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Dr. Elaine Walker

The author of Horse (2008), a study of the horse in cultural history and part of the extensive Animal series published by Reaktion Books. She is currently working on an analysis of the seminal horsemanship manuals of William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle, and a new edition of his second text of 1667, both for the Long Riders' Guild Press.


1 -    What is the single greatest change you have witnessed in the equestrian world during your life time?

Interest in horse psychology and a less dominance-based approach to training and handling.


2 -    Do you ride?

Yes – I had riding lessons for my 5th birthday and have ridden ever since.

I became a convert to western riding around 1990 and have only ridden western style since then.


3 -    Do you own a horse?

I have three Appaloosas, an elderly cob and two donkeys.


4 -    Who is your favorite horse in history?

Black Bess.


5 -    Who do you think was the most influential equestrian human in history and why?

Xenophon, probably, because his common sense approach to handling horses has survived to the present day.


6 -    What was your greatest equestrian influence from books or cinema when you were young?

The Rohirrim in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.


7 -    What equestrian book would you recommend today and why?

Newcastle’s manuals, while distinctly products of their own time, illustrate how a true communication with horses is not linked to culture or fashion but to observation of the horse.


Today I like Tom Widdicombe’s book Be with your Horse: Getting to the Heart of Horsemanship for the same reasons. It’s also accessible and widely available.


8 -    How did you initially become interested in your specific equestrian specialty?

When I began research for my Master of Philosophy degree in English Literature on the poet Margaret Cavendish, I came across reference to her famous horseman husband.


9 -    What prompted you to enter that field?

By the time I completed my M. Phil, I had read Newcastle’s manuals and knew that there had been no dedicated study on them or consideration of them as part of the overall canon of his writing.


10 -    Did someone encourage your decision or inspire you?

Dr. Lynn Hulse, a musicologist with a particular interest in Newcastle, encouraged me because she felt that the study was needed as a contribution to Newcastle scholarship.


Dr. Pamela Mason, my M. Phil. supervisor at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, was enthusiastic about the idea due to the way it drew upon different aspects of my background.


Dr. Susan Brock, then Senior Librarian at the Shakespeare Institute, helped my initial research with her extensive knowledge of bibliographies and research technology.


11 -  When did you begin your research, investigation, work?



12 -    What do you think is your most important discovery, achievement or insight regarding your equestrian work?

That so many widely accepted ‘facts’ about horses are shaped by culture rather than the horse itself, and are often at odds with actual experience.


13 -    What modern technology, techniques and media have you found most helpful?

Online research resources.


14 -    What part of your work do you find most fulfilling?

Finding links and connections between ideas across time.


15 -    What’s been your biggest disappointment in your work?

Mainly the lack of a way of making a living from it which is not in itself a distraction from the work.


16 -    How do you explain the gulf between academic equestrian investigation and the average horse owner?

Academic findings are rarely presented in a manner accessible to both the specialist and the average horse owner.


17 -    What equestrian subjects are in need of more research and investigation?

That could make a very long list! Anything that means we treat horses as other than – rather than less than than – human.


18 -    Which part of the equestrian world would you like to see reformed and why?

Any where business is prioritized over the welfare of the horse.


19 -    How do you traditionally deliver your findings or message and how would you ideally like to do so?

I gave a demonstration of Newcastle’s methods for starting a horse in his own riding house at Bolsover Castle with two Lusitano horses in 2002.


I have also given many papers and talks on Newcastle and written articles which are in print and online.


Hard copy publishing is still the most satisfying long term end to research for me because I have always enjoyed books, but the opportunity for live interaction with other people to discuss the work is also enjoyable. 


20 -    What intellectual, technical or ethical advances would you like to see in the horse world?

I feel that many of our problems as humans come from seeing ourselves as more important than the world in general. This is evident in our traditional attitudes towards horses so it would be an advance for a more generous approach to become widely accepted.


21 -    Do you foresee any difficulties for the horse world in the immediate future?

A tendency to classify people who hold different views as ‘wrong’ makes it hard to find common ground – I feel this is a problem in the horse world and the wider world too.


22 -    What is the greatest challenge facing the horse world in the long term?

Commercialism versus horse welfare


23 -     What books, magazines, websites, etc. can people read and review to learn more about your work?

Horse (Reaktion Books, 2008)

Article online for the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation : ‘‘After man, the horse is the most noble animal’: the Duke of Newcastle and the horse’s mind.’

To Amaze the People with Pleasure and Delight: the horsemanship manuals of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle (Long Riders’ Guild Press, 2010)

The Academi Writers of Wales Database has links to further online articles and an overview of my work in general with a publications list.


24 -    Any final thoughts?



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