Feature: Mare's Milk For Health? for NPR's The Salt by Susanna Forrest


While the idea of sipping mare's milk might sound unusual to Western readers, it's been a traditional staple in Central Asia, where it is often fermented into "koumiss," a mildly alcoholic drink that was adopted by Russian doctors in the mid-19th century as a treatment for tuberculosis. Patients no less illustrious than the writers Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy swore by its curative powers. In Europe today, mare's milk remains a niche product, but its reputation as a health elixir is causing trouble for producers in a more regulated age.

For NPR’s The Salt. (12th July 2018)

Essay: Horse-race Politics, Nowhere Magazine 2017 Fall Travel Writing runner up by Susanna Forrest


Siena is known chiefly for the Palio, a bareback horse race that is run in three circuits around the Piazza del Campo in front of the town hall twice a year in July and August. It is ninety seconds long and nearly four centuries old, pitching ten of the city’s seventeen districts, or contrade, against one another at a time. The race has been the subject of chronicles, ethnomusicological theses, political-science doctorates, numerous documentaries and a feature film starring Diana Dors as a plucky jockey from Texas. It has more than a hundred rules. As the Senese like to say, Siena is the Palio and the Palio is Siena. Neither is conceivable without the other—at the level of grains of volcanic tufo, of stone and brick, of strands of DNA and molecules of adrenalin. The Senese is baptized into his contrada, raised on its folklore and helped in poverty or old age by its funds. No soccer fan can match his fanaticism.

For Nowhere magazine. (2018)

Review: Just Horse Play?: ‘Ex Anima’ by Théâtre Équestre Zingaro for Culturised by Susanna Forrest


Bartabas (the stage name of Clément Marty) is a prominent figure on the French cultural scene. He’s credited with inventing his own genre of theatre and is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres with a technical prize from Cannes for his 1993 film, Mazeppa. Past collaborators include Pierre Boulez, Pina Bausch, Dries Van Noten, and Philip Glass. In February 2018 he was awarded the Prix Marcel Nahmias by a jury of theatre professionals. Zingaro’s shows are usually exuberant or haunting combinations of dressage and the classic circus arts of vaulting, Cossack tricks and horseback acrobatics. Their originality lies in Bartabas’ stagings, a flow of non-narrative scenes with borrowings from sources as diverse as Kurosawa, Fellini, Mexican Calavera art and Roma culture.

For Culturised. (26th March 2018)

Essay: Selika, Mystery of the Belle Epoque for the Paris Review Daily by Susanna Forrest


Selika Lazevski exists in six black-and-white photographs and nowhere else. I first saw her when those six studio portraits appeared on Tumblr in 2012. They quickly spread around the Internet as readers asked, Who is she? But although I’ve searched for years, every pin I place to try to map the real woman snaps and slides out of place, multiplying new leads that take me nowhere. I wrote a blog post about her name, guessed the wrong photographer, and saw my error replicate around the Internet, too, even turning up in the publicity materials for a short film about Selika. This much I do know: she was a black amazone in Belle Epoque Paris, a city where black “Amazons” were shown in a human zoo; she was a celebrity who left no other trace than these six tokens of her celebrity; she was a horsewoman without a horse, a power hinted at but not granted.

For Paris Review Daily. (9th February 2018)

Essay: The Hidden History of Bathing in Soup Broth for Gastro Obscura by Susanna Forrest


According to “the informed opinion of an experienced physician,” the brief news item from Berlin recounted, horse bouillon bathing had proved itself in medical applications, especially in pediatrics. It wouldn’t be just the wealthy who could indulge, the article went on, implying that baths of broth would be affordable for the lower classes, too.

In 1848, German enthusiasm for horsemeat was still new, but the dark red flesh already had a reputation as a health food. The chemist Justus von Liebig claimed that horse contained more creatine for muscle building than beef or mutton, and the new horse-butchering establishments were well-regulated and clean. But even if horsemeat was cheap, why bathe in a tub filled with bouillon?

For Gastro Obscura. (26th February 2018)

Essay: How Lord Byron Invented the Wild Horse for Literary Hub by Susanna Forrest


“…there is no denying the wild horse in us,” says the hero of Virginia Woolf’s third novel, Jacob’s Room, “To gallop intemperately; fall on the sand tired out; to feel the earth spin; to have—positively—a rush of friendship for stones and grasses, as if humanity were over, and as for men and women, let them go hang…” From modernist fiction to internet memes, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Arthur Miller’s Misfits, the Rolling Stones and classic car brands, the “intemperately” galloping wild horse, at one with an epic landscape, is a handy objective correlative for freedom, innate, natural nobility and the rejection of man’s follies.

But our emotional western response to free-ranging equines is a relatively recent one. For most of history, wild horses were regarded as food, pests or a source of new tame animals. The remaking of the wild horse as an equine noble savage is a story taking in Romanticism, extinction, theatrical melodramas and near-naked ladies. And it begins with a grudge against a man named Mazepa in the 17th-century Polish court, and a disgraced poet.

For Literary Hub. (3rd November 2017)

Essay: Athletes or Anarchists – how the misunderstanding between humans and horses makes their domestication possible for Zoomorphic by Susanna Forrest


“People say to me about their horses, ‘he doesn’t want to work.’ Bloody hell, horses aren’t born with a Protestant work ethic. People come up with this idea that the horse has got to work, so I ask them, how do rabbits work? How do frogs work? I don’t think ‘work’ is a word that applies to animals. What those riders call ‘work’ is just movement for a horse, so you have to make it interesting for them,” the British ethologist and horse trainer Lucy Rees told me over a cup of tea as we sat in her kitchen, surrounded by her pack of rescued hunting dogs.

For Zoomorphic. (16th October 2017)

Obituary: Paula Sykes, pioneering woman groom by Susanna Forrest


She slept in railway wagons alongside the horses on journeys to and from destinations like Sicily or cold war Berlin, on one occasion having to melt ice for her charges when the train was delayed at the snow-bound Italian frontier. She carried a knife to defend herself after an incident in an underground marshalling yard in Turin when a man tried to break into her wagon and was still clinging to the door as the train moved off. In her memoirs, Smythe praised Sykes as “a genius” who “cared for horses as children” and stressed the hardships of travelling and sleeping in a draughty horsebox, negotiating at showgrounds in four different languages and packing everything from crockery to campbeds and spare tack (Smythe’s Olympic bronze-medallist Flanagan once ate his own martingale shortly before entering the ring).

Available on Medium. (7th February 2018)

Feature: Liberating Diana by Susanna Forrest


One sculptor will be watching the announcements from Kensington Palace closely. In December 2016, a 62-year-old Danish artist Poul Weile issued a press release appealing for £430,000 in crowd funding to make The People’s Princess, his proposed six-meter-high bronze sculpture of Diana riding a giant toy horse. His work could, he suggested, occupy the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square or any other site in London, Berlin or in Paris, where mourners have turned the Flame of Liberty statue at the mouth of the Pont d’Alma tunnel into a shrine of soggy toys, old flowers and padlocks.

Available on Medium. (14th August 2017)

Feature: The Troubled History of Horse Meat in America for The Atlantic's Object Lessons blog by Susanna Forrest


Besides, horse meat was considered un-American. Nineteenth-century newspapers abound with ghoulish accounts of the rise of hippophagy in the Old World. In these narratives, horse meat is the food of poverty, war, social breakdown, and revolution—everything new migrants had left behind. Nihilists share horse carcasses in Russia; wretched Frenchmen gnaw on cab horses in besieged Paris; poor Berliners slurp on horse soup.

For the Atlantic’s Object Lessons blog. (8th June 2017)

Review: Hanging Up Our Spurs, Ulrich Raulff's Farewell to the Horse for the Literary Review by Susanna Forrest


This is not the Pony Club Manual or a trot through the more familiar sights of equestrian art history; it’s Kafka, Aby Warburg, Tolstoy, psychoanalytic theory, Nietzsche and bleak monochrome photos in the style of Sebald. This epic enterprise is relieved by Raulff’s spare, vivid style and deep learning. He is as comfortable analysing the etymology of Pferd and Ross as he is discussing the Chicago School, Clint Eastwood and the Amazons, and he rarely loses his audience.

For the Literary Review. (May 2017)

Feature: Two Horses, One Language for the New York Times' Menagerie blog by Susanna Forrest


Interaction with a horse can be uncomfortably intimate for a species that likes to filter its real feelings through evasive spoken words. Studies have shown that horses respond to the changes in their human handlers’ heart rates, and react differently to experienced and inexperienced riders. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of horses knowing their owner was pregnant before the owner herself knew, or who detected incoming migraines, or distinguished between a disabled rider (who was carried carefully) and an able-bodied child (who got buckings and boltings and exuberance from the pony).

For the New York Times Online. (29th October 2014)

Feature: A Shadowy Market Ripe for Exploitation on the horse-meat scandal for Der Spiegel Online by Susanna Forrest


The 2013 scandal that began as "Burger Gate" in Ireland has expanded to encompass an estimated 13 countries and 28 firms. Horse has been unwittingly served up as lasagna, bolognese sauce and even as "fresh beef" by school canteens, pub chains, prisons, hospitals and unsuspecting parents. Some speculate that the fraud may have been underway for years. The price of beef has nearly doubled in the last six years, while the price of horses have gone into freefall thanks to the recession. The consumption of horse in 2013 is as logical as Saint-Hilaire's proposal. It's just not legal -- at least not if it isn't labeled as horsemeat.

For Spiegel Online. (18th February 2013)

Feature: They eat horses, don't they? horsemeat history for the Telegraph by Susanna Forrest


Our industrialised food chain throws up the occasional surprise: mad cows, deadly eggs, cornflakes that look like Jesus. A few scraps of stray DNA from a meat-producing animal should be the least worrying component of budget processed nuggets, but when news broke that “beef” burgers sold in Tesco, Lidl, Iceland, Dunnes Stores and Aldi had been found to contain horse DNA, Britain and Ireland got up on their hind legs, the Today programme demanded answers and Twitter was alive with “no-added Shergar” jokes.

For the Telegraph. (16th January 2013).

Feature: The Ride of My Life, Sidesaddle and in a Corset for the Telegraph by Susanna Forrest


'Oh f---” The four-letter word escaped me, despite my elegant top hat with veil pulled down over my face, polished boots decorously hidden by a sober bottle green skirt, and Victorian corset that nipped my waist, forcing me into a bolt-upright position. Henry, a 17hh grey hunter I had borrowed, had just woken up, and our sedate canter on the lawn suddenly erupted into a riotous gallop. He shot past his stablemate, the skewbald cob Basil, and pegged it towards a small child with a camera.

For the Telegraph. (26th March 2012)

Feature: Why Girls Still Sign Up for the Pony Club for the Telegraph by Susanna Forrest


It's an old story. Girl (Jinny, Jill, Jackie) meets the Pony of her dreams (Shantih, Black Boy, Misty). Pony has intriguing psychological problems that respond only to Girl's uniquely sensitive nature.

Girl and Pony fall in love. Through the medium of an equus ex machina Girl gets Pony.

Girl and Pony canter on beaches and rescue other horses from disused mineshafts/nasty farmers, before winning a silver cup against the odds and defeating the arch-bitch rich girl who - terrible sin! - never grooms her own pony.

End shot: Girl and Pony gallop whooping along a cliff top, pointed at destiny.

For the Telegraph. (14th July 2007)

Feature: Pippi Longstocking for the Telegraph by Susanna Forrest


If Pippi met Voldemort she'd make mincemeat of him and then, because she's a generous, forgiving soul, sit him down and feed him ginger snaps.

This year she turns 62 (although she's forever nine) and it will be 100 years since her creator, Astrid Lindgren, was born in a small town called Vimmerby in southern Sweden.

For the Telegraph. (29th September 2007)

Feature: The real C-word for the Guardian by Susanna Forrest


Ladies and gentlemen, a new sex manual has just sauntered into town. Punning title, check, cover image of sliced fruit, check, sexologist author with PhD, check. So far, so standard, but Dr Ian Kerner's She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman is beginning to have an impact beyond the usual scope of a glossy paperback sex manual. It is rising steadily up the US bestseller lists, having been named a book of 2004 by Amazon.com and the book superstore Borders. The author is getting kudos from the New York Times and Relate, and the book is recommended by both feminist websites and swingers' clubs.

For the Guardian. (22nd April 2005)

Feature: Queen for the Day, trying out drag for the Guardian by Susanna Forrest

Participants on the full course spend the first day on hair and makeup, discovering and developing their drag personas, then work towards a showcase performance a week later in which they are encouraged to "think big". "If you want to be singing Shirley Bassey while the Titanic goes down behind you, then that's what we'll try to do," says Ivan. "And the funny part is the gap between the dream and the result, when someone drops the Titanic and your wig falls off."

A feature for the Guardian. (7th May 2004)

Feature: Less Talk, More Action, porn for women for the Guardian by Susanna Forrest


Of all the hoary cliches about women and sex that are wheeled out by men and by feminists who should know better, the one most ripe to be laid to rest is that which states that women - all women - favour erotic words over pornographic images, personality over pectorals. If this were true, Anaïs Nin novels would outsell Sex and the City DVDs, and Diet Coke would be advertised by Simon Schama. Playgirl magazine would have folded after three issues, rather than surviving for 31 years - and counting. "Chippendale" would still mean antique furniture, and Peter Andre would be working in a kebab shop instead of posing for Cosmo.

On women’s porn magazines for the Guardian. (25th June 2004)