Tumbling Tricks on a Blue Horse

Embed from Getty Images

I believe this is an example of art produced in Japan by Japanese artists turning their eye on foreigners and particularly westerners. Not much information is provided by Getty, but I think it’s from Yokohama c. 1900 and shows European trick riders doing their thing.

Art & Horseyculture: An American Beauty – and her Horse – in Yokohama, 1860

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Here’s your thing of joy for today: the smirk on this rather saucy horse as he carries an American lady sidesaddle through nineteenth-century Japan, as viewed by artist Yoshitori Utagawa in 1860. Japanese women did not ride sidesaddle, so this is an interesting public performance of Western femininity as interpreted by a local. Also, one hell of a bonnet.
It’s from the US Library of Congress, and more information can be found here.

Whole Heap of Little Horse Links

New York Subway Art

New York Subway Art

  • I’m usually sceptical about “horses stolen for meat” stories (unless they come from Florida), but this one rings true. A Romanian has been arrested in connection with the theft of several draft horses in eastern France, allegedly for the slaughter trade. Some of the horses were already being raised for meat. (The Horse)
  • The English police horse who was punched by a drunk football fan has received boxes of polo mints from fans of the opposing team. (Daily Mail)
  • A British university claims that the Carneddau ponies that died of starvation and exposure in Wales earlier this year are part of a genetically distinct breed that shares a common, but centuries-removed ancestor with Welsh Mountain ponies. (BBC)
  • Ipswich Transport Museum is restoring a horsedrawn tram. The lightweight draft horses that drew these vehicles were dubbed “trammers” and in the nineteenth century typically only lasted a year between the shafts because of the effort of drawing the tram through often clogged tracks. (BBC)
  • “Thank God for the horses. Thank God for the bloody horses,” – a trooper at the 1917 Battle of Beersheba. (ABC)
  • Wild horse and burro sanctuaries in California, and how to visit them. (SFGate blogs)
  • Awards for teenage boys who saved a trapped Shetland pony from drowning. (HorseTalk)
  • I can’t keep up. Now the NYT is saying there will be federal approval for a horse slaughter house in New Mexico.. (NYT)
  • A horse had to be euthanised in Belfast after hitting a car. The case raises ongoing concerns about horses that are kept untethered (or tethered, come to that) on housing estates in the city. (Belfast Telegraph)
  • Interesting, given the cheap meat scandal: the value of horse meat exported from the UK has more than doubled in five years. (This Is Wiltshire)
  • Horse racing begins again in Libya. (Al Arabiya)
  • Seventh century horse armour/tack unearthed in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun)

Speed the Plough

Another day, another form of horse racing. This is Hokkaido, Japan, where the descendants of heavy European draught horses imported for agricultural work in the nineteenth century now fight it out in Ban-ei races. They drag an iron sled over a course of deep sand a couple of hundred yards long, and climb over ramps and bumps on their way. They are flogged by their jockeys in a fashion that would definitely see them hauled up before the stewards in the UK. Every now and then, one driver stands up and hauls back with all his weight on the horse’s head – perhaps to make it plunge forward when released and throw its weight into the collar.

They start competing as two-year-olds. More from this 2006 New York Times feature:

Draft-horse racing was officially established in 1946, and racetracks became self-contained worlds where stablemen and jockeys spent most of their lives.

Mr. Sakamoto, the 53-year-old jockey, came here when he was 18 and lived for 15 years in an apartment attached to the stables. When the horses kicked the stable walls, he felt the reverberations. “Horses and human beings become one — well, maybe it’s not that simple,” he said. “But that was the goal.”

“I’ve been here all these years,” he added. “I can’t make it out there. Horses are the only thing I know.”