Isn't he adorable? They did a nice dressage test, too.
ETA: I discovered later that Jesse does some very cute horse-themed metalwork. You can see some of her art and how she makes it on her flickr photostream.
The following is reprinted with permission from Rob's Blog, a blog about rural and traditional life in Serbia. If the beautiful Serbian landscapes and lost-in-time rural life appeal to you, Rob and his wife (who are British) offer a rental cottage and rural tourism activities for visitors. There are more lovely photos on both websites.
Out on the Atar - by Robert Maccurrach - May 23, 2009
Coming across Djordje Novaković and his daughter Eta drawing some fresh hay home with his Lipizaner mares Sonja and Beba I discovered that next day he was making a long journey. With mares, foal and fijaker he was setting out for Subotica to carry bride and groom and guests from the church to the wedding feast. This, it turns out, is his summer work. Once or twice a month he is on duty with his beautiful old fijaker and perfect team. When I asked if he would like some company he welcomed me to join him. “Hvala Bogu,! Dobro došao!” What a privilege it was!
heat of the day, not long after noon, we set off with feed, hay,
festive clothes and everything he needed for a 2 night stopover in the
old Empire's Baroque city of fine buildings and churches. It is a very
long way to Subotica by road but it turns out that an abandoned railway
line takes you there over 40km across country in a straight line. This
makes all the difference. On the way out of the village every time a
car or truck came towards us the foal, only 5 weeks old, shied
violently. “He's got to learn!” said Djordje with a reassuring flick of
his whip. The fact that no one slows down for horses shows that drivers
and horses are quite used to each other.
Soon we were heading out along a hard and good track, leaving our neighbouring village Pacser behind us, striking out across the atar as the open farmland is called. The land spread away to an infinite horizon with a wide open sky under the hot May sun. A breeze kept us cool and the land rolled slowly by to the sound of iron rims on sandy gravel and Djordje's constant talking to his horses. The foal, tied to Sonja's harness, settled down and jogged along happily. A horse drawn cart is surprisingly noisy. The background murmur of bird song from trackside cover was only occasionally obvious. Nightingales sang and bee-eaters sailed bubbling in the blue. Red-backed shrikes flitted from the tops of rose thickets. I even spotted a pair of wheatears. Alas no chance to stop and investigate things. On we walked steadily passing bright pink wild peas, yellow Euphorbia and purple sage.
Most crops looked very dry and many were also dirty with weeds. Was this a result of credit squeeze or cost cutting? It is disastrous not to weed maize and soya. Winter wheat and barley were almost ready for harvest, but very short and probably very poorly cropping. This sandy ridge of land that arcs out from Subotica for about 50 kms is what Djordje calls “hungry land”. It is light and easy to work, but it needs manure. When rain doesn't come the crop is quickly burnt up. Under such conditions the traditional wheat and barley do better while the non-native maize and sunflower shrivel up.
long ago the land would have been full of people hoeing and weeding by
hand. But they have left. Everywhere there would have been thriving salaš ,
the little farmsteads of the open plains. Few have survived the process
of post WW2 collectivisation and industrialisation. The places where
they sank back into the ground are marked only by old fruit trees or
scrub, much favoured by shrikes. Occasionally we passed a salaš
where the mud brick walls where collapsing, paint as bright as hope
still visible. Nearer Subotka, as the city is called in Magyor, the salaš became a little more prosperous. They could sell milk and cheese and peppers in the town. They even drove cars observed Djordje with what might have been envy. This whole salaš culture is best preserved in a host of traditional and contemporary songs; from Djordje's stories of his travels by fijaker it seems that life is often little changed along the “summer tracks” across the atar.
Stopping in the shade about every hour to let the “little one” suckle we finally approached the city. It is a sight no longer possible in the urbanised West to see a city's cathedral and art nouveau “rathaus” from 8 km away across open farmland. As we crunched our way along with a lowering sun and cooler breeze the city's skyline drew us ever closer. Away to the left were blocks of flats looking straight out over the crops. To the left was the centre, a red roofed Reformed church with spire, the more sombre twin spires of the Catholic cathedral and a host of old shady trees.
Djordje and his team to overnight with friends and prepare for the next
day I went off in search of a bus, feeling a little light headed and
hungry but very happy! “Then man goes out to work, to his labour until
evening. How many are your works, O Lord!”
This is just a bit of fun, from some video I shot in Brazil. These are Lusitano colts, running loose in large pastures until they grow up and begin training. They are not handled, really, though the trainer you hear whistling spends time with them every day. These colts were so curious and delightful to spend time with!
In the northeastern part of Brazil, encompassing several states, is a harsh, dry, poor area generally called the Northeast (Nordeste). There is a specific cowboy culture there, distinctive and unique, and completely different from the gaucho cowboy culture of southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. In the northeast, the cowboys are called vaqueiros - a Portuguese derivation of the Spanish word vaquero (from the Spanish word "vaca," meaning "cow"). The land has large areas of scrubby, thorny vegetation, called Caatinga, which has affected some details of the vaquiero style.
They are known for their distinctive style of leather clothing, necessary for riding in the thorny scrub. Pants, chest-protectors, jackets with very long sleeves, and special hand guards are worn, and horses sometimes wear chest-covering breast-plates, too. The hats and jackets are often decorated with intricate cutwork and stitching, as you can see a bit in this photo by Alexandre Severo (see more photos like this on Alexandre's flickr stream):
The vaqueiros are known for being proud and tough, and their horse-handling methods are said to be in the same vein. In this picture and this one, you can see the cavesson that is used in addition to the curb rein. It is usually made of metal, and sometimes serrated to make a rough edge against the top of the horse's nose. I heard about a good horseman in the São Paulo area (about whom I will post more later), who is making some efforts to offer workshops in the remote Northeast to educate the vaqueiros about gentler methods of horse training and riding. He said they tend to roll their eyes at the idea of something so "gay" as gentle horsemanship, but some are starting to listen.
Because of the heavy underbrush the vaqueiros work in, they do not use lassoes to catch cows, but have developed a method of running them down and grabbing them by the tail. This is not done just for work, but also as a sport, as can be seen in these action photos taken by Hugo Macedo. A variant of this type of cow catching has evolved into an arena sport, held at local rodeos, in which two riders gallop alongside a cow, one of them keeping the cow in a straight line, the other grabbing its tail and flipping it over onto its back before reaching the finish line. Tough sports from a tough part of the world.
Here is another flickr set that includes this super photo of a vaqueiro dressed up in finer tack and apparel - for a festival or parade, perhaps. This horse has the leather chest protector I mentioned. The photo set has other great photos showing tack, apparel and horses.
The horse of the vaqueiro is the Nordestino. Often gaited, having incredible stamina and resistance to heat and thirst. There used to be a breed organization, but last I heard it has become defunct, so the breed is not registered or regulated in any way. Here is a sweet-faced gray one.
Martina V. gets two posts today, because her photo set showing the Argentine festival "Feria de Mataderos" in Buenos Aires is super. She does excellent photography, and in this set you get to see lots of very ornate tack on horses and ponies, and some gauchos playing the stick-in-a-ring game that is found throughout Latin America. (Typically a tiny ring is hung on a cord, and you have to gallop under it on your horse while snagging the ring with a small stick about the size of a pencil.)
Anyway, enjoy more photos of horses!
This flickr photoset by Martina V. illustrates the fascinating tradition of the tropilla from Argentina. In this case the tropillas are being shown at competition, where having a very fine and consistent group of horses and being able to show them off well is key. The photos are accompanied by a great description of the way the horses are trained and selected. I won't give away more details - go take a look!
Here's a cool website with a very complete listing of Italian horse breeds. The breeds are listed in the menu on the left side. Clicking each will give you a description (in Italian, of course) [update: a reader points out this listing is now available in english at this link] and photos (usually towards the bottom of the page). There is quite a diversity, from mountain ponies to saddle horses and draft horses. Many of the saddle horses derive from combinations of Iberian, Arabian and Thoroughbred blood. Worth a browse, even if you don't speak Italian.
Horse breeds in Brazil tend to be very regional. The Crioulo is found everywhere in Rio Grande do Sul, but rarely outside of that area. In the more populous and urban areas of São Paulo & Rio, the Mangalarga predominates, supplemented by the Lusitano (considered a show & sport horse, not a working horse) and smaller numbers of "luxury" horses like Brazilian Sport Horses, Arabians, and imported Quarter Horses.
The Pantaneiro is the regional breed from Mato Grosso, named for the vast Pantanal wetlands area that dominates that state. You can see some photos of the Pantaneiro in action at the breed association website.
According to the magazine Globo Rural ("Rural World", January 2009 issue - visit the link to see some great photos of the Pantaneiro horse, text in Portuguese), the Pantaneiro is undergoing a bit of a "rediscovery," and surge in popularity outside of its home range. Because the Pantanal region is bone dry for six months and submerged in water the other six months of the year, the horses there have adapted to being in mud and water for long periods of time without ill effect. Remarkably, they surviving on aquatic and submerged plants during the wet season, having figured out how to graze with their faces underwater. Many parts of the Pantanal are inaccessible during the flood season except by boat or horse, and the horses are indispensable for transportation and work.
The calm nature, intelligence, work ethic, hardiness and exceptionally durable legs (wet or dry!) of the Pantaneiro have helped it gain a foothold in roping and reining competitions in the region (cattle are raised in great numbers in Mato Grosso). Moreover it is particularly skilled at moving with agility in deep water and mud, and though small it is extremely strong. Formerly seen only as a working horse, they are now being purchased as competition horses and pleasure horses, resulting in higher prices, according to the Globo Rural article. The growth of rural tourism, including eco-tourism, has helped, too.
In terms of origins, the Pantaneiro shares a background with the Crioulo horse, and some overlap with the Mangalarga. It is predominantly of old Iberian descent, but there has been some Arab and Thoroughbred influence in the past, genetic analysis reveals. The standard history suggests the horses originally migrated in feral herds up through Argentina and into the Pantanal area in the 1600s. They were then influenced by horses brought in (and sometimes lost or abandoned) by the Bandeirantes, (historic slave-hunters and gold-seekers who are thought of in modern times somewhat the way Americans think of famous outlaws or "Indian hunters" from the "Wild West"). Ironically, then, the Pantaneiro has been celebrated as the steed of the indigenous Guaicuru people (detailed article in Portuguese here, for Portuguese speaking history buffs), who's skilled horsemanship & ferocity in battle were renowned, and captured by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Debret (example above, from WikiCommons).