Appel à contribution – Medieval and Early Modern Equids: Classifying by Breeds, Types and Functions

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Appel à contribution – Medievalism in Russian and Ukrainian Political Discourses

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New book publication: Echoing Hooves

Echoing Hooves: Studies on Horses and Their Effects on Medieval Societies

Series: Explorations in Medieval Culture, Volume: 22

Volume Editors: Anastasija Ropa and Timothy George Dawson

Saying that horses shaped the medieval world – and the way we see it today – is hardly an exaggeration. Why else do we imagine a medieval knight – or a nomadic warrior – on horseback? Why do we use such metaphors as “unbridled” or “bearing a yoke” in our daily language? Studies of medieval horses and horsemanship are increasingly popular, but they often focus on a single aspect of equestrianism or a single culture. In this book, you will find information about both elite and humble working equines, about the ideology and practicalities of medieval horsemanship across different countries, from Iceland to China.
Contributors are Gloria Allaire, Luise Borek, Gail Brownrigg, Agnès Carayon, Gavina Cherchi, John C. Ford, Loïs Forster, Jürg Gassmann, Rebecca Henderson, Anna-Lena Lange, Romain Lefebvre, Rena Maguire, Ana Maria S. A. Rodrigues, and Alexia-Foteini Stamouli.

ISBN: 978-90-04-46648-7

Publication date: 07 Jul 2022

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Echoing Hooves: another book about medieval equines

After three years of work, I and my colleague Timothy Dawson are proud to present another volume of studies about medieval equines, Echoing Hooves: Studies on Horses and Their Effects on Medieval Societies, coming out on 21 July 2022 in the Explorations in Medieval Culture series published by Brill. This time, we are looking at horses from all over the medieval world, from Iceland to China.

Saying that horses shaped the medieval world – and the way we see it today – is hardly an exaggeration. Why else do we imagine a medieval knight – or a nomadic warrior – on horseback? Why do we use such metaphors as “unbridled” or “bearing a yoke” in our daily language? Studies of medieval horses and horsemanship are increasingly popular, but they often focus on a single aspect of equestrianism or a single culture. In this book, you will find information about both elite and humble working equines, about the ideology and practicalities of medieval horsemanship across different countries, from Iceland to China.

Table of contents

  Introduction: Of Horses and Humans in the Medieval World –  Anastasija Ropa 

Part 1 Socially Formative Horses 

1 Horses as Status Indicators in Wolfram’s Parzival – Anna-Lena Lange 

2 The Role of the Horse in Tangut Society – Romain Lefebvre 

3 “Hrafn ok Sleipnir, hestar ágætir”: Horses of the Medieval North – Rebecca Henderson 

4 City of the Cavalrymen and House of the Rider: ‘Landscaped Hippodromes’ and Stable-Palaces in Mamluk Cairo -  Agnès Carayon 

Part 2 Literary Horses 

5 Travel in the Middle English ‘Matter of England’ Romances, and the Changing Significations of Horses and Horsemanship - John C. Ford 

6 Information of Middle Byzantine Hagiographical Texts about Equids - Alexia-Foteini Stamoul

7 Dead Horses in Arthurian Romance (and Beyond) - Luise Borek 

8 Horse Descriptions in the Unedited Prose Rinaldo da Montalbano (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana MS Pluteus 42, codex 37) - Gloria Allaire 

Part 3 Martial Horses 

9 Vegetius, Arrian and the Battlefield Cavalry Formations of Medieval Europe - Jürg Gassmann 

10 Hunting, Jousting, and Fighting on Horseback according to King João I and King Duarte of Portugal - Ana Maria S.A. Rodrigues 

11 The Typology of Horses in Burgundian Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century - Loïs Forster 

Part 4 The Hardware of the Horse – Real and Symbolic 

12 The Origin of the Horse Collar - Gail Brownrigg 

13 Get off your High Horse: An Examination of Changes in Lorinery and Equitation in the Irish Early Medieval Period AD 400 to 700 - Rena Maguire 

14 Unbridled Horses and Knights Errant - Gavina Cherchi 

Conclusion: Gendering Horse Riders in Medieval Romance and Modern Racing Media - Anastasija Ropa 

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Introducing Cheiron: The International Journal of Equine and Equestrian History

historyonhorseback

I’m delighted to announce that the inaugural issue of Cheiron is now live. It’s an open access journal, so simply follow the link to download and read all the content!

https://trivent-publishing.eu/home/133-cheiron-vol-1issue-1.html

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Call for papers: Medieval Horse Types and How to Use Them

Call for papers for special sessions at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 4-7 July 2022

Nature has not given [all horses] the same capabilities. Some shine more at war work; others are inclined to win Olympic crowns; others are adaptable for domestic use, civilian duties and farm work.

Leon Battista Alberti, De equo animante (c. 1445)

Equine breeds as we think of them today are an early modern invention. Instead, medieval people distinguished between horses based on their origin and the type of work for which they were used. At our thematic sessions, we propose exploring medieval horse types, their treatment, training, use, artistic and literary representation as well as equipment employed for different tasks. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following issues:

  • Types of horses used in warfare (warhorses, coursers, rounceys, packhorses)
  • Civilian horses (palfreys, amblers, etc.)
  • Working horses (plough horses, cart horses, etc.)
  • Horse types used for ceremonial purposes and special tack
  • Representation of horses in marginalia, including imaginary equids and hybrids
  • Differential treatment of horse types in sources, including legal documents, hippiatric treatises and literature

Additionally, we propose a round table on mounted games, such as Iberian cane games, and medieval antecedents of modern mounted sport games (polo, polocrosse and others).

The sessions and the round table are sponsored by Trivent Medieval. Selected contributions will be published in the Rewriting Equestrian History series or in Cheiron: The International Journal of Equine and Equestrian History.

Please send proposals and expressions of interest to Dr Anastasija Ropa (anastasija.ropa@trivent-publishing.eu) by 20 September 2021. To propose a session paper, please send a short biography of approximately 50 words and an abstract of 250-300 words. To participate in the round table, send your topic and one or two sentences explaining what you want to talk about.

Please note that IMC 2022 is planned as a hybrid event. In the event your paper is accepted, you can participate either virtually or in person. The authors are responsible for securing funding for the Congress attendance.

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A Set of Simple Rules for a Lady Rider

Ever wondered what’s the correct way of going for a ride? Here is a short and simple set of do’s and don’ts for a lady and her companion.

In a nutshell, a lady should look elegant, but not too flashy. and a gentleman should bring his purse – you will see why.

Here are some basic guidelines from The Rules of social life and etiquette. Good manners, coll. By Juryev and Vladimirsky. St. Petersburg, 1889, 235-6:

Riding in the company of a noble person or your superior, you should keep on his left, trying to avoid overtaking him.

A lady who mounts a horse should be dressed following the latest fashion – but she should never exaggerate the fashion or put on a fantastic dress, because a lady who is dressed too brightly or too pretentiously risks looking like a circus rider.

A habit that is too long is very dangerous.

When mounting, gather the habit with your left hand, stand as close to the horse as you can, facing its head, and put the right hand on the saddle head. The man who helps you to mount holds his right hand at a certain distance from the land. Put your left foot on his hand and jump on the horse at the very moment when he lifts you.

Do not rise too high in the saddle, nor lie on the horse’s neck, nor hold the reins in both hands.

Young ladies should not ride without a companion.

The gentleman in whose presence the lady wishes to mount a horse should put out the palm of the hand so that the lady could put her foot on it. When the lady jumps in the saddle, the gentleman must help her with the pressure of his hand. For this purpose it is best to agree on a signal, for instance, counting “one, two, three,” so that the pressure of the gentleman’s hand and the lady’s jump would coincide with the word “three”… The gentleman should not press too strongly with his hand, as it may happen that the lady will fly over the saddle, especially if she is tiny and very light.

When the lady has mounted, the gentleman should help her find the stirrup and place her left foot in it. When this is done, and the lady sits upright, he must adjust her habit.

The presence of a groom or riding master does not release a polite gentleman from all these obligations concerning his female companion, just as the presence of a footman in the room does not release the gentleman of the becoming service of offering the lady a chair without leaving this to a footman.

A gentleman who rides in the company of a lady covers all expenses they may have on the way.

If they are faced with the need of opening the gates, a gentleman should undertake this labour and hold the gates open until the lady rides through.

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Are you afraid of… living a life?

Over the last six years of my life, I have been working with horses. Not for money, just for the fun of it. And what fun it was. In driving rain and freezing cold, knee-deep in mud or covered in sand and dust… I have probably spent two thirds of my waking time with horses.

Many of these horses have been described by people – often including their owners and trainers – as being hard cases, crazy, nervous, stubborn, bloody-minded, unsteady, even hopeless cases. I described them – sounding, in my own ears, much like Hagrid – as being sweat-hearted, calm, noble-minded, talented and easy-going little things. And I meant every word of it. Deep in their hearts, these monsters were. They had been sometimes hard hit by life, often inexperienced, mostly scared and/or mistreated by humans, who were not abusive, but simply well-meaning.

But…

The hard truth of it, working with horses is a risky business. Over these years, I had stitches in a few places in my head, a few concussions, a couple of broken helmets – lucky I had those helmets! And a few other minor accidents and scratches too trifling to remember. Like this time last summer when a young and unmannered – but well-meaning, sweat-hearted and talented – young guy dragged me along an unplastered wall of foam blocks. I did not let go. I ended up with my right arm dripping with blood from the elbow to the wrist – and I still have those scars – but this guy learned his lesson. And we became best friends.

Lioni, the first horse I have broken in on my own

Or this innocent-looking guy in the picture, Lioni. He cost me a helmet during our third or fourth training. And quite a few bruises all over my body, as he tried to kick his fallen rider for dear life. I am wearing gloves in this picture, something I don’t really like doing when working with horses, but this four-year-old gelding would jump at the slightest disturbance and try to run as if chased by a pack of tigers. Not only had he burnt my fingers badly quite a few times, but he had also dragged me over stones more than once. There were quite a few accidents later on in our life, before he settled down to be a steady, serene horse owned by a young amateur rider. Actually, his owner gave him as present to her grand-daughter, because he was not only talented, but also reliable!

Now, we live in the times of Corona, and we are taught to be afraid. To be afraid of something you can’t see, can’t hear and can’t smell. But also to be afraid and distrustful of your friends, neighbours and relatives, who may be unwitting bearers of the virus… To see any stranger without a mask as a threat and a personal enemy, who is plotting against you.

Since last spring, I have lost count of emails that ended with “stay safe” instead of “good bye”. Safe is the keyword. Repeat it to someone who works with hooved creatures with a mind of their won and weighing half a ton or more, who can land you in intensive therapy any day. Yes, we learn to read horses. But we also make mistakes.

The risk is always there, even with the safest horse you have known for a decade or more. But… you learn to live with this fear, which motivates you to be more attentive to your equine partner and friend.
Now, what about Covid? I don’t mean it’s not real. It is. If I catch one, I have good chances ending up in intensive therapy, and I know that, because of chronic health problems, I am in the risk group. But I also know that fear kills. It kills with more certainty than the hooves of a scared horse. And I refuse to live with fear. I refuse to “stay safe” when it comes to things that are important for me. Bugger shopping and hairdressers, about which I never cared even in Covid-free times, but give me friendship and the possibility to meet people I want to meet. To meet them for real, not on screen. To shake hands, to exchange jokes over beer, to laugh and to brag. And I don’t care if anyone one of them is asymptomatic.

Do you want to live a life? If you do, like this blog and share it with your friends. And feel free to do what you feel is important for you. I don’t say “throw a party” if you are not a party animal, but don’t be afraid of having one if you feel you and your friend need it. Go to that dratted hairdresser if you need one. Go to a training if that’s what makes you feel alive. Don’t hole up! No one has ever saved the world by hiding as a snail in one’s little “safe” house.

If you don’t want to live, but want to “stay safe” – as if “safety” ever existed – forget about what I wrote. Forget about riding horses. Forget about flying in airplanes or driving cars. Stay safe. Hole up… And… forget about ever living and dreaming.

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The Tale of Ruffe

This is a Russian folktale about fishes acting in a suspiciously familiar, human-like way.

The tale was kindly translated by Edgar Rops. Read and enjoy!

Fish
British Library, Royal 2 B VII  f. 143  – Fish

Ruffe, busybody of a fish, piled his belongings onto a cart and drove from river Kama to river Tross, from river Tross to lake Kubino, from lake Kubino to lake Rostov, where he asked to stay for a day. After that day for three more days, after those days for three weeks, after those weeks for three months, and after that lived for three years. In the fourth year he began walking along the lake bottom, fencing it off, making all fish big and small his serfs and tenants. So all the fish big and small came together in council, elected the judge – Catfish with his whiskers long. 

So, Catfish summoned Ruffe and asked: tell me, Ruffe, my good man, by what right have you taken possession of our lake? 

Well, replied Ruffe, I did so because your lake has caught fire on St. Peters’ day and was ablaze until St. Elijahs’ day. 

Never, said Catfish, was there a fire in our lake! Can you prove it? Do you have witnesses, writs from Moscow, charters under seal? 

Sure, said Ruffe, I have witnesses, writs from Moscow, and charters under seal. Roach was at that fire, helped carry the embers, they scorched her eyes and her eyes are red to this very day! 

So, Dace the bailiff, Crucian the hangman, two scores of small fish – jurors and messengers – went to fetch the roach, saying: Roach, good woman, his honour Catfish with his whiskers long summons you to his court. 

Roach came and Catfish asked her: tell me, was our lake Rostov ablaze between St. Peters’ and St. Elijahs’ day? 

No, said Roach, never was our lake ablaze.

You see, Ruffe, said Catfish, Roach accused you to your face! 

Upon hearing that, Roach added: he who deals with Ruffe, supps without bread! 

Ruffe despairs not, trusts in God, says: but I have witnesses, writs from Moscow, charters under seal! Perch was at that fire, helped to carry the embers, burned his fins, which are red to this very day! 

So, Dace the bailiff, Crucian the hangman, two scores of small fish – jurors and messengers – went to fetch the perch, saying: Perch, good man, his honour Catfish with his whiskers long summons you to his court.

Perch came and Catfish asked: tell me, was our lake Rostov ablaze between St. Peters’ and St. Elijahs’ day? 

No, said Perch, never was our lake ablaze and he who deals with Ruffe, supps without bread! 

Ruffe despairs not, trusts in God, says: but I have witnesses, writs from Moscow, charters under seal! Pike, who is known as an honest and diligent widow, will tell you the whole truth, for she was at that fire, helped to clear burned timbers, got covered in ashes, so that her back is black to this very day. 

So, Dace the bailiff, Crucian the hangman, two scores of small fish – jurors and messengers – went to fetch the pike, saying: Pike, good widow, his honour Catfish with his whiskers long summons you to his court. 

Pike came and Catfish asked: Pike, you are known as an honest and diligent widow, so tell me, was our lake Rostov ablaze between St. Peters’ and St. Elijahs’ day? 

No, said Pike, never was our lake ablaze and he who deals with Ruffe, supps without bread! 

Ruffe despairs not, trusts in God, says: but I have witnesses, writs from Moscow, charters under seal! Burbot was at that fire, helped to clear burned timbers, got covered in ashes, so that his back is black to this very day.

So, Dace the bailiff, Crucian the hangman, two scores of small fish – jurors and messengers – went to fetch the pike, saying: Burbot, good man, his honour catfish with his whiskers long summons you to his court.  

Burbot said: oh, friends I have never been to court, never stood before judges. My back is too stiff to bow courteously, my lips too fat speak eloquently. Take this gold ruble for your trouble and go in peace. 

Thus all fish big and small found Ruffe guilty and tied him to a post. But through his prayers, God sent rain and mud and Ruffe slipped away, went from lake Rostov to lake Kubinka, from there to river Tross and from river Tross to river Kama. There he saw Pike and Sturgeon swimming together and shouted: “Where do you think you are going?” 

Some fishermen heard his squeaky voice and cast their nets to catch the Ruffe, busybody of a fish.

Boris threw Ruffe into the boat, then Peter put Ruffe into a basket saying “let’s have fish soup for dinner”. And this was the end of Ruffe. 

Notes:

  • St. Peter’s day: July 12 (Gregorian);
  • St. Elijah’s day: August 2 (Gregorian). 

Fish mentioned in the tale:

  • Ruffe, busybody if a fish – Eurasian ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua);
  • Catfish with his whiskers long – Wels catfish (Silurus glanis);
  • Roach – European roach (Rutilus rutilus);
  • Dace the bailiff – common dace (Leuciscus leuciscus);
  • Crucian the hangman – Crucian carp (Carassius carassius);
  • Perch – European perch (Perca fluviatilis);
  • Pike, honest and diligent widow – Northern pike (Esox lucius);
  • Burbot – Lota lota
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The art of being a good horseman

In mid-seventeenth century, an English courtier, a Renaissance man, writes a treatise on horsemanship, in the preface to which he says ‘… no art in the world is as hard to learn as that of being a good horseman’ (‘… il n’y aucun Art dans le monde si difficile à apprendre, comme à être parfait homme de cheval.’).

Does it sound familiar? Would you be tempted to dismiss these words as a mere boast of a master about his art?

Having been riding horses for the last twenty years, I tend to think the English courtier was quite right. No other art, be it what we understand as arts these days – visual arts, music, theatre – or the arts in the seventeenth-century sense of the word, which would include the art of fencing, or even the art of leading war, is as hard to master. Why? Because it’s not just a battle of a human against his or her natural limitations. And it is more than the coordinated teamwork, or antagonism, between humans. It is a union – or antagonism – between a human and a non-human animal. Between me and another – another being, who has very different ideas, aspirations and reactions. Another being, totally incomprehensible. An Other, in the most complete sense of the word.

Did the Englishman, the first Duke of Newcastle, William Cavendish, think about this when he was writing his treatise?

He certainly viewed the relationship between the rider and the horse in a different way than many, if not most riders, do today. To him, a horse was a man’s necessary attribute, but his inferior.

‘…l’homme ne paroist jamais tant homme comme sur un beau cheval.’

‘…a man never appears a man so much as on a beautiful horse.’

William Cavendish. La methode et inuention nouuelle de dresser les cheuaux

Citing these words in the twenty-first century has a certain irony, as beautiful horses are the attribute of grown-up pony-girls and a handful of professional male equestrian. A man is judged for his manliness in driving a car or a motorbike. But then a sports car or a motorbike has no agency of its own. There is no confrontation between Me and an Other, as all you need is a certain skill set, which is applicable to any individual Object of a given class. Driving a BMW of a given model is always roughly the same, if the car is in good order. But what about horses?

Actually, Cavendish’s approach is strictly utalitarian in this respect, too. A good horseman can do well on any horse, even on a less than excellent one, while a bad horseman has no advantage in riding a good horse. On the contrary, a bad horseman will appear even worse if given a fine mount, because, as a fine mechanism, a well-trained horse requires a precise agent to activate its movement. It is very much like a sports car, which makes a bad driver appear ridiculous and can be even dangerous to drive. Good horses need good riders to appear at their best.

‘Among the two evils, a good horseman on an average horse is worth more than a bad horseman on a good horse; because a good horseman appears reasonably well on an average horse, while a bad horseman does not know how to ride a well-trained horse, because this horse is directed by the slightest movement, and the rider’s ignorance leads to the horse making mistakes and incorrect movements, which makes it appear worse than an ill-trained horse. Which is why the better a horse is trained, the more necessary it is to ride it with art and knowledge; because it responds to all movements. Although I admit that a good horse does much, yet a good horseman does as much: so much so that a good horseman mounted on a good horse has sufficient advantages.’

‘De ces deux maux, un bon homme de cheval sur un cheval mediocre vaut mieux qu’un méchant homme de cheval sur un bon cheval ; car un bon homme de cheval paroit raisonnablement bien sur un cheval mediocre, au lieu qu’u méchat homme de cheval ne sauroit rien faire sur un cheval dressé, parce que le moindre mouvement luy commande, & l’ignorance du Cavalier luy donne tant de contre-temps & des faux mouvements, qu’il le rend pire qu’un qui plus mal-dressé. C’est pourquoy tant plus un cheval est bien dressé, tant plus est il nécessaire de le monter avec art, & connoissance ; parce qu’il est sensible à tout mouvement. Quoy que je confesse qu’un bon cheval fasse beaucoup, toute-fois un bon homme de cheval fait autant : de sorte qu’un bon homme de cheval, sur un bon cheval, a de l’avantage assés.’

These words come in the dedicatory preface, where Cavendish addresses the King of England, explaining him the importance of having accomplished riders at the court. At first, I was tempted to dismiss these words by ascribing what Cavendish says by the need to promote his treatise. Because I have a deep respect for well-trained, experienced horses, who, indeed, have taught me more than a riding instructor ever could. But then, I thought about my experience of seeing horse owners who buy a well-trained, hot-blooded horse which is clearly above their level of horsemanship, suffering injuries at worst – or bad frights at best, and then being afraid to ride their good horses. I thought of the horses who came to be re-sold – and traumatized by the experience – and of amateur riders, who, perhaps, would never want to ride again… And Cavendish’s words began to take a new appearance to me.

I am not by any means an expert rider, and I probaly made many a good horse appear to have been worse trained than it really was. And yet, Cavendish was not prejudiced when he said a good horse needs a good rider. Indeed, a good horse needs a good rider even more than a good rider needs a good horse. Because horses can be trained by good riders, but it would be unjust to expect a well-trained horse to act as teacher as well as a companion. Horses are supremely intelligent, sensitive, kind-hearted and generous beings, and yet… It is humans who want to ride them. A horse has no inherent desire – or need – to be ridden, even though it can view the process of being ridden as a pleasurable and fulfilling activity. If we want to ride horses, it is our duty to try and master the hardest art of all, the art of horsemanship. And, first and foremost, never assume to be a master in this art, choosing a horse above one’s level of skill. But, if you do, be humble and accept the insruction it gives, including the falls and the injuries, which are all part of the learning curve…

Source:

William Cavendish. La methode et inuention nouuelle de dresser les cheuaux par le tres-noble, haut, et tres-puissant prince Guillaume marquis et comte de Newcastle. 1658

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