Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters

Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters with a shiny mylar dust jacket protector

I purchased my first copy of James Barly’s only book, Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters (privately printed, 1945),  in the Renaissance Book Shop, a fantastic four story warehouse full of books in downtown Milwaukee. Unlike so many of its ilk, Renaissance is still there, and apparently still thriving, with a branch at the airport of all places, even without a website to call its own.

But I digress. It is my misfortune that Mr. Barly seems to have lived almost completely in the copyright-protected era, and there is little to find about him in on-line searches. I did have some success, however, in searching the archives of the Milwaukee Journal (apparently not indexed by Google except internally), which reveals him to be a Milwaukee attorney who frequently represented government entities.  He was also the manager of the Wisconsin state fair horse show in August, 1940.

Joseph Barly - family photo, used with permission

I did better on Ancestry.com, where his great-grand niece, Christine Allswede, has cataloged the most important milestones of his life.

Joseph Anthony Barly was born in Menominee, Michigan on 9 Mar 1895. He died in Miami, Florida on either 15 Jan 1988 or 22 Jan 1988, depending on whether you believe the Social Security Death Index or the Florida Death Index respectively.

The 1910 federal census has him living, at age 15, with his parents in Michigan, but by the time of his 1917 draft registration, he had taken up residence in Milwaukee, where he worked as an automobile mechanic. He served 2 1/2 years in WWI in the Thirty-second and Second Divisions, Engineers and was mustered out as a first lieutenant in 1919.

He married Ceil Ann Sterling on 2 Jul 1922 and graduated from Marquette University of Law in 1923, after which he was admitted to the Milwaukee and Wisconsin bar associations that same year. He continued to live and practice in Milwaukee, probably until his retirement to Florida in 1964.

But those are the dry facts. Christine has given me permission to quote her correspondence with me:

I only knew Joseph as the encourager. We shared a passion for horses and he always cheered me on in my riding career through our many correspondences. I wish I had kept his letters, but I still have the song he wrote for me. His true passions in his life were his wife, family, horses, and writing music. While living a modest life in his older years, he used his wealth to build several churches in India, two of which are named after his wife and mother.

And in 1945, he wrote and privately published Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters, a labor of love that is surely one of the high points in any Saddlebred enthusiast’s collection.  He renewed the copyright in 1973, which means the book won’t be in the public domain for a long, long time.

That’s OK. It’s scarce enough to give the collector a thrill when found, and common enough that the diligent and patient searcher will eventually find an affordable copy.  I have been privilaged to have found and cataloged a number of copies now, and if you are contemplating adding this worthy book to your collection, you might be interested in a few of the common flaws.

  • This book was issued with a jacket, although the jacket seldom survives. I actually thought it might have been issued without a jacket until I found one on my fourth or fifth copy.
  • The original color of the book was a dark maroon, with the title in gilt on the front cover and nothing printed on the spine. Many copies have faded to brown, and may be so faded that the observer isn’t sure whether a spine title was once present and has worn off, but there was never a spine title to begin with.
  • End papers have a tendency toward discoloration, and there may be some tanning of the text pages as well. If these are the only flaws, don’t pass the book up, because you may not find a better copy.

What makes this book so special? Joan Gilbert, in her article Paths of Glory Lead Where ? on the Horse Show Central site summarizes the content quite nicely, along with some philosophical meanderings on the fickleness of fate in obscuring the histories of even the worthiest subjects. I won’t retread her ground, but I will say that for me, it’s a combination of things.

First, the book was written by a Milwaukee resident and published in Milwaukee, and I have an affinity for unique things produced by my home town. Second, I am fascinated by privately published books in general, and I admire anyone who takes the time to craft and publish a good one. Third, I’m a Saddlebred lover from way back, and this book offers a fascinating insight into what it takes to present a winning show horse.

Christine writes: [Joseph] would be so pleased to know people were still interested in his book. More than 30 years after I found my first copy, I have to say, “Yes we are!”.


I don’t sell all of the books I write about, but if I have any books for sale of the kind that inspired this article, they would be found here, in my Horses – Breeds and breeding category. I actually have several categories of horse books. Links to all of them can be found on the Categories page.
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One Response to Judging Saddle Horses and Roadsters

  1. Alison Sargent says:

    Thanks for this write up on Mr. Barley. I was told about this book by a very well known breeder of Golden American Saddlebreds, who sadly after many years sold their farm and stock about thirteen years ago. (thank you Mrs. Buersh!) Their horses were perfection in body and spirit, and she couldn’t have recommended to me a better book, to a perfect stranger. I am (a few) years older now, down to just two saddlebreds (Palomino and Sorrel) and still re-read Mr. Barley’s book. Your review is very much appreciated, and thanks for investing in Saddlebred books as their are so few available. Have you ever thought of putting your passion for saddlebreds in words and onto paper? Thanks again, Alison Sargent

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