Historical Practices in Horsemanship and Equestrian Sports

Research - Research

Historical Practices in Horsemanship and Equestrian Sports

Online conference hosted by the Latvian Academy of Sport Education

Organized by Timothy Dawson and Anastasija Ropa

24-27 August 2020


For the past five years the International Mediaeval Congress at Leeds in the UK has hosted a series of sessions on horses and related animals and equestrian practices. The interruption in that flourishing tradition has offered the opportunity to break out of that temporal field and look at equestrian activities over a greater span of time and into the present.

Thus, this conference is devoted to discussing historical practices of horsemanship and equestrian sports, their emergence and evolution over centuries and into the present day. The speakers have been encouraged to consider the links between historical and current practices in horsemanship, and to inquire into possible tendencies and future developments in equestrian sports.

While in the past, equestrian sports often developed and were justified with a certain end in mind, for instance, as military practice, in this even the word sport is understood in the broadest sense, to include the connotations of play, leisurely and cultural activities, which are not necessarily practiced with a practical outcome in mind.

The participants include people who are not only scholars in the traditional sense, but also practitioners in a wide range of equestrian pursuits, and crafts people experienced in producing and replicating equestrian equipment, and some who combine all those aspects. The conference will, therefore, appeal to a wide audience who are interested in equestrian matters, offering not only rigorously researched food for thought to take away, but practical advice that might be of use to attendees.

A volume of articles based on selected papers will be published in the Rewriting Equestrian History Series by Trivent Medieval.

Contact person: Anastasija Ropa ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Preliminary programme

24 August 2020

16:40 (Latvian time, GMT +3)

Welcome address by the dean of the Latvian Academy of Sport Education, Prof Juris Grants


Session 1: Training the Rider and Horse I

Timothy Dawson (independent researcher, UK), “Playing chicken: the ultimate military training game of the ancient world and its modern revival”

Jennifer Jobst (independent researcher, USA), “Horse training in the thirteenth century: Translation and analysis of Jordanus Rufus' methods in De medicina equorum

Anastasija Ropa (Latvian Academy of Sport Education, Latvia, “New Things are Old Things: Rediscovering Traditional Methods in Starting Riders and Horses”


Session 2: Training the Rider and Horse II

Jack Gassmann (independent researcher, Ireland), “When knights can’t ride, Dom Duarte’s Bem Cavalgar”

Lorris Chevalier (University of Burgundy, France), “Historical Practices in Horsemanship and Equestrian Sports

Lisa Marieke Kyre (University of Hagen, Germany), “An Experimental Case Study of Pluvinel's Horse Training around the Single Pillar”


Book Launch

The conference participants are invited to an online launch of the edited volume Materialities of Medieval and Early Modern Horsemanship, edited by Miriam Bibby and Brian G. Scott, published in Rewriting Equestrian History book series (Trivent, 2020).

25 August 2020


Session 3: Archaeological Perspectives on the Early Equestrianism

Katherine S. Kanne (Northwestern University, USA), “Envisioning Early Equestrianism: Clues from Archaeology and Ancient DNA”

Santa Jansone (University of Latvia, Latvia), “A Comparison of the Equipment Associated with Early Medieval Viking Horses and Specimen Found in Latvia”

Chas Jones (independent researcher, UK), “How the evidence from archaeology illuminates the narrative of horsepower in the literature covering the two Yorkshire battles of 1066”

Giedrė Piličiauskienė (Vilnius University, Lithuania), Povilas Blaževičius ( National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania) and Aurelija Zagurskytė (Vilnius University, Department of Archaeology), “Looking for a warhorse in Vilnius Lower Castle, Lithuania: size, age and equipment of the 13th-15th c. horses”


Session 4: Gendering Equestrian Sports

Carolyn Willekes (Mount Royal University), “On Women and Horses: Finding the Feminine in the Hippodrome”

Virág Somogyvári (Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungary), “Love on horseback - new directions in the research of 15th century bone saddles”

Erica Munkwitz (American University, USA), “Riding Habits: Women and Equestrian Sports in Britain and Europe, from the Medieval Era to the Modern Age”


Workshop: Classifications of Horses in Premodern Cultures

Moderators: Jennifer Jobst, Hylke Hettema, Anastasija Ropa

26 August 2020


Session 5: The Horse and Rider Communication

Miriam Bibby (University of Glasgow, UK), “No contest: the King as Charioteer in ancient Egypt”

Samuel Gassmann (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland), “The Agency of the Warhorse: Vehicle or companion?”

Mariam Selge (University of Saarland, Germany), “A Tool of Brutal Enforcement or Subtle Communication? The Role of Curb Bits in the 16th and 17th-Century Horse Training”


Session 6: Equestrianism and Equestrian Sports, Their History and Development

Jürg Gassmann (independent researcher, Ireland), “Modern Takes on Historical Mounted Games”

Anne-Sophie Rieth (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France), “Equitatio in artem redigere or the technical writings on riding in modern times as a support for the creation of a new discipline

Régnier Patrice (Campus La Harpe, France), Deneux – Le Barh Vanina (Université Paul Valéry, France), “The French situation of horse-riding with antispecism critics: a civilizing process explanation”

Karen Campbell (Grayson College, USA), “Three Turns and Home: The Growth of Barrel Racing as an Equestrian Sport and its Future


Round Table: The Future of Traditional Equestrian Sports

Anastasija Ropa, “Amateur and professional show-jumping, their evolution and future”

Timothy Dawson, “Ae encomium for the javelin game (Hippika Gymnasia, Çirit, etc)”

Jack Gassmann, title TBC

Speaker 4 TBC

Speaker 5 TBC

27 August 2020


Session 7: Equestrian Cultures Across Territories and Times

Alexia Foteini Stamouli (University of Patras, Greece), “The use of horses in The History by George Akropolites: a comparison with Historia Romana by Nikephoros Gregoras”

Edgar Rops (independent researcher, Latvia), “Horsey Superstitions in the Baltic Region: Their Origins and Continuity Today”

Hylke Hettema (University of Leiden, Netherlands), “European discourse on race: Creating the superior Arab horse”

Kip Mistral (independent researcher, UK), “Glorious Horsemen: Early Modern French Equestrian Culture and the Legendary School of Versailles”


Session 8: Governing and Managing Practices in Equestrianism

Chelsea Shields-Más (SUNY College, Old Westbury, USA), “Horswealh and Horsþegn: A new appraisal of the reforms of Alfred the Great and the significance of equine management in pre-Conquest England”

Madelyn Newman Powers (Colorado State University, USA), “King Henry VIII’s Development of The Great Horse”

Śliż-Marciniec Małgorzata (Academy of Music in Kraków, Poland), “Organisation and functioning of Polish horse studs at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the light of the recommendations of Bernard Sępiński, the equerry of Prince Karol Sanguszko”


Horse history social

Pour yourself a virtual drink and join us for an informal discussion of future conference plans, publications and events in equestrian history