Horse vs Tractor

It’s 1943 and a ploughing match is taking place in Northumberland. A lot of horses did find themselves back in work during the Second World War as they saved scarce fuel resources. However, the fodder available was inadequate, and the thinner horses needed smaller collars than they’d squeezed into in peacetime.

Haunted by Horses in St Petersburg

Last weekend I travelled to St Petersburg to start research on a new book and I thought I’d share my equestrian shots. I was only in this fascinating, complicated city for two and a half days and did not venture out of the very heart of it but I still found some horse history of […]

The Horse Ghosts of East London

I had some time to kill near Liverpool Street Station in London yesterday and remembered a quest I’d started to put together earlier this year, before it was cut short by health problems. In The Age of the Horse I’ve tried to write a sweeping, single-take overview of all the ways in which horses powered Britain in the nineteenth […]

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 […]

Working with Giants

The British railways system still had 9,000 working horses in 1948. This unedited footage is from 1949, and seems to be a story about a flu outbreak at a railway stable: Camden Town Goods Depot. It brings home all the skilled work involved in horse power – the rug mending, the farriery, the vet, the […]

Sunday Morning Time Travel

Wonderful news for overworked writers who don’t have time to maintain their blogs: British Pathé have uploaded their stock of vintage film clips to YouTube. As the old slogan of the British tabloid the News of the World used to claim, “all human life is there”, and quite a bit of horsey life too. So […]

Hazards of a Horse-drawn City

On Tuesday afternoon, a poor boy, named Alfred Hartley, while passing through Bath-street, Tabernacle-square, very imprudently struck the nose-bag of a dray horse which was standing in the street while the brewers were delivering beer at the Hen and Chickens public-house. The horse instantly kicked the unfortunate lad in the stomach, who staggered a few […]