WITH its arched neck, glossy hide and proud bearing, the traditional rocking horse is a beautiful, magical being.

We might associate it with the playrooms of the Victorian upper classes, or those childhood tales where a wooden horse comes to life and gallops with its rider into another world. With their shining eyes, dapples and long manes, these noble steeds possess an air of romance.

It was at a low point in Colin Newbould’s life that rocking horses came galloping to the rescue. His wife, Janette, was seriously ill, and he had lost his job as a result of the 2008 financial crash.

“Looking for a new job was quite depressing and soul destroying,” he recalls.

“That coincided with my 40th birthday, so it was a bit of a mid-life crisis,” he said. “I thought I should start a course and do some training.

“My father was a joiner and my grandfather on my mother’s side was a school teacher who used to carve. He died in his 40s but I saw his work in the family home, and I thought, as kids do, how do you do that? So the idea of working with wood has always been with me.”

Colin and his family were living near Hull at the time. Janette was recovering from a severe attack of ulcerative colitis, for which she was hospitalised and kept off work for a year.

“While she was recuperating, she did an art class, and the art teacher was the girlfriend of a rocking horse instructor,” he explains. “I was doing little bits of carving but it was all quite daunting.”

Janette sent him on the three-day course as a gift – though he had not thought of rocking horse carving before - and soon Colin was hooked.

“It was a three-day course, at the Rocking Horse Shop in Pocklington,” he says.

“People on the course had done a bit of woodwork before.

“What the course teaches you is the freedom to take control of putting pieces of wood together and making a shape, and not worrying if you take a bit too much out.”

He said carving the head was the most difficult part.

“When you’ve finished one, you think, I could do that better or I could try something else,” he says.

Colin did find a new job and he moved south ahead of his family and spent the quiet winter evenings hard at work on his first rocking horse. He started it in September 2008 and completed iT in March the following year – each one takes between 200 and 300 hours.

“You can really put some imagination into it,” he said.

“The body of the horse is hollow and I put a little heart inside it on a hook, and a poem I wrote, about love, that will always remain hidden.”

This first horse was made of mahogany, and it was sanded and varnished. This first creation – named Horsey – has stayed at home with Colin and his wife.

He made a second one from beech laminate, so it has lots of layers which appear in the carving.

Colin is working on a third, has a fourth cut out, and he is also working on a design for a rocking dragon.

The family relocated to Baydon, near Swindon, in 2009 and Colin, 48, is now Director of Regulatory Affairs and Qualified Person Services for the Wasdell Group. He has two daughters, Stephanie and Alexandra, and two grandchildren.

“Stephanie has one of the horses, and it has just come back for a touch-up. I promised to make one for each of my daughters,” he says.

“I like my horses with a wood finish, though the classic ones are painted with dapples.

“How you carve its head – that gives it its expression.”

The horses are finished with real horse-hair manes and tails, with leather saddles and bridles. Bought new, a hand-carved rocking horse can cost £2,000 to £3,000.

“Carving with a chisel is quite laborious,” he says. “The wood has to be high quality timber, and it has to be high density.

“If I see a rocking horse now, I stop and look at it. You can recognise the style of the maker.

“I keep looking at the one I’ve nearly finished. It’s getting the detail on the mouth and eyes, and the body shaping and the head shaping and putting in expression. That’s the dusty bit.”