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.

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