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Showing posts from November, 2009

Review: Susan Richards - Chosen by a Horse

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Susan Richards - Chosen by a Horse
Constable: £7.99
This is yet another book that's been in the review pile for months: so long, in fact, I can't remember when I got it.
It's about a rescue horse: a Standardbred mare called Lay Me Down, and the woman who rescued her, Susan Richards. Lay Me Down was rescued when she and her companions were seized by their owner, who had neglected them so badly they were nearly at the point of starvation. At first, it wasn't even clear if Lay Me Down would survive, but she and her foal both did. The foal was reclaimed by the abusive owner, who had to sign all the foals over to his vet in lieu of fees, but Lay Me Down stayed.



She really was a quite exceptional mare, and Susan Richards shows you just what a complete sweetie this horse was. Despite the horrors she had known, she bore no one any malice, and was always accepting and kind: no mareish nasties at all, unlike one of Susan Richard's other horses, the Morgan Georgia, who w…

Wonder where this one will end up

There have been mutterings for a while that jump racing would be banned in Victoria, Australia, and now it has been, from 2011. Read the story here.
As far as I'm aware, there's no equivalent mutterings here. There are some things I disagree with very strongly in racing: breaking and racing two year olds, for one, and not giving any thought to what happens to the horses after their racing career is finished for another.
However, I love National Hunt (as jump racing is called here). Horses do die, and it is absolutely terrible to watch one of those falls when you know the horse is not going to get up. When you make the death or injuring of horses into a welfare issue that you're determined to clear up, I do wonder where it will stop. Horses die eventing, show jumping and hunting, and of course hacking on the roads is not exactly safe. If you take as your premise that the horse hasn't asked to be doing x and that therefore if y can happen you must stop doing x wil…

Rollkur (well sort of) in 1961

I said in a previous blog post that I'd never seen or heard of a horse doing rollkur on its own. The following example isn't really a horse doing rollkur because it feels like it: it's more because the horse wants its own way and is evading the bit, but still. Here it is:

"She had a mouth like iron, but she could not be accused of bolting, or even running away. She would just tuck in her chin until it touched her chest, drop the bit, and canter slowly, steadily and relentlessly on. The most that you could hope to do when she was in this mood was to turn her into a circle, and wait until she grew tired - unless of course you had a friend on foot who would run in and grab the bridle." (Stella Markeson - Horse Portraits, in Riding Magazine, Sept 1961)
This is of course evasion, and not at all actual rollkur, but I found it interesting to read of a horse doing something similar!

Review: Alison Hart - Racing to Freedom Trilogy

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Alison Hart: Gabriel's Horses
Peach Tree Publishing, Atlanta £8.21

Alison Hart: Gabriel's Journey
Peach Tree Publishing, Atlanta £8.21 Age 10+
Alison Hart's Website




My New Year's Resolution was to get through the to-be-reviewed pile more quickly, but nearly at the end of the year, I can tell you I have failed miserably. Gabriel's Horses I have had for well over a year; Gabriel's Journey much less long, thanks to the author, who kindly sent me a copy, but still quite long enough for it to be embarrassing.
The second book I haven't read, but if it's up to the standard of the two I have, it's well worth finding. The Race to Freedom trilogy is set in Kentucky, during the American Civil War. Kentucky, as I learned, was not a centre of operations during the war. Only a few battles were fought, and racing and breeding carried on. So unaffected was Kentucky that some Southern owners brought their horses to Kentucky to remove them from the ravages of the war in …

Going green...

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The non-recycleability of some of the packaging materials I use has been nagging at me for a while now. I've now decided there's not a lot of point my carefully composting, giving scraps to the hens and filling the council recycling bin when I'm contributing to the waste because of my use of padded envelopes and non recycleable bubblewrap.
So, paperbacks will now be posted in little paper padded Jiffy envelopes. You can use them again yourself, and they should rot down nicely on the compost heap too. Hardbacks will be sent in cardboard book boxes (when they arrive - they're still somewhere between the factory and here, after they attempted to deliver at the one time I went out yesterday). Anything that needs bubblewrap will now have a new green - quite literally, as it is green in colour - bubblewrap that will break down rather than rot in landfill for ever. I'm still using the corrugated card and brown paper I always have used, and I moved a while ago to usin…

An update on Rollkur

The FEI have now held their meeting, at which they discussed Rollkur. This is their statement:

"The FEI condemns all training methods and practices that are contrary to horse welfare. The welfare of the horse has always been and will always be at the core
of every aspect of the Federation’s work as the international governing body for equestrian sport.

During its meeting in Copenhagen (DEN) on 15 November, the FEI Bureau had extensive discussion on the issue of hyperflexion. The FEI Bureau insists that, with immediate effect, stewards in all disciplines use the disciplinary measures available to them, such as verbal warnings and yellow warning cards *, to prevent any infringement of FEI rules.

The FEI is now engaged with World Horse Welfare, a leading international equestrian organisation, in addition to continued consultation with riders, trainers,
officials and veterinarians to thoroughly research the issues. The further education of stewards will also continue to ensure that we…

The latest on Rollkur

According to Horse and Hound, the FEI are going to debate the Rollkur issue at their general assembly on 15th November in Copenhagen. A spokesman said "important developments will be announced as soon as possible."

When you look at the FEI's dressage page, and see listed along the right hand side article after article on Anky and other Dutch dressage riders (Anky, the Olympic gold medallist, is very well known for being a Rollkur practitioner, as I believe are most of the Dutch team) it is immediately obvious what a tension there is here. On the one hand, the top echelons of the sport support rollkur, and are presumably lobbying very hard for the FEI not to change their stance; on the other there's a great deal of public attention being directed at a sport which has only just emerged out of the shadows and started to become popular.

In an ideal world, I would suggest a moratorium on rollkur being practised until definitive studies have been done on the effect on t…

Vote on Rollkur

Horse and Hound have a poll going on on their front page at the moment. You will have to scroll down the page a bit to get there - it's on the left hand side, but if you want to tell H&H what you think, here's your chance.

Rollkur and the blue tongue

I've been meaning to write about this all week, but reading the exclusive in Horse and Hound about the controversy tipped me over the edge.

For my non-horsy readers, rollkur is a training/warming up technique used by some dressage riders. It basically involves riding the horse with its jaw pulled in virtually to its chest, in order to increase suppleness.

Patrik Kittel , a Swedish competitor in Odense was videoed riding his horse in this way. If you watch the video, you'll see the horse's tongue hanging out - blue. It takes a while before the rider notices this. When he does, he stops, puts the horse's tongue back in, and carries on.



There are two things which bother me about this. Firstly, I am fully aware large sections of the dressage world, and some of its brighest stars, consider rollkur perfectly ok, but the FEI guidelines state this practice should only be for short periods, allowing the horse to rest. Patrick Kittel apparently rode the horse for two hours in ro…

Review: Susannah Leigh - Strangers at the Stables

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Susannah Leigh – Sandy Lane Stables – Strangers at the Stables
Usborne Books, 2009 : £4.99 Age 10+ (or thereabouts)


This book was originally published in 1996, but it’s been republished a couple of times since then and is still going strong. The latest reprint came out this year.
The latest cover re-design is of the twinkle-twinkle-fairydust school. Goodness alone knows why. There’s nothing remotely fantastical about the story, so presumably this latest effort is to make the books appear fashionable and “new”. I don’t dislike the cover particularly (I love the grey Arab in fact) but I wonder if it wouldn’t confuse its public a bit: this is a straight down the line pony story and there’s not even the merest hint of a mysteriously fading sparkly hoofprint anywhere.
The Sandy Lane Stables series is one I’ve been aware of for years, but which I’ve managed to avoid reading, assuming from the various cover designs that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. I haven’t read the whole serie…

My little pony goes Gaga

I've mentioned these before, but Finnish artist Mari Kasurinen has transformed some more My Little Ponies......

I love these, particularly the Gaga one, and the Elvis unicorn is just brilliant. The artist presumably has a bit of a thing about Johnny Depp, as there's a pirate pony, and a dreadfully pathetic Edward Scissorhands.
Book memories meme The following meme comes from the Ibooknet blog.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest.
A bit difficult, this. As with most people, I guess this would have to be a childhood book. The one I've had the longest would either by my extremely battered Winnie the Pooh paperback, or my slightly less battered but still not good Wind in the Willows, both of which were read to me by my mother. A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time).
Well, most of them do, really, even ones I've bought on to sell remind me of where I bought them. Hmmm. There is something that reminds me very specifically of a time in my life, and that is "Jane Hankey" scrawled across the title page, as that was my name when I was married first. I used to spend a lot of time either in Mowbrays (which at that time was north of Oxford St and not amalgamated with Hatchards as it is now) and was one of my lunchtime haunts, or in W H Smit…

Bonkers Advertising Copy - Joules

Eating my cheese muffin at lunch today I was mulling over the Joules catalogue, as you do, when I came across this:

"One of life's greatest pleasures is a loose fitting shirt pulled overhead."

I can think of a few circumstances where that might be the case, but frankly, in the general scheme of things, isn't your life a bit sad if putting on a shirt is your greatest pleasure in life?

A bulging parcel which you know contains a book being pulled out of the letterbox, on the other hand....