Top 7 Latvian Horsy Superstitions

Two most superstitious groups of people are probably sportsmen and those who are involved in agricultural work. It follows that equestrians are bound to have twice as many superstitions as ordinary folk. With this in mind, I asked Edgar, who, like me, has a lifelong interest in horses and local history, to provide a top pick of the most interesting horsy superstitions recorded in Latvia, and he duly obliged.


My first experience at driving a Latvian horse – and doing it for a wedding, too!

These superstitions were collected in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by local folklorists, but some of them are likely to date to pre-Christian times. Translating them into English for the first time and exclusively for my blog, Edgar has added some commentary on the logic behind the superstitions.


Enjoy! But please bear in mind that we in no way encourage you to try these on your horses, and, if you do, we are not going to take responsibility for any damage incurred by the horses or their handlers!

Continue reading

Posted in equestrian history, History of Livonia, Medieval animals | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Call for papers: Horse History Sessions at the International Medieval Congress

via Call for papers: Horse History Sessions at the International Medieval Congress

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

#ShelfieSunday: Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance

Review of my Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance – very grateful to Karen Grace Campbell for doing it!

Equine History Collective

practicalhorsemanshipRopa, Anastasija. Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance. Rewriting Equestrian History Series, vol. 1, Trivent Publishing, 2019. ISSN 2676-8097

Review by Karen Campbell

     Recently, a growing interest in animal studies, posthumanism, and particularly horses and horsemanship has emerged in academia and in medieval academia particularly. Anastasija Ropa, who obtained her Ph.D. from Bangor University, serves as an important cog in the this machine of equestrian studies through her own research on horsemanship and by organizing multiple equine centered conference sessions at the International Medieval Congress held in Leeds, England, since 2016. She has also acted as an editor for various article collections and now offers us a personally authored, concise, and intriguing journey in her book, Practical Horsemanship in Arthurian Romance, which she, appropriately, dedicates to her equine partner Fizz.

     Readers will be pleasantly surprised at how compact yet detailed her description…

View original post 600 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Horse History Sessions at IMC 2019

Session 517: Horses to the East

Tue, 02 July – 09.00-10.30

Jürg Gassmann, Horses in Western Asia in the Transition from Late Antiquity to ca. 1000 CE

Hylke Hettema, A Medieval Genealogy of the Arab Horse

Alexia-Foteini Stamouli, Equids in the Late Byzantine Hagiography: A Comparison with the Middle Period


Session 617: Medieval Equestrian Equipment and Practice

Tue. 02 July – 11.15-12.45

Mattia Caprioli, Eastern Roman Equestrian Military Equipment, 6th-7th Century

Amanda Peyton Seabolt, An Analysis of the Equipment and Training of a 12th and 13th Century Horse and Rider

Adeline Dumont, De l’usage du cheval de guerre au combat au début du XIIIe siècle


Session 717: Horse Breeding and Care

Tue. 02 July – 14.15-15.45

Kelly-Anne Gilbertson, ‘Medicines for Horses’: Textual Transmission of the Central Middle English Horse-Care Text

Gail Brownrigg, Horse Breeding in the New Forest: A Modern Paradigm of Medieval Practice

Samuel Gassmann, The Monastery of Einsiedeln as a centre of Swiss Horse Breeding: 1064-1798

Respondent: Jennifer Jobst


Session 817: The Horse in Law and Chronicle

Tue. 02 July – 16.30-18.00

Edgar Rops, Laws for Racing Enthusiasts: Horses in Early Irish Legal Tradition

Miriam Bibby, Alexander’s Arabian: Noble Steed or Fantastic Beast?

Pierre Chaffard-Luçon, Horses and Tournaments: Legislation during the 13th Century



Session 917: Bits, Pieces, and Other Random Items: The (Im)Materiality of Medieval Horse Equipment – A Round Table Discussion

Tue. 02 July – 19.00-20.00

Participants include John Clark (Museum of London), Timothy Dawson (Independent Scholar, Kent), Adeline Dumont (Université de Lille), John Henry Gassmann (Independent Scholar, Wexford), and Anastasija Ropa (Latvian Academy of Sport Education, Riga).



The organizers of the Horse History sessions and the Round Table are Anastasija Ropa (Department of Management & Communication Science, Latvian Academy of Sport Education), Timothy Dawson (Independent Scholar, Kent), and Gwendolyne Knight (Historiska institutionen, Stockholms Universitet)

Horse History at IMC 2019 poster

Posted in conference, equestrian history, Medieval horses, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why Put Artwork All Over Your Document? Querying Illuminated Charters

via Why Put Artwork All Over Your Document? Querying Illuminated Charters

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Of the Livonians’ Cults, religion(S) and (Im)morality – Again

A Winged DragonDyonisius Fabricius, writing his Livonicae historiae in the first half of the seventeenth century, more than half a century after Balthasar Russow, makes the history of Livonian mores – and immoralities – so much more exciting to read, as well as adding curious observations about the local climate and fauna. Snow can be ordered at will by those skilful in sorcery even on the hottest day. And – did you know it? – Livonia had dragons lurking in its woods and marshes! Of course, not everybody had a pet dragon even in those remote days, so some women had to make go with snakes in between their thighs. A titillating site they must have made to the Jesuit’s amused eyes, though one may wonder in what circumstances he gathered the curious pieces of information not found in Russow’s more austere description of Livonian debaucheries. As I have mentioned previously, Fabricius frequently borrows from Russow the material for the earlier history of Livonia, but the chapter entitled ‘De cultu, religione et moribus incolarum Livoniae’ has no precedent in Russow or, to my knowledge, any other chronicler.

Continue reading

Posted in History of Livonia, Medieval animals, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Count of May Festival in Riga


Stealing the Excalibur…


…with the help of Sir Ivan

With history being in fashion today, it is not surprising that many old traditions are revived or reinvented, attracting tourists and enriching the communities’ cultural lives. A good example of it is the Count of May festival in Riga, a revival of late medieval or early modern tradition, which is described already in Balthasar Russow’s Chronicle of Livonia.

Continue reading

Posted in Historical Sites and Monuments, History, History of Livonia, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sex and witchcraft in early modern Livonia: the eyewitness accounts by Balthasar Russow and Dionysius Fabricius

F. Brīvzemnieks, Latvian poet and ethnographer

A Latvian witch, by F. Brīvzemnieks, Latvian poet and ethnographer

It’s been a long time since my promised post on the outrageous morals of early modern Livonians, which fired Protestant pastors (Balthasar Russow, quoted from in my previous post) and Jesuit brothers alike. In fact, I have found another chronicle of Livonia, the History of Livonia written in the seventeenth century by the Jesuit Dyonisius Fabricius. Fabricius borrows on Russow, but he has a slightly differing view of the Livonian native peasants as different from the debauched nobility of Livonia. The former appear to be uneducated, semi-pagan, yet interested in listening to sermons delivered at churches. Fabricius notes that, because of the dearth of priests, the simple folk have insufficient knowledge of Christianity, especially in forested, scarcely populated areas around the borders

Continue reading

Posted in Historical Sites and Monuments, History, History of Livonia, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

I dreamt a dream… Or horsemanship for Arthurian enthusiasts


I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming… A book about horses in Arthurian romance… My own book…

It is a laconic book, with many pictures reproducing miniatures in famous French and English romances, with lots of references to studies by earlier horse historians and Arthurians and by my colleagues, with the analysis kept as concise as possible and the amount of professional jargon – both equestrian and Arthurian – kept to a strict minimum.

A book envisaging a double audience: Arthurian scholars and horse historians. Also all medievalists interested in the context – in knowing more than just their own field, in feeling the Middle Ages as they felt to the people inhabiting them, in knowing what people knew then and reconstructing the way people thought then.

Continue reading

Posted in Arthurian Literature, equestrian history, Gender and Literature, History, Medieval animals, Medieval horses, Medieval Literature, Practical Equestrianism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance


The figure of a knight on horseback is the emblem of medieval chivalry. Much has been written on the ideology and practicalities of knighthood as portrayed in medieval romance, especially Arthurian romance, and it is surprising that so little attention was hitherto granted to the knight’s closest companion, the horse. This study examines the horse as a social indicator, as the knight’s animal alter ego in his spiritual peregrinations and earthly adventures, the ups and downs of chivalric adventure, as well as the relations between the lady and her palfrey in romance. Both medieval authors and their audiences knew more about the symbolism and practice of horsemanship than most readers do today. By providing the background to the descriptions of horses and horsemanship in Arthurian romance, this study deepens the readers’ appreciation of these texts. At the same time, critical reading of romance supplies information about the ideology and daily practice of horsemanship in the Middle Ages that is otherwise impossible to obtain from other sources, be it archaeology, chronicles or administrative documentation.


Anastasija Ropa holds a doctoral degree from Bangor University (North Wales), for a study in medieval and modern Arthurian literature. She has published several articles on medieval and modern Arthurian literature, focusing on its historical and artistic aspects. Anastasija is a member of the British Branch of the International Arthurian Society and of the Centre for Arthurian Studies. She is currently employed as guest lecturer at the Latvian Academy of Sport Education. Anastasija’s most recent research explores medieval equestrianism in English and French literary sources and documents, and she has been one of the organizers of sessions on medieval equestrianism at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds since 2016.

For reading a free sample from the book and ordering it, visit Trivent Publishing

Posted in Arthurian Literature, equestrian history, Gender and Literature, Medieval animals, Medieval horses, Medieval Literature, Practical Equestrianism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment