Phlegmatic Greys and Woman-Killing Horses – Equine Coat Colour Theory

Some renaissance and early modern horsekeeping manuals get quite carried away about horse colours and what they mean for the temperament and physical qualities of each animal. In 1560, Thomas Blundeville wrote, “A horse for the most part is coloured as he is complexioned” for if he hath more of the Earth than of the […]

The Emininently Recyclable Horse

  In The Age of the Horse I gave readers some idea of the ingenuity humans used to recycle the bodies of horses used in the nineteenth century west. Of course, this inventiveness was not restricted to the Victorian era nor to the more rapidly industrialised nations – and we’re still finding new uses for […]

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, […]

Art & Horseyculture: Scenes of Equine Life in Sixteenth-Century Lapland and Finland

Snowshoes. Not just for humans, according to this 1565 woodcut from Olaus Magnus’ Historia delle Genti. Alternatively, this is an early version of Subbuteo. Courtesy of the US Library of Congress.

Steed Poll: Mary Queen of Scots & King Francis II of France

Steed Poll is an irregular series of brief blog posts about the mounts of famous figures – horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and even zebras who have strayed into texts and been preserved in some small way for history. Horses there were in abundance, Fontaine and Enghien being the dauphin’s favourites, and Bravane and Madame la […]

Steed Poll: Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon & Anne Boleyn

Steed Poll is an irregular series of brief blog posts about the mounts of famous figures – horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and even zebras who have strayed into texts and been preserved in some small way for history. Presents continued to come from the Emperor in Spain to signify his serious intentions: two mules with […]

A (Not So) Short History of Women Riding Astride

I enjoyed talking about the history of sidesaddle on Countryfile – it was my first experience of TV and everyone was incredibly friendly and easygoing. We did a few takes of different parts of the interview and it was hard to know whether to embellish what I’d said each time or to say the same […]

If Wishes Were Horses: Ladies

The Taymouth Hours: the ladies set out on horseback, and begin to gallop and hunt a deer. And catch it. This post relates to a chapter of the book If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of an Equine Obsession. If you have any questions to ask about the content, please fire away in the comments. […]

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 […]

Polo Week: Love on the Polo Field

The Khamsa is made up of five narrative poems by the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami, including the story of the lovers Shirin (an Armenian princess) and Khosrow (a Sassanian king), who meet playing polo. Of course, it all ends tragically, but the Armenian ladies’ team make a great entrance onto the pitch: “Seventy maidens like […]