Equestrian Statue Code Cracked

By Posted on 0 Comments 2 min read 514 views

You’ve all heard this theory some time of another.

“They” — yes, the famous “they” — say that if you look at a statue of a historical figure mounted on a horse, the positioning of the horse’s legs shows how the person died.

So let’s take a look at a couple of statues of historic leaders.

Andrew Jackson

Statue Number 1
Andrew Jackson

Photo by Brent and MariLynn/Flickr

Yes, that statue looks familiar because it’s another version of the one in Layfayette Park in Washington, DC. You see it in some movies set in Washington, especially with the front portico of the White House behind it. This one is on the east side of the Tennessee state capitol.

Anyway,  Jackson’s horse is rearing. So, both front legs are up. What does that tell us about how the former President and general died?

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc

Photo by NCinDC/Flickr

This is the only equestrian statue with a woman “in the irons” in statue-laden Washington, DC. It’s in Rock Creek Park.

Here, the horse has one front foot up.  A hind foot is cocked.

So, how did Joan die?

Waitaminute — which hoof up means what? What does rearing mean? What does one leg up mean? Feed a cold, starve a fever? Had enough yet?

Yeah, me too. Let’s get to the answers.

After years of service as a general and a US President, Andrew Jackson died at his home The Hermitage at the age of 78 due to complications from tuberculosis.

Joan of Arc, a young French general who was later declared a saint, was burned at the stake by her British captors when she was 19.

So, let’s get to the bottom of the horse’s legs theory, once and for all.

According to Snopes, the positioning of the horse’s hooves offers no, nein, zip information about the life of the rider on his back.

So, there you have it. It’s another example that “they” – as in, the famous “they” – don’t have all the answers after all.

Snopes does.

All photos in this post are from Flickr through the Creative Commons license

Tom Bass Arena Memorializes Forgotten Horseman

By Posted on 1 Comment 2 min read 486 views
Photo by Just chaos/Flickr
Photo by Just chaos/Flickr

For decades, these men were considered the forgotten horsemen — the African-Americans who cared for and trained high-stepping show horses.

For the most part, the men have remained in the shadows of the Saddlebred industry.

Exhibits about African-American horsemen

A recent exhibit at the Saddlebred Museum in the Kentucky Horse Park finally celebrated their contributions.

(Ed. Note: I have a copy of the “Out of the Shadows” DVD, also available in VHS, which is an excellent mini-documentary based on the exhibit.)

And Bass’s contributions are featured in a permanent exhibit in the American Saddlebred Horse Museum in Mexico, MO, where he ran a large training stable during the early 1900s.

Tom Bass Arena

Now, a facility at the complex where the final jewel in the Saddlebred Triple Crown is held will be named for one of these oft-forgotten horsemen.

The new building will serve as the warm-up arena for horses about to compete in The American Royal.

The Contributions of Tom Bass

Bass had been born into slavery but eventually broke racial barriers in the show ring by being the only rider that a wild showy mare would tolerate. He went on to run his own show stable and become a celebrity of his times. He met presidents and trained champions for the ultra-wealthy and the powerful.

He is also credited with inventing a bit that carries his name that was gentler for the horse. He considered it a gift to horses, so he never patented it.

Some accounts credit him with inventing the American Royal horse show as a fundraiser for the local fire department.

An Observation

I believe he would appreciate that his name would go on a warm-up ring. One of his greatest victories in the show ring resulted from his conditioning of his horses for endurance during competition.

Scroll down this page to read the story of his and Miss Rex’s victory in the 1895 Saddle Stakes. She outlasted the greatest competitors of her time in a long workout.

The Comical History of My Stints as an Equestrian Charity Volunteer

By Posted on 3 Comments 4 min read 413 views
Photo by mcmoody/iStockphoto
Photo by mcmoody/iStockphoto

Horse mystery novelist Kit Ehrman recently blogged about having a case of “horse withdrawal.”

I know what she means. I’m in the same boat, more or less.

I’m in no position to own a horse. Both my physical and financial health would be better off if I didn’t even take lessons.

Besides, I don’t have the time anymore. I have the typical, modern over-scheduled life.

I used to ride before I had a scary health situation. Now, the idea of sitting to a trot is enough to keep me away from the saddle. So, as a consolation, I started writing about horses.

But, at times, there is no substitute. There’s nothing like the warm breath from a soft muzzle. Or the soft fur of a winter coat. Or the satiny sheen of sleek summer coat.

Helpful horse people give me lots of suggestions, like they did for Kit in the group blog Equestrian Ink.

One suggestion is to work in a barn for a local trainer. Working as stable help is a time-honored way to get riding time. Let alone horse time. Young William Shatner reportedly did it.

(Ed. note: I’ve driven myself batty looking for the source to cite for a link. I know he once said that he worked as a stableboy so he could ride. I remember reading that. If you can find it, post it in the comments. All I can offer you in return, though, is Internet glory in my comments section.)

But I’ve been too sickly to participate in manure management. My husband made me promise, “No saddling. No mucking.” I all but swore to it with my right hand up, as if I were taking a pledge. Even though I’ve always prided myself on the fact that, once I became tall enough to do so, I saddle my own mounts, thank you very much.

Once, a tack shop owner offered up another suggestion, to volunteer at a horse rescue. Or a therapeutic riding stable.

I’ve tried both. I wish I could report warm fuzzy feelings. Let alone link to these deserving groups. They work hard on wispy shoestrings budgets of both staffing and funds. But if I identify them now, I can’t tell you the funny stories. Believe me, you’ll see why soon.

The Therapeutic Riding Stable Misadventure

Once my health situation stabilized, I jumped at the opportunity when a local therapeutic riding stable opened up its volunteer program. It does so once every year, only in the spring because it’s easier to train volunteers for the season all at once.

However, when I showed up ready to work, I wasn’t ready physically. I didn’t have my strength up yet. Plus, even if I had volunteered just to groom, I would have to break my promise to DH about the saddling.

But the deal-breaker for me was that I needed to be able to either lead the horse during the sessions or walk along to help the rider as a walker. After all, the more reasonably fit volunteers who could help would give more clients a chance to ride. And that’s the whole point.

So. because I couldn’t keep up on foot with a trotting horse, I was dismissed. I cried bitter tears of frustration, but I understood.

The Horse Rescue Deflater

Option number two: I picked a somewhat local horse rescue that’s really too far for me to visit regularly. No worries. I could write press releases and do online public relations. A board member said that she would serve as my contact.

But she didn’t grasp that print publications and other community activities boards often need months of lead time for submissions. She would send me updates for event notices the week before the event. Sometimes, even the night before. I came to wonder if my distance from the rescue may be putting me a bit out-of-touch to serve as a spokesperson.

I finally got to attend one event that I had promoted in various outlets for months. I arrived oddly pleased for once to have trouble finding a parking space because there were so many cars. I overheard guests marveling at “such a great turnout.” When I finally tracked down my contact, her first words after “Oh, hi,” were not “Great turnout” but “Where’s TV?”

Thus endeth my year in horse rescue PR.

Now, I realize that It’s Not About Me. I should Just Suck It Up and Do It For The Horses. And I’m not proud that I found myself with more generosity of spirit than I could manage in practice.

But the bottom line is that, if you don’t fit into what these time- and cash-strapped organizations need, then they treat you like any other harried human resources manager does.  It’s “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” time.

So, it’s back to writing about horses. Following various competition circuits. And the occasional bit of equine tourism. All of which I will share with you at one point or another.

It’s not such a bad gig. After all, there’s “no mucking and no saddling.”