To Have Wished My Self a Horse

When the right vertuous E.W. and I were at the Emperour’s court togither [in Vienna in 1574], wee gave our selves to learne horsemanship of Ion Pietro Pugliano . . . He said . . . horsemen were the noblest of soldiers . . . they were the maisters of war, and ornaments of peace, speedie goers, and strong abiders, triumphers both in Camps and Courts: nay, to so unbeleeved a point he proceeded, as that no earthly thing bred such wonder to a Prince, as to be a good horseman. Skill of government were but a Pedanteria, in comparison then would he adde several praises, by telling what a peerless beast the horse was, the only serviceable Courtier without flattery, the beast of most bewtie, faithfulnesse, courage, and such more, that if I had not beene a peece of a Logician before I came to him, I think he would have perswaded mee to have wished my self a horse.

From Sir Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poesie. Found in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts.

Sunday Morning Time Travel

Wonderful news for overworked writers who don’t have time to maintain their blogs: British Pathé have uploaded their stock of vintage film clips to YouTube. As the old slogan of the British tabloid the News of the World used to claim, “all human life is there”, and quite a bit of horsey life too. So where shall we go today?

Maybe to Soviet-era Dagestan to watch the locals ride:

Or a ladies’ point-to-point in 1920s Britain, with half the field sidesaddle and half riding heels-first like sulky drivers:

To 1920s Vienna, where the lipizzaners at the Spanish Riding School look as though they are about to join in the human conversation to clarify some of the finer points of the piaffe:

And Liverpool’s cart horse parade in the 1920s, featuring shires got up in elaborate floral rigs and stepping out for the lady mayoress. For more about the tradition of the parade, click here.

Want to Smell Like a Horse?

Wiki Commons: Jastrow (2007)

Thank  you to Slaminsky for pointing me towards these scents for the wealthy and horse crazy. Parfums de Marly present a range of equine-themed perfumes:

Godolphin: “opulent rose note, leading to a woody-leather scent base. Top notes: thyme, saffron, cypress, green notes, fruity notes and mate. Heart: rose, iris and jasmine. Base: leather, vetiver, cedar, musk, amber and vanilla.”

Pegasus: “a stimulating blend of bergamot and almond with a base of vanilla, sandalwood and amber.” (for men)

Darley: “notes of lavender and rose on an oriental base. Top notes: lemon, bergamot and mint. Heart: rose, orange blossom, lavender, rosemary and cinnamon. Base: sandalwood, guaiac wood, patchouli, amber and tonka.” (also for men)

Ispazon: “a woody oriental scent named after the native equine breed of the Netherlands, which is renowned for its grace and beauty.”

Lipizzan: “a spicy woody composition using the finest essences. With top notes of citron and cardamom, it has a heart of jasmine, rose and iris and base notes of amber, vanilla and musk.”

Shagya: “Top notes: lime, bergamot and red pepper. Heart: geranium and cedar oud. Base: vetiver, guaiac wood, papyrus, and musk.”

Herod: cinnamon and pepperwood, osmanthus, tobacco, vanilla, cedarwood, patchouli, musk and more.

Marly take their name from the Chateau de Marly in France, where they say that receptions were held to honour the horses of Louis XV and fragrances created to commemorate racing wins. The chateau no longer stands, but some of the superb sculptures by Guillaume Coustou that once decorated it have since been erected elsewhere. The image above is one, prancing outside the Louvre in Paris.

The Politics of Dressage

The US election is over but how could I forget to blog this October 1st New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt? I’m not sure that a horse with a back that long could pull off a levade, but I’m amused that Mitt’s “dressage horse” appears to be a Lipizzaner. I didn’t even clock that the chauffeur’s uniform isn’t that of an élève at the Spanish Riding School. That’s what we call “horse blindness”.

One Elderly Lady and One Nearly Middle-Aged Lady in the Havelland (with apologies to Penelope Chetwode)

Today I had a long overdue ride at Sabine Zuckmantel’s Wanderreiten im Havelland, the stable that features in the last chapter of If Wishes Were Horses. Half the horses were away (along with Sabine) on a ride in Poland, so we were a small group, and I was assigned the yard’s Queen Mother, Etincelle. Etincelle is a purebred barb. I rode her on my first ride at Wanderreiten im Havelland, and the first draft of the book ended on Etincelle but was later scrapped, so I owe her a blog post – the least I can do for royalty. She’s twenty seven years young but one of only two horses at the stable that sometimes take a bit of stopping after a canter. The other is Elme, a twenty-eight-year-old Lipizzaner from Piber. I don’t know all the finer print of Sabine’s horsekeeping routine, other than that it involves living out all year round in a herd, but let me tell you, it really agrees with “aged” mares.

As ever, the countryside was stunning and the weather was even just right for riding. Some sun, some wind, little specks of rain. On the numerous canters I tried to apply what I learned in my classical lesson earlier this year, as patiently explained by Sue Barber at Pine Lodge School of Classical Equitation:

1) You, the saddle and the horse all move forward together

2) Therefore there is no need to rock backwards and forwards with your pelvis

3) Especially as the saddle and the horse do not move backwards at any time

4) So your movement in the saddle should be up-down. Because that is how the horse is moving relative to you,  and therefore you need to move with it.

Etincelle put up with me at any rate and was rewarded with a very juicy pear and a good roll.

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(for Penelope Chetwode reference, see here)

Fair Girls on Grey Horses

Fantastic news via Fran Jurga’s Equus blog: Hannah Zeitlhofer, one of the two first women to be admitted to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna (video from 2008), qualified as an “Bereiteran’wärterin” on the 1st May. This means she can now take part in the famous school’s public displays. British-American rider Sojourner Morrell dropped out a couple of years ago and is now working as a model, but the new intake of five “elevin” includes four women. Their names are Marlene Tucek, Theresa Stefan, Ulla Reimers and Agnes St George. There’s a photo of Agnes and Hannah here. Marlene Tucek is the daughter of a Vienna riding school owner who has competed in the Iberian discipline of working equitation (a kind of combination of dressage, bull-fighting and cow-work skills).

If you want an idea of the kind of opposition these women faced, check out this blog, which doesn’t seem to have any concrete argument against women joining the Spanish Riding School, but doesn’t like it anyway. It quotes some comment from the time of Hannah and Sorrell’s first admission:

“I am not happy about this decision,” Elisabeth Max-Theurer, the female president of the governing board. …

“I stress that I am not against women – I am only concerned about tradition,” said Max-Theurer, a former dressage rider who won gold for Austria in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Well, tough. I found an interview with Hannah from earlier this year auf Deutsch on Rosarot’s blog. Here’s my clumsy translation of one section:

Wie war das für sie als Frau unter Männern?
Da ich die Arbeit im Stall gewöhnt bin war das nichts Außergewöhnliches. Das heißt die Grundarbeit ist natürlich schon ordentlicher und strenger und disziplinierter als sonst. Aber so war das nichts Besonderes. Die Männer im Stall, das sind alles Kollegen. Da gibt’s nichts.

What was it like for you to be the only woman ranked below the men?

Once I was used to working in the stable it was not out of the ordinary.  That is to say that the basic work is naturally very thorough, strict and disciplined as can be. So it was nothing special. The men in the stable were all colleagues. There wasn’t a problem.

Viel Glück, ladies! There’s good tradition and pointless tradition, and I’m sure you can tell the difference.

If Wishes Were Horses: Kassane

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Images of the horses at Wanderreiten im Havelland.

This post relates to a chapter of the book If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of an Equine Obsession. If you have any questions to ask about the content, please fire away in the comments. The main online index for the book is here.