Category Archives: This’n’That

Memorializing Horses

Our 31-year-old Standardbred, Maire (Snafu’s Choice), is rapidly failing. Her legs are giving out and we’ll have to have her euthanized before hard winter sets in. She’s been with us for 18 years and she’ll be missed. It’s hard to lose an old friend like Maire.

There are those who would say (and do say far too often when people are grieving) that “it’s just a horse” and “you have lots of others” or “you can buy another horse.” But your horse may have been family, a loved one, and losing him already seems more than you can bear. Yet it’s part of sharing lives with animal friends. It never gets easier, but having mementos of absent friends helps ease the pain of their passing, especially later on when we can see or handle something that brings cherished memories to mind. But having mementos requires advance planning.

Collect keepsakes while you can. Take photos, lots and lots of photos. Start when you get your horse and continue throughout his lifetime. If you don’t know how to shoot good photos, ask photography-minded friends to do it for you (most will be happy to help) or polish up your own photography skills.

• Save your images in one place so they don’t get lost. For digital images, burn a CD or devote a special flash drive to pictures of animal friends. If you still shoot film (yes, some of us do), place prints and negatives or slides in photo albums or storage boxes.

• Compile a scrapbook incorporating photos and special items as show ribbons and snippets of hair. Have any of hundreds of photo-personalized items such as throws, jewelry, mugs, mouse pads, and Christmas ornaments created.

• Select a favorite picture of your horse; have it enlarged, then beautifully framed. Or combine the photo with your horse’s registration papers to be mounted and matted together. Create a shadow box assortment of photos and treasured mementos. Draw or paint a portrait of your horse. Sew a cuddly, stuffed toy horse featuring your own horse’s markings, perhaps tucking a lock of his hair in its stuffing before stitching it up.

• Purchase a journal and record the story of your lives together. Tape or glue photos of your horse on any leftover pages in the journal. Keep it as a remembrance.

• Or compile a memorial video. Using basic video software like Windows Movie Maker, it’s much easier than you think. Windows Movie Maker is free; Google windows movie maker download to access multiple sources. It’s fairly intuitive to use but if you need help, do a search for Windows Movie Maker at YouTube or source downloadable PDFs by Googling windows movie maker filetype:pdf. Here’s a memorial video I made in honor of one of my favorite horses, Kismet Fancy Fire:

Try mementos containing something of your horse himself. The first year we sheared our first pet sheep, we shipped their wool to MacAusland’s Woollen Mills in Canada to be woven into a natural-colored blanket for our bed. You could do something similar with your horse by saving hair when he sheds, then paying a fiber artist to blend it with wool, spin the yarn, and knit a comfy hat or scarf. Or save some mane or tail hair and have a bracelet, necklace, key fob, or jacket pull woven for you by a horsehair craftsperson. Find one by doing a Web search for custom horsehair jewelry.

• Or choose a clay-based paw print kit designed to memorialize your horse. These accept hoof imprints as well. Then when your horse is gone you’ll have memories you can hold in your hands.

– adapted from an article written for and published by Horse Illustrated in the late 1990s.

Vintage Horse Books – for Free!

If, like me, you love vintage horse books, check out the Biodiversity Heritage Library where you can download great old horse books for free.

According to their website, “The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. BHL is revolutionizing global research by providing free, worldwide access to knowledge about life on Earth.”

Here you can download books in PDF or text format, or you can read them online through Internet Archive – as many as you like and for absolutely free.

So visit and do a subject search for horse and one for horses (results vary, depending on the word used in each book title).

You can also search using a breed name: Arabians, Oldenburgs, Percherons, Shires, French-Canadians, Morgans, and Thoroughbreds are all represented.

And keep in mind that there are sometimes multiple editions of the same book available, like William Youatt’s classic, The Horse.

Here are a few titles that I’ve downloaded and recommend, but this hardly makes a dent in the bucket. There are hundreds of titles in the catalog.

The Horse

William Youatt

Horse Secrets by A.S. Alexander

1831, London; 450+ pg

A Treatise on the Horse and his Diseases

B. J. Kendall

1899, Burlington, Vermont; 96 pg

Horse Secrets

A.S. Alexander

1909, Philadelphia; 68 pg

The Horse

William S. Tevis, Jr.

Princess Trixie by George L. Hutchin – this one is a charmer!

San Francisco, 1922; 100 pg

The Horse

Isaac Phillips Roberts

New York, 1910; 410 pg

Princess Trixie: Autobiography. An Accurate Account of the Sayings and Doings of the Wisest and Most Highly Educated Horse in the World

George L. Hutchin

Sioux City (IA), 1905; 30 pg

Heavy Horses: Breeds and Management

The Horse Tamer and Trainer by J.C. Jacobs

Herman Biddell

London, 1910; 224 pg

The Family Horse: Its Stabling, Care and Feeding. A Practical Manual for Horse-Keepers

George A. Martin

New York, 1889; 160 pg

Humane Horse-Training

Percy F. Thorne

London, 1922; 300 pg

The Horse in History

The Horse by Youatt – it’s a classic

Basil Tozer

London, 1908; 40 pg

Biggle Horse Book

Jacob Biggle

Philadelphia, 1894; 130 pg.

All of the Biggle books are wonderful. I once resuscitated a newborn lamb using instructions from the Biggle Sheep Book.

You can also search a specific topic. I’ve been interested in the old-time horse tamers since, as a child, I read an article about John Rarey in a late-1950s issue of The Western Horseman. Several of Rarey’s books are in the catalog, along with books by Rarey’s contemporaries like Dennis Magner, Captain Horace Hayes, J.C. Jacobs, Oscar Gleason, M. McGregor, and J.W. Mercer.

Gleason’s Horse Book, the Only Authorized Work by America’s King of Horse Tamers: History, Breeding, Training, Breaking, Buying, Feeding, Grooming, Shoeing, Doctoring, Telling Age, and General Care of the Horse

The Art of Taming Horses by John S. Rarey

Prof. Oscar R. Gleason

New York, 1902; 416 pg

Horse Tamer and Trainer

J.C. Jacobs

Self-published, 1888; 74 pg

Illustrated Horse Breaking

Capt. M. Horace Hayes

London, 1889; 300+ pg

The Art of Taming and Educating the Horse

Dennis Magner

Gleason’s Horse Book by Prof. Oscar R. Gleason

Battle Creek (Michigan), 1887; 1094 pg

The Art of Taming Horses

John S. Rarey

London, 1859; 248 pg

A New System of Horse-Training, or, Horse Educating as Taught by Professor M. McGregor, Oneida, New York

M. McGregor

Trenton, Ontario, 1899; 50 pg

The Eclectic Horse Tamer, Trainer, and Lecturer

J.W. Mercer

Chicago, 1900; 160 pg

You’ll find scores of books about general horse care, old-time veterinary care, farriery, breeding, training, and more. If you love books about horses, don’t miss this fantastic resource. It’s a good one!

An introduction

I came into this world loving horses. My mother claimed my first word was “horsey”. When my little friends were cutting out paper dolls, I was snipping pictures of horses from magazines and taping them to my bedroom wall. Dolls? No thanks, I had toy horses. And every day from the time I learned to talk, I begged my parents to buy me a horse.

A horse, however, seemed out of the question. Ours was a lower middle-class income family and we lived on the shore of a lake in a suburb-like setting. Where in the world would I put a horse?

When I was 10 I had the good fortune to meet a woman who had a mare named Boots and little time to care for her horse on a daily basis. I volunteered. I was in heaven, cleaning stalls and toting hay until, unexpectedly, a few months later Boots’ owner sold the mare. I was horseless again except once a month, when I rode at a stable 20 miles from home.

Here I am with my first horse, Doc, in 1959. I don’t look happy. Apparently he’d just knocked my hat off!

Finally my parents said that if I could raise enough money to buy a horse and if I could keep it where Boots used to live, they would pay most of the animal’s upkeep. At age 12 I became the proud owner of a huge pinto gelding named Doc.

I’ve never been without horses since then, except for three months when we moved from Indiana to Minnesota in the mid-1970s. I’m 72 now and despite showing, instructing, training, breeding, and eventually rescuing horses, I’ve never had a surplus of money for fancy horse care. So I learned to get the most for my money. I learned to feed economically, outfit my horses with top-of-the-line used tack, perform everyday health care procedures, and in a thousand different ways to keep horses without going broke. And that’s what this blog is about.