#MemberMonday: Katherine Mooney

mooneyKatherine Mooney

History PhD, Yale University
History MPhil, Yale University
History MA, Yale University
American Studies BA, Amherst College, Summa cum laude

Author of the NASSH award-winning Race Horse Men
Read the EHC review of Race Horse Men here

What got you in to history? In to equine history?
     I can’t even remember when I figured out that I wanted to do something that involved history. And I’ve been a horse person for even longer than that– it’s my mother’s fault, since she and her sisters put me on a horse basically before I could walk. I was in my first year of a PhD program in history and looking for something to read that was NOT related to my academic life, and I picked up Ed Hotaling’s book on black jockeys. The first thing I noticed was that the guys in his sources talked about horses the same way people I’d grown up with had, and I realized that equine history was a thing I could do. It was probably the best day of my professional life.

Who is your favorite historical horse?
     Too many to have a real favorite. But I really would have liked to see Lexington and Lecomte in their races in the 1850s.

What are you working on right now?
     I’m working on a shorter study about the projection of the qualities of human females on mares and how that’s affected how they’ve been perceived by both racing professionals and fans. So there’s everything in there–from theory about how women relate to horses to critical readings of Facebook and Zenyatta.com. Any suggestions welcome!

Read Katherine Mooney’s review of Mr. Darley’s Arabian here.

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#MemberMonday: Hylke Hettema

Hylke

Hylke Hettema
pictured with al Ma3allim Shay (the wise mister tea) a
n Egyptian Baladi horse I have adopted and who is my once in a lifetime horse and my hairstylist from time to time

BA in Arabic Language and Middle East studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

MA in Arabic Linguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Dissertation on Arabian horses in the Qur’an and ahadith.

What got you in to history? In to equine history?
     As a child I visited many castles as part of family vacations. I thought they were the most magnificent places on earth and always tried to imagine what it would have been like to live in the times those enormous structures were built. Curious as I am I have always had a passion to search for all the answers to the endless questions I have about times long passed. Obviously my other great passion are horses, “Oriental” horses in particular. I breed, ride, watch and study them. When I decided to start breeding Straight Egyptian Arabians questions started surfacing about the history of the breed and I discovered a lot of things that just don’t seem to make sense. Appalled by the majority of the breed specific literature, websites and ‘experts’ selling the average Arabian horse enthusiast a lot of fairytales and nonsense I decided I wanted to dig deeper but do this the right way: academic research. (My love for castles is still going strong and whenever I travel the first things I seek out are castles and of course horses).

Who is your favorite historical horse?
     I wasn’t sure if I would be able to answer this question, since many of the horses in literature concerning “Arabian” history are unnamed and I like them all not just one, but I can tell you about one of the stories that caused me to start digging deeper. The horse in question does have a name: Abjer (protruding belly). He is the horse of the Pre-Islamic warrior Antar(ah) ibn Shaddad, the main character in one of the most popular stories (poems) throughout Arab history, which is still taught in schools throughout the Middle East today.

   Antars   Antars story has been compared to Arthurian literature in terms of chivalry and courage. He was born a slave and fell in love with his cousin Abla, and to obtain freedom so that he would be allowed to marry her he had to “fight with the warriors and defend his tribe”.  Early on his quest to freedom he obtains the horse Abjer. A stallion ‘darker than ebony’ that he traded for all the spoils of war they had previously taken.  Many versions state that Abjer was “of a race that the Arabs much appreciated”, which made me realise that it is a bit naive to assume Arabs only rode Arabian horses (a good argument for starting serious research). Nevertheless I like what Abjer stands for in the story, a loyal and true friend to his rider, exactly what I have experienced horses to be.

What are you working on right now?
     I am currently working on my PhD as an external researcher for Leiden University, the Netherlands. The main theme of my dissertation is the role the Arabian horse has played in the creation of Arab identity in general. My supervisor dr. P. Webb has shown how Arab identity was created and evolved in the 8-10th centuries, after the birth of Islam. We do not have much evidence of the existence of the Arabian as a breed from before that exact same timeframe and it would seem that the ideas of ‘Arabness’ for both human and horse are interconnected and perhaps triggers for the creation of one another. There are quite a few 8-10th century Arabic manuscripts on horses that I will be analyzing in search of the role the horse may have played in the invention and spread of Arab identity.

    Apart from the PhD and papers for various congresses I also write for both academic and non academic readers about “oriental” horses on my blog rememberingadeserthorse.org

#MemberMonday: Laerke Recht

ridehesten copy


Laerke Recht 

PhD in Classics, Trinity College Dublin


BA in Philosophy and Greek & Roman Civilization, University College Dublin 

 

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

      I’m in that particular branch of history called archaeology. Part of what I work on is actually pre-history, meaning there are only limited evidence from literary sources. I started in Classics, but the courses I found the most exciting were always the archaeological ones, and slowly I was drawn more and more into that perspective. There is something very tangible about archaeology that appeals to all the senses, and for me at least, it has a way of being more reliable. This is in the sense that it is less susceptible to ancient hidden propaganda or personal agendas – anybody can write or say that they did so and so, but archaeological remains are harder to ‘fake’ (of course, there is a whole other set of challenges instead!). Then there is the undeniable thrill of discovery, of slowly peeling away layers of soil deposited by people living over 3000 years ago. I’m not talking about Indiana Jones moments of finding golden cups, but a small change in colour or texture, or that gradual reveal of one stone, then another, and a third, and soon you have a wall (this has become a bit of a joke in archaeology, there’s even a recent book titled after it). It may sound banal, but it’s the sense that something happened here a long time ago, and if we are careful to get as many clues as possible, we can work out what. Maybe a small family had a meal, maybe there was a battle that signified the end of an era. From small everyday acts to large-scale events, I think that quest for knowledge and connection with a deeper past and identity is there no matter what. 

     Equine history (or archaeology) is an almost inevitable combination of my research and my personal interests. I’ve lived with horses my whole life (ridden, trained, broken in, competed). I think I was in my first competition when I was five or six years old, and although I’ve had breaks for studies, it’s never been far away. The fascinating thing about any kind of training with a horse is that it always requires two, and you have to find a way to work together. My research has involved animals in one way or another from the start, but for a long time I’ve wanted to do something dedicated to a specific animal. I chose equids partly because of my personal experiences, and partly because it is an animal that is treated differently in the archaeological record.

Who is your favorite historical horse?

I have two.

     The first is Bucephalus. He was the horse of Alexander the Great, and according to the ancient historian Arrian, Alexander loved and admired him. He is the bold war horse that Alexander uses in his campaigns across western Asia. A city was named after Bucephalus. Arrian writes that “in former days he had shared with Alexander many a danger and many a weary march. No one ever rode him but his master, for he would never permit anyone else to mount him. He was a big horse, high-spirited – a noble creature.”

     The second is Hickstead (if I may call him historical). What a horse! This is totally influenced by my own preference for showjumping. The passion and love of jumping that is evident when watching him is just fantastic. Although the combination of Eric Lamaze and Hickstead could probably not have been better, it is such a joy to watch Hickstead take four different riders on a clear round for the Rolex Top Four Final. All excellent riders, but this was Hickstead taking them for a ride. I also love the fact that Hickstead as a personality and as an athlete was honoured by a minute of silence by all participants after his death in the Verona arena in 2011. This says a lot about human-equid relations in athletic contexts.

What are you working on right now?

     My current project is about human-equid relations in the ancient Near East. It is an EU-funded project (under the 2020 Horizon programme) which lets me do research on this topic in a holistic manner. I’m combining faunal, iconographic and epigraphic material.

     I have just finished looking at one of those incredibly controversial parts of equine history: that is, when horses were first domesticated. There are all sorts of challenges when attempting to identify equid species in the faunal record, and even more so when finding markers of domestication – as I’m sure many of the members here will know much about. What is of interest to me is how humans and equids related to each other, and hunting ‘wild’ animals for meat is a very different kind of relationship than one where they are ridden, or even kept and bred for meat/milk.

     I’ve just moved on to looking at the use of various kinds of chariots in the ancient Near East. Equids were ridden, but chariots were much more common. Since I am more familiar with riding, I’m now learning more about how the different parts of chariots and other wheeled vehicles affect how it can be used or what it is most suited for. It’s important because, to put it crudely, it comes down to a difference between war and peace. Were horses (and other equids) used mainly for peaceful activities (agriculture, processions) or for aggressive activities (battle, hunting)?

     My particular take on this topic is to look for the agency of equids – to recognize their behaviour (an attentive turning of the ear, an impatient stamping with a leg) and their shaping of human lives as well as the other way around.

#MemberMonday: Joshua C White

joshuawhiteJoshua C White

Bournemouth University – BA (Hons) Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology

University of York – MSc Zooarchaeology

  

 

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

   I first went on a field excavation school around 14 years of age and I haven’t looked back since. It ticked all the boxes as I loved learning about the past and loved being outside. And I still do at 24, however being on-site in the middle of winter does sometimes make me question that decision I made ten years ago.

   I’ve always had a fascination for animals, particularly how humans interact with them in a variety of contexts. In an attempt to blend this interest with my archaeological studies, the discipline of zooarchaeology just seemed like the perfect home for me. And yes it is the horse out of all animals that I am primarily concerned with, which I think is simply down to personal bias through having a significant level of exposure to horses from a young age and being an equestrian myself. Human history has ridden on the back of a horse and I just find myself drawn to exploring it more and more.

Who is your favourite historical horse?

   A difficult question to answer, but I think I would have to go with Incitatus, the horse of the Emperor Caligula. The story of this little equid is utterly unique and entirely bizarre, thus I find him completely fascinating. Suetonius lists that Incitatus had his own house, a stall of marble, a manger of ivory, blankets of purple dye, a collar decorated with precious gems and numerous personal slaves. The standing of this horse, at least in Caligula’s eyes can be ascertained through the decrees apparently sent out to soldiers passing through the neighbourhood, ordering them to be silent as to not disturb Incitatus. In addition to this it is reported that the Emperor had promised his favourite horse that he would make him consul! The validity of the statements made by individuals writing around one hundred years after his death can be heavily questioned; however Incitatus (even in a legendry capacity) stands out as one of the most notable horses from the Roman world.

   In many ways Incitatus is probably more relevant today than people consider. In many ways, the luxurious and extravagant lifestyle he had is secretly what most modern day owners aspire to replicate or achieve for their horses. Although I am yet to come across an animal with a head collar of precious gems, I do frequently encounter horses that have in their possession numerous slaves.

What are you working on right now?

   I am currently researching horse husbandry practices in Iron Age Britain. In zooarchaeological terms horses are a bit of an oddity as we usually talk about animals in terms of the exploitation of primary and secondary products, trying to quantify the economic significance of for example cattle, sheep and pigs. Through not providing a ‘product’, the economic contribution that horses make is more ambiguous and difficult to quantify in numerical terms, thus the mechanisms behind their husbandry are often overlooked. For the Iron Age in Britain this is currently the case and I am in the process of assessing the current state of our knowledge, going out and collating data on horse remains from this period, and essentially establishing a new model for how horse were managed in the 1st millennium BCE. This originally started off as my Master’s dissertation and has spilled over into something else. I’m currently in the process of drafting up two papers to publish my findings.

#MemberMonday: Anastasija Ropa

Lady Ana

 

Education:

Bangor University
PhD, Arthurian Literature

University of Latvia
BA & MA

 

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

     It probably suffices to say that my role models as young adolescent were Tolkien’s riders of Rohan and Dumas’s musketeers… As a postgraduate, my principal research interest was medieval literature, and especially Arthurian romance, while horses were my private passion. A natural step forward after completing the PhD was to combine the two.

Who is your favorite historical horse?

     Eclipse: his is a fairy-tale scenario of a horse who was deemed unfit for sport by his contemporaries and retired from racing an unbeaten champion. Eclipse went on to become a prize breeding stallion, so most of today’s Thoroughbreds – including my own ex-racing horse – are his descendants.

What are you working on right now?

     A lot of diverse projects, mainly to do with the Middle Ages. I am involved in organizing sessions on the medieval horse at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, and related activities. I am also preparing articles on the prices of medieval horses and horse welfare in the Middle Ages. I am currently on maternity leave, with fewer opportunities to ride, but, in the summer, I will resume training horses, which gives me an opportunity to gather empirical evidence for my long-term project on medieval horse training.

Anastasija is the organizer of the “Equestrianism” strands at IMC Leeds and several other equine history projects. She is currently a lecturer of English and translator at the Latvian Academy of Sports Education. Find her here.

#MemberMonday: Alyse Yeargan

alysedyl

Education

University of California, Riverside
PhD student, Public History

California State University, Fresno
MA English Literature

SUNY Stony Brook
BA English Literature

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

     I ended up in Public History almost by accident. I got my BA in English with minors in Art History and Women Studies, during my MA (also in English) I realized what I was actually interested in was culture and cultural theory. Public history, and history in general, not only sits at the intersection of all of my previous studies, but also provides an area for me to pursue my interest in the way culture is constructed.

     My interest in equine history arose from being a life-long equestrian. While I often feel that individual horses themselves are more interesting than the study of horses in general, I’m fascinated by the way our cultural constructions– masculinity, femininity, ideas about animal handling and treatment, and what it means to be human in general– get played out through our interactions with horses and in equestrian competition.

Who is your favorite historical horse?

     Favorite historical horse is a difficult question to answer! I have a real affinity for Justin Morgan. My great aunt breeds Morgans, and favors Lippitt and working western lines, so I grew up thinking Justin Morgan was the standard for what a horse ought to be– versatile and handy, stubborn but affectionate. I also adore Seattle Slew, and OTTBs more generally. As an eventer and trainer I love working with anything with Slew on the papers. They’re sensible, sweet, and brave mounts; as jumpers, they always have scope to spare! Though they will always go in for the long spot if you let them.

What are you working on right now?

     Right now I’m trying to figure out what my dissertation will be focus on. I’ve just begun my Ph.D. course work, so my projects are still nebulous. I don’t work exclusively in equestrian areas, but when thinking about culture animal studies always offers an interesting angle. Our interactions with animals are always telling of conceptions of ourselves, as they are frequently an ‘other’ which our culture employs to frame itself.

#MemberMonday: Janice Gunther Martin

JGM & donkey at Versailles
This was actually taken at Versailles. Why spend all your time looking at palaces and gardens when you can also go see farm animals?

Education

University of Notre Dame
PhD Candidate, History

MA, History

 

University of Connecticut

MA, History

 

University of Pennsylvania
MS, Chemistry

BA, Biochemistry

 

What got you in to history? Into equine history?

     I have wonderful memories of visiting museums and historical sites on family vacations during childhood. One summer I even spent a week at a camp run by a living history center in New Brunswick, Canada, pretending that I lived in the rural nineteenth century St. John River Valley (a program at Kings Landing – the place deserves some free advertising). So, despite studying biochemistry and chemistry in college, the history bug had burrowed deep. A college course on the history of scientific thought led me to further consider the history of science and how human beings have defined, studied, and interacted with the natural world… And this interest eventually led me to graduate school!

     Unlike perhaps most equine historians, I came to equine history through books – and not the Black Stallion series, either. In my first year or so at Notre Dame I stumbled across equine medical treatises from early modern Castile, and realized that studying the treatment of equines in the past would be a fruitful way to address my broader interests about human beings and nature.

Who is your favorite historical horse?

     If I may slightly adjust the question, I would instead like to identify my favorite historical mule: a gray mule born about 1547 and purchased by a shoemaker at the San Miguel fair in Nájera in September of 1552. Without too much exaggeration I can say that this was a celebrity mule of the shoemaker neighborhood in Logroño. Alas, the mule met an unfortunate end. I will reveal the full, sad story in my as-yet-in-progress dissertation; or, if you can’t wait, find me on the conference circuit! 

What are you working on right now?

      At the moment I am finishing my dissertation, which investigates the role of Crown-licensed equine doctors in curing equines in sixteenth-century Castile. Since many Castilians were familiar with equines and how to heal them, what set equine doctors apart? I compare evidence from theoretical equine medical treatises and lawsuits to determine the distinctive status and practices of these equine doctors as they cared for everyday, working animals. I argue that equine doctors were distinct from others who healed these animals because they more explicitly framed their work using learned medical theory, possessed particular legal functions, and performed specialized surgery. Their activities show that human and animal medicine diverged in practice despite shared medical theory. This project will not only be valuable to historians of science and medicine for its examination of lay and learned medical expertise in an Iberian context; what’s also really exciting about my sources is that they allow me to study actual horses, mules, and donkeys from this period. I am able to examine the different types of equine knowledge that people possessed, and how equine treatment varied by the work expected of these animals and economic context. Thus, the project will contribute to a nuanced understanding of human-equine relations during this period, and to conversations about the treatment of domesticated animals, in general.