(“The Two Horse Act,” color lithograph originally published in 1874 by Gibson & Co, Cincinnati)
I had to laugh when I wanted a feature image for this post and this amusing Victorian circus act image that I saved some time ago floated up to the top of my extensive gallery of artwork.
Everything about this image is fascinating. The audience as a group oddly seems to be either looking in front of the “two horse act” or behind it. Yet each person’s individualistic face and his or her details from headwear to clothing is drawn carefully. The mustachioed rider understandably has a preoccupied expression, balanced atop two horses as he is, guiding them (on loose reins, I might add!) as they run at frenetic speed in a small ring, and at the same time holding out a perky lass with golden ringlets who stands with her right foot on his manly thigh…with her left ankle extended out of sight.
(“Orestes Pursued by the Furies” by John Singer Sargent. The Furies in Greek Mythology were creatures from the Other World who avenged wrong doing and were enforcers of the proper order of things. I have reproduced here a thoughtful discussion that some friends and I had on my Facebook page recently, as I think it is an important subject.)
Kip: This short piece by Jane Savoie (see the link at the end of this article) has been revived by Dressage Today from their archives, and such a revival could be done every day in my opinion. Twelve years ago, a British “classical riding” instructor spent a week doing a clinic at the equestrian facility where Val and I both lived for a time. As typical with western arenas, the footing was deep sand and very tiring for ridden horses. Val and I worked with her for 1/2 hour and he was flagging badly. He was exhausted and over-faced by the work she was giving us. She demanded to let her get on.
In your Horsemanship… Are you an Artist or Artisan? (Thanks to Merriam-Webster Dictionary for the definitions.)
1) Artist: a: one who professes and practices an imaginative art, b: a person skilled in one of the fine arts, c: a skilled performer
2) Artisan: a worker who practices a trade or handicraft
All comments and discussion welcome!
(© Kip Mistral 2003. Two part interview article first published in California Riding Magazine. Detail from “The Prince Riding in the Moonlight” by John Bauer, 1914.)
“I remember one day after several years of study, during which I thought I was progressing quite nicely, my teacher said, ‘Riding dressage is not like playing tennis. You can make your body learn the techniques and make your head learn the movements, but the dressage comes from inside of you. You really need to develop your inner life.’ This was a turning point in my life, a quantum leap in my conscious process. I began to understand that people rode the way they were, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and that was why horses performed differently for different riders. As we open ourselves up to transformation, our riding improves.” ~ Dressage in the Fourth Dimension
Sherry Ackerman is a Mount Shasta, California based, European-trained classical rider and trainer who, incidentally, holds a PhD in Philosophy. Her fascinating book Dressage in the Fourth Dimension explores her ultimate ideal for riding and the horse/human relationship. She calls it the Fourth Dimension, essentially the merging of two entities in a higher plane of spirit that moves outside their individual existences.
(© 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.