The Linda Hall Library

   I spent the last week and change as a travel fellow at the Linda Hall Library. I highly recommend them, especially for agricultural or early 20th century history.

General Information:
Deadline: this year was Jan. 19. Keep an eye on their fellowship page.
Letters: three.
Response time: Fast. I heard back March 12.
Who is eligible: pretty much everyone. Concerned? Ask the staff. They’re fabulous.
Dates: Up to two months in the following calendar year; you list two choices on your applications.
Funding: varies, see the fellowship page.
Housing: I stayed in an airBnB. For short term, this is probably your best bet.
Travel: Kansas City Airport is about a 25 minutes drive from the library. There is a bus that goes from the airport to downtown, but its and hour+ and does not run late. For around town, buses are generally clean and on time, but things are spread out. A car is recommended if you’re a long term fellow.

Application Process:
   No surprises here. Check out their catalog, but don’t hesitate to send an e-mail for recommendations before you apply. Their collections are IMMENSE. Some things you don’t see a lot of elsewhere: full runs of historical journals and magazines, and a ton of government documents, including pamphlets and reports from the Bureau of Animal Industry.

   Very flexible. Check out what exhibits and events are on, and ask about other fellows. Chatting with staff and fellows, and looking at your research from a new point of view, is incredibly helpful as well as fun. Plus, you might discover projects in common (welcome to the
EHC, Dr. Peter Soppelsa)! The Library is generally closed on weekends, so plan your travel and exploration accordingly.

Below are links to my twitter threads from each day, and a few highlights.

July 11 (thread):
Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 4.44.42 PM   I had a stack of recommendations waiting for me when I arrived. Librarians are your friend! Truly, all the staff at the Linda Hall is amazing. Some were books I already had on my list, others were ones I hadn’t thought to look for, but proved useful. I planned my research to go semi-chronologically, semi-thematically. I spent this first day in natural histories up through Darwin.

July 12 (thread):
  Goodrich’s 1859 Animal Kingdom has three sorts of horses that stand apart: Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Morgans; the rest are listed primarily by the jobs they do. I have already planned a trip to the National Museum of the Morgan Horse for the end of the summer, largely because the Morgan developed at such a critical time, but over this week I have discovered how uniquely useful they are to my research. This is because they develop a cohesive modern breed identity and reputation much earlier than other non “blooded” horses.

stubbs   I took a “break” and pulled a book that really wasn’t related to my dissertation, or any of the million side projects I have brewing. They have an original binding of Stubbs’ Anatomy (price marked £4 4s.), and I couldn’t not. It was well worthwhile. I then got started on A General View of Agriculture, an absolutely AMAZING series that was recommended which surveys all forms of agriculture– livestock, crops, game, enclosures, ploughing technologies, lease agreements, cheese making, and on and on– county by county in the U.K. around the turn of the 19th century. It was magnificent. It also showed that Bakewell’s methods were widely accepted much earlier in cattle and sheep than in horses; Bakewell did also breed horses, but did not achieve the same success or notoriety with them. For more on Bakewellian breeding, see Derry, Bred for Perfection.

July 13 (thread):
   A few more counties. Cattle and sheep have some groups that are almost discussed like what we would call a breed. Horses do not. This may be Bakewell’s fault, as Leicester sheep– the sheep he focused on– had the firmest breed identity. Clydesdale is said to generally produce good draft horses, but they are still discussed as the horses of that place, not the horses of a certain family or type. I also jumped forward a century and a half to look at the first two volumes of the AQHA stud book, and a few years of the National Quarter Horse Breeder’s Association magazine; both registries laid claims to Figure aka Justin Morgan being a Quarter Horse as part of efforts to establish antiquity. Between reading these, and chatting with another fellow, I decided on what will likely be my AHS paper: the splintering of registries based on ideas of how best to maintain foundation type and bloodline.

July 14 (thread):
   Spent the morning back in Ag Views, especially Clydesdale, Yorkshire, and Hereford (extra thanks to Ben Gross, who came in on Saturday so that I could). Many mentions of recent extreme increases in the size of draft animals. We do not yet have a satisfactory reason as to why or how this happened; while nutrition and dentition had important advances, most of those came later and so that common narrative does not hold up to scrutiny. There were a few complaints about how large draft horses were getting, that they were unwieldy and harder to feed; selection is likely a major factor. Earlier drives to breed larger horses did not necessarily want 18hh animals, and so would not have used those animals preferentially for breeding. 
   I spent the afternoon across the street at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Miller Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 2.21.09 PMNichols Library. The Linda Hall is not part of UMKC (despite being nestled in the center of campus: the campus grew around the library), but fellows do get a courtesy card for the UMKC library (and a few others). Sadly, their special collections were closed for the summer; there is a great deal on horse history stored there, including some unique items on local standardbred racing and some un-digitized Gilbey’s. There were also some items worth pulling from the regular shelves, though, or rather from the Robot. They had a bound copy of Magner’s Stock Book, and a number of late 19th century racing yearbooks.

July 15 (thread):
   In the morning I explored the city a bit, and visited some of the many equestrian fountains (thanks to Grant Wekesser for the recommendation). I then returned to the UMKC library for more Magner. Something I hadn’t caught before, as I’m usually thinking about the mechanics of his various gadgets: Magner predicted the Remount breeding program.

July 16 (thread):
   Monday I started with Vol. 6 of the Percheron Stud Book, because this was something I didn’t want to miss. A bunch of the early PSBs are digitized, but the scans aren’t always great, and the meta data– like dates– is sometimes absent or incorrect. Vol. 6 was the first Percheron Stud Book issued by the Percheron Society of America. Like the Weatherbys General Stud Book for TBs, or Battell’s Morgan Register, the early Percheron books were private compilations. The Linda Hall has Vol. 6-13. These, by way of the introductions and meeting minutes rather than the mountains of pedigrees, provided a view of a booming draft horse industry that was greatly concerned with differences between locally bred and imported animals. I often call the Percheron the “thoroughbred of drafts” for it’s use in “improving” U.S. horses of middle and heavy weights, and these early breeders explicitly drew the connection to the bloodhorse.


   I then went back to the Ag Views, with Leicester, Galloway, and South Wales. Bakewell was everywhere, especially (no surprise) in Leicester; some notes on Bakewell’s horses, which are often omitted. These, like his other livestock, were heavily inbred. He was however apparently unsuccessful at producing better draft horses than his neighbors, and resorted to importing black mares from Friezland. No, we cannot call these Friesians, but yes they are of the same vague rootstock. At the end of the day I cracked open the archival boxes holding literally hundreds of American Horse Breeder papers. This publication was concerned primarily with harness racing, and published weekly. They have most of them for the 1920s. In here, several ads for the Patchen Wilkes farm when it was famous for trotters rather than white horses, and an ad for an equine eugenics book written by that farm’s president. 

July 17 (thread):
   So many AHBs! Most notably, early advertisements for Dr. Bristol bits, and the formation of the Morgan Horse Club. A contest was held to decide the motto: The Pride and Product of America. A few years ago, a new contest was held, and it became “the horse that chooses you,” referring to their propensity to form strong attachments with their handlers, but Pride & Product is still in circulation.

July 18 (thread):
toeweight   More AHBs! First up was an add for a type of action device I hadn’t seen before. This doesn’t mean it isn’t in use, because this particular toe weight changes the flight so that there is less interference in an extended gait, rather than to increase the knee action. Sir Barton had passed without mention, but the California “supercolt” Morvich made the front page. 
   There was an extended account of the Ft. Ethan Allen endurance test, which I believe is what the Green Mountain Endurance Ride is based on. In the early days of the remount, there was a good amount of competition between Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Morgans, and Standardbreds. These, along with the Percheron, were the bulk of the U.S.’s “pure breds” at the time, though except for the Thoroughbred those registries were still a little bit loose. A few saddlers were represented, but this was well before the different easy gaited horses where bred or registered as distinctly separate animals. I scooted back a decade or two and ended the day looking through some Bureau of Animal Industry pamphlets, including one the is not given much credit in the breed but is likely as important as Joseph Battell to the survival of the breed: George Rommel’s “Regeneration of the Morgan Horse.” Rommel’s goal was to ‘save’ the Morgan type– he emphasized form over pedigree– from disappearing into the new standard-bred. The following year he wrote his recommendations for the remount, which would both concentrate Morgan blood at depots, and send stallions out to influence to saddlers and ranch horses around the country.

July 19 (thread): 
   Started with early 20th century saddle horses. Like the standard-bred, the first saddle horse registry was a performance registry, not a pedigree one. Any five gaited horse was eligible. 

Rex McDonald
Rex McDonald

This is part of why the early pedigrees of Standardbreds, Morgans, Saddlebreds, Walkers, and Foxtrotters are so similar (fun note- the NQHBA encouraged the foxtrot in ranch horses, while the saddle horse folks note that many five gaited horses also raced the quarter mile). What I hadn’t picked up on before is the consistency, across the progenitors in all those breeds, of the the Hambletonian/Black Hawk nick (also found a few uses of that term). Morgan mares were exceedingly popular, and Hambletonian stallions. Found an anti-soring argument pre-dating the TWBEA. The “slow gait,” today being the stepped pace of the Saddlebred, including any four beat gait done, well, slowly.
   Found a lot of weird claims (my favorite is the claim the Justin Morgan was a Fjord cross); some photos of George Morris as a student; and then shifted gears into some Arabian books. Unlike the saddle horse and standardbred, the Arabian registry in 1908 was very concerned with pedigree; but there is still some disagreement: historic horses claimed as Arabian included many coat colors that the same registry claimed as proof of non-Arabian ancestry.

July 20 (thread):
   Arabians, dog, cattle, sheep, and fish. Yes, fish (no, that wasn’t helpful; lots of technical specs on breeding trout and salmon, but any old fish would do). This perfect quote from a 1951 dog book: “One of the great lessons taught by genetics is the falsity of the belief that like begets like.” It is perfect both because the inference is that before genetics, breeders bred like to like (they didn’t), and because it is absolutely true. The fear of unidentified recessives is why breeders have largely returned to an 18th century model of selection. 
   One of the last books I looked at was an 1845 book on dogs that was spectacular in terms of pre-modern conceptions and definitions of breed:

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 5.29.28 PM

   So, my fellow animal historians, check out the Linda Hall Library. They may surprise you.

On using horsebeans

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 10.34.05 PM       My grocery store has finally started carrying dried fava beans, so I was able to follow up on my earlier pea-based horsebread experiment. I livetweeted the process (perhaps one of the odder things I have done, but a very useful way to organize my notes and thoughts). The main thread can be found here.  This spawned some metathreads, like this one on the size and shape of loaves and the caloric needs of horses; and this one on general nutrition.horsebread

Yes, I ate the horsebread porridge.


T-shirt Time!


  I noticed this year at WSECS and ASEH that my conference horse shirts are getting a bit old, and I no longer had enough to keep up with a busy conference schedule (and how else will folks recognize me?) Luckily, the Equine History Collective is running a t-shirt fundraiser.

   For the “heads” design, featuring zebra, horse, and donkey heads, order here: 

   For the #AndBurros shirt (courtesy of Abbie Harlow, ASU) order here: 

   Direct donations can be made here:… Please feel free to share!

ASEH & ASEH Tweets



  I’ll be presenting for ASEH tweets on Thursday, March 8th, 1pm PST, and at ASEH in the lightning talks Thursday, March 15th at 1:30pm. I will also be at the main, grad, and WEH receptions at ASEH, the FHS lunch, and of course all the equine panels.






What will I talk about? What these have in common:

caspian #8103
Gypsy Vanner Horse stallion "Kushti Bok"
© Mark J. Barrett 2001





WSECS Success!

     WSECS is always a welcoming conference, but being able to present with another equine historian this year was a joy. I presented on various re-imaginings of the baroque “tiger” horse, and Janice presented on the development of a divide in medical knowledge between riders and Albeytar in Castile. We had a small but astute audience, and a lively conversation after our papers that ranged seven centuries and four continents. Between the two of us, we could answer most questions, but it was especially wonderful to be able to suggest other equine history specialists. For this question, Kathryn Renton, for that one, Hylke Hettema, and for this read Sandra Swart’s latest. We are no longer silos!

And, of course, to be able to announce the first EHC conference.


     “Before we start, I’d like to say a few things about our third presenter, who unfortunately could not be here today. I spoke with Dani about her project last year, when it was a mere glimmer of an idea. What I found exciting, and why I invited Dani to be a part of this panel, was that she is working on the transmission of equestrian culture between Italy and Germany (or rather, Italian and German) directly, rather than via France. French horsemanship has dominated our field. Much of medieval and early modern equestrian culture in Europe was centered on France. So much so that, even though modern Olympic dressage is very much based on the 19th c German model, the language remains French. We still speak of piaffe and passage, levade and capriole. Cavendish opened his 1667 treatise with a geaneology of horsemasters, and in it quips that “the French think, That all the Horse-manship in the World is in France.”  Within equine history, it is all too easy to replicate this focus. However, while French riders, and French writers- Cavendish himself wrote his treatise originally in French- may have claimed primacy, they were not the only agents. Today we will try to tell some different stories.

     Given the theme for this weekend, I will be covering a rather long period of time, from the Baroque to the modern. I will begin with the baroque “tiger horses,” and then show three ways in which they have been reimagined, and recreated. In modern parlance, baroque breeds are those that are heavier than the typical warmblood, but without being draft-like. The Iberian breeds and the Friesian are easily recognized as “baroque,” despite the former predating that period and the later being comparatively young in its current form. The Knabstrupper has a “baroque” registration category, despite having a well-documented 1812 foundation date. Tack and riding styles likewise have forms described as “baroque,” despite often being only tangentially related to that time period. They are based, not on the history of a single moment in time, but rather on the layers of memory that have accrued upon that moment. Each layer adds strength to the memory, even as it obscures the lives and events being recalled.”

Olympic History

   We kicked off the new quarter with a hike up Mt. Rubidoux. Every time I’m there, I wonder at the placement of this plaque:


   The 10th Olympics were held in L.A. The story behind Shunzo Kido’s mercy has been attributed to an “endurance race” and a “steeplechase,” neither of which is quite right. He was an eventer, which does require a great deal of endurance (much more than modern eventing), and galloping over fences. Most accounts agree that he was on the verge of winning, but pulled up and dismounted because he felt his horse go off. Along with this 1934 plaque, a commemorative saddle was presented to Japan in 1964. Several accounts from the 60’s suggest he pulled up after being disqualified for refusals; however, this was likely in show jumping. In the interwar Olympics, many riders did double duty. In some cases, so did the horses, however he appears to have had two mounts. The younger, reported as a 9-year-old French mare, was likely his show jumping mount. The eventing course went through downtown L.A. to Santa Monica (really!), not Riverside; but in a park named for Frank Miller, maybe the placement isn’t so strange after all.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 9.25.58 PM

Lt. Col. Shunzo Kido


Cavendish, Part II: In which Cavendish throws shade

(Read Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky)

Oh, look, more Cavendish! 

a Good Horse-man may be Thrown Down sooner than Ill ones; because Good Horse-men little think of Sitting… their Thoughts being all how to make their Horses go Well… whereas an Ill Horse-man thinks of nothing but Sitting, for Fear he should be Thrown, and never thinks how to make his Horse go Well; for he Knows not how to Do it…

    Well…he’s not wrong. Nine times of ten I find myself riding poorly it’s because I’ve become concerned about falling off. Though, I might add, there is also something to the choice in what horses we ride, though I believe Cavendish is here referring only to already broke manege horses.

…But Holds by the Main, and the Pomel, and his Head at the Horses Head, ready to Beat out his Teeth, and his Leggs holding by the Flank; and is so Deformed on Horse Back, as if he were a Strange African Monster; and the Horse so Disordered, that to see him Sit in that Manner, is the most Nauseous Sight that can be, and the most Displeasing to the Beholders; and were much Better for the Spectators to see him Fall, and for his Reputation, so he received no Hurt by the Fall.

 I wouldn’t want to be his beginner student.

     Of Grisone and Blundville, Cavendish says:

They Teach to Ride one Horse two or three Hours at a time, when one may well Ride half a Dozen at least in an Hour, and give them sufficiently Enough.

     And this, of course, is an argument very much alive today. It is, at least publicly, considered to be a mark of great skill to be able to complete a “colt-breaking” challenge, and be able to canter or lope an untouched horse by the end of the weekend. There are still ‘cowboys’ that get paid by the head to travel to ranches and start a number of horses by just getting on and staying there until the horse tires. And yet, even within these, they say less is more. Both the public clinicians and the hired hands tend to say many small lessons work better than one long one. I am inclined to agree, as even my older horses rarely benefitted from more than about half an hours training, if one defines training as teaching or refining new information. The rest, if they got more, was conditioning. The younger or more inexperienced the horse, the shorter the effective “training” section. Of course, that said, I am fond of getting youngsters out more than once a day, given you have the time and staff. I’d far rather do two or three short works than one long one. They tend to learn faster, with less stress (and thus they stay safer as well), and retain their lessons better.

     He saves his most pointed criticism of Blundville-from-Grisone for last:


For a Resty Horse they Raise a whole Town with Staves to Beat him, with many Curious Inventions, with Squirts, Fire, Whelps, Hedg-hoggs, Nailes, and I know not What.

Yes, hedgehogs. Or, lacking a hedgehog, a cat on a stick. Yes, really.


     From Blundeville:

Also the shirle crye of a hedgehog beyng strayt teyed by the foote under the horses tayle, is a remedye of like force, which was proved by Master Vincentio Respino, a Napolitan, who corrected by this meanes an olde restive horse of the kinges in suche sort as he had muche a do afterward to kepe him from the contrarye vice of runninge awaye.

y’don’t say.  Imagine that. More from Blundeville:

Let a footeman stande behinde you with a shrewed cat teyed at the one ende of a long pole with her belly upward, so as she may have her mouth and clawes at libertye. And when your horse doth stay or go backward, let him thrust the Catte betwixt his thyes so as she may scratch and bite him, somtime by the thighes, somtime by the rompe, and often times by the stones.

by the stones.

     It is the single strangest training recommendation I have even read. Cavendish rants on about other ridiculous techniques, and then insults their understanding of terms. He also scoffs at their use of “the Chambetta, which signifies nothing.”

     Yes, chambetta does seem to be jambette. Which, yes, is not a particularly useful manuever in any sense of the word (to be fair, Blundeville does suggest it is best to look flashy when riding before one’s King). To be more specific, Blundeville describes the jambette in turns in his chapter on the chambette. Like this:

It’s fancy, it takes time to train, it impresses the crowd. But…ok, I’m with Cavendish again. It doesn’t translate to the development of the horse as a whole.

Thus ends Part II

Special thanks to Lelian Maldonado for helping me dig in to the possible etymology of chambetta in the course of confirming that it did refer to a form of jambette.

Next: Part III: An Interlude in the Trenches