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.
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.
The EHC is now a federal 501(c)3 public charity as well a registered charity in the State of California! All donations are tax deductible. The Equine History Collective promotes the horse as a lens for trans-regional history, and serves as an interface for related historical research in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. We have three aims:
To make specialist and sometimes technical knowledge relevant and available to a broader audience of academic scholars in the discipline of history.
To provide a forum for connecting related research interests in equine studies across regional and chronological divisions within the discipline of history, mirroring the trends of transnational, connected world histories.
To provide a point of contact for inter-disciplinary collaboration with scholars in equine studies in the social sciences and sciences to provide a historically rigorous foundation or counterpoint to contemporary studies in fields ranging from genetics to sport culture and tourism.
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.
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.
This exhibit is being developed for the International Museum of the Horse by Purdue University doctoral candidate Elise Lofgren and Dr. Colleen Brady. The exhibit is far ranging, covering pre-domestication horse-human interactions through 21st century agritourism. Despite the ambitious scope, appropriate to the Museum of the Horse, it is already a very inclusive exhibit.
Elise Lofgren seeks to bridge disciplinary divides among both riders and researchers, as well as integrating technology into agricultural outreach and education. Her research in informed by her riding experience, while her interest in instructional design and active research allows her to address the gaps in traditional equestrian education. In addition to the museum exhibit, she and Dr. Brady are designing a much needed online course on “Horses in Human History and Culture,” which will be available through Purdue. A survey course of this nature will be invaluable to social science and animal science students alike.
Two things set the “Horses in Agriculture” online exhibit apart from similar projects that have come and gone from the web over the years. The first is the level of interactivity, reflective of Lofgren’s background in educational technology. While the exhibit is still in beta (and seeking your feedback!), there is already a variety of media. Along with textual introductions to each subject, there are photos, infographics, navigable maps, video, and audio. Despite the high media content, it loads quickly and allows visitors the choice of where to go next via a navigational sidebar. The exhibit also “remembers” where you were when you last visited, and gives the option of returning to that section. The second thing that sets this exhibit apart is that it makes use of the most recent research in a variety of fields, and avoids perpetuating common myths.
You can visit the exhibit here, and after taking a look around take their exit survey (regardless of your prior experience with horses or horse history) to suggest what features or information you might like to see in the final exhibit.
This past weekend the Huntington hosted the Early Modern Collections in Use conference. The Huntington conferences are always delightful and productive and this was no exception. First, I suggest checking out the Huntington blog and the hashtag.
Most of the papers, unsurprisingly but still wonderfully, made explicit reference to items housed at the Huntington. Given the subject, non-textual sources were well represented. And, as often happens with these narrower well curated topics, each speaker was able to draw comparisons and connections with prior papers. So, not only was there an assortment of great papers, but throughout the two days there was active discussion. In effect, this became about the production of knowledge– much as many presenters mentioned as a goal of early modern visits to collections.
I was, of course, particularly interested in Dániel Margócsy’s “Stables as Collections for Breeding: The Production of Knowledge and the Reproduction of Horses.” My primary research topic currently is on understanding of inheritance in horses and livestock in the 18th and early 19th centuries, so this was a can’t miss. I was not the only equine historian in attendance– something that is becoming delightfully less uncommon– and even had a chance to compare research notes and chat about the state of our field with Kathryn Renton over coffee. As Mary Terrall mentioned after, horse history papers are still rare enough that we come from miles around at the hint of one. Margócsy also mentioned the strange omission of horses from current research.
Margócsy’s presentation focused in particular on the relationship between collections of art and collections of horses, which often occupied the same space. He also suggests that the “ephemerality” of horses changed the ways in with they were viewed and used as collections. Because horses were collected as living, rather than preserved, specimens, preservation needs were met though breeding and through art. I look forward to reading more of his work on the subject.
And, worth mentioning, the top tweet of the conference was these good dogs: