#MemberMonday: Katrin Boniface


University of California, Riverside
PhD student, Early Modern & Public History

California State University, Fresno
MA Medieval History, with distinction

SUNY Stony Brook
BA Medieval History & Literature, honors

Meredith Manor, Riding Master VI, with honors

What got you in to history? In to equine history?

     I had been running a barn, but I decided to go back to school in 2009. My first semester back, I took a medieval history class “for fun.” That class was with Dr. Sara Lipton, and I immediately changed majors (I had been a psych major). It was fun– she is a great story teller, and I enjoy the investigative aspects of history as a discipline– but it was also important. She made clear the connections to our own culture, and showed how history is important to understanding what it is to be human. I can also credit her with making me realize that history work was never done. In the process of writing my upper division historiography, I realized how sparse, and how problematic, academic literature on horses was. I never thought I’d go to grad school. I am a first generation graduate with a GED. But I loved teaching, and horse history research had been what I did in my spare time (read: bad weather) on the farm.

Who is your favorite historical horse?

     Younger me would have said Ruffian. In fact, she’s who I put for those “what famous person would you go back in time to meet” essays we’ve all had to write. She was fast, fiery, and unforgettable. These days, though, Bucephalus. The account of the taming of Bucephalus from Plutarch, regardless of its veracity, encapsules a valuable lesson in horsemanship (and teaching, for that matter). One of the training horses I had before returning to school ended up being nicknamed Bucephalus. He was a young Arabian, NBR Bakman Bey, and was in fact afraid of his own shadow. We worked through that quickly, he was also sweet and clever. But he kept having odd problems, to the point where I ended up riding him bridle-less for a while. It turned out he had had an ear infection the year before, and was still healing up. It was another reminder to listen.

What are you working on right now?

     My current project, which will be my dissertation, is on ideas of inheritance before Mendel, 1700-1866. It started out as a simple question– what were the genetics behind the unusual colors of the Hanoverian Cream and Hanoverian White– and I expected to look into the trade and political relationships between various stables. I did think the breeding choices behind those strain were more nuanced and informed than is usually credited, but I didn’t think this was particularly radical. However, while I was at the National Sporting Library this summer (I highly recommend them), I found that not only were breeding choices very thoroughly thought out, but inbreeding of any form was highly discouraged (unlike the following century). This turned the idea that early modern breeders simply bred “like to like” on its head. As well as the Whites and Creams, I will be looking at other livestock (cattle and sheep have particularly good records, and are credited by horsemen of this time with success from inbreeding, something the horsemen found startling and disturbing), and also at early American horse breeding, particularly the Morgan.

Find Kat here.


#ShelfieSunday: Crowdsourcing

     We put out a call for a crowdsource bibliography on twitter, and the crowd went wild! We’ll be adding these suggestions to our bibliography, and look forward to more. For this one, we talked about equines in war, 1800 to the present, which will be our theme for November, and flatracing which we will talk about in December. We still have space for a couple of reviews, so take a look through the recommended reading list! If you’re looking ahead, January is ancient equids and still wide open.

 As a reminder, our full bibliography is available as a zotero file. Contact us for a copy!


Histories of Equine Science

     The SHOT History of Technology conference begins tomorrow in Philadelphia. Of particular interest are the Maintaining Natures panels organized by Nicole Welk-Joerger (University of Pennsylvania) and Alice Clifton (Georgia Institute of Technology). The second session includes two of our members presenting their research, and both panels take a long overdue look at the intersection of animals and technology.

Maintaining Natures I
8:00 a.m. Friday in the Reynolds Room.
Chair: David Nye (University of Southern Denmark)
Commentator: Thomas Zeller (University of Maryland)
Angelica Agredo Montealegre (King’s College London): Urgent Roads for the ‘Unknown’: The Roads of the Algerian Sahara in the 1950s
Alice Clifton (Georgia Institute of Technology) [Robinson Prize Candidate]: Front-Line Fowl: Messenger Pigeons as Communications Technology in the United States Army Slawomir Lotysz (Polish Academy of Sciences): Hydro or Social Engineering? The Question of Draining the Polesie Marshes in Interwar Poland
Nicole Welk-Joerger (University of Pennsylvania): Measuring Maintenance: Cow Condition and Calorimeters in America’s Early 20th Century

Maintaining Natures II
10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Claypoole Room
Chair: Lee Vinsel (Virginia Tech)
Commentator: Ann Greene (University of Pennsylvania) 
Katrin Boniface (University of California Riverside) [Robinson Prize Candidate]: Manufacturing the Horse: Understandings of Inheritance in the Long 18th Century
Felicity McWilliams (King’s College London): Maintaining Tractors and Caring for Horses: Looking after Draught Power Technologies in Twentieth Century British Farming
Sarah Mittlefehldt (Northern Michigan University): Saving the Earth through the Power of the Sun: Solar Energy Advocacy and Opposition in the US since the 1950s
Samantha Muka (University of Pennsylvania): Maintaining Model Ecosystems in the Laboratory: Adey’s Caribbean Reef Microcosm Tank

If you won’t be in attendance, follow #SHOT2017 and #HorseHistory on twitter.

#MemberMonday: Meet Your Team

   At the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, in 2016 there were three panels on equestrian topics, and a few equine papers among a plentitude of animal history panels. Every presenter, even those from other fields or disciplines, said the same thing: they’d rarely met another equine historian, much less presented with a full group; the available literature was sparse and in need of updating; and finding scholars to collaborate with who understood both the equine and the historical aspects was nearly impossible. Now, we plan to change that. Meet the team behind the Equine History Collective:

Katrin Boniface, University of California, Riverside
Kat Boniface is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside, studying horses and horsemanship in early modern Europe, with a background in medieval literature. Prior to returning to academics, she earned a trade degree in horse training from Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre. Current research areas include medieval and early modern equine nutrition, changing definitions of “humane” treatment in animal training, and genetic history.

Kathryn Renton, University of California, Los Angeles
Kathryn Renton is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying horse breeding in the early modern Spanish empire (1490s-1580s). Her research considers how the practices of horse breeding contributed to the vocabulary of race (raza) and caste (casta), considering the shared concepts of generation and reproduction that were used to explain hereditary features among human and animal populations, and the role of the horse in symbolizing and embodying social distinctions in the early modern period.

Janice Gunther Martin, University of Notre Dame
Janice G. Martin is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Notre Dame, where she is currently a graduate fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. With a background in biochemistry and chemistry, her interests include early modern science and medicine, and how human beings have defined and interacted with the natural world more broadly. Her dissertation examines equine medicine in sixteenth-century Castile, especially the practices of equine doctors (albéitares).

Lelian Maldonado, University of California, Riverside
Lelian Maldonado is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside, studying cultural memory and civic identity in the material landscape and archaeological record. Recent projects have included depictions of racehorse owners in Aristophanes as well as the many reproductions and symbolic uses of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Alyse Yeargan, University of California, Riverside
Alyse Yeargan is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside, studying museum education, and is the 2017 Gluck Fellow at the California Museum of Photography. Her equine historical focus is sport and gender, particularly the early modern and modern development of competition riding attire.

     And of course, Anastasija Ropa and Timothy Dawson, who orginized the Medieval Equestrianism panels at Leeds 2016, and again this year. Anastasija Ropa is a lecturer at the Latvian Academy of Sport Education, and also orginized an equestrian panel at the International Arthurian Congress this year, and is spearheading the publication of a collected work based on the Leeds panels. The call for papers for this session at Leeds 2018 is up!

#ShelfieSunday: and they’re off!

     We’ve had an absolutely lovely response to our call for reviewers. To help develop useful conversations about our growing field, we will be running our #ShelfieSunday series on monthly themes. Next month (November) the theme will be horses in war, with an emphasis on the modern period, in honor of Elizabeth Letts’ talk at AGRIscapes. December we will be covering racing history. January will be ancient equids, with an additional report on the National Sporting Library’s Horse in Greek Art exhibit. Next week we will put out a recommended reading list for each of these months. In the meanwhile, peruse our bibliography or drop us a line if you find an equine history book or source you’d like to review!


“The Perfect Horse” Book Talk

     Agriscapes and the Horse Center at Cal Poly Pomona will be hosting a talk by Elizabeth Letts on her research on the daring U.S. mission to rescue the priceless stallions kidnapped by the Nazis.” Along with the Lipizzans, there were Arabians: these ended up at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian horse ranch, now the site of Cal Poly Pomona. Come listen to, and walk in, a bit of history.

Tickets (free, but RSVP required) are available here.