#ShelfieSunday: The Warhorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Beginning of the Second Millennium

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 1.23.07 PM

Review by Jane Flynn

Read her blog here.

Hyland A., The Warhorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Beginning of the Second Millennium, Black Tent Publications, Stockton on Tees, 2010.

     Ann Hyland’s book The WarHorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Second Millennium is the third and last in a series that together cover the role of horses in military history from the Medieval period to the present century. Hyland is a prolific author and has published on the horse in the Ancient World, on Quarter Horses and on, in Foal to Five Years, the development and training of young horses. Strangely, however, her work on war horses seems to have gone largely unnoticed, despite growing public and scholarly interest in human-animal interactions.

     In The WarHorse in the Modern Era Hyland examines the tumultuous final instalment in the horse’s long association with war. The War Horse in the Modern Era begins with the The Boer War campaign of 1899-1902. She illustrates why the South African campaign proved a turning point in how military horses were supplied and managed. The book follows a logical progression, continuing by covering the use of horses (and mules) in The First World War and into and beyond the Second World War; again comprehensively covering everything from purchase and supply, to veterinary care, transportation, equipment and feeding. Each chapter is divided into manageable and easily-navigated sub-sections.

     A great strength of Hyland’s book is that it has been written by a horse person for horse people. It would also be of interest to military historians and animal-studies scholars. In this sense it is a very refreshing read; successfully avoiding the sentimentality that has so often undermined serious consideration of the horse in history. The War Horse in the Modern Era is a book packed with useful information about every aspect of the war horse’s utilisation and has clearly been very thoroughly researched. It is, however, a book that rarely ventures into analysis. It is informative, but it does not enter into discussion and primary sources can at times feel as though much more could have been made of them. This is a shame, as on the rare occasions Hyland does enter into debate her writing is perhaps at its best. For example, on the subject of how historians have sorely neglected the important part played by horses during The Great War:

     Many historians seem to have written the cavalry off without giving credence to the effectiveness it often showed, and the sacrifices the horses made. How many writers give accolades to the artillery, but failure to mention that … it was the horse that enabled it to be positioned effectively. (p.109.)

     Similarly, and although a glossary of terms is given, this is a book that often assumes its readers have a comprehensive equestrian vocabulary upon which to draw. That being said, it is rare that writing on horses in war has gone into this sort of depth and for that reason The War Horse in the Modern Era is an admirable, and welcome, addition to the genre.

Editors’ Note: This review was originally going to run in November, when we featured other books on horses in warfare. However, unlike Hyland’s Medieval works, this book proved remarkably difficult to find! We suspect The War Horse in the Modern Era: Breeder to Battlefield, 1600 to 1865 will be likewise difficult. If you have a copy and you’d like to review it, or lend it to a reviewer, let us know!

 

Advertisements

Save the Date! First EHC Conference Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2018

Announcing the Equine History Conference!
Save the date: Fri. Nov. 30 – Sun Dec. 2, 2018
Organized by the Equine History Collective, the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library and the Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at Cal Poly Pomona

Calling all equine historians… We are delighted to announce the first annual conference and meeting of the Equine History Collective, in generous partnership with theW. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library  and Kellogg Arabian Center. The three-day conference will be held at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library  on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona. Tours of the library and exhibits will be scheduled during the conference. Researchers are welcome and encouraged to contact the library archivists about making use of their special collections during their stay in Pomona. The conference will conclude with the traditional Sunday Arabian Show at the Kellogg Arabian Center.  Our official call for papers will follow!

CPPcollectionsdavenport

News from ASEH

logo

     The ASEH annual conference will be in Riverside, CA, March 14-18. There are a number of equine and animal presentations of interest. In addition, there will be a pre-ASEH twitter conference, sponsored by NiCHE, on March 8th & 9th. Submissions are due Feb. 21.

Persistence and Power: The Cultural, Symbolic, and Environmental Role of
Horses and Burros in Survivance in the American West
Lindsay Marshall, University of Oklahoma, “I’ve Been a Horse All My Life”: The
Persistence and Adaptability of Comanche Horse Culture in the Twentieth Century
Abbie Harlow, Arizona State University, “The Burro Evil”: The Eradication of Feral
Burros in Grand Canyon National Park
Kerri Keller Clement, University of Colorado-Boulder, Game of Horsepower: Robert
Yellowtail, Crow Horses, and Native American Power during the 1930s

Lightning Talks
Katrin Boniface, University of California-Riverside, Distributive Preservation & Heritage Livestock

Environment, Power, and Injustice in Southern African Histories
Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University-South Africa, The Animal in the Mirror – Baboons and the Politics of Power

Managing the Health of People and Animals
Brian Tyrrell, University of California-Santa Barbara, Breeding the Bluegrass: A Political
Ecology of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region

Elusive Beasts: Affective Encounters and the Politics of Representation
Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University-South Africa, The Others – Animal Kinship and the Strangeness of Familiarity

 

#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.

#ShelfieSunday: Here Comes Exterminator!

exterm

Review by Eric Banks

     In Here Comes Exterminator!, writer Eliza McGraw revisits the life of the 1918 Kentucky Derby–winning gelding Exterminator, one of the most celebrated American thoroughbreds of the first half of the twentieth century. Few geldings have won the signature race in its history—Exterminator is one of only nine, although the third in a short span between 1914 and 1920—and his career as a racer was prolonged for a greater period than most three-year-old champions. Much of McGraw’s book, and the appeal that Exterminator exerted for most of his racing life, concerns the determination of the horse’s owner, Willis Sharpe Kilmer, to surpass the career earnings of Man O’ War, which totaled $249,465. Exterminator did so as a nine-year-old in 1924, finishing fourth in a stakes race and collecting a small purse at the newly established Tijuana Race Course, nipping Man O’War’s winnings total by just over $3,000. Five starts later, he raced for the final time at Blue Bonnets Raceway in Montreal, pulling up lame while finishing third, and retiring with a remarkable record of 50-17-17 in a 99-race career.

     Griswald, a contributing writer to Equus magazine, charts the horse’s tenacity against the background of Exterminator’s erstwhile trainer Henry McDaniel, who conditioned the horse following his purchase as a lightly raced three-year-old, and his bullheaded owner, the Binghamton, New York–based Kilmer. The former was the son of the legendary David McDaniel, the trainer of the great campaigner of the 1870s, Harry Bassett, and a steady if not spectacular success as a horseman. Kilmer by contrast was a newcomer to horse racing who parleyed a family fortune—his father invented the dubious cure-all diuretic Swamp-Root—into a powerful stable in the late 1910s. Kilmer cycled through trainers over the course of Exterminator’s career; at one point, Griswald recounts sportswriters trying to recall the nearly two dozen who had worked for him at one point or another. But McDaniel was most powerfully connected to the critical decision to enter Exterminator in the 1918 Kentucky Derby and to the later campaign in which he would at last better his paper rival, Man O’ War—a pyrrhic victory given that another horse, Zev, had already overtaken Man O’ War’s tally.

     The recognizable figural motif underwriting Exterminator’s biography might be called “the wrong horse.” Like the stories of other racehorses, including Seabiscuit, Swale, and even Secretariat, which Meadow Stud famously received after losing a coin toss (part of a foal-sharing agreement) to Ogden Phipps, the wrong-horse tale involves the emergence of a lesser-regarded juvenile blossoming into a champion. In the case of Exterminator, he was purchased for a modest sum on McDaniel’s advice to serve as something akin to a workout partner to the highly regarded Sun Briar in preparation for the Derby. After a stellar two-year-old campaign, Sun Briar had put in a desultory performance in the spring of his three-year-old year and trained poorly. He was finally removed from consideration for the race and replaced by Exterminator, one of the longest shots in the field, at 30-1, whose victory echoed that of the extreme long shot Donerail’s five years earlier, in the process galvanizing popular and media interest in the Derby across the country as an opportunity for bettors to strike it rich and for outsiders to be competitive.

     Donerail and Exterminator shared another thing as well: they were both sired by the English thoroughbred McGee, which makes the rags-to-riches narrative sometimes told about Exterminator suspect. Exterminator’s potential may have been underrated, but he had at least one classics winner as a half-brother. He was nevertheless an unprepossessing and gangly young horse whose skinniness earned him the nickname “Old Bones”; as McGraw reports, it’s not clear why the decision was made to geld him, but it reflects the lack of faith in his future as a stallion. Following his Derby victory, the lack of optimism seemed warranted; his win in Louisville on a muddy track appeared to be a fluke, and he lost races throughout the year, while Sun Briar rebounded to win the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Springs. But by the end of 2018, he showed mettle as a handicap horse and ability to win longer-distance races. He and Sun Briar—who remained Kilmer’s favorite, and who named his state-of-the-art indoor training facilities in Binghamton Sun Briar Court—made a formidable one-two punch for the stable, with Sun Briar a difficult horse to defeat at distances under a mile and a furlong, and Exterminator a hard-knocking stayer.

     McGraw writes engagingly about an important moment in the history of the sport. During World War I, a number of influential figures like August Belmont Jr. helped forged a connection, both actual and in the public imagination, between the thoroughbred industry and the US war effort through the Remount Service. The breeding program imaginatively helped to surmount the less salubrious view of the industry as it emerged from anti-gambling initiatives in the years before. The remount campaign, however, posed a question on the status of geldings in racing. The trade-off, however, was a lengthy career in which there was no issue, of course, of retiring Exterminator to stud duty (unlike Sun Briar, who sired the wildly successful Sun Beau after his retirement in 1919). This longevity and later development would later distinguish Exterminator in a manner similar to other memorable geldings like Kelso, Forego, Dr. Fager, and John Henry.

     Exterminator’s virtuoso performances on the track, McGraw writes, endeared him to fans of racing and a legion of sportswriters, from Grantland Rice to the less-remembered Brooklyn Eagle correspondent W.C. Vreeland. His timing could not have been better: a moment when mass spectatorship was emerging around a number of sports (baseball and boxing, in particular); postwar transportation developments were making travel by spectators and horses a vastly easier undertaking; and the nascent film industry widened the distribution of newsreel images and celebrity. McGraw mentions the (now lost) 1919 Hollywood film A Challenge to Chance, which featured the horse (apparently playing himself); the movie was a vehicle for boxer Jess Willard, pegged to be released as promotional lagniappe on July 4 of the same year, when he lost his belt to Jack Dempsey in a heavyweight bout. At any rate, Exterminator achieved celebrity in a decade noted in the United States in particular for developing its own spin on the concept.

     McGraw writes well, if anecdotally, on this pivot moment in the history of US racing, when the industry underwent an early wave of professionalization and established itself as a major mass spectacle sport with a seemingly permanent place in the news cycle. On Exterminator himself, she is a terrific Boswell. The horse may be poorly remembered today—the closest analogy I can think of from another era is probably Stymie, the fabulously popular New York–based who became the leading money earner of the late 1940s after making 131 starts—but McGraw makes an enthusiastic case for his rediscovery just over a century after his birth.

#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

CFP: 2018 ASI-UIUC Summer Institute in Human-Animal Studies

Animals & Society Institute: “Animal Studies Across the Disciplines” (Sunday July 8-Saturday July 14, 2018).  Directed by Jane Desmond (Resident Director), Kim Marra, Margo DeMello, and Kenneth Shapiro.

Application Deadline: February 15, 2018

  • The Animals & Society Institute and the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign invite applications for the second annual Summer Institute in Human-Animal Studies for advanced graduate students and early career scholars pursuing research in Human-Animal Studies.
  • The Institute is designed to support participants’ individual research in Human-Animal Studies as well as to promote interdisciplinary exchange.
  • At the heart of the program are daily morning seminars devoted to discussion of participants’ work, followed by afternoon plenary lectures by distinguished speakers.
  • The tuition fee for the Institute (which covers registration, housing, library access, special events, receptions, and seminars) is $800.  Some scholarships are available.

 

For more details and how to apply, see the full call for applications:

https://www.animalsandsociety.org/call-for-applications-2018-summer-institute-in-human-animal-studies/