One of the things I’m most neurotic about in researching horse history is new angles and fresh material. A huge amount has been written about horses over the millennia, and while I try to dig deep into that knowledge to explain the history, I’m also obsessed with finding something that will make more seasoned readers sit up and pay attention.
This is a sometimes Sisyphean task: read half a dozen good books on horse history and you’ll find the same extracts and quotations popping up repeatedly, usually for the very good reason that they deal with an event or a phenomenon that is important in the horse timeline. There’s that quotation from Xenophon again, or the same glancing mention of this or that Mesopotamian war… Is there another way to write this without mentioning Lipizzaners?
I chase a lot of hares – this was mentioned in passing in So-and-So’s History of the Horse, but where did they get it, and what does the orginal source say? After a lot of combing through the bibliographies I eventually find that original source, which may be misquoted and useless, or else turn out to lead to even more chaseable hares, and so on I go…
This is a roundabout way of saying that last week I was working my way through another History of Horses and found myself reading, for the hundredth time in a lifetime of horsey reading, an extract from the Book of Job that no amount of repetition can wear thin:
“Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”
It’s the “Ha! Ha!” that always gets me.