Therese Renz of the famous Renz circus dynasty, c. 1895. I’ve seen wonderful pictures of her in action (have you see the one where she and her horse are jumping rope?) but didn’t realise that she was a Berliner, and is buried just up the road from me in St Hedwig’s cemetery in Weissensee. She died in 1938. More essential to know, she used to tame elephants and was known as “the lady in white” when she performed at the Wintergarten variety theatre, which was destroyed by bombs just six years after Therese left this mortal sawdust ring.
Just as Therese was getting back to business, World War I would disrupt her comeback and leave her penniless, begging on the streets not for her own food, but anything people could spare to keep her two beloved elephants alive. After one died of starvation, she sold the second, her prized elephant “Dicky”, to another circus just to prevent him from suffering the same fate. Therese would yet again be starting over.
When the war ended in 1918, Therese was 60 years old, but that wasn’t going to stop her. She joined a troupe in Vienna in 1923, and continued performing well into her seventies on a mare named “Last Rose”, a fitting final partner.
From Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s review of Jane Ridley’s new biography of Edward VII in the NYRB.
In a scene too lurid for the trashiest episode of Downton Abbey, Sir Charles Mordaunt returned unexpectedly from a fishing holiday in Norway to find two white carriage ponies in front of his country house, and his wife Harriet talking to the Prince of Wales [Edward VII to be], who had given them to her. Bertie left hurriedly while Harriet rushed indoors, but she was dragged back outside by Sir Charles to watch as he shot the ponies.
Mordaunt went on to divorce his wife, forcing “Bertie” to appear in court and deny any connection. Poor ponies.
Thank you to Matt for the news that the North Korean leadership has decided it needs some authentic Gangnam style to accompany the gulags and famine. Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based company offering trips to North Korea, sent Simon Cockerell to inspect the facilities at the Mirim Horse-Riding Centre just outside Pyongyang. The former military training academy boasts not just an indoor arena where you can ride while giant TV screens play war films and karaoke videos, but also a museum of the horse in Korea, featuring Kim Jong Il’s favourite white horse – now stuffed. I would absolutely love to learn the story they are telling in that museum… The Orlov trotters in the school look better cared for than many North Koreans.
Artist Mark Wallinger has made a 3D scan of a racehorse, produced it in marble dust and resin and set it outside the British Council building in London. Wallinger’s work frequently features horses, and he’s even a racehorse owner himself. The piece will tour internationally, and the artist hopes it will revive interest in his project to built a giant grey horse at Ebbsfleet, Kent, which appears to have stalled. (De Zeen)
From a care home to a dressage team at Rio 2016? Here’s hoping. Sam Martin on his journey from London gangland to the dressage ring (Get Surrey)
Cedar Lane Stables in Queens has been shut down after concerns over the welfare of horses on livery on the property – six deaths were too many for local authorities. The Federation of Black Cowboys, who run the city-owned yard, have protested that the fault lies with individual owners, and that others will be unfairly punished by the closure. (New York Times)
Yosemite National Park is considering banning horses (as well as ice rinks, rafting, bikes and swimming pools) in its bid to return Yosemite Valley to its most “natural” state (Mercury News)
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”.
eBay, I don’t believe you. That never happened in my daydreams.
Right, on with a long overdue HHLHL! I’ve been busy organising a research trip for book two but the horse world went on turning, and lovely people have been sending me links, so enjoy this extra special post whose diversity reminds me why I’m writing that second book in the first place.
A zebra pulling a trap in Brixton, circa 1915. (Urban75)
Look at this beautifully carved golden horse head discovered in a Thracian tomb in Bulgaria. It dates from the third century BC. (Guardian)
If Radio 4 ever gets rid of Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time I’ll know Britain is over. Here Melvyn and guests discuss the Upanishads – some of the sacred texts of Hinduism. Horse sacrifice is mentioned (maybe with a connection to the Steppes folk who first domesticated horses?) Thanks to Mum for sending this. (Radio 4)
The “Pony” chair of Eero Aarnio, the brilliant Finnish designer who came up with the Sixties icon, the Bubble Chair. (Eero Aarnio)
Francis Robinson send me this cute piece on a police horse who likes to rearrange cones at Buckingham Palace (Daily Mail)
Wired on the astonishing solidification of the Brony movement, with military personnel confessing their love for My Little Pony in front of the camera. Thanks to my brother for this one (Wired)
A clean drug-test sheet for all competitors at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Some of the races were even lasix-free. (ESPN)
Mega race mare and US Horse of the Year Havre de Grace sells for $10,000,000 (Blood Horse)
The feral Chicoteague ponies survived Sandy just fine (Daily Press) Speaking of the hurricane, this crazy hoss was just fine too. (Washington Post)