Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gaits: The Piaffe

       The piaffe is part gait, part maneuver. I generally classify it as a gait, because it is possible (with great difficulty and endless training) to perform other maneuvers in piaffe, as you would in any other gait. The piaffe, however, stands alone as being the foundation for most of the "airs above ground." Although the airs are not called for in tests today, I still consider the piaffe's function as a foundation for further maneuvers when evaluating it. Piaffes tend to fall into four basic shapes:

      First Shape: all four legs landing roughly perpendicular to the ground, which is usually the first steps a horse attempts. It can be useful for working transitions within gait, but keeping the horse from hollowing in a "square" piaffe is difficult, as is attaining animation.

"square" piaffe
     Second Shape: all four legs towards the center of the body. This tends to be the second shape a horse takes in learning the piaffe. It varies considerably in quality, depending on where the horse's weight is balanced and whether or not it occurs due to an overuse of rein.

"pedestal" piaffe

     Third Shape: on the forehand, generally with the front legs coming slightly behind the vertical but the hind legs landing under the hip. This is usually a result of over-reliance on the whip and/or use of pillars. Often very flashy movement behind, very little in front. Often disunited and/or laterally uneven.

This isn't the best example, but people seem hesitant to post
photos where the horse's balance is more obviously shifted forward.
However, note that the haunches are not significantly lowered
when compared to how far under the body they are; action is
much more exaggerated behind; and the horse is leaning slightly
forward over the standing front leg.

Fourth Shape: Front legs land roughly perpendicular to the ground, hind legs somewhat under. This is the shape that can be developed into the levade or pesade, and from there into other airs. The pelvis is tipped, haunches lowered, and weight clearly on the haunches. Often the hind of each diagonal will land a hair before the fore, but they should pick up together. Common flaw: a cowhocked, wide behind way of sitting; this is not immediately problematic, but something to be wary of. If it is extreme in an otherwise straight horse, it may indicate a lack of strength or conditioning.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gaits: The Running Walk

       As always let me begin by saying that the best way to find out what gait your horse is doing is to have a ground person with a good eye, who will help you develop a feel for each gait. A camera that will allow you to view him moving frame-by-frame is also helpful.    
       The runningwalk is exactly what it sounds like. The hoof-fall pattern is identical to the walk, four beat and even (neither lateral nor diagonal). The Tennessee Walking Horse is of course the breed best known for this gait, but many gaited horses have this "middle" gait. The Tennessee Walking Horse tends to have gaits on the lateral end of the spectrum, both because of the rack (being an even footfall but lateral in weightbearing), and because of the emphasis on overstride, where being a hair to the lateral helps in preventing interference. These middle gaits can absolutely be achieved without any equipment or shoes. The horse in a runningwalk should have a fairly level back, and as such it much kinder on the back than any of the lateral gaits. However, it can be very straining on the lower limb. It is a difficult gait to collect, as most horses will either fall to the lateral or break to the flat walk.

"Cajun" Cloud 9 Walkers

     Keep asking for your horse to extend the walk. Some horses are so smooth you may not even notice the change of gears at first. Get to know the feeling of the transition, even though our goal is for it to be nearly imperceptible. If you can feel the moment the horse goes into gait, you will be able to ask for the gait more reliably. You might feel as if your horse's back suddenly tilts, as they work to get under themselves, and you suddenly have more power, more "go". A moment before, they were laboring to extend their walk, and now they have plenty to give. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gaits: The Foxtrot

   The best way to find out what gait your horse is doing is to have a ground person with a good eye, who will help you develop a feel for each gait. A camera that will allow you to view him moving frame-by-frame is also helpful.

     The foxtrot is a four beat diagonal gait. What this means, is that each leg moves independently (four beat), with the diagonal pairs moving close together. The rhythm will be 1-2, 1-2. Much like the hard trot, the more suspension (the pause between each "1-2"), the rougher the gait will be. The foxtrot is unusual in that it is the only gait, four beat or otherwise, in which the front hoof lands first! The Missouri Foxtrotter is of course expected to have a foxtrot, but any horse that has both a true trot and any four beat gait can probably also perform the foxtrot. Unlike most four-beat gaits, I prefer the foxtrot to keep the pairs moving closer together, to avoid the tendency of the horse to lean forward onto the shoulder in this gait.

Front Right-Left Hind--Left Front-Right Hind
Left Front-Right Hind--Front Right-Left Hind

Foxtrotter in mildly collected foxtrot. Note that the back remains more level than in a collected trot,
but the hip rotates and drops and hind legs  should step well under.
Foxtrotter in lengthened foxtrot.
Note the near front hoof having just hit ground, while the off hind is just about to.

    The the rider's hip motion in the foxtrot is mostly forward-back. A horse in an "extended" foxtrot may give you just enough movement to post to. It you feel like you could post to it without a lateral wobble, but you still hear four beats, you've found the foxtrot. Now relax a little and let your hips just follow your horses back. If you post strongly in a foxtrot, you will encourage the hard trot.

Further reading:
Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association
"Within a Fox Trot" by Liz Graves

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What Can a Gaited Horse Do?

    I often get asked this. Many people assume that, if they don't want to be involved with shows requiring crazy shoes and crazier equipment, that gaited horses are only good for trail rides (which they are great for). But, they can do anything another horse can do! Well, nearly. Assuming you have a sound, healthy horse, there is only one limitation. You cannot enter a class that calls for a gait your horse cannot perform. This means that if your horse can't trot (many gaited horses also trot), you can't enter a class that calls for trot. If your horse only does a running walk, you can't enter a class that calls for a fox-trot. Of course, at home you can play with adapting any sport to your horse's gait.
   So what can you do? Aside from gait or breed specific shows, gaited horses are becoming popular in performance sports. Trail is of course where the benefit of gait is most seen, but you also see gaited horses in open jumping and barrels. There is also an eventing format just for gaited horses!
   The hardest thing for most riders is finding a way to show at the local level. You need to do two things for this: be creative, and get involved. Look over you local class listing and see what your gaited horse CAN go in (assuming they don't trot). This takes some creativity, as you usually can't do a "division". You can do trail (english, western, or both); "go-as-you-please" or "all day" classes (these usually call for a walk, and then choice of gait); cakewalk, musical posts, or other similar fun classes; and any gymkhana or timed classes, even if you don't want to go fast. If all else fails, just show up and ride around the grounds. Think of it as a colorful trail ride. Get to know people. Then comes step two! Get involved, help out with your local saddle club. Then you can suggest adding a class or two for gaited horses.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Neck-reining and Foundation Bits For One-Handed Riding

         Neck-reining sounds simple: the horse moves away from the pressure of the rein on the neck. Anyone who has tried to teach a horse to neck rein knows that this pressure doesn't make sense to a green horse, and often results in some odd contortions of the neck and a complete loss of finesse. Like in any part of a horse's education, a slow and systematic approach creates relaxed and clear communication. I prefer to have my horses well started in dressage (call it purposeful flatwork if you prefer), with a fairly nuanced understanding of seat and leg and a clear idea of outside rein before I introduce neck-reining. For this stage, I prefer a snaffle or a simple cavesson (reins attached at the bridge of the nose or at the side, but not under the jaw and no moving parts). Then, I begin "neck reining" by exaggerating hand position, with the outside rein still engaged but touching the horse's crest, and the inside rein opening as needing. All cues begin from the seat and leg. There are a number of reasons that the snaffle is not ideal for neck reining, including that the hand position much be higher with one hand than with two, but a few sessions (or a few weeks, or months) of working in the familiar snaffle or cavesson while refining seat and leg cues and introducing neck cues prevents confusion or panic later on.

Riding at one hand isn't just for cowhorses

         Then I introduce the first (and, for many, last) "curb," which is generally one of the following:

fleece short-shank hackamore
         This is my favorite "summer camp" bit, as it provides clear communication (once introduced) and 'control', while having the least possibility for injury or fear, even in the most unsteady or unkind hands. Pressure is mild to the bridge of the nose and the poll, mild to moderate on the chin. It is important to make sure they are adjusted properly, being not so loose that they twist, and not so tight that there isn't a clear release. A more advance rider can also ride at two hands with a light contact and be able to engage each side separately, with some amount of lateral pressure on the side of the muzzle. I see no reason for a more severe nose band, as it is a sensitive area that is easily damaged, or for longer shanks, as they make the pressure too rapid and jerky.

tom thumb
         Most barns have a ton of these laying around, and they're great. Again, I prefer a double jointed bit, but unfortunately most of the "western" double jointed bits are dog-bones, like this:
         I thought I, and my horses, would love this bit. And we did, at first. It has an extra long purchase (distance from mouthpiece to cheekpiece ring) which means more poll pressure, but that can be mitigated by adjusting the bit a little low in the horse's mouth (as long as the cheekpiece is adjusted far enough back so as to not be pushed into the horse's eye). Unfortunately, the open space in the dog-bone can pinch, especially if your horse has a thicker tongue. So, I prefer the single joint over the dog-bone.
copper mouth argentine snaffle
         I also love these. Often people point out it isn't really a snaffle because of the leverage, but what makes an argentine snaffle different from a tom thumb is the additional rein ring at the mouth piece. This gives you the option of using snaffle pressure or tom thumb pressure, working like a pelham bit but without the funny looks you get for riding a young stock horse in an "English" bit. These are especially good for introducing or tuning up neck-reining and curb response in a horse that is well started and confident in a snaffle. The one above also has small rings for a lip strap, which can help prevent the bit from flipping forward. And, a copper mouth piece which many horses love. I don't have a preferred metal, because while many horses like copper or sweet iron, many also hate them. The pelham itself, of course, is the "English" option for this. I usually don't use kimberwicks, since they lack the finesse of a pelham or argentine snaffle, and tend to actually dull the horse to curb pressure since there is not as much clarity in either engagement or release of the curb.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Review: The Medieval Horse and Its Equipment by John Clark

         John Clark is a curator (now Emeritusat 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 Roman 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. 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. The third common controversy regarding medieval horses is the role of the stirrup in the rise of ‘feudalism,’ but Clark does not touch on this in his chapter on the stirrup.  This may simply be due to this argument being centered much earlier and in France.

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hanoverian Horse Sources (6 of 6)

A short selection of further reading

Primary Sources: News Articles

EUROPE LONG AGO. (1839, 01). The United States Magazine, and Democratic Review (1837-1851), 5, 61. Retrieved from

Article 10 -- no title. (1897, Jul 01). The Independent ...Devoted to the Consideration of Politics, Social and Economic Tendencies, History, Literature, and the Arts (1848-1921), 49, 11. Retrieved from

Features: Concerning animals. (1901, Mar 07). Vogue, 17 Retrieved from

Fremont, R. (1901, Mar 09). The conversation corner. Congregationalist (1891-1901), 86, 387. Retrieved from
(suggests oriental origin)

HIEOVER, H. (1845, Nov 22). EDUCATING HORSES. Spirit of the Times; A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (1835-1861), 15, 460. Retrieved from

HISTORIC COACHES, OLD AND NEW. (1889, 01). Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly (1876-1904), XXVII, 39. Retrieved from

MRS, E. R. S. (1843, 12). SUMMER EXCURSIONS FROM LONDON.--NUMBER IV. The Ladies' Companion, and Literary Expositor; a Monthly Magazine Embracing Every Department of Literature (1843-1844), , 67. Retrieved from

Payn, J. (1896, Mar 12). ENGLISH NOTES. The Independent ...Devoted to the Consideration of Politics, Social and Economic Tendencies, History, Literature, and the Arts (1848-1921), 48, 5. Retrieved from

Sporting Magazine: Volume 6
January 1, 1845
Rogerson & Tuxford

Sporting Magazine: Volume 32
 January 1, 1808
Rogerson & Tuxford

The Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama, Volume 3061 January 1, 1843

The Horse: being a collection of weekly papers
 January 1, 1834

The Irish magazine, and monthly asylum for neglected biography. Feb.-Nov. 1808, Jan. 1809 - July 1812 

The Literary Panorama: Volume 11
Charles Taylor January 1, 1812

THE LONDON HORSE AT HOME. (1894, Feb 24). Littell's Living Age (1844-1896), 200, 510. Retrieved from

The Monthly Mirror: Volume 2
 - January 1, 1796
Proprietors. – Publisher

The New Sporting Magazine
Vol. XVI.] FEBRUARY, 1839. [No. 94.

THE VETERINARIAN. VOL. XX, No. 229. JANUARY 1847. New Series, No. 61.

Times, S., & KLLISTONIANA. (1851, May 24). Dramatic feuilletons. OR ... FROM THE COMMON-PLACE-BOOK OF AN OLD STAGER. Spirit of the Times; A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (1835-1861), 21, 159. Retrieved from

Queen Victoria's stable. (1896, 05). Southern Cultivator (1843-1906), 56, 265. Retrieved from

Primary Sources: Books

Axe, J Wortley. The Horse. London: Gresham Publishing, 1907.

Baker, J. The Political State of Great Britain, Volume 51. 1736

Graham, E. Maud. A Canadian Girl in South Africa. Briggs, 1905

Guenther, Johann Heinrich Friedrich and Carl Guenther. Die Beurtheilungslehre des Pferdes bezüglich dessen Dienst-, Zucht- und Handelswerthes, etc. Hanover: Thierarznei-Schule zu Hannover1859.

Harrison, W. H. The Humourist a Companion for the Christmas Fireside. R. Ackermann, 1832.

Hatchard, J. England's triumph: being an account of the rejoicings, &c. which have lately taken place in London and elsewhere. January 1, 1814

Kelly, Christopher. History of the French Revolution: And of the Wars Produced by that Event.
Thomas Kelly, 1831.

Lydekker, R. The Horse and its Relatives. London: George Allen & Co, Ltd. 1912.

Morris, Charles. The Life of Queen Victoria and the Story of Her Reign: A Beautiful Tribute to England's Greatest Queen in Her Domestic and Official Life : and Also the Life of the New King, Edward VII. 1901.

Muller, Carl Friedrich  and G. SchwarzneckerRacen, zuc̈htung und haltung des pferdes
Wiegandt, Hempel & Baren, 1884.

New York State Stenographers' Association Proceedings of the New York State Stenographers' Association: Volumes 28-33. New York: Troy Daily Press Book Publishing House, 1903.

Seeley, Harry Govier. The Fresh-water Fishes of Europe: A History of Their Genera, Species, Structure, Habits, and Distribution. Cassell, Ltd., 1886.

Seiler, Burkhard Wilhelm. Beobachtungen ursprünglicher Bildungsfehler und gänzlichen Mangels der Augen. Dresden &Walther, 1833

Sidney, S. Book of the Horse, 2nd edition. London: Cassel, 1879.

Stamper, Charles William. King Edward as I Knew Him: Reminiscences of Five Years Personal Attendance Upon His Late Majesty King Edward the Seventh. Dodd & Mead, 1913.

Wrangel, C. Gustav. Das Buch vom Pferde: Ein Handbuch für jeden Besitzer und Liebhaber von Pferden, Band 2. Schickhardt and Ebner, 1888.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Horse of a Not-So-Different Color: The Hanoverian Blacks (5 of 6)

          The Hanoverian Blacks were apparently as uninteresting during their time as they are to enthusiasts today. There are few mentions of them, aside from the fact that they were the “horses used by the Master of the Horse on state occasions,” and few paintings.[1] Coronation accounts marvel at the beauty of the Hanoverian Creams (always pulling the new monarchs coach) and the Hanoverian Whites (usually pulling the Prince’s coach), but barely mention the Hanoverian Blacks (usually pulling the coach with invited dignitaries, and the Master of the Horse if he is not sitting with the monarch). The Creams and Whites do have “English” horses (i.e., thoroughbreds) as outriders, where the blacks have their own kind as outriders. Any additional coaches are pulled by “bays” that receive even less mention, though in England they are likely of primarily Yorkshire stock (now the Cleveland Bay). The only place the Blacks receive much mention is during the Napoleonic Wars, where they were used instead of the Creams because of Napoleon’s capture of the Creams remaining on the continent. They do make an interesting study alongside the Creams, as they are consistently shown with flat profiles, wide foreheads, eyes that are prominent but do not break the plane of the face, and, when in motion, significant action.[2] It is entirely likely that they are a close relative to the modern Friesian, particularly as most commonly black horses in Europe stem from similar stock.[3] Mathew Hayes’ 1904 treatise on breeds says that Hanover also provides the black “drenthe” horses for funerals, and that these horses were originally from the province of the same name (which, incidentally, is a neighbor to Friesland. Hayes refers to it as German, but it is Dutch). It is unclear if these are the same black Hanoverian horses, as all sources that discuss them cite Hayes. The Hanoverian horses, in all their colors, were used for ‘coronations, weddings, and funerals,’ so it is plausible. A 1912 book says simply that “The black Drenthe horses employed at royal funerals are another Hanoverian breed,” at the end of a section discussing the Creams.[4]

[1] The New Sporting Magazine, 375
[2] “action” refers to the lift of the legs, particularly the front legs in trot.
[3] Most English breeds are predominantly brown or bay, which modifies the expression of black pigment. 
[4] Lydekker, 129

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Horse of a Different Color: The White Horse of Hanover (4 of 6)

            King George III apparently created a stir by choosing to ride one of his Creams, a stallion named Beauty, who was deemed “not sufficiently strong” to pull the state coach.[1] It should be mentioned that the carriage made for King George III’s coronation weighs four tons without passengers, and required a team of eight of the largest horses available.[2] Even so, they were only able to pull the immense coach at a walk. The Creams were occasionally ridiculed for being weak, and this incident was cited. However, I believe this supposed weakness was due more simply to the fact that the horses were only ever used for important state occasions. When not preparing for and event, they sat idle. While the Hanoverian Cream was considered exclusively a coach horse, the Hanoverian White was bred for primarily elite riding, as one would expect of the symbol of the royal house (although a handful were still used for coaching purposes).[3] The Hanoverian Whites had little gossip surrounding them, either due to them being less in the public eye, or simply not as commonly leaving the breeding farm in Hanover. King George III had a second “favorite charger”[4] named Adonis from among the Hanoverian Whites, and this stallion elicited none of the commentary that Beauty did.
            By the 19th century the British populace (and American tourists) seem not to have distinguished between the Creams and the Whites, but the Herrenhaus and Royal Mews staff did. Until very recently, it was thought that there was “no such thing” as a white horse. However, over the last decade at least a dozen paint-type mutations have been identified that can cause a white phenotype.[5] Modern enthusiasts generally assume this was the case with the Hanoverian Whites (“white-borns”). While this is possible, I believe they were homozygous LP (appaloosa). The term Weißgeborene is still used for fewspot (homozygous LP) Knabstruppers[6] (Danish spotted warmblood), and an interview with the “oldest retainer belonging to the establishment” printed in J. Wortley Axe’s “The Horse” in 1906 suggested that they “descended from an ancient Danish breed of that color.” The Knabstrupper studbook was not established until 1812, but it was an effort to recreate a type that had been popular in the 17th and 18th centuries.[7] An 1888 German breed book describes them as white up until their eyes, which were black. Many, though not all, paint-type white phenotypes have blue eyes; LP, by contrast, generally does not effect eye pigment. And, an 1864 German Veterinary manual says explicitly that “Die weissgebornen Schimmel-Hengste, [in Hanover] welche wir hier in vorzüglicher Schönheit und Grösse sahen, stammen aus Frederiksborg in Dänemark.”[8] Denmark claims that their “Frederiksborg Horse is the world’s oldest pedigree domestic animal breed…The operation of the royal stud farm at Frederiksborg dates back to King Frederik II [1534-1588].”[9] They were also the primary source of the ‘tiger horses’ (appaloosa spotted) that helped inspire the 19th century creation of the Knabbstrupper. The author of the veterinary manual calls them “weissgebornen Schimmel,” literally white-born mold, which is not uncommon. There are several reasons he might use the term “schimmel.” It is most often used to describe grey horses, and he, like modern enthusiasts, may have baulked at the idea of a true white horse, instead assuming that they were a form of early grey.[10] They may actually have been grey, overtop their LP base coat. Even a fewspot appaloosa often exhibits some shading, especially around the knees, which would be quickly faded by the grey gene. Or, it may actually refer to the inheritance of LP itself. Although “schimmel” usually refers to grey, it is occasionally applied more loosely to other horses with an uneven speckled appearance, such as varnish (controlled by the LP complex) or incomplete leopards (a common result of breeding a fewspot to a solid horse).[11] None of these, of course, preclude those horses being appaloosa.

[1] Sporting Magazine, 256.
[3] A white horse on a red field was symbolic of the Electorate of Hanover, and thus also the Hanoverian Kings of England.
[4] Adonis, King George III’s Favorite Charger, painted by James Ward ~1800
[8] “The whiteborn-mold stallions, which we saw in exquisite beauty and size, are from Frederiksborg in Denmark’
[9] History of the Frederiksborg Horse
[10] Grey in horses is a progressive gene. Horses are born with normal coat color, but go through several shades of grey and are usually entirely white by between 7 and 12 years of age. “Schimmel” is used most often for the middle stages, which have a speckled or “moldy” appearance.
[11] LP complex is still not completely understood, but for the basics see: Equine Color Genetics by Dr. Sponenberg and

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Horse of a Different Color: The Confusingly Named Royal Hanoverian Cream (2 of 6)

            In 1921 the remaining Royal Hanoverian Creams[1] at Hampton Court were auctioned off. These horses had pulled the English State Coach since the reign of George I. The majority of the stock ended up in circuses; but despite at least one breeding program there was no success in continuing the breed. Unfortunately, we have no color photographs and no living descendants of the Royal Hanoverian Creams, and so there has been some debate as to what color the “Creams” actually were. What we do have are a large number of paintings and descriptions, a handful of black and white photographs, and one wooden statue. From these primary sources, I have compiled a set of identifying traits. These characteristics are: diluted body color that, while paler than normal coat colors, retains pigment; mane and tail that is often darker than the body, yet still dilute; commonly, leg shading that is fairly consistent from hoof to above the knee and hock; diluted skin tone, particularly as shown around the muzzle; and eyes that were either brown, amber, or possibly even green—indicating a dilution of the eye color. The way newspaper articles of the 19th century describe these horses suggests that these traits were novel, several articles even suggesting that the exotic color stemmed from ‘oriental’ imports.
            The obvious assumption is that the Hanoverian Creams were, in fact, cream. There is a partial dominant dilution gene in horses that is called cream, and double-dilutes (horses with two copies of this gene) are categorically called cream.[2] There are several lines of warmblood[3] horses that carry the cream gene and claim the source to be the Royal Hanoverian Creams. None of these have records of this fact, but rather use it as justification when a dilute foal appears suddenly, as can happen with the cream gene due to the fact that it does not effect black pigment when heterozygous. However, there are a handful of problems with this theory. First, cream dilutes have a self-colored mane and tail more often than darker, and leg shading is rare. Secondly, the cream dilution is a partial-dominant trait: when a double cream dilute is bred to a non-dilute horse, the resulting foal will have neither parents color; instead, they have an intermediate shade. The Hanoverian Creams, by contrast, consistently failed to produce and form of dilute colored foal when outcrossed. And finally, so called “blue eyed creams,” being double cream dilutes, were deemed unhealthy albinos[4] by every European horse registry during the same period that the Hanoverian Creams were in use.
            The second option is a dilution known as champagne. Champagne fits the phenotype (the set of characteristics I listed earlier) reasonably well, with the small exception that champagne tends to cause heavy mottling of the skin. This trait, however, is very unevenly expressed and might not be reproduced in painting or easily seen in old black and white photos. A breeder in Tennessee has attempted to re-create the Hanoverian Cream, primarily using the American Cream Draft. The American Cream Draft, like the Hanoverian Cream, has a misleading name. They are, in fact, champagne. It has been suggested that the progenitor of the American Cream Draft, a mare named Old Granny bought at an auction in Iowa in 1913, was one of the dispersed Hanoverian Creams. You may have noticed that the dates don’t quite match up, as the dispersal sale was not until 1921. Although letters from the Master of the Horse at the time suggest that the herd at Hampton Court was slowly thinned in the years leading up to the auction, there is no mention of any of breedable Creams being sold to the public before 1921. There were at least two Hanoverian Creams in the possession of Phillip Astley’s Royal Circus in 1850. And, King George III did sell a small number to the Hanoverian Creams to a London cab company almost a century earlier, possibly in fury at Napoleon’s seizure of the stud farm in Hanover.[5] Despite this possible source of Hanoverian Cream bloodlines outside the royal studs, it remains very unlikely that the Creams were champagne. Both the circus horses and the cab horses were most likely geldings. And, since the recent advent of a genetic test, no champagne horses have been found in Europe. Based on the distribution of the gene, it likely originated in the United States in a light horse breed in the early to mid 1800’s. The Hanoverian Creams, by contrast, are documented to about 1700.
            That brings me to the final option: pearl. Many of the horses in Europe thought to have been champagne have since tested positive for pearl, a mutation that was not even theorized to exist until the 90’s. Pearl closely fits the phenotype of the Hanoverian Creams. It is also a simple recessive trait, which explains the lack of success in outcrossing.[6] And, pearl has been identified as stemming from Iberian horses, which is unsurprisingly the likely origin of the Hanoverian Creams. Despite the orientalist rhetoric attached to the Cream’s unique color in the 19th century, the myth surrounding their pedigree suggests the original stock made its way to Hanover via the annexation of Prussia, taking over stock said to have been a gift from Isabella of Castile. A common term for a variety of cream colors in horses, birds, and even fabric in the 17th to 19th centuries was ‘isabel.’ The OED defines ‘Isabella’ as: “Greyish yellow [or] light buff” and states that “various stories have been put forth to account for the name. That given in D'Israeli Cur. Lit. … and also in Littré, associating it with the Archduchess Isabella and the siege of Ostend 1601–4, is shown by quot. 1600 to be chronologically impossible.” Interestingly, there is an oral tradition among equestrians of several countries that attributes the term (used for a variety of dilute coat colors) not to the Archduchess of Austria but to Isabella of Castile, who is purported to have had stable full of ‘golden’ horses. She would fit remarkably well with the distribution of the word ‘isabella’ for a golden coat, which is used in English, French, German, Dutch, Russian, and others throughout the early modern period and to some extent still today; and also fits the distribution of both pearl and cream horses.
            Most interesting to me, however, is the descriptions and paintings of the Hanoverian Cream’s heads and necks. They are commonly shown with a sloped shoulder; a high, thick, arched neck; occasionally a convex skull, and never a concave skull. These traits are so unique to the Iberian breeds that they were grounds for multiple genetic studies to determine if they had been a unique species with a separate domestication point. Whether or not Isabella of Castile was involved, it is almost certain that the Hanoverian Creams had a considerable amount of Iberian influence, which only makes it more likely that they were double pearl dilutes.
            To complicate matters, the genes responsible for cream and pearl occur at the same locus.[7] This means that a horse can be homozygous for either cream or pearl, negative for both, or heterozygous for both, but never homozygous for one and still carry a copy (or two) of the alternate dilution. Pearl, normally a recessive gene, is also “cream activated.” A horse that is heterozygous for both cream and pearl will have a double dilute phenotype that generally appears slightly darker than a double cream, but slightly lighter than a double pearl. They will be easily distinguished from double cream dilutes by the production of non-dilute (though pearl carrying) offspring from non-dilute mates. However, when cream-pearl is bred to cream-pearl they will appear to breed true, consistently producing dilute foals. The resulting foals may be double cream, double pearl, or cream-pearl, but all will exhibit ‘goldish’ coats. Because of this, along with the etymological distribution of ‘isabella’ and relative distribution of both colors, it is likely that some of the Hanoverian Creams were cream-pearl, and therefore some may also have been double cream dilutes. An 1833 German breed book notes that there are occasional abnormalities “ unter den Isabellen kommen sehr lichtgefärbte Pferde vor, bei denen der dunkle Streif auf dem Rücken fehlt, ... die Iris ganz weiss ist, ohne schwärzlichen Rand, und auch die Traubenkörper eine weissliche Farbe haben,” which describes the double cream dilutes.[8] This would explain the occasional blue-eyed and pale-pointed[9] painting. However, considering the overwhelming number of paintings that do not exhibit these traits, the photographs of ‘Pistachio’ (who, being one of the last sold, was likely ideal), and the lack of success in producing like colored foals from outcrosses, the cream-pearls were likely a rare exception.

[1] Also called the “Sacred Hanoverians” or “Herrenhausen Isabellen.” Herrenhaus is the location of the state stud in Hanover, and Isabella is a term for off-white to pale yellow (more on that later). These are distinct from the “HerrenhausenWeissgebornen.”
[2] The category is cream, but there are individual terms depending on base coat color. These are: Cremello (2 cream on red), Perlino (2 cream on bay), Smokey Cream (2 cream on black), and as yet 2 cream on brown does not have a consistent name.
[3] warmblood is a middle weight breed category, and has not relation to actual blood temperature.
[4] An unhealthy animal was likely to be sent as “a gift to the kennel” at a young age. Sporting, V6, 225.
[5] Payn
[6] Pearl arguably does express when heterozygous, but so mildly that even the educated eye has difficulty identifying it definitively without the aid of pedigree.

[8] “among the Isabel occur very light coated horses, where the dark stripe missing on the back ... the iris is completely white, without blackish edge, and the eyelashes have a whitish color.” It may be argued that the normal presence of a dorsal stripe would indicate dun. However, none of the Hanoverian Creams had the facial masking typical of dun, and pearl will often have a less diluting effect on a countershaded dorsal. Seiler, 56.
[9] ‘points’ in horse color are the legs, mane, and tail. Recall that pearl tends to leave the points darker, especially on non-red based coats.

Hanoverian Horses: Background (1 of 6)

            On August 1st, 1714 George I became the first Hanoverian King on England. Along with the Electorate of Hanover, a subsection of the Holy Roman Empire, George brought three distinct strains of Hanoverian horses under the control of the British crown. George I’s mother, Sophia, commissioned the palace at Herrenhausen in Hannover, which produced these three strains, divided in both color and history.

Herrenhausen Gardens

            These three strains, known by their respective colors (Isabellen, Wiessgebornen, and schwartz- yes, the first two are usually capitalized, the last is not, which may reflect their comparative status) are not the direct ancestors of today’s Hanoverian horses, but may have some influence. Alongside these three relatively closed programs, Herrenhaus also stood a select number of stallions to the public, usually “English” (i.e. Thoroughbred) crosses, and the philosophy of this program developed into the idea of the warmblood.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bits: Cheeked Snaffles

          My (and many trainers) preferred foundation bit is some form of cheeked snaffle. These bits add pressure to the offside of the nose, and prevent the bit from pulling through the horse's mouth. The "usual suspects" are fullcheeks, dee rings, eggbutts, and for western the offset dee.
Dee Ring Snaffle
French Link Eggbutt Snaffle
Myler Western Dee Comfort Snaffle

         All of these bits function in essentially the same way if they have the same mouthpiece. I prefer french links, as they prevent the mouthpiece from raising into the palette and give a clearer differentiation between each rein. The "comfort snaffle" and similar mouthpieces correct some of the problems with a single jointed bit, but do not afford the nuance of the french link due to their stiffer nature. In some cases this can be a benefit, but they are not as clear a signal to the horse. Of these cheeks, I prefer the eggbutt as they tend not to flip forward like the dee and don't need keepers like the full cheek. All these preferences aside, I tend to use a lot of plain single-jointed dees and full cheeks because they are far cheaper and work well for most horses and riders.

Bits vs. Bit-less

There are many great reasons to go bit-less, like:
                 1. You can.
                 2. It gives you more options for how to communicate with your horse.
                 3. There are so many options, there is no need to give up a nuanced feel.

And a few to consider as to why not:

                 1. Many bit-less options put far more pressure, physically and psychologically, on the horse than a basic bit does.
                 2. Many shows do not allow bit-less bridles. In some cases, this is just due to tradition and can be challenged. In others, it is because the show staff are well aware of #1.
                 3. If for any reason that horse must be sold, it is far easier for a horse that is comfortable in a bit to find and keep a good home. Even if you expect to own the horse for their entire life, invest in their future and make sure that they understand a basic bit.

Friday, March 6, 2015

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


       R.H.C. Davis gives 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 the reader question its validity.  This book remains one of the most complete and respected on medieval horses, and his mistakes are still widely propagated despite newer scholarship.
       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.

[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.
[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 less desirable “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.
[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