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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jingle Bells

This is a lovely rendition of the James Lord Pierpont's One Horse Open Sleigh, as the song was originally entitled when it was published in 1857.  Although not a hit from the start, it was renamed Jingle Bells two years later and lore has it that it was the first Christmas song recorded in 1889.  No evidence exists to support this theory and the more accepted date of recording was 1898 by the Edison Male Quartet.

The lyrics circa 1857 were slightly different than those we sing today:

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O'er the hills we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bobtail ring
Making spirits bright
Oh what sport to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
O what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fannie Bright
Was seated by my side.
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And we — we got upsot.
A day or two ago
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh,
He laughed as there I sprawling lie,
But quickly drove away,
Now the ground is white
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight
And sing this sleighing song:
Just get a bobtailed bay
Two forty is his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! You'll take the lead.

Kind Regards,

Michelle Blackler

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Black Brigade: Funeral Horses of Victorian London

The following are excepts from one of my favorite writings on Victorian London: The Horse World of London, by W. J. Gordon, 1893 about the funeral business which is charming and amusing...

"A GOOD many of the coal horses are blacks and dark bays, and by some people they are known as the 'black brigade'; but the real black brigade of London's trade are the horses used for funerals. This funeral business is a strange one in many respects, but, just as the job-master is in the background of the every-day working world, so the jobmaster is at the back of the burying world. The 'funeral furnisher' is equal to all emergencies on account of the facilities he possesses for hiring to an almost unlimited extent, so long as the death rate is normal. 

 Dottridge's are 'at the back' of all the big funerals in London. They buried Mr. Spurgeon; they buried Mrs. Booth; years ago they buried Cardinal Wiseman, the biggest 'black horse job' ever known, for the Roman Catholics will always have black horses if they can get them. 

Altogether there are about 700 of these black horses in London. They are all Flemish, and come to us from the flats of Holland and Belgium by way of Rotterdam and Harwich. They are the youngest horses we import, for they reach us when they are rising three years old, and take a year or so before they get into full swing in fact, they begin work as what we may call the 'half-timers' of the London horse-world. 

 Here, in the East Road, are about eighty genuine Flemings, housed in capital stables, well built, lofty, light, and well ventilated, all on the ground floor. Over every horse is his name, every horse being named from the celebrity, ancient or modern, most talked about at the time of his purchase, a system which has a somewhat comical side when the horses come to be worked together. Some curious traits of character are revealed among these celebrities as we pay our call at their several stalls. General Booth, for instance, is 'most amiable, and will work with any horse in the stud' ; all the Salvationists 'are doing well,' except Railton, 'who is showing too much blood and fire. Last week he had a plume put on his head for the first time, and that upset him.' Stead, according to his keeper, is 'a good horse, a capital horse - showy perhaps, but some people like the showy; he does a lot of work, and fancies he does more than he does. We are trying him with General Booth, but he will soon tire him out, as he has done others. He wouldn't work with Huxley at any price!' Curiously enough, Huxley 'will not work with Tyndall, but gets on capitally with Dr. Barnardo.' Tyndall, on the other hand, 'goes well with Dickens,' but has a decided aversion to Henry Ward Beecher. Morley works 'comfortably' with Balfour, but Harcourt and Davitt 'won't do as a pair anyhow.' An ideal team seems to consist of Bradlaugh, John Knox, Dr. Adler, and Cardinal Manning. But the practice of naming horses after church and chapel, dignitaries is being dropped owing to a superstition of the stable. 'All the horses,' the horsekeeper says, 'named after that kind of person go wrong somehow!' And so we leave Canon Farrar, and Canon Liddon, and Dr. Punshon, and John Wesley and other lesser lights, to glance at the empty stalls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, now 'out on a job,' and meet in turn with Sequah and Pasteur, Mesmer and Mattei. Then we find ourselves amid a bewildering mixture of poets, politicians, artists, actors, and musicians.

'Why don't you sort them out into stables, and have a poet stable, an artist stable, and so on?'

'They never would stand quiet. The poets would never agree; and as to the politicians - well, you know what politicians are, and these namesakes of theirs are as like them as two peas!'

To read the article in its entirety:


Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Story Of My Life In A Photo

Timeless: Tyngwndwn Lovespoon of Here Be Dragons Welsh Ponies and me on the 2011 Metamora  Pleasure Driving Show Country Drive.  Photo by Peter Gilles
Every once in a while, something perfect happens.  

In 2011, I journeyed to Metamora, MI to show a pony for Martha Stover and Cynthia Laurence of Here Be Dragons Welsh Ponies www.herebeponies.com

Tyngwndwn Lovespoon, aka Lisa, and I had a very good show with several memorable moments.  I had only driven her a handful of times before the show, but she was a great partner.  On the cones course, there was a small failure of communication between us and instead of trampling the left hand cone on a right hand circle, Lisa saved the day, jumped over the cone for a clear round and much cheering from the spectators.  What a pony!  We very proudly presented Here Be Dragons with a reserve championship ribbon.

But that is just the beginning of the story.  Local photographer, Peter Gilles www.metamoraphoto.com was on hand at the show, snapping mementos.  After the show, he chose the above photo, his "very favorite", to put on show at the Merge Gallery in Oxford, MI.  This autumn, when asked to donate an auction item to the Metamora Driving Club's annual event, he chose the mounted photo again.

Long Story Short: Cynthia and Mack Laurence [co-owners of Lisa] were at the fundraiser and bought the photo, which they in turn sent to me as a gift.  I generally regard sentimentality as an affliction, but when I held the photo in my hands, I cried.  The combination of the memories of the show, my affection for Lisa and her owners, the Laurence's generosity, the virtuosity of Mr. Gilles' lens was a perfect storm of sentiment. 

If one photograph can tell an entire story, it is this one.  It is a sublime representation of why I drive and show horses: a beautiful summer day, a happy pony, moving gloriously through time.  One hundred years from now, I will not be surprised if people are cooing over it on whatever social forum exists for driving enthusiasts.  But it tells a still bigger story.  Lots of people do lots of really brilliant things for me, and I try to be worthy of all of them.  If you are one of those people, gaze upon this photo and see your own reflection in it.  Whether you have lent me a book, helped me unload a carriage, given me a kind word or saved me from certain death: you are in this photo.  This photo is for you.  This photo  is something perfect.

I wish you all enormous returns on the riches you have bestowed upon me.  [And... if you are looking for a present for a horse lover, you just might find something perfect from Peter Gilles' camera.]

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler