Mongol Derby

Ghengis Khan’s horse-powered postal system played a crucial role in expanding and maintaining his vast empire.  On August 22, a cadre of bold adventurers will resurrect the Mongolian post in the longest horse race in the world.

The Mongol Derby spans 1000 km.  Every 40 km, competitors will ride into morin urtuu, horse stations.  They will have the opportunity to eat, rest a (if desired) and saddle a fresh steed for the next leg of the journey.

Over 700 native Mongolian horses are expected to take part in the adventure.

The Mongol Derby is steeped in controversy.  Animal welfare concerns brew amidst conflicting communications.  Politics between nations and organizations threaten to overshadow sportsmanship and achievment.

Read about the race at:

Read about the controversy at:

Modern Medieval Cavalry Drills

In 1862 Brigadier General Phillip Cooke compiled “Cooke’s Cavalry Tactics” to educate and train cavalry horsemen.  Sir Wulfric Peverel of Meridies rewrote the relevent portions of the manual for SCA Equestrian use.  Click here to enjoy!

Modern Cavalry Challenge-Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event 2009

Lexington , Kentucky is the heartbeat of America’s horse country.  Each year in April, elite riders from around the world gather at the Kentucky Horse Park to test themselves and their horses against the course at the Rolex Three-Day Event.

Three Day Eventing began as a complete test of the mounted warrior and his horse. Eventing consists of three phases. The first phase, dressage, mimics battle drills and regimental parades.  Horse and rider must navigate a pre-memorized pattern of intricate movements.  They are judged on balance, obedience and accuracy.  For the veteran event horse, a thoroughly fit athlete amped up for the wild run which comes next, dressage is also a test of patience.

The second phase, cross-country, is a long, fast gallop over varied terrain and solid fences, as if a soldier were bearing a critical message to a distant ally.  Horse and rider accrue penalties and can be eliminated from competition for going off course, refusing a jump, exceeding the optimum time, or falling.

The final phase is show jumping in an arena over fences that knock down at the lightest brush of a hoof. This tests the fitness, suppleness and continued obedience of a horse who has already completed the grueling cross-country test.

Only the most athletic, courageous and well-trained horses successfully complete a three-day event.  Through their skills, such horses pay homage to great war steeds throughout history.

Below, Great Britain’s  Lucy Wiegersma and Woodfalls Inigo Jones cleanly navigate the Duck Pond. Enjoy our extensive gallery of video clips from the 2009 Lexington Kentucky Rolex Three Day Event at Laughing Gypsy Photography.

New Findings in Horse Domestication

Recent findings suggest that domestication of horses occurred 5500 years ago, 1000 years earlier than previously thought.  A site from the Krasnyi Yar in Kazakhstan, home of the Botai culture, yielded equine jawbones that show evidence of bit use, and pottery fragments with remnants of horse meat and milk.

These findings are causing scientists to reconsider theories regarding the spread of civilization. Horse domestication enables trade and military prowess, and speeds idea exchange.  Horses carried civilization as well as destruction through history.  Moving their timeline back 1000 years opens doors in currently held suppositions.

Read yesterday’s BBC announcement here:  Horses Tamed Earlier Than Thought

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History reveals more about the Botai horse culture here.

“Armored Horse in Europe”:NYC Met-stravaganza

in 2005 my dear SCA friend Sueva did the books for my business.  Around that time I found out she’d never been to the the amazing museums of NYC which were my playground in my northern incarnation.  I was horrified–Sueva is of strong artistic bent–if anyone NEEDS to enjoy these museums, it’s her.  As a “thank you” I hosted her on a great metropolitan adventure.

We had ulterior motives.  Sueva is an accomplished glassworker.  She was in the process of recreating a vibrantly-colored stained glass piece… from a black and white photo.  That piece resides at  the Cloisters, a reproduced monastery in the Bronx which houses much of the Met’s medieval collection.  And it just so happened that the “Armored Horse in Europe” exhibition was running alongside the Met’s amazing permanent armor collection.

Off we went, artistic spirits hungry, camera in hand.  I recently found my photo archives from this adventure, including pieces that are STILL on my list of things to recreate, along with documentation.  Enjoy!

Challenging Chariots

Long before the first mounted warrior swung a leg over the back of a mighty steed, chariots were the deadly equine weapon of choice.  In approximately 1345 BC, the Mittanian horse master Kikkuli authored the oldest known written horse training treatise (remember Xenophon wasn’t even BORN until around 430 BC.)  “The Kikkuli Text,” discusses the training and care of the chariot horses which allowed the Hittites and later the Assyrians to conquer their empires.  For thousands of years, victory rode behind, rather than upon, the warhorse.

The Discovery Channel teamed up with one of my favorite modern-day horsemen, Tommy Turvey, for an episode of Weapons Masters.  The challenge?  Improve on the design of a weapons system successful through centuries!  (We’ll stick with horses!)