Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wild Horses Galloping Through Time

WILD HORSES GALLOPING THROUGH TIME was published by Darby Creek Publishing in Plain City, OH in the autumn of 2008

Last year, Leslie Town was approached by an author who was writing a book about wild horses and she was hoping to purchase rights to publish a few photos of Altamiro that Leslie had taken when she visited our Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve in October of 2007.

Leslie contacted me to see if I was agreeable to this arrangement and I relayed that I was, with the caveat that they make sure to differentiate between the Sorraia and the Sorraia Mustang. Then I rather forgot about this business until this past week when Leslie emailed me saying that she'd finally received copies of the published book and had put one copy in the mail for me. I received that book on Friday.

This book is beautifully put together and though it is considered a children's book for ages 8-12, it is something that all horse lovers can appreciate. Beginning with the evolutionary process of the horse (nicely illustrated by Mark Hallett), the author profiles a sampling of wild and feral horses, zebras and asses from all over the globe.

While I am pleased to see Altamiro and Ciente's visages in this book, their presence in the segment Ms. Halls has written about the Sorraia is misleading. Because the text makes no mention of the very important sub-culture of Sorraia horses that have been present in Germany since the late 1970's, nor does it discuss the genetic link via mitochondrial DNA with some of the North American Mustangs, and it neglects to provide a caption under the photo of Altamiro and Ciente, the reader is obliged to assume that these photos illustrate Sorraia horses living in Portugal. As such, it would have been much more appropriate for Ms. Hall to get in touch with Jose Luis d'Andrade (grandson of Dr. Ruy d'Andrade and president of the Sorraia association in Portugal, Associação Internacional de Criadores do Cavalo Ibérico de Tipo Primitivo - Sorraia) or with Hardy Oelke, both who would have been pleased to contribute excellent photos of Sorraia horses living Portugal as well as important information pertaining to these endangered, primitive horses.

A line or two about the Canadian importation of a purebred Sorraia stallion from a zoological park in Germany who became the foundation sire of Sorraia Mustangs at our Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve would have served as a more exacting backdrop for Leslie's wonderful photos.

It's intriguing to me (and sometimes agitatedly frustrating) how frequently articles and books which have the goal of disseminating historic, scientific and referential information do so with distinct incompleteness and/or careless inaccuracies. Often times it seems like the same misinformation is copied and repeated with little thought to acquiring the most up-to-date facts on a given subject. Information on the Sorraia and the Sorraia Mustang suffer from such shabby journalism on a regular basis. At one time, Wikipedia had an entry for the Sorraia that said it was a 12 hand pony that was either gray or palomino in coloring!

So, as you click on the images of the pages of this book (this will open a window making them appear large enough for you to read more easily), keep in mind that not everything that is written is accurate and much more should have been included in this book's coverage of the Sorraia horse. Another error in this book, is that although in the box listing the photo credits, Leslie is credited for her photo on page 28, she is not given credit for her photo which appears on page 31.

It is obvious just from reading this portion of the book that Ms. Hall made use of the internet to acquire some of her information, and the reference to the article on the Sorraia in the Conquistador magazine assures us that she is aware of Hardy Oelke (who wrote the article for Conquistador) and his excellent body of work on Sorraia horses and Sorraia Mustangs. For this reason, I'm really quite surprised at how lacking the article is in meaningful substance. Some entries for the various wild equines provide more depth and others are even more truncated than what we see offered on the Sorraia. Perhaps it was the editors call to leave out so much vital information? Whatever the reason, it makes for some disappointing reading.

I am not the only one to be surprised at how lacking in pertinent information this book is. I have a literary French friend in Quebec who does a lot of translations from English to French for equestrian magazines. When I shared the book excerpt with him he wrote the following, which sums up my feelings quite well:

"It's nice that Mrs. Milner Halls could use the pictures of your horses to illustrate her book, though I find it difficult to understand why would anyone bother to write a book about wild horses if they are not willing to come up with every possible information related to their subject."

The saving grace is there are some really lovely photos throughout this book, two of which are very near and dear to me! How much I appreciate the good looks of Altamiro and Ciente! Thank you, Leslie for your wonderful photos, and for sending me a copy of WILD HORSES GALLOPING THROUGH TIME. And everyone, let's give a hearty nod to Leslie--this represents the first time her photos have been published in book form. Congratulations Leslie!

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