Rapunzel Horses – the hot accessory of Early Modern Europe?

I’ve been reading beautifully illustrated books about horses all my life and in the last twelve years I’ve trawled all sorts of academic articles and image libraries, so it’s always delightful to find an image I’ve never seen before. The Palazzo Pitti in Florence just opened an exhibit called Leopoldo de’ Medici: Prince of the […]

“He had survived.” Ulrich Raulff’s Farewell to the Horse

The horse on the cover of Ulrich Raulff’s impressive new book is soaring, bridleless, riderless and all but headless. It has the fuzziness of distance but also the heft and hairiness of life; it is both figurative and real. In tracing our extended exit from the long 19th century, when horses powered nations and shaped […]

New Book from Lucy Rees!

Lucy Rees’ theories on the equine mind completed the jigsaw I was struggling to put together in The Age of the Horse. They are so down to earth and commonsense that it is hard to remember how one might ever have imagined horses living and interacting according to another, more human logic. I’m really delighted […]

Mustangs for Your Ears

Deanne Stillman’s Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West came out in 2008 and remains definitive. It takes you from the arrival of the first Conquistadors’ horses – like Pedro de Alvarado’s “bright bay mare” “good both for tilting and to race” and the grey “Bobtail” who was “fast, and had […]

“Mutual Feeling” and “The Action of the Gag Bit”

From Centaur or The Turn Out a practical treatise on the (humane) management of horses, either in harness, saddle, or stable; with hints respecting the harness-room, coach-house, &c. (1878) by Edward W. Gough, via Wikimedia Commons.

Making Fearless Men: A Medieval Riding Lesson

I briefly mentioned King Duarte I of Portugal’s Livro da Ensinança de Bem Cavalgar Toda Sela (The Book on the Instruction of Riding Well in Every Saddle) in The Age of the Horse. It was written in 1434, 82 years before Xenophon’s On Horsemanship was first printed. If you’re used to the narrative in which […]

Horses in the Wings

The theatrical and circus historian A H Saxon is the don of hippodrama history. I bought an old library copy of his Enter Foot and Horse when I was working on The Age of the Horse because I knew it would be the key to nineteenth-century equestrian theatre. I wasn’t disappointed. Hippodramas were, to quote […]

The Noble Truck-Horses

Among all the sights of the docks, the noble truck-horses are not the least striking to a stranger.  They are large and powerful brutes, with such sleek and glossy coats, that they look as if brushed and put on by a valet every morning.  They march with a slow and stately step, lifting their ponderous […]