If Wishes Were Horses: The Horse That Only I Could Ride

Well, this was a rum chapter. I really wasn’t anticipating that imaginary horses would end up linked to human ponies, but it turned out that they are, you could say, the same thing. The links for anything concerning ponyplay (the practice of dressing up in PVC horse outfits) are obviously for those over the age of 18, rather like the book. Shyanne’s site is here, and you can read her take on ponyplay as shamanism here. I couldn’t do justice to it in the chapter itself through lack of space – too many imaginary horses to fit in.

I also chopped out a raft of fascinating psychological studies on the form, development and function of the imagination in children and adults, so if you’re curious about those, try Paul L. Harris’ The Work of the Imagination and the work of Marjorie Taylor on imaginary companions.

The best site to consult if you’re a fan of Walter Farley’s (absolutely nonpornographic) childrens’ books, The Black Stallion series, is here, and I welcome any descriptions of your own imaginary steeds in the comments!

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.

May the Horse Live in Me

One of the less than lovely things about writing a book is acknowledging that your favourite lines of enquiry sometimes just don’t fit into the finished product. They are the wildest, most fascinating goose chases, but they just will not bend and be shaped into that book thing you’ve built. They won’t be twined into the narrative, or at least, if you try to do just that, you end up with a narrative that sprouts at extra branch just at the juncture where you need it to be a nice, neat, battened-down hedge. At this point, you can probably tell that my similes are currently somewhat overgrown, so I’ll prune them now and get on with the post.
In writing about girls and horses I knew I would need to tackle the subject of imaginary horses, and all the joys and creativity that come with them, and so I set about building a chapter which, in its earliest finished draft, incorporated reams of psychology theory on the development of the imagination, detailed descriptions of paracosms and, finally, the wildest, least controllable goose of all, metamorphosis. Because really, that’s what the little girl who tosses her mane and stomps her hooves is attempting: mutation into a horse. If you love something, what better fulfillment can you find than becoming it yourself?
Much of this remains in the book, but I had to lose the examples I found in folklore and legend of women transformed into horses or donkeys – although, interestingly enough, it is always as a punishment, not a sublimation. There’s Amina, a demonic, corpse-eating young wife in 1001 Nights, whose husband employs the help of a witch to magic her into equine form. “Donkeyskin” is a princess in Perrault’s classic renderings of traditional fairy tales who disguises herself as an ass to escape the incestuous desires of her father. Here’s Catherine Deneuve in the 1970 Jacques Demy film:

And lastly, Ocyrhoe, a nymph and daughter of a centaur in Greek myth who, Cassandra-like, foretells her father’s future and is punished by being transformed into a mare. This extract is from A D Melville’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

“Soon she was whinnying clearly, and her arms
Walked on the grass, and then her fingers joined,
And their five nails were bound in a light hoof
Of undivided horn; her mouth and neck
Increased in size; her trailing dress became
A tail; that hair that wandered on her neck
Fell as a mane down on the right-hand side;
And so her voice and shape alike were new,
And that weird change gave her a new name [Hippe – mare] too.”

What inspired all this metamorphic musing? Well, my friend Aimee just sent me a link to this piece on Wired by Olivia Solon about the French artist Marion Laval-Jentet who is, I feel safe in saying, the most dedicated pony girl in history.

Laval-Jeantet and her creative partner Benoit Mangin (working as the collective Art Orienté Objet) were keen to explore the blurring of boundaries between species in the piece, entitled May the Horse Live in Me. Laval-Jeantet prepared her body to accept the horse blood plasma by getting injected with different horse immunoglobulins over the course of several months.

When she had the actual injection, there was quite a performance:

As part of the performance piece she also wore a set of stilts with hooves on the end to feel at one with the horse. She walked around with the donor horse in a “communication ritual” before having her hybrid blood extracted and freeze-dried.

She explained to Centre Press that the whole process made her feel “hyperpowerful, hypersensitive and hypernervous.” She added: “I had a feeling of being superhuman. I was not normal in my body. I had all of the emotions of a herbivore. I couldn’t sleep and I felt a little bit like a horse.”

Here’s a video of May the Horse Live in Me:

EIDTED TO ADD: and here’s a fantastic site dedicated to human–equine transformation.

What Behoofs You

I hope this is a hoax. The Mail is reporting that Betfair have commissioned some “limited edition” boots in the shape of horses’ hoofs to mark the 100th anniversary of the Cheltenham Festival. Click here for hideosity.

UPDATE: a commenter on the Guardian points out that they look like a bad rip-off of these artworks.

The Greatest Ballet That Never Was

Ballet dancer Jacques d’Amboise is interviewed by Yona Zeldis McDonough (for the Paris Review‘s website) about his autobiography, I Was a Dancer, and the subject of the great choreographer Balanchine comes up:

There’s a line in the memoir that I love: “With [Jerry] Robbins, you were amplified; with Balanchine, you were transformed.”

I think it’s the single best line in my book. And I think it came from a conversation. I was talking with Kay Gaynor and other people about trying to describe what Robbins did and what Balanchine did. One was the transformation of what you already were, and the other was what you didn’t realize you were capable of being. Jerry took what you are, watched you, studied you, and then amplified it and used it. Balanchine looked, and said, “Oh, very beautiful girl, very nice—I bet she could move faster. Maybe she could be a pony. Maybe I’ll do a ballet about ponies.”