Horsing Around: Functions and Colours of the Medieval Horse in the 12th and 13th Centuries [© Elizabeth Chadwick. Author Elizabeth Chadwick has graciously given me permission to re-post her fascinating article about the types of horses bred and used for specific functions, and how their colors were named. Elizabeth is a best-selling British author of historical fiction; please see her website at http://elizabethchadwick.com.]

I was one of those horse-mad little girls.  I spent a lot of my childhood either making up stories in my imagination about horses and ponies, or galloping about pretending to be both the horse and rider at the same time.

I was something of a nerd about their colours and collected books and posters and trawled the library for pictures and information.  I was a seven year old who knew my bay from my chestnut, my blue roan from a strawberry roan, and that white horses were always referred to by equine types as greys!  I spent many happy hours identifying breeds with my Observers Book of Horses and Ponies, on the way discovering that the ancestor of the warhorse more resembled a Welsh cob or a Villanos heavy Andalucian, than a modern Shire, whatever commentator Dorian Williams said about Shires and Clydesdales at the Wembley Horse of the Year Show.

Those childhood obsessions stood me in good stead when I began writing historical fiction set in the Middle Ages, for what was a knight without his destrier and his palfrey? The common soldier without his all purpose rouncy? The merchant without his pack horses? The baron without his chazur for the hunt, and the farmer without his trusty, plodding stott to draw his plough and pull his cart?

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Beautiful Kranich: Count Anton Günther’s Favorite Oldenburg

(© By Kip Mistral. First Published in Horse Connection, July 2006.)

The driving force for a writer is curiosity. One minute we’re minding our own business, and the next we’re experiencing something like whiplash when our attention is suddenly diverted by something fascinating and mysterious. And then we can’t rest until we explore it, wherever it leads…

I had inspected the wonders of Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen this summer when that thing happened in the gift shop. I discovered a card reproducing an ancient, crackled painting of an elegantly stylized white horse with a heavy, wavy mane and tail that dragged the ground. “Spanish horse,” I proclaimed to myself, knowingly.

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Henna For Horses: Ancient Decorative and Medicinal Traditions

(© By Kip Mistral 2017)

Long ago and far away, in the area historically known as “The Levant” (portions of the Eastern Mediterranean coast including Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Libya), lands of strong sunlight, the henna plant flourished. (And still does.) The cultures of The Levant used henna for decoration of humans and animals (horses and other equids, cows, etc) at times of celebration, marriage, celebration of their deities, and to indicate high status in general, and also for medicinal purposes.

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