A Turkish Horse, Gorgeously Caparaison’d

Hello folks, I’m still here! I’ve been busy writing articles and launching the book so I left the DVD extras to do my blogging work for me. I’m easing back into the daily stuff now, and have a few posts lined up. I’ve almost finished reading Donna Landry’s Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture, and am mulling a post that combines my thoughts on Landry’s thesis and my riding experiences in England last month, where I had two lessons: one side-saddle and one classical. Landry’s book deals with the way in which the British moved from envying Eastern horses and empires to assimilating them into their own culture – in just one generation Arab, Barb and Turk horses became “thorough-bred English horses” and we were snapping up less-equine imperial acquisitions (like other countries and trade routes).

Today I’m just going to offer you John Evelyn’s December 1684 account of seeing three Turkish horses in St James Park that had been captured at the siege of Vienna. One horse, ridden by a German and caparaisoned in full Turkish rig, caught his eye in particular:

“with my Eyes never did I behold so delicate a Creature as was one of them, of somewhat a bright bay, two white feete, a blaze; such an head, [Eye,] eares, neck, breast, belly, buttock, Gaskins, leggs, pasterns, & feete in all regards beautifull & proportion’d to admiration, spiritous and prowd, nimble, making halt, turning with that sweiftnesse & in so small a compase as was incomparable, with all this so gentle & tractable, as called to mind what I remember Busbequius speakes of them; to the reproch of our Groomes in Europ who bring them up so churlishly, as makes our horse most of them to retaine so many  ill habits &c: They trotted like Does, as if they did not feele the Ground; for this Creature was demanded 500 Ginnies, for the 2d 300, which was of a brighter bay, for the 3d 200 pound, which was browne, all of them choicely shaped, but not altogether so perfect as the first. In a word, it was judg’d by the Spectators, (among whom was the King, Prince of Denmark, the Duke of Yorke, and severall of the Court Noble persons skilled in Horses, especially Monsieur Faubert & his sonn & Prevost, Masters of the Accademie and esteemed of the best in Europe), that there were never seene any horses in these parts, to be compared with them: Add to all this, the Furniture which consisting of Embrodrie on the Saddle, Housse, Quiver, bow, Arrows, Symeter, Sword, Mace or Battel ax a la Turcisque: the Bashaws* Velvet Mantle furr’d with the most perfect Ermine I ever beheld, all the Yron works in other furnitur being here of silver curiously wrought & double gilt, to an incredible value: Such, and so extraordinary was the Embrodery, as I never before saw any thing approaching it, the reines & headstall crimson silk, covered with Chaines of silver gilt: there was also a Turkish royal standard of an horses taile, together with all sorts of other Caparaison belonging to a Generals horse: by which one may estimate how gallantly & magnificently these Infidels appeare in the fild, for nothing could certainly be seene more glorious, The Gent: (a German) who rid the horse, being in all this garb.”

* bashaw = pasha, an official who originally owned this horse.

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