I’m a notoriously slow reader, which is unusual for my profession. Regardless, I’m only about a third of the way through Heads Up – Heels Down, by C. W. Anderson. Thus far, I’m impressed by how much the theme of cooperation dominates the text. A modern guide to riding puts on stark view how far equestrian practice has come: the rider must work with the horse and the horse’s physiology, psychology, attitudes, and other traits. A clear contrast from the harsh or cruel practices found in our rare books from the 17th and 18th Centuries!

I don’t exactly know what I expected, but Anderson has a very wise way of putting his lessons. He has a straightforward tone to some very sensible practices, and he raises points that are new concepts to the neophyte. I selected some quotes from the book that I found to be particularly wise, and some of Anderson’s own beautiful illustrations to match.

“A horse that is willing and eager will always be an enjoyable ride, and his spirit alone can offset a sickle hock. … If your horse does all that is asked of him and is anxious to do more, he is a good horse regardless of his conformation.”

“If you have a good, understanding man for a groom, your horse belongs much more to him than to you.”

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Good and bad riding form. Anderson makes several references to forward riding, a (relatively) recent innovation for the United States when the book was published in 1944. A major element of the forward system is cooperation with a horse’s natural postures to assist the horse while riding or jumping.

“[A] horse that fights the bit can be quite a problem, for he usually raises his head until it is out of reach. Often such a horse will become very well-behaved about it if he is rewarded for taking the bit. The first few times you must show him the sugar or carrot and give it to him immediately after he takes the bit, even if unwillingly. As soon as he realizes that the reward always comes after the bit is in his mouth, he will hurry the matter in order to get it. Although we should never bribe a horse to keep him from misbehaving, it does no harm to reward him for doing something that is nether pleasant nor natural to him.”

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Cross-tying for grooming. A recurring point from Anderson is that if you make the horse comfortable and at ease, he will return the investment with interest by making your duties easier.

“Even from a selfish viewpoint it will pay you to notice where your horse is most sensitive and to be as gentle as possible when cleaning him there, for a fussy horse can make grooming quite a chore.”

“When working on a horse, move leisurely, speak to him often, and be sure he sees you at all times. He will start, jump, or shy when he sees something unexpectedly. This is not cowardice, as people who dislike horses have claimed, but a nervous reaction inherited from the days when all horses were wild and any moving thing might indicate an enemy. So be careful to avoid making any sudden or abrupt move.”

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The frontispiece of the book. Anderson’s pencil captures shadow so well it first looked like a photograph when I saw the page!

“A horse’s mind is much like that of a small child, and an idea must be very simple and direct for him to understand. Either punishment or reward must come immediately, at the time of the misdemeanor or good behavior, to be effective. Do not get into the habit of bribing him indiscriminately, or he will become a regular bully and demand a reward for everything.”

More reflections to come as I continue to read (quite slowly). In between chapters this week you will find me at the 2nd Annual Spotlight on Stewardship Equine Land Management Symposium followed by our free Open Late Concert featuring the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra. Hope to see you there!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

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Growing up, one of my favorite books was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Like Alice, I would have gladly followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole.  I get the same sense of heady adventure from research. Not much is more satisfying than to dive into the proverbial rabbit hole, follow what might seem to be disjointed paths, only to resurface with new connections.

Researching the upcoming loan exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, on view from August 26, 2016 through March 26, 2017, has been one of these grand adventures. Several major loans including works by the sporting art masters George Stubbs, Ben Marshall, and John Ferneley, Sr. are coming from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Yale Center for British Art, Genesee Country Village & Museum, and private lenders across the country.

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Ben Marshall (English, 1768-1835), John Gully (detail), c. 1815, oil on canvas, 13 ¾ x 12 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, by 1975, reproduced on the 5/30/1975 Chronicle of the Horse cover

On the surface the exhibition concept seems straightforward: find the current location of representative artwork reproduced on the covers of  the famed equestrian magazine, The Chronicle of the Horse (CoTH), and request permission for loans. Simple, right? Not when you start to take into consideration that the magazine started featuring artwork on the cover in August 1945 and continued weekly until March 2012. There were approximately 3,400 covers to unearth, and what we found was that many of the rabbit holes led straight back to NSLM’s permanent collection. As a result, several paintings from the NSLM’s permanent collection will be included as well.

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Eric Guide Haupt (American, 1891 – 1984), Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. (1894 – 1955), oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the Ohrstrom Family

Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. by Eric Haupt appeared on the 11/18/1955 cover along with an obituary written by Editor Alexander Mackay-Smith on page 2.  Ohrstrom, Sr. had taken ownership of the magazine in 1952 until his passing in November 1955. Mackay-Smith and Ohrstrom, Sr. were also founders of the National Sporting Library in 1954.

Edward Troye (American, 1808 - 1874) American Eclipse, 1834, 1843 Oil on canvas, 25 ¼ x 30 ¼ inches Gift of Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., c. 1974
Edward Troye (American, 1808 – 1874), American Eclipse, 1834, 1843, oil on canvas, 25 ¼ x 30 ¼ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., c. 1974

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. took over his father’s role in both organizations and led each for five decades. Ohrstrom, Jr. was an inveterate sporting art collector. On 6/2/1976, American Eclipse, 1834, painted in 1843 by Edward Troye, appeared on the CoTH cover with the credit “Courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. George L. Ohrstrom and the National Sporting Library.” The reproduction was accompanied by a detailed article by Mackay-Smith about the legendary thoroughbred painted by Troye and other art donations to NSL.

Given the NSLM’s and CoTH’s intertwined histories, these works were not a surprise. Others, however, were. We were not able to allocate the time for what would have conservatively been a two-month, full-time job looking through the bound volumes of the CoTH magazines in the Library lower level.  We instead relied on a finding aid and a list shared by the CoTH to do strategic searches. We found that the descriptive titles for the works on the covers magazine often didn’t match the currently known titles. The Library’s digitization of its microfilm holdings of many of the CoTH issues recently made searching infinitely easier. 

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Alfred J. Munnings (1878-1959), Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich, c. 1911, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008 © Castle House Trust (Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum)

It turns out that one of the most important paintings in NSLM’s collection was reproduced on the 4/19/1957 cover under the title “Welsh Ponies.” Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum provided the image well before Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan purchased Sir Alfred Munnings’ Shrimp with Ponies in the Ringland Hills Near Norwich, c. 1911, and later donated it to NSLM.

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Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917 – 1994), Mongo on the Turf at Laurel Racetrack, Maryland with Charles Burr Up, 1964, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2012 © John H. Pentecost

Even a fairly recent donation to NSLM appeared on the 11/13/1964 cover, a portrait of the race horse Mongo with jockey up by Jean Bowman, image courtesy of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott. An article appeared in the issue about the turf and dirt track champion home-bred at duPont Scott’s Montpelier.

Much like Alice in Wonderland, I find myself waking up in the exact place I started,  refreshed and excited to share the wonderful stories found in the The Chronicle of the Horse, the resulting exhibition, and the research reconnecting the past to the present.

On to the next rabbit hole…

RELATED EVENTS:

NSLM Members are cordially invited to attend a Members’ preview, reception, and gallery talk by George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art Claudia Pfeiffer to celebrate the opening of The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition on Thursday, August 25th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. To become a member and take part in his event, please contact Frances Monroe at 540.687.6542 ext. 26 or fmonroe@nationalsporting.org.

A public reception will be held on Saturday, August 27th. Join NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art Claudia Pfeiffer, for a coffee reception from 10:00 to 10:30 and then follow her on a custom tour of the exhibition.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions.

email: cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

It’s July, and we’re really busy here at NSLM! Between our free concerts, free Carriage Day event, a full summer camp for 3rd to 5th graders, and preparations for our 6th Annual Polo Classic, we’re excited to be interacting with more people in the Library and Museum than ever before. We’ve also been rearranging again. To save space, we’re transferring our archive collections to a separate room on the Lower Level. Lastly, we’re gearing up for our end-of-year special projects: our Annual Auction in September and October and a new program to be announced for November.

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A sneak preview of our new Archives Room. New shelves have made a more efficient filing system possible.

As if these projects aren’t enough, I decided recently to start exploring taking riding lessons. It’s a big step for me, since I’m generally more book person than horse person. I grew up around farm animals in rural Wisconsin, but there aren’t many horses in those parts. I’ll be starting from the bottom. While I’m looking around for instructors, I decided to look at some introductory books on the subject (I’m in luck to care for a collection numbering in the thousands of books on riding). Who better to ask than the incomparable C. W. Anderson (1891-1971)?

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C. W. Anderson’s style is recognizable at a glance.

Anderson wrote and illustrated dozens of horse books during his life, including the beloved “Billy and Blaze” books. His style of drawing is easily recognizable for his ability to reveal detail through the careful balance of shadow and light.

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“Heads Up – Heels Down” is full of practical, timeless advice. Present treats flat, or eager horse teeth might accidentally nip!


Heads Up – Heels Down
was written by Anderson in 1944. I only just began reading, so a full report will have to wait for a future post. However, I don’t mind telling you I chose Heads Up – Heels Down for two reasons. The first reason is that it came highly recommended by Lisa Campbell, who served as NSLM Librarian from 2004 to 2014. We purchased several copies of Heads Up – Heels Down in Lisa’s honor when she left the Library.\

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Conformation, both good and bad, and how to know a sound horse.

The second reason is that Heads Up – Heels Down is an excellent introduction to general horsemanship.Anderson’s own introductory note is a great summary of the scope of the book:

“So many books on the subject of riding have appeared that this work was begun with some hesitancy. However, one phase of the subject has been neglected to a great extent — the care and handling of a horse by the novice who must also be his own groom and stable boy. If your riding and handling of horses begins and ends at the mounting block you may become a rider, but never a horseman.”

How could I say no to such a challenge? We have thousands of books at NSLM, and they encompass all manner of topics concerning the care, handling, and riding of horses. I’m preparing to climb onto a horse for the first time, and it appeals to me that I should pursue the whole deal. The details are all critical, even the ones that aren’t  glorious or glamorous. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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An overview of tack and how to prepare the horse for riding.

I’ll have more updates about my learning to ride in the coming weeks! Several other staff members have eagerly volunteered to take photos and video, so you can follow along as I fall off for the first time(s). I’ll also circle back around with some additional excerpts and images from C. W. Anderson in Heads Up – Heels Down, too. In the meantime, please e-mail me with your favorite “intro to riding” books! Chances are, we have a copy and I’d like to look them up.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

One of the things I love about working with the NSLM collection is how frequently really interesting things pop up where you don’t expect them. Recently I was cataloging a book and found a large photo stuffed inside the pages. At first glance I thought it was of a horse-drawn carriage but closer inspection revealed the carriage was in fact being pulled by six camels!

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The caption pasted to the back of the photo gives the following information:

Viceroy’s visit to Lahore.

During their recent visit to Lahore Lord and Lady Willingdon attended the races.  This picture shows their Excellencies arriving at the entrance to the grandstand in the picturesque camel carriage of the Governor of the Punjab, Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency, who is seen greeting them on arrival.  The escort of Indian cavalry in the background preceded the state carriage on the journey.

These people are certainly arriving in style!  They are riding in a spacious carriage…

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Drawn by six camels…  The camels and their riders all decked out in the full kit.  Note the leopard pelts decorating each camel’s hump.camels-2

Escorted by a column of impressive Indian cavalry…

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And being greeted by their host as well as a large group of onlookers…

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The thing that strikes me is that despite its exotic qualities, the scene is familiar.  We regularly see celebrities arriving at events in a very similar fashion.  Instead of a coach they emerge from sleek limousines or town cars. Politicians favor travel in convoys of black SUVs with blacked out windows. We are so accustomed to seeing these special modes of transport that when a prominent figure opts for a more normal vehicle it can be big news. Last year the Pope caused a sensation by traveling around cities in the United States in a regular Fiat!

The cavalry escort serves to demonstrate the power and importance of the carriage occupants in addition to providing them with protection. This sort of escort today is largely limited to political figures.  I’m sure the cavalry was just as intimidating in their day as the speeding black SUVs and motorcycle escorts of today. They serve the same function but I think it’s safe to say the Indian cavalry carried out the duty with a bit more panache!

Today the carriage itself is an exotic mode of transportation regardless of who rides in it, what sort of animals pull it, or whether or not it is escorted.  To find out more about carriages join us here at NSLM on Saturday July 23 from 10:00 to 5:00, for Carriage Day, a free community event featuring over 20 historic and refurbished carriages from the Piedmont Driving Club and Colonial Williamsburg.

Sorry, no camels!