Al Zammataro wins the award for biggest fan of Global Horse Culture! Last year he sent me some snapshots from an incredible festival in Sicily, where spectacularly-adorned horses and carts are paraded in celebration of St. Alfio's festival day.
This year, he sent me more photos - taken by a friend of his - with even more detail of the costumes, harnesses, plumes and elaborate carts. There are even puppets acting out legendary battle scenes mounted on the horses!
I posted briefly before about Angela Swedberg, an artist who makes beautiful Plains and Plateau Indian clothing, horse gear, and other items using historically accurate methods and materials. To my delight, Angela is featured in the September 2010 issue of Cowboys & Indians, one of my favorite magazines. The article is from an interview I did with her about her work. Copies are in the stores now: get one if you can, it's a beautiful 2-page spread with lots of photos!
In talking to her for that article I discovered that she is not only an artist, but also a horsewoman. I asked her to tell me about her personal experience with horses, and more about the meaning and function of the fantastic horse masks, such as the horse in the photo above is wearing.
My friend Juliet Harrison has a lovely blog (well, she has several, and I seem to have missed that fact until today!!) with diverse photos and insightful anecdotes and essays posted as the mood strikes her.
Her photography really does cover heads and toes! And bulls, and jockeys, and all sorts of other things, though horses dominate her work.
This is the trailer for a charming documentary about cowgirls. You have to love the great attitude and life experience of these ladies - one cowgirl featured in the trailer is over 100 years old and still riding!
There's more about the film, including photos, comments from readers, and stories about more cowgirls, at the filmmaker's blog.
The Circus Historical Society is a great organization for those interested in the details of circus history. Their website has excellent research resources, and the organization holds an annual convention. Many members specialize in particular areas of circus history, and some are active in modern circuses.
There are some interesting articles on the site (about all aspects of circus history, not just horses). One discusses earlier styles of horse act, including dramas acted out by people on horseback, or "scenic" riders who posed in costume to depict famous characters or well-known scenes from myth and legend while standing on horseback. Later, fast-paced action became more appealing to audiences than these earlier forms.
This Wiki page has a small collection of photos of circus horse acts, both modern and historic. Many of the photos are old ones from the German federal archive.
The poster shown above is from the New York Public library digital archives. Click on it to visit the original page and see a larger version.
We met Bill Eggers at a local fair in Connecticut. He built every last part of this replica stagecoach by hand. He's lent it to be driven in a couple of parades, pulled by ponies, as it is 3/4 size. He doesn't drive horses himself. He said he just thought it would be a fun project. Now there's a guy with some dedication! He chuckled that he built it 3/4 size mostly so it would fit through the the door to his workshop.
The neatest thing, I thought, was the suspension. The box - the part the passengers sit in - is suspended from the wheels and base by two 75 foot leather straps that are wrapped back and forth on themselves, creating the thick black line you can see below the passenger compartment. That way the passengers and driver don't feel the bump of every rut in the road.
He said it's an accurate replica (except for being smaller) of a typical Wells Fargo stagecoach. It's even got a lockbox beneath the driver's seat for the "gold" and a replica firearm hanging from the driver's seat to fend off "robbers." The big "stick" on the near side of the driver's seat is the brake.
The interior's all leather, and there's a mural on the door.
Here's a neat example of liberty work, in this case performed by Rex Peterson and one of his horses, Tuff, who is used in a lot of movies. Rex uses whips to cue the horse, because on film sets he often needs to be at some distance from the horse, out of sight of the cameras. Tuff, and other movie horses, are trained in particular to go to and stand on certain "marks" (in this case a raised box, but it can be something small on the ground, too), and then go from one mark to another, or from the mark to the trainer. In a movie that would make it look like the horse was standing somewhere by himself and then came running towards the camera. Or, if the actor cannot ride well, the same technique can be used to make it look like the rider is galloping down the road under control of the rider, when in fact the trainer called the horse to come to him and the actor just hangs on and smiles!
You can read more about Rex's work training movie horses at this site. He's recently come out with some trick training videos, which yours truly was involved in producing.