Saddle Up!

For all you equine amateurs and professionals out there, the Bruce Museum has an exhibit that cannot fail to please you. Entitled “Saddle Up! Horsing around at the Bruce Museum!” the display will feature about 30 works of art with horses as their centerpiece. The pieces cover several centuries and encompass a wide range of media: from a Tang Dynasty tomb sculpture of a male equestrian figure to a 20th century photograph by Garry Winogrand. The exhibition is organized into four sections that highlight race horses, work horses, sport horses, and resting and wild horses. The Work Horse theme highlights equines used in farming, fishing, military, and police work. The Sport Horse section is comprised of fox hunting paintings and prints, polo ponies and a show horse with trophies and ribbons. The final section of the exhibition, Resting and Wild Horses, includes a local scene of a previous era, Simka Simkhovitch’s painting Early Morning in Connecticut, 1840, which depicts two horses grazing near Greenwich Avenue. If you would like to see this exhibit I suggest you saddle up yourselves because September 25th marks the end of its run. For more information log onto Brucemuseum.org

Historically, the horse proved its worth first in war, as it was by far the fastest and most maneuverable engine for a chariot or mounted soldier. Oxen and donkeys, although much calmer than horses, could not come even close to the horse on the ancient battlefield. They simply weren’t fast enough. The Hittites invented the war chariot and conquered Mesopotamia and Egypt around 1800 B.C.E. as a result. The swift-moving chariots held two men, one to drive and one to fight. The appearance of these unfamiliar animals and the speed at which chariot-borne spearmen and bowmen could deliver their deadly blows must have been as terrifying to Bronze Age foot soldiers as any bomb is to us today.

Since its first recognized contribution to civilization was on the battlefield, the horse immediately became identified with power and privilege, while cattle and donkeys were relegated to the peasantry. In an ancient Mesopotamian fable, the horse boasts to the ox that he lives near kings and eats without being eaten. It is an early indication of the horse being associated with pride and wealth.

After winning the wars, the conquerors had to keep control over their far-flung territories. Until the steam engine and the telegraph appeared in the 19th century, there was no match for the horse for swift travel and communications. The Persians in the fifth century B.C.E., who built the largest empire of their time, dispatched commands from their capital using relays of mounted couriers. Travel and trade extended contact and produced the spread of ideas that created the civilizations of the ancient world. Making much of that possible was the horse.

So, if you’re an avid horse fan but can’t get to the riding ring or the polo field, you can head to the Bruce, observe the displays and ride on the wings of imagination…

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