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 […]

Christmas Quiz: Count the Health and Safety Violations!

Dear readers, Merry Christmas to you all! Here’s my If Wishes Were Horses festive quiz: count the health and safety horrors committed by “Little Miss Fearless” in this short Pathé video from 1933 1923*. I’ve spent most of 2015 slogging away to finish book two, The Age of the Horse, which will be out at […]

Hitler’s Missing Horses Found Hidden in Rhineland Warehouse

The German tabloid Bild just broke a story about the huge statues of horses made for Hitler by the sculptor Josef Thorak. I’d just come across Thorak’s work while looking into the symbolic role of horses under the Nazis, and seen images of his workshop, and the hefty Aryan steeds he turned out. Thorak was […]

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 […]

O Horse of Little Brain?

My friend Robby runs the wonderful Retrokombinat, an Etsy shop full of finds from the flotsam and jetsam of twentieth-century Berlin. For my birthday he made me a card featuring one of a series of collectable science flyers dished out by the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper in 1931. It’s all about brain size, and as you […]

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 […]

Dastardly Doings at the 1936 Olympic Cross Country Event

Courtesy of Lucinda Green who loaded this video onto her Facebook page and set me Googling. Cross-country at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and there appears to be a bit of a problem at fence four, The Pond.  I’ve found some images of the posters for the Olympics here, and here on Ponybox is the […]

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 – […]