Morgan Monday: Horse “Biography” Books

Remember when I thought I would post every Monday about my Morgan history project? Oh well. I’m slowly chipping away, anyway.

Right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about historiography, as in: how to structure and frame the narrative? What approach is the best use of the sources, the best way to tell the story, and the most thoughtful way to revisit important historical questions? How have other people framed their research and storytelling about equine history?

See, one of the hardest parts about writing a book about an animal is that – and forgive me if this seems stupidly obvious – animals don’t speak. They don’t communicate in any traditional sense, at least one that is captured by a typical primary source or historical document. That is doubly hard when you’re working on the story of an animal that lived in a time and a situation in which he was considered more or less disposable.

I’ve been assembling a list of books that are essentially biographies of individual horses, or in some cases horse breeds.

I’d love to hear of any more that you’ve read and would recommend. I need as many examples as possible to think about!

William Nask, Secretariat

Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit

Mim Eichlar Rivas, Beautiful Jim Key

Jane Schwartz, Ruffian

Elizabeth Letts, The Perfect Horse

Elizabeth Letts, The $800 Champion

Robin Hutton, Sgt. Reckless

Any others?

As a side bonus, when I was double-checking a few names & titles on Amazon (I am writing this on the road, not in front of my bookshelf at home), this book came up.



Blog Hopping: 12 Tough Questions

It’s going around, but I grabbed it from One Bud Wiser. Illustrating with recent IG photos, because why not.

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I never take this view for granted.

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Q1: What hobbies do you have outside of riding?
IDK, making money to support the riding? In all seriousness: reading, writing, researching, working on the house, running a small business, and oh yeah I work a LOT. 

Q2: What is your boarding situation? Are you happy with it?
Full care board 10 minutes from my house. Look – no barn in the whole world is perfect, but mine is pretty darn close. The people are great, the facilities are great, the care is second to none, they genuinely like my horse (and mostly seem to like me?), and I’m happy there. There are things I wish were different but nothing that makes me want to leave.

Q3: What’s on your horsey-related wish list?
Sigh. I’m lusting after a truck and trailer. For no good reason at all. But if someone said to me “here’s $30k and you can’t spend it on anything practical OR put it into savings” I would be at a dealership tomorrow.

Q4: What is your most expensive horsey-related item?
My dressage saddle, bought used for $1200. But honestly I spend more than that in regular expenses some months. (sob)

Q5: What is the hardest horsey-related decision you’ve had to make lately?
Last fall, when Tristan had his worst colic ever (and he is prone to them, so I am familiar with the range of possibilities) I had the drive to the vet clinic to decide whether he was a surgical candidate, and I decided no. It was, to that point, the worst night of my life, but has since been eclipsed several times, so.

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Waiting until it cooled down was the right call.

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Q6: What’s something you feel you can’t live without in your routine?
Tea. But I’m not sure that’s what this question is looking for. I guess my current answer to this would be my Apple Watch, which I freaking adore. (I wrote that post dithering, and yes, I bought one! I’ll do a recap at some point.)

Q7: What’s on your horsey-related calendar for the rest of the summer?
Lameness vet out in September, lessons ongoing, not a whole lot in particular.

Q8: What’s one thing you would willingly change about your horse?
I wish he were more forward-minded and/or generally cooperative. The part where he spends the first 15 minutes of every ride telling me how much he hates me is a real self-esteem-killer some days.

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Tristan’s happy place.

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Q9: What is something you most want to improve on with you and your horse?
Generally how forward he is and how fit I am.

Q10: What has been your [current] horses most severe injury?
LOLOL, this is like a smorgasbord of options. Ummmmmmm, most involved and expensive would be his broken coffin bone + surgery. Closest to dying would be one of his two bad colics (one in 2008, one this past fall). Weirdest would have to be his tail cancer.

Q11: What do you feel your biggest downfall is as a rider?
Laziness and lack of commitment. It’s sometimes too easy for me to just not go some nights. And then when I get there sometimes I have to force myself into working hard instead of just hacking out.

Q12: What feeds your motivation?
I just…I need to do it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I don’t have a really good answer. I need it like I need breathing. Part of me would be empty and gone if I didn’t have Tris and/or horses. Being in the saddle is the only time in my entire life when my brain isn’t firing in all directions like a rabid weasel.


2019 Goals Update

Some actual progress in August!


  • Get to First Level – well, we’re officially not going to show at First Level this year, but I feel pretty good about more of the pieces now; I’ve been reading the tests and playing with some of the movements in our rides and we’ve got all the pieces, it’s just a question of putting them in a row. (Isn’t it always?)
  • Take 12 lessons – now at 11/12, with #12 already scheduled.
  • Volunteer at 6 events – 1/6, no more yet
  • Get & share 1 video per month of rides – got some video from August! It’s not great. It was a shit ride. But it is useful.


  • Finish house interior work – nothing in August, scheduled to pick back up in September
  • Finish funding emergency fund – DONE!
  • Pay off vision correction surgery – 92% done, going to try to stretch this to finish in September, we’ll see
  • Try 24 new recipes – Up to 22/24 with mango and grapefruit freezer jam the new ones!
  • Write 20k on Morgan book – 8k words written, and I have both made an initial commitment to write an article (!) and scheduled another talk for a group of experts that I’m sure will run me ragged but in a GOOD way (!!!)


  • Get to 500 sales on Etsy – 370/500 (honestly this was a helluva reach goal and I might actually make it???)
  • Separate website and social media for business
  • Take accounting class
  • Develop 3 new patterns – calling this done
  • Have a total of 7-10 items for sale – much less invested in this goal now, as it doesn’t seem to be the right path for the business right now

Pondering Joint Support

I don’t have any real conclusions as yet, but I’m evaluating Tristan’s overall joint support program.

The basic facts:

  • Tris is 24, though a relatively lightly-used 24; he was started at 10, and did low-level eventing for his first eight years and low-level dressage the last six.
  • We’re asking him to work harder than he’s ever worked before right now, and he’s starting to act out in ways that might be pain-related (or they might be brain-related)
  • On the other hand, he’s also got to keep in work to stay healthy and happy and I’m not ready to retire him, so dressage-as-physical-therapy is the name of the game for hopefully many more years yet.
  • His current diet is very minimal; he gets a little bit of grain, a ration balancer, electrolytes, Prascend, and vitamin E. July-September he gets cetirizine to fight his allergies. The rest is hay and grass.
  • Current joint support is monthly Pentosan injections that have been spotty since about January.
  • Spring 2018 he did a lameness eval with our vet just to make sure everything was okay. He flexed “mildly” positive in both LH & RH in the trot, but nothing to write home about – basically old man stiffness that the vet just shrugged at.
  • He has had several chiropractic evaluations and three different vets have all told me that they basically adjusted nothing and he was fine in that department.

What I’m thinking about:

  • For sure we are going to have the general lameness vet out in probably September to do a general review. I don’t have a specific complaint, just a general “he’s kicking out more than usual when we ask him to move forward, but really mostly in the warmup”
  • We are definitely going to re-establish a firm Pentosan schedule for him, probably do another loading dose (1 shot per week for four weeks) and maybe think about every two weeks instead of monthly.
  • I’m also considering Cosequin ASU; he had a brief trial on that about a year and a half ago and went spectacularly well on it, but I didn’t keep him on it long enough to get a strong proof of causation, just correlation. (I got a free tub of it through a giveaway.)
  • The biggest question mark is whether the vet recommends joint injections. Question the first, which joints? (Probably hocks.) Question the second, with what? I’m wary of steroid injections given his (mild and completely under control) Cushings.

So, here we are. Pondering.

Anyone have anything they’re doing right now that they’re really happy with?


To show or not to show?

Please note:

I wrote this entire goddamn post before double-checking the show date and realizing that I have to work that day so there’s no chance of me going to the show. Awesome. Enjoy my meanderings anyway.


Mostly, lately, my answer to showing has been “meh.” I don’t need the expense, stress, or fuss.

I said I would try and get Tristan out at First Level this year. I’ve been working pretty hard toward that. (Not as hard as I should, as always.)

Pro column: it would be an actionable thing I could do, something to measure our progress outside of a lesson.


Then again, in the last couple of rides the wheels have not just come off the bus they have disappeared to another goddamn county. Like, I’m not even sure we ever had wheels.

Con column: completely embarrassing ourselves.

There’s a home schooling show coming up on the Sunday before Labor Day. It’d be in a ring we ride and school in all the time. Fizzy show atmosphere without the expense of hauling out.

Pro column: easy and relatively cheap (like $50 or so all told)


But what’s the point? What do we even have to prove? I’m in a nasty little mental cycle right now – a lot of people are out and showing and doing cool things and getting better and so on, and I just keep trying to convince my horse to please for fuck’s sake accept the bit and bend.

Con: general life malaise

Though, it’s always nice to find an excuse to wear the fancy show clothes. If I can find them. And get them clean.

Pro and con: show clothes

Decisions, decisions.

morgan history · Uncategorized

Some Writing Progress

Image result for morgan horse linsley

Longtime readers may remember that for some years now I have been poking away at a research project about the history of the first Morgan horse. It’s a fascinating tangle of history and myth.

Earlier this year, I put a tentative shingle out to say that I would talk about my research if anyone was interested. I give other talks on other history topics fairly regularly as part of my job and as part of other research I’ve done, but I felt more nervous and guarded about the Morgan research. It’s something that is well-worn territory for many people, many of whom feel very possessive and intense about it, and I didn’t feel right stepping on toes. But finally I said to hell with impostor syndrome and put myself out there.

I did it partly to see what the audience would be, and partly to force myself to focus my thoughts and sharpen my research. And then 2019 happened, and, well, I haven’t had nearly the time or mental space I thought I might.

But last Friday I gave my first talk. And having it on the horizon meant that a week and a half ago, when I sat down to coalesce all the thoughts and ideas and research notes I’ve been compiling for so many years now – I wrote 6,000 words in about five hours. I walked away from my computer, dazed, and then the next day wrote 2,000 more, and continued to edit and refine those words over the course of a week. Then I wrote a book outline, because spilling all that out on paper meant I could finally see the shape of the project.

My goal for 2019 was to write 20,000 words, and to be honest – I’d given up on that. But all of a sudden it feels within my grasp again. I still need to keep sitting down and pouring out the words, and I still have a million loose ends to chase, but writing that out – and then giving the talk itself – was a huge boost to my confidence.

Here’s hoping I can keep building on that success, because I have two more talks scheduled for the fall, and I can feel, deep in my bones, the itch to write – finally.

lesson notes · Uncategorized

Lesson Notes: Hopping Over

Trying slowly to get back into the swing of things, here.

I have been lessoning pretty regularly, for sanity and chipping slowly away at that idea of trying out a First Level test in the fall.

Yesterday, we had a really terrific, really tough lesson. A trainer once told me years ago that as you progress further and further along in training, the balance shifts from you working hard and the horse not so much, to the horse working hard and you less and less.

I feel like our lesson moved us further down that road, or maybe I’ve been getting stronger because I’ve been riding so much lately, but boy, Tristan was TIRED at the end of it.

We worked on a lot of things, but the one I want to record had to do with straightness & bend on turns – circles, corners, and diagonals. In particular, Tristan falls haunches in going left. He’s stronger and less crooked and more supple going right, but he still needs support.

So we worked on loading the inside hind by “hopping” him over, especially going left. Basically, as I asked for a slight bend, use my inside leg behind the girth to really target and activate his hind end and get it moving over, independent of his front end. As we approach the corner, I kept steady in the outside rein and then used my inside leg to give a quick, sharp aid and really aim for crossover with his hind end.

To the left, we really made this a true HOP – we wanted him to really jump and respond, because he was so crooked to start. The hardest part for me was anticipating and keeping the outside rein steady while I did that – I tended to drop it, and then he moved his whole body over or even got more crooked. To the right, I still had to get some of that feel, but not make it a real jump.

We started with it on a circle, and then (as a huge thunderstorm blew through the area) went down to the indoor and started long diagonal serpentines. Short side straightness, set him up for the corner with a good strong “hop”, then continue that feel around the turn to the diagonal, set him up straight on the diagonal, and open him up for a more extended trot. Then approaching the far corner, take him back, get the other bend, “hop” him into the corner, straight down the short side, and repeat.

I LOVED this exercise. The extension down the diagonal jazzed him up, and the precision of aiming for the diagonal each time really forced me to be clear and quick with my aids. We started to develop – not a true extended trot, but a new trot with more in it. Loading the inside hind also helped him sit more and gave him more lift in the front end as we went across that diagonal.

At the end of it, he was TIRED but after starting off very cranky (and having one spectacular buck/bolt that I grimly hung on through and turned into a VERY deep trot 10m circle; S. said “it’s a good thing you’re really ballsy about riding those”) he was game and willing right through, which was important for me to see because it felt like he was really understanding what we asked of him and he was feeling like he’d succeeded.

Did I mention TIRED?