From Taboo to “Ecoterrorism” – Horsemeat’s Troubled Political History in America

I’ve written something for The Atlantic‘s Object Lessons blog on the long (if potted!) history of horsemeat in America. A much fuller account is on offer in The Age of the Horse! During World War II food shortages, horse meat once again found its way to American tables, but the post-war backlash was rapid. “Horse […]

May 2017 Bring You Obedient White Horses

Therese Renz of the famous Renz circus dynasty, c. 1895. I’ve seen wonderful pictures of her in action (have you see the one where she and her horse are jumping rope?) but didn’t realise that she was a Berliner, and is buried just up the road from me in St Hedwig’s cemetery in Weissensee. She […]

Pit Ponies at Rest and at Play

The last British pit pony retired astonishingly recently in 1999. Between the mid-eighteenth century and the very start of the twenty-first century, stout “pitters” (short-legged Shire crosses), Welsh cobs and British native ponies of all stripes hauled coal underground and above ground and worked pumps to keep mines from flooding. They were often stabled in […]

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 […]

The Old Story of the End of Ponies on Dartmoor

The Guardian has a piece on the plight of the Dartmoor Hill Pony. Apparently prices are falling, and by the close of a recent auction only 20 of 60 animals had been sold. The piece goes on to say that “in the last century” the hill pony thrived. This isn’t strictly true. I’ve blogged about […]

Books for the Saddle Bag

Books I want to buy and read: Sometimes it’s tiresome when publishers try to ape a successful book by buying similar titles, but sometimes that policy opens the best of floodgates: suddenly writers get the chance to work on projects that would have been turned down as uncommercial till a forerunner proved otherwise. Laura Hillenbrand’s […]

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: Diminutive Dianas

Here’s some Pathé footage of the International Horse Show at Olympia in 1920 (spot the hydrangeas and the standard lamp shades!), the King’s Gold Cup in 1921,  opening day in 1922 (plus side-saddle) and a little showjumping. You can just make out the backdrop of Lowther Castle in this film from 1923. And this – […]

Save Money on Rubbish Collection – with Horses

From Anthony Dent’s Donkey: The Story of the Ass From East to West. Dent was born in 1915 in North Yorkshire, just to orient you. ‘When I was a child in a small coastal resort in the North-east the most senior employees of our local council were two old men and a donkey, who between […]