Showing posts from September, 2010

Horse in the house?

It took me a while to work out what's going on here, but I've got it now.

Well done Laura....

and the British dressage team, who won a team silver last night at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. I was working late last night, but finished just in time to see Laura Bechtolsheimer's ride on Mistral Hojris, scoring 82.51% . Not a tail swish in sight - it was quite, quite beautiful. Thank you BBC for showing it. I'll post a video as soon as one pops up on the net.

Another old smithy - Carlton on Trent

The visit to the blacksmith's was a helpful plot device for so many pony books; all lost now the farrier comes to you, though there is of course the long wait until the farrier turns up, the sudden dearth of mobile phone contact from said farrier as you wait about, the deep frustration as you finally give up, and then the twilight trek up to the field, armed with threats as you spot someone trudging around there after the horses, only to find it is the farrier, turned up at last. Below is the traditional scene beloved of pony books: and here, because I am on a bit of an old equestrian building mission at the moment, is another smithy: this one is at Carlton-on-Trent, and the picture comes from Riding Magazine, July-Sept 1944. At that time, the occupant was F Naylor, who put up the noticeboard with the verse. F Egerton, who sent in the picture, sent in the text of the verse as well: Gentlemen as you pass by upon this Shoe pray cast an eye; If it be too strait I'll make

The best dressed child rider

I always thought when Ann won the Best Dressed Child Rider in Ruby Ferguson's A Stable for Jill that there had been another competitor there with flowing ringlets. Alas, there was not. Flowing green velvet with ostrich feathers yes; Susan Pyke in black and silver hanging on her horse's neck yes, but ringlets no. Never mind. Here's some flowing ringlets: This child was a regular fixture in the advertisements in Riding. Here she is in 1942, and she was still going in 1952. Those ringlets are so very much the antithesis of all that good sense and sensible dressing one was recommended in pony books. I wonder if the child rode, and if she did, how long those ringlets stayed in. I was so delighted by this photograph I had high hopes for the White oeuvre as it developed over the decades, but alas, these more restrained examples are typical of its later output.

Equine buildings - the blacksmith's, Roxby

I came across the photograph below in a World War II copy of Riding magazine from Jan-March 1943. Riding was then down to 4 issues every year, down from the monthly pre-war issue rate. The war was reflected, however briefly, in much of the correspondence columns. J D Robinson contributed this photograph, which is of a blacksmith's shop at Roxby, North Yorkshire, purely so readers of the magazine could see it - a small break from the pressures of war. Another correspondent in the same issue talked of the importance of being able to have some relaxation so that war work could be carried on - "The Managing Director of a certain aircraft factory puts in a superhuman number of hours on the job... He has turned to the horse now, and relies on this to give him the brief relaxation necessary to enable him to carry on work at such terrific pressure." Looking at this building must have had a little of the same affect. I have never seen anything like it, and my immediate

Gelding - the invisible practice

I've been reading some of the early animal literature in the Hockliffe Collection , a collection of children's literature which is available on the net. There's rather more about dogs and cats - Mary Martha Sherwood's The Little Woodman and his Dog Caesar (1818), described as being as "thoroughly entertaining and as heavily didactic as it is possible to be," and Mary Pilkington's Marvellous Adventures; or, the Vicissitudes of a Cat (1802) being just two, but there is one about a pony. This is The Memoirs of Dick, the Little Poney (1799 - Anon). Later children's literature about horses, most notably Black Beauty, does not shy away from cruelty, and leaves readers in little doubt about the miseries of the bearing rein or long and hideous hours of over work. It is strangely shy, though, about gelding. Black Beauty must presumably have been gelded - the vast majority of male horses are - but the subject is simply never mentioned. For Black Beau

Morning walk

Which actually happened yesterday, but which I haven't had chance to load until today. It's a very deceptive photograph this - I did it just to show the mist, and it looks a rural idyll on first sight. However, if you look closely, modern life is certainly present. You can clearly see the two railway lines, and also the mobile phone mast to the left. What you can't see is the A45 thundering away behind the tree line. At least the railway is intermittent. Just up from the picture is the village's old station, now thundered through. Nothing's stopped since Dr Beeching . If the station were still working, my children would have walked past this view every day on their way to the school. As it is, we do a lift share with another family, and have a 10 mile round trip to take the children to our nearest station. The rabbits have made full use of the railway embankment, and there is a huge warren. It has an eerily empty feel about it at the moment. I'

Review: Jessie Haas - Horse Crazy!

Horse Crazy! 1001 Fun Facts, Craft Projects, Games, Activities and Know-How for Horse-Loving Kids Storey Publishing, 2009 £8.94 from Book Depository Thanks to Storey Publishing for sending me this book to review. This is Jessie Haas' book for horse crazy children: the nearest equivalent I can think of in the UK is the Pony Magazine Annual, but this is a much less frenetic read than that. Horse Crazy is full of equine facts, and dozens of projects: you can make a felt horse, find several different ways of plaiting manes; learn how to write your own horse story and make any amount of pony-themed things (and, as they say, much, much more). If you don't have a horse, that doesn't matter a bit: although there are things to do if you have a pony, there is far more that doesn't require one at all. Although the book is American, and much of its information is based on American breeds and ways of doing things, the vast majority of it is still relevant to the UK, and e


I do love what the book trade calls ephemera: magazines; letters; all those other bits and pieces of paper that add to one's store of knowledge. In the copy of The Horse in Action I wrote about yesterday was a copy of the original bill, for £2 6 3, and bought on February 21st 1955. J A Allen were famed as equestrian publishers and booksellers. Established in 1926, they had a shop in Lower Grosvenor Place, selling books both new and old. J A Allen were taken over in 1999 by Robert Hale. The imprint still exists . The shop, alas, no longer does: it is one of my lasting regrets that I never got to visit it, but its unique savour is marvellously described by Caroline Baldock, who worked there .

Boughton House

Despite having lived pretty close to Boughton House for most of my life, I have never actually been. The house is open for a month every summer, and usually when the place swims into my consciousness as somewhere to look at, it's closed. So, it's taken me jolly nearly half a century, but at last I've been round. Here's Boughton , which is the Northamptonshire home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. It is very, very grand. As far as I know, nothing of the original Medieaval buildings remains. The house took its present form when Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu returned from the court of Louis XIV, where he had been an ambassador, inspired by Versailles. The house is very unified externally; it's not the glorious hotchpotch that is Apethorpe , and which I must admit I prefer. Apethorpe though is utterly empty. Boughton is very, very full. It is one of those houses where things turn up which had been forgotten about for centuries. You are not allowed t

Fancy dress is still not dead

And if you don't have the time to make the costume yourself, why not pay someone else to ? Thanks to Susannah for sending this.

What happens when model ponies go bad

Read Susanna Forrest's brilliant piece here , and wonder at just whose minds are warped.

Fancy Dress is not dead

On the web looking for information on an author, stumbled on this , worthy of Ponies of Britain at their best.

More dressage videos...

and Thanks Sue and Haffy for these.

Horses in Ireland

There are more horses per head of population in Ireland than in the rest of Europe (150,000) and more are being produced all the time. Unfortunately, the Irish economy is no longer producing the money to care for these horses. In good times, horses were bought as status symbols; kept for sentimental reasons; bred because you could. Now horses are being dumped or neglected. Irish rescue centres are already full, in the summer, when usually they expect not to be. Horses are more likely to be handed over in the winter, when forage disappears and horses are expensive to keep, but the centres are already full. Is a cull the only answer? This excellent article is sad, particularly, for the way it makes clear how much of horse keeping (not only in Ireland, of course) is down to what humans think and want, which unfortunately does not necessarily have anything to do with what the horse wants.

The joys of cataloguing

I haven't catalogued anything for ages, so have boxes and boxes of books lurking. So, it is about time I got on with it, and I am tackling my main love, the horse and pony books, first. Sometimes it's a good job, mine. Particularly gorgeous is C W Anderson's Heads Up - Heels Down , which will be in the next set of books uploaded to the database, hopefully at the end of this week. I had to have another look at this book to restore my faith in readers after opening the next book in the pile. It was obviously owned previously by a very, very heavy smoker. I was knocked back by the reek. The book is now consigned to the book deodorising crystals, where I think it might have to be for some time. This wasn't such a grim experience as some I had when I worked at the library. This was in the dim and distant past when we still hired out videos (them new fangled DVDs were few and far between). When one came in, we had to open it up to check the video was actually there, a

Dressage again

Thanks Haffyfan for this video. Again I'm handicapped by my ignorance of both disciplines: can anyone tell me why the reining horse is holding his head so low? Whatever his head's doing, I thought the reining rider was incredibly relaxed, and I know which horse I'd rather be on. The dressage horse looked stiff in contrast (imo), particularly in the pirouette, which he looked reluctant to do. Here's the video Susanna mentioned in the comments to the Rollkur piece. This shows Stephanie Croxford and Mr President : I particularly like the end, where he's enjoying the applause - as you will probably have gathered by now, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the "I can't do a prize presentation as my oh so sensitive horse will explode" brigade. If a horse can't stand noise like applause, it makes me wonder a. what life's like at home - does everyone creep round in cowed silence? and b. why some time can't be devoted to training

Model Horses in the early 1950s

I have a feeling that heading might be promising a lot more than I can actually deliver: I've recently bought a collection of 1940s and 1950s Riding Magazines, and here are the three model horse advertisements I've found. Firstly, there's Edith Reynolds. The ad below appeared in the November 1949 edition. Here is Edith Reynolds two years later, in the November 1951 edition. After two years, she evidently had not sorted out her supply problems, which leads me to think the company was a one woman operation. Demand was obviously still high, despite the cost. These creatures were only stocked in expensive London shops. Julip have just one advertisement in the magazines I have. The company was just seven years old when this advertisement appeared in August 1953. These models must be among the earliest of the Julip originals. The models certainly looked quite different when the company was created in 1945. Ursula Hourihane wrote a book called The Tale of Julip

Review: Patricia Leitch

Patricia Leitch: For Love of a Horse & A Devil to Ride Catnip, 2010 £5.99 Catnip's website More on Patricia Leitch The Jinny books have been odd ones to review. It's the first time that I've had to take a book I read as a teenager, and look at it from a critical, adult point of view. I wasn't at all sure how the process was going to end up. I liked the Jinny books I'd read as a teenager - actually only these two, the first of which, For Love of a Horse , came out when I was 14. After the second one, I decided I was Too Old for pony books (not old enough to give them away - sister and I packed them all up and kept them) and so didn't read any of the rest of the series until I was in my 30s. Jinny, when I read her first, was a bit too close for comfort. Sensible, funny Jill was who I wanted to be, winning prizes and having copable-with adventures. Jinny was so emotional - pigheaded, awkward and just plain wrong at times. I didn't, at the a

Ponies in a pub

Despite the cosy title to this post, which sounds like a slightly off Lucy Daniels, this isn't a cutesome post; what you see in the clip below is just vile. The way these ponies are kicked, pulled about and spat on is appalling.

Jinny Quiz - the results!

Congratulations to Mairi Mackechnie, the winner! The answers to the quiz are here .

Rollkur again

Or should that be LDR? Anky van Grunsven, Dutch dressage gold medallist, is suing Astrid Appels , a journalist on, for illustrating an article on rollkur with a picture of Anky's horse Salinero. Anky says her method of training is not rollkur, despite looking to the uninitiated (and I include myself here) remarkably similar. I've written about rollkur before ; it's a training technique used by some dressage riders. Anky's version of this she calls Low, Deep, Round. To me they both look the same: the horse is ridden for long periods with its chin pulled into its chest. I don't like the way a lot of dressage at the top level looks: I am not even at the foothills of dressage, but to me a horse swishing its tail, with its ears back, is an unhappy and tense horse, and that is how some horses look at the top level of the sport. I still think it ludicrous that Anky won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics with a halt that was nothing of the

Tony Blair

Doing the school stationery run with daughter today in WH Smith, saw plenty of copies of Tony Blair's memoirs, A Journey, out today. Did briefly consider buying it, TB being a politician who arises in me the sort of ire only Margaret Thatcher has previously (I am catholic in my loathing). I do enjoy a choleric splutter every now and then at something I know will infuriate me. Do not want, however, to encourage him to write more by increasing sales, so decided to borrow the library's copy, for which I feel I can wait, should there already be a long list of prospective borrowers. Adding a bit more to the library's borrowing figures will after all be a help. I was struck though by a mention in the radio coverage earlier this week, of "a lengthy passage in which he expresses his regrets over the hunting ban, which he never really supported but which he found himself “trapped” into accepting. Most controversially, he says that he did his best to ensure that the ban w