Saturday, July 25, 2015

Horsebread: For Horses, Not From Them

    My current project has me looking up medieval & early modern horse diets, including horsebreads.

    Horsebreads were generally coarse ground grain and some form of legume, baked into a fairly dense loaf. The refrain on most (of the very few... horsebread isn't glamorous research) mentions of horsebread was that it was the same bread eaten by peasants, simply because it was cheap. Although it was undoubtably cheaper to produce and to procure than refined white breads, I have a feeling the legumes (peas, fava beans, etc) played a much larger role than simply making the bread inexpensive. Peasants, i.e. laborers, needed protein just as much as the horses did, and neither had access to a meat diet.
   Many of the available recipes favor rye, even when horsebread started to be refined to be fed to racehorses. Interestingly, rye has a much better calcium:phosphorous than wheat or even oats. Very roughly, these are 1:2, 1:8, and 1:4, respectively, with ideal being 1:1 to 2:1. Assorted peas and beans also have better ratios than wheat, though again they fall short of the ideal (for examples, peas are roughly 1:4.5, and fava beans- once known as horsebeans- are roughly 1:4). When wheat was used (and it usually was), it would be sifted and the finer flour would be reserved for more expensive breads for human consumption. The finer flour contains more simple starch, while the coarser (which includes most of the bran) contains more fiber and more protein, all of which is better for the horse (and the peasant, even if it was less appealing).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


One thousand views! Thanks for reading!

Parker says coffee time.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Historical Horse Tack: The Science of Gagging

    "The Patent Bridle," invented by Dennis Magner, a popular and prolific 19th century author on 'scientific' horse training. This illustration is from his 1886 "The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse." This may be the earliest gag bit, at least of the strap style. Anyone know of (or suspect) an earlier one?

   It is slightly different from modern gags in two effective way. First, the pulley gives a little bit more leverage (re: stronger upward pull) than a modern strap. And second, "a rubber connecting the ends of the bit to the rings on the pulley reins makes the action of the bit upon the mouth the same as any ordinary bit. But if at any time there should be much resistance, the rubbers stretch sufficiently to give play to the reins upon the pulleys." If true, a very neat innovation, though I'm not a fan of gag bits, especially ones with as long a strap as this (a stopper could be added to prevent maximum engagement and the possibility of severe lip damage).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Etymology: Grab Mane!

"MANE, (of horse &c) Dut. Maene Ger. Maene Sw. Maan. Minshew derives - because it flows from his neck. Wachter from Lat. (of the Lower Ages) Minare to lead, to guide, because the horse was guided by means it before the bridle was invented. Junius the Gr. Mavvos or uavos a kind of adapted to the neck. Kilian says that it is so from its resemblance to the moon, whence it called by Martial juba lunata, and by Catullus rutila. May it not be from A.S. Magen, magn, main strength?"

    Excerpted from "A New Dictionary of the English Language, Volume 2," by Charles Richardson, 1855. I love this poor dead scholar for for his literary eyeroll at so many false cognates.

    Like most of our baser equestrian words, 'mane' does come from the Anglo-Saxon, though I am inclined to believe it is from gem├íne, for maned. Curious, though, is this idea that somewhere in the mists of time, people dared to get on an unbroke horse without even the benefit of the headgear used for the previously domesticated sheep, goats, or cattle (and possibly even donkeys)!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Capriole in Art

  Many horsefolk have expressed confusion or outright disbelief at the extreme angle (or rather, lack thereof) of the hindlegs in paintings of horses in capriole. The works of Johann Georg de Hamilton (d. 1737), in particular, receive a ton of comments about how 'unrealistic' or 'impossible' the position is. While his work may be idealized, it's not unusual for the period, and he may receive the bulk of the commentary only because his works are in full vibrant color, and widely accessible.


    I think this position looks strange only because it's unfamiliar. We're used to seeing horses buck or jump with their legs folded, like these:

We don't often see a spectacular buck like this, especially outside the rodeo ring:

      And although it's becoming more common again, we also don't often see a horse that has actually been trained to capriole. And as difficult a maneuver as it is (and some may argue that ethical training makes it more difficult to achieve consistent results, although it makes it much easier on the horse!), even if we do have the opportunity to see a horse in capriole, it may not be as precise or extreme as those painted by Hamilton. The hind legs may hang slightly loose and low, like this (though in some cases, this is actually due to the difficulty of timing the photograph):

There are, however, now plenty of photographs of horses in this extreme version of capriole. 

And even with rider:

Can we talk about her lack of stirrups?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kitten Discovers Cat-tree

   Ok, so once again it isn't horses or history, or even remotely educational. But, lets be real- kitten videos are more entertaining. Parker has finally realized that the cat-tree can be climbed. And has TOYS!


Abdiel is not sure how he feels about this development. He likes playing cat-tree paw slap, but he's used to being the higher kitty. At least he's no longer running from the kitten.


Ab says that's better.