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.
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.