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.
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)?
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.
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.\
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.
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.
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