Sunday, 24 October 2010

Historic Julips

I've just bought some Pony Magazines from the early 1950s. Julip weren't exactly a prolific advertiser (but neither were any of the other model horse companies: I've seen no ads from them at all, and am intrigued about that. You'd have thought that Pony readers were absolutely their target market. Why not target it?)

Here is Foxhunter and Lt-Col Llewellyn. I wonder if any examples of this still exist? This model, and the Arab below, both appear to have latex rather than mohair tails.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Win-a-Pony Competition

Pony Magazine ran a win a pony competition in its early years. The competition stretched over some months, with new elements to complete each month. Here is one of them - I thought it might be fun to see what we could spot now (and was also wondering if there were many things we would miss simply because things have changed: it's probably much less likely I'd have thought that we would know as a matter of course what happened with driving setups). I haven't yet dug up the answers, I have to admit.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Take.. half a pound of bunacre, and make a Cake thereof

To make a Horse follow his Master, and find him out and Challenge him amongst never so many people.

Take a pound of Oat-Meal, and put to it a quarter of a pound of Honey and half a pound of bunacre, and make a Cake thereof, and put it into your Bosom next to your naked Skin, then run or labour yourself till you Sweat, then rub all your Sweat upon your Cake, then keep him fasting a day and a night, and give it him to eat, and when he hath eaten it, turn him loose, and he shall not only follow you, but also hunt and seek you out when he hath lost you or doth miss you, and though you be environed with never so many, yet he will find you out and know you, and when he cometh to you spit into his Mouth, and anoint his Tongue with your Spittle, and thus doing he will never forsake you.

By "An Experienced Farrier," found in The Horseman's Week-End Book.

Anyone tried it? Though of course, you do need to know what Bunacre is, and I haven't had any luck finding out so far.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Autumn roses and other stuff

All of my roses are single and not repeat flowerers, so it is an amazing treat to find a few flowering in the garden now. It's been an odd year for some plants, and things like jasmine have only come into flower now, it having been too dry for them earlier in the year.

Jacques Cartier:

Blush Noisette:
Boule de Niege (though I have a sneaky feeling this might be a repeat flowerer). Looked it up. Yes , it is. Didn't do it last year though - I wonder why?

And to finish, something completely unrosy, which is growing on the stump of my late lamented plum tree:

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Black Beauty - the first edition

Many thanks to Susanna for sending me this link. It's possibly not a first edition: that was bound in red, blue or green, with the horse's head looking to the right. John Carter (More Binding Variants, Constable, 1938) thinks this is a variant of the first: whether it is or not, it's still a very early edition. A first edition will cost upwards (sometimes very well upwards of £3,000).

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Books you CAN read on the tube

If pony books are your thing, and you travel by public transport, you will occasionally (or perhaps often) meet the situation when you are deep in your latest re-read of Ruby Ferguson'sJill, and you want to take something with you to read on the train. Do you take Jill? Well, there's a sort of muted yes from me there. If I'm reading Jill, or a Pullein-Thompson, I'll take it. If, however, I'm reading one of the pinker, fluffier modern things (for research purposes, natch) I admit I feel a twinge. Do I want the world to know I read Katie Price's Perfect Ponies and its ilk? Which, now I think about it, is faintly ridiculous, because I've reviewed them on theworldwide web, for goodness sake. It's perfectly obvious I do read them.

All this is wavering off the point more than somewhat, as what I am supposed to be doing in this post is letting you know about the new section on my horse and pony book website. It features authors of books for adults! Dick Francis! Josephine Tey! Ainslie Sheridan! Who? you might well ask - I've been amazed to discover in my researches for this bit of the site just how very many books there are with an equine background. Besides the obvious like, well, Dick Francis, about whom you might well have gathered by now I have a bit of a thing, there is a whole slew of racing-themed detective literature, and even the odd book in which racing manages to cast off the mantle of detection and grab romance instead.

So, if you want to read a book you can read on the tube without feeling embarrassed (though frankly, looking at some of them there are a few I'd quibble about), take a look here.

Review: Sarah Clements - Rosie's Unicorn

Sarah Clements: Rosie's Unicorn
Olympia Publishing, £5.99

Sarah Clement's website

Thanks to Sarah Clements for sending me a copy of this book.

Sarah Clements runs the Cam Valley pony rescue centre near Paulton, which specialises in rescuing and rehabilitating British native ponies. You can read plenty more about the centre's work on their website, which includes lots of detail on the ponies and their histories. If you'd like to support the rescue, there is a facility to donate via the website.

If you want to support the rescue, buying this book isn't the best way to do it. I am possibly one of the worst people to have been asked to review this book as I have a bit of a thing about punctuation. I want my children to learn to write properly. If children read something that's been professionally published, they assume it's right. In this book, unfortunately, it is not. The author has not been well served by Olympia Publishing's copy editors, who did a very poor job indeed. The errors of punctuation are legion. Here's a sample:

"The corner board had been loose for as long as she could remember, if you pulled it up there was a little secret hidden compartment. This is where I can hide the box, thought Rosie to herself, placing it carefully down and then lowering the plank back into place."

Comma splicing is what's going on here. Sentences which can stand on their own are joined by a comma. Yes, it's a common mistake (shatteringly and alarmingly common) but it's wrong, wrong, wrong. It makes the text read jerkily, rather than flow, which last I suspect was the author's intention, and it happens all the way through the book. (Another minor point: for a reason I can't fathom, thought processes are never, as you'll have spotted in the example above, in quotation marks.)

I don't normally sound off about the importance of correct punctuation and grammar. Some fine writers have needed the services of a team of copy editors before their writing is fit to be published. Not everyone is as fortunate as me, who had a solid grounding in punctuation and grammar at her very old fashioned State Junior School in the 1970s. Children nowadays are fighting a loosing battle with teachers who do not know that what they themselves write is wrong.

Maybe someone who wasn't brought up having the rights and wrongs of punctuation bashed into them can read this book and enjoy it, but it was completely beyond me. I did make a huge effort to look past the multitude of errors and the awkward writing to try and get something out of the story, but I failed there too.

The book opens with the god Unus creating the world: everything is beautiful and new, and Unus creates a beautiful new being as a last gift:

"This is the beast of perfection, the essence of my soul, my endless love for you all...."

You know what's coming, don't you? Yes, it's a unicorn. And like just about every other fictional unicorn shimmering through 21st century children's books, it is perfect, bright and beautiful. It is not that I mind unicorns: to prove this, I am going to review Alan Garner's Elidor just to show I have no anti-unicorn prejudice. It's just that all that perfection is a little wearing to read.

Everything very soon goes wrong in Unus' new world, because of Man and his Greed. However, the unicorn can return to earth again through a child without greed and selfishness, and that's where Rosie comes in. The heroine, Rosie-May is a perfect little girl. She almost never does anything wrong, and even when she lies for the sake of the unicron she feels terribly, terribly bad about it. I realise that this might have a certain charm if you like your child characters full of sweetness and light: Rosie certainly is, but I just can't swallow all that Victorian child-as-innocent stuff, having seen Original Sin alive and well in my own two.

Rosie is pony mad but doesn't have one of her own, so she helps Mr and Mrs Trugg with their horses. Rosie's best friend Milly (Mils) is being bullied by fellow pupils Emma and Flick. Mr and Mrs Trugg's farm is threatened by Digby Fox, who wants the farmland for housing. Through the influence of Rosie, and the unicorn Image, everything works out, as you would imagine it would.

The book is not well written; the author has little ear for dialogue or characterisation and the plot is predictable. I do, however, like the cover very much, which is probably cold comfort.

Friday, 8 October 2010


The National School of Equitation in Roehampton (it was at 139 Roehampton Vale, London SW15, but now seems to have been replaced by either Kingston University or a golf course) was a regular advertiser in the early issues of Riding Magazine. It was obviously hard to miss, even from the air.

The National School started the sport of polocrosse, as an exercise for its young riders. The game was played indoors with two players per side, with sticks made from old polo sticks with the mallet end replaced with a squash racket head with a net. To score a goal you had to scoop the ball up from the field and drop it in the goal. The game was brought to Australia in 1938, and the Australians picked it up and ran with it, as you can see in the video at the end of the piece. Here in England, matters remained much more sedate. The National School of Equitation's first attempts at advertising the new sport in March 1938 were a tad stilted: none of those ponies look to have moved for at least the last half an hour.

It's such grand fun everyone's been petrified. Things did improve, and by May 1938, there was a little more action:

Polocrosse now looks like this clip below - before you watch it, all horses and riders do survive, though the video is quite alarming at times! Apologies for the fact this video slipped off the first draft. Not quite sure what happened there.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

How much Exmoor pony is there in the Thoroughbred?

It was the classic riding school quiz question: who were the founding stallions of the Thoroughbred? And we all know, don't we - the Byerley Turk, the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian. What we don't know is who the founding mares were. There were some 72 of them, and many were not named in pedigrees, some being simply known as "A Royal Mare". A study by the University of Cambridge, led by Dr Mim Bower, has set out to identify where the founding mares came from.

Some breeders claim the Thoroughbred is descended from pure Arabian stock, but the Cambridge research shows that wasn't the case: it was British and Irish mares who were most influential on the maternal side. 61% of the founding mares were from British or Irish breeds, and only 8% had Middle Eastern or West Asian links. The Cambridge study came to the conclusion that there was already a vibrant racing industry into which the Eastern stallions were introduced.

The news article does not give the full analysis of the genetic material found, but at least two British (and Irish) native ponies are mentioned: the Connemara and Exmoor. It's odd to think that while the Exmoor is a rare breed, whose survival is threatened, Moorland Mousie lives on in the Thoroughbred.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Sir Richard Newdigate’s Horse Book 1691-1695

Warwickshire's County Record Office feature a Record of the Month on their website: August's was Sir Richard Newdigate's Horse Book. Sir Richard Newdigate (1602-1678) lived near Nuneaton, and was Lord Chief Justice during the Commonwealth. He was something of a micro-manager, leading to a very fast turnover amongst his household staff: his stables were closely supervised too. Did this, I wonder, lead to a fast turnover amongst the stable staff?

His horses were a source of family friction: his family thought he spent far too much on his horses, and in his comment on the document (though alas you cannot see this - you can't enlarge the view) he remarks that other breeders with far worse horses ask higher prices. He values his at at much as 50 -60 guineas each, a substantial sum then. I presume that the horses had not been selling as he was over-pricing them. Perhaps Sir Richard was not eager to sell: he remarks later in the document that breeding the horses saved having to buy them. True, though his family had obviously spotted that breeding them on the scale Sir Richard did was not actually saving money; particularly when you didn't sell them.

Many thanks to Rosemary Hall for telling me about this.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Headley Britannia IS a rocking horse

No, really. If you don't fancy just any old rocking horse, you can now get one in the form of Lucinda Frederick's Headley Britannia. That'll show them in the nursery.

A field day for the safety conscious

Oh, I'm torn over this picture. Last week's Horse and Hound had a news story about Emile Faurie, the dressage rider, who has decided (wisely in my opinion) that if you do not wear a hat, you cannot ride. Dressage riders have a tendency to go without hats, presumably thinking that as they're not going to jump or go particularly fast, they're safe. As someone who has fallen off at a standstill (don't ask) I know that's not true.

And yet.... this photograph below - all hatless dressage riders need transporting back to 1937, which is when this photograph was taken. It's of Lady Kitty Ritson, dog breeder, and later on a pony book author, who wrote a series of articles on The Middle Aged Rider for Riding Magazine.

I know I should disapprove of this, I know I should, but I can't bring myself to. Setting off for a picnic on your Arabian, complete with your tea dress, good shoes, kettle and attendant child...