(© 2017 Kip Mistral. Featured image, The Clark Sisters, by Alfred Munnings. All images copyright estate of Sir Alfred Munnings, All rights reserved, DACS.)
Having recently discovered the prolific British Romantic art of Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) which ironically focuses on the kind of sunlit and backlit Edwardian idyllic pastoral countryside equestrian activities that I wish I could enjoy myself, out of curiosity I began to look into his long and interesting life. As a young man Munnings roamed his native countryside painting gypsies, horse fairs and races and hunt scenes with riders and packs of hounds. He later served Britain as a WWI war artist and thereafter roved the world documenting the mostly equestrian lifestyles of aristocratic and wealthy patrons. Munnings was lionized on both sides of the Atlantic as the finest equestrian artist, his friends including Sir Winston Churchill and any number of the highest-ranking persons in society and industry of the time. Today his paintings sell in the $7-8M range. But this is a man who made his way to a knighthood by his passion for horses and the outdoors, and a whole lot of hard work.
(© Elizabeth Chadwick. Author Elizabeth Chadwick has graciously given me permission to re-post her fascinating article about the types of horses bred and used for specific functions, and how their colors were named. Elizabeth is a best-selling British author of historical fiction; please see her website at http://elizabethchadwick.com.)
I was one of those horse-mad little girls. I spent a lot of my childhood either making up stories in my imagination about horses and ponies, or galloping about pretending to be both the horse and rider at the same time.
I was something of a nerd about their colours and collected books and posters and trawled the library for pictures and information. I was a seven year old who knew my bay from my chestnut, my blue roan from a strawberry roan, and that white horses were always referred to by equine types as greys! I spent many happy hours identifying breeds with my Observers Book of Horses and Ponies, on the way discovering that the ancestor of the warhorse more resembled a Welsh cob or a Villanos heavy Andalucian, than a modern Shire, whatever commentator Dorian Williams said about Shires and Clydesdales at the Wembley Horse of the Year Show.
Those childhood obsessions stood me in good stead when I began writing historical fiction set in the Middle Ages, for what was a knight without his destrier and his palfrey? The common soldier without his all purpose rouncy? The merchant without his pack horses? The baron without his chazur for the hunt, and the farmer without his trusty, plodding stott to draw his plough and pull his cart?
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds…
(© By Kip Mistral. First Published in Horse Connection, July 2006.)
The driving force for a writer is curiosity. One minute we’re minding our own business, and the next we’re experiencing something like whiplash when our attention is suddenly diverted by something fascinating and mysterious. And then we can’t rest until we explore it, wherever it leads…
I had inspected the wonders of Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen this summer when that thing happened in the gift shop. I discovered a card reproducing an ancient, crackled painting of an elegantly stylized white horse with a heavy, wavy mane and tail that dragged the ground. “Spanish horse,” I proclaimed to myself, knowingly.
(© By Kip Mistral 2017)
Long ago and far away, in the area historically known as “The Levant” (portions of the Eastern Mediterranean coast including Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Libya), lands of strong sunlight, the henna plant flourished. (And still does.) The cultures of The Levant used henna for decoration of humans and animals (horses and other equids, cows, etc) at times of celebration, marriage, celebration of their deities, and to indicate high status in general, and also for medicinal purposes.