge part in her life).

Clare's life is interesting from the point of view that her father has the outdated opinion that women are really not up for anything in life, save to breed and keep men happy. Her mother is quite a distant woman, (not the huggy type) but was still with her at every pony club event. Grandmother - obviously a very no-nonsense type of woman, also of the opinion that women should know their place in society, but Clare, thanks to having a sparkly type of personality, manages to overcome feelings that she's not as important as her brother and that if you want attention in the Balding household, it's better to be an animal!!

There are some laugh out loud moments - in fact a lot of laugh out loud moments. I loved her style of writing and her ability to always manage to succeed in everything she tried (except for keeping her weight off - the reason she had to give up her career as a jockey). Just a wonderful feel-good book especially as it's told through how a dog or horse helped her reach her next goal.
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on 13 January 2013
For Clare Balding I broke my rule, and paid over £3 for a Kindle book. Because she's worth it.

What a beautifully written and readable poignant tale of a girl born into the world of wealth and glamour of horse-racing at its highest level, where the Queen and Queen Mother took breakfast in the family kitchen.

Clare writes with humour and love about the horses and family pets with whom she shared her parents' affections, and of the younger brother she dragged into her dare-devil escapades.

She recounts her considerable success as a young rider and jockey modestly, and describes how she yearned for the approval of her father who was "always busy" and not to be disturbed by his children.

When, after having starved herself to reach the right weight for a horse race, she asked him if he loved her more now that she was thin, and he replied, after careful consideration "Yes, I think I do," my heart broke for her. "Ow, ow, ow. I didn't know that love could be turned on and off like a tap."

However, she shows no hint of self-pity, just a determination to excel at everything she does, and neither does she show any bitterness towards the father who didn't seem able to give her the unconditional love she craved.

An inspirational and charming read from an inspirational and charming woman.
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on 28 March 2013
This is a fabulous book, one of the best memoirs I have ever read - up there with the James Herriott books for the combination of charm, humour and pathos.

Clare comes across as a very genuine and honest person - would love to have her at my celebrity dinner party (along with Stephen Fry).
Her love for her animals shines through and at times it made me laugh and cry.
Her affection for her family is also clear - from her brother & mum who seem to have given her the love and affection, to her father who has driven her to her acheivements. Her grandmother...well she seems like a piece of work, but her part is told without bitterness despite having been a pretty unloveable character.

I enjoyed reading her racing stories - told I have to say with great modesty - i have ridden racehorses myself and it is not for the faint hearted. I also loved the anecdote about Princess Anne - who comes across as a bit of a prat - nice bit of revenge there....

Clare had a very precious childhood - but she comes across as a very straightforward person, and I think that is down to her connections with animals - which always keep people grounded.

I can't recommend this book enough - I'd give it 6 stars if I could.
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