2019 Equine History Conference Recap

Above: The group after the tour of the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center

The second Equine History Conference (#EqHist2019) brought together a fantastic group of scholars Nov. 13–15, 2019 at Cal Poly Pomona (see final program). Hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library, the event opened with a welcome from Emma Gibson, Interim Dean of the University Library at CPP. The theme of the conference, “Embodied Equines,” invited papers that explored how people have understood, shaped, sustained, and used equine bodies.

On the first day, Sandra Swart gave the keynote address on “The Equine Experiment“—the role of both horses and race in producing the colonial hierarchies of South Africa, despite the immense difficulty of transporting and raising horses there—the role of blood taking on an ominous configuration with respect to racehorses and apartheid.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to tour the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library to view the “Miniature Menageries” exhibit of Hagen-Renaker figurines, examine new additions to the Library’s collections, and browse the Library’s many books and journals. 

The first conference session included discussions of Arabian horsebreeding: Margaret Derry’s analysis of competing registries, John Schiewe’s discussion of best practices, and Tobi Lopez Tayor’s explanation of how Cold War politics influenced the importation of Russian and Polish Arabians to the US. The next session examined the human-horse bond and different styles of horsemanship. 

Members of a Spanish-led team of scientists and archaeologists presented work on the myth and reality of Pizarro’s horse, excavations an Iron Age site with sacrificed horses in Iberia, and studies of the genetic inheritance of curly-coated horses around the world and of the Spanish colonial horse in American horse populations.

Papers on the long-distance trade and transport of horses – from New England to the sugar colonies, and in nineteenth-century U.S. military supply chains – were followed by Kat Boniface’s impassioned plea for productive interdisciplinary research and communication between equine scientists and historians. Another session addressed horses and social prestige, war, and morality in nineteenth-century America: the relationship between horses and status based on archaeological research at Montpelier, the procurement of horses in Kentucky during the Civil War, and how the urban middle-class applied the rhetoric of morality and efficiency to horse-drawn streetcar drivers and their horses.

In addition, speakers addressed the consequences of equine embodiment in the context of war: the types and concentration of horses in England after the Norman Conquest, the impact of equine disease in the Civil War, the mule-soldier relationship in World War I, and the use of condemned U.S. army horses as military dog food. Other papers highlighted the significance of horses in Arabic language poetry and ethics, and the commemoration of the horse body both in the ancient Greek and Roman world and in contemporary trophies of horse hooves re-purposed to serve a role in the home.

The conference closed with a paper on a little-known project of the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at CPP to cross Shetland ponies with Arabians for the “Araland” cross, a history both unique and local. Attendees had breakfast that morning with Mary Jane Parkinson, longtime co-editor of Arabian Horse World and author of The Romance of the Kellogg Ranch, which was available for purchase. The day concluded with a tour of the Arabian Horse Center, which emphasized the student learning environment and beautiful batch of yearlings. 

Those with an extra day viewed selected texts from the collection of racing enthusiast Edward Lasker at the Huntington Library, which included a rare first edition of Markham’s Cavelrice, bound in horse hide and horse hair.

The conference provided wonderful opportunities for cross-disciplinary conversation and exchange across fields such as archaeology, history, genetics, and linguistics. The book table gathered together recent titles in equine topics, and generous sponsors provided a fantastic spread of raffle prizes. Our non-conference attendees found an active social media presence with Facebook Livefeed video clips and live-tweeting of talks when approved by the speaker (see #EqHist2019). 

If you have stories to share about your experience of #EqHist2019 to share with us for a NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) thread in Twitter or a blog post, let us know! 

The EHC would like to thank our 2019 Conference sponsors:

The EHC’s purpose is to foster equine history research and its dissemination, and promote collaboration between equine historians in all disciplines. This includes, but is not limited to, scholars in disciplines other than history, like agriculture, archaeology, art history, and literature, and researchers in non-academic settings, such as public historians and independent scholars.

Join us online at Facebook, Twitter (@Equine_History), Instagram (@equinehistorycollective), and equinehistory.org.

Support an equine historian. Buy a tshirt: https://equinehistory.wordpress.com/2018/09/08/shirts-on-demand/

#EqHist2020 will be hosted at SUNY Old Westbury, NY.  Stay tuned for the announcement of dates, and a CFP in the early spring! 

#EqHist2019 Speakers: Movements and Networks

This panel will be at 11:00a.m. on Thursday November 14th, just before lunch. It will be chaired by Marva Felchlin, retired curators from Autry Museum of the American West. Featuring Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Nicole M. Mathwich, and Katrin Boniface, this panel uses a variety of methods to explore equine trade networks. This panel has agreed to allow livetweeting, so if you can’t make it in person be sure to follow the #EqHist2019 tag on Twitter!

Equine Labour – Enslaved Labour: New England and the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World
Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Roger Williams University

From the late seventeenth century through to the end of the eighteenth century, countless New England vessel braved the Atlantic Ocean in a quest for profit by delivering horses to the sugar colonies. This paper will explore how and why Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut emerged as breeding grounds for horses, and how they came to dominate the equine trade to the sugar colonies. Writing in 1732, the anonymous pamphlet, The British empire in America lamented that the British Sugar Colonies “will soon be reduc’d to a Condition too wretched to be name, and an End be put to the British Empire in America.” The pamphleteer was not alone, and others ranging from Members of Parliament to merchants, described how New Englanders undermined the British sugar colonies of Barbados and Jamaica. New England’s role in this controversy was clear; they readily provided the French and Dutch colonies with the one plantation necessity that they could not easily obtain elsewhere: horses. At its nucleus, the trade centred on the ownership and trade in equine bodies and human bodies. The language planters and merchants used to describe their equine and human property was often one and the same. Moreover, the horses were raised by slaves on plantations along Narragansett Bay, and then traded directly for sugar, molasses, and chattel slaves. If the horses survived the
perilous ocean crossing to the Caribbean or South America, the horses then toiled alongside slaves crushing sugar on the plantations. In some instances, slaves only got meat in their diet when a horse died. This paper will centre the relationship between chattel slaves and equine property, linking New England’s economy to the wider currents of transatlantic trade.

The Public Horse Embodied: Requisition, Use, and Replacement of the Military Horse in the Great Sioux War
Nicole M. Mathwich, San Diego State University, and Rae Whitley, Museum of the Horse Soldier

In the 1870s, the U.S. military was engaged with the Dakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes in the Great Sioux War as the U.S. attempted to annex the gold-rich Black Hills from Lakota territory. The U.S. part in this conflict depended heavily on horse movement and availability; however these types of engagements and large distances exacted a heavy toll on mounts. Historians have written extensively about the 7th Cavalry and these conflicts, but no detailed research has investigated the procurement
and experiences of horses, animals which were central to the conflicts. Here, we explore the embodiment of U.S. military supply organization through horses. Using historical records and zooarchaeological and isotopic methods, we examine the remains of a military horse found in Montana
with strong contextual evidence of its participation and death in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Stable isotopes from the tooth carbonate show the horse was foddered for its early adult life and was not reared in Montana. We combine this evidence with historical U.S. military supply records to examine how the U.S. cavalry units obtained mounts and the challenges these animals faced on the northern Plains. We explore the supply system needed to support cavalry during the Plains Indian Wars and use
the horse’s remains to explore horses’ roles in the Plains conflicts. The harsh experiences during the 1870s campaigns fueled the demand within the officer ranks for a proper remount breeding program, veterinary care, and equitation training and shifted the way the U.S. military approached its horses.

Dead Ponies and Some Live Ones, Too: History, Genetics, and Sci-comm Katrin Boniface, University of California-Riverside

This presentation will examine a variety of recent zooarcheological genetic studies and how they fit within the historical records. These studies have the potential to give us a greater understanding of equine breeding and trade routes. Genetics studies and histories looking at these topics often cite each other, but unfortunately most communication between geneticists and historians is publicly mediated through news outlets. Equine History 2019 provides an opportunity to for us to share findings directly.

#EqHist2019 Sponsors: UCLA 17th & 18th Century Studies

Another returning sponsor this year is the UCLA 17th & 18th Century Studies Center. They sponsor fellowships, workshops, and conferences (like ours), and also now offer a certificate in Early Modern Studies for UCLA graduate students across disciplines. They are currently running an international project, including exhibits and research, on empire, colonization, and the development of the modern transnational world.

Check out their latest news!

Psst! Today is the last day to register for Equine History 2019!

#EqHist2019 Speakers: Genetics and History

The panel will be at 9:00a.m. on Thursday November 14th, opening the second day of the conference. It will be chaired by Alyssa V. Loera from Cal Poly Pomona. This is a new feature this year, and we are delighted to include more methodological variety for investigating the past. Two of these papers have agreed to allow livetweeting, so if you can’t make it in person be sure to follow the #EqHist2019 tag on Twitter!

There is still time to register: the deadline has been extended to Nov. 7!

The Artistic Representation of Pizarro’s horse: Reality vs. Myth
María Martín-Cuervo, Universidad de Extremadura, on behalf of Francisco Javier Cambero Santano, Universidad de Extremadura

Horses symbolize power in most cultures that count this animal among their domesticates. The shortage of horses made them a very limited resource in the combat, and that only the Spanish of greater rank could have them. The figure of Francisco Pizarro, except for some portraits, always appears connected to a horse. From different examples that have been taken as a sample, both figures will be analyzed to see the differences between reality and current visual perception.

It can be considered that the horses that arrived to the Viceroyalty of Peru had the following physical characteristics: low height, rustic and with small feet and resistant hoofs, rectilinear or slightly convex head outline and low insertion of the tail.

The drawings before the 17th century showed Francisco Pizarro standing in front of Atahualpa, like an infantry soldier, and in the later representations, he always appears on a horse, often with a chestnut coat and with the morphology of the current Andalusian Horses (PRE-Pura Raza Española). This fact may be due to the need to represent the conquerors as great warriors, instead of adjusting to the historical reality, which describes the conquerors as men from poor families, who conquered territories after suffering many hardships.

Revisiting the Iberian Origins of the North American Horses: Approaching the Two Sides of the Atlantic Ocean Combining Ancient DNA and Historical Registries from the Colonial Era
Jaime LiraGarrido, Universidad de Extremadura and Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución Comportamiento Humanos

Horses were brought from Iberia to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Theoretically, they had primitive characteristics and it is thought they became the founding breeding stock of the Colonial Spanish Horse. Subsequent generations were a major influence in the colonization of North America by Europeans and forever changed the culture of Native Americans. The status of the Colonial Spanish is considered threatened. Other North American populations with high percentages of Colonial Spanish Horse influence are found in wild horse herds managed by Federal Agencies, who need scientific guidance with management practices.

There are genetic links between modern North American and Spanish horse populations. Studies of ancient DNA have strengthened these links, although genetic backgrounds of many ancient and modern horses differ.Many different horse breeds arrived from Europe to North America during the last 500 years. Surprisingly, no studies have been performed yet about the dispersal of the domestic horses in America during the Colonial period.

The purpose of this project is to characterize the genetics of the horse migratory waves in North America during the last 500 years and check these results with historical documents housed in the General Archive of the Indies (Spain) and other repositories in Spain and Mexico. This information will allow the identification of the descendants of those first Spanish horses brought to the New World and the origin of some North American Mustang populations. Further, it will aid in the conservation of the Colonial Spanish Horse by placing scientific decisions.

The Iron Age Sacrificed Horses from the Iberian Tartessic ‘Turuñuelo de Guareña’ Site Badajoz, Spain: Preliminary Study
María Martín-Cuervo, Universidad de Extremadura

The archaeological site of Casas del Turuñuelo (Badajoz, Spain) represents to date the most numerous collections of faunal remains of Iron Age horses from the Iberian Peninsula. This architectonic complex is associated with the Tartessic culture. The excavation works at the site uncovered more than fifty horses, some of them in anatomical connection, sacrificed and disposed of on a patio in the main temple.

The Tartessic culture was originated from the interaction between Iberian indigenous communities living in the South-West of the Iberian Peninsula and the Phoenicians that established trading centers on the coast during the Iron Age.

This work presents the preliminary archaeological results and the multidisciplinary approach undertaken on this extraordinary assemblage of ancient specimens, which constitutes a milestone discovery across the West Mediterranean area and a singular opportunity to characterize the equine population sacrificed at the site.

The Genetics of Curly Coated Horses
Mitch Wilkinson, ICHO/ Curly Mustang Association

Ever since horse domestication, horses have been traded, shipped, and ridden in conquest from one area to another. It is possible that the genetic material which produces curly coated horses may have been seeded into some populations by introduction of curly coated horses from other locations. It is equally possible that many horse populations developed curly coats due to natural selection and random mutations.

There are six distinct types of curly coated horses known in North America and at least one type in the feral herds in South America. In Asia, horses with curly coats are associated with the Zabaikalskaya breed in Siberia and the Lokai breed of Tajikistan. Horses with curly coats are also found in Mongolia. There may yet be other types of horses found with curly coats in their populations that are undiscovered in forgotten and remote parts of the world.

EHC 2019 Annual Meeting

The EHC’s annual meeting will be held Thursday, November 14, 3:15pm–4:45pm in the Grand Reading Room of the University Library at Cal Poly Pomona as part of the 2019 Equine History Conference. Items to be discussed include:

  • 2019 in review
  • 2020 goals, including the conference at SUNY-Old Westbury
  • Our new formalized membership plan
  • Upcoming elections for president, secretary, and treasurer

Ideas and visions of the future of EHC are invited and welcome, along with nominations for the officer positions.

Curious about last year’s meeting? Visit https://equinehistory.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/equine-history-collective-annual-meeting-2018/ for the discussion digest.

#EqHist2019 Speakers: Breeding and Management

The panel will be at 1:15p.m. on Wednesday November 13th, following the tour of the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library. It will be chaired by Brinna Pam Anan from Cal Poly Pomona and feature Frank Whitehead and Kathryn Renton. This panel has agreed to allow livetweeting, so if you can’t make it in person be sure to follow the #EqHist2019 tag on Twitter!

There is still time to register: the deadline has been extended to Nov. 7!

“The Two are Pardners”: Rodeo Cowboys, Their Horses, and a Distinctly Western Relationship
Frank Whitehead, University of Arizona

This paper examines the history of horses trained specifically for timed events in twentieth century rodeos and their complex relationships with human riders, trainers, and spectators. Timed events as competition/performance in rodeo originated from and emulated the daily tasks of horses and cowboys on Western cattle ranches. Rodeo competitors, like their rancher predecessors, utilized a continuous process of selective breeding and training in order to produce ideal horses for very specialized tasks. Timed event contestants sought out particular horses from a select few prominent bloodlines that displayed certain desired behavioral traits. These traits were employed and reinforced by contestants through specialized and repetitive training. Despite the significant control they wielded over nearly every aspect of their horses’ lives, contestants discursively constructed the identity of their horses as devoted partners. The representation of timed event horses as dedicated companions appealed to rodeo consumers, and thus was often appropriated and commodified by rodeo producers for use in advertisements, programs, and memorials of famous horses. This paper argues that the social relationship between horse and rider, and the constructed identity of the timed event horse as a committed partner, were crucial elements in the promotion, performance, and perception of rodeo as representational of an idealized, imagined West.

Riding Like a Moor: Light Cavalry Horsemanship and the ‘Military Revolution’
Kathryn Renton, University of California, Los Angeles

#EqHist2019 Speakers: Arabian Breeding Standards

It is fitting that the opening panel of the conference will be dedicated to Arabian history, in light of our phenomenal host the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library and returning sponsor the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center.

The panel will be at 9 a.m. on Wednesday November 13th, chaired by Jennifer Bidwell from Cal Poly Pomona and featuring Margaret Derry, John Schiewe, and Tobi Lopez Taylor. This panel has agreed to allow livetweeting, so if you can’t make it in person be sure to follow the #EqHist2019 tag on Twitter!

There is still time to register: the deadline has been extended to Nov. 7!

Pedigrees, Purity, and Breed: The World Arabian Horse Organization versus the Arabian Horse Registry of America in the Orchestration of Trade, 1970-2000
Margaret Derry, University of Guelph

It is difficult to see horse bodies outside the framework of “breed”; even though many animals are (and always have been) crossbred. The purebred system of pedigreeing has come to define “breeds”, and to shape desired phenotypic types. Pedigrees are also vitally important to trade in horse body-types. Patterns in the purebred trade of Arabian horses over the late 20 th century provide an example of how pedigrees and pedigree standards can orchestrate an international market for a “breed”. The history of the Arabian horse industry shows that first, pedigree standards could shape, not simply an international market but rather a global one; second, animal body-type generated outside the purebred method had to be forced into it because of the system’s marketing power; and third, translating an Eastern-produced horse into a Western purebred horse brought with it complicated concepts concerning purity. When it came to the Arabian, purity implied authenticity to Eastern type and breeding, while Western-style pedigrees were to provide authorization of that fact. Affairs in the Arabian horse world make it clear that these pedigree standards/markets issues caused havoc with respect to what quality or purity – let alone type – meant in relation to pedigrees. In this presentation I focus on the conflict that developed between the World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO) and the Arabian Horse Registry of America (AHRA) over how to preserve the purity of the breed, how to define purity, and how pedigrees could or should designate either – all issues important in the market for Arabians.

Pioneering American Breeders of Pure Polish Arabians, 1961–1985: An Examination of “Best Practices”
John Schiewe, Andrzejevo Associates

The period from 1961 to 1985 can be called the Golden Age of Polish Arabian breeding in the United States, a time when these horses dominated the show ring at the local and national level. Inspired by the work of Roman Pankiewicz, who comprehensively researched every Arabian horse breeder in Poland between the World Wars, this paper examines the breeding programs of a number of pioneering American breeders of Polish Arabians, including Lasma Arabians, Varian Arabians, Four Winds Farm, Nichols-Delongpre, and Patterson Arabians. Some of the breeders under discussion left excellent verbal or written records for their breeding rationales. For those who left no written statements, the quality horses they produced can often “speak” for themselves.

More than thirty years have passed since the Arabian horse market in the United States collapsed, owing to changing tax laws and overproduction of horses, and the majority of the well-known Polish Arabian breeding programs from that time period have ceased to exist. Today, the registration numbers for Arabian foals in the United States are much reduced compared to the 1980s. In addition, the State Stud Farms of Poland are in a documentable period of crisis. This paper examines the “best practices” of certain past breeders that should be considered in order to advance the quality of Arabian breeding across the globe.

Politics and Pedigrees: America’s Cold War-Era Arabian Horse Registration Debacle
Tobi Lopez Taylor, Independent Scholar

How do political conflict and human prejudice affect perceptions of a horse’s value? This paper examines how global and personal politics impacted importation of Russian Arabians to the United States during part of the Cold War era (1963–1978).

Many of today’s Arabians descend from horses bred at Tersk, the Russian stud farm established during the 1920s. The Tersk breeding program incorporated Arabians from France, Poland, Egypt, and England’s Crabbet Stud. By the 1960s, when the first Soviet-bred Arabians were imported, Americans had been buying registered Arabians from other countries, including Poland, for decades. And Poland had been purchasing bloodstock from Tersk since 1955. However, only one of the first seven Russian-bred Arabians imported to the US between 1963 and 1965 was accepted by the Arabian Horse Registry of America (AHRA); one reason given for that horse’s acceptance was that it had been used for breeding in Poland (a communist satellite state of the USSR since 1947). The other imports (some of which were closely related to the horse accepted by AHRA) were denied registration for various reasons, including AHRA’s questioning the “purity” of their bloodlines and, significantly, AHRA’s reluctance to “do business with the Russians.”

It was not until 1978 that AHRA lifted its ban on Russian Arabians and retroactively allowed registration of the remaining 1960s imports. Using recently obtained primary documents, this paper discusses the unintended consequences of AHRA’s decisions, demonstrating how changing American attitudes toward Russia influenced the US Arabian horse community’s acceptance of Russian-bred horses.