(© Kip Mistral 2018. “Water Sprite” by Theodor Kittelsen)
Almost all of us riders met the horse first in our childhood imaginations. We took our seats on the gleaming black stallions, or the feisty red mares, or even the luminous winged white horse, and they carried us to…wherever we wanted to go. And we flew together with them in a gallop so fast that we conquered space and time.
Some of us children were so lucky to find our way to the horse in the real flesh. We learned to love that wonderful smell of their coats and their sweet hay-scented breath. We groomed them until they shone. We sat on their patient backs for hours while we talked to our friends in the barn aisle. We rode freely out in the country, perhaps, with no rules except to be home by dark. We were unconscious of anything except the moment, the freedom and its joy. We—and I am one of these fortunate ones—know now how extremely lucky we were to have this gift of innocent time with the horse. We could be Wild Things together.
(Peter Paul Rubens – Detail from Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma – The Collection – Museo Nacional del Prado)
“Now for your Cherishings, they are those which I formerly spake of;
Only they must be used at no time but when your Horse doth well,
And hath pleased your mind, both with his cunning and tractableness:
Although the time for the same be when he hath finished his Lessons,
Yet there is a secret pleasing and cherishing of a Horse with the Bridle, which must be exercised in the doing of his Lessons,
And that is the Sweetning of his Mouth by a little ceasing of your Bridle hand, and gently drawing it up back again,
Letting it come and go with such unperceiving motion, that none but the Beast may know it.”
~ Gervase Markham, 1676.
(© 2015 Xenophon Press. Images used with permission of the publisher. Review © 2018 Kip Mistral)
Not one, but an amazing three forewords penned by luminaries of modern classical riding greet the reader who picks up Austrian Art of Riding: Five Centuries”; Karl Mikolka, Charles DeKunffy and Sylvia Loch all give their stamps of approval for the publication of this English translation of Dr. Werner Poscharnigg’s fascinating work.
Fanciers of the Lipizzan horse, the Spanish Riding School, classical riding, fine horsemanship and equestrian history will be thrilled to sit down with this behind-the-scenes look at a cavalcade of famous personalities—both human and horse—who had a critical influence on the development of Austro-Hungarian equitation.
If you read about Washington Square Park in New York City today, you certainly won’t see images like this which was painted in 1897. Still the days of horse-drawn conveyances, we see dusk settling in on a day that has seen fresh snowfall. The Washington Square Arch looms in the background. The streets and the park are still clean and white and fresh, and people are busy setting out for their evening excursion. I imagine it is a Saturday night…the gentlemen are in top hats and the ladies dressed in refinement. Is that group of three young women giggling as they pass the carriage? The horse is certainly watching something. The couple with their backs to us are waiting for their cab. The scene looks cold but strangely cozy. What do you see?
(© Text by Don Juan Gómez-Cuétara. Detail of painting by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez Felipe III, King of Spain 1634-35)
Like a magic crucible, wherein history and art are fused, the Spanish horse, our partner in love and grief, slave to our glory, is a horse at once fiery and docile, whose proud neigh proclaims to the world the beauty of his race, pride of men who are not prepared to abandon chivalry, dream of young men who refuse to accept a way of life which holds no place for him.