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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Arab horses are stars

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post is in praise of horses - especially from the Arabian Peninsula. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).  

If people hadn't worked out how to tame and ride horses warfare might never have advanced. That's because donkeys just aren't so obliging. This is the rather upsetting conclusion I picked up from the British Museum's free exhibition, Horses: from Arabia to Royal Ascot, being run (free admission) until 30 September 2012 to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - and her love for all things horse.

Turns out the swift Arab horses - the ones that eventually are crossed with British native mares to develop the Thoroughbred - come from the area around today's Kazakhstan and Iraq. The exhibition is fascinating - with some items rarely seen that normally reside in Saudi Arabia. There is also an engraving from Mesopotamia (the first image of a horse from 1BC), lots of early chariot bits and buckles; then armour used during the Crusades (c1190) and on to art and racing. many of the objects are tremendously old.

As a horse lover it gives me intense pleasure thinking about how many generations of people have had special relationships with their horses.

Talking horses
I took my 11-year-old Nell, who likes riding (see her in the photo above, cantering Twinkle). Even so she was fascinated by the videos of mares and foals grazing, horses horsing around in paddocks and racing shots. I really enjoyed discovering more:
From Herodotus (484-425BC)The Persians teach their sons, between the ages of 5 and 20, only three things - to ride a horse, use a bow and speak the truth.  Not bad life skills! 
From the Quran, surah 100:1-6"The snorting steeds, which shake first with their hoofs as they gallop to the raid at dawn and with a trail of dust split their foe in two." Terrifying, but astonishing poetry.
FurusiyyaThis is an Arabic term covering horsemanship skills (fighting knights, riding and horse care). Here's a blog that links it's glorious past with newer disciplines (eg, dressage). Looking forward to finding out more about this.

Galloping reads
If you want to find out more about Muslim and Christian horse breeding without just looking at pictures, try:
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. It's an old book, which I read as a child, captivated because it is so very different to the "Jill goes to a gymkhana" style of pony tales. King of the Wind starts during Ramadam and takes this famous bay stallion (accompanied by a dumb horse boy and a cat) to the UK where he becomes better known as The Godolphin Arabian, one of the three founders of the Thoroughbred stud book. The others are the Byerley Turk (1684-1706) and the Darley Arabian (born in Syria). My great grandfather Frank Forester who loved horses and racing had a picture of each of these three horses in his bedroom/dressing room. Only two of these pictures are with my family now.

Blood Red Horse by K M Grant - This is the fabulous first in a planned triology that tracks the journey of chestnut Hosanna first as he goes out with Richard 1 (the lionheart) in a bid to capture Jerusalem during the Crusades. But Hosanna is captured and ends up in the stables of the famous military general Saladin, Sultan of the Saracens.

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