Mozart, Uccello, Caravaggio and a Riding School Carved from Rock

I don’t blog much about the work I’m doing on book two (The Age of the Horse), but here’s a sneak peak of something I’ll be writing about. In November I was lucky enough to have three days at the Equestrian Academy at Versailles, where they were rehearsing for this performance in the old riding school in Salzburg. The riding school was carved from the rock in 1693, and this was the first time it had had horses on its stage in over a hundred years. The music is Mozart. Choreography by Bartabas, who appears on Le Caravage (whom I last saw conked out in his stable in Versailles, legs tucked up in the straw and head resting on his chin).

I have a particular soft spot for the first cream on stage, Uccello. More about why in The Age of the Horse.

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.

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.

Viennese Fancies

My spies have been on the look-out in Vienna:

 

Translation: “I don’t want a dress, I want a pony!” (thanks to James Kennaway for this)

Street art from Madeleine Berkhemer, spotted by Sarah Everts.

 

And more unusual street art captured by Michael Scott Moore.

"Max darf nicht mit den Kindern spielen, er war schlimm." (if anyone knows what this refers to, get in touch!)