“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.

To Have Wished My Self a Horse

When the right vertuous E.W. and I were at the Emperour’s court togither [in Vienna in 1574], wee gave our selves to learne horsemanship of Ion Pietro Pugliano . . . He said . . . horsemen were the noblest of soldiers . . . they were the maisters of war, and ornaments of peace, […]

Peach Blossom, Trout and Tiger: Horse Colours in 1730s France

A list of horse coat colours taken from The School of Horsemanship by François Robichon de la Guérinière (first complete edition 1733. Translated by Tracey Boucher. Published by J A Allen, London, 1994): light bay chestnut bay black-brown golden bay dapple bay jet black rusty black dapple grey iron grey silver grey tiger (grey with […]

Blog Comment Debates on Horsecare, 1600s-style

The copies of books that survive in our libraries show passages underlined, and agreement or disagreement signified in marginal comments: one reader of The Compleat Horseman and Expert Farrier (1639) by Thomas de Gray, esquire, so strongly disapproved of its advice that he crossed out “esquire”, and deleted the prefix “ex” in the book’s title […]

Good Job Renaissance Italians Revived the Horsemanship of Xenophon and Not This Guy

I was googling around for details of a Greek cavalry commander called Eumenes, who’s credited with introducing the use of pillars in training horses when I found this. As Xenophon put it, would you whip a dancer? Eumenes would. During this siege, as he [Eumenes] perceived … that the horses would lose condition if they […]

Hermaphroditism in Horses

When is a mare not a mare? South African racing authorities have just reclassified a filly called Tuesday’s Child as a colt after post-race checks showed a raised testosterone count. Nothing to do with dodgy injections or rum dealings: Tuesday’s Child is a male pseudo-hermaphrodite, and he had his breeder, owner and trainer fooled. I’ve […]

Riding Philosophically, Riding Culturally

Hello folks, I haven’t been such a great blogger lately because I’ve been working on The Next Big Thing – actually the Two Next Big Things. They’re books two and three, the first of which will be underway this spring, and the second needs whipping into shape so that it can be rolled out sometime […]

Women, Horses and World War One

(Look on this as a kind of missing chapter from If Wishes Were Horses.) Part two of this post will be available here from 2nd June 2014. When I wrote If Wishes Were Horses I tried to take the story of girls and ponies from Lascaux to My Little Pony as neatly as I could. […]

If Wishes Were Horses: Horsemanship

Balthasar Carlos, as painted by Velázquez. A modern rendering of Elizabeth I’s speech at Tilbury, featuring Cate Blanchett and a very pretty palfrey. Marie Antoinette rides astride, dashing in leopardskin and yellow silk, and Catherine the Great eschews a side-saddle for another equestrian portrait. If you can’t resist the chance to read Dick: The Memoirs […]