I have always been an equestrian. I took my first riding lesson when I was eight years old and spent the next ten years as an eventer and dressage rider, riding with some of the best trainers in New England. I’ve ridden a half-dozen Grand Prix trained dressage horses, bragging rights that are not common among adult amateurs. In my teen years I began slowly transitioning to riding western, the discipline I find myself in today. My fondness for English sport has never left me, as evidenced by my current position at the National Sporting Library & Museum, but the comfort of a western saddle and the ability to leave all four feet on the ground has enormous appeal.

This varied background has given me a unique perspective on the two disciplines, and some observations I will now share with you.

Please note, the division of English and western riding is far more complicated than just a difference in saddle, and even within those categories individual disciplines are as varied as can be; reining and barrel racing are as different as dressage and foxhunting.

Western and English styles of riding were both born out of necessity. In Europe, after the invention of the saddle with stirrups, the mounted soldier was a formidable weapon on the field of battle. A method of riding where the rider had complete control of the horse and all his limbs was paramount for successful waging of war. The animal had to be nimble and strong and completely broken of any habits which might interfere with the soldier’s ability to ride and brandish a sword. The saddle had to be secure enough to assist the rider in staying on, but minimalistic enough to allow a great range of movement. The horse and rider had to be able to clear obstacles in the varied European terrain. Athleticism in the moment was more important than endurance; the horse had to be powerful, but only had to last long enough to win or be replaced by reinforcements. Communication between human and equine was constant, allowing for minute adjustments and instant changes in action to respond to attacks.

Painting of a gray horse performing a levade with a rider and two handlers on the ground
(after) James Seymour, (English, 1702-1752), Four-Panel Sporting Screen (detail), c. 1860, hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame , each panel 81 ½ x 27 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The horse here is depicted schooling the levade, a movement that in battle would have intimidated the enemy and moved the rider up and out of sword’s reach. Today the movement is considered one of the most difficult in dressage and is one of the famed “airs above the ground.”

As war became leisure for the aristocracy, disciplines such as dressage and hunting developed to demonstrate a horse and rider’s abilities to fight successfully in facsimile. The enemy was replaced by a wily fox or a distinguished audience, and the movements once used on the battlefield were fine-tuned for less bloody competition.

Western riding developed similarly out of necessity. In the wild west, vast expanses of land allowed for the cultivation of cattle while necessitating a mode of transportation that was efficient and comfortable. Horses, not requiring roads, paths, or rails, were naturally the mode of choice. Riding for hours and hours tending cattle required a method of riding that was comfortable and long-lasting, but athletic when needed. The trot, a jarring and inefficient gait, was transformed into the jog, a slow but smooth manner of moving for the horse that can be maintained by man and beast for hours. The horse also had to be able to react quickly in case of emergency, hence the development of the American Quarter Horse who can run faster than any other breed but only for short distances. While the cowboy’s attention was on the cattle or scanning the horizon for danger, the horse had to fend for themselves, leading to a style of training in which the horse is more responsible for its own carriage and propulsion. There were no pages, squires, or grooms; a horse left tied had to reliably stay tied, often for hours at a time.

Phoebe Phipps (English/American,? – 1993), The Quail Hunter, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Mimi Abel Smith, 2012

In this image by Phoebe Phipps, the western discipline is showing its usefulness in modern times. This rider is able to traverse difficult terrain inaccessible by vehicle during the course of the quail hunt. His horse is wearing saddle bags, likely holding supplies. The western saddle is designed to hold a variety of equipment and typically has ties and rings throughout the skirt for attaching such.

The difference is well-illustrated in this clip from the 2015 World Cup “Duel in the Desert,” where a reiner and showjumper swapped horses and disciplines for an exhibition. The western rider steers the horse towards each jump, then effectively gets out of the horse’s way. Without the minute adjustments provided by the English rider, the horse rushes the fences and knocks most of them over. The horse is also on the wrong lead for a few turns, suggesting the rider did not direct him to change and the horse did not manage to change on his own. The English rider maintains strong rein contact while attempting to cut the cow, trying to steer the horse by hand to follow the cow. Unfortunately, the delay between the rider noticing the cow’s movement and directing the horse to follow is too long and the horse misses the cow at every turn; the western rider would have dropped the reins and allowed the horse more freedom to watch and follow the cow on its own, eliminating this reaction time. Both riders are very good; they both stayed on despite being thrown out of their comfort zone, but they ride in ways their horses are not accustomed to, accentuating the differences between them.

I will stop short of suggesting which discipline is superior (although I will assert that the western saddle is far more comfortable, and no one can change my mind on that). Both approaches to horsemanship accomplish what they set out to do through specializations of tack, training, and even breed of horse, developed over the centuries as horseback riding transitioned from necessary task to enjoyable endeavor.

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature, on view now at the NSLM, features a wide variety of paintings by the artist inspired by his life in the American outback. The horse is still a widely used tool in the region and Smith’s work often features the working western mount. Be sure to visit and learn more about the western discipline in everyday use.


Cynthia Kurtz received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is responsible for marketing, social media, and graphic design to support the entire NSLM. When not working, she enjoys trail riding in the woods of Loudoun County.

She can be reached at ckurtz@nationalsporting.org.

Since 1939, the Piedmont Foxhounds have hosted the Piedmont Point-to-Point races in Upperville, Virginia. The most prestigious race of the meet is the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, which, for decades, has attracted top horses in training for major steeplechase races. From 1939 until his death in 1999, the race and trophy were sponsored by Mr. Paul Mellon, who was a member of Piedmont and an avid supporter of jump racing. The winner of the race received a small trophy to keep and their names were engraved on a large perpetual trophy which they could keep for one year. Those who won the race three times (not necessarily consecutively or with the same horse) retired the trophy and could take it home for keeps. The trophies provided by Mr. Mellon were exquisite examples of silver and were highly sought after prizes.

The Rokeby Bowl, Piedmont Point-to-Point trophy, c. 1720, sterling silver, on wood and silver base, 15 x 10 ⅞ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mary Gillian Fenwick, 2016

One of the original silver Rokeby Bowl trophies has been generously donated to the NSLM by Mary Gillian “Gill” Fenwick. Mrs. Fenwick retired the Rokeby Bowl after winning the race three consecutive years, in 1961, 1962, and 1963. She was just the third owner to retire the trophy (five more have done so since then). Her winners were piloted by the famous steeplechase jockey Crompton “Tommy” Smith, Jr., all three years. The horses were Bay Barrage (1961), General Tony (1962), and Fluctuate (1963).

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Tommy Smith aboard Fluctuate, in the 1963 Rokeby Bowl steeplechase. Tommy Smith (1937-2013) was a five-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner and became famous for winning the British Grand National race in 1965 with Jay Trump.  Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

All three were talented racers. After winning in 1961, Bay Barrage ran again in 1962 with Olympic equestrian Frank Chapot on board. He placed third against his stablemate General Tony. Past Maryland Hunt Cup winner Fluctuate, nicknamed “Chris,” won in 1963 when he was 16 years-young and was rewarded with well-earned retirement.

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Gill Fenwick (right) and Tommy Smith (left) accepting the Rokeby Bowl trophies from Mrs. Thomas B. Glascock, Jr. (center) in 1961. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The original course was on Mellon’s Rokeby Farm property in Upperville. The race was 4 1/4 miles long, included 22 post and rail fences averaging 3’9″ high, and included two in-and-outs! In 1957, the point-to-point was relocated to the farms of Mrs. J. F. F. Stewart and Dr. and Mrs. A. C. Randolph along Route 50 in Upperville, now known as the Salem Farm course.

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Frank Chapot (1932-2016) on Bay Barrage in the 1962 running of the Rokeby Bowl. Chapot, who just recently passed away in 2016, was an Olympic medalist, USET coach, and world-renowned trainer, who also occasionally rode in steeplechases. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The trophy itself has more stories to tell. The bowl is almost 300 years old, dating to the year 1720. The plain silver punch bowl is hand-engraved with an image of a horse and jockey and inscribed with the words “Silver Tail’d Betty” and “Banbury Town Plate 1720.”  Town Plates (flat race meetings) were held in towns all over England for centuries. Prior to the establishment of the Jockey Club in the early 1750’s, each meet featured its own set of rules. The town of Banbury is located in Oxfordshire, in Southern England.

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Detail of Rokeby Bowl trophy, with engraving of horse and jockey and “Silver Tail’d Bettey”

After Mr. Mellon acquired the bowl, he added a tiered wooden base with sterling silver bands and donated it to Piedmont for the race. The NSLM is grateful to Mrs. Fenwick for gifting this special piece of racing history to the collection. It has traveled a long way since it was first used as a race trophy in 18th century England, then awarded at steeplechase races in 20th century America, and now has a home on display at the NSLM.

The 76th running of the Piedmont Point-to-Point takes place Saturday, March 25th at the Salem Farm course in Upperville, Virginia. For a schedule of all the Spring Steeplechase races, visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association calendar.

This week we kick off our Annual Auction, our main Library fundraiser of the year. Our highlight today comes from the books for sale in the Auction, but it wouldn’t be for sale without a string of failed careers (including a miserable stint for the postal service) across three countries. The book in question is called Hunting Sketches, and it’s a wonderfully illustrated 1933 imprint of the original, written in 1865. The author is Anthony Trollope (1815-1882).

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Anthony Trollope, Esqre. Illustration by Robert Ball.

Today, Trollope is recognized as one of the most prolific novelists of the Victorian era, but he took a long path to get there. His parents were of the gentry, but Trollope’s father, a barrister, did not have the money to support the gentlemanly lifestyle. After losing his law practice and failing as a farmer, the Trollope family relocated to Belgium to avoid debtors prison. At 19 years old, Anthony worked for some time as a tutor and flirted with joining the cavalry before returning to London to work as a clerk in the General Post Office.

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The 19th Century headquarters of the General Post Office in St. Martins-le-Grand in the City of London. Antique steel engraved print by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864).

It wasn’t a good fit. Trollope was consistently late to work, surly and unhappy, and didn’t get along with his supervisors. He later described his time there as “neither creditable to myself nor useful to the public service.” Facing deepening debts, however, Trollope remained at the Post Office, feeling he had no other choice but to continue working.

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Trollope praises John Leech as a man with “an eye… for the man who hunts and doesn’t like it.”

Trollope’s fortunes changed in 1841, when a postal inspector in Ireland was discharged. The position was widely considered undesirable, but Trollope volunteered for the job. Eager to move Trollope out of the General Post Office, his supervisors approved him and Trollope was off to Ireland.

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This edition of Hunting Sketches contains many illustrations by Robert Ball, and an introduction by James Boyd, MFH.

Trollope found almost immediately that Ireland agreed with him. Not only could his civil service stipend go much further in the economically depressed Irish countryside, but he appears to have gotten along well with the people as well. With a more comfortable living, Trollope began foxhunting and continued to do so for much of the rest of his life.

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Trollope’s Hunting Sketches consists of essays about many different aspects of hunting in the mid 19th Century.

Trollope’s new job was heavy on travel, and he spent much of his time on trains in writing his novels. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1865, Trollope wrote his Hunting Sketches, a mild, witty, and insightful look into hunting and its popular reception during Trollope’s time. Because Trollope endured years of failure at a postal worker, we have his observations available to us today. You can read more about participation in the NSLM Annual Auction by viewing the catalog.


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

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.”

headsup2
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

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.

archive
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

This is the second in a series of four guest posts by 2016 Daniels Fellow Martha Wolfe. Martha’s 2016 Fellowship focused on studying The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcerster Smith, an unpublished autobiography. Many fascinating things came out of NSLM’s extensive archive collection of Smith’s papers, including today’s highlight, The Grafton Long Jump.

Harry Worcester Smith was an inventor. He held dozens of patents associated with the cotton weaving industry where he worked as a mill owner and patent expert until he retired in his forties to foxhunt and live the life of a sportsman. But his retirement from industry didn’t mean that he retired his brain from invention. Take, for instance, “The Grafton Long Jump.”

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“Grafton Long Jump,” a pamphlet in the Harry Worcester Smith Archive Collection (MC0041), National Sporting Library & Museum.

“For many years at Lordvale,” he writes, referring to his country estate in Grafton, Massachusetts, just outside Worcester, “I had been trying to work out a method to teach my steeplechasers and hunters to jump over a distance of ground so that when they met a ditch, brook or water jump, they would cover it.”

Well, anyone who has approached a ditch or a brook or a strange (to a young horse) looking gap in the ground can understand Harry’s inclination toward a better training method.  “A shallow water jump proved useless as they [his horses] soon paid no attention to it; a deep one was difficult to arrange and dangerous, and an open ditch of depth enough to be of service proved still more dangerous.”

Enter the common cardboard box.

“The boxes being white, when the horses are first shown them over the other side of the hedge they take good notice, and when they are put at them they invariably jump cleanly out to 10 or 12 feet.” If your horse happens to be “badly ridden or not taking off just right,” not to worry, he will land amidst the harmless boxes, “which scares them as much as jumping into a melon frame, as the expression of their faces clearly shows, and their wild desire to rid themselves of the boxes, which often times hang about their legs for a few yards.”

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Harry Worcester Smith demonstrating his “Grafton Long Jump,” training method.

It’s easy to picture a horse with a couple of white cardboard boxes up around his fetlocks, trying to get free of the horrible things; the boxes would soon be shredded and come off safely.  “In using the long jump [training method] for five years,” Harry assures his readers, “no hunter has ever been hurt.”

Harry had such great success with his long-jump invention that he published a white paper and sent it to his sporting friends “around the world, believing that perhaps it will be a benefit not only to many who wish to train their horses to jump a distance but also as a clean-cut sporting contest at Exhibitions and Hippiques.”

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Crompton Smith Sr., father of the famous jockey, “Tommy” Smith, jumps Nattie Bumppo over cardboard boxes to demonstrate the long jump.

Never satisfied with simplicity, Harry took his show on the road. June, 1914, in front of twenty thousand people at the Fall River Horse Show, “we had a cracking Long Jump contest” with Peter Roche winning, jumping twenty-four feet. At the Barre [MA] fair in 1912, Harry and friends took his “crack” hunters Success, Sir Ritchie and The Cad over the same span three abreast. (Ok, that’s about as long as my living room!)

Of course this is no big deal for you eventers and show jumpers out there. It’s the method in the madness that piqued Harry’s imagination and made his Grafton Long Jump a good bet “For the Sake of Sport in America.”


Martha_webMartha Wolfe is an independent scholar, author, and three-time John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her most recent book is The Great Hound Match of 1905, chronicling the hunting competition between A. Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith. Read more about Martha and her research at www.marthawolfe.net.

Today we’re highlighting Pictures of Life & Character (volume one of five), by John Leech (1817-1864). Leech was a prominent caricaturist and illustrator in 19th Century Britain, and was widely regarded for his humorous and political cartoons in the comic magazine Punch.

Rather Severe. "Shall I 'old your 'orse, sir?"
Rather Severe.
“Shall I ‘old your ‘orse, sir?”

Pictures of Life & Character is an undated collection of Leech’s cartoons from Punch. Most of them are satirical commentary on social or political events, and quite a few are simply jocular. We’ve focused today on the sporting cartoons in the first volume.

Tableau -- Representing Mr. Briggs out for a day's rabbit-shooting.
Tableau — Representing Mr. Briggs out for a day’s rabbit-shooting.

Leech’s subjects often dealt with the sporting culture of his time, and he also illustrated many of the humorous sporting novels of his contemporary, R. S. Surtees (1805-1864). Many of the sporting cartoons in Pictures of Life & Character focus on the misadventures of Mr. Briggs, an enthusiastic (but ultimately incompetent) sportsman.

Pleasures of Horsekeeping. The frost goes, and Mr. Briggs's horse is disagreeably fresh after his long rest. He sets up his back and squeaks and plunges at everything he meets.
Pleasures of Horsekeeping.
The frost goes, and Mr. Briggs’s horse is disagreeably fresh after his long rest. He sets up his back and squeaks and plunges at everything he meets.

Our friend Briggs contemplates a day's fishing.
Our friend Briggs contemplates a day’s fishing.

Mr. Briggs, on his way to the "Metropolitan Steeple chase," tries whether his horse is a good one across country. He is represented riding at a brook (!).
Mr. Briggs, on his way to the “Metropolitan Steeple chase,” tries whether his horse is a good one across country. He is represented riding at a brook (!).

Mr. Briggs, not being good at his "fences," goes through the performance of opening a gate.
Mr. Briggs, not being good at his “fences,” goes through the performance of opening a gate.

Mr. Briggs Grouse Shooting. 9 a.m., his arrival on the moor. Mr. Briggs says that the fine bracing air makes him so vigorous that he shall never be beat. He also facetiously remarks that he is on "his native health," and that his "name is MacGregor!" The result of the Day's Sport will be communicated by Electric Telegraph.
Mr. Briggs Grouse Shooting.
9 a.m., his arrival on the moor. Mr. Briggs says that the fine bracing air makes him so vigorous that he shall never be beat. He also facetiously remarks that he is on “his native health,” and that his “name is MacGregor!”
The result of the Day’s Sport will be communicated by Electric Telegraph.

12 a.m. [noon], total prostration of Mr. Briggs.
12 a.m. [noon], total prostration of Mr. Briggs.
Thank you for reading along with us this year! Drawing Covert has been a huge success; we’ve received over 11,000 visits since we launched the blog one year ago. We wish all our readers a happy and peaceful holiday season and we’ll be back to look at more books next week.

Fletcher Harper, MFH (1874-1963) was Master of the Orange County Hunt for 33 seasons, from 1920 to 1953. In 1900, the Hunt was originally organized in and named for Orange County, New York, but was relocated to Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1903. A set of Orange County Hunting Diaries from 1936 to 1969 are held in the NSLM archives.

Fletcher Harper, MFH, National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.
Fletcher Harper, MFH, National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.

Mr. Harper was married to Harriet Wadsworth (1881-1975), whose father, James W. Wadsworth was cousin of William Austin Wadsworth, the Master and founder of the famous Genesee Valley Hunt in New York. Mrs. Harper rode sidesaddle on the off side, due to an injury.

Mrs. Fletcher Harper, photograph by Ira Haas, NY. National Sporting Library & Museum photographs collection.
Mrs. Fletcher Harper, photograph by Ira Haas, NY. National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.

Together, the Harpers worked tirelessly to open the land around The Plains, Virginia to foxhunting. Fletcher became renowned as a thorough and attentive Master, carefully repairing all damage to property from hunts and keeping in close contact with the farming community. Mr. Harper is generally credited with putting Orange County on the map as a premiere American hunt.

“For the past seven years Mr. Harper has carried on the traditions of the Hunt in the most able manner, his tact and great charm working wonders with those landowners who were sometimes difficult to deal with. Mr. Harper found that the greatest evil with which he had to contend was wire, and this difficulty he has successfully combated by paneling the country in some places and putting in ‘chicken coops’ in others, until he now has as rideable a territory as could be wished for.”

From Hunting in the United States and Canada, by A. Henry Higginson and Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, 1928.

Along with George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., Alexander Mackay-Smith, and Lester Karow, Harper founded the National Sporting Library in 1954 as a public resource on equestrian and field sports. Mr. Harper served as President of NSL from its founding in 1956 until his death in 1963. In 1972, Mrs. Harper donated a painting of Mr. Harper to the NSL. This painting is a study for a finished portrait completed in 1931.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.

The artist, Ellen Emmett Rand, was an accomplished portrait painter who studied at The Art Students League of New York with William Merritt Chase and Kenyon Cox. She is known for her portraits of artists, writers, socialites and politicians, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Fletcher Harper Memorial Trophy: Foxhunters Timber Race, sterling silver, diameter: 12 inches, Collection of Orange County Hounds, on loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum
Fletcher Harper Memorial Trophy: Foxhunters Timber Race, sterling silver, diameter: 12 inches, Collection of Orange County Hounds, on loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum

After his retirement as Master, Harper assisted Orange County in its hound breeding program until his death in 1963. He and Harriet are buried at the Georgetown Cemetery, Church of Our Savior, Broad Run, Virginia.

Iconic in its simple elegance, Middleburg is nestled in the idyllic countryside filled with horses grazing in pastures bounded by stone walls. For those who’ve never been, Middleburg, Virginia is foxhunting country. It wasn’t always that way; the “Great Hound Match” in 1905 put Northern Virginia on the map as prime hunting country. The following year, in 1906, the Middleburg Hunt was formed and has been active ever since.

Today we only have one image to offer, but it’s pretty special. It’s called “Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” and it’s a photo taken in 1924.

"Hunt Scene at Middleburg," 1924
“Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” 1924

We have cropped the full scan of the image, due to the advanced deterioration of the lower edges and the brittle nature of the original print. So, what makes this image so special? First, I can tell you the exact date this image was snapped: November 27, 1924. The note on the rear of the image says that this hunting party assembled “after Thanksgiving party at Foxcroft, 1924.” But what’s really special is that a note was attached to the photo which lists the names of many of the most visible participants. That is highly unusual when exploring old photos!

Letter from Thomas Atkinson, dated May 26, 1965.  This was written in response to a request to identify riders in the photo.
Letter from Thomas Atkinson, dated May 26, 1965. This was written in response to a request to identify riders in the photo.

The note is stamped by Chronicle of the Horse; many of our photos and albums were kept and maintained at the Chronicle before entering the NSLM collections in the 1960s. Here is our best effort to match up sections of the note to the images.

Dear Miss White: The two front riders are Miss Julia Gatewood...
Dear Miss White: The two front riders are Miss Julia Gatewood…

...and Mr. Taylor Hardin.
…and Mr. Taylor Hardin.

Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr.
Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr.

Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr. In center of first group in a grey coat with a chrysanemum [sic] is, I feel sure, Miss Nancy Penn Smith (Mrs. J Hannum).
In center of first group in a grey coat with a chrysanemum [sic] is, I feel sure, Miss Nancy Penn Smith (Mrs. J Hannum).
Mr. Atkinson evidently had access to a second photograph. That photo apparently showed the second group (in the far background of this photo) much more clearly. Mr. Atkinson writes:

Again I am not sure, but I believe the second lady on a white horse leading the second group is Miss Charlotte N. In the small photograph I can only recognize the Hunstman, Robert Maddux, Mr. Sands leading on the road, with Mr. Jim Skinner on his right, and Mr. Halbert on the white mule.

I am sorry I can’t be more helpful. Sincerely, Thomas Atkinson.

It’s possible that the second photo will emerge someday. Do you recognize anybody in the photograph above?

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Today we have something on the lighter side: An Academy for Grown Horsemen; Containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling. The book was written and illustrated by English caricaturist Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811), under the guise of alter ego Geoffrey Gambado, Esq., Riding Master, Master of the Horse, and Grand Equerry to the Doge of Venice. The book was printed in 1796 and is part of the Vladimir S. Littauer collection.

The book spoofs the many Italian riding manuals of the 17th and 18th Centuries, treating poor practices and inattention as riding exercises to be learned and practiced. “When I have told [the reader] how to chuse [sic] a horse,” pontificates Gambado, “how to tackle him properly, in what sort of dress to ride him, how to ride him out, and, above all, how to ride him home again; if he is not a complete horseman in the course of ten or dozen summers, I will be bold to foretell, that neither the skill of Mr. Astley, nor the experience of Mr. John Gilpin, will ever make him one.”

"The Mistaken Notion" Gambado laments the "false notions of horsemanship adopted, and industriously circulated by Newcastle, La Fosse, Pembroke, and Berenger."
“The Mistaken Notion”
Gambado laments the “false notions of horsemanship adopted, and industriously circulated by Newcastle, La Fosse, Pembroke, and Berenger.”

"One way to stop your horse."
“One way to stop your horse.”

Gambado decries the awful state of British horse stock, claiming that nothing can stop modern horses from running in a straight line forever.

“Meet a higler’s cart, he will stop it, either with his own head or your leg; fall in with a hackney coach, and he will carry you slap dash against it.”

Instead, the reader is urged to buy a horse who carries his head low, with “bald face, wall eyes, and white legs,” as this makes the horse easier to see at night.

"How to ride genteel and agreeable down hill."
“How to ride genteel and agreeable down hill.”

"How to lose your way."
“How to lose your way.”

“A cock’d hat . . . has so many [advantages] that it is wonderful to me, it is not universally worn, but more particularly by equestrians.”

"How to pass a carriage."
“How to pass a carriage.”

“In riding the road, observe in passing a whisky, a phaeton or a stage coach, in short any carriage where the driver sits on the right hand, to pass it on that side, he may not see you on the other, and though you may meet with a lash in the eye, what is the loss of an eye to a leg or perhaps neck.”

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“How to ride a horse upon three legs, discover’d Ann. Dom. 1768.”

“The Doctor went off at a spurt . . . and having got clear of the pavement, wished to (what is called) mend his pace; but his horse was obdurate, and all his influence could not prevail. The Doctor fancied, at times, he went oddly, and therefore brought to at Alconbury, five miles from Huntingdon, and alighted for an examination: when he discovered that the hostler, through inattention, had buckled up one of the horse’s hind legs in the surcingle: and to this alone he had to attribute his hobbling way of going.”

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