Sunday, November 22, 2009

No Job For A Lady (bio)

This book has lived at my local library for years but although I've always been drawn to the horsey cover, I always put it down again because the early pages aren't particularly captivating or horsey. I finally read it this summer, and was surprised to find myself reading it in one sitting. It is very horsey and it develops into a very good read after a somewhat slow start.

No Job For A Lady
The Autobiography of M. Phyllis Lose, V.M.D. as told to Dnaiel Mannix
1979, Macmillan Publishing

Mother had a map of the city and she acted as a guide until we finally found the Armory. There had been a heavy snowfall a few days before, followed by a sudden thaw, and the streets were running rivers; the water must have been 10 inches deep and in many places was over the curb. We drove around the Armory but there didn't seem to be any way to get into the place. It was almost time for my first class and I was half-crazy. Then the Ford stalled.... At last I got out, waded through the torrent in my good riding boots, got into the trailer, and tacked up Cassadol there. Then I backed her down the tailboard into the flood with dozens of cars honking at us and scores of men yelling curses... I led her through the rushing water and up on the sidewalk. This was my first encounter with New Yorkers and I must say it takes a good deal to surprise them. I know that I'd be surprised if I ran into a girl leading a horse down a sidewalk, but these people never even looked up. Cassadol kept her head on my shoulder for comfort and we forced our way through the crowd to the Armory.

(An early trip to the National Horse Show, back when it was held in New York City.)

From innocently overfeeding her first pony into bad behavior to riding her mare against Nautical at Devon's Open Jumper class, Lose has had quite the life. The nation's youngest and first female racehorse trainer at 19, she spent her teen years as an exercise rider on Philadelphia-area tracks like Monmouth and poor lost Garden State. Fascinated with hoof problems from a young age, Lose determined to go to vet school and study the horse, but getting in during the 1950's wasn't easy, and when she graduated in 1957, it took work to convince owners a woman could handle their horses.

Mannix has his faults as a writer, but he does allow Lose's personality shine through. It's an entertaining autobiography partly because it's a genuinely interesting life, and partly because Lose has the assurance (shared by most people who are raised in a wealthy lifestyle) that her life is extraordinary and interesting. She makes a valiant effort to convince us that her family is really quite average and even struggles to afford her pony, but it seems clear that while they might not be rolling in liquid wealth, they have above-average resources. As when she mentions they have two cars and a maid during the Depression, or when her father has some influence over a vet reluctant to hire her.

Flash - 14.2h pinto pony
Toots - pony
Cassadol - brown 15.2h mare

Name Dropping - Philadelphia, Main Line and Horse names
W. Plunket Stewart - founded the Cheshire Hunt in 1912
Nancy Penn Smith Hannum - stepdaughter of W. Plunket Stewart
Averell Penn Smith Walker - stepdaughter of W. Plunket Stewart
Danny Shea - show jumping rider turned racehorse trainer; rode Little Squire
Dr. Raymond A. Kelser - dean of U.Penn vet school 1946-1952
Nautical - formerly Injun Joe, famous palomino jumper with tic of flinging tail
A.A. Biddle - Alfred Alexander Biddle
First City Troop - unit of PA National Guard

Profile In Veterinary Practice News magazine
1954 Sports Illustrated article on the Cheshire Hounds
Photo Essay on the Cheshire Hounds
Main Line Times article on Nancy Penn Smith Hannum
Photos of old Garden State Park
Photo 2
UPenn Vet School
Monmouth Race Track
Laurel Race Course
Image of the steeplechase course
Brandywine Point-To-Point
Immaculata University
The Great Valley
Devon Horse Show
National Horse Show
First City Troop

Other Books
Blessed Are The Broodmares
Blessed Are The Foals
Keep Your Horse Healthy

And - a photo of Nautical, taken from the book Show Jumping: Officers' Hobby Into International Sport by Pamela Macgregor-Morris.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Author/Illustrator - Jeanne Mellin

First, The Lost Pony. When I was a small and horse-crazy child who loved reading, I discovered this thin book in the possession of a friend who was neither horse-crazy nor bookish. She was, however, contrary and refused to part with it. So I had to wait a while before stumbling across it in a thrift shop. It was worth the wait. It had, after all, the best of all possible plots, that of horse-crazy kids who get a pony through a miracle.

The plot was of a stray pony adopted by twin siblings (very much in the classic Savitt/Anderson/etc. kind of East Coast landed gentry with a dad forever clad in a dapper 1950's suit, frowning mildly and smoking a pipe), who have been longing for a horse of their own to ride, but whose parents have always been dubious about the costs involved. The instantly love the pony and soon groom him for a show. At one point, they hide him in a chicken shed.

While the story was horsey heroin to a kid who lived in hopes of having a stray pony appear in the alley beside my house, the illustrations were key. The book was one of those highly illustrated children's books that bridge the gap between picture books and early chapter books.

Jeanne Mellin's earliest book illustrations, including those for Lost Pony, were as a collaboration with her friend Nancy Caffrey.

So this very simple and satisfying book was my introduction to Jeanne Mellin's art, and nearly the last time I saw it until I happened to open a nonfiction book about Morgans many years later. Copies of her books with Nancy Caffrey are relatively rare, but it's not hard to locate copies of her nonfiction works on the Morgan horse in libraries. Much of the following information comes from the New York Morgan Horse Society's website; Mellin has been a devotee of the Morgan breed since becoming convinced that her first horse, a mare named Bonnie, had Morgan ancestry.

As a child, Mellin was a member of the Junior Calvalry of America, a horsemanship club founded by writer and rider Margaret Cabell Self. She then attended the Rhode Island School of Design. While doing portraits of some horses at the Morgan farm Ardencarple Acres, she met future husband Fred Herrick, head trainer for the farm. They married in 1955, and began working at another Morgan farm, Applevale. They moved on to Empyrean Hills, then began an association with Saddleback Farm, a partnership which lasted until 1989. Both husband and wife are featured in numerous articles in Morgan publications, and both have won awards from the American Morgan Horse Association. One daughter, Nancy, owns Rose Hill Farm, and stands a Morgan stallion as well as showing. Jeanne Mellin also did sculptures for several Breyer Horses.

Links and Sources
Mellin's Art website
Aquarian Morgans
Identify Your Breyers
New York State Morgan Horse Society article on Jeanne Mellin (HTML version of a pdf)
New York State Morgan Horse Society profile
New Canaan Mounted Troop

Books - As Writer/Illustrator (fiction)
Pidgy's Surprise

Books as Writer and Illustrator (nonfiction)
Illustrated Horseback Riding For Beginners

Horses Across America

Horses Across The Ages

The Morgan Horse

America's Own Horse Breeds

Ride A Horse

The Morgan Horse Handbook
The Complete Morgan Horse
(a combination of The Morgan Horse and The Morgan Horse Handbook)

Books as Illustrator
Somebody's Pony (aka Lost Pony) by Nancy Caffrey
Penny's Worth by Nancy Caffrey
Mig O' The Moor by Nancy Caffrey
Blackjack, Dreaming Of A Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Frosty, The Adventures Of A Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Rusty, The High Flying Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Robin, The Lovable Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Annie, The Mysterious Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Rimfire, The Barrel Racing Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Shadow, The Curious Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Sky Stallion by Alea Bushardt, Melody Clayton

Breyer Horses Models sculpted
Friesan (1992)
Misty's Twilight (1991)
Pluto (1991)
Roemer (1990)
John Henry (1988)
Sherman Morgan (1987)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I was crushed when I began reading the Black Stallion series as a child. The reason? No pictures. They were my first step away from the world of interior illustrations, and while the writing was wonderful and I loved the books, I missed the artwork. Perhaps you can see why.

Afraid To Ride, C.W. Anderson

Scorpion, Will James

Old Bones by Mildred Mastin Pace, illustrator Wesley Dennis

The Complete Morgan Horse (nonfiction), Jeanne Mellin

A Horse To Remember by Genevieve Torrey Eames, illustrations by Paul Brown

Rain Cloud The Wild Mustang by Margaret Kraenzel, illustrations by Pers Crowell

Ride The Wild Storm by Marjorie Reynolds, illustrations by Lorence Bjorklund

Of course, some editions of Walter Farley's books did have illustrations - above is Keith Ward's work from The Black Stallion.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Good Year To Be A Girl

Zenyatta wins the Breeders' Cup. Jubilation. The bay filly came from behind, went the long way around, won the race, broke Personal Ensign's record of consecutive victories and basically blew everyone away, becoming the first filly to win the Cup. Added to the year had by the other large bay filly, Rachel Alexandra, this is simply cool.

ESPN - Zenyatta Wins Breeders' Cup Classic
Breeder's Cup website
National Thoroughbred Racing Association - Zenyatta
ESPN - Horse Of The Year? It's Still Rachel
NYT article "Zenyatta Wins Breeders' Cup Classic"
Photo - NYT

And a list of books featuring racing fillies:
The Black Stallion's Filly by Walter Farley
Born To Run by Blanche Chenry Perrin
Desert Storm by Logan Forster
Sweet Running Filly by Pat Johnson and Barbara Van Tuyl (series)
A Horse Called Wonder by Joanna Campbell (series)

Ruffian: Burning From The Start by Jane Schwartz
Personal Ensign by Bill Heller (Thoroughbred Legends series)

C.W. Anderson
His beautifully illustrated nonfiction books about horses and Thoroughbreds often contain stories and drawings of racing fillies. Two examples:

C.W. Anderson's Complete Book of Horses And Horsemanship -a portrait of the mare Busher with her first foal

A Touch Of Greatness
includes chapters on Dawn Play and Bee Mac (who suffered a bizarre fate during a storm) and a discussion of 1943 as a year of brilliant fillies. Also given a chapter is the broodmare Marguerite, dam of Gallant Fox

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sun Dust Devil Horse (originally Sun Dust)

Sun Dust Devil Horse (originally Sun Dust)

Eva Zumwalt, il. Zenowij Onyshkewych

1976, Xerox Education Publications

This ranch would be her refuge; she would be safe from that kind of hurt here. Dad would call it running away, she knew, and he wouldn't be proud of her attitude. But maybe there are times when everyone had to run and hide.

16-year-old Laurie Campbell permanently damaged her right leg in a car accident, and now wants nothing more than to hide away from the awkwardness of her classmates and old life. Luckily, her parents decide to relocate from Washington D.C. to the New Mexico ranch where her dad grew up. Dad's a journalist who's away on assignment to a war zone, but Laurie and her mother head to Tierra Encantada (Enchanted Land) in early June. She finds it welcoming -

This was a beautiful house for all its informal sprawl. It was plastered and stuccoed white, and the tile roof was a soft, warm red. The heavy beams across the ceilings of the rooms were old and very strong, and looked as if they might withstand any possible storm. It was a sheltering kind of house.

- and her grandparents are thrilled to see them, but Laurie quickly realizes that she's not going to be allowed to hide away. Grandpa raises Quarter Horses and is intent on making a rider out of her, and enlists 17-year-old hired hand Dave Elliot to teach her. It helps that Dave is cute. It doesn't help that he seems to be best friends with good-looking Randa Meredith, or that Randa's got a bit of an overbearing personality. The two girls quickly tangle, and become de facto enemies.

About a half-dozen horses were approaching at a hard run. They swept nearer, led by a dark-gold filly with with black mane and tail who held her slender head flung high as if in challenge... The dun had no white markings at all to break the shining gold of her skin, which darkened to bronze at the knees and then to black on all four slender legs. Her head was small and well-shaped, the eyes intelligent and wide apart.

Meanwhile, Laurie's attempts to resist her granddad's plans to make her a rider lead her into ownership of the wild filly Sun Dust. The dun 2-year-old is the daughter of a mare so aggressive she had to be put down, and her behavior is wild enough to make everyone doubt she's going to be much of an improvement. As Dave works to break the filly, he also teaches Laurie to ride on a quiet, mature horse.

Laurie is a convincingly reluctant heroine; her family and friends push her out of the shadows where she's trying to hide, and her own conscience forces her to complete the tasks they set her. She's a little too forbearing, sometimes, to be real, as when she regrets arguing with Randa. But she learns to ride quickly (possibly too quickly), and makes a very credible bid for Rodeo Queen and as a contestant in a barrel race.

There is just a hint of the 'oh, you're such a natural' in this story, but it's far overshadowed by the emphasis on Laurie's hard work. I'm not sure how others will regard the training aspects of Dave's breaking in of Sun Dust, but I'm not really equipped to critique it.

Horses (all Quarter Horses)

Count's Holly - roan mare

Count Me In - black colt with 4 socks; foal to above

Sun Dust - 2yo dun filly

Sunburst - dam of above

Dark Knight - black gelding, barrel racer, Randa's

Mirage - young sorrel gelding with blaze

In Depth - stallion

Dust Devil - golden dun stallion

Cricket - 28yo broodmare

Capitan - black gelding

Blue Boy - gelding

About the Author

Zumwalt was born in Eunice, New Mexico, and raised in Artesia. She appears to have been a writer of Gothic romances.

Other books (romances)


The Elusive Heart

Love's Sweet Charity

Mansion of Dark Mists

Masquerade of Evil

The Unforgiving

When the Heart Remembers

Wayward Lady

Yearning Years


Artesia Chamber of Commerce