This is a School for Princes

This is a School for Princes

Ferdinand II of Spain in a letter of May 23, 1498 to the Marquis of Mantua:

“To answer here what you asked me, that is to say, whether it is necessary that a well-trained horse should obey both the leg and the hand as if, without the repeated action of the hand or the leg, one could not direct all the operations decided by the Cavalier; while you have also seen horses evolve without any help with the firm legs of the rider which seemed immobile, and still others who guided their horse very well without the help of their legs.

View Post

1952 Performance of the Spanish Riding School: Quadrille led by Alois Podhajsky

1952 Performance of the Spanish Riding School: Quadrille led by Alois Podhajsky

This is a lovely short film of beautiful riding…rhythmic, synchronized steps, relaxed stallions in almost all cases, who actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. It really struck me how balanced the horses, the riders, and the riding were. The suppleness, strength and exercises of the horses were without resistance, the aids invisible or nearly so. Very much something not just to enjoy but to contemplate…

Thanks to EquiFAVA Film & Video Archive on Vimeo and www.equifava.org for making this vintage clip available!

I Know You By the Horse You Ride: In Search of the Golden Bridle

I Know You By the Horse You Ride: In Search of the Golden Bridle

Image: Detail from “Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma,” 1603, by Peter Paul Rubens: © 2020 Kip Mistral

[I was asked to contribute a guest post over at StreamHorseTV, which is just about to have a re-launch by new owners Tom and JoAnne Pierce. I wish them great success with their upcoming new platform! I chose to do a rare autobiographical piece so have a laugh on me ]

What an odd title for an article…how could I possibly know you by the horse you ride?

First, let’s contemplate the horse and rider presented to us. From a practical perspective, I might know something about you if the horse you have chosen—or seems to have chosen you—has or doesn’t have the conformation, athletic ability, temperament, and level of training that are compatible and well-matched with your level of experience and expectations. I might know something about you if you must have a horse of a certain color or gender. I might know something about you if you vastly prefer one riding discipline over another.

To read more please go to: https://streamhorse.tv/blog/f/i-know-you-by-the-horse-you-ride-in-search-of-the-golden-bridle

Un Cheval de Phidias

Un Cheval de Phidias

(Excerpt from Un Cheval de Phidias, by Victor Cherbuliez, Michel Lévy Frères, Libraires Editeurs, Paris, 1864. Translated by A. Forbes Sievering, 1905.)

“Look at this horseman wearing his Arcadian pilos, draped in his closely-folded mantle, the fringe overhanging his leg. See how their poses, their attitudes go together; how the head of the rider leaning forward and gently bowed over his breast responds to the undulating movement of the horse’s crest; and how all these lines compose that delicious melody of forms, which modern sculpture has not been able to reproduce. And then observe that this unison of lines and movements is only the emblem of the concert of souls and thoughts. In both man and horse the same ease, the same surrender–no effort–a vigour self-assured, and revelling in free play. Incontestably the rider commands, but it is hardly noticeable–he acts upon the horse by imperceptible aids, united to it, like the human bust to the quadruped in the Centaur: the education which the horseman has received is transmitted to the horse. Both have the same family likeness, the same grace, the same strength, the same gentleness, the same pride–exhaling the dignity of a free heart mastered only by reason. Riders and horsemen have all been educated between the soft Attic sky, amid the olives of the Academy and the laurels of Cephisius, within sight of sacred Hymettus, in the lifetime of Pericles, Aspasia, and Socrates. Riders and horses all received in heritage that beauty of the soul which Athenian education cultivated. Riders and horses have all learned that music which produces, in the language of Plato, the harmony of souls and the immutable order of the Universe.”

NOTE: Phidias is generally acknowledged to have been the greatest ancient Greek sculptor and instigator of the classical style of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. He is thought to have directed and supervised the construction of the Parthenon including its sculptural decoration.

I Call Myself Stradivarius

I Call Myself Stradivarius

Image “Cream Colored Stallion” by Johann Georg Hamilton. (© 2020 Kip Mistral.)

I am a real horse, but I’ve changed my name here to protect the innocent…and not-so-innocent.

I call myself Stradivarius because I was created to be an instrument of the highest quality, for a human of the highest quality, one who would learn to understand and value the brilliance and complexity of my nature. The original string instruments of the master Antonio Stradivari were made in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and they were, as they are still, considered the finest in the world. The rare few remaining today, whether in museums or still being played, lie almost beyond price. Because of their age, their wood is in a slow state of decomposition and detachment in their fibers from centuries of vibrations from being played, and microscopic shrinkage from evaporation. Yet is it ironic that many of the top violinists feel the old instruments have, just because of these factors, an even richer and more expressive sound today than they did when they were born? No, I don’t think so.

Because in the same way, my family and those similar to us were created across the sea. For centuries we were nurtured and protected within traditions that had very specific goals for us. We were selected to be straight forward and workmanlike, and extremely strong to be able to perform great feats of athleticism even into old age. We were made to be very intelligent so as to be able to grasp the highest demands of training, so we are not simple. In fact, we are specialists. And we were given high expectation of respectful treatment, since we have been honored and cherished as jewels in the crowns of our native cultures for hundreds of years.

For our families, this expectation, I am sad to say, is disappointed often today. We can be passed from person to person, as I have been, persons who unfortunately wrongly assume that they could be a match for specialists such as we are. Such a person can break a whip on our body, as has been done to mine, but that will not give us the trust that will inspire us to be a stalwart partner and give our best, and our love. But with respect, fairness, patience, and compassion…we will become yours and keep getting richer, like a Stradivarius, with time.

I am still waiting patiently for that human of the highest quality, who I hope is on their way to me and may be right around the corner. I am waiting in the green field.