#ShelfieSunday: War Horse: Mounting the Cavalry with America’s Finest Horses

warhorse

     War Horse started as a project by two horsemen to uncover the relationship between pedigree and confirmation, especially pertaining to soundness and athleticism. It became an immense tome on the short lived but massively influential U.S. Army Remount Service breeding program. Livingston and Roberts, in their search to quantify the pedigrees of the best horses, discovered that they unerringly traced to Remount stallions, regardless of breed. While the majority of remount stallions were Thoroughbreds, Arabians, or Morgans, they had a lasting effect on nearly every American breed.

    The authors begin, unsurprisingly, with a brief overview of warhorse history. This chapter is far more thorough than average, including both pre-Medieval and non-European sections. However, it is in places problematic, including references to a cumbersome great horse and suggesting that the Roman Empire employed war chariots in a widespread fashion. However, these are issues within the historiography they were relying on, and do not reflect the overall quality of the book. They then move quickly through the early years of the Remount services during the Civil War, not yet involved in breeding, through the massive equine casualties (riding, draft, and pack horses and mules) in several wars up through World War I. The overall scarcity of horsepower following World War I, coupled with the need for consistent quality, led to the establishment of the breeding program the Remount is now known for.

    The bulk of the book is concerned with the day to day running of the Remount breeding program, from stallion selection and placement to enlistment of Remount offspring. The book benefits from a large number of photos and excerpted letters and documents from breeders as well as Army personnel. The final chapter includes detailed pedigrees and accounts of the most influential Remount stallions. This section is largely concerned with the stockhorses- mostly Quarter Horses and Paints- the authors original sought to analyze, though other breeds are represented in the body of the work. At the end are several useful appendices, including a timeline and a list of known Remount personal and stallions. In all, War Horse tends towards the romantic but is nonetheless of incredible use to historians of modern cavalry or American breeding practices.

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“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.

Letts-lecture

#SelfieSunday: The Medieval Horse and Its Equipment by John Clark

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     John Clark is a curator (now Emeritus) at the Museum of London, and as such his book The Medieval Horse and Its Equipment is primarily focused on objects on display at the museum, which are themselves primarily English in origin. What sets Clark’s book apart from similar catalogs is his in-depth analysis of each object. Rather than just the little “where and when” blurb found on each items placard, Clark gives a full account of how each item was found; how it was used; and what implications the usage, motifs, or material have. He also shows examples, where available, of each item in art contemporary to itself, and relates it all to current scholarship. John Clark applies in this way the research of not only Ann Hyland and R.H.C. Davis, the major authors on medieval equines, but also of dozens of scholars in art, archeology, agricultural and military history.           

     Because many of the smaller items, such as bits and horse shoes, were found in archeological digs, Clark provides diagrams of the most important sites. With the long and complicated history of horses in England, these help illustrate which items are clark2Roman in origin, which are Saxon, etc. In addition to the assorted bits, spurs, brushes, shoes, and other equine implements, Clark also presents equine skeletons found at theses digs. These corroborate his own and Ann Hyland’s theories regarding the size of the animal that would have worn the shoes, bits, and armor we have available for measurement. Because the size of the medieval “Great Horse” has been the subject of debate for much of the past century, Clark opens his book with this skeletal evidence, and a long historiography on the topic. Clark is very meticulous in all of his reports, and these skeletons are no different. He gives the location where they were found, not only geographically but also whether it was a burial, a trash heap, or a butchers yard. He provides the approximate date they were buried (or otherwise disposed of); and he notes the measurements and what marks the bones carried, such as injuries from weapons, marks of butchery, or “pathologies indicating stress on the joints and back.”[1] Those with weapons marks, of course, are used to support the idea of a much smaller “Great Horse” than that supposed by Davis and other early scholars. He largely omits the “stirrup controversy,” but that is somewhat outside the scope of this work. Clark also uses the skeletal evidence to touch on a second highly debated topic, hippophagia. By noting the complete absence of butchery marks on horses found in dump sites near London later in the period, Clark can suggest that by the 14th century butchers were not taking old horses for meat near London. Finds further from the city did have butcher marks, but Clark does not posit a theory for these. In sum, this book is invaluable in providing careful analysis alongside archeological and material evidence.

     John Clark also presented this past year at IMC Leeds on “The Development of Bits from the Viking Age to the 16th Century, in England and Beyond,” and we look forward to his chapter forthcoming on this topic.

Other reviews:

Review by: Amanda Rosenstock Luyster
The Medieval Review 05.11.05

Boydell & Brewer

[1] John Clark. The Medieval Horse and its Equipment. (Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2004) 22

#ShelfieSunday: The Medieval Warhorse: Origin, Development and Redevelopment by R.H.C. Davis

     R.H.C. Davis’s 1989 The Medieval Warhorse: Origin, Development and Redevelopment shelfiedavisgives a remarkably in depth view of medieval horse breeding and management practices, alongside the more commonly found military applications. He uses an impressive array of sources, including breeding records, letters, law codes, and art. Unfortunately, he often fails to make clear when he transitions from paraphrasing a source to giving his own suppositions on it. Furthermore, he also jumbles time periods with very little organization or warning to the reader. Finally, his work contains several terminological mistakes that make specialists concerned about leaning on the remainder of the work. This book remains one of the most complete and respected on medieval horses, and his mistakes are still widely propagated despite newer scholarship; Davis’ usual meticulousness is oddly absent, but this may not be clear to those not already familiar with his sources.

     The horses of King Henry VIII of England are among the more thoroughly documented pre-modern animals. Davis describes a horse acquired by Henry as “a fine horse of the breed of Isabella”.[1] “Isabella,” in the modern sense, is a term for horses of a pale golden color.  There are many color breeds, and it is reasonable to suppose that proto-breeds[2] were bred along color lines; the ‘black horse of Flanders’ is certainly noteworthy. However, “Isabella” is a color that has changed meanings rapidly over the last two decades due to the advent of genetic testing. It has in the past been used for a number of very different colors, many of which would not “breed true,” i.e. may not reproduce themselves. The mistake of calling palomino[3] (a color still sometimes called Isabella) a breed is still made by novice horseman. It may be that the mistake was in Davis’s source. There is also some conjecture that the Royal Hanoverian Creams, which pulled the English Royal carriages until the 1920’s, where descended from Spanish “Isabella” horses. A few American Champagne breeders claim their unique color comes from the Hanoverian Creams, but the small amount of evidence available seems to contradict this.[4] These horses may have been an unknown mutation, or most likely they were double “pearl” dilutes. This color has only recently been genetically identified, but could breed true. The “isabella” color in Spanish bred and American frontier horses was, after the discovery of the pearl gene, found to often be a case of one pearl gene, and one cream gene. [5]After the discovery of the pearl gene, the term “isabella” has been slowly changing from meaning any “café au lait” colored horse (including double pearl, cream pearl, pale palomino, and champagne) to meaning one that is homozygous for the cream dilution. This is a color that would breed true, but up until recently it was considered very undesirable, as it was thought that they were albinos. This meaning for the word ‘isabella’ also was not yet being used when Davis was writing. This color also does not match with any prior description of “isabella” horses, including the Royal Hanoverian Creams, which very specifically did not produce palominos as a double cream would. Davis, who elsewhere gives detailed etymologies and explanations of unusual words in his sources, does not address any of these factors, leaving the reader to wonder what “Isabella” and even “breed” mean in this case.

     Unfortunately, there are other cases where the mistake is not one of possible omission. Most striking among them are grouping trotters with pacers as all being amblers. He writes that some “were pacing horses which…moved both left feet forward, then both right feet…various terms for these horses [include] pacing horses (gradarii), amblers (ambulatorii), or trotters (trottarii).”[6] His use of the original words is exemplary and shows attention to clarity;[7] however, a trotter by definition is not a pacer.[8] There is also some mis-defining of military maneuvers that are still in use today.  In describing the downfall of the “17 or 18 hand”[9] Great Horse, he illustrates the need for horses capable of performing what are now known as the “airs above ground.” He describes the croupade as “jumping off the ground and kicking in mid-air”[10] which is actually a capriole. The capriole he describes as “rising up on the back legs”[11] which could refer to levade (a rear with a low angle) or pesade (more upright). The croupade itself is much like the capriole, however requires that the horse tuck his hind legs in, for greater clearance and protection of his belly, rather than kick out to strike enemies as with the capriole. While there have been some regional and temporal variations – such as whether the front legs should strike in levade (seen in Majorcan dressage), or if this is a different maneuver (as in continental)– the lack of clarity forces us to question the details of Davis’ work. However, it remains a thorough work, and contains an invaluable collection of sources, with great attention to how things can become lost in translation. Davis also provided us with an unprecedented glimpse at the domestic life of the medieval warhorse. While it should not be used without consideration, it is worth engaging with. 

Additional reviews:

 

[1] R.H.C. Davis, The Medieval Warhorse: Origin, Development, and Redevelopment (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1989) Page 108

[2] Breed as we define it today is a concept that will not develop until at least a century after Henry VIII; even by that late time, the word referred to the breeder, rather than the type or pedigree.

[3] One copy of the co-dominant cream dilution on chestnut, causing a yellow body with white mane and tail. In the past (and currently in some countries) one of the possible “Isabella” phenotypes.

[4] The paintings and few photos available of the RHC horse prior to its dispersal in the 1920’s show clearly dark legs and tails, a trait that does not occur in champagnes, and lack the champagne’s mottled skin. Champagne also appears to be a ‘New World’ mutation.

[5] http://www.horsetesting.com/Equine/Coat_Color/Pearl.asp

[6] Davis, 67

[7] Clarity that most scholars miss: a pacer may be an ambler, but not all amblers need be pacers! Ambler is accepted to mean any non-trotting horse. Davis himself seems to lump them all as pacers (two beat lateral way of moving) despite his attention to different words for their gait.

[8] A trot is a two beat diagonal gait (opposite fore and hind leg move together). A pace is a two beat lateral.

[9] Davis, 69

[10] Davis, 112

[11] Davis, 112

CFP: Equine Culture at WOCMES

The Intersection of Equine Culture and History
in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa

Organizers: Gwyneth Talley (UCLA Anthropology) and Kathryn Renton (UCLA History)

The proposed panel invites papers addressing the intersecting points of horses and horse culture the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with their European counterparts, through history and anthropology. Horses were invaluable in warfare, hunting, and diplomacy. Their breeding, training, and trappings generated legends about horse culture in the Mediterranean still influential to this day. While horses are no longer used in the same ways today as they were from the Middle Ages through the Early Modern period, people all over the MENA and Iberian regions continue to use and

fantasia-feature-image
                                                         Festival Fantasia    

celebrate their horse cultures. Spain maintains a mounted police horse division, celebrates the horse through festivals in Jerez de la Frontera and Seville, and continues to use horses in mounted bullfighting. In Morocco, the Salon du Cheval is beginning to garner world renown as an exhibit of traditional Moroccan horsemanship (tbourida or fantasia). Horse racing, while slightly diminished due to political turmoil, continues in every country from Morocco to Lebanon. Princess Haya of Jordan, the former president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), strongly encouraged the expansion of the FEI, and brought in $150mil of commercial revenue to the federation, which oversees international horse events. Aside from the Arab contribution to equestrian sports, the five-year EU ban on exportation of horses from Egypt has greatly diminished the opportunities for horse breeders in the country, stifling the horse economy. In Jerusalem, horse shows have become a non-political way of sharing a love of horses in the conflict-riddled region.

The horse in this region pervades almost every aspect of culture and history, but this panel asks: how did the contact between Arab and European cultures affect each other in terms of horse breeds, riding styles, equipment, and general knowledge. This panel will examine this interchange of equestrian cultures past and present. Papers focusing on single countries, regions or comparative studies examining multiple locales or countries are welcome, as are papers from any single or combined disciplinary perspectives.

Authors are asked to submit a paper title, abstract (no more than 300 words), their professional or institutional affiliation, and contact information. Academic, non-academic, or other professional authors are invited to apply. In cases of co-authored works, only one submission (including the same information for each author) should be made. Papers will be accepted in English only. The deadline for abstract submissions is midnight 5 November 2017. You will be informed of the result by 10 November 2017.

If the proposal is accepted, you will be required to register with WOCMES by 15 November, 2017, although acceptance of the panel by WOCMES is not assured. Please consult the WOCMES website http://wocmes2018seville.org/web/index.php/en/ for further information about conference and registration procedures.

We look forward to receiving your proposal, which you should send to BOTH guj.talley@gmail.com and kathrynrenton@ucla.edu . Please include WOCMES in the email title.

The organizers intend to publish the papers in a collective book, so strong preference will be given to authors/speakers who will subsequently be prepared to submit their papers by 30 September 2018.

EHC’s Most Wanted Books

Every Sunday, we will be running short reviews of equine history books. For more information on how to write for us, see the submissions tab. Reviews of equestrian components of non-equine books are welcome. Below is our “most wanted” list. These are recent equine-centric publications, many of which major gaps in scholarship.

Derry, Margaret. Horses in Society A Story of Animal Breeding and Marketing Culture, 1800-1920. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016. UNDER REVIEW

Forrest, Susanna. The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey through Human History.
London: Atlantic Books, 2016.

Letts, Elizabeth. The Perfect Horse: The Daring Mission to Rescue Priceless Stallions from the Nazis. Ballantine Books, 2016. UNDER REVIEW

McGraw, Eliza R. L. Here Comes Exterminator!: The Longshot Horse, the Great War, and the Making of an American Hero. St. Martin’s Press, 2016.

Mooney, Katherine C. Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014. UNDER REVIEW

Taylor, Tobi, and Stephanie J Corum. Orzel: Scottsdale’s Legendary Arabian Stallion,
Charleston, SC : History Press, 2016.

Tomassini, Giovanni Battista. The Italian Tradition of Equestrian Art: A Survey of the Treatises on Horsemanship from the Renaissance and the Centuries,  Xenophon Press, 2014.

Willekes, Carolyn. The Horse in the Ancient World: From Bucephalus to the Hippodrome.
I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2016.

Other submissions are of course welcome, but these will be given priority. See our bibliography for more reading suggestions.

Horses in Agriculture: New Online Exhibit

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 11.56.11 AMThis 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

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.